Client Service Agreements
So the first thing we're gonna talk about is the number one legal mistake photographers make, and this makes me so sad because it's so easy to avoid, ok? And so the number one mistake is not having a client service agreement with every client that you work with every single claim that you work with has to sign a contract, okay? And I'll tell you how toe have that contract, we're going to talk about some of the clauses that should be in that contract, but you've gotta have a contract with every single client, whether they're big, whether they're small, no matter what, what kind of client it is definitely have a client service agreement with all of your clients. This is going to protect ninety percent of the legal issues that you could run into. This is also how you preserve your right to the intellectual property that you're creating, right? So as a creator, when you make something, you automatically have copyright to it, right? You already have the copyright right to the photos or anyt...
hing else that you create, right? It's called common law copyright unfortunately, that's not good enough, but the reason I'm telling you that is because in your contract, you could inadvertently be giving away those creator rights, and those creator rights have a ton of value, there's something that you could make money from over and over and over again without doing additional work, right? More money, less work that's what we all want. So that's why you don't want to be giving away your creator rights when you are working with clients. So this is why having a client service agreement is incredibly important. Okay? So drilled into your head, I'm going to have a client service agreement, right? Awesome. Good. So now we know we need to have one. What the hell should be in it? Let's talk about that. So these are some of the items that you want to include in your contract. How much interaction with you can the client expect? And these air just sort of client management things that we're going to talk about client service agreements. We should cover them, you know, fully right? So we're going to talk about the intellectual property and how to protect it in your client service agreement. But I'm going to tell you everything else that should be in your clients from his agreement to so that you have a clear understanding and you know exactly what to do and what should be in there. So, first of all, how much interaction with you come the client expect? That's one thing that you want to make sure that you have in your contract are they are they going to get a bunch of calls with yu? Will there be a meeting with you ahead of time? What will happen in the process? I mean, you can you can avoid a lot of legal issues just by telling your clients what to expect okay, I've worked with photographers who do this really really well and they have very little legal issues they have very little issues with unsatisfied clients because their clients know what they're purchasing ok, so that's what the point of contracts is just just to create clarity so everybody's on the same page about what's going to happen ok, so that's the purpose of the contract how many photos can decline expect to be shot and showed now this directly affects your intellectual property you know you don't want to necessarily guarantee an astronomical number of photos if for some reason that's not what happens in the editing process or you know there are so many variables that could happen in the creative process, you don't want to make certain guarantees because then that makes your life difficult right in trying to uphold it and obviously you want to preserve your your creative process and how you create photos and so you don't wantto put too many restrictions on yourself and make it hard for you, teo go through your creative process and have things to be worrying about so that's one thing will you provide hair makeup and wardrobe stylists that's another important piece if you will you want to have something in there that shows that you're not responsible for the work of your independent contractors ok, because that's what they are they're not necessarily your employees you're not responsible for the work that they do you're really providing that as a convenience for your clients so you want to have a clause in there about how that is something that you are providing or not and then if you are there's going to be something in the no guarantees clause that you know takes away your responsibility for the work of hair and makeup stylists and well actually look at one of those clauses so you can see it when and how will the photos be delivered that's an important one this is a great way for you to protect your intellectual property in this step aa lot of photographers will actually send you know a lot of photos to their clients, right? So maybe they're watermarked or maybe they're provided on a particular website but there, you know, sending lots of these photos to their clients and so if the client is only purchasing let's, say ten of the fifty photos that you took, you've just put a lot of european their hand it's for them to either steal or misappropriate in some way remove your watermark or somehow use those photos right? So there are other ways to deliver photos that would preserve your I p they make it harder for clients to misuse your work, right? So one of the ways that I've seen that done is I've seen photographers who do a skype session when they're delivering photos instead of giving the photos over to your clients, you get on skype with them, you show them the different photos one of the things I love about this method I've actually hired a photographer who does this and she did some editing right there in front of me on the skype so she said, well, maybe you'll like it a little lighter maybe this is a little too red, you know, so you could see how the photos are convey edited and changed and so that's really good for customers to see um and it also like I said, most importantly protects your work. So you're not giving all your photos away to the clients you're making it so that they can see them but not so that they can take them and use them in any way they want so that's just sort of ah process thing and this is what I'm talking about with intellectual property that I kind of want you to understand is that you know all these different decisions that you're making not just strictly legal decisions affect your intellectual property and the rights that you have to them and how your ipod can or can't be stolen okay, so this is an example of that you can decide you know ahead of time how you're going to show the photos and how they'll be delivered on dh just give the client that expectation so they're not expecting to see you know, a website with a bunch of photos that they can show their family and friends you know this limits how your stuff can be khun b used or misused and it also directly ties to revenue right? So the client can't access your photos in any way other than by seeing them over skype they're gonna want to purchase them right? They're gonna want to purchase more photos so you'll probably sell more photos this way if you put less photos in their hands um so I think this is a really good method just in a business sense but it also preserves your intellectual property rights and then you know when and how will the client pay you obviously super important one of the things that you may want to do to is we'll talk about it but you're licensing the use of your photos when you have a client service agreement with a client right? So you are either giving them the full copyright so creator ownership rights or you're giving them a license to use the photos