What type of photography do you do, what is your business model and what type of clients do you deal with; all this factor into answering this question-When do i need to get paid for my photography work?
In general, you should be collecting as much of the payment up front as you feel comfortable with.
This is a great start, but in order to run your business effectively, you need to know why that is an effective approach and how to modify it based on your own needs.
So let’s look at a few specifics, starting with the big mistake many photographers make that can cost them a lot of money…
This is the big mistake that most photographers make.
No matter the type of shoot, you should collect a fee upfront to hold the date.
Wedding and event photographers are being paid to cover an event (and frequently do some amount of on site portrait photography as well). So your payment structure needs to reflect this aspect of your business.
For a wedding or event you most certainly need some payment before the event. There are a few reasons for that.
Holding The Date
Weddings and other events are usually booked long in advance.
You need to keep this in mind when structuring your booking fee. Do you usually book weddings more than six months ahead of time? Then you better not be giving full refunds to people that cancel a month in advance because you know the chances of refilling that time slot with a last minute wedding is pretty slim. On the other hand if you shoot other types of events and know that you can get another gig with 15 days notice, then you can afford to be more generous with the grace period.
You are going to have costs to cover an event or wedding and need to account for those costs.
Even if this is your first wedding and your business bank account is currently zero, you shouldn’t be going into debt. You can read more about building up your kit as a professional here.
You need to look into things like second shooters, assistants, permits if there are on location portraits included in the day, specialized gear that you need for this event, and anything else that you need to produce good work for this event. You should have a general idea of these costs before you even meet with the client and incorporate them into your structured fee.
This is an aspect of pre-payment that a lot of people overlook. Until you have money in your hands, you don’t really have a shoot booked.
Sure, you could have a contract that requires them to pay eventually and if they back out last minute you can sue them in small claims court for the fee. But the court filing fee alone, not to mention the time spent, the bad publicity, and the potential for lawyer’s fees all make this a terrible business model to rely on.
Once someone hands over some money, you know they are committed to having you as their photographer. They have some skin in the game at that point. A lot of people might sign a piece of paper saying they want you to shoot their wedding even if they aren’t sure, but very few people will hand over some cash if they aren’t sure.
Get paid up front. Your time has value and if you are going to commit that time to someone, there is nothing wrong with asking to be compensated not just for the time itself, but also for setting that time aside for someone.
Know the laws in your state or country regarding deposits and fees.
Structure your business model and fees in a way that takes pressure and stress off of you AND your clients so that you can focus on a good client experience and developing a relationship with them that doesn’t always come back to getting paid.
I’d love to hear what experiences you’ve had here. So leave them in the comments below…