Put it in Writing

My husband, John Murphy, hired a photographer to come take family photos while everyone was home over the holidays.  John had an amount he was willing to spend and communicated it clearly in person, over the phone and via email.  The photographer replied he could “work within that budget”, a date was scheduled and photos taken.

When we went to his studio to review pictures, we culled the collection down to roughly a dozen various shots of the large groups, couples and individual shots.  The photos weren’t great; lighting and depth of field do so much to create drama and these were functional but uninspired.  None the less, they were historical records of our family even if not a particularly flattering record.

Then we got the final total – a full 70% more than the original budget!

Needless to say, we weren’t happy and emails back and forth worked through the situation to try to find a fair solution.  By the end, my husband’s position was “refund me all but the agreed upon sitting fee and confirm deletion of ALL photos of our family.”

Truth is, he is soured enough from the experience that even though the photos are being printed and his original amount is all he is paying – he will never look at the photos and not have bad feelings.  I’m sure we won’t go down in history as this photographers’ favorite client either.

So how could this have been avoided? When you agree to do business, put it in writing.  Much of customer satisfaction – or dissatisfaction – is rooted in expectations. What are you going to do, in what time frame, with what results for how much money paid in what terms.  Those are the basics which need to be outlined and PUT IN WRITING.

A written, itemized estimate can go a long way towards managing expectations and resolving issues before work is started.  Don’t be in such a rush to get a deal that everyone isn’t clear on what are the terms of the deal.

It may be worthwhile to have your family attorney draft a simple one sheet agreement in layman’s terms  or even a paragraph which you can attach or insert into your itemized estimate  if there could be any questions regarding ownership of materials produced, uses allowed or other variables.

There are even a host of on-line resources, many of them free, which you could use for your contracts.

As a speaker and business coach, I have on-line forms customers fill out as the first step to hiring me.  It spells out basics such as date, time, location, length of program and fee.

Recently, in the final conversation with a speaking client, it was discovered we had different dates for the event! The client had made an error when submitting the on-line form and that same date was used out on my invoice to them for the deposit they paid.  Having all this in writing helped keep ruffled feathers to a minimum as we resolved the error and will allow us to continue to work together going forward.

Goods on the shelf in the store either have price tags on the item or on the shelf.  This sets expectations of what you are getting for your money.  Customers deserve that same clarity from us even if what we provide is a service or the sharing of intellectual property.

Mutual expectations are the foundation of any successful business relationship so be clear before you start and PUT IT IN WRITING!

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2 Responses to “Put it in Writing”

  1. Ron Czarnecki Says:

    Excellent advice! Sorry you had the bad experience with your photographer. I know how much the photos mean for recalling your precious memories.

    Just contracted with a web designer for a new site being launched sometime next month. Got everything (I hope) in writing with graduated payments based upon work progress. We’ll see how it comes out? So far, so good!

  2. todd cook Says:

    Indeed. Great advice.

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