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How to Deal with Difficult Photography Clients

How to Deal with Difficult Photography Clients

December 8, 2017

Difficult photography clients – we’ve been all there, but this doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Sadly, when you offer a creative service such as photography, it isn’t uncommon to find yourself working with a client who expects too much for what they are prepared to pay, or who simply becomes frustrated with a perceived miscommunication along the way.

While there are some steps you can take to avoid being in this situation altogether, this just isn’t always possible. That’s why we’re going to look at some of the best ways you can deal with difficult photography clients.

Let’s get started!


Prevention is Key

We mentioned above that there are some ways to avoid working with difficult clients altogether, so we’ll briefly discuss how, in the hopes of preventing you further pain in the long-run!

Firstly, it’s incredibly important that both you and your client are on the same page in terms of what you are offering and what their expectations in return are. The best way to do this is with a contract that both parties must sign, so be sure to either have a lawyer draw one up for you, or if you create your contract yourself, still have a lawyer give it the thumbs-up.

Secondly, communication goes a long way. Try to have as many phone conversations or in-person meetings with them as possible. Ask them about their expectations or wants and then determine whether they are a great fit for your services. Remember, you can turn down a potential client before you begin working with them if you feel as though the partnership simply won’t work.

Lastly, keep records of everything related to the job to ensure you’re covered if anything does go sour. Keep all email correspondence, fully explain your contract, practice full disclosure with your policies, obtain signed model releases, collect a signed agreement and deposit with all bookings, and ensure they have a written copy of the package they ordered. And perhaps most importantly? Keep a professional demeanour at all times!

Now, let’s look at the ways you can deal with difficult photography clients should they arise (whilst still keeping your cool…).

Listen and Identify the Issue

As soon as your client comes to you with a complaint, it’s important to take the time to listen and identify their problem. Talking over your client, disagreeing bluntly with their opinion, or shutting them down entirely isn’t just unprofessional – it also creates a larger problem with the client.

Instead, listen politely, acknowledge their problem, and tell them you understand their frustration. Reassure them that you will do everything you can to solve the issue. Note that this does not mean you will give in to any unreasonable requests, nor will you go against your business policies to give them what they want.

Talking to your client in a kind and understanding way does help the situation dramatically, however.

Deal with the Matter Privately

Some unhappy or difficult clients will take to social media to voice their complaints, and as annoying as this is, you need to respond in an appropriate and professional way. Firing off an angry response to the client will only result in further infuriating comments back and forth, not to mention it will turn away any potential future clients witnessing the situation as it unfolds on social media.

Instead, allow yourself an hour or two from reading the complaint before you respond. This will ensure level-headedness. Then, offer a helpful response. Thank the client for their feedback, offer an apology that they feel this way, and then state that you will continue dealing with the matter via phone. This is also a great strategy for dealing with more private complaints that have been emailed or messaged to you.

Discuss a Solution

Let’s face it, no one wants an unhappy client, even if they are in the wrong. Work together with the client to discuss potential solutions and hopefully soon you will both be able to move on with your lives! The constant back and forth between a difficult client can prove draining, so the aim is to rectify the situation as quickly as possible, in a way that you are both comfortable with.

It really depends on what kind of work you did for them, but in some cases, a re-shoot may be necessary. Sometimes, clients are happy with some freebies thrown in (like a canvas or set of printed photographs). In more extreme cases, a refund shouldn’t be ruled-out entirely too, however this should only be reserved for a client who is genuinely very unhappy with your work and when a solution other than a refund cannot be reached.

For further reading on this subject, be sure to check out any of the following articles:

What to Say to a Client Who’s Always Right with Phillip Blume

Setting Client Expectations in Your Photography Business by Bryan Caporicci

Dealing with Know-it-All Photography Clients by Kristi Kvenild

There you have it – our top tips on how to deal with difficult photography clients. Remember, prevention is always best, but if you do find yourself in this situation, we hope our advice helps!

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