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Friday, 25 January 2013

Dealing With Difficult Photography Clients


Like any small business, you will have difficult customers as a photographer. While the majority of your customers will be honest and reasonable, a certain percentage will span the spectrum from merely tedious and annoying to downright abusive.
Anyone can deal effectively with reasonable people and that's certainly no reason for patting yourself on the back. What will really determine your success as a photographer is how you deal with the 20 percent or so of your customers when they're being unreasonable or just ignorant.
You Must Have a Nice Camera
Even when customers like the photos, there's a tendency for them to credit the camera more than the photographer. It's so odd because photography is the only field where people act like the hardware is somehow responsible for great results. No one takes a bite of a delicious cake and announces the baker must have a fantastic oven. No one gets life saving care from a doctor and applauds the stethoscope.
This is probably the most difficult habit of problem customers; getting them to understand that the best camera in the hands of an amateur will only produce very high quality amateur shots. Sometimes this is plain ignorance, sometimes it's a perverse way of trying to minimize what your services are worth. Charge too much and you can be replaced by a high end camera!
Dealing with this problem customer is a matter of patient education. Reminding them that the camera does not position the lights, choose the set, the angles, or spend years learning to pose models.
My Nephew/Uncle/Brother-in-law Can Take Better Pictures
Again, this is usually someone trying to get you to undervalue your services. The best strategy is to call their bluff. Invite them to hire the nephew for the next job and suggest that you'd be interested in seeing the photos. If the comment stems from genuine ignorance, they might actually try the nephew. If the comment stems from malice or an attempt to manipulate, they'll grumble and write the check.
The Late Payer
There are companies and people who can take three, four or five months to pay their invoices. An unsecured invoice is very difficult and expensive to collect. Late payers are a double whammy: You don't have any money and you have to stop productive work or marketing to collect what you're owed.
Two things will help with this annoying customer: Step one is to make sure all your contracts and invoices provide for interest and collection fees if the customer doesn't pay. Step two is trying to avoid collections by requiring payment before the final photos are delivered.
You can't always win on the payment before delivery option, even if it's in your contract. That's why you need the backup collections clause. The exact nature of the language will depend upon the laws in your particular country, but if your laws don't provide for the recovery of collection expenses, then make sure that's in your contract.
Difficult customers are a fact of life in any small business. Dealing with them requires a combination of patient education and rock solid contracts.

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