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:
Cancellation / Reschedule Policy
I understand how dynamic the real estate industry is and things can change in an instant! However, I respectfully ask for 24-hour notice to cancel or reschedule photo shoots. Within the 24-hour window, a cancellation fee of $75 will be assessed. If I arrive at the property to find the shoot is cancelled (including denied access to the property), 50% of the quoted shoot amount will be assessed in addition to the $75 cancellation fee. I do not foresee any reason to assess fees as communication between us will be open and current.
Rescheduling Due To Weather
Photo shoots will continue as scheduled as long as it is not physically raining. If rain is present, we can shoot the interior as the seller has probably put a lot of hard work into getting it ready for the scheduled shoot. I will then return for exterior photos at the earliest day possible where the weather cooperates. Another option is we can reschedule the entire shoot to my next available appointment. (No reschedule fees will be assessed for inclement weather.)
16 thoughts on “Cancellation and Reschedule Policy for Photography Businesses”
Excellent information Lance. This applies to my business as well. Doctors and other service professionals have cancellation policies in place for this very thing, we should too.
Thanks for reading Karen!
Great info Lance.
I am dealing with a similar situation right at this moment. Although I state in my contract that we need to be made aware of the intent to not renew monthly staging five days in advance, one of my clients thinks notifying me on the day the payment is due, is sufficient enough. Dealing with people can be challenging at times but it’s mostly rewarding. Thank God it’s not something that happens on a regular basis.
Yes, so grateful that it doesn’t happen often! If I find a client does it repeatedly, that shows disrespect to me and my business and I would probably end the relationship politely. For a small business owner like ourselves it’s just too much stress to have to deal with clients that aren’t respectful of our time.
My cancellation/reschedule policy is nearly the same as yours. Looked at one way, we are selling our time. Once it’s gone we can’t sell it. I also have a late fee I will impose if I have to wait more that 15 minutes later than the appointment time for the agent or owner to open the property. Past 30 minutes and I consider the appointment cancelled since I might not have enough time to shoot the property before I need to move on to the next job or have the sun go down.
Properties are photographed as-is. I keep notes on the agents I work for to know if they would rather I not photograph an unprepared home and reschedule (with a rescheduling fee) or to go ahead. Knowing this in advance saves loads of time by not having to wait for the agent to return a call. I rarely have an agent pick up the phone when I call. They are nearly always calling me back 20-30 minutes later or the next day.
As I service an area with rural properties, in addition to allowances for inclement weather, I also won’t penalize for road closures or fires nearby that might interfere with lighting/color.
I’ve fired a few clients for never being on time (and not paying the fees). When I started out I usually had the time to wait. Now I don’t and I can’t be bothered with people that disrespectful.
Exactly Ken! And I think in this business, especially with people who may just be starting out, it’s difficult to impose policies. But the sooner we implement rules, the smoother our businesses will run. I like your point about asking up front what the agent wants to do with houses that are unprepared. This way everyone is on the same page so they know they’ll either be charged a reschedule fee, or they’ll get photos that don’t show the property very well.
It used to be my policy to shoot all properties as-is until one time an agent shook their head and told me that they would have preferred me to reschedule the shoot even with a added fee. Since then, I make it a point to find that out ahead of time. I did reshoot the property at a reduced rate to keep the agent happy. Earned a bunch of loyalty points for doing that.
Setting policies and letting customers know what they are in advance looks more professional. If one is just starting out, it gives the aire of a more experienced pro. If an agent pushes back and says they won’t pay you if they leave you standing on a doorstep because they got “tied up” or forgot that you were coming, they don’t value you and it’s best to walk away.
Bingo – sound advice.
Thank you so much for all this great information. I am about to start my Estate Photography career and oh my soul it is quite different to studio work.
Thank you again for the information.
You’re welcome Jana! I wish you much success!
Your site is awesome! I’m very new to real estate photography and I’m learning alot. I really like your realistic viewpoints, yet how you find the best in situations. It’s encouraging… thank you so much for sharing you knowledge.
Thank you Jacob glad you are enjoying the content!
I just picked up reference to your youtube and site blog and cant stop soaking in your experience and expertise. I starting looking for info on doing HDR photos of my house. I noted in my area there is not knowledge of these type of photos. I have good equipment already and understand HDR but weak in post processing. Your tutorials are great. I have LR 4.0 and will see how well it will do. Also have Photopix and have done some stacked photos but will apply some of your presets to smooth the process. Your blog on file management makes easier access to shoots. I enjoyed your comment on the aerial photos. That is going to be a large adjunct to real estate photo service. Thanks for sharing. REALLY appreciate your efforts.
Thanks for the kind words Dave, glad you found the site!
I understand you are new to RE photography and I want to set you on the right path abut HDR photography. Photoshop and other programs like Photomatix Pro are great software, however HDR is not the way to go for real estate photos. Learn how to work with Layers, Blending and Masks in Photoshop or outsource the post processing to professionals who will charge about $5US per finished image. There are some online portals such as ImageCloud.tv (Aust based) that list a number of post processing service providers. Regards, Steve Lock +61 418618325
Weather reshoots are a tough one. I don’t allow any reschedule within the 24 hour window except for extreme weather conditions. Like the 4ft of snow we got here on the east coast last week. We are just too busy to put them off for a whole week. We take whatever exteriors shots we can and come back at our earliest convenience and when we are in the area. This is being accepted by our customers for the last 6 years.