During the early stages of one’s photography career, we often take what we can in terms of available work. Even if perhaps the nature of said work, or the client aren’t exactly aligned with our vision, we feel as though the experience will serve us well and help round out our versatility and complement our portfolio.
As time progresses however, and we start to receive more interest from prospective clients, we realise that it’s actually beneficial to be selective regarding the work we perform. That is, choosing work where we share a vision with the client, and declining work where we are not on the same page or believe things might be more complicated than they need to be. Therefore, it helps to spot a nightmare client before it’s too late, so keep an eye out for these behaviours.
They Speak About and Compare You Against Past Work
It’s one thing for a client to be disenfranchised with a prior photographer and approaching you in the sake of building a new relationship, but be wary of any signs that they are badmouthing or carrying a burden against the former photographer. Additionally, the prospective client may talk endlessly about the photographer in a positive or negative sense, both of which are equally bad. On the negative side of things, their standards or conduct could be a concern. Focusing on the overly positive, and your client may hold you up against them as a benchmark when you are likely to have varying visions.
They Don’t Know What They Are After
Sure, being given the creative license on a photoshoot is exciting. But not without some degree of direction regarding what the client is looking for. If you head down this path, with a client who hasn’t clearly defined the scope of their work, you will open yourself up to potential disappointment or changes. Make sure you’re dealing with a client who is prepared to meet you and outline their needs, not someone who brushes off the need for clarity via a contract.
They Ask and Ask…and Ask
Naturally, prospective clients are likely to have numerous questions running through their mind, particularly if this is their first time working with a photographer. With that said, if the person is in your ear constantly with an endless barrage of questions, special requests, or makes it a point of theirs to probe into a particular aspect of your business (e.g. negotiating price), then the problems are likely to be only just starting. Clients like this will probably use these early stages to define their expectations around your availability, meaning they may continue to be high maintenance later on.
They Don’t Seem Appreciative
We’ve all been there before. The customers who gasp at your quote and say that you’re just taking a few photos, or that they know someone else who could do it for cheaper, or heck, they could even do it themselves! Just don’t. If a prospective client doesn’t value or appreciate your business, nor the industry, let them find someone else to badger. These clients are time wasters, disloyal and unlikely to be engaging you for longer term working relationships. While we’re at it, let’s not overlook the key issue of respect, especially in all forms of communication and conduct.