Saying no to a client who wants all the extras, the special edits, the constant discounts, is about as difficult as trying to sleep train your child, while standing outside their bedroom door listening to them wail and not going in to help.
People are always going to want the most for their money, and some people might want it more than others. So how do you say no when your client asks for a freebie, an extra hour, selective color edits, or other things you just don’t have time for? Sadly, I think all photographers go through a phase where it’s hard to say no. You know what I mean. You’re business is still getting on its feet and you feel as though if you say no your client won’t like you, won’t refer you and you’ll get a bad reputation before you’ve even got your feet wet.
I’m here to tell you that it’s okay (and really it’s better than okay) to set some standards for yourself to follow. Learning to say no to things that you don’t want to do is always going to be hard, but it’s part of the job and it’s an important part in remaining professional, treating all your clients the same, and really getting paid for your hard work. Here are a few tips that can help you say no to those difficult requests.
1. Say ‘no’ followed with something that you would say ‘yes’ to. Offer your clients an alternative to their method. Does your client know you don’t produce selective color images where all but one object is in black and white? Tell them that you can do these, for an extra fee, $50 per image, since it’s not a part of your style or usual editing routine and takes extra time and effort. Do you have a client who wants to reschedule for a day you’re unavailable and she’s giving you a hard time? Tell her that while you are unavailable on that day, you are available on X day.
2. Say ‘no’ to the job in the beginning, but offer to find someone else that can help them with it. Ever get that feeling when you’re booking a new client that they are going to be high-maintenance. There are some clients that just are and they aren’t going to change. If you get the feeling this client is going to want all the extras, be very demanding tell them that you’re unfortunately booked for the foreseeable future, but you know a photographer who may be able to work with them instead. Yes, I’m telling you to pass off this horrible client to someone else, but maybe someone else is willing to work with them and has the patience of a saint and you don’t. It’s okay to be selective. Select clients who will further your business by bringing you in referrals, not clients that are going to make your job extra difficult.
3. Value your time and your money and stick to it. I’ve heard of this one all too many times. A photographer has a set price of $200 for a 2 hour portrait shoot, “Client” comes along and says they only want one hour so can they pay you $100 instead? Stick to your policies. Explain why a shoot takes two hours. Don’t let anyone haggle you down below what you’ve set your worth at. If they haggle you once, they’ll try it again later in their experience with you.
4. Be honest. Explain to your clients why you are saying no to something, what work goes into it, what it costs you to do whatever they’re asking and then leave it up to them. By being honest with your client and not hiding why you are saying no they can see the worth of the work that goes into what they are asking. If they still pressure you, say no and send them on their way.
5. Use kind words. Yes, sometimes clients don’t understand. Of course they don’t! Unless they’ve been a photographer it’s going to be very hard for them to relate to what goes on behind the scenes. Be patient and kind with how you say no and remember they might not know how hard you really work.
6. Say no with a smile.
7. Remember that saying no is a refusal, not a rejection. If you are saying no to your clients do your best to not make them feel bad or feel as though you are giving them a personal rejection, just refusing the offer.
8. Be assertive and don’t apologize for saying no unless it is necessary. You shouldn’t be sorry that you have to value what you’re worth. Sometimes when you apologize while saying no it can be interpreted as a weakness. Instead you can say, “unfortunately I’m unable to because of XYZ.”
9. Accept that you can’t always be nice and sometimes you do have to be firm. You can be firm and polite and that’s okay.
10. “The customer is always right” might be an okay saying in retail, but not in the world of custom photography.
We have a couple awesome workshops coming up. If you didn’t have the time to do the 31 Days to a Better Photography Business workshop for the month of August you can sign up and reserve your spot for >September’s Online Workshop!<
I also just put out some information about an intensive, extended workshop (3 months!) that has private one on one sessions with me, group skypes, and even more information so we can get super in depth on revamping that business. If you’re interested in signing up please do! This workshop will also be starting on September 1st and will run through the end of November! >Register<