Contracts are crucial to your work as a professional photographer. They set expectations for everyone involved. Plus, helps pave the way for a mutually beneficial relationship that may result in repeat business for you.
However, you must send contracts to your clients in a way that’s convenient for them as possible and doesn’t cause unnecessary headaches for you. Additionally, you’ll want to convey professionalism in every interaction with your photography clientele. Succeeding in that goal goes beyond your contract, of course, but it certainly includes that document as well.
Check Your Contract for Completeness and Accuracy
Suppose you’re just getting started as a professional photographer or otherwise don’t have the resources available to hire a lawyer to write your contract. In that case, you may want to use one of the many free templates available online. A common mistake with that approach happens when photographers merely put a client’s name in the appropriate blanks.
The issue there is that the rest of the contract may not apply to the services you’ll provide to the client on this occasion. Take the time to scrutinize the document and edit any non-applicable sections.
Before sending your contract, look through it carefully to ensure it has all the necessary sections and information. Being as specific as possible reduces the chances that you and your client will have different interpretations of the contents.
For example, the contract should specify your payment terms and schedule. That includes details of the retainer that’s standard for most bookings and how clients can pay you for completed jobs. If you’re working on a large, ongoing project for a photography client, make sure the contract sets out the timeframe for payments due.
Spending sufficient time to check that everything is in order before sending your contract greatly reduces the chances of embarrassing errors that could convey unprofessionalism. You’ll also be able to edit any language that your client may find confusing or ambiguous.
Remove Potential Barriers for Your Clients
When sending contracts to your clients, it’s also important to think of every step in the process. Get rid of any obstacles that could bring preventable frustration. For example, your approach is not as helpful as it could be if you send clients digital contracts they still have to print out to sign.
However, you can get secure and legally binding contracts by using e-signature tools. They allow clients to sign electronically without hassles. You can even call attention to parts of the document that need their signature.
It’s also best to avoid using PDF documents when sending contracts. People can view them on both Windows and Mac operating systems, but signing them is often not straightforward. It typically requires using special software to add the signatures in the correct places. Clients understandably may not have the patience to look for additional tools themselves.
Try to put yourself in their shoes and envision what could crop up that might make a client balk at signing a contract and perhaps decide they don’t want to do business with you after all. The more you can remove perceived obstacles, the more likely it is that people will feel excited about choosing you to take care of their photography needs.
Photo: Kristin Hardwick
Don’t Send Your Contracts in Formats Clients Could Easily Edit
While you’re thinking about which tools to use to create your photography clients, you might wonder if the easiest approach might be to make them as Word documents. However, that could get you into preventable legal trouble.
That’s because they’re too easy for a client to edit. Any such alterations could change the document’s validity as court-accepted evidence if you get involved in a legal dispute. Hopefully, you’ll never deal with situations where people try to edit contracts without your knowledge. Even so, it’s best to steer clear of formats that make it so simple for them to do it.
Engage in ongoing conversations with your clients about any terms they want to modify or don’t understand. Showing them you’re open to discussions before the contract gets signed helps them feel more confident about the current and later stages of the relationship.
During these discussions, you can also emphasize that your contracts are legal documents that spell out the specifics of a photography assignment. If you send the documents in formats that don’t look official or professional, clients may complain they didn’t realize they were signing a contract or only skimmed through the content before adding their names.
Give People Enough Time To Review Your Contract
The timing for sending your contracts is as important as the format you use to create them or what the documents contain. That’s because clients should have plenty of time to go over all the details and bring up any questions. They may decide to take their business elsewhere if feeling rushed.
Clients may also spend substantial amounts of time absorbing all the material in certain parts of the contract, such as those dealing with cancellations and refunds. When writing those parts, strive for arrangements that are fair to both you and the client.
You might make a portion of your fee non-refundable to avoid a total financial loss when a client backs out of an arrangement. However, you might also treat cancellations differently whether the surrounding circumstances were within or outside of the client’s control. It’s one thing if you lose work because a bride-to-be breaks off her engagement. However, the situation is much different if a wedding can’t happen because the groom potentially got exposed to COVID-19.
Another reason to give your clients enough time with the contract before signing it is that you want to try and cover all possible situations that may arise. For example, since so many people share their photographs on social media, it’s wise to have a part of the contract covering that topic.
Two common stipulations are to have people credit you by name and provide a link to your business when posting the pictures. If you notice a client forgets to do that, send them a private message. This is a quick way to encourage them to edit the post. It’s also advisable to mention that clients cannot change your photos — such as by applying filters — before posting them. Then, the public will always see your work as intended.
Clear, Thorough Contracts Help You Secure More Clients
Working out the details for creating and sending your clients probably doesn’t seem like the most exciting responsibility. However, the contract itself and how you distribute it could make huge differences in whether you satisfy your clients and get frequent business from them.
When clients see you’ve done all you could to make the contractual necessities go as smoothly as possible, they may recommend you to friends that also need to hire photographers soon. Contracts are among the best tools you have for protecting your business. It makes sure everyone understands the services you’ll provide. Getting them right is vital for strengthening your photography business and helping it grow.
Photo: Helena Lopes