So… next weekend I’m meant to be photographing a gorgeous wedding here in Melbourne. The thing is, the couple haven’t paid me yet – not in full anyway. They paid their deposit when they first booked me (which was over 12 months ago) but apart from that we haven’t really had that much to do with each other this past year. I emailed a couple of times in the leadup to the wedding but haven’t heard anything back – I don’t know whether they have even read any of my emails. I honestly don’t know what to do… Do I just show up next weekend and sort the payment out afterwards or is there something you would do to try and receive it beforehand? How do I prevent this from happening again? Help!
Sincerely, Unpaid & Poor
Dear Unpaid & Poor,
Gosh, this is a tricky situation isn’t it – but I can promise you, you’re not the first to find yourself there (especially in the first couple of years of business!) I have some advice for you though…
For this wedding…
– Pick up the phone and call the couple. Rather than anxiously waiting on emails that you don’t even know they’re receiving – pick up the phone. Sure, it might be an awkward conversation – but better now and know where you stand and what’s expected of you, then to avoid it and not be on the same page as them next weekend when it comes to their wedding day! If it helps, write out a few notes or questions you want to ask for your phone call – I do this frequently even now – which makes me feel more confident on the phone and helps avoid any awkward silences.
– Ensure before you call, that you have some options ready for them. Have a Stripe or Paypal account setup to process credit card payments, in case they would prefer that form of payment method (I personally prefer Stripe as the fees are lower!)
– During the call, confirm their email address and afterwards, email them through confirmation of what was discussed. For example, if they confirm with you the time you’ll be needed from, location addresses, expectations, payment terms – anything specific or important to their wedding day, email them written confirmation afterwards. This has two purposes – it reduces the chance of any miscommunication and also puts what was discussed in writing, so that should anything be disputed afterwards – you have some form of correspondence in which they had the opportunity to resolve before the wedding, should anything be incorrect. It just might save your skin one day!
For future bookings…
– Create a workflow for every couple (you can use CRM software like Studio Ninja – that’s what I use) or just create your own checklist to move through as the time passes up until their wedding (I did this at the beginning too – and actually attached a copy of their contract & any notes to the checklist so it was all in one place – old school but still effective!) Make sure to include emails in your workflow, just to check in with your couples – I’d suggest at least every 3 months… otherwise, a lot of time can pass between their booking and their wedding without any communication – which doesn’t make anyone feel very loved!
– Install a plugin or use software so that you can see when someone opens and reads your emails. Honestly, if you do nothing else, DO THIS. There are tools that you can use depending on your email provider – using Gmail: Doubletick is a free tool that you can use or using Outlook: Bananatag is also free and will do the job nicely. Depending on what email service you utilise, get onto email tracking so that you know what happens to your emails after you press send. This alone could change your life!
– Include in your workflow a final payment reminder that you email out to your couples a month or so before the wedding. By doing this, I find that all my couples pay on time (if not early) as it serves as a great reminder of what’s due when and prevents any awkward conversations. If you’re not sure what to write, here is an example of what I send out:
I can’t believe we’re only a month away from your big day – I’m seriously SO excited! I hope the last of your planning is going smoothly as you continue counting down the days!
The reason for my email (other than to say hi!) is to send over the final balance for my photography services for your records. Include the link or attach the invoice. As per the contract, the balance is due no later than 14 days before the wedding, which would be the ENTER DATE. As soon as I receive it, I’ll send through a receipt for your records.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Lastly, if you can let me know when your final timeline is complete – or if you need help creating one – please let me know! Looking forward to hearing from you – talk soon, xx
More than anything Unpaid & Poor, focus on getting next weekends wedding sorted and then start implementing tools & workflows that will ensure that you don’t have to deal with this again. Remember, there are no mistakes when it comes to growing your own business, only learning opportunities. I really hope this helps and as always, if you need help or support getting through this issue (or any others) don’t hesitate to email me! I’m here for you – believing always in community over competition, K.