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Mini-rant on the importance of constant contact with clients...

jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 10:33AM
Just looking for somewhere to vent a bit really - can't do it on Facebook as the world is a small place...

I booked a last minute bride right at the start of March. She booked my aptly named 'Short Package' which gives four hours wedding coverage and is designed for those on a budget or for short ceremonies.

She duly paid up and I sent out the paperwork. Right at the very top of the 'Invoice and Summary of Services' which the bride signed and returned (keeping a copy for herself), the very first bullet point says, "Photographer to be present for a maximum of four hours". This information is also made very clear on the 'Pricing' page of my website. I must admit that I can't remember our first telephone conversation word for word, but I only ever recommend the short package to those for whom it's suitable - the timescale would definitely have been discussed.

When my checklist came back with the other paperwork two weeks ago, I was slightly concerned to see that most of the day's timeline was left blank - I ask clients for times of significant events throught the day, such as , time of the wedding breakfst, when they'd like any formals done etc. I spoke with her straight away and she was very vague about the whole thing and asked me to just play it by ear on the day. Fair enough - that's what professionals are paid to do, when required.

Fast forward to this morning. I hate to bother clients in the days before their weddings, but really felt I needed a few more details, so called the bride this morning. I explained that I really wanted her to get her to get the most out of the four hours coverage and wondered if she had heard anything more regarding timings. The line went silent before she said, "Four hours? I need you there all day - it's the biggest day of my life!". I was a bit dumbstruck for a moment but explained how we could rectify the situation by either extending the cover, or having me start later. I also had to point her at the (very, very clear) paperwork, signed off by both her and her fiance, and at the very clear description of her package on my site.

She went on to accuse me of pulling the wool over her eyes amongst other things and generally had a bit of a panicky, shouty few minutes before calming down a bit. Dad is making the extra payment (hopefully as we speak) so should be problem solved but I don't doubt there'll be a bit of bad feeling about it on the day and probably thereafter too.

And the moral of all this rambling? Stay in touch with your clients from the word go (especially if they are last-minute types). Never, ever assume that they are reading what they're signing, or that they're taking in what you tell them, face to face or on the phone and finally, no matter how clear you feel you have been, get it all in writing in words of one syllable. I'm lucky enough to have a (reasonably) watertight Summary of Services with the clients' signatures - if I hadn't things might be looking grim right now...

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User_Removed 15 2.8k 11 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 10:57AM
Nice one Jamie.
You have to be so careful these days. Smile

I was asked once, "What happens if it rains?" "We get wet or we shoot under cover somewhere!!!"

jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 11:02AM
Cheers Laurel - I'm still doing a spot of deep breathing... It really is hard to stay totally professional when someone's accusing you of sharp practice! I also get the "What if it rains?" question now and again - if I had a bit of free cash, I'd love to invest in a few pairs of Weddington Boots - they look like a lot of fun!
ade_mcfade 13 15.2k 216 England
29 Mar 2012 11:06AM
sounds pretty awkward Jamie...

Just shows you the power of contracts really - I have the "start time" and "for a period of XX" hours in the contract, forces them to think about it - amazing how many don't actually know when they want you when first asked!

must admit, I'd dread shooting a wedding where there's even a slightest bit of "discomfort" between you and the couple... great shots are all about the rapport and being able to get the right reactions off people, if you're not on great terms, that could be a struggle Sad

good luck dude Smile
jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 11:20AM
Thanks Ade. The contract doesn't mention 'hours worked' as it's a catch-all for all different lengths of weddings from two hours to three days! The length of my coverage is stated very clearly indeed though on the 'Invoice and Summary of Services', which clients also have to sign. I also use a checklist which covers names, addresses, emergency phone numbers, whether or not parents are divorced etc, etc, but most crucially, timings on the day. If it's even half filled in, problems like this need never arise!

As for working with the family on the day, I'll just do the usual happy-smiley thing, tell some crap jokes and hopefully make it crystal-clear that there's no bad feeling on my side. I'm hoping the bride will be so excited she'll have forgotten the whole thing by then!
ade_mcfade 13 15.2k 216 England
29 Mar 2012 11:28AM
nowt queerer than folk

....other than brides and families around weddings Wink

I edited all the shots and did a book and sent the preview layouts to a couple all within about 3 days of the wedding... they love it, but are really dragging their heels getting the change list back.... kinda makes you wonder why I put the work in to get it done so fast!
Lucian 7 562
29 Mar 2012 11:37AM
Hi Jamie

