Wedding Contractsin Photography Business
By lottsphoto/Steven (784)
on March 31, 2002 5:28:12 PM CST
Wedding Contracts & Billing/Payment ideasTips for Photographers from Lott's Photo Studio
Providing a contract for your client, not only protects them, it also protects you. If you want to get paid for the work you are doing and you want the client and yourself to have a clear understanding of what is expected of the other, then you need to use this tool.
At the least your contract should cover the following;
Decide what you are going to offer your clients, how will you sell it is one of the many things you need to keep in mind when developing your packages. Will you sell your service as just a shooter and hand over the film, will you charge a per roll fee, will you build a complete package or is everything on an alacart basis.
Depending on what price you are charging, you may decide to provide a payment plan built into your contract, especially if you do not yet have the ability to accept credit cards for payments.
When we first started out we got it all up front, when the contract was signed. This is an attractive way to keep things simple, if they have a signed contract from you and you them, they are paid in full. Much less book-keeping. But eventually you may find you want to have cash flow over a period of time, having income from the client at the same period of time that you need to make a payment to your lab or album supplier can be a good way to help you budget your level of money.
Currently we are using a built-in payment plan in our contracts. With this plan the client is expected to pay $200 at the time the contract is signed, 50% of the package price chosen 3 weeks prior to the date contracted for, 25% of the package price when the previews are signed out of the studio and the final balance plus the taxes when we present them the finished album. In addition we get 50% of any additional print orders when those orders are taken from the client (usually when the previews are returned with the finished album print choices) We just changed this in our studio we now get 25% of the package and then the payments fall as above. We now start at $1250 for 40 prints in a Art Leather Album, this includes showing the bride at least 100 images from her Wedding/Reception and 4 hours of our time.
We are currently using the built-in payment plan to allow more clients to be able to afford our work, that would not be able to pay for it all up front. Our reasoning here is that we want almost everyone that loves our work to be able to afford it, but at the amount we wish to charge.
The disadvantage of providing a payment plan of course is what to do when they do not pay you ! You have several options, if they have never even signed out the previews you might consider writing the balance off. If they still have your previews signed out then send them written letters that are firm, but do not threaten and send registered mail. Document the phone calls with the date and times you call, which person you spoke with and what the response was. Last choice is turn it over to a lawyer. We now as of a few months ago (Aug 2001) no longer allow previews out of the studio, unless they are paid for ($580 for the set in an Art Leather locking preview album). Return the previews with 3 weeks for credit towards an order of equal or greater value - no returns for refund on previews, for any reason.
Photographers if you do not think allowing previews out of the studio is costing you money, you are only kidding yourself In Pro Tips for Photographers I offer several tools & Tips that include ways to not send the client home with the keys to steal from you, all while increasing sales and none of these are previews by projection
Be sure you pay close attention to what is and what is Not on your calendar. We have got more clients that were working with other photographers and they decided to forfeit their deposit to change to us, because that other "pro" failed to make a said appointment with them !
We allow buffer time for clients that fail to show on-time or even early birds and still have no over lap in scheduling.
If a client changes their date, after we have provided a contract they loose the deposit and must reaffirm a contract with a new payment - that is If we have that date still available. Presently we are only booking one wedding per date, this is because we market our service that way and it works for the style and level of service we provide.
Deposit, we do Not use this term any where in our contracts or pricing brochures. A deposit in a court of law, could easily be construed as refundable, if the client has cancelled and has not received any product. In our line of work, once we have taken a payment to secure a wedding date, we start turning away other customers. If we were to provide refunds we would be off that day, but taking the day off does not pay the bills.
We use the term scheduling fee, instead of deposit. And we still spell it out in the contract that this is not a deposit and it is not refundable. Further more any payments made on this contract are non-refundable in the event of cancellation and or re-schedule. The underlined part is also in Red in the contract as well as underlined. No fine print non-sense, just plane good one to one understanding of the terms.
Yes this is bull nose hard core firm statements. But that is the projected attitude to the client, real life we have made a few exceptions, if we know we have not turned away prospects for that date and/or feel confident that we will book one in place of this, we do occasionally provide refund or partial refunds. But only after they provide us a written letter releasing us from the current contract !
Liability or what exactly is covered in the package. Spell it out to them, exactly what they are getting and even what they are Not getting with this contracted package. For instance we do not guarantee any specific shots, but we do guarantee a complete package. Liability as far as Insurance is covered elsewhere and yes you better have it.
Copyright 2000, 2001, 2002 Lott's Photo
for other ideas and tips that will improve client relations, camera and production room efficiency take a look at Pro Tips for Photographers by Steven Lott
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