We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.
We booked a branding photo session. It was nothing out of the ordinary because that’s literally what we do. Except, this actually WAS different. It helped us remember why contracts are important for your business because this session was for a lawyer!
Yeaaah…we were instantly nervous.
It’s not because our client was scary or intimidating. It was because of his profession.
Now, that’s not to say lawyers should be viewed in any negative way! It’s just that during the process we hoped that the contracts and agreements we use (although lawyer reviewed) were up to snuff and wouldn’t cause any issues.
If you’re like us, you likely rarely read through the fine print legal-ese in contracts. We just scroll right to the bottom of the 1 million page document and sign them hoping that there are no issues and that we didn’t just give away our firstborn as collateral!
But that’s always the feeling we are left with, right?!
That contracts only protect the business you are agreeing to do business with. We have this innate feeling that contracts are convenient CYA’s and excuses for company’s to have zero liability.
Hear us on this one: THAT’S JUST NOT TRUE!!
Thankfully, our experience with our lawyer-client was a great and positive one that also gave us a fresh perspective on something we’ve known but never knew how to articulate well.
Yes, contracts protect the business that requires them, but they ALSO protect the client!
That’s why we require contracts for every client we take on. They set clear expectations on what our clients can expect from us and in turn, what we ask of them. In most cases, businesses deliver on their promises and happy clients uphold their end of the agreement as well.
But then…there are sometimes when despite all efforts both upfront and throughout the process, things just don’t go well.
In our career, that’s only happened once. It was an awful, terrible experience that turned our guts upside down, ran them through a blender, and gave us anxiety for weeks.
We had booked a session for a particular date, but our client’s schedule had to change because their product didn’t arrive on time. We happily changed the date to our next available, but that was also pushed for the same reasons. When our client was finally ready for their shoot, we looked for every possible hole in our calendar and gave them our next available date – it was 3 weeks out! We hated delivering the news, but our shooting schedule was slammed and we were shooting every day of the week. Our client wasn’t happy and the frustration grew from pressuring messages to verbal attacks.
We were completely torn up inside. We lost sleep, called trusted mentors and friends for advice, and spent hours painstakingly combing through our contract to make sure we were covered for a situation like this.
Through the misery, we were SO happy that we had a clear, fair contract signed upfront that outlined exactly what should and should not happen in the situation. We’d done nothing wrong and had tried to love and serve our client, so although our conscience being clear was enough for us, it gave us peace of mind knowing that we were protected from the situation we found ourselves in – which was completely out of our control.
And you know who else was protected? Our client. Even though the relationship unfortunately disintegrated due to choices we had no control over, they still had rights and protections built into the agreement that guaranteed we would and would not do certain things based on the circumstances. Even though it’s our nature to want to lovingly serve our clients regardless of the circumstances, it’s a signed document they were able to hold on to that guaranteed it.
OK – that’s enough of that downer vibe.
Here’s the lesson learned though – Have a contract for your business!
Make sure that it clearly outlines the expectations your clients can have from you and what you expect from them in return.
Ensure that it is fair and honorable and a contract YOU wouldn’t mind signing.
Then, have the contracts reviewed by a local attorney in your state.
Finally, NEVER take on a project without having a client sign your contract – even if it is for family or friends!
Because contracts are just like gym memberships and QVC Kitchen Appliances – they don’t work for you unless you use them! 🙂