You know the ones…you probably have one in your own family. Yeah. Someone who actually PLANS to be LATE. Like that is it is “fashionable”. And well, it is not in the least bit cool when your clients show up late.
But you know what happens. You are sitting in your car or at your studio…wondering what is up, and when they finally show up…
Your time is VALUABLE. It is valuable for your business, and for your own family. When you value your own time, your clients will value it more as well.
What happens at the Session when Clients are Late?
So we know you are thinking, “Great idea!” and are scampering over to your Contract to add in a Late Policy. But let’s talk about what really happens when it happens.
People are late, and you have to stick to your Contract. Yes, you can let it go and shoot longer, but you just basically sent the message that you don’t value your time. You didn’t stick to your own contract…so they may also try and walk all over you throughout the rest of the process. They now know you are a pushover, and so they may end up being one of those difficult clients who are always asking for freebies or discounts or complain about anything. Because they know you will cave! You opened the door.
So get a backbone. It is actually easier when you have a Late Policy. Here is the scenario:
The Smith Family shows up 20 minutes late for their 1 hour session. You greet them happily like nothing happened to set a good tone. They “may” apologize for lateness. In that case, you can still be nice and accept their apology. Then, start shooting. At about 20 minutes left in their hour, you then say to them, “We only have 20 minutes left in your session. We won’t be able to get as many poses since we lost some time on the front end, but you can tell me what your priorities are so we make sure to get the poses you want the most!”
Awesome! You kept it positive the entire time, without awkwardness, and without negativity. And in the end, if they are disappointed, they know that it was their own fault.
It is all about assigning more value to your time, and protecting it. You can make different choices, and give in here and there or in special circumstances, but always know that giving in is at a cost to you…now and in the future.
You need to have a Late Policy in your Photography Session Contract
It’s not like you can charge a client for being late, but your time is money, so it needs to be their loss if they are late, not yours.
Without money as leverage, you must use session time as your leverage. They have paid for a certain amount of your time in a specific timeframe. If they show up late, they are taking up the time themselves.
Try adding this paragraph to your Contract:
Your session begins at 5:00pm and will last for one hour. The session will end at 6:00pm. If you arrive late, it will result in the loss of time to get the best images possible.
If you are running Mini-Sessions, you might try using this paragraph:
Your mini-session is offered at a low price because I photograph sessions all day with a tight schedule. If you are late for your time slot, I will use the remainder of your time to get the best possible images. If you are late enough to miss your session, your payment is forfeited and cannot be rescheduled.
Again, as we mentioned in our post about having a Cancellation Policy, you MUST require payment in advance or none of your policies will work! People will not adhere to your policies if they have nothing to lose! Show your client that you and your time are valuable.
How to make a Photography Session Contract
Last, we cannot give legal advice. And don’t just write this stuff on a paper or print something yourself and expect it to have meaning. Your clients will see a “not so legal” document and they will know that you don’t really mean business.
You need LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACTS for your business…drawn up by an actual attorney. And we happen to know one. Rachel Brenke is an attorney who is a photographer herself. She knows the ins and outs of this business, and has defended actual cases for photographers in jeopardy of losing their businesses from lawsuits.
Please visit her site at TheLawTog to find the contract bundle that is right for your business. Her contract bundles are a one-time payment with no recurring fees.
You can also streamline your scheduling process by using an online e-sign program. This gets things done fast. Your clients won’t have to print paper contracts, sign, scan and send back. You create this no-nonsense process that let’s your clients know to expect a professional experience with you.
We love PandaDoc because of the low cost and the ability to also take a payment in the same transaction. With PandaDoc, their lowest priced plan allows you to import your contracts and use them as a template, filling in names and dates, etc.
You are a business owner now. Processes and paperwork and accounting may not be your thing, but there are resources that make those things run like clockwork. You can set these things up and never think about them again, knowing that you are protected. So go use the new time you have freed up for the creative side of your business!