I will never forget the first time I had to fire a client. It was SO uncomfortable. There were warning signs from the very beginning, but being overly-optimistic and being a people-pleaser, I ignored them. I learned a hard lesson that day: If you know a client will not be a good fit for you, it is better to turn them away at the very beginning than to engage with them and have to sever the relationship them later. Save yourself and your business the heartache. Here are three photography clients to avoid, and tips for making the decision to turn a client away.
The client who is asking you to perform a task you are unable to do.
Whether it is because you are too busy, or because you are not proficient in the task that is being asked of you, if you are tangibly unable to perform the job, don’t take it. If the issue is time, know your limits. If you’re schedule is full, you are doing yourself and your clients a disservice by trying to squeeze in one more thing. I believe in giving 200% to every single client I meet, and to give 200%, I also need to know my limits. This means saying no when my plate gets too full. If the issue is competence, you must also know your limitations here. I was once asked to take photos that were beyond my realm of expertise and knowledge. While I was flattered that I had been asked, these photos were important and included a large investment by the client. I knew I did not have the expertise required to give them the final product that they deserved. I knew this was a time that I need to turn a client away. So I politely declined and referred them to another professional.
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The client who does not respect your work or your time.
There may be times when you come across a client who is disrespectful of you by devaluing your time and effort, or even your work itself. This is not the type of client you need to be working for. While this seems pretty straightforward, it was surprising to me how conflicted I was when I ran into this for the first time. The client was condescending to me during our discussions leading up to the session, made rude comments about previous images of mine that she had seen (so that I could understand how she wanted hers to be different, of course), missed her consultation twice and refused to follow the timeline that I had in place for the necessary paperwork. If you ever have a client who does not value your work or time, remember that this is your business. They are welcome to find another photographer who will meet their needs.
The client who asks you to compromise your morals or business practices.
If you ever have someone ask you to compromise your morals or business practices, this is a client to avoid. Certainly, a client asking you to do something you are uncomfortable with is out of the question. But this also applies to your business practices, such as the procedures you have set in place to run your business effectively, and your pricing. There may be clients who don’t want to sign a contract. Or who want to haggle on pricing with you. Try not to get tangled up with them, and remember, your business practices are in place to keep you afloat. If you are running a business, it is imperative that you have best practices in place to ensure your business is running at its fullest potential. Any client who respects you will understand that this is part of running a legitimate business.
Knowing when to turn a client away can keep you out of hot water later down the road. When I run into situations like this, I remind myself of something my dad has always said to me: Some people grace our lives by coming into it, and others grace our lives by leaving. Clients are no different. Never take on a client who needs something that you know you can’t deliver. And certainly avoid clients that do not respect your work, or who are asking you to make compromises you aren’t comfortable with. Knowing which photography clients to avoid will make your business better in the long run!