How to Say No to a Client

As wedding photographers, every project we get is exciting, to say the least. Each new client and assignment is an opportunity to do new things and create great images. Our main aim with every new assignment is to create images that make our client happy. Client happiness and satisfaction is what drives most of us and our work. Shooting their wedding day is a responsibility that we photographers take most seriously.

Now it can be tempting to do everything for the client in order to make them happy, but it doesn’t always work that way. There comes a time when it’s important to say no to a client if you feel you can’t meet all their requests. Now we’re not asking you to say no just for the sake of saying no. Of course, as professionals we want to cater to our clients every need and be able to give them what they want. But if the client wants something that is absolutely impossible for us to accommodate, it’s okay to say no. We want them to be happy but we also don’t want to be a misfit for each other. But when we say no, we don’t want them to walk away with a bad service experience. So remember to say no only when you’re absolutely sure you cannot help them.

Now there can be two scenarios where you might have to say no. One is at the talking/negotiation stage where you’re still sorting things out. For that initial stage, we’re here with some simple tips to help you say no while keeping the client experience positive.

Image by Rimi Sen

#1.a. Begin with apology and end on positive note

Clearly explain why you are saying no to the assignment and apologise for not being able to do it. Whether you’re already booked on those dates, your style doesn’t match with their expectations or they want something that you cannot give them, apologise sincerely for not being able to do it. But try to end it on a good note. Give them an indication that you’d love to work with them given another chance.

If you can, try to explain to them how your refusal is actually a good thing. If your style doesn’t match, they can now look for someone who suits their taste more. If you’re too busy or have too much work on your hands already, having a photographer who can give their assignment more focus and attention will be better for them. This shows them that while you are saying no, you care about what they want as well.

Image by Harsh Seksaria

#1.b Offer an alternative

As mentioned above, in case you aren’t available to shoot or your style doesn’t match their vision, it can be a good idea to help them find someone who can. You can suggest another photographer who you know they can trust. This establishes a goodwill between you and them, and it can help them think of you the next time they want a photographer to shoot a wedding. In addition, a referral will also help build a good rapport between you and the said photographer.

Image by Divyam Mehrotra

#1.c Ask the right questions

In the early negotiating stages, ask as many questions as possible. Ask the couple about their dates, their venue, their guest size, number of functions, their vision for the wedding, what kind of images they expect, and more. The answers to these will tell you if you’re a right fit for each other. If at any point you feel, the views differ too much, feel free to say no. Working with a client who has completely different plans and targets than you is a recipe for disaster anyway.

The next situation is running into a tough spot after the client has been signed on and booked. Now if you’ve spoken in length beforehand, the chances of a mismatch are fewer. During the initial stage, if it feels like there are going to be some major fundamental problems later, definitely don’t take them on. Clients are often influenced by what they see online and have very specific requests in terms of colour, edit/shoot styles, etc. Which is why these things are best discussed at the talking stage. But once you’ve signed them on, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can you accommodate their needs. So here are a few tips for you to sail through tough spots with your clients.

Image by Vivek Gnanasekaran

#2.a Offer them a counter

Always accompany a “no” with another offer or suggestion. Give them an alternative where their request and your capability are both taken into consideration. Tell them that while you’re sorry that you can’t exactly do what they desire, you can perhaps create a middle path that works for both parties. Get creative, and we’re sure you’ll be able to come up with an offer that wasn’t their original demand but still keeps them happy.

Image by Rimjhim

#2.b Be honest

It’s important, to be honest with your client. In case you have to say no if at all, tell them the “why” behind the denial. Make them understand that you’re not just denying their request to be difficult or to stick to your guns. After all, you want the client to be happy during the entire process because their satisfaction is the end goal of an assignment.

Image by Vivekk Vikas

#2.c It takes practice

No one wants to say no to a client. You’ll feel guilty and want to just do that one thing that’s a deal-breaker. But resist the urge and know that it gets easier with time. It’ll feel bad and awkward maybe the first few times, but after that, you’ll know what to say and do. Remember that sometimes saying no to a misfit opportunity is better than doing it and being mutually dissatisfied later. So always do it politely and with the utmost care for the client’s feelings.

Image by Kartik Jasti

Keep these guidelines in mind and you’ll sail through the conversation with them while keeping their experience with you positive. Although this doesn’t happen very often, maybe once or twice a year, you should be prepared for it. Never hesitate to educate your client if they ask for something that you possibly but can’t deliver, but do it tactfully. The way you handle this will determine whether they’ll come back to you in the future or not. Feel free to write to us if you have any doubts/questions/suggestions, we’ll be happy as always to help you out or take tips from you.


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