In the real estate industry everything seems to happen rather quickly. Sellers change their mind, agents aren’t always prepared, and weather gets in the way of real estate photography shoots. Having a cancellation and reschedule policy is very important, and it’s best to let clients know from day one how you run your business so there aren’t any surprises.
Having a cancellation/reschedule policy for your business sets expectations and helps your business run smoothly. Cancellations can happen for any number of reasons. I’ve had properties go under contract before I took the photos, and I’ve had a client cancel because two days prior to our scheduled appointment, the homeowner’s brother had to move in due to financial instability. The homeowner decided to not put the house on the market and instead help her brother get things under control.
A fact of life is that not everyone has the same opinion on how they should treat their vendors (you, the real estate photographer). Having a policy in place allows your time to be respected, even if your clients wouldn’t normally provide the respect you deserve. Client #1 might notify you 48 hours in advance of a cancellation, but client #2 might think day-of notice is sufficient. You need to know what’s acceptable for you, and make that known in your cancellation/reschedule policy.
We make a living through our business. If we aren’t working, we aren’t getting paid. It’s not like Corporate America where we can take a day off and still collect vacation pay. Cancellations can exponentially hurt our pocket as well. During a busy week, we may not be able to fit in a new client. A cancellation would have opened a slot for that new client, however because we didn’t have room, they went and found another photographer.
So, What Should the Policy State?
You should come up with a policy that you are comfortable with. At the end of the day, it will affect everyone differently. Here is what I tell my clients so you can get an idea of how I handle cancellations/reschedules:
- Cancellations and reschedules are no charge provided they are done 24 hours in advance of the scheduled shoot date/time.
- Within the 24 hour window, a cancellation/reschedule is $75. (You want a dollar amount high enough for impact so they know you mean business, but I also personally like it low enough to where it doesn’t seem unreasonable.)
- If I show up to a property and can’t get in or the shoot is cancelled by the agent/seller, the fee is $75 + 50% of the quoted amount. If I quoted $200, the fee would be $175. Yes, it’s near the cost of the full shoot, however I wasted my time showing up to the property and to me it’s unacceptable to cancel with no notice so the “punishment” is more firm.
- We can’t control weather, so I don’t penalize clients for shoots that are rescheduled due to inclement weather. I try to shoot the interiors if they will let me at the scheduled time because it’s easier to fit in exterior shoots during busy weeks instead of finding a spot for a full shoot.
If you have to collect fees from a new client that you haven’t used before, you probably won’t get it out of them. Most likely they’ll go find another photographer to be difficult with. And truthfully if you run into a difficult scenario with a new client, it’s probably not a good fit between the both of you so it’s best to wish them all the best for future shoots.
For clients that have used you previously, they will probably respect you enough to pay the fee without any questions. However it’s easy to “forget” to pay a fee. So to “remind” a client, I won’t put anything down on the calendar for a future shoot until their account is paid up in full. This shouldn’t be a recurring problem with your clients, so for the one-off situations this should be suitable. If this is a recurring issue with a client it might be time to sit down and figure out a different way of handling things, or give them a referral to another photographer so your time doesn’t continue to be wasted.
Delivering the Policy
As stated earlier, it’s best to state your cancellation/reschedule policy from the beginning of your client relationship. Before you schedule a real estate photography shoot with a new client, tell them you will be sending them more information via email. I like having a copy in writing that you can refer to later. If you have to enforce the policy, you can remind the client that they were made aware of the policy via email on a specific day. Here is how I state it in my initial email: