Do you know the best way to prevent chargebacks? And no, it has nothing to do with money. The simple solution is great for your wallet – and your clients! (Photographs by MADELEINE COLLINS)
Chargebacks are scary. Even if you win the chargeback dispute, you’ll be on the hook for fees, and you won’t have access to your hard-earned money until the matter is closed. But chargebacks don’t have to be part of your life. Here’s how to prevent chargebacks, and – surprise! – it’s easier than you think.
This is what chargebacks are actually about . . .
Sure – when you’re on the receiving end of a chargeback, it sure as heck feels like a direct attack on your pocketbook. But resist the urge to immediately withdraw all your cash and stuff it into your mattress. To prevent chargebacks, don’t protect your money; protect your relationship with your clients.
You may be surprised to learn that only 1% – 10% of all chargebacks are the result of criminal fraud.
As much as 99% of chargebacks are due to company error, or more commonly, “friendly fraud,” when a client chooses the simplicity of a chargeback over the effort of contacting the business. For photographers, this means your chances of receiving an unavoidable chargeback is almost nil.
Even leading online payment providers have learned: poor customer relationships prompt more chargebacks than nearly anything else.
“These days with the increase in online purchases, you lose that sense of human interaction, so you’re more willing to send chargebacks along for all these purchases.”
– Kay Feker, Risk Program Manager at Square
These eight tips are your primary defense against chargebacks.
We’ve compiled eight common-sense business practices that play an enormous role in chargeback prevention. Here’s how to implement these practices in ways that are practical, legally sound, and seriously worth the effort if you want to keep the clients coming!
#8: Put your return policy in writing.
Wherever and whenever you sell products or services, you need to incorporate a clear, concise return and refund policy. If you’re using an attorney-drafted contract from the ShootProof Marketplace, you’re already setting clear expectations regarding liability and payments. Great job!
But what about customers who purchase prints and products online?
Draft your return policy and have an attorney look it over. Then add it to your ShootProof price sheets through Commerce > Pricing > select a price sheet > Price Sheet Settings. Here’s a great starting point:
All orders are custom-made and are therefore final. Prints, products, and digital download orders cannot be cancelled or returned. If you have any questions or concerns about your order, please contact email@example.com so I can make it right!
Include your return policy everywhere you sell.
It doesn’t matter if you sell prints through ShootProof, book mini sessions through Táve, and invoice clients through that ancient software your grandpa gave you on a floppy disk. Make it a point to publish your cancellation and refund policies everywhere you engage with clients.
When you clearly display your policies, you help prevent chargebacks and reduce the difficulty of recovering your funds should a chargeback still occur.
#7: Get all changes in writing.
Photography clients try to make changes all the time – to their albums and products, to their slideshows and session schedules. Listening to your clients’ feedback is smart, but changes can open the door to disagreements. That’s why you should document details – down to every deliverable – in writing, even if only in an email. Scroll down to see a sample email script!
It was great chatting with you on the phone today! I’m excited to complete the retouching you requested. Here are the details of your retouching request: (details here) If you’re ready for me to begin the retouching, simply pay the retouching fee at the link below. Please allow up to (#) weeks after you’ve completed the order for your retouching to be complete. I will add the retouched images to your ShootProof gallery and email you when they are ready for download.
#6: Verify that your potential clients are the real deal.
It’s tempting to respond to inquiry emails with a ready-to-sign contract and a payment link. The inquiry phase, however, is the ideal time to confirm exactly who you’re talking to. Hop on a phone call, schedule a FaceTime conversation, or arrange a meeting over coffee. Any one of these interactions can help verify that:
- the client is who they say they are (not a scammer from the other side of the planet)
- they understand your style and expressly want your unique approach
- the client understands your pricing and is comfortable with what they’ll spend
These confirmations go a long way toward preventing chargebacks!
#5: Trust your gut.
Most importantly, honor your intuition! Did you get a strange vibe when you talked to a certain client over the phone? Did something a client said offhandedly strike you as particularly odd?
A ‘gut check’ is a survival mechanism. If you’re getting bad vibes, simply decline the shoot and move on to another opportunity. One will come along!
“This aggression will not stand.”
