Desiree Nguyen Orth is a California licensed attorney and photographer who owns Desiree Nguyen Legal. Desiree Nguyen Legal is a modern law firm for creative small business owners using a holistic approach to legal protections and damage prevention. The information provided is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice or solicitation. No attorney-client relationship is formed by commenting or submitting anything on this site. Please contact Desiree Nguyen Orth or an attorney barred in your state for individual legal attention.
Cancelling the Contract when you have Doubts about the Client
So you had your engagement session with the clients and you just didn’t vibe with them like you did during your initial meeting. Worse, after you deliver the photos, your clients have some “requests” and marked a bunch of photos in the gallery as private.
First of all, if this is something that happens to you more than 1 in every 10 clients, something is inconsistent in your portfolio or you haven’t vetted your clients enough— this should be rare. Assuming that the clients are picky or just plain not loving your work, you might want to cancel the contract to ensure that they are nothing less than thrilled with the work from their wedding day. As we know, weddings are very emotional and sentimental so producing work that is less than what the clients bargained for can go a long way in creating more work for you to satisfy them afterwards. While there’s no one concrete answer about cancelling a contract here are some important considerations:
1. Cancellation is a breach for either party. When there is a breach, a court will try to put the parties back in the same position they would have been in before the contract happened. This means that if you cancel, you’ll need to return the retainer. Customer Service Tip: While you are entitled to get paid for the work you did do, like the engagement session, you should return the full retainer and any other money paid because you’re putting them out and they didn’t care for the work you did do anyhow.
2. Timing: Always try to mitigate the damages. If you know you’re going to cancel the contract, make sure you do it as early as possible. Most of us are booked about a year in advance of the wedding date. If you decide to cancel the contract, with a few months left and the wedding is peak season, you’re likely going to create damages for the client. They may not be able to find someone of like skill or style, or they’ll have to pay a lot more money to find someone of better skill, or they may not be able to find anyone at all. These are issues that put the client in a worse position than if they never entered the contract with you in the first place and a court may look to compensate them for that.
3. If the timing is too late, communicate openly and clearly with your clients about the issue. Yes this will be uncomfortable, but I’ve had so many litigation clients who would have happily had an unpleasant conversation if it meant avoiding an unpleasant and expensive several months.
4. What to say: This is totally a customer service issue, but it’s really best to approach your client from a problem solving standpoint. A phone call is always best when you’re going to discuss something unpleasant, but you definitely need to follow it up in writing immediately after the call to summarize what was discussed in writing.
If you’re trying to work it out, try something like this:
As you know, the engagement session is also a good practice run for the wedding, so I just wanted to make sure that we’re on the same page about the photos. I loved the way they turned out, but I noticed that you marked a bunch of photos as private in your gallery. Can you tell me why these didn’t work for you?”
If you’re trying to cancel, tread lightly, but be succinct:
I hope you are well! After our session/communication, I get the sense that I’m not meeting your needs. It’s so important that you not only love your photos, but that you are enjoying the wedding experience, and unfortunately, I just don’t think we are working out as well as we need to be, especially for an important day like your wedding day. Because I don’t want to waste any of your time and give you an opportunity to quickly find a replacement, I am cancelling the contract and refunding your money. I wish you both success and happiness!”
Yikes, that was uncomfortable to write in a hypothetical! But truly, trust your instincts. If you can get out of the contract without harming the client, it’s probably a better idea to do so than to endure more work and increase your potential for a damaging lawsuit. For more tips and business bites, be sure to follow me on Instagram @creatives.legal.resource!
About the Author
(Photo courtesy of Zoe Larkin Photography)
Desiree Nguyen Orth is a California licensed attorney and photographer who owns Desiree Nguyen Legal. Desiree Nguyen Legal is a modern law firm for creative small business owners using a holistic approach to legal protections and damage prevention.
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The information provided is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by commenting or submitting anything on this site. Please contact Desiree Nguyen Orth or an attorney barred in your state for individual legal attention.