How to tell a potential client you don’t want to photograph their session?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by gilsonphotography, Dec 11, 2020.

  1. Yes. And you'll notice I didn't have a problem or even respond to your first post where you communicated that. I thought you made a good point.

    But then you said what I've quoted below, which I thought was a step beyond, and you said it in response to me, so I thought I'd respond to you. Now, I hope we've both made our points clearly, even if we find we have a reasonable disagreement. I await the OP's response out of curiosity for what direction the OP will take.
  2. The OP might have a look at Fisher and Ury's negotiating classic, Getting to Yes. Couldn't hurt.
  3. The OP is the one who has to make the final decision. He's the one closest to the situation. Either way won't be the end of the world. And it'll be a learning experience either way. Just do something.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    On the two specific questions that you ask:

    1) If I should even say no: My view is that there are THREE Entities involved - You, her, and your Business. The first two have the ability of emotion and the third doesn't, moreover the third is reliant on YOUR actions for its survival. Your first duty is to your business and in some situations, the damage a Potential Client may do, will outweigh the pandering necessary to engage and keep that Prospect. On the face of what you write, mainly the fact you are just starting out, it is appears to me it is NOT the time to say "no", but rather seek to supply UCS (Ultimate Customer Service).

    2) If I do, how do I say it?: The most suitable method I have found to address the blunt 'no' is something like, "At this time progressing discussions is not a suitable fit for the Business because [the times that the Business has available for Portrait Sessions cannot match your requirements]"


    You being 'incredibly annoyed' is both irrelevant to the business conversation and is a burden to you making a clear and good business choices.

    If you really don't want to lose this Prospect, then you have to negotiate to facilitate and close the sale. To that end, I see two main areas which need addressing:

    1. Consider if it is impossible to shoot on a weekday (and most situations are really NOT "impossible").

    2. The Prospect has to commit.

    On the second point: Fiscal Commitment is a most powerful adhesive to a business deal. If you restructure your business to require Clients to make a "deposit" - I suggest that you investigate what consumer laws are applicable. My businesses do not request a 'deposit', they do request a 'Booking Fee' which allocates a specific time and day for the booking. This fee is deducted from the final account. The 'Fee' is forfeit by cancellation {x} days prior to the day. That's simply semantics, but under the law here, a "deposit" (for the service of making Photos), is treated differently to a "fee" (for the service of reserving an exclusive time and day to make


    Bottom line – my view is you are presently continuing a negotiation process with “A” and that process was predicated on the rules which your Business had at the time when this negotiation began: to change those rules, whilst in negotiation and for that change to be seen as a detriment or disadvantage to the Prospect should be very carefully considered, albeit for future prospects I suggest you put in place a procedure which limits this situation occurring again – to that end have a Booking Fee or similar.

    Concerning “A” - she has cancelled an existing appointment to which she was committed and cancelled at time when you had prepped and packed and when you were ready to leave for the shoot: unless someone died, or similar, that’s inconsiderate. That makes for a break in these negotiations and we now start anew with another set of negotiations for another shoot. I am of the opinion the likelihood of subsequent cancellations are danger to your Business, to which, as already mentioned, is your first duty.

    Therefore on the face of what is presented, the next scheduling of an appointment requires, from the outset, a Booking Fee or similar, politely and firmly explained to “A” which is to pay for the reservation of a time and date for the shoot, and which will be deducted from the total shoot fee, but is, of itself non-refundable.

    The purpose of the long reply, which in essence agrees with Sandy’s comment, was to give detailed fabric which you could include in your presentation to “A”, in a polite, yet firm business manner.

    AJG likes this.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    If you're looking for books: "You can Negotiate Anything", Herb Cohen, has been a great standby and guide for me, for several years.

  6. So she makes an appointment and pays the booking fee. Then she cancels anyway because for some reason. You're still faced with the same question when she wants to reschedule. Are you going to charge for another booking fee? Doesn't sound like good business. Or just reschedule without an extra fee and "be nice". Or drop her as a client and give her money back? Or drop her as a client and keep the fee? My point is, you don;t change too much for this new business with a fee.
  7. The booking fee means that, if she backs out without agreed-upon notice, you GET PAID for that breech. How many times would I let this happen? I doubt I'd set a number that would apply to all clients. It depends what I thought the potential was for this particular client and how I judged the behavior from personal interaction with each person.

    In my own business, especially at the beginning, I would not have considered a missed appointment a major cause for concern, which is why I didn't charge deposits. I was so busy learning various aspects of running a business, promoting myself, organizing new office space, and reaching out to subcontractors, that a missed appointment by a client in the scheme of things at that point just seemed like part of the energy investment in getting a business going.

    Anyway, I sensed my laissez-faire attitude came across as good will, trust, and graciousness toward my potential clientele, something money can't exactly buy. It paid dividends throughout my business life. The one or two times I felt taken advantage of were far outweighed by my own comfort with the way I approached things and the mostly good and successful business relationships I made and kept.

    Though it was technically a "small business," I managed to make it feel more like a personal project that earned money than a formally-structured entity that the IRS saw it as.