– The Dude, The Big Lebowski
#4: Get the details long before you send the contract.
Obtain your new client’s contact and event details before you send them a contract. A fill-in-the-blank contract certainly seems easy, however, blank spaces allow too much room for error.
Create client questionnaires with your studio management software, such as Táve, or use Google Forms to make free online questionnaires. Input these details into your clients’ contracts and invoices, then ask your them to review and sign.
These documents work together to ensure good communication, accurate information, and a terrific client experience – all of which help prevent chargebacks.
They also result in a highly effective paper trail in the rare instance that you need one!
A #ShootProofPro True Story
“After delivering the photos from a particularly beautiful wedding, the bride emailed, upset that there weren’t more portraits of the groom’s family. I reviewed the signed family portrait list I’d obtained from the bride, and sent it to her with my deepest sympathy – and a reminder that I’d photographed every portrait grouping on her list. She recognized her oversight, and, years later, we continue to have an excellent photographer/client relationship.”
#3: Use a Third Party Payer agreement to prevent chargebacks.
Wedding photographers, in particular, frequently get paid by someone other than the wedding couple, which means the payer may even be someone you’ve never met or spoken to. It’s great when a generous family member gives their loved ones the gift of photography, however, things can get murky if they decide to charge back later.
The LawTog recommends that you use your standard wedding contract with the wedding couple, then obtain a Third Party Payer agreement from the payer. The Third Party Payer agreement is a separate document signed by the financially responsible party, and you can find it in the ShootProof Marketplace!
#2: Don’t send sloppy invoices.
Prevent chargebacks by sending detailed invoices that are easy to understand. This means:
- itemize the tangible photography products on the invoice – each album, print collection, frame, etc.
- your photography services should also be itemized. Don’t just list “photography.” Have line items for “eight (8) continuous hours of wedding day photography” and “one (1) hour of engagement portrait photography.”
- create line items for FREE products and/or services as well. As in the image below, you can list the full value of the item then add an item-specific discount; or you can specifically list a “FREE GIFT: Mini Session (retail value $199)” with an invoiced price of $0.00.
When crafting an invoice, there’s one thing nearly all business owners agree on:
“Don’t charge a surcharge to your client. Charging any extra surcharge, convenience fee, or other extra cost (assuming it is legal in your state) also puts you at a disadvantage. . . Adding a surcharge is like throwing up an additional steeple-chase gate in front of a payment.”
– Claude Ducloux, LawPay
Instead of itemizing fees on your invoices, build credit card processing fees and other fees into your pricing structure. Then, you can choose to offer a 3% cash discount – much more appealing to a client than paying a 3% fee for using their credit card!
#1: Be accessible, available, and on your client’s side.
The most impactful thing you can do to prevent chargebacks is to be your client’s number-one fan.
Show concern and compassion for your client’s feelings, and demonstrate excitement when you deliver their photographs. Tell them, “Your photos are beautiful, and I can’t wait for you to see them!”
#ShootProofPro Tip: Don’t let distance drag you down!
If you photograph schools or sports teams, it’s hard to build personal relationships with your clients; you aren’t even likely to meet most of them! Overcome this hurdle with an intro video in each ShootProof gallery. This is a great way to help your clients see you as an approachable human – not just “the business that charged me $75 for a school portrait package.”
Clients and customers who feel seen, heard, and valued, are the clients who will trust you.
Don’t shy away from conversations about your pricing. Provide realistic timelines and booking restrictions, and answer your client’s questions without defensiveness.
Build trust, and you’ll prevent chargebacks, because a trusting client has confidence that their photographer will take care of them.
Are you a relationship-focused photographer?
Share how you build and sustain healthy client relationships. Maybe your experience will help someone else in our community.
Written by ANNE SIMONE and RACHEL LACOUR NIESEN | Photographs by #ShootProofPro MADELEINE COLLINS via TWO BRIGHT LIGHTS | Special thanks to WILLOW FLOWER COMPANY, LITTLE DUCK CALLIGRAPHY, ALEXANDRA GRECCO, BOTEGA SALON GALLERY, BADGLEY MISCHKA, BHLDN, JENNY YOO