Today I wanted to quickly write this blog post for both photographers and their clients working in Vietnam to focus on why it's important to get some sort of deposit prior any type of work.
Long story short, I just had a hotel client cancelling a 5 days photoshoot + 2 days retouching literally while I was packing all our gear and getting ready to catch a flight to their location.
Here is how it all started. The client Marketing Manager contacted me 2 months ago asking if I could shoot their property. After 34 emails, planning, scheduling, came the time to book the flights to their location. First Hiccup, apparently the client didn't understand that transportation was at their expense (never had this issue since I started my business 3 years ago and dozens of hotel photography work, still I've now added a very clear mention in our contracts). Anyhow, because this hotel belongs to a group that is one of our best client, I decided to go ahead and offer to pay for the flight myself to smoothen out the process and prevent any delays. After confirming the flights and dates with the Marcom Manager, I asked if they had the chance to process our 50% deposit as per clearly stated in both our quotation and contract. "The contract is still on our owner's desk and waiting for signature".
Ok, so many of you would think that I should have stop from there but the point is that in Vietnam it's very common that paperwork takes ages! As long as you have some sort of approval by the marketing manager or general manager of the property you are pretty much good to go.... well.... so I thought until now.
The evening before my flight I get an email from the client saying that they have to postpone the photoshoot. I'm like, "what? we just confirmed the dates yesterday and I paid for the flight". Apparently the reason is that the hotel had a last minute entire hotel booking and no rooms will be available to shoot. Somehow, I still remain "coolax" and ask to at least pay our deposit since we've just lost 1 week of work. But wait for it... here comes the "poteau rose"... the marcom manager now tells me that his hierarchical superiors have decided to not work with my company anymore! Apparently the amount of our contract was too high. For your information I charge US$79 per photograph based on a 50 images package. (Check our Hotels and Resorts Photography Services)
Let's make the count: 1 hour to shoot 1 image with light painting technique, 1 to 2 hours for the post-processing of that image, US$40.000 worth of equipment, full copyright release, oh and I almost forgot, for that particular case I even paid the airplane ticket and overweight freight!!! In my honest opinion, I deliver the best quality/price hotel and resort photography services in the South East Asia region but I might be wrong so feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.
With all this, I think you now got the point of the title of this post "Trust is good but 50% deposit is better". Actually, I should add to this that at some point during the negotiation process I'd highly recommend to address directly to the "boss" or whoever is in charge to prevent such situation. A very good friend of mine, once told me: "In Vietnam you have to hold at least one side of the rope because if you don't then it will whip your face one day or another".... and for me that was today LOL.
To end on a positive note, that was a great experience and we did learn a lot from it and that's what we have now implemented in all our communication with our clients:
- No bookings until deposit payment or written approval from the "boss"
- Payment Terms: 50% upon validation of the quotation, 50% after all the final images/Videos have been delivered. Transportation from photographer's location to client's location and return, Accommodations and food will be provided by the client for the photographer, his assistant(s) and model(s) stay on site. IN BOLD CHARACTERS
I hope this article will help some of my fellow photographers and our clients to better understand why, as committed media creators, we need a lil bit of insurance to prevent losses that can greatly impact our small businesses.
If you have read this article that far, it means that it was somewhat interesting and I'd love to see what you think in the comments.
Have all a beautiful day and it's time for me to pack our gear for the next photoshoot this PM.