You see an email notification flash on your smartphone. But you can only see the first few lines. And they go something like this “Dear Photographer, I hate to write this but we are not happy…..”
Right there. Your stomach plummets out of you and thuds on the ground.
Something has happened, and you are praying you have done everything right and have all the rights protections in place to shield your business if this spark ignites into a forest fire.
As you race to a computer to read the email in full-screen, your hands are shaking. Your confidence is shaking. You’re beginning to second doubt yourself.
I see this over and over from you guys. And it kills me. I get emails saying things like this:
I got blindsided by this complaint from a bride’s mother that I didn’t get a picture of the caterer with the catering table. It was never discussed in the shot list. And now they are picking apart everything I did and are threatening legal action.
I need to take my clients to court for non-payment but I don’t have my license or other permits yet. Will I get in trouble for not being legal?”
I had a client’s daughter trip-and-fall down the stairs leaving my house. I’m not registered as a business with my county and I don’t have insurance. Are they going to win if they sue me?
I see these emails all the time and my heart breaks thinking how easy it would be to prevent, or at least diminish the probability, of issues occurring if all businesses set aside time to reevaluate their protection tools yearly (if not more).
The problem I see is – it’s not that you, photographers, don’t want to protect your businesses. You do. And it’s not that you haven’t considered policies; you have. It’s just that you only know what you know, and don’t know what you don’t know.
And because of this, your confidence is shaken. And clients can smell it, the fear coming off of you.
When a client tries to push boundaries, they are scared to stand firm.
When a client gets hurt, it’s too late to do anything.
When a client quits paying, the photographer is at a loss.
This is why preventive tools to protect your business are a must have.
If you have all your protections in place, then you can be confident to stand firm on business decisions and be confident in making the best customer service.
These tools include: business formation, contracts, appropriate licenses and permits, and insurance.
One of the biggest disservices I think that online groups give is to further this idea if you have ONE of these tools, you’re protected.
Each of these tools do offer some protection – but they work best in layers.
First, having proper lawyer-drafted contracts implemented in your business will help to inform customers of policies, provide hurdles to any issues a customer may have, and provide a legal document to be referenced in situations.
Next, you have a layer of a liability insurance policy. By having this layer, you can defer clients to the company to resolve any potential liability issues that arise. This frees you up to focus on your business and (hopefully) reduce costs to extinguish any “fires” that may come up.
The core layer would be your business formation choice. For example, choosing a Limited Liability Company divides the business and personal assets for protection. With the formation at the core, if customers get through the last two layers then they have to engage in a legal transaction such as court or mediation for a resolution.
Take for example, the photographer above who had the client who tripped and fell down the stairs. She didn’t have liability insurance but she was an LLC – so when trying to settle the matter she had to go all the way into court to settle it. Whereas, had she had a liability insurance policy in place, she may have been able to have it handled in a shorter amount of time with a lot less money.
Another example from above, the bride’s mom who had a fancy for a photograph of the chef with the catering table. While there was a contract in place, having specific insurance policies in place could also deflect any potential law suit as well.
These are just two examples that show you how these tools are work together as multiple layers of protection.
The Sad Reality
Sadly, many of you will set up shop and never revisit these tools until you have an issue arise. By then, it is too late. You need to be revisiting these tools to make sure your insurance policy hasn’t changed, your contracts are legit, and your business growth hasn’t demanded a change in formation.
If you are one of those that isn’t even to that point yet, make sure you get these tools in your tool belt before even taking clients.
If you think you have it on lock down, consider this–it is cheaper and easier to be protected by layers (and keep these layers up to date) than trying to scramble when an issue occurs.
And this is why you’re going to see much more information from me that will center on protection. My goal is to push preventive methods rather than “clean-up-on-aisle-four” methods.
Because the more protected you are, the more confident you will be. This will help you stand firm when clients are trying to steamroll you. It will give you the ability to discern which policies to relax in the name of customer service.
This is just the beginning of some big changes here, and y’all are going to get the benefit. In the next few weeks, you’re going to see a schedule of monthly free webinars, BizRevamp will open for enrollment (09/08), and a few other things I have up my sleeves. Don’t want to wait for open enrollment for BizRevamp?? We now have a self-study! Check it out here!