Our clients can make or break our business. An important part of your photography business is how you manage your client’s expectations. Without it things can go wrong quickly.
The many types of clients and how to manage them
Like people from all walks of life, you also have different types of clients. And coming across difficult clients at some point is unavoidable. Even the photographers you see on Instagram who is bragging about their clients and how wonderful everything is – they have them too.
You know the saying “the customer is always right”?! That’s not true though. But it’s not a good idea to tell your clients that. The best thing you can do is to get clear on what you can offer and what you can’t. It’s also important to figure out who you want to work with and make that visible on all your platforms.
Here are some of the types of diffucult client profiles. Get to know them and how you can avoid ending up in tricky situations:
1. The Impatient Client
These types of clients are the ones who ask for the photos just a few hours after their shoot. They already want to get their hands on the results.
How to avoid this? Let them know multiple times when to expect images. Tell them a longer deadline than what you actually need, and deliver ahead of time.
If you do this, and it’s not working, that’s a sign that you need to find a new way of communicating your delivery time. Talk to them again and again. Make sure it’s stated in the contract. Tell them after the shoot or before you leave them. You can also send an email to them after their shoot to remind them.
2. The Demanding Client
You’ve let them know you only do portrait sessions from Monday until Thursday, but they still insist on booking on a Saturday.
So how do you solve this? You should always give your terms and conditions before you book. If they’re not willing to do things your way, you don’t have to work with them. And the only way to gain their respect is to say no.
3. The Price-shopping client
This client tells you how much they can pay and what they expect to get. This is very common in Facebook referral groups. The worst part is someone will always reply and offers that they can do it, no matter how low the price is.
To avoid this, you have to remember that clients do not set your prices. You don’t have to negotiate about your skills and prices. And you don’t need to feel bad for the people who cannot afford you. No matter how low you set your price, someone will always say that they cannot afford it. So just stick to your price.
4. The Self-conscious Client
Whatever you do, they are never happy with how they look, even if they are already gorgeous. They want their photos retouched, even if you’ve said you don’t do that. But still, they insist.
You have to understand that people who are unhappy with how they look will probably not be happy with any photos. A quick solution to this is to communicate clearly that you don’t retouch or modify appearances. A longer-term solution is to get very clear on who your dream client is. Like it’s someone who is confident and feels good about themselves. And get that message across your platforms so you start attracting those people who are your dream client.
5. The Perfectionist client
They point out every single detail that they are not happy with. You can give them 500 photos and they’ll tell you about the 3 photos that they don’t particularly like.
They are very similar to self-conscious clients. You just have to shake it off. If they point out things that you can and want to fix, go ahead and do it. Just remember to stick to your brand and style. Sometimes you need to meet your client halfway, but don’t do unreasonable things. Make sure that you clearly specify what can the client expect of you, what’s included in the contract, and what’s not. This must be done ahead of time so your client is well-informed about these things.
6. The Amateur Photographer Client
Having someone hanging over your shoulder and giving you “advice” when you work is certainly annoying. Statements like “I would do it this way” or, “my friend photographer thinks you should do this…” is not what you need to hear.
It can be really difficult to handle this because you are hired to put your own vision to life. You may encounter unhappy clients though. It’s quite common for less experienced photographers to think that they know how to do things. They are usually more accommodating. When you gain experience, you establish your style and your own way of doing things which is way more professional. This may come as a surprise to someone who thinks they know what they’re doing.
The best thing you can do is to have your terms and conditions clearly mapped out and communicated before taking on shoots. And then remind them again and again how your process is. If they are not willing to do things your way, then let them know that you probably aren’t the right fit for them and move on.
7. The Ungrateful Client
You know the feeling when you give extra images and they still complain about it. When you give discounts, they still tell you how expensive it is. Or even when you go above and beyond, they still want more. The complaints are endless.
So what do you? Whenever you give someone a bonus, discount, or extra images, let them know. Your clients may appreciate it. But be careful, if you give away too much, your clients may think they are overpaying you or that it’s ok to ask for even more. Don’t give away too much as it may hurt your business.
8. The Indecisive Client
They are the ones who don’t know what they want or where. Should they have their wedding portraits before or after the ceremony? Do they want this or that location? What outfits to choose from? They just can’t seem to give straight answers to your questions.
