Never Lose Your Cool With a Client Again: 4 Strategies That'll Save You Every Time

Never Lose Your Cool With a Client Again: 4 Strategies That'll Save You Every Time

As photographers, we inevitably find ourselves dealing with that one client that causes us to take into serious deliberation the idea of working at the grocery store and throwing our illustrious career to the wind.

No matter how excellent your photography is or how skilled you are at employing all of your How to Win Friends and Influence People tactics, some clients are utterly impossible to please. Here are four strategies that will help you when finding yourself faced with these scenarios. You can screenshot the list and come back to it every time you find yourself in this circumstance. Take a deep breath, read through the list, and you'll see how effective this game plan is. 

1. You Don’t Have to Respond Right Away.

We live in the age of instants. From Instagram to Amazon Prime, we are accustomed to all things being instant. When receiving a heated message from a client, the knee-jerk reaction is to respond instantly. You feel under attack, and your body may flood with "fight or flight" hormones, which doesn't always lead to the best responses. When someone is being very aggressive, I find it best to wait to respond. I often send a note such as, "Thank you for your message, I'm in the studio right now, but I'll be happy to address your concerns when I'm back in the office later today". I'm not in the studio. I'm sitting at my desk in front of my email. I know though, that taking a few hours to respond time gives me time to breathe, think, and formulate a calm and professional response. 

2. Ignore Loaded Comments and Focus on the Solution.

It's tempting to string together clever and well-deserved comebacks. It doesn't, however, accomplish the goal of resolving things professionally. Your professional reputation is more important than putting someone back in place. Take a deep breath, ignore the jabs, and focus on the solution. What do they want? "If I remove all the emotion from the situation, what are they asking for and what can I offer them?" Focusing on a solution doesn't mean you have to re-shoot the entire job for free because they wanted things they never expressed. It simply means that you listen to their communication, sift out the emotion, and come up with options to present back to them. 

3. You Don’t Have To Give Reasons.

This is a big one. People that are argumentative love any fuel they can get their hands on. One way to arrive at an agreeable solution without giving them ammunition is by offering solutions and setting boundaries without going into the reasons that led you to them. Phrases such as "unfortunately that's not going to be possible, but I can offer..." or "I'm unable to accommodate for that request, but I would be happy to offer you..." are very effective sentences. You don't have to give people reasons. Set your boundaries, offer your solutions, and skip the reasons.

4. Refer to the Contract.

If your contract isn't airtight, this is your first action point. If you're a Professional Photographers of America member, you can access various photography contracts specific to your industry. Business platforms such as Honeybook also offer contracts. I began with a template like this in my early years, and I have added to mine over the years to tailor it to my needs. When referring to the contract, phrases such as "per our contract..." can read aggressively, but you want to point back to your signed agreement. You could use a slight modification such as: "although we are contracted to... I wanted to offer you the option of..." This effectively refers back to what you are not obliged to but also shows that you are choosing to accommodate them anyway. 

If I could sum up my entire approach to managing difficult clients it would be "take a breath, remove the emotion, and offer a solution.  

What's your favorite "managing hard people" phrase or tactic? Leave a comment below. I am always looking for more strategies. Happy diffusing! 

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WestEndFoto .'s picture

This is why I don't do photography for a living. It doesn't pay well enough to put up with the crap.

Michelle VanTine's picture

Lol! That's why I charge alot. Also you can hire a part time project manager to deal with some of it. But yes.... it can be SO frustrating

Mike Ditz's picture

Really? Someone decided using a stock photo of a crazy guy with a gun at work was the best idea?

Fristen Lasten's picture

he's WFH. he just likes to dress up.

E S's picture

..not to mention the poor trigger discipline.