The "Could You Just..." Client Request (How to Stay Sane!)
What is the "Could You Just..." Dilemma?
If you've held a camera for more than 6 months, you've probably had to navigate through the "Could you just..." conversation. For me, that gave me unneeded anxiety and worry for something that didn't have to exist. Why did I have to worry about the client asking for more than they paid for, and then getting mad at me for not giving into their demands? Why did I leave cracks open for them to have such requests?
The "Could you just..." question is pretty much the "give an inch, take a mile" scenario. Clients can be wonderful people but I feel that it's human nature to push boundaries and always want more. They do it, and like it or not so do we. We want more than entitled in every other daily activity.
How can you eliminate this additional stress for future clients? What can you do to make sure they don't push over your boundaries and respect your work? Read below, I give 3 options for such clients.
It requires some uncomfortable conversations but the discomfort of a hostile freelancer/client relationship is far worse. With that, let's get to work!
Learn How to Manage Client Expectations
We take pictures, and that's where our hearts are. We create extraordinary beauty in places people miss, and that's the greatest gift of our talent. Incredible right? Well, that's just the small part of it, and if you're a successful creator then you understand that a bigger chunk is client management.
I started out thinking that "client management" was something manipulative and bad. I don't like puppet-play and that's not how I roll. That's what I thought it was, but once I learned that client management was about preventative measures, and less manipulation I was OK with it.
Once I was able to see it that way, my mind opened to approaching my clients in a different way. I wasn't manipulating them. I was helping them understand. I was educating them in a sector they often hire from and giving them more tools. I was setting boundaries which means they could negotiate and request, but still stay within our agreed upon rules. Wait...so then I'm doing my client a favor by managing expectations? YES!
I can do this now! Why the hell didn't I do this earlier? Why did I allow myself to suffer and play the "Oh man, I really really hope this one doesn't have outlandish requests" game in my head.
3 Ways to Cut Out the "Could You Just..." Question
If they're asking for "can you just ... do another round of retouching..." or "can you just retouch all of them before we pick our favorites", or any bold request then they probably were not educated in the process with your services. They had no boundaries set, no reference on what each request means, etc... that likely means they came in blindly (which is OUR fault). Even more likely is that they feel a simple request is turning into a big dramatic situation, and they'll probably never work with you again.
You're convinced that some client expectation management is good, now how can we do this? If you're ready, then keep reading!
It is YOUR job to educate the client. It is. They are the job provider, the ones who sign the checks, the ones who need our services and it's OUR JOB to educate the client. Educating the client isn't demeaning, it's about doing it with finesse and respectfully.
When I create a deal memo, I always specify more information than is initially requested. To some, this is overload and it might even scare some clients away. That is OK because that job probably was a bad idea for me anyhow. I like my clients to have open lines of communication with me and those are my favorite types of clients, those that love to communicate.
That's why my deal memos always have information like how many images they get and what type of usage rights. What if they want additional images and/or rights for usage? What will that cost them? What if they want to do many, many rounds of retouching? How will they be billed for this fun episode? I tell them how long I anticipate in post-production for each image.
I tell them it's 2-4 hours of post-production per image. You get 2 rounds of revisions based on the original scope of the job. If the creative changes, the client is responsible for additional billing hours. If they want to take multiple rounds of retouching, that is billed at $____ per hour. I lay it all down, not because I want to scare them away.
I do this because it's respectful for the client. It's respectful of my time also. Honesty is key and should be number one. When you do this method though, expect to come in 2nd place in the short race but you'll win in the long run. Good character is everything! Be open with them and give them as many scenarios as possible, because this helps them make better decisions.
Another possibility is that the client may not respect your work. Sounds harsh right? It could possibly be true, not because they don't respect you but because they don't value your contribution. Again, this goes into education but not just for the post-production blues - it goes into explaining your creative process with your client.
When I sit with a potential client, I go into detail about the process of creating for their brand. That means I explain how we look for the locations, the talent, wardrobe styling and more. I find that my clients love to hear how much work I'll be putting into their project. On the backend, they're learning how much work I put into each project. By letting them know how much work goes into a single photograph, they can only respect the artistry that goes into my work. Share your process. They want to hear it and it'll solidify your expertise.
It always comes back to educating our clients, and that role belongs to the creatives. Let's not fight that role, but embrace it. Let's embrace clear communication with our clients because it's better for them, for us, and the entire professional relationship
Unfortunately divorcing the client is an option or possibility. Read further below...
Divorcing My Client is Good?
There may come a time when the creative must cease a relationship because it's better for them and your own good. This is the ultimate decision and should come after significant thought, multiple attempts at "making things work" and enough reflection that you will be OK with the decision once the conversation has been had.
Divorcing a client can be a good thing (considering the other options) if done with the ultimate care. When it's time to stop working with a client, it's key to be remembered as the one who came in with solutions. You did not abandon the client, but instead offered solutions which would help the overall project.
Solutions? Yes, I would suggest offering them alternatives to your services. I would recommend a possible scenario like this:
I understand we've both been concerned about the outcome of the project, and more than anything I want you to be happy. What we provided was exactly as contracted but somewhere we had a disconnect. I think we can both say that we've explored options to remedy this situation but for the sake of the project, how would you feel if I was to refer a freelancer who might be a better fit for you?
Divorces aren't fun and they aren't always smiles & sunshine. They are however sometimes necessary and I want you to handle it in the most professional and thoughtful way. You did not abandon. You sought out solutions. In the long run, that will win. YOU WILL WIN.
There are times when you must end a working relationship. You've tried to educate the client and give them insight to the tremendous amount of work you put it. You've tried everything and find that the client isn't someone you can make happy. That's OK. That's on them, you pull yourself away and look out for yourself.
This is called, self love.
This happens to the best of us and you shouldn't allow it to define your business or work style. Sometimes it's just a bad fit and for a number of reasons it didn't work out. Being mature enough to pass a project to another freelancer and overseeing the transaction is a true sign of maturity. If that happens, be proud of yourself and know that in the long run it plays in your favor. It's also the right thing to do!
How Can I Learn More?
Photographers as mentioned, I didn't have a lot when starting out. I did wish though there was a community to help me, encourage me and share ideas with me. That's why I created the following communities to help your photography gain momentum.
INSTAGRAM: My Instagram is where it all started. Join me and the rest of us there! It's called @HowtoPhotograph and we post daily tips on photography, the business of photography, how to start your photography career and more. I also post IG Stories and now IGTV.
PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP: This is my newest extension and I love it! My PRIVATE Facebook group is exactly that, private and filled with great people. Every day new people join and all of them go through a questioning process. You must promise that you will be respectful and not spam. Hang out with us, ask questions or post your questions. I am very involved in that and contribute also. Also on Thursdays, we do a really cool and free photography portfolio review. The whole community joins and gives notes to those that want to post images. I'm also usually involved in that. Join us!
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