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  • #986375
    OpusNOIR Photography
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    Hello all,

    I recently offered a new client a free photo shoot with the condition that she sign a contract to the effect that she would hire me exclusively in return. She claims she has sent me this contract in the mail but she hasn’t. Or it never arrived. Everyone else who worked on the shoot and post production was paid, but I wasn’t.

    I worked extremely hard before, during and after the shoot to ensure she had the images she wanted. She indicated she wanted to book a paid shoot for February, which I have been trying to contact her about. She hasn’t answered any emails I have sent, never answers or returns my calls, and several text messages later… not a peep! I’m sure there has been no family tragedy or serious illness judging by her chirpy Facebook posts, and she has even had the nerve to “like” one of my photos, and still has them on her website! But still no reply….

    There was a stage when she spat the dummy because I wouldn’t let her butcher one of my images, and started talking about all things “legal”. This has me concerned that there is another problem she’s not telling me about. A lot of people (and a part of me) would say just let it go, but as a matter of principle I don’t want to. I think her conduct is extremely unprofessional and downright rude, and if she’s not going to sign the contract and return it then I believe she should pay me for my services, which I’m sure would be a legal battle (that I don’t need and can’t afford).

    I am partly inclined to send her a stern email revoking permission to use the images or demanding payment, but I don’t feel this would be a wise move…

    Any thoughts? Advice?

    #1157496
    bluepenguin
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    OpusNOIR Photography, post: 181630 wrote:
    A lot of people (and a part of me) would say just let it go, but as a matter of principle I don’t want to.

    Learn from the situation. Make changes. Move on.

    If you offer things for free or at a discounted rate, you’ll inevitably come across people who don’t value your work or your time.

    #1157497
    Recovery Russ
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    HI Alister,

    Things can always get tricky when work starts before all terms are agreed to and/or contracts signed and returned.

    Legally, (And I’m not a lawyer) a contract doesn’t have to be written, it can also be verbal or implied. So if your client has verbally agreed to you starting work that is enough to make her liable for payment of that work. The problem however is defining the terms of that agreement and proving it was authorised in the first place if there is a dispute.

    Face to face or phone contact would always be the preferable method of contact for something like this as the tone of email in matters like this can easily be misunderstood. And considering they are giving you the silent treatment as it is, who is to say you would ever get a response or even acknowledgement that your email was received?

    If you can’t get through to them by phone, then send an email asking for them to nominate a time that is convenient for them to discuss this with you. State a time that you will follow up with them if you do not get a response. Only use written communication to arrange a time to talk. Try not to fall into the trap of just communicating by email or text until the matter has been discussed.

    After you have agreed (or agreed to disagree) on a solution, send something in writing confirming the details of your conversation, what is expected of both parties and what you intend to do if they don’t follow through with whatever it was that you agreed on. (Legal action, refer to a debt collector, etc)

    From there you need to be prepared to either follow through on what you say you intend to do, or walk away from the matter entirely. If they call your bluff and you do nothing then your chances of getting this resolved are more or less shot.

    At the very least use this as a learning experience and make changes in your systems and practices to make you you don’t get put in the same situation again.

    If you can’t get a resolution directly and there are funds owed feel free to give me a call to see if I can help further.

    Russ.

    #1157498
    OpusNOIR Photography
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    This is true, but in an industry where there are so many people with plenty of money and photographic equipment who are willing to work for free as they consider it a “hobby” – it’s a battle to start building a client base.

    I’m feeling a stern email coming on…

    #1157499
    bb1
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    The problem I see is that you did the free work without the contract for ongoing work in place.

    So techinically i cant see that you can go back and charge for the free work, and now as the contract is not in place, it will be hard to hold her to anything ongoing.

    I think its time to move on, and learn a lesson from a dodgy client.

    Also when calling on the phone have you tried blocking your number so it comes up as private, I have done that with some clients who when i ring with my number available they dont answer, ring 30 seconds later with a private number and they answer.

    #1157500
    OpusNOIR Photography
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    Thanks for the advice and insights, I will try calling the landline of the salon. Failing that I will send an email requesting clarification of what the problem is and request a time to discuss and resolve the issue.

    I have requested legal assistance form the photographer’s industry association I belong to and hope for a response in the next week.

    Worst case scenario I learn a lesson about having contracts signed before the camera comes out.

    Thanks again everyone :-)

    #1157501
    OpusNOIR Photography
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    bb1, post: 181660 wrote:
    Also when calling on the phone have you tried blocking your number so it comes up as private

    I’ll try this technique as well!

