Starting a real estate photography business is an exciting venture, filled with creative opportunities and the potential for substantial earnings. However, even with a solid business foundation, payment challenges can occasionally emerge, causing frustration and uncertainty. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep track of your invoices, and setup efficient methods of sending invoices, receiving payments, and keeping track using an accounting software.
I learned the hard way when I was starting my real estate photography business. I was so busy growing my client list and doing as many shoots as I possibly could, that I did not prioritize chasing unpaid invoices. Unfortunately, one of my clients at the time (a franchisee of a large international franchise) went into receivership after 12 months of working with them and they had more than $10,000 in unpaid invoices from my company.
In this article, we’ll explore 14 different real estate photography business and finance tips for encouraging early payment, and dealing with payment issues when your clients won’t pay, ensuring you maintain financial stability while providing exceptional service.
The first ten are simple tactics that you can deploy within your real estate photography business today to improve the speed of payments and assist with improving your cash-flow. The last four methods are quite aggressive tactics that eliminate some of the risk when dealing with new real estate clients or those who are severely slow at making their invoice payments.
1. Clear Payment Terms: When starting a real estate photography business, establishing transparent payment terms is vital. Clearly outline your rates, payment methods, and expectations in either a contract or a ‘terms of service’ page on your website.
2. Professional Invoices: Create professional invoices that detail the services provided, rates, payment methods, and payment due dates. A well-designed invoice enhances your business’s credibility and leaves no room for confusion. Utilize an accounting or invoicing software that allows you to include a payment link on the actual invoice web page or PDF.
3. Prompt Communication: If you notice payment delays, communicate promptly with the client. Inquire if there are any issues causing the delay and offer solutions to resolve the matter amicably. Some accounting and invoicing software can automatically send alerts to your client if their invoice payment for their real estate photo-shoot is late.
4. Flexible Payment Methods: Offer various payment methods to accommodate your clients’ preferences. Whether it’s credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, or digital wallets (i.e. Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay), having flexibility when it comes to payment methods can expedite the payment process and generate faster cash flow for your real estate photography business.
5. Polite Reminder Notice (prior to due date): Send friendly reminder notices as payment due dates approach. These reminders can serve as gentle prompts for clients who may have forgotten about pending/upcoming invoices.
6. Customer Service Approach: Approach payment discussions with a customer service mindset. Understanding a client’s perspective while asserting the importance of timely payments can lead to productive conversations. Not all late payments are on purpose. Real estate agents are busy people and if you are working with property managers, remember that they receive numerous invoices on an almost daily basis if they have a large property management portfolio.
7. Payment Plans: In cases where clients are facing financial difficulties, consider offering structured payment plans. This solution can ease the burden on both parties and lead to successful resolution. You may even be able to partner with a ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ company such as ZIP, AfterPay, OpenPay, etc., and provide clients with option to pay off the cost of your services over multiple smaller payments, without any risk on your end.
8. Early Payment Incentives: Encourage timely payments by offering early payment incentives, such as a small discount of 2-5% for payments received before the due date. This approach can motivate clients to settle invoices promptly.
9. Send an EOM Account Statement: Send an individual email at the end of the month thanking your client for the real estate photo-shoots that month and attach an account statement that includes the client’s name and account ID, a chronological record of transactions with associated dates, references to initial invoices or purchase orders, and the present account balance. This document is also called an ‘ageing report’ if it just includes the unpaid amounts.
If you send this email a few of days before the end of the month, it can encourage your client (or their accounts department) to include any unpaid amounts in their EOM payment run (if they operate this way).
10. Escalating Reminders: Gradually escalate your reminders in a friendly manner if payments remain outstanding or setup automatic alerts. Start with a gentle initial reminder, then follow up with slightly more urgent communications as the due date approaches. This progressive approach helps convey the importance of timely payment without immediately resorting