“It isn’t personal…it’s business.”
Have you heard that before? Do you believe it?
For most of us, our photography is very personal. We pour ourselves into the craft of photography. Each photograph we make is a gift that will be cherished for a lifetime. We want those we photograph to feel happiness, and we love it when they express appreciation for our art.
For some it can be very difficult to separate the personal side of being a photographer from the realities of running a successful business. This is never easy, but it becomes most difficult when working with friends and family. It can become even more difficult when a situation becomes a little messy.
Have you been caught off guard by requests from friends? Have you found yourself saying yes to each and every request and then later felt used and abused? Do you worry that you were a little too blunt and perhaps caused some hurt feelings when you said no? Is writing not your strong suit?
Our new series Just the Right Words will give you language you can use to respond in a kind, short-and-sweet, professional manner. We will tackle some of the most common troublesome situations that may arise when communicating about business matters. Use them word-for-word or adapt them to your particular situation.
Some general wisdom when composing a response to request that feels messy:
- Wait a day. If the request has you feeling anxious/angry/confused/unappreciated, it’s best to cool down and gain clarity. It may take more than a day to compose a good response. Take your time. There is no need to respond immediately.
- Affirm your friendship. Start by letting them know how much you appreciate your friendship and/or love them and their family.
- Keep it positive. Focus on what you CAN do. You set the boundaries.
- Be warm, yet professional. Use positive, thoughtful language, but keep it to-the-point. Much trouble arises from over-explaining and using far too many words.
Messy Situation Number One: The Busy Season Request
Your friend or family member wants a photography session during your most busy time of year. For many of us, this falls right in the middle of the holiday rush. While perhaps you would love to discount or gift your friend or family member beautiful photos, you know that taking on more work at this time would be stretching you quite thin. Plus, your own family and potentially your full-paying clients may pay the price for your generosity.
“Thanks so much for thinking of me. I love your family and would love to get them in front of my camera. However, this is the busiest time of year for photographers and my calendar is jam-packed. Let’s schedule a photo session for January or February. What does your calendar look like?”
“I’m so glad you got in touch! I am excited to photograph your family, but my calendar has very little “wiggle room” during this time of year. The only openings available before the end of the year are xx or xx. If those don’t work out, we will need to plan for January or February. Let’s get our photo session scheduled by the end of the week so I can reserve a time just for you.
“I’m so glad you have asked me to photograph your beautiful family. Because you are such a treasured friend, I would love to extend my Friends and Family pricing to you. Because certain times of year are busier than others, these special rates are only valid from January to May. If you would like to schedule your photo session before January, full-priced rates would apply. While I would be honored to create photographs for you, I understand that many things factor into choosing the right photographer. I completely understand if my availability or rates aren’t the best fit for what you have in mind.”
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
We hope these little scripts can help you manage tricky situations with grace and confidence. However, we believe the best way to avoid damaged relationships, confusion and hurt feelings is to set up clear expectations right from the beginning. This is where our Friends and Family Guides come in. Launched in 2013, this Photographer Cafe exclusive has helped hundreds of photographers navigate the tricky boundaries between business and personal. It provides several options with just the right words to use, depending on how you want to address and manage your business and friendships. Start with a proactive step and grab this essential tool HERE.