Obviously, we all want to get paid. Getting a deposit definitely helps us with that aspect of the job, but it is important beyond money as well.
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There are two main reasons that people get deposits.
1) So you don't hold a date for someone who isn’t committed to you.
2) So you have money in the bank.
I’ll go into detail about those reasons because they ARE VALID. But I have to admit, the number one reason I ALWAYS get a deposit is:
We’ll start with number 3 and work backwards so you get the most important one first.
Most photographer’s are solo operations. And here in Utah especially, a lot of photographer’s are young girls. We are showing up to meet strangers, all alone, in obscure mountain locations DAILY. this. is. so. dangerous. I know that ninety nine percent of the people who are out there are good and just want some photos taken, but we live in a world where we have to be smart and be aware that there are evil people out there and guess what? A young person who’s eager to grow her business and who is showing up all alone to shoot someone she has never met is the perfect prey for someone with ill-intentions.
When I first started shooting someone told me about a photographer who was supposed to have a family session. She showed up at the location and waited for her client. The client never came, so she walked back to her vehicle. On the way to her car she was intercepted and robbed. They took all of her gear—-thankfully that’s all that happened because stolen gear can be replaced but it could have been much much worse. In hindsight this photographer believes that it was a set up, that the person pretended to book a photo session because then they knew when and where this girl would be all alone, with a backpack full of valuable gear they could steal.
Since then I have been HUGE on getting deposits. I don’t care if it is just a session or just a mini session, or if you’re a makeup artist and the total bill is only $150!! GET MONEY UP FRONT.
My theory is… if they are a kidnapper or whatever.. they aren’t going to pay you a deposit for their set up. If you ask for a deposit they will move on to someone else who doesn’t. Or if they really are dumb bad guys then they’ll pay a deposit and you’ll have their name and banking info easily traced to them or a paper check with their name and address on it.
Ok. Now on to the other, also important, reasons for getting a deposit.
MONEY IN THE BANK
Photographers aren’t necessarily living paycheck to paycheck… but we might be living shoot to shoot! Since our cash flow is not necessarily consistent and evenly spread week to week and month to month our bank account tends to have months with huge amounts of money during the busy season, and smaller amounts during off season.
Especially if you primarily shoot weddings, getting deposits will give you money in the bank during the winter when everyone is getting engaged and booking their weddings so you can survive until spring and summer when you actually are shooting their weddings and getting paid for it!
Plus, getting money in YOUR bank at a more regulated rate also helps money go OUT of YOUR CLIENT’S bank at a slower rate, so they have manageable payments and won’t have to foot quite so big a bill all at once.
Relationships only work if both parties are equally committed to each other.
So your relationship with your client is reallllly one sided if all they have to do is send you an email to get their date on the calendar and now you have a whole day of your life set aside for them that you won’t book any other jobs on and will plan your personal life around as well. If they cancel on you at the last minute there is lots of opportunity lost for you and that is no way to run your business or live your life!
If they want to have time in your calendar reserved they need to front a non-refundable deposit.
Even for sessions with flexible dates, you are still making room for them in your schedule and planning on the time it will take you to edit their photos as well as the shoot.
Something that I think is hard for photographers to understand is that even if you aren’t booked with a shoot every day—you still might be fully booked, because you need time to edit (and eat and sleep and do laundry;)… more on that coming in a later post)
But the point is, if someone is reserving any of your time, you’ll need to be paid. This protects both parties from getting flaked on and will keep the relationship running smoothly.
Side note— did you know the law requires that the risk:reward:commitment ratios between people are equal?? more on this later when I post about contracts… but for agreements to be legally binding, they can’t be entirely one sided!
So in conclusion.
Deposits are important for client-vendor relationships, they are important for your livelihood and your ability to pay the bills year round when you work a job that has a roller-coaster-like pay check, and most importantly deposits are necessary to keep you safe.
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I hope this was helpful! feel free to submit questions you have or topics you’d like to see posted about here in the future!