    #1157502
    LisaWB
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    Alistair, if I might just add another thought here. It is a learning curve. Have the ongoing contract for payment in place prior to the free work being done.

    Always, always do that first from here on out.

    The other thought I want to add is – if she has done this now that she has gotten her free images and is mucking you about on the contract etc. Do you actually want her as a client moving forward?

    I think this is a critical question in terms of where you go now.

    Is she a client who will be worth it if you have to battle her for payment or for ensuring that your terms and conditions are adhered too?

    I have learnt that some clients are not worth it. It is far better to say ok, learnt a lot from this and move on, than to force a client into an arrangement that, although they agreed to (to get what they wanted – the free stuff), they don’t want and are likely to not abide by.

    Ongoing aggravation is so not worth it as a business owner.

    #1157503
    OpusNOIR Photography
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    bb1, post: 181660 wrote:
    Also when calling on the phone have you tried blocking your number so it comes up as private

    Well what do you know! I did this and lo and behold…”Hello XXXX speaking..”

    Interesting little experiment!

    #1157504
    OpusNOIR Photography
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    Yep, lesson learned!

    The positive form this encounter is that I have identified a potential goldmine, which I will be focussing on (please excuse photography pun) for the next few months in my marketing strategies.

    Thanks all for the advice and feedback :-)

    #1157505
    bb1
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    OpusNOIR Photography, post: 182473 wrote:
    Well what do you know! I did this and lo and behold…”Hello XXXX speaking..”

    Interesting little experiment!

    I have found it works well with problem clients or the ex

    #1157506
    ScarlettR
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    This is a tough one.

    Others have already pointed out- don’t pursue unless there’s a contract in place- so I won’t cover that.

    I wanted to talk about the need to get in touch with her. You’ve tried to enter a contract of exclusivity and for whatever reason she has decided to try and bail out of it, even after using your work on her site.

    You mentioned that you are still establishing a base of clients and it’s important to you. I’m sorry, and I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear, but I’m gonna call you out on this.

    There is no business owner who should want a client or business partner who willingly and obviously tries to bail on their portion of the agreement, or lack of agreement. It is a clear sign as to what your future relationship will be, you deliver, she will not.

    Getting clients is tough, it really is when you’re starting out. I’ve been there and I know it’s not easy. But don’t create a habit or practice of just taking what you think you can get- scraps. You’re worth more than that. Not only that, but I get the feeling you’re trying to reach out out of ego, which is really hard to let things go when you are right about something and are being treated like crap.

    The amount of energy, effort, and focus that you will end up wasting on a relationship with a client who will not hold up their part of the agreement will be nothing but headache. In the time you spend seeking her out constantly, you could be otherwise feeling focused on getting clients who will pay you on time, and fulfil their promises.

    So my suggestion is let it go. Wherever you are right now, accept it as a very good lesson, one you’ve gotta learn at some stage in business. This has been a good place for you to understand how to respect yourself as a business owner, how to find and attract really great, positive clients and go out there with compassion, rather than resentment.

    Anyway, that’s my 2c, and I had to say something just because I’ve been where you are and I’ve done the cycle many times, and I’ve finally been able to learn my lesson and say no early on. Good luck! I hope it works out really well for you :)

    #1157507
    John Romaine
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    Never work for free.

    #1157508
    IronMaiden
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    I get the gist that many people are saying let go, however we’ve been in a similar situation with our fabrication/blacksmithing. From what I’ve interpreted you took photos under a verbal agreement as the other party didn’t return a contract. If that’s the case and she’s denying signing anything then why is she using your images. If she hasn’t bought them, then she’s stolen them!

    Unless you’ve given permission for her to use them, or for copyright to transfer to her ownership she has no right to use them. Are the images on a website? If so then a complaint to her service provider/ISP about her website using images without authority and being in breach of copyright may be enough to have her website taken down. Simply explaining this under the premise of cough up or else you’ll lose your website (backed up by fact of course) may be enough to get either the images removed or your money paid forthwith.

    We have a little clause on our order/invoices along the lines of “items remain the property of [your business] until items have been paid for in full.” We’ve had to use this a couple of times to get payment. We also have a policy that unless we get a minimum 50% deposit confirming the order we cannot proceed – deadlines or not, and completion dates are taken from when we get the deposit confirming the order. “In paying a deposit you agree to the terms set out on this order”. All this is spelled out clearly in a couple standard emails as well as on the order/invoice so they can’t bleat ignorance if push comes to shove.

    BTW the strategy of using another phone when chasing clients has also worked for us. Fortunately it doesn’t happen very often. Good luck.

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