I think you are doing right by having a contract. You are keeping yourself right by doing so. I think you should perhaps address the bride regarding the way she spoke to you as it is up to her to read the contract before signing and its not your fault she never read it properly. I have never used contracts because i have always felt that it may put people of booking but after some experiences with certain individuals i have decided to introduce contracts and payment terms that need to be signed. It always seems to be people who require budget packages that seem to cause the most problems.
howarthp 8 11 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 11:45AM
Jamie - I just looked at your website at the pricing and packages. I don't think the titles are clear enough and the formatting suggests that the Package One and Package Two are subsets of the Short Wedding Packages. Update your "Pricing 2010/2011" at the top of your page too.

jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 11:48AM
Thanks for the input Lucian. I've always had clients sign everything off - right down to the wording on the front of their albums. Usually, it slows people down and as Ade says above, makes them actually stop and think about their photography.

As for the bride getting a bit, umm, 'excited' this morning, I'm willing to forgive and forget if she is. I find there's seldom anything to be gained from pulling clients up on their comments / behaviour. Of course, it would be a different story if a client began affecting future business in whatever way but I go out of my way to make sure this'll never happen obviously Smile Usually it's best IMHO to just take the hit and reflect on the fact that you've acted with honesty and transparency throughout.

howarthp - in the light of this morning's coversation, I'll go off and have a look now - thanks also for the proof reading - will certainly change that!
peterjones Plus
16 4.7k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 12:09PM
I have got to the stage in life where I am happy to turn away business if I don't feel comfortable with the clients; I just turned one away this morning who was making a deal out of pricing.

jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 12:21PM
I'm not in that happy position yet Peter, but have turned down clients in the past due to, shall we say, cultural differences... I did a few short jobs for the local travelling community a few years ago (I hadn't realised who they were when I took the first job) and on the whole, they were pleasant, let me get on with my job ( the first was a christening, the second a Xmas party for labourers and their families) and paid cash on the nail, from huge, thick wads of notes.

Towards the end of the evening of the Xmas party, it all went a bit boobs-skyward and I vowed there and then that I'd never work for them ever again. This vow involved several very firm telephone conversations during which the dates of weddings were liable to change several times in the space of a ten minute chat, seemingly to accomodate me. But the end result was always the same... "Ah, let me see.... No I'm terribly sorry Mr *****, I seem to be booked on that date too".

EDIT: And may I take this opportunity to join the clamouring hordes who would LOVE you to change that avatar (assuming it's not actually you on a bad day).
mipettin 13 884 2 Scotland
29 Mar 2012 12:44PM

Sorry to hear about your Client. This is one reason I dislike booking over the phone. Best thing is to take a positive lesson out this and ask in future for an email address so you can confirm the discussion especially when it's a late booking. What I expect happened is the bride rang around photographers and had just spoken to one who offer all day coverage but was not available, she went to the next name on the list and didn't listen. Also be clear on start time and finish time in future. I have learnt the hard way that those who pay the least often want the most. As Peter Jones above I now decline these Clients as it's just a numbers game and they are buying a commodity not buying into you or your style or personality.

jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 1:09PM
Cheers Martin! You're quite right - I expect that's exactly what happened here and I have, indeed taken some valuable lessons away from this experience. It's very rare that I'll shoot a wedding without having had at least one meeting with the B+G but this one really was very last minute. Email addresses and start and finish times are all addressed in the checklist - in this instance, she'd only filled in a few minor details before posting it back to me...

But yes, there are holes in my arrangements which I'll fill from here on in Smile Starting with an instant email reply setting out exactly what service they're buying! Still though, you can lead a horse to water and all that - I expect there will still be future clients who just don't read anything put down in front of them!
Carabosse 14 41.0k 269 England
29 Mar 2012 1:20PM
In this day and age their email address, mobile number (for text messaging) - and Facebook and Twitter accounts - are essential details! Grin

Sadly, these days, posting something on someone's FB page is likely to get FAR more attention than an email. Not, of course, suggesting this is used routinely but worth considering in 'emergency' situations!
jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 3:08PM
I'm in agreement with you up to a point there CB; my personal Facebook account isn't really used to market the business - they can be a bit funny about that. I do have a page for the business, but it doesn't allow you to send friend requests - I can only encourage clients to 'like' the page, at which point I can interact with them to a limited degree. I just don't want my personal feed filled up with stuff from hundreds of random brides who I may never see again but who may take umbrage at being 'unfriended'.

The checklist does specify at least two phone numbers, two emails and home address. if clients are unwilling to part with that info (for whatever weird reasons) there's not a lot I can do about it Smile In this case, the checklist came back in reasonable time, but less than half completed, which led to the misunderstanding outlined above. Had it been completed, I would have known immediately that something was up!

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