Cancellation Policies: Best Practices for Real Estate Photographers
Many things in the real estate industry can happen quite quickly. In fact, they happen at moments you least expect. For example, a rainstorm might cause a shoot to be canceled. An agent or homeowner might become unavailable during the time the shoot was booked. Perhaps a seller might decide to pull their home from the market at the last minute. There are so many things that could upset a scheduled shoot.
To protect yourself from such unexpected events, it is highly recommended that your clients agree to your cancellation and reschedule policy. Unlike a corporate employee, you, as a freelance photographer, are not getting any income unless you are working. Thus, a single cancellation can be both inconvenient and potentially represent a significant loss of income for the week.
Aside from protection, having a potential client agree to a cancellation policy is part of setting expectations between you and the client. It helps establish the thought that you are business-oriented and not to be taken advantage of.
We highly recommend including your cancellation policy in your contract when your prospect signs up for a new shoot. This way, when a cancellation does occur, you can explain to the client that he was aware of your policy when he signed your contract.
Suggested Conditions in Your Cancellation Policy
So what are the terms that you should include in your cancellation policy? Here are a few ideas:
- Have no or a very minimal charge for cancellations and reschedules that is done 48 hours before the scheduled shoots.
- A client who cancels or reschedules a shoot within a 48-hour window may be charged around $50.00. For a cancellation or shooting reschedule within a 24-hour window, you can charge$75.00. These prices are high enough to let your client know you mean business but low enough that the figures won’t sound unreasonable.
- If you arrive at the property and the client cancels the shoot right there and then, consider a policy to charge him anywhere between 25 to 50 percent of the quoted price, depending on the relationship that you have with your agents and what is standard in your area. It may be a lot, but remember, you did your part of the bargain by showing up. It is the client’s fault that he failed to inform you of the cancellation.
- Bad weather is unpredictable and can cause unexpected cancellations. Do not penalize clients for such cancellations. Offer a re-shoot or take photos of interiors first.
Collecting Cancellation Fees
Getting cancellation fees from new clients can be quite a challenge. To ensure payment, get their contact details so you can follow up. Better yet, have them sign a contract that includes your cancellation policies.
Existing or recurring clients will most likely pay your cancellation fee without any difficulty. However, you might encounter some who conveniently “forget” to pay the fee. For such clients, remind them that their fees are due. Kindly communicate you won’t schedule any future shoots until they settle their balance.
At one time or another, you will experience a cancellation or a rescheduling of a shoot, which can cost you precious time, money, and effort. Having a cancellation policy and ensuring it is clearly communicated to your clients upfront is not only a best practice but will ultimately help keep you and your clients on the same page when the unexpected occurs.