Today we’re going to be diving into the topic of how to handle difficult clients. I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share, but if you haven’t, it’s likely you will encounter a difficult client very soon. This podcast episode was actually inspired by one of the mamas inside the Side Hustler to CEO program.
She was having some difficulties with a current client who she had already booked. They had already paid and they hadn’t done the shoot yet but she was seeing many red flags. They questioned why she was doing certain things, and they were asking her to change her editing style to name a few.
Obviously, if you encounter a situation with a difficult client, you have to handle it immediately. But there are also some preventative measures like setting boundaries and expectations upfront with our clients before they book. So I thought that it would be super helpful to give practical and tactical action steps that you can take when you encounter this type of client.
Step # 1: Assess the Situation
Become a detective and take all of the communication that you have had thus far with the client and identify the concerns. Pick out the things that you feel like the client is struggling with or resisting so that you can relay it back to them in the next step.
Next, map out what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. This is huge because I think so often we jump into problem solving and we jump into the conversation feeling a little bit defensive. Feeling like, oh well okay, they’re upset. So what’s the solution that they’re looking for? We don’t really take a minute to unpackage first, what our boundaries are and what expectations that we expect as a photographer. So be clear about what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not.
Make a List of Possible Solutions and Compromises
Come up with those ideas and those solutions and then type up your notes, so that you have an outline to present to your client, which leads us into our next step.
Step # 2 Get on the Phone with the Client
I know this feels really uncomfortable and awkward, especially when you have a client that is intimidating or pushing the boundaries. A lot of things get lost in translation in an email or a text message, so getting on the phone will really help clarify things. Hearing each other’s tones will ease the tension and help you understand their perspective.
It is your job as the professional to lead the conversation and to keep the conversation really light and upbeat. Also you must reassure them that you are here to help. Begin by stating that you want to clarify some things and that you just want them to have an incredible experience. So using words such as, I’m hearing you say X, Y, Z, is that what you’re saying? Or I’m hearing that your concern is ____________. Relaying back to them those concerns that you identified and asking them, is that what the real concern is and then giving them the opportunity to clarify. This is important because we want to make sure that we understand what we’re dealing with before we jump in and we start to fix things or we start to offer solutions.
Next, offer possible solutions and compromises that you already came up with. Never allow your client to come up with the compromise, because typically they’re probably going to come up with something that you never even thought of and you’ll be put on the spot and get into an even stickier situation. Now, if they come forth and say something like, well, I’m not really comfortable with any of these options, this is what I suggest. That’s an opportunity for you to say okay, I will definitely take that into consideration and I will need a little bit of time to think about that and then I’ll get back to you. Because there’s nothing worse than being on the phone and feeling like you’re pressured to say yes, and then feeling stuck.
Also, you must avoid agreeing to anything verbally and make sure that you have everything in writing before you finalize any agreement. It’s really important that whatever you agree to gets put in writing in the contract, so that you can always refer back to that in case of any further disputes.
Step # 3: Truly Listen to Your Clients
Avoid getting defensive. Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand their concerns. Understand their requests from a client point of view, because they aren’t professional photographers who do this activity on a regular basis, and they may not understand why you have certain policies. This is a great opportunity for you to educate them and for you to be able to share why you have this policy and ask them if they need further clarification. In sticky situations, we tend to overexplain and give way too much information that they didn’t even ask for. So be very simplistic in how you say things and then ask If they require further clarification.
Step # 4: Stand Firm
You are the expert! You know what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. It’s really important that you feel confident in how you speak to your client, because if your client hears any sort of doubt in your tone or any sort of hesitation, they’re not going to take you seriously. Communication is huge if you want to succeed as a business owner in general.
But especially in this industry, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to be comfortable holding your boundary and saying, this is why I shoot at this time. If you want to shoot at a different time, I’m not going to be able to guarantee these types of photos, because that is dependent on light. If you want your session at this time, these are the types of images that you can expect, and you’re going to have them sign off on that.
There comes a point when you’re going to have to decide if you want to continue with that client or not. There might come a point where you feel like you’re just not the right photographer for them. Perhaps miscommunication happened or they thought that photographers sort of meld to what the client wants. Maybe they didn’t understand that you hire a photographer based on their editing style and they don’t change it. They may have these misconceptions, so that’s a conversation that must be held with the client, if you’re not willing to budge on their expectations and their requests.
So that’s what I have for you guys today. I really hope that it gives you sort of a structure and an outline for what to do when you encounter difficult clients. It’s a step-by-step plan and strategy that you can put into place to help sort of ease that tension and come up with a compromise.
If you enjoy today’s episode, I would love for you to take a screenshot of it and share it out on Instagram with other mamas and tag me @thepurposegathering. Share this with your friends who might find some encouragement and some support in how to handle difficult clients. Thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with me today. And until next time mama, I am always here rooting for you and you are not alone on this journey.