As a photographer or videographer, you and your business face a unique set of challenges while events are on hold. That’s why we presented a webinar designed solely for you. To help address some common questions and provide ideas during COVID-19, we tapped three of our WeddingPro Educators and experts:
- Lindsey Conklin, Le Reve Films
- Vanessa Joy, Vanessa Joy Photography
- Brian Leahy, Brian Leahy Photography
Keep reading for advice on how to handle rescheduling a wedding date, how to continue marketing to future couples, how to communicate with clients in general, and more. Here’s the recap from our recent photographer/videographer webinar.
Photo/Video Question #1: How are you managing postponements in general?
WeddingPro Answer #1: There’s no one-size-fits-all rescheduling policy for photographers and videographers, and some businesses are approaching each event on a case-by-case basis. However, Brian Leahy from Brian Leahy Photography is operating under the assumption that all 2020 weddings will move to 2021. While that may not be the case, mentally preparing for the possibility of those postponements is helpful. Lindsey Conklin from Le Reve Films cautions that making the postponement process more difficult for clients will have a trickle-down effect for other vendors.
Here are the top 3 tips for postponing weddings:
- Make sure clients are feeling your care and concern. – Brian
- Maintain a sense of calm. – Vanessa
- Smooth the transition by simplifying the rescheduling process as best you can for your couples. – Lindsey
Photo/Video Question #2: Are you charging rescheduling fees or adjusting your pricing based on 2020 vs. 2021 dates?
WeddingPro Answer #2: Currently, Brian Leahy is not charging any fees for couples who are rescheduling for 2021. Le Reve Films’ contract had a clause about rescheduling fees; but, considering the state of the industry, they don’t feel right charging fees to their clients — especially if the wedding legally can’t happen. They want to be sensitive to their clients’ feelings, as well as being cautious about the appearance of taking advantage of a global pandemic by price gouging. Lindsey added, “Charging a rescheduling fee is not what we want to be known for. We are trying, if at all possible, to avoid that.”
Photo/Video Question #3: What do you recommend doing if multiple weddings want to reschedule for the same date? Do we offer a refund?
WeddingPro Answer #3: If Brian Leahy is not available for the rescheduled date, his clients can choose an associate photographer. He specifies that he will book the associate 2-3 months before the new wedding date. In his newly revised contract, he also states that he will select the associate photographer at his discretion. He intends to communicate with clients in a kind way while emphasizing that these second shooters are people he trusts completely. If the couple decides to cancel, they will not be refunded the retainer. Brian recommends hiring an attorney to review all contracts and postponement clauses because it will save money in the long run. (You can find more advice here: Contracting for Coronavirus: Your Top Questions, Answered.)
If someone demands a refund, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a better way to explain the situation and avoid escalation?
- Are your clients responding emotionally in the heat of the moment? In other words, are they bluffing with threats to sue?
- Is your contract air-tight with regard to rescheduling and/or cancellations? (Ask a lawyer!)
- Is it worth the extra hassle and stress to go to court?
Regarding refund requests, Vanessa Joy from Vanessa Joy Photography suggests sending an “empathy sandwich” email in advance. She is waiving fees for rescheduling and is giving her clients options, but the options do not include a refund.
Photo/Video Question #4: Have any of your clients decided to cancel and, if so, how did you handle it?
WeddingPro Answer #4: Le Reve Films had a wedding cancel, and the clients asked for the retainer back. Based on the contract, Lindsey was entitled to keep the retainer. Upon considering their reputation in the industry and the vendors involved, they decided to take a different approach: They told the planner that if they were able to book a brand-new wedding on the same date that is an equal or greater value, they could discuss returning part of the retainer to the clients who canceled. It was a message to the clients that they are willing to work together to find a fair solution.
Brian Leahy also had a large wedding cancel for June. The planner notified the couple that they were not getting their retainer back; the couple then asked if Brian could photograph a portrait session during their honeymoon, to which he agreed. If clients ask about a refund, suggest doing a family photo session or flying out to capture the honeymoon on a Tuesday. Don’t assign a monetary value to the service you are providing, but give them some sort of value instead if you can, Brian said.
Photo/Video Question #5: How are you communicating your availability to couples who are rescheduling?
WeddingPro Answer #5: The #1 piece of advice is to stay ahead of communication with your clients. Vanessa Joy and Brian Leahy both endeavor to remain top of mind by checking in with their couples in advance. As waves of weddings begin to reschedule, Vanessa approaches the next group (e.g., July/August) and offers 3-5 possible dates as options, so the couples can keep the maximum number of vendors for the new date. When Brian calls his clients, he keeps it fairly casual and asks how they’re doing. A 10-minute check-in can make a huge difference to couples who are worrying about their wedding, so let them know you’re thinking of them.
Since Lindsey and Cherish Conklin of Le Reve Films can split up for events, they are less likely to have a date conflict. However, if clients want to reschedule on a date both are unavailable, they will hire associate videographers to shoot the way they would want. Regardless, Cherish still handles all the edits. It’s important to communicate that the experience will remain the same and result in the dream wedding video that the couple desires.
Need more help for Postponing Weddings? WeddingWire Rescheduler Tool Can Help!
Photo/Video Question #6: Should photographers and videographers be marketing right now?
WeddingPro Answer #6: Marketing is not only necessary — it is crucial. Brian Leahy suggests that, of all vendor categories, photographers may have the most free time during this crisis. One of the best things to do is a complete review of your website. Clients are spending more time online, so messaging is more important than ever. In preparation for his new website, Brian listed the things that he has missed most during quarantine and then incorporated those words throughout the site. You don’t have to use the word “COVID-19” in any of your marketing materials because the things we’re all missing are part of the wedding experience. If you can infuse that language into your messaging, your clients will feel some common connection with you.
While you’re spending more time focusing inward on your business, videographers also should be looking at video content and live streaming. You must stay ahead of the curve and target your marketing efforts as always. Try not to make decisions because of financial desperation in the short term because those decisions may hurt you in the long term. Of course, we as an industry need to be sensitive to the tough situation that our clients are facing. Vanessa reminds us, “Couples just want to be happy and plan their wedding.”
Photo/Video Question #7: Should we offer discounts for our services?
WeddingPro Answer #7: According to Lindsey, absolutely not. What photographers and videographers are doing is more valuable than ever. The wedding landscape may change (e.g., fewer people in attendance), but the value of the work hasn’t changed. If you need to adjust how you collect payments or add a service/product for extra value, that’s a separate question. But you shouldn’t be offering a flat 25% off, as an example — it will come off as panicked.
Photo/Video Question #8: How are you communicating with current and future couples during the COVID-19 crisis?
WeddingPro Answer #8: Vanessa tries to redirect her clients from the negative to the positive and get them excited. This tactic applies to existing couples as well as new leads. In all communication, she looks for ways to be helpful. For example, she is offering free access to her social media course instead of charging as usual. Find a way to be a resource or a beacon of hope for someone. Structure your messaging around serving others. On the same note, if your business is referral-based (i.e., many leads come from planners) like Le Reve Films, stay positive with your friends in the industry. Be a calming and helpful presence for other wedding pros during this crisis.
Photo/Video Question #9: What are your top three tips for self-care?
WeddingPro Answer #9:
- Be strategic about how you’re spending your time. Zoom calls come to mind. If you’re a person who feels productive by attending video calls, go for it. However, if having a one-on-one conversation is more valuable, schedule (and attend!) fewer calls with a select number of colleagues and/or friends. – Brian
- Disconnect! Turn off your phone, and go for a walk. – Vanessa
- Do something fun! My wife, Cherish, has been organizing Zoom dance parties for some of our friends and neighbors; this week’s theme is 80s. No talking, just dancing. Everyone was apprehensive at first and then everyone let go. – Lindsey
No matter what you’re doing, try to be as patient as possible with others. Everyone is stressed out, and we’re going to get emotional sometimes.
Photo/Video Question #10: How are you working on your business?
WeddingPro Answer #10: In preparation for what he hopes will be a super busy 2021, Brian Leahy is focusing on processes. He wants to refine all of his contracts and systems. He is checking the ten places that his couples are likely to find him online and reviewing the client journey from start to finish. Vanessa Joy is working on launching her website after a rebrand. Similarly, Le Reve Films is working on their website and adjusting their branding. Lindsey is also creating educational content on YouTube, which is a task he has attempted in the past but now has the time to follow through to completion (fingers crossed!).
If you weren’t able to join us live for the webinar, or if you want to brush up on the content again, you can view the recording at any time.
Photo Credit: Golubovy/Shutterstock.com