When is the best time to collect payment for a session? Today I'll write about what I do, and maybe it helps those of you who aren't currently happy with how you're collecting payments from clients. If you're presently dealing with last minute cancellations, no-shows, or don't enjoy talking business with clients the day of their session then here are some great ideas on how to change how you're currently collecting payments. 

When I first started my photography business, I waited to receive payments until after the gallery was delivered to my clients. I think it was because the business side of it all felt new and I wasn't 100% secure in my pricing yet. It felt almost wrong to ask for any payment until after I delivered what I had promised. I had to learn the hard way that without payment, clients can easily back out of session obligations last minute and after dealing with too many last minute cancellations, I decided I had enough. The only way to work with more clients who valued my time was to require payment upfront.

I switched to receiving payment the day of the session but still had to deal with the last minute cancellations. Also, it always felt a little strange "talking business" and collecting money from clients right before shooting their session. When I work with my clients, I don't want to talk about business or collect payment. I want to focus on creating art with them. I want them to remember how much fun we had working together. I don't want them to remember having to write me a check.

For years now, I have required to be paid, in full two weeks before their session. Most clients pay in full when they decide to book me officially. For weddings, it must be paid one month before their wedding date.

I did. I started valuing my time and decided that the only way to run my business was to require some payments before the session. Since then, I have never had to deal with a cancellation or worry of putting many hours of work into something without getting paid. I also get to put the focus on making my clients feel special the day of their session. I want that day to be 100% about them and their session. I love it, and my clients love it.

The easiest way for this to happen is to change your booking process. What I like to say is this.

"To book your session, I require a $___ deposit; this will officially hold your session date and time with your studio photography. The remaining balance is due two weeks before your session".

It doesn't need to be complicated; it just needs to be straightforward and easy to understand. The key is for you to be clear in what you expect, so your clients are on the same page.

If you offer in-person sales of some sort, you can require payment for the session upfront, or even have a minimum amount due that will go towards choosing the perfect prints, albums or canvases. This process works for any photographer regardless of sessions or packages you offer.

Remember that you're a photographer and spend countless hours working, not just shooting but working on all aspects of your business. Value your time, yourself, and understand that it's perfectly ok to require payments up front.

As for HOW to collect a payment, we're currently working on adding this feature onto the www.essentialtudiomanager.com which will make accepting payments for photographers easy. I use the Essential Studio Manager to track and manage everything related to my photography business, and if you're currently looking for the right managing tool out there, I highly recommend you give this a go! 

June 10, 2016 — Elena Ringeisen