Five Ways To Stand Your Ground With Impossible Clients

When you read the title of this post, whom did you think of? Did one client’s name jump to the center of your thoughts?

We all have clients along the way that simply come in, and attempt to control the entire show. They want extras in your packages. They want more time than you offer. They want special attention.

Especially in this economic climate, it’s easy to bring on a client, even if there are warning signs up front they may be difficult. But who can turn down hundreds or even thousands of dollars?

Yet I’ll bet if I ask you after you’ve worked with that same client for a while if it was worth it, your answer would be a very big NO.

So how do you set the stage up front and avoid these clients? How do you deal with someone who ends up eating way too much of your time?

1. Remember your business.
You have packages in place because they meet your requirements for keeping your business profitable. You have your business set up to do the things you love to do. You are the professional, and know what’s best for your clients, what works and what doesn’t. If someone asks for a minor change, its one thing. But if they start making major changes, and asking for things that really impact the way you do business, remember your business comes first. Simply tell them your business is set up to offer the very best for your clients. Outside of minor changes, you simply can’t make the changes she’s asking for.

working with impossible photography clients

2. Off money back and a referral.
I remember one client who was having a major mid-life crises. Every image we captured had a problem: daughter wasn’t smiling, he needed more hair, take off a little around his tummy, too many wrinkles in his shirt – you get the picture. After 30 minutes of this, we wrote out a check for the sitting fee, wrote down the name and number of another photographer, and simply recommend he take his business somewhere else. In seconds, he calmed down, apologized, and went back to find several images he loved, and placed a pretty substantial order. Sometimes clients need to be reminded you’re human too, and you’re not willing to put up with major attitudes.

3. Learn to say no.
If you feel like the client is asking way too much from you, learn to say no. You don’t have to apologize for your “no” or make excuses. If they are asking for something unreasonable, a simple no should suffice.

4. Qualify your customers before they hire you.
As a business owner, you should be evaluating every prospect just as much as they are evaluating you. You don’t have to contract with every person you meet. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t take them on as a client. This becomes even more important for large jobs such as a wedding. You should never spend months of time, hours over the course of the wedding, plus all the hours of production on a client you really don’t mesh with.

5. Make all negatives positive.
The way to grow as a photographer is to learn from your mistakes. Add new policies to your business.  Write new clauses into your contracts. I touched on this a bit in my post How To Handle Too Many Photographers At The Wedding and suggested a special clause in your contract will handle future situations. As long as you use what you learn from every client to turn your studio into a more effective business, you’ll continue to love what you do.

2 thoughts on “Five Ways To Stand Your Ground With Impossible Clients”

  1. Lori and Andrew,

    This is a great article and conveys exactly what I teach photographers – to qualify your clients first. It really is important to accept and “hire” clients who trust that you will take care of them and their needs. Turn away folks that your gut screams “no” about or where there are immediate red signs and you will find yourself a lot happier doing the work you love.

    We do not have to (and should not) accept everyone who walks through the door.

    Creator of the 365 Day Marketing Calendar

  2. Very helpful article. Brings a sigh of relief that there are others out there who can give advice on a touchy subject.


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