You can help them by giving them questions ahead of time. You, as the expert, can guide them and show them what you think they will be most happy with. Show examples and explain why something is the better option.
9. The Angry Client
No matter what you do they are just annoyed and unhappy, and they let you know about it. It does happen. Everything ticks them off, even things they have said they wanted and were prepared for. They can never seem happy with anything.
There’s no way but to break ties with them. We have to admit that we cannot make everyone happy. Experience teaches you to follow your gut feeling, and you’ll notice red flag behavior over time.
10. The Refund-requesting client
Whenever they are unhappy with something, they automatically request for refund. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fault, or not. Their goal seems to be to bully you into giving them a refund, regardless of the reasoning.
How do you solve this? Ask yourself, did you make a mistake? Does it warrant a refund or partial refund? If yes, then give it. If not, don’t let yourself be bullied. Come up with your refund terms. You don’t have to share it with anyone, but that way you know what is right for you so you can stay aligned with your services.
11. The Red flag client
You can immediately tell that something is off. Although you might not know exactly what it is but you feel there’s something that feels wrong. It could be that you can sense they are wanting something you can’t really promise them. Or like wanting a slideshow from the day shown during the reception. Or that they are questioning the fact that you require payment upfront.
How do you avoid this? You just have to turn them away. To you, putting up a slideshow is completely fine, but to some, it might seem stressful. It’s the additional things to do or the extra equipment that you need to bring. If it will affect your skills or the quality of your service, it might be better for you to stick to your terms.
How to avoid these kinds of clients
We really can’t avoid all these types of clients. Because anyone can become them if we don’t treat them right. It’s our job to make things as good as possible. But we are not perfect. At the same time, a lot of our time will be wasted once we focus on working with clients who do not resonate with our brand. You are the photographer and your clients are hiring you as the expert they need and want. It’s YOUR job and responsibility to manage your client’s expectations. You have to let them know what they can and should expect from you.
Set your terms and conditions ahead of time
Set your terms and conditions now to better manage your client’s expectations. How do you respond when someone gives you their budget? Do you stick with your pricing or create something suitable for that client? Figure out your work hours and delivery time. Set expectations for when your clients can reach out to you. Get full control of when you respond to questions or messages. Identify your boundaries and work within them. It would also help to map your client’s journey, from initial contact to what to do after the images are delivered.
Communication is key
Learn what works for you, add it to your contract or your welcome email, and discuss it in meetings. It is important to clients to talk about how you work, what they can expect from you, and also, what you expect from them. People often feel uncomfortable when things are uncertain. Your process is not like someone else’s so don’t let your clients tell you how to do it.
You can also do a video explanation of your contract and terms if you’re up for it. Remember to talk about why your policies are in place and make your clients understand. Communication is also one way to manage your client’s expectations.
How to resolve a bad situation
How do you manage your client’s expectations to avoid a bad situation? Schedule a meeting with your clients. Give your clients space to ask questions. Listen and be empathetic. Your clients want to feel heard and seen.
When it’s your turn to speak, make it clear that you are on their team. You want them to be happy and that they get what they originally paid for. Unfortunately, our immediate response is often to get defensive. If you are able to, turn your mindset around and focus on what you can learn from this experience, and how you might be able to solve it.
If they ask for more than what they have paid for, a good way is to offer additional payment. Instead of saying “no”, tell them what you can do and how much it will cost.
You should also do a follow-up after your meeting in writing where you provide a recap of what you discussed and agreed on.
There’s really no one solution to manage your client’s expectations. Knowing who your dream client is will definitely be the first step.
And remember that you are actually allowed to let your clients go if they don’t match with you and your brand. But whatever you do, don’t take it personally. Some people are impossible to please, and we all make mistakes and take on clients we know we shouldn’t have. Sometimes we even forget steps along the way that end up causing us trouble.
I believe in you – you got this!
If you want to enroll in my mentor program, you should get on the waitlist for the Sustainable Photography Program. It opens up again this fall and I know you would love it!
hi, i'm ingvild
This podcast is all about education and inspiration for photographers. A sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and to create the business you want. The goal of this podcast is that it will help you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.