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Thread: Business Lesson learned the hard way

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    Member jeffde's Avatar
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    Business Lesson learned the hard way

    Hi All.

    Learned a lesson in business this week the hard way. Was booked for a wedding and they paid $200 deposit (i ask for $500) I didn't email the contract (thought i did) and i also did another shoot for them (more commercial) which i didn't put a quote in writing.

    They changed there mind about the wedding (cheaper option) and then tried to change the verbal agreement on the other shoot.

    Ended up i'm refunding the $200 for the wedding and i stuck to my guns on the other job (i wanted $600 for 10 images on CD they wanted to pay $400 for all the images) and they have decided not to buy even though they were happy with the images and they were what they wanted.

    I suppose i'm tired of people bartering all the time and devaluing(?) photos, the photographer and the process all the time. So even though i'm out of pocket i have my pride and self esteem intact...

    Lessons learned
    1. quote in writing &
    2. if i had emailed the contract for re the wedding with the no refund clause in it (evven if they hadn't signed it) i wouldn't have to have refunded (on advise from FairTrading) the $200...
    Jeff - Jeff D Photography
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    http://jeffdphoto.ifp3.com/
    www.jeffdphotography.com.au


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    Well on the bright side - you learnt a lesson. Pity it was the hard way.

    My advice is never ever shoot something for a commercial client unless you have produced a quote in writing and its been accepted in writing - and by email is enough for me.

    I would also say that I do the same for all my commercial and portrait work; that its less grief to have everything sorted (in terms of costs, and terms) before you leave to shoot anything.

    Good for you for sticking to your guns. You may be out of pocket this time, but you're better educated now for the next time.

    On a personal side, I would have told them to go jump on the refund of the wedding, considering that you had already shot the commercial job for them and they defaulted on that agreement. Either way, the terms of how you accept a deposit should also be specified before accepting one.

    You probably did the right thing though, and I'm sure you'll get good karma in return
    William

    www.longshots.com.au

    I am the PhotoWatchDog

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    I agree with William - what's the point of a deposit if you refund after a cancellation?

    It's bad that it happened but good you shared the story. Lucky it was in the 00s and not the 000s.

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    Thanks Guys and thats one of the reasons i posted as if someone else reads my post and doesn't get caught then that's great.

    I slept well last night and thats one of the reasons i refunded the $200 because i do believe in Karma.. Long live "My name is Earl" ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffde View Post
    I slept well last night and thats one of the reasons i refunded the $200 because i do believe in Karma.. Long live "My name is Earl" ...
    What on earth has karma got to do with refunding a deposit to someone who failed to hold up their end of a business contract?

    No wonder so many business's fail!

    Honestly....you asked for a $500 deposit..they CHOSE to give you $200.

    You didn't email the contract....though you THOUGHT you did.

    Do you really blame them for seeing you as a walk over and going elsewhere? Seems harsh I know, but unless you're professional in every aspect of your business, don't expect to be treated professionally.
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    Hey Jim thanks for the rant.

    Losing $200 isn't going to make or break me but learning the lesson before it cost me more could have.

    I currently work a 38 hour week for another boss and about 20-25 hours a week on the photography buisness + try to have a life. So sometimes things just don't get done when they should get done.

    Business don't fail because they make mistakes, why businesses fail is they fail to learn from the mistakes they make.

    I'm glad you are perfect and have never made a mistake.

    I shared my story so that others can also learn from my mistake..

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    I hope karma wise your business turns into a success for you.

    Have you at least completed a small business course? If not, that may be something to think on.

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    Well Jeffde there are some out there who believe in Karma and some that dont. Personally I didnt think your topic deserved such a rant, and in all honesty I dont think being hard nosed about these things equals success in business. You learnt a lesson, which you were good enough to share with us your experience. Thanks for sharing to raise the awareness of putting everything into writing.

    And if we're going to hard nosed about this, then you would have been on slightly shaky ground if you hadnt refunded the deposit - Taken Jim without an agreement in writing, and with no terms and conditions.

    Even if there had have been such an agreement, then Jim and others, you would be best to check with the ACCC, and your state regulatory authority for the correct guidance regarding businesses, customers, and the proper reaction to refunds.

