What’s one key ingredient in a healthy relationship? And by that, I mean a relationship between a professional photographer and their client? Boundaries. Boundaries help you avoid burnout. They also help your clients feel more confident in you because they know what to expect.
It’s not easy drawing the line and standing up to clients when you have to, but setting boundaries is important. They’ll protect your health as well as your business. And they’re part of providing an amazing experience for your photography clients.
Let’s talk about a few crucial boundaries every photographer should have with their clients and why they are necessary to your photography business.
Here’s a fun story for you. Way back when, I remember getting a message from a client at 2:30 am. I had woken up and looked at my phone, saw the message…and I responded. Immediately.
Don’t make the same mistake! Replying to that message instantly made me look desperate, to be honest. It made me look like I was always available and that I really needed their business. I encourage you to put boundaries in place when it comes to communication and stick to them. Clients will respect you more if you respect yourself!
You’re the boss, so you don’t have to set traditional 9-to-5 business hours for communication. For example, I aim to respond to my clients within 24 hours during weekdays. Sometimes I respond on the weekends if it’s convenient for me.
Figure out what’s best for you communication-wise, and outline some boundaries based on that info. Ask yourself these questions:
- When do you want to be available to chat with clients?
- How can someone reach you? What’s your preferred method? (I get new inquiries via email. Once someone becomes my client, I talk in email and text.)
- When will someone get a response if they contact you outside of office hours? Do you have a template or response ready to go?
- What happens if someone contacts you outside of your preferred channel? (I like to direct Instagram DMs to my website so they can officially book me. It’s too easy to lose someone on social media if they delete their account or change their name!)
Remember that a client may be nervous after first hiring you. Put them at ease by setting a communication boundary from the beginning. They’ll know exactly when you’re free to chat and how to get in touch with you.
You’re running a photography business, and you want to get paid. It’s important to set a boundary about payment with every client you work with.
Payment boundaries go beyond listing your package prices or hourly rate on your website. Consider details like:
- Session fees
- Rescheduling fees
- Rush fees
- Late fees
- Accepted payment methods
- And, in a worst-case scenario, what happens if clients don’t pay you at all
Let me give you an idea of the payment boundaries I’ve set for my own business.
My session fees are upfront and non-refundable. They cover session time as well as hair and makeup. Simple and easy! I don’t have a rescheduling fee as long as I get plenty of notice. Nor do I have a rush fee since my turnaround time is pretty fast.
This is what works for me. So think about what works for you! Again, you’re the boss, and you make the rules. Think about which payment boundaries are non-negotiable and which ones you’re more flexible on. Maybe you’re more flexible on rescheduling fees, but you hold your ground on rush fees. It’s up to you.
Let’s talk about products. What are your clients investing in when they work with you? What will they get out of the experience? You have to be super clear about what they’re buying; no one likes to be surprised when they don’t receive what they expected.
Here are some details to consider:
- What does their session fee include?
- What products or collections do you offer clients? Can they choose their own sizes or styles of prints or albums?
- What exactly is included in a boudoir session?
- Are digital files included, or can they be purchased?
- How long will it take to get the finished prints?
When setting this boundary, I like to add a little info about what my client can expect when actually working with me. How the shoot will go, how I might direct or pose them, how we’ll talk, and so on.
We all have our unique personalities. Some photographers are soft-spoken and gentle (like me!). Others are extroverted and energetic. Nothing wrong with either of those! Telling the client what to expect just adds to their overall experience.
Another boundary you have to think about is timelines. Your timeline actually encompasses the three other boundaries we’ve already talked about: communication, payment, and products.
Make sure your client understands how long you’ll take to do something or when something will be complete. You can reiterate your previous boundaries involving details like:
- When they can expect a response from you
- How long retouching might take
- How long it will take to see prints or final albums
You’re making sure all your bases are covered here. This boundary ensures your client knows what their, and your, responsibilities are.
Last but not least, we have the one boundary that makes it all official. Your legal boundaries. You must use a contract with every new client. Put those boundaries in writing to protect your business and your client’s investment!
Everything we’ve already discussed should be included in your contract. Make your contracts plain and easy to read. No one really reads contracts word for word, so it’s very easy to miss details in them.
With my contracts, I like to include studio policies. It’s really easy for both you or your client to refer to that policy when needed.
Take charge by setting boundaries
The five important boundaries that every photographer should set with every client they work with are:
- When and how you’ll communicate
- Payment and fees
- Product expectations
- The timeline of your relationship
- And the legal stuff to make it all official
These five boundaries will help you get started, but feel free to set more or different boundaries if you need to! You’re running the show. Set those boundaries to protect the photography business you’ve created and your wellbeing.
Want more information? Be sure to check out the TLC Photography Pricing Course where I show you exactly how and where to set these boundaries in your own business.
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Tracy Lynn is a boudoir photogapher for brides-to-be in the St. Louis area, and a mentor + coach for photographers looking to level up their businesses with better systems and processes.