If you haven’t had a really bad client yet, then you may not know how to spot them…
They suck away your time, freedom and all the joy you have in Photography. They seem to hang around forever and for some weird reason they always have about 5 different phone numbers – so if you choose to ignore one, they’ll call back from another.
These are bad clients and in this article I’ll outline the 5 most common forms they come in, as well as what you need to do to avoid them to allow your business to keep moving forward!
#1 – The Time Waster
This is one of the most common and most harmful to your business.
They’ll start out by calling or emailing usually with a large number of questions, which is fine – everyone wants to make a smart decision when it comes to a photographer so you take the time to answer them all in detail.
Next you’ll be met with round after round of questions. Each round seeming more trivial than the last, but you’ve already come this far, so you continue to answer each one.
After you’ve given the prospect almost every piece of information they could possibly want, plus more, you’ll probably be met with “ok, I’ll have to think about it” – at which point you realise that you’ve probably dodged a bullet.
Next, you’ll hear from this person frequently every time they come up with a new question. You are now at their beckoning call, and have probably put in as much time as a full photo-shoot already, and hopefully it ends here if they decide to go with another photographer…
But if they don’t…
Well, you’re now in even deeper than before.
The time waster tends to make multiple appointments before finally committing to one. Plans change at the drop of a hat and you’ll usually be notified at the last minute.
Eventually the job will be over and you can start to enjoy your career again. Just hope that the time waster doesn’t morph into the perfectionist or the complainer!
#2 – The Perfectionist
As a Photographer you’re probably a bit of a perfectionist yourself. After all, the d
ifference between a good shot and a perfect shot can often be so small that you really DO need to ‘sweat the small stuff’.
But the perfectionist is different…
They’re not looking for the perfect shot from what they’re working with. What they want is some sort of magic to happen where the sun changes positions, they miraculously become a supermodel and every photo looks like it belongs on the cover of Vogue.
Great results are always expected as a Photographer, but there is a limit to what’s possible and the perfectionist is blissfully ignorant of these limits so their high expectations are certainly going to be crushed, and total disappointment will follow.
After hours spent tweaking photos in Lightroom and Photoshop you tentatively send over what you’ve got, knowing that they’re certain to be upset.
The draft is usually met with dozens or even hundreds of corrections (some so small that they wont ever be noticed) that need to be made before they will accept the work… and that’s if you’re lucky! Often they’ll want a full re-shoot!
Be wary of the perfectionist and always ensure clients understand what’s possible in the world of photography.
#3 – The Complainer
The complainer is a cousin of the perfectionist, but instead of expecting everything to turn out better than possible, they simply complain about everything (which does include the result of the photos usually).
There’s nothing too ridiculous for the complainer to complain about…
Anything from the studio being too cold, your lighting is too bright for their eyes, it was hard to find a car park, they had to leave work early to make the appointment, or even that the shoot took more (OR less) time than they had hoped it would.
They’ll even complain to you about anything in their life during your time together. Their cat is sick, they just got a speeding ticket, and they went to the beach but it was too windy.
It’s downright depressing to be around complainers and after working with a true complainer you’ll probably need to take the rest of the day off. You’ll feel like you’ve worked a solid 12 hours straight.
#4 – The Bargain Hunter
The bargain hunter isn’t so bad because they’re easy to deter. All you need to do is put your prices up and you’ll rarely hear from them.
They always want the best deal and they’re only loyal to whoever touts the lowest prices.
They’ll call you up asking what the lowest price you can offer is. It’s also common for them to offer something as a form of barter…
They’ll tell you that they’ll do an analysis of your website which is usually worth $200 (usually involves them clicking a button on some free software they found), or give you some product worth $80 (that they’re buying from China for about $2), in exchange for big discounts on your normal prices.
Don’t fall for it!
They’ll cheap-out every step of the way and won’t be worth your time. Plus they’ll never come back because they care more about low prices than high quality and service.
The bargain hunter will almost always end up with a ‘bait and switch’ Photographer who offers what seems like a crazy cheap price, but then forces the clients to pay high prices if they actually want to keep any of the photos, or some other ‘get em in cheap’ system like that.
#5 – The Power Freak
The power freak is last because they can be the worst form out of all the bad clients.
It almost seems like they wish it were still back in the days of slavery, and that because they’ve paid you some money, they now own your soul!
They expect way too much of you and don’t seem to understand the difference between Photographer and personal assistant.
These power hungry people usually emerge around wedding photographers because they’ve spent thousands, and there are often a lot of jobs to be done at a wedding, so they enlist the help of the Photographer to stack chairs, set tables, hang decorations and bring them drinks.
Sure, it’s great to go the extra mile and help out in ways that weren’t expected, but it’s just not the same when you’re being forced to do things that aren’t what you’ve been paid for.
It can be almost impossible to spot some of these bad customers before it’s too late, so sometimes you might just have to tough it out and be a professional. Don’t give into their demands, just provide the service that you’ve been paid for.
If you know you won’t be able to complete the job, and that they won’t be happy even if you do, then it’s best to offer them a refund and point them in the direction of another Photographer who might be able to meet their needs better.
If you do get to the end of a job – remember to never work with them again!
Store their number in your phone with a note saying ‘bad client’. If they ever call again, simply tell them that you don’t have time, or that you think another Photographer would be more suitable for the results they’re looking for.
When you get rid of your bad clients you’ll free up A LOT of time to work with great clients. You’ll be more passionate about what you do and have much more fun every single day – this will shine through in your work and help you to bring in more clients, making your business even more profitable and successful!
If you’ve ever had any of these bad clients (or others), I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!