either at home if it's a business client maybe you're allowing them to use them in limited commercial settings like you know as a head shot on their website or things like that so you're providing them with a license so one of the things that you want to do is make sure that in your client service agreement it says that that license isn't transferred to them until they pay you in full so that way you avoid people having the right to use your work without fully paying you I mean, I would recommend that you get your clients to pay you up front anyway it just avoid some of the issues that that can arise, but I know that for some business models it makes more sense to do payment plans or to let people sort of make payments over time and if you're doing something like that you want to make sure that you have that clause in there so that the license doesn't transfer or the copyright ownership of the photos doesn't transfer until you're paid in full so that's one small way that you can protect yourself so the other thing you want to include is what happens if payment is late okay, so these are things that are predictable right? So that's the whole point of the contract it forces you to like walk through the client experience and think about ok here the things that can go wrong that's what a lawyer does right? I'm basically a risk manager I'm thinking about all the different ways that things can go wrong in my client's businesses and trying to protect them from it in their agreements so that's something that you want to have in your client service agreement in the late policy right? So if someone pays you late that is a disruption to your cash flow causes all kinds of issues so you want to be compensated for that and you want to encourage them to pay on time so maybe you want to include you know, a penalty regarding interest maybe you wantto tell them that if it's not paid in full, you know up to three days before their scheduled shoot that the shoot can be canceled or the date could be pushed back until payment happens. So there are some ways that you can protect yourself and also just deter clients from hang you late with your late payment policy and that's one of the things that I will say that customers will actually read so client service agreement whatever contract that you're entering into your clients are bound to it whether they've read it or not so if they have signed your agreement even if they haven't read it they're still bound to it right? So all those policies air still law as faras your transaction is concerned but I will say that the payment stuff is the one thing that customers will actually read they will read the payment section they'll read this stuff right at the beginning that discusses what you're going to be covering the things like how how much editing is and you know is included how many photos you're promising to them um you know, the how many days you know the shoot will be how many wardrobe changes are allowed having different sets that there will be so they'll read that section right at the top and then they'll also read the payment stuff so you're late payment policy will be read and it will serve as a deterrent so should definitely be in your client service agreement and so obviously you wantto also make it clear to them what isn't is not included in the price so retouching is a big thing editing there are some clients who asked for an immense amount of editing that creates more work for you more work than was anticipated or more work than was charged. So you want to make sure you put limits on that and I would even go so far as to say reserve the right to charge them for any certain amount of editing over a certain you know, whatever it is, so if you say you know you'll do one or two rounds of retouching if they ask for more than that, then you can charge an hourly rate for any retouching beyond, you know, two rounds of retouching or editing. So that's another way for you to just preserve your rights and limit how much of your time is spent on a particular client, if you know they haven't paid for that time. So now we're seeing right a client service agreement is sort of a vehicle for revenue, you know, it drives revenue, and it forces you to think about that process so that you can drive revenue in your business. Um, and then the other thing that should be included in that is copyright you want to let them know right up front how their photos can and cannot be used once you provide them to them, right? I've actually have this problem. I've actually worked with a photographer and, you know, purchased some photos for them or thought I was purchasing photos for them, but really, what I was put purchasing was the photo shoot itself, so I was purchasing a service, right? And then afterwards I had to pay separately for the photos. There wasn't a certain amount of photos that were included, and there was no contract, so I wasn't super clear on any of this prior to you know, and it was sort of rushed, I had just had a baby and they were taking pictures of my newborn and he was, you know, seven days old, and so I wasn't really thinking about it, you know? So it didn't make it a priority, but it did cause some confusion later, and I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, how much I was going to pay now if I had been told ahead of time, then I'm in a mindset of, ok, I'm paying for a shoot now, and I know I'm going to be paying later for photographs, and I know that there's going to be different, right? So there might be rights to the printed photos, so maybe you purchased a certain package of printed photos that you can hang up in your house, right from the photographer on bear might be a different price for digital rights, right? Because a digital photo could be shared a lot further and wider than a printed photos, so you might be charging more for that and a lot of photographers dio s o this is one of the ways that you can be thinking about taking apart the different you know, ways that your photos khun b used there's different rights attached to it on dso you khun separate out the rights so let's let's go through some of these other ones what happens with a client when a client fares fails to show up to their appointment? This is just you protecting your time, right? So you want to still be able to charge them? You know either keep their deposit or, you know, collect the entire fee if that's your policy but you get to decide what your policy is and your customers, when they see your agreement, they will either accept it or they won't, right s o you get to set your policies and protect your time on dh. What happens if a client does or doesn't love their photos? Now this is something we're going to get into, but just let me say right now that you never want to make any guarantees about the photos, right? Obviously you do beautiful work. Obviously, most of your customers love their photos, you know, at the end of the shoot, but that won't always be the case there's always a crazy person out there who, you know maybe has really particular taste or, you know, there are people who just have a hard time looking at themselves in photos or for whatever reason are just unhappy, so you don't want to make guarantees when you're doing creative work, right? You can't, you know, guarantee them that they're going to love their stuff. What you can guarantee is that you're going to provide a certain service. This is how buddy provided this is the time frame. This is, you know what you will get at the end of it. This is what we're trying to produce. These are things that you guarantee you don't want to guarantee that they will love their photos. This is a no no, ok, so let's, just avoid doing that all together.