how to say no

Go With Your Gut: How to Deal with Difficult Clients

Photo by Anthony Fusco

Photo by Anthony Fusco


Situation #1 - You have a bride that inquires about shooting her wedding. After 25 emails exchanged, she continues to pull apart your packages after you told her that packages are not alterable. She keeps trying to haggle over your non-negotiable prices, and now things are getting uncomfortable. If she really values your work and wants you that much, why is she being so difficult?

Situation #2 - You rock a senior session. The parents and senior are thrilled. Then, the demands begin. Your contract states that you edit for color, exposure + style. First, they ask to edit out stray hairs, and you do that. Then, they tell you to edit out the necklace clasp. And then to take out their tan lines. And then, to mail half the prints directly to their grandma and the other half to them (to avoid mailing it to their family themselves). Now, you are contemplating never shooting seniors again.

As entrepreneurs and artists, it's safe to say that we usually love our jobs. We chose to do what we love all day every day - it's a no brainer.

But let's be real for a second - not every client experience is an ideal one.

One of the most difficult parts of entrepreneurship is dealing with difficult situations, often alone. This can be super stressful! Never fear, however - there are a few tricks to handle the tough stuff like a champ.

1) The power of "NO"

If you have a client that keeps asking or demanding you do more than you were contracted to do, learn to stop saying yes then getting stressed or resentful, and say NO. Breathe. No is okay! If you met with a couple and something isn't clicking right... do both parties a favor and let them know you're not the right fit and refer them to someone better suited for their needs. 

2) Know your worth

If a client is asking for time-consuming retouching, you don't have to say no, you can say, "Retouching of that nature is not included in my standard packages, but it is available for $X/hour. I can usually do X edits of this kind per hour, to give you a rough estimate."

3) If they're not contracted, you're not obligated

Sometimes, you undercharge or quote people at a lower rate for special projects. Maybe you're trying to make nice with a mutual friend's company budget, or cutting a discount for an old friend. However, especially in those situations, running into a nit-picky client can be even worse, because you don't even feel you're being compensated for the trouble. Remember: you run your own business. You do not have to do anything you do not want to do. TRUST YOUR GUT. If they are not contracted, you can always reach out and let them know that their date was filled or that you will not be able to work with them. 

4) Phone a friend

Sometimes the best thing you can do is get an objective perspective. Ideally, call up or message one of your photographer friends to get advice on your dilemma. But sometimes that isn't as option, so call your friend, your mom, anyone! They can provide the perspective of a client versus a photographer, which is super beneficial for you!

Once in a while, you may come across a client that makes you want to pull out your hair. But at the end of the day, it is your business, and your call. Be sure to handle every situation with grace and respect, while remembering that you have every right to say NO to ensure that both you and your client can have a great experience.