99% of “stupid things I have done” in client relations have happened when dealing with friends, family and acquaintances.
A few years ago a woman I network with in a professional meeting every month wanted to hire me for her May wedding. Early May is not a busy month where I am located as the weather is still very unpredictable so I was willing to work with her and told her that.
What I said: ” I have a 4 hour package that would fit your budget, but the only caveat would be that if I have an opportunity to book a full day wedding that day I will have my associate shoot your wedding”
What she heard: ” I have a 4 hour package that would fit your budget and if someone else calls for your wedding day I will have my associate shoot their wedding”
The contract wording was clear and spelled out that I would shoot the wedding unless I booked another event. But as we know, people don’t read much these days.
So when the inevitable happened, I called to let her know that I had booked another wedding on her date but my associate was excited about photographing her wedding, she was crushed. When I reiterated what we had talked about, she remembered the conversation very differently. “Remember how you told me May is not usually a busy month? I thought you said you would send your associate to shoot any other wedding”
I told her May was not a busy month. In her bride-addled brain, that translated to ” I am sure I will be able to shoot your wedding because it’s not a busy month for me”
What she felt: She felt like I thought the other wedding was more important than hers and I had willingly dumped her for a bigger better wedding for more money. Which, technically speaking, I had. To me it was business, to her it was personal. This was a person that I could not have told you anything more than her name, what she did for a living and that she liked the color pink a lot. In her mind, we had “A relationship”. I know this because it was the phrase she used over and over as she expressed her disappointment with the way I handled things.
What I should have done: Contracted my associate for the coverage and all the verbiage and conversations with her should have specifically been about my associate shooting it. Then at my discretion I could have surprised her prior to the wedding that I was available and shot it. The way I handled it caused hurt feelings and to this day we remain distant with each other. She was “happy enough” (her words) with the photos, but I am sure somewhere in her mind she feels like I sent out the second string. Frankly, the photos were phenomenal. But that doesn’t really matter, does it?
My contract may have been clear, but sometimes by being right you don’t win.
Kim’s Friends and Family Pricing, revised.
Family Pricing: Includes the people who are my parents, anyone married to one of my parents for more than a few years (yeah, don’t ask) anyone dating or married to me currently, my kids, my sister, my stepbrothers and their children. These people receive my services 100% free of charge as long as I am am available. They get their photos outright on a disk and pay cost for prints if they want them through me. I also have a VERY select few good friends who are included in this list. They are as close to me as family and they know who they are and are also sworn to secrecy that they are on the list. It’s kind of like Fight Club with more awesome photos.
Friends: Anyone that I know that does not meet the criteria of above, but is a friend. Not just a Facebook friend, but a real live friend that I am likely to have lunch with/drinks with on a semi-regular occasion or extended family such as second cousins that I barely know. They get a discount on my fees and a discount on prints. If my prices are too high for them, they are welcome to use another photographer. I let them know that shooting a portrait session is not ” stopping by and taking a few pictures” and a wedding isn’t “taking a few photos and putting the camera down to have fun”. I treat their session or their wedding exactly as I would a paying client and they need to respect that while I am appreciative they love my work enough to hire me, it’s still work and I am going to treat it as such. When I am shooting a wedding I am working, and when I am done my camera goes into my bag and is put away for the night is when I turn into a guest and not a second before.
Acquaintances: I like to call these people “clients”. If I know you, that does not mean I have to give you any sort of a deal or discount. I can at my discretion throw in a free print or something if the spirit moves me but it is never promised or implied. So for the sister of the guy I dated in high school, she’s an acquaintance. The soccer moms that I have known for 10 years because our kids played together? Still acquaintances. However, an acquaintance can be moved into friends if they ALSO provide a service for me. My plumber gives me a discount because I’ve sent a lot of business her way, and that moves her into friends pricing even though we really don’t socialize in our day-to-day lives.
So, let’s hear it. Your best horror story about the gig you never should have taken and how it turned out. And somewhere in there, I want to hear you address two things:
How they felt and what YOU could have done differently.