You love what you do — and chances are you’d do it for free if you could — but you’ve got to get paid. Getting paid ensures you can pay your bills and continue taking photographs for families, couples, and individuals. Just call it the photog circle of life. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Brighton Savoy has compiled an ultimate list of Melbourne wedding photographers to help you choose.
Running an independent photography business isn’t just about producing great work; it requires establishing payment processes and systems that allow you to serve your customers while managing your financial success professionally. While discussing payments with clients may not be your favourite part of the job, it’s something that must be done. Fortunately, in today’s modern-day and age, you have lots of options when it comes to taking payments. Photography payments can be confusing, whether you are a freelance photographer or a consumer booking a photo shoot. This post will talk about industry norms to know how to manage payments as a freelance photographer and what to expect as a consumer.
Specifically, we will cover these central questions:
- What are forms of payments usually accepted? Bank transfers/ Cash/ Credit Card?
- Why are up-front payments taken?
- When are the instalments (usually retainer and balance) paid, respectively?
- For Photographers: How to ensure timely payment?
- For Photographers: What if the client refuses to pay?
Usually, photographers accept cash and bank transfers, taking a 50% retainer due before the shoot. The exact due date for a retainer and the balance is primarily up to the photographer. Up-front payments are taken to close a time slot from other advertisements and cover gear rental costs.
The Best Payment Methods for Photographers
Before discussing how you’re paid, let’s first be concerned when you’re paid after a client’s committed to booking you.
An initial retainer should be collected from your client to reserve their session date. Many photographers specify that this deposit is non-refundable. Doing so reduces cancellations and prevents non-serious clients from taking a date out of your busy schedule.
When exactly to set the due date for the retainer is up to the photographer. I usually set the due date approximately one week before my preparation work starts, assuming the shoot goes on as usual on the agreed date.
Though, as explained above, the retainer acts not only in the photographer’s interest but also in the client. Before the retainer is paid, the time slot remains open for advertisement. This is a strong incentive for clients to pay the retainer if they have decided to shoot with a photographer.
Seldom would a committed client delay the retainer; the only reason why a client doesn’t seem to have the sense of urgency to pay is that he is not entirely sure if he wants to shoot with you. And if such is the case, setting a deadline means little either.
If you’re a wedding photographer or booking a newborn milestone package or something similarly expensive, it’s a kind gesture to offer your clients a payment plan. Doing so alleviates the financial burden of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars all at once. Consider offering customized payment plans for your clients. For example, some may prefer to pay $X per week for ten weeks, some may want to pay $X once a month, and others may yet wish to break their payments up into four chunks and pay over a year. Whatever works for both you and the client is the best route to take. Just make sure you’re organized and keep detailed records. If offering too many recurring payment plans is difficult for you, that’s OK. Ultimately, it would help if you did what works best for you and your photography business.
Sometimes a client prefers to pay their initial deposit and then the remaining lump sum later. Or you may have a client who missed a recurring payment and still owes you money as their session date approaches—in either case, having a final “due date” set before your actual session will save you headaches. We recommend having a last due date no less than two weeks before your client’s session.
What are Forms of Payments Usually Accepted?
This is probably the most widely used payment method among the photography community. Everyone has a bank account, and everyone has a bank card. Seldom will there be difficulties in transferring across banks, given the prevalence of digital transfers nowadays?
Most major banks have mobile apps and online banking platforms that allow transfers to be made easily. But even if that is not possible, going to a physical bank branch, the bank never fails (old school … but gets the job done, so yea).
Virtual banks have also become more popular, like Revolut, Monzo, which is also an excellent alternative for interbank transfers. Therefore it is beautiful if the photographer and client bank with a different bank.
Back to basics – cash is the most direct way one can pay a photographer. But here, we face a few difficulties – firstly, retainers are usually required (explained below), but it is not always feasible to meet up in person before the actual shoot.
For smaller-scale shoots, most of the correspondence happens over the Internet. The entire process starts with the customer getting in touch with the photographer. The customer decides to purchase a specific photoshoot service, to the point where the sales are confirmed, which usually takes place quickly over a couple of emails or DMs.