    Quoting from the ACCC - Australian Competition and Consumer Commission:

    http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/8818

    Is there a time limit for refunds?

    A customer needs to approach you regarding a refund in what is called ‘a reasonable period of time’. There is no specific time limit for a refund. A reasonable period of time is determined by a court based on the goods, their use and any other relevant information. Statutory time limits in various state and territory legislation for an action for breach of contract are also relevant.
    Can I display a refund sign?

    You do not need to display a sign about refunds but if you do, you need to be sure that it does not mislead consumers about their rights. For example you cannot claim ‘No refunds’, ‘No refunds after 7 days’, 'Exchange or repair only', or 'We do not refund’ as these signs are likely to create the impression that consumers have no right to a refund. You can clearly display information that informs consumers about legal limits to refunds.


    And if you would like a nice little video - This video outlines the rights and obligations of business in relation to warranties and refunds. :
    http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.../itemId/879156


    So in essence Jeffde, despite the hard nosed opinion, even if you disregard the karma effect, you probably did the right thing from the ACCC's perspective

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimD View Post
    I hope karma wise your business turns into a success for you.

    Thanks

    Have you at least completed a small business course? If not, that may be something to think on.
    Thanks Jim
    I could run a small course if I wanted with my background.
    I shared my story cause i was cranky with myself, for making a basic mistake which cost me money.

    Do i know everything. Absolutely not. One of the reasons i'm on here and why i network elsewhere as well is to continue to soak up information. As they say "The day you stop learning is the day you die"

    Longshots - I refunded because of Karma and also Fair Trading (NSW) told me that i should as i hadn't advised the people of my refund policy (on my contract). They also said they didn't have to have signed the contract i just and to have evidence that they had received it (read receipts on email can be a good thing) If i had emailed i didn't have to legally, although i may have anyway. Thats just me. I should have probably mentioned that in my first post...

    The link to ACCC is great thanks

    Cheers all

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    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    Jeff, that's bad luck and sows that the customer was quite aware there was no written agreement to which they could be stuck, hence they pulled the pin.

    You did what was right, because they may use you again in future or know someone else who needs a photographer, and having been fair, they may recommend you. As you say it's $200, not a great deal to most these days, and certainly not worth getting a bad name for and spending hours writing and responding to Fair Trading correspondence.

    It's great of you to share your experience with those who may find themselves booked to do work, and it certainly highlights the need for contractual arrangements when dealing with clients or anyone where money or things of value are involved.

    I'm sure you will email that contract next time.

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    You're right, Jeffde, everyone makes mistakes and we all pay the penalty in business.
    I think you have clearly identified your problem and that is holding down a full time job and trying to do photography at the same time. This will simply make you unprofessional at both.
    By your own admission you didn't have time to do the job properly. If you're employed you may get away with that. If you're running your own business and giving 40 hours to someone else, you will fail or at least fail your client and this can (will) do enormous damage to the industry. Worth considering your status.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redgum View Post
    ...
    I think you have clearly identified your problem and that is holding down a full time job and trying to do photography at the same time. ....

    Id disagree with this vehemently, many do both and both well and both professionally. It's called attitude and time management
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    Jeffde doesn't, he admitted that. And of course, no one serves two masters well.
    I know where you're coming from Kiwi and some have the capacity to do well but the truth is the insolvency court is littered with failures.
    Now, while this doesn't impact to heavily on the business community, over 90% of professional photographers fail (Fin Review) it does make it harder for start-up business that has invested their livelihood in a particular profession. I would guess that Jeffde hasn't mortgaged his house for this experiment and as he says, has only lost pride.

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    While i appreciate your sentiments Redgum, there would be many semi professional sportsmen out there who would also disagree.
    What i am doing is establing a part time business - all above board ABN, partnerhsip and declaring income etc, whilst working in a job which is casual and has been for 3 years. I think i have much more chance of success learning these little mistakes as a part timer than jumping in full blown and unprepared and going broke in 3 months.
    The casual job i'm in requires me analysing balance sheets and profit & losses of businesses all over NSW to assess whether they qualify for governemnt assistance. I certainly have learnt alot from this job which i can apply to my business. In actual fact my wife has just changed jobs from fulltime to 3 days a week so as to concentrate more on the admin side of our business.

