I’m so excited to kick of my weekly feature, Ask Kim! Each week I will be answering one of the questions submitted to me here on the blog (I try to answer all the questions that come in, even if they aren’t featured here!) since I know so often as photographers, there isn’t anyone to turn to when you have a question!
My hope is to give you a place to turn when you’re sitting at your desk, totally stumped about some aspect of your business or a tricky client. You’re never alone!
Our first question comes from Shelley, who asks:
“Do you ever give up on humanity? I am feeling low in a place where cancelation postpones and general impatience is driving me batty, how do you get past this?”
This question caught my eye because I’ve felt the same exact way.
I’ve been in business for about two years, and one of the most aggravating issues I ran into (that had me ready to throw in the towel more than once!) was clients not taking my business seriously. Cancelations, showing up late, texting me at 3am the night after their session asking when their images would be ready (even though I told them ten times when they’d be ready), you name it.
My biggest lesson?
Respect yourself. Respect your time. Respect your business.
Your clients need respect, they deserve it, but be prepared to walk away from a situation that doesn’t feel right. Don’t hold on for dear life, throwing your business practices to the wind while trying desperately to please everyone.
It is important to know your target market.
Who do you want to work with? What type of sessions do you love? Take some time to sit down and make a client avatar (a profile of your ideal client) and decide what type of sessions you want to specialize in, and stick to that. Don’t just take on any session that comes your way because you don’t want to turn down business. Check out this great outline for designing your avatars! I’m not saying not to try new things, you absolutely should, but once you find you don’t enjoy a specific type of photography, don’t feel pressured to say yes to those sessions.
I can’t stress enough the importance of contracts.
Make them specific! Put in place policies that are important to you. Let clients know up front what your expectations are so that they know you mean business. Always be kind, but stand your ground when it comes to your policies. People will take you more seriously when you take yourself seriously, and by laying out what you expect of your clients (be on time, confirm the session, whatever) they will be less likely to walk all over you! Sure, sometimes exceptions need to be made. If a child wakes up throwing up the morning of their session, don’t charge their parents for rescheduling!
Example: my best friend is a woman I call Grandma. She’s 92, and isn’t a fan of the cold. Last winter was rough in Chicago. The night before her 6 month check up, she called me saying she wanted to cancel the appointment because it was going to snow. I was driving her and would drop her at the front door, so I told her she should just go. Finally, she decided to keep the appointment, not because of my opinion, but because the office recently decided a $40 fee would be charged for cancellations given without 48 hours notice. Had that policy not been in place, that appointment would have been cancelled, but the policy made her take it more seriously before canceling.
Do you require deposits for sessions?
I prefer to call them retainers, because they are not refundable (deposits can be refunded). If not, consider requiring a certain amount up front to hold reservations. That will help!
Recently, I ran into a situation with a client that told me the day before her session that she’d lost her wallet and couldn’t pay me her balance until after the session. I was understanding and suggested that she pay with a check or run to the bank and withdraw cash but each suggestion was met with an excuse. My heart told me to just say “it’s ok” and do the session, but my head said to stand firm. She’d already signed the contract saying she’d pay the balance at the session, so after my suggestions were shut down I kindly asked that we reschedule for the following weekend, when she said she’d have her wallet back. I stood up for myself, she understood, and everything worked out. If I had done the session, I would’ve been resentful, and I would have been stressed out wondering if she would ever pay.
My dearest Shelley, at times, in my business life and my personal life, I’ve wanted to give up on humanity. I’ve grumbled about jerky people who have no manners, no tact and seemingly no feelings. What is their deal?! Truth is, the world is made up of all different people, with different life experiences and different values. You won’t like everyone you meet. Not everyone will like you either. Don’t let people you don’t click with get you down! For each client that isn’t the best fit for you, I am fairly certain you’ve had at least five good ones!
Focus on the good, set yourself up to attract the clients you want and put policies in place to let clients know what to expect.
To submit a question to Ask Kim, fill out this simple form here and let us know what’s been bugging you!