    I suggest you find a way that allows you to be both successful and feel as comfortable as possible with what you do and how you do it. You've been given many options here and will hopefully find a path that suits you.
    William Michael likes this.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yes: unless the reason for cancellation is quite serious.

    Maybe it doesn't sound like good business to you, but a Booking Fee has worked well for my Photography Businesses. We didn't start out with a Booking Fee, that came about 5 years in, had it been sooner I expect we'd have had fewer cancellations "at the last minute", for "unexplained reasons", especially for Portrait Sittings.

    Since we introduced a Booking Fee, I recall having two cancellations within the prohibited time: both were unexpected and beyond the Client's control, both were medical reasons and one was a death of a Parent, both were for Weddings and both Weddings were rescheduled and we did the Photography, with no financial loss to either Client.

    A Booking Fee has been a useful tool for me: it doesn't suit everyone's Business Model. I think that there are two main factors as to whether or not it will be suitable to the OP (and others) - firstly the business owner's personality, one need to be able to at times separate business interaction and personal interaction with Clients; and secondly I think it depends on the Client pool, as I have found a Booking Fee is better placed when one is generally selling to the general public as opposed to selling to other businesses.

    In my opinion one of the greatest mistakes, often leading the business failure, is for a new business to charge less than an adequate price for its services and goods, simply because it is "a new business".

    AJG and samstevens like this.
  9. I agree. From the beginning, I charged the going professional rate for my services and my rates were never questioned, to my memory.

    Also, one's posture can be as important as one's policies in helping determine how clients will see you. While I had a more individual approach to my business, I had a good feeling for when a more professional and when a more casual stance on my part would serve the client's and my needs. One can be authentic while adopting an attitude that suits each given situation.
    William Michael likes this.
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    ^ Yes, agree. ... reading your Client and understanding and accommodating their genuine needs, as opposed to being sucked in by any games that they might be playing, is a great skill to have as a business owner: that's basically 'gut feel'.

    You've got to be flexible and adaptive: and there are many approaches, whatever approach you take, it necessary to always be fair minded and clearly convey your business's position and if necessary a brief sentence or two, giving the reasons for that position.

  11. It's not "their session" unless there's a written or implied contract. An implied contract involves a deposit. If there's no written or implied contract the session does not exist.
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    BTW, even with a good contract and deposit, if you are a small operator, particularly when working for an organization, there can be issues. I had one company hold up final payment for a month over a minor detail which was specified in the contract. No way I could have afforded to take them to court back then. Fortunately they did pay. In any case, my initial payment / deposit was based on my estimate of costs of materials and expenses. Worst case, I would have been out time and profit.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2020
  13. The real world of small and single-person businesses doesn’t always work on strict definition and formality. Many reasonable transactions are successful with mere handshakes or nods of the head. All kinds of expectations occur and are fulfilled without prior written contracts and without getting lawyers involved. Here, there was a reasonable expectation of a session based on a conversation. That’s often how it happens. I’m not advocating for any particular way of doing things. I’m just describing the way things often work. My time spent in the world has been as much about setting the book to the side for convenience and more informal interactions as it has been going by that book, which can be a big plus at times and a burden at others.
  14. Early in my business, a new client stuck me with around $3200 in nonpayment. I had my suspicions about the guy before starting and should have trusted my instincts. Lesson learned.
  15. Hi, all.
    I apologize for the delay in a response. Since posting, I still haven’t heard from “A”. I did read every reply and did take all of what has been said into consideration. I do agree that I should begin charging a fee upon booking. I will make clients aware of this during inquiries and will include a contract.
    Few things I wanted to mention:
    1) I definitely am unable to do sessions during the week. I go to work when it’s pitch black and arrive home when it’s pitch black. Unless it’s indoor, it’s just not feasible, which I’m OK with and why I still continue to have a full time job despite dabbling in photography.
    2) “A” has never given me a reason as to why she cancelled that session or ever said, “Hey, sorry for taking so long to respond- I was caught up with a, b, c.” and I don’t expect her to. It’s definitely not my place to ask what’s going on in her personal life.
    3) I do understand what everyone is saying regarding me being very early on in this journey and shouldn’t be so quick to cut ties. That is what I wanted to know, so thank you.

    Ultimately, I do plan to schedule again with “A”, should she decide to inquire for the sake of my nearly-empty portfolio. I have a plan in place for the booking fee and contract.

    I appreciate everyone’s insight and am thankful to hear (well, read) all of the various opinions. :)
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Good luck.

    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  17. She's a Flake, and doesn't value your service. If you re-book collect a "booking fee". Not a deposit. A deposit can be construed as refundable. A booking fee is non - refundable. Make that clear. It does not go on your calendar until the booking fee money is cleared in your account. If she flakes, it's a day off with pay. Don't call out sick from work for this client. Book it on your day off if at all.
  18. Internet psychologist at play.
    Because the best thing you can do when you're newly in a part-time business is be rigid and unyielding.
  19. Seems you’re a bit of an unlicensed practitioner yourself...
    Self-exploitation isn’t a business plan, either.
  20. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    ♫ Does your chewing gum loose its flavour on the bedpost over night?

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