[by Blake Discher]
Early on in my career, almost every client conflict I encountered was because my client’s expectations were out of sync with what I delivered. Fortunately, over the years, I’ve gotten much better at managing expectations, primarily through written communication instead of verbal.
I’ve learned to never give a price over the telephone. I always provide a written estimate that includes my terms and conditions. In essence, I’ve sent them my contract up front. The estimate provides a place for signatures, both theirs and mine. That form is my contract that must be signed prior to the start of photography. Very simply, I won’t shoot until the contract is signed. Important: The first time a client sees your terms and conditions cannot be on the back of your invoice. At that point they’re meaningless because they’re unsigned.
I’m convinced I’ve been awarded jobs because I’ve included my T&C in the estimate. It completes the estimate process with a level of thoroughness that some of my competitors lack. I’ve made it very clear, up front, what the client can expect in terms of deliverables, licensing, and payment schedules. If they order additional retouched images in the future for example, they know up front exactly what the cost will be.
Photographers will call from time to time asking for advice because they’re having trouble getting paid or experiencing some other problem with a client. I ask them what their contract stated. More often than not, they didn’t have a contract. I urge them to never work again without a signed contract prior to the start of the shoot.
It’s far more costly to get new clients than it is to retain existing ones, and managing expectations will help you to keep clients satisfied. And satisfied clients will contact you again for their next project and, best of all, provide referrals.
Blake Discher is a photographer and search engine optimization (SEO) consultant. He writes two blogs, one on the topic of sales and marketing: www.groozi.com, and the other on SEO: www.go-seo.tips.