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.
Last week on the blog we dove into the importance of having a signed contract from every client, including even close friends! It’s super important that your contract outlines expectations and protects both the business AND the client. This document is important, like…even more precious than toilet paper in 2020! A contract makes it clear to what everyone’s expectations are with the agreement. If you missed last week’s blog, check it out here!
This week we want to talk about contracts again, but specifically building contracts into your workflow.
In running a business you have to wear a lot of hats. You’re responsible for a lot of things and have to manage multiple tasks at the same time. Part of this is being everything from the salesperson to the logistics coordinator, the accountant, the billing specialist and THEN to actually executing on whatever your service is. GEEZZ, that’s a lot and honestly makes my head hurt just to slow down and think about all of that! Having to wear SO many hats and fulfill SO many roles can make it where things easily get overlooked, jumbled or forgotten. This can directly impact your client experience or even worse…your pocket book. All of these things on the “to do” list, could lead to forgetting to bill something or even forgetting to collect on services you’ve already given.
Establishing a workflow is SUPER important. It allows for a consistent process that all of your clients go through from start to finish. It helps you make sure you stay organized, are not missing steps with your clients and ensures they have a great experience at the end of the day. I mean that’s kinda the whole point, right?? When you’ve established a workflow and figure out what works well for you and your clients, you want to make sure that you really stick to it!
Once you’ve established your workflow, the whole objective is to ultimately create consistency for your business. Consistency in your business will help in making sure things don’t get overlooked. Soooo with putting all your blood, sweat and tears into creating your workflow, the LAST thing you really want to do is bend or break it for any special client requests. You’ve worked hard to find what works for your business, so try to stick to that workflow as much as possible. Sometimes a little bit of pushback, if gentle, is okay to mold your clients into the process you want them to fall into. For example, when we have client inquiries come through different channels such as Instagram DM’s or Facebook private messages, we immediately respond back with excitement and a happy greeting, and then directing them to the pipeline that gets them into our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. You want to make sure you keep that workflow you already established working for you, so that everything is firing on the right cylinders.
There’s been times where we haven’t followed our own advice and have altered our workflow for specific client requests. Almost every time it has resulted in something being forgotten, the client experience being hindered or something REALLY not going in our favor.
We once had a client who requested us to change our payment policy. Instead of having a lump sum invoice for the work, they wanted us to bill against a purchase order which wasn’t part of the norm for our business. We usually send an invoice, collect on a retainer, and then send the final invoice before final services are rendered. In this case, we decided to do this change up because it seemed like a good opportunity. I mean hindsight is always 2020, right?….Too soon? What ended up happening was by simply changing up our normal payment process and workflow, this made us overlook the fact that we hadn’t had our contract signed!! We had literally taken ALL this time to build a proper workflow and build contracts into that workflow, so we wouldn’t move onto the next step until our contract was signed, but since we bent our workflow, we missed that step! We didn’t get a contract signed. The sad thing is, we knew better and still made the mistake.
Ultimately when we ran into a few issues with this specific project, we realized that we had neither been paid our second payment nor did we have a signed contract even after we had invested time in all of this work. It was a BIG hand in the face kind of moment where we thought to ourselves, “How on earth could we do this?” We know better and have been here before. Like we could have told you all the spoilers to this episode of The Chronicles of E+J. Why did we decide this time to bend and break our process for this one client!?
Luckily everything worked out fine. We got everything signed and received full payment after some back and forth with the client. But the moral of the story is that none of this would have happened if we would have just stuck to our workflow from the beginning, gotten things in the order we normally get them in and we would have been in a totally different situation. We could have completely avoided our elevated stress level… Now that you know, take this lesson and don’t look back.
Life advice: Don’t expect an outcome for the work you didn’t do.
Ohhh..that one stings a little bit, huh? It gets us sometimes too.
If you want signed contracts and payment before you do work, then you need to build that into your workflow to make sure that happens. The importance of having that signed contract, again going back to why we even do this in the first place, is to protect you AND your client. It’s really critical that it is the legal document that guides the relationship and just like any good relationship, you need to have an understanding of each other before diving in.
Erica and I both REALLY knew each other before we got married, so same thing with your clients. Okay, okay….you can yank your head out of the gutter because you know what I mean! You have to get to know each other and understand how each other operates before you dive into that relationship. You want to get that part done upfront, so build that contract process into your workflow! For us, once a client agrees to a proposal, we have them sign the contract and make a retainer payment. That way it happens up front, doesn’t get forgotten and it happens BEFORE we invest too much time in the project. Keyword is before!
If you don’t have contracts built into your workflow, you need to put them in there today! Take the time, stop, examine your workflow, figure out where it fits naturally and make sure it occurs before you invest too much time in the client. Ope, there’s that “before” word again! 🙂
If you’re looking for contracts in brand photography work, we have you covered, boo! After much time and investment, we’ve released the brand photography-specific contracts we developed with our own attorneys. Here’s where you can find them!