Ep 82. Setting Expectations and Boundaries with Clients

I'm Ashley!

My mission at The Purpose Gathering is to help driven momtogs like you level up, so you can build a sustainable business AND a fulfilling family life. I do that through authentic brand photography for mompreneurs and my signature program for mom photographers: Side Hustler to CEO.

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Generally when we talk about difficult clients, we’re truly talking about difficult situations that we’re encountering with a client. But in most cases, our clients are not being difficult from their perspective. It only feels like a difficult situation because we failed to be clear about our expectations. So it’s important that we equip them with the knowledge they need up front, even before they make the decision to hire us. A lot of sticky situations can easily be avoided if we just communicated clearer expectations in the first place.

I’m going to share several examples of boundaries and expectations you need to have in place. This is going to help avoid those uncomfortable conversations later on down the road. So if you’re ready to equip yourself with some incredible preventative tools, then let’s jump right in!

Office Hours

If you don’t have office hours established right now, you should establish some. This is not just a great boundary for your clients, but also for yourself. You need to decide when you’re actually going to be working, as well as the days and times clients can expect a response from you.  Once you’ve decided, you can post these office hours on your contact page, on your website, and also in your Gmail signature. This really sets clear expectations of when you work and when they can expect to hear back from you.

It’s important to talk about your response time and getting back to your clients. You can have an auto-generated email after someone contacts you on your website. For example it can say, “Thank you so much for your inquiry. I cannot wait to connect with you. Please give me about 24 hours to respond.”  Then once they’re an established client, your response time may change. Remember, we live in a very fast paced society. Many people expect a quick response.

Knowing When to do Sessions

It’s extremely important that you know when you are willing to do sessions – the times, days and locations. You need to be in control of your calendar and not the other way around. So I definitely recommend choosing days of the week that work best for you so that you are really clear and upfront with your clients.  You need to educate them before they hire you as to when you do these shoots. If you do sunrise or sunset shoots, let them know.  Our clients genuinely think they can choose whatever time they want to schedule shoots.  You need to be particular and specific, and indicate if you have a preference and if this is a preference that you’re not willing to be flexible with.

Keeping Track of Inquiries

Potential clients may reach out to you to ask about pricing on social media. You have to find a way to keep track of all those inquiries across all social media platforms, as well as those from your email and website contact form. Keep everything in one place so you’re able to better keep track and not forget.

Having a Contract

Now, contracts can be really hard to come up with if you’ve never done one before. So I definitely recommend using templates. I use HoneyBook and I also use Session. I will share some affiliate links below, in case you want to check any of these out and you need a client relationship management system (CRM). This is going to be what keeps track of your leads as well as to help you send contracts, invoices, accept payment, all of those amazing things that you need with a photography business. HoneyBook has preloaded contracts, but there are places where you can purchase contracts from actual lawyers. I used some of the verbiage from some HoneyBook templates as well as from other people in different Facebook groups that have shared their verbiage for their contract.

Start with something and then you can tweak it along the way. It  is so important that you include everything in your contract: the amount you are to be paid for your work, the payment schedule, the date, time and address of the shoot location in your contract. Also include a clause in your contract that talks about showing up late for sessions and rescheduling at the last minute. This kind of releases you off the hook and at least expectations are clear and they know that you are not responsible for them being late.

The other thing that I would include in the contract is retouching and what that involves. You can include this information  on your website and let people know what retouching you do for free (included) and what retouching that you can do additionally at a cost. I also have a clause in my contract where I’m clear about not being liable for outfit choices, or body image issues and you can include that as well.

I also think it’s really important to give tips and guidelines for what to wear, so your clients know sort of what to expect. Again, our clients don’t get photographed every single day and so they don’t think about these things. So if you can upfront give them a what to expect or what to wear guide, a guide that walks them through step-by-step what to think about and how to plan for this session.

Method of Communication

Let your clients know how you like to communicate. If you prefer email, let them know you prefer email. If you want to go through HoneyBook and use the messaging platform there, tell them that’s where you prefer to keep all communication. If you’re okay with texting, let your clients know that as well and then always let them know when they can expect you to respond and again, your office hours.

A tip: have your client create a must have photo list. I want them to think about the photo groupings they want for the session way before it starts. I want them to have a clear head and just show up on the day of the session, just ready to have fun. The reason I do this is because I want to make sure that I get every photo that they want from this session. I don’t know what’s important to them, and what I think is important might not be important to them.

Now there’s a caveat here, give them a limit, let’s say like 10 must-have photos. Maybe for mini sessions they can have 5 must-haves. When you give them that sort of flexibility and that freedom to choose a few things, it actually makes them feel like you care about them and what they want and that they’re not just a transaction.

Overcommunicate Expectations Again

Over communicate expectations again, so nothing gets lost in translation. So anytime you’re sending reminder emails or you’re talking about the session, always include the following: the day of the week, the date, the time, the location and also the meeting spot, where your client is supposed to meet you. So always over communicate and make sure that you know when things are happening.

Never Leave Things Open Ended

My last tip for you is to not leave your client wondering what comes next. When we leave things open-ended for our clients, they typically don’t know how to manage that expectation. And so I always put a deadline or a date that I’m going to check back with them. Send them reminders, because remember our clients are just like us and they forget. They’re not in our business and they’re not thinking about photography every single second of the day. We have to remind them and always be one step ahead, so that they always feel taken care of.

I hope that you have found today’s episode to be helpful. If so, I would love for you to take a screenshot of it, share it out on Instagram with other mamas and tag me @thepurposegathering. Let me know what your favorite part about today’s episode was. Maybe there was a boundary or an expectation that you never thought about and that you are going to be adding into your contract or into your welcome email sequence. Share with me, which one stuck out the most to you.

If you need more help and you want a step-by-step system and a program that’s going to walk you through how to create the sustainable business that you are longing for, don’t forget to check out more details about the Side Hustler to CEO program.

As always mama, I’m here rooting for you and you are not alone on this journey.


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My mission is to help fellow momtogs (mama photographers!) experience success in business and in motherhood. As an Arizona brand photographer for mompreneurs, I’m passionate about capturing authentic images that show off my clients’ unique personalities so they can connect with their ideal clients. And as an online business coach for momtogs, I LIVE for helping mamas experience incredible transformations that help them build a business they love, without sacrificing their precious time with their littles.

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