This article is a long time coming. There’s not one event that spurred it. It is a culmination of myself and the team seeing it in Facebook groups. From getting frantic calls at the firm that a photographer needs help because there is a client upset.
Bottom line. If we didn’t talk sh*t about our clients on the internet. A lot of the issues would go away.
Let me clarify this a bit first.
I’m not talking about benign posts about what to do in a situation of XYZ. I’m speaking directly to the ones where people screenshot conversations with clients and post with snarky comments. I’m talking to those who have created groups/threads just to talk about things that clients do and then it is filled with identifying information. I’m especially talking to when people share images from a session and talk about that client with their face attached.
Guess what, y’all. It is not that hard to find your clients online. Social media makes things small. You don’t know who knows who. In fact, get this, I’ve been at a pumpkin patch and one of y’all recognized me. I’ve also been at a pharmacy in another state and someone recognized me as I was filling emergency medicine. Social media make the world small and people more recognizable to one another. Note: This makes it super easy for anyone on the web to find out who you are talking about and get that information back to them. Often this information is complete with screen shots.
So let us all say it together. Stop talking sh*t about clients on the internet.
Should you lean on your peers on what to do in situations? Yes. Should you make it so that they are so identifiable? No. In fact, in our community we have a staunch “no identifying” of any parties rule. This keeps you out of hot water, us being implicated and reduces the potential of any comments being used against you legally.
Yes, friends. What you write online can be used against you. As an attorney, when you guys come to hire me for legal help, I will ask for all communications you’ve ever had WITH your client and ABOUT your client. This includes group posts and discussions with parties that are not your client. Why? For the reasons listed above. You don’t know where that information will go – and we need to be ready when these statements are used against you…because guess what? They will be. It sucks to have to pay me to tell you that you should’ve kept your mouth shut. That’s a huge waste of money – and I don’t like getting paid to tell you something I feel like you as the professional should already know and do.
Even if the client doesn’t have an attorney or may not be pursuing legal action against you – a client receiving information about your online statements about them will permanently damage your relationship with them. But it goes way beyond just with that client. Just like social media got you into hot water, it can keep you there. Clients will probably take to social media to share their experience. But even if they don’t, do you think they will refer you? No way. All that time you spent marketing and getting that client in the door will be wasted. On top of that, the potential referral marketing value is shot. That is a lot of time, energy and money wasted simply because you may have posted about them online.
Again, I’m not referring to the asking for help in groups that is fairly benign and will help your client management. And sometimes clients are just….well. We are all people.
The thing is, we are in business to fulfill as artists and provide a living. But we aren’t here to serve us. We are here to serve them. It is our professional responsibility to do it…professionally.
“I have a client who is inquiring about XYZ provisions in my contract, what should I say?”
“Oh my gosh, this client absolutely doesn’t trust me and how dare she question what is included in my contract? Who does she think she is? <<attaches screenshot>>
Some of you will read that and think “well duh.” But it isn’t “well, duh.” This happens on a daily basis. It happens so often that so many of you are having to pay attorneys (like me) to help play damage control just to keep you from getting sued.
The thing is, you can share your struggles. You can share your frustrations. It is about how you do it and what you say.
Sure, you may not just have a legal issue based on a statement you made about a client online. The sad part is – often times this type of behavior is indicative of other issues in business. Small things that may have occurred along the way and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Small issues that could be prevented with proper understanding of business and management of clients. Bottom line: Eliminating miscommunications.
The hardest part of business is people. I can tell you that first hand. It’s not about learning the camera. Or editing. Or increasing profit margin. It’s learning to work with other people, especially those who are looking to you as the professional.
It is not hard to do to others as you’d want them to do to you.
So let us all together, as an industry, stop talking sh*t about clients. Let us encourage our peers to stop talking sh*t. Let us teach one another how to present questions in an educational manner and not a “venting” or “ranting” communication dripping with potential issues to arise.
We, as photographers, are already combating low-value perceptions and other preconceived notions by our clients. Let us stop giving them reasons to believe those notions are true.
We can do this thing. Let’s do it.
Stay tuned for the article on us not being a**holes to our fellow photographers…..