When you run your own photography business, there is only so much work you can physically take on.
Each session fills a fixed slot and brings you one step closer to your weekly, monthly or yearly goal. And that’s why cancellations, especially those that happen at the very last minute, hurt so damn bad.
As you can probably guess, I’m writing this because I’ve had some pretty painful experiences myself.
Once I had a themed photo shoot scheduled for a baby’s birthday. I absolutely love kids themed photography and I was SO excited to get such a unique session on the books. I sketched out the concept, bought a few props and spent hours crafting the perfect details.
I must have looked like one of the 7 dwarfs, whistling away as I finished up the final touches.
Then the client called with bad news. She cancelled just 3 days before the shoot.
I went from Happy dwarf to Grumpy dwarf in 2.5 seconds.
In fact, if there was a Self-Pity Dwarf that definitely would have been me.
Then there was the client who called me to cancel her session the night before it was scheduled.
That’s right. The night before.
There goes another perfectly good date right down the drain…cue Ragey, the foamy-mouthed dwarf.
But one of the most extreme examples came from a client who canceled and rescheduled with me three times.
Oh boy, let me tell you. That one got old fast.
My interactions with this person were Einstein’s definition of insanity.
I consider myself a pretty polite, fairly obliging person but after the third cancellation I vowed not to go down that road again. Especially if this person wanted yet a fourth shot. And sure enough, she did.
I finally put my foot down, took a pass on “rescheduling,” and felt a HUGE sense of relief.
I mean how many times are you gonna let someone poke you in the eye until you finally put your glasses on and walk away?
Don’t get me wrong. I am totally human. I understand that sometimes you need to cancel an appointment. A last minute crisis, an unexpected event or even a real emergency can pop up and derail your plans. I’ve been there, and yes, I’ve done it myself.
But now, as a business owner, I see the act of canceling in a whole new light.
What folks just don’t realize is that when you cancel an appointment, the commission for the person you cancelled on is lost. Money gone. And the chances of replacing that income at short notice are pretty darn slim.
Now that I’m a full-time photographer (and because I would like to remain a full-time photographer), I felt it was high time to stop getting burned.
These days I take payment up front via an online system that withdraws directly from a checking account (here’s why I don’t take credit cards).
I won’t block the date in my calendar until payment is received.
But I still allow a little wiggle room. Because after all, stuff happens right? So if someone needs to cancel, I offer a grace period which ends two weeks before the date of the scheduled shoot.
After that, the payment is non-refundable due to the incredibly low chances of replacing that income at such short notice.
If for some reason I’m the one that needs to cancel (and you better believe this would be a last, last, LAST resort option for me), the client will receive a full refund along with a sincere, wholehearted apology.
It takes a lot of time to coordinate a photo shoot. To feel like you wasted that time planning a session that’s not going to happen, truly sucks. And it sucks even more when you don’t have enough time to book another one in its place.
Businesses need to be profitable in order to stay in business.
Establishing a clear cancellation policy will protect your photography business from getting hurt financially.
So get yourself a little back up and put an end to the pain of cancelled income.
For the photographers and business owners out there, what’s your worst cancellation story? Have you put any policies in place to protect your business?
(Side Note: Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the memes used in this post. I’m not sure who did, but they’re awesome.)