Any timeframe that cannot easily be rebooked is what can quickly have you upside down in cash flow. Weddings are an excellent example of why a cancellation policy is essential. In short, you should book your wedding photographer after you book your venue to be on the safe side (ideally 12 months before the wedding).
When a wedding is canceled even six months out, there is a good chance in many markets you have already had to turn down many brides and may not book another wedding this close to the date.
Most wedding businesses [caterers, venues, florists, & photographers] will require full payment more than two weeks before weddings. Believe it or not, many weddings never happen at the last minute or even through the honeymoon.
Clearing checks take approximately two to five business days or longer for more significant amounts. This is why most have a two weeks policy of getting paid early.
Side Note – Knowing that you will turn down other work highlights why you want to be sure your prices are such that if someone books your lowest price, you will still be profitable. Don’t price yourself that if all the clients book your lowest prices, you cannot survive.
Use Some Common Sense
I don’t always enforce my cancellation policy for some reason. Here are just a few things I consider:
- Regular Client – If this client gives me a lot of work, I will often not enforce my cancellation policy. HOWEVER, if this becomes habitual, I implement it to keep them from abusing me and hurting my business.
- Can be rescheduled – If rescheduling works, I would potentially not enforce the cancellation policy.
- Compassion – If the customer has a legitimate family emergency, you may want to work with them instead of creating more problems.
- Salvage the Relationship – “We typically charge a $____ cancellation fee, but we value your business so that we can waive it this time. Would you like to reschedule?” It’s a good faith gesture that could lead to future appointments—being flexible with a new client and one that could turn into a more significant client.
- Applying Cancellation Fees to Future Jobs – This could help build a long-term relationship even though things started rocky.
When a client books you for a timeframe, you will be turning away any work from others that need you during this same time.
The type of work they are booking you for should factor into the policy you adopt for your contracts.
Don’t respond right away!!!!
Give yourself time to think and do some research. If you must respond in some way because they called you, say that you were busy with something else when they called and need a moment. Tell them you will call back later.
My Cancellation Policy:
Cancellations & Postponements: Client is responsible for payment of all expenses incurred up to the time Photographer receives actual notification, plus 50 percent of Photographer’s fee. If notice is given less than two business days prior to the shoot date, Client will pay 100 percent of the fee. Unless otherwise agreed, Client will pay 100 percent of the fee for Weather Delays on location or 50 percent of the fee if postponement occurs prior to departure. Client will be charged 100% of fee and expenses for any reshoots required by the client. For reshoots required by an act of God or fault of third party client will pay all additional expenses.
A client booked me for a few days, and they called to cancel. They were hoping I would wave my cancelation fee but said if not, how about just coming for one of the days.
To make this simple for illustration, you have a 2-day project they cancel a week ahead of the event. With the contract, they owe you 50%. If they ask you to cut your time in half, you will charge them the total rate for the entire day and 50% for the day you didn’t shoot.
Phone A Friend
The conversation is a powerful coping tool. Phone-a-Friend is a lifeline in the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Game. For the same reason, contestants call a friend for help for the game is why you should bounce off your ideas and have someone who will give you an honest response on how it makes them feel is not just a good idea, but I highly recommend.
Avoid writing your response and instead, call if possible. When it comes to texting vs. calling, new research finds that calling wins if your goal is to connect with someone in a meaningful way. Because text messaging cannot accurately convey tone, emotion, facial expressions, gestures, body language, eye contact, oral speech, or face-to-face conversation, messages will likely be misinterpreted or misunderstood. The real meaning of your message gets lost through the medium.
Always have a written contract with your jobs. Without the contract, you cannot have an enforceable cancellation policy.
Be sure your cancellation policy is reasonable for the type of work. Best to be confident in your industry that this is what many others are doing.
Be flexible if necessary and firm if required.