This will be short, because it has no reason not to be. If I've learned one thing in business over the past seven years of being a full-time professional photographer, it's that you should always, whenever possible, grant your clients some grace.
Today was a day where I needed to show some grace. I had a shoot scheduled at a local bar to do some bartender portraits. This was a free shoot for them, and they would get to use the images for their marketing. The owner of the bar set it up so that two or three people would be there to have portraits taken, but none of them showed up. My assistant and I waited 45 minutes, outside, on a chilly, gloomy day, and no one ever came.
After giving up and going home, I got a frantic message from the owner saying that when reminding the bartenders about the shoot today, she had inadvertently left off the "1" in "12," so the bartenders thought they were supposed to show up at 2. She was extremely apologetic.
I had two options. I could have been annoyed and frustrated, and told her she had wasted hours of my time between prep, running to my studio for some gear, and waiting at the location (after scarfing down a too-quick lunch and rushing my puppy outside to pee). It was about two hours gone out of my day. I could have said I wouldn't work with her again. But that would have been pointless, and wouldn't have helped anyone or anything.
Why make someone feel worse when they already feel bad enough for wasting your time? Why be negative when you could be positive? Why potentially ruin a relationship when you could just forgive them and reschedule? That's just bad business practice, not to mention bad human practice.
In business, just as in life, it pays to be friendly. It pays to be compassionate. It pays to grant people the grace they need to carry on with their day. A no-show client is not the worst thing in the world, but I hope this makes a point.
If you follow this small, though sometimes difficult, piece of advice, I guarantee that you'll win over more people than you'll lose and your professional (and personal) life will flourish. Be gracious, be forgiving, be understanding, and the rest will come.
Stephen Ironside is a commercial photographer with an outdoor twist based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While attempting to specialize in adventure and travel photography, you can usually find him in the woods, in another country, or oftentimes stuffing his face at an Indian buffet.
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