    I think my chances of success as a full time photographer are better than 80%. I don't consider my self a prrofessional photographer and won't for several more years but i do consider myself i pretty good part time working photographer and have some really happy clients to prove it.

    Hey Darren - For once i agree with you.....

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    Now that's a little clearer. You working part time and your wife working in the business can make all the difference. That's a huge resource and one I can clearly relate with when I started.
    From experience that will change within the first twelve months if the business takes off but you'll know from your current work that if a business doesn't ramp up in the first six months, it won't. That's the period of greatest energy and enthusiasm.
    By the way, the success rate is no greater than 10%, aim to be there. And keep in mind 100% outcome (earning the wages you want to earn) and don't settle for 80% cause it won't work. Good luck.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redgum View Post
    ....
    I think you have clearly identified your problem and that is holding down a full time job and trying to do photography at the same time. This will simply make you unprofessional at both.
    By your own admission you didn't have time to do the job properly. ......

    I want to know what makes photography(as a sideline/part time business) immune to the same business practices that's been used in other business models for (probably) millennia?

    I personally know of many successful business persons that started their respective businesses as a part time hobby, my father started his business as a sideline to employment at that time in his life.

    In fact, on another forum frequented by many regular professionally working photographers, times are getting so hard for some of them, that the only way they're going to survive into the future as a photographer is to get a part time job(in any industry) to pay their bills.
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    I want to know what makes photography(as a sideline/part time business) immune to the same business practices that's been used in other business models for (probably) millennia?

    I personally know of many successful business persons that started their respective businesses as a part time hobby, my father started his business as a sideline to employment at that time in his life.

    In fact, on another forum frequented by many regular professionally working photographers, times are getting so hard for some of them, that the only way they're going to survive into the future as a photographer is to get a part time job(in any industry) to pay their bills.
    I would like to know too Arthur. What Redgum stated is his own opinion and doesnt represent fact for everyone. As some individuals can manage both sides fine and survive.

    Hell, I was an infantry platoon commander and the bs they tasked me with in running a platoon daily is more responsibilities than a mid level manager, and this was in the reserves. Not to mention I balanced out my uni studies and photography also. Now I am full time photographer because I made it. Because I didnt let ppls words deter me and learnt many things along the line, the hard way too.

    I think some of us are getting a bit sidetracked here, Jeff is merely imparting his experiences - I have done the same thing 2 yrs ago too and knows how he felt. We learn, we move on and improve from it. Some of you on here sounds like you are business gods and have never made a mistake in your field before, its not easy being perfect is it?

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Aha! I thought so!

    I think the success of any sideline business has more to do with the commitment and attitude of the person seeking new avenues(or adventures) rather than the type of business that it is... irrespective of what the type of business is.

    From memory, the founders of Hewlett Packard(and Bill Gates??) started out in their parents garage!

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    Arthur, I don't think selecting one paragraph from four posts past is fair particularly when it was clarified by Jeffde and myself in the interim. And we're talking about photography on this forum, any number of businesses could be selected.
    The fact is that across all small business photography sits behind accountancy with the greatest failure rates and some would suggest that is because of the creative nature of the business. Conservative accountants generally survive.
    I don't believe that it has anything to do with the number of jobs you have, if you have the capacity that's fine but Jeffde did say initially that he was under pressure and thought that was why he made a mistake.
    Confucius once said that "people with fingers in many pies soon run out of fingers". The ABS shows this fairly clearly too.
    I guess what's being said is that by hanging out a shingle and calling yourself a business person is much more than tools and a name badge and 90 out of 100 starters will come to a sticky end.

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    As usual statistics can tell any story that you want them to. I don't want to go into why businesses fail, or if them stopping trading is through failure or that business having run its course and the owners moving on to something else.

    Jeff has mentioned that he has learned from this experience, and if I was a betting man I would place money on Jeff now having procedures in place to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

    These occurences are a good time to look at practices and procedures and review them to make sure that all is in place. No one wants a colleague to go through something like this but if the rest of us can learn from Jeff's experiences then we are all better off. Thanks for sharing Jeff.
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