Today’s question is from Fiona who asks:
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What should I do if a client cancels at the last minute?
A Family contacted me through my website for a family portrait session.
I spoke to the mother on the phone. I explained from start to finish how the session will flow and I even emailed my price list and available dates the same day.
They she emailed back and picked a date and time to book the session.
The morning of the session I got a text saying. They had a family emergency and couldn’t make it.
I tried contacting the family a couple of weeks later to reschedule but they won’t answer my calls or emails.
In today’s episode: What should I do if a client cancels at the last minute?
I answer Fiona’s question and discus –
- Explaining your product and services to your client.
- People booking you because of fearing of missing out
- The three emails / phone calls and your out rule.
- Pro and con of asking for a Sitting fee or deposit.
Yeah, it is annoying and it’s … can be extremely, frustrating when people do … cancel at the last minute. You go to the trouble of explaining everything, booking a time, and setting aside time to prepare, and they cancel last minute. Now, it’s unfortunately, that this particular, client, may have, had a family emergency, but the fact that they’re not answering their phone calls, or emails, it means … I, personally, think it could, potentially, mean that they just didn’t want to go ahead with the portrait session, I’m sorry to say.
Now, the reason I say that, is I’ve, actually, had similar experiences. It can be frustrating, especially, if there are other people that want a session on the same day, or another event that you could be photographing that could a lot more profitable for you. That’s the frustrating bit.
Explaining your product and services to your client
I do like the way, how you explained everything to your client from start to finish, you’ve given her a price list, you’ve explained the products, you’ve told her how the day will go, had some time to think about it, and booked a day and time. You’re set, pretty much.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong you did in your session … over the phone consultation, but the reason why some people do cancel … sorry.
The reason why some people do book, and then cancel later could, also, be that they’ve contacted you for a service, and they think that everything is everything they wanted, and it could be the fact that they didn’t consult with their spouse. When they’ve gone and presented what’s going to happen, and get family photos, the other family members may just go, “No, we do not want that.” That does happen. That’s why it’s, extremely, important to speak to both people that will … basic decision makers for the family.
This is, especially, true when you’re trying to book weddings. You, definitely, need the bride and groom. Being in your case, with a portrait session … nothing you can do.
I do get a lot of clients call over the phone, and there is one person organising the whole session, so it is very common for one person to organise a session, provided that they have the backing from the rest of the family to go ahead with the session.
People booking you because a fearing of missing out
Now, the other thing is that people sometimes, book a session and then cancel, because they’ve come across your services and they thought, “Wow, this everything I want. It’s at the price point I want.
I’m going to get what I want, and I can, finally, have those portraits I want for my family,” and then, they may find something else, which could be cheaper, could be better, could be anything, really.
They book you, because of fear of missing out on a particular day, and then, not answering emails or phone calls later, because they’re too embarrassed to say, “No, we’ve found someone else,” or “We just don’t want to anymore.” I think, that could be one possibility.
The three emails / phone calls and your out rule
The fact that you’ve contacted them and you haven’t gotten any returns from your emails or phone calls, I have the rule of three strikes and you’re out.
I try to contact clients via email and then, also, phone, or even, sometimes, text, where you’ve sent an email, and just making sure they received the email and send a text saying, “Hey, I just shot you an email, make sure it hasn’t gone to your spam folder,” look out for it, type thing.
If you try making a few phone calls and you’ve left a couple of messages and you’ve sent an email, that’s it. Don’t.
If they’re going to get back to you, they’re going to get back to you. This customer could have, genuinely, had a situation where something did tragic happen, and they just don’t really want to talk to anyone now. That’s, also, a possibility.
Pro and con of asking for a Sitting fee or deposit
What I have noticed is that you haven’t mentioned anything about a sitting fee or a deposit for your business. Now, this is one way you can, generally, get people to respond back to your emails and phone calls, is to say I’m going to charge a sitting fee, maybe, something nominal, like $50 or $100 or whatever it may be, and you’re saying that this is for my time and anything extra you purchase will be on top of that.
Some people feel a little bit funny charging that, but I don’t think we should feel funny, because as you’ve experienced, you prepared for the day, you’ve gone through the process of explaining your services, and you should be rewarded for that.
If you don’t want to charge a sitting fee, or you don’t feel right doing that, you could charge a deposit, and this is what I do.
I ask people to place a deposit, then that goes in to the final cost of whatever the product or digital files or wedding or whatever that may be, that applies for portraits, as well as weddings.
It just makes it easier that way, knowing that if someone’s out a little bit of money, they’re ensuring you that they’re going to make an effort to turn up.
That’s what I do. I’m hoping that some of these things I’ve mentioned to you clear things up with you, and I hope that helps.