Even for larger-scale shoots, the photographer might schedule an in-person session with the potential client to walk through his service offerings. But still, the decision to buy can happen after the meeting when the client has given it more thought. And therefore, it is not always possible to pay in person, especially about any prepayment required.
Secondly, it is seldom convenient for the client to carry cash around, especially when the sum is relatively large.
Lastly, and most importantly, transactions made in cash offer no proof. Unlike bank transfers or credit card payments, which statements can support, cash payments can’t be traced and evidenced after the fact.
While we don’t specifically advise against receiving cash, we believe that other payment methods are better. First of all, cash exchanges do not leave an explicit money trail. While it’s unlikely, there’s always the potential for a client to claim they already paid you when they did not. Secondly, carrying large wads of cash around isn’t exactly wise, so if you’re a wedding photographer or you offer more extensive packages, consider just how much money your client — and you — will carry at any given time. People don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash these days.
Cash payments usually work just fine for settling the last instalment. The acceptance of the cash implies that both parties have agreed that the transaction has concluded, which closes off the possibility for disputes. Though generally, we wouldn’t advise photographers to accept retainers by cash.
Credit cards can come in handy when the customer’s bank currency is different from that of the photographer’s.
For example, tourists travelling for a few days might want to book a session with a local photographer during their short stay; or that to-be-weds might want to hire a photographer based in another country.
Or, people from other parts of the world might order prints and courses from a photographer. The below shows how my print store built on this Squarespace site takes payments via credit cards and Paypal.
In these situations, credit cards are the best option. Most online payment gateways make this transaction a smooth one by integrating Paypal as well. This is an effective means to help customers avoid expensive international bank wiring fees and currency exchange commissions.
Credit cards are less commonly used for entirely local transactions because that involves a commission per transaction. It makes sense for international transfers because the commission is usually lower than what would otherwise be charged.
Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Chances are, you’re very familiar with PayPal. It’s one of the most common forms of online payment and has made e-commerce incredibly efficient and convenient. Many of your clients may already have a PayPal account set up and linked to their bank account, so offering this as a payment option is a wise move. It’s also easy to bill your clients through PayPal, making recurring payment plans a breeze. The biggest downside is that you will have to pay fees. For personal accounts, that fee is 4.9% plus .30 cents per transaction. That’s $25 out of your $500 payment, so it does add up. Suppose PayPal becomes a primary means of payment collection for you. In that case, we highly recommend you open either a Premier or Business Account, as that fee drops to 2.9% plus .30 cents per transaction. This can be done quickly through your PayPal account or by calling PayPal.
Aside from receiving payment online, checks are likely the most common way clients will want to pay you. Unlike various online payment methods, you will not have to pay a fee with a check, so that’s a positive. Paying with a check is simple, straightforward, and leaves a paper trail for both you and the client. Plus, if you have a smartphone and your bank has an app, you may even be able to deposit the check by phone. Of course, the downside to checks is that they can bounce if your client has insufficient funds. For that reason, you must have a clause in your contract that specifies a protocol for bad checks. You’ll want to charge an additional fee for a bounced check to cover any incurred costs from your bank and to cover your time. You may also want to specify that if a client writes a bad check, then they must switch to a different payment method from there on out.
Money orders are less convenient for your clients compared to checks, but they will not bounce. The only downside is that if you misplace a money order, you are out of luck, as it’s the same thing as losing cash.
A Guide to Photography Payments
Simplify Your Business Accounting
When you own a business, you’re required to pay estimated quarterly taxes on the income you make (in addition to annual tax filing). Still, you can also deduct many business-related costs for things like studio space, supplies and equipment, and some business-related mileage, meals, and travel expenses.
That said, manually keeping track of such costs can prove cumbersome.
With a formalized payment system, you can quickly and automatically track what you sell and to whom, when you receive payment, and the costs you incur for each project. Suppose you use some bookkeeping or online accounting software. In that case, many payment processors integrate with other popular systems to reduce the amount of manual information you must input and help catch and eliminate accounting errors.
Limit Your Liability
In just a few minutes, you can apply for and secure a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) that is associated with your business, and with it, open a business checking account. Although there are many banks and credit unions that offer products designed to support the needs of a small business, try to establish a banking relationship with a financial institution that charges few or no fees for things like ATMs and online banking use, and doesn’t require that you carry a minimum balance in your account.
As you shop various financial institutions, inquire whether they issue major credit cards to small business owners (not all do).
The Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that more than 65% of all small businesses use credit cards regularly, but less than 50% of them are in the businesses’ name. Not only does using a personal credit card for business expenses mean missing the opportunity to build a business credit history (which most traditional lenders require you to have to secure additional loans or lines of credit), you could sacrifice your personal credit history in the process.
When you exceed your ideal debt utilization ratio, for example, which typically occurs when you carry a balance that is more than 30 per cent of your available credit, you could lose access to the lowest rates available for the credit and mortgage products you need for personal use.
Keeping your business finances separate from your accounts also helps you determine the amount you can contribute to a self-employed retirement account and provides an accurate depiction of business income to show your accountant, financial advisor, vendors, and the IRS, in the event you are audited.
Give Customers a Seamless and Secure Purchase Option
When you give customers the option to pay for your product or service by their preferred means, you can expand your potential customer base — physically and virtually. About 90 per cent of all transactions carried out online are paid for using credit cards.
Though most website providers and even blogs make it simple to include a shopping cart icon on your website, that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to accept and process customer payments in a secure or PCI-compliant way.
As you research payment processing options, make sure you understand whether the processor functions as a payment gateway, which securely authorizes and processes payments for e-commerce websites in tandem with the online shopping cart, or requires that you complete the integration between the two systems, which typically involves copying and pasting a bit of provided HTML code into your website. Many payment processors offer technical support to help customers complete this process.
Though the payment processor you choose will have specific instructions and criteria to establish a merchant account, most require you to provide basic information, including your business name, contact information associated with the business, address and phone number, and EIN and your business’ bank account.
In some cases, you may need to wait a few business days for the payment processor to investigate your business and ensure that it is a legitimate operation.
Once you are “approved” as a merchant by the payment processor, you’ll likely need to verify that the bank account information you’ve provided is accurate by completing a couple of test transfers before you can receive payment for the credit card sales you make.
Select Tools That Can Grow Your Business
In addition to equipping you to formalize payments, many payment processors offer small business tools that can enhance and simplify operations. As you research the products and service plans of various payment processors, consider the additional tools that may be available, including a point of sale system that can help you execute cost-efficient and highly targeted marketing strategies based on a customer’s past purchases and customer loyalty programs.
As you evaluate the options, think about how different means of accepting formal payments can make it possible to sell to audiences you don’t currently reach. If you sell work or offer your services at events like festivals, trade shows, or concerts, use a payment processor that provides the ability to accept mobile payments by plugging a small “dongle” device (often provided by the payment processor free of charge) into the jack of your smartphone or tablet. With it, you can swipe and process customer credit card purchases anywhere — without requiring that you even have a printer.
Many processors also allow merchants to download the mobile payment processor functionality by way of an app so that you and multiple staffers can quickly and efficiently process customer payments, eliminating wait times. Assuming the customer’s credit card information is verified at the time of sale, he or she can “sign” by writing a signature on your smartphone screen. To complete the purchase, you can text or email a copy of the receipt of the customer.
Minimize Your Costs
Because different types of payment processors are intended to suit different types of businesses, research the options appropriate for a company of your size based on the number of transactions you expect to make in a month, the average value of the transactions, and where you wish to make a large portion of the transactions (either in person or online), as this can significantly impact the best choice of what you pay to use the service. Looking for the Best Photobooth Hires in Melbourne? We have compiled an exclusive list of some of Melbourne’s best photo booth hire suppliers to capture your special day.
As you compare various payment processors, make sure you understand the fee structures associated with their services, including the difference between the advertised rate and the actual rate you’ll pay for credit card transactions.