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Monday, February 6, 2012

It's you, not me-dealing with difficult clients

Back last summer, I shot a senior girl session which turned out beautiful. I sent the gallery proof to the mom and she picked out her favorites for the prints and I ordered her package. Everything went smoothly-so I thought.

When she received her prints, she said her daughter's face looked pink in print in one of the photos. She was up against a red brick wall and it was a hot day, so she did have a "hot" face. I did, however, touch it up as much as I could before she saw them. She didn't look unnatural in coloring though. She (mom) began complaining about other photos as well.

I offered to do a retouch and take out more red and "fixed" the other photos as well. She agreed and I had them reprinted (shipping at my cost) and sent them out to her once again. I didn't hear from her until almost two months later by email telling me she still wasn't happy with the photos. Well, since she waited so long, I couldn't send them back to the lab. Frustrated, I asked her just what was she was looking for? She just wasn't happy with the coloring once again and added new complaints this time!

At this point, I wasn't sure if she was just trying to get everything for free. I have been using her daughter's photos in my senior advertising since summer and they look great, so I was lost at what she wanted me to do.

I decided that I would just offer her the amount it would cost ME to print them and let her be the printer's problem. Maybe that wasn't the right thing to do, but eliminating the stress was worth it. I think this client was just one of those people who aren't happy unless they feel they got away with some deal.

Dealing with difficult clients can be hard. A few tips to follow may help you to deal with a difficult client, or avoid them in the first place.

Just say no.

This word is the hardest word to say sometimes. Guilt works big time on me and the need to please all my clients no matter what. Used appropriately though, this word sets boundaries for the client that might not otherwise be apparent.

Offer a solution.

Clients have a tendency to be single-minded when it comes to voicing their request. Find out what their underlying reason is for their demands. Maybe they don't have the money, or a specific location they didn't know you would go to. You might turn their demand into a positive.

Pre-qualify your clients.

This is such an important step in the photography business! Don't just book your clients. Instead, hold a phone or in person consultation to feel your client out. Understand their wishes and let them know what you are all about as well.
I turned down a wedding couple just the other day because I didn't feel we were a great fit during our interview. Pre-qualifying your customers saves a lot of headaches!

Write up a contract!

I've learned first hand what to put in your policies contract through trial and error with clients. My contract has changed over the years to include things I didn't think about until after I lived them. Very important to protect yourself and save yourself money and time in the long run.

Be professional-always.

It was so hard to just bite my tongue when dealing with this client. I just wanted to shake her and shout, these are beautiful-why don't you see that?! lol A client may just want to keep pushing your buttons over and over so you will cave. I know that as artists, we take things personally more than the average Joe. Just simply stand firm and stay professional. Once again, that's why I recommend pre-qualifying to avoid hassles!

I admit, I didn't follow all of these rules with that client and look where it got me-over 6 months later I was still dealing with her.


Tara said...

great advice! :) I am working on writing contracts as we speak!

Kimberly Gauthier said...

Great advice.
Difficult clients drove me out of the business before I really got going. Not only did I find the inability to articulate what they expected (the requests kept changing), but some of the expectations were too much (make me look cool, slimmer, younger – you have photoshop, can’t you do that). I have a lot of respect for photographers – it’s fun, but it does take some people skills.

Gina Kleinworth said...

So glad you talked about this. I have had a few different people give me grief over my straps. Sometimes I think people just like to have something to complain about. I really appreciate all this advice though because one day I am going to be doing photos professionally & I like being prepared for things like this that come up.

Melissa Rich said...

Great tips! Thank you for sharing this post.

lc from {} said...

AWESOME advice. CONTRACTS ARE KEY. I've had rocky clients as well. You always will so it's important to have a contract to go back on ... especially a clause, "Photographer cannot control all elements of environment. Photographer can only suggest changes to ensure the best quality photos." This is so important. GREAT post. Glad to know I'm not alone. :)

Anonymous said...

This is a great post with great advice.

Pieces of Sunshine said...

Just as well it wasn't wedding photographs for this client. Must be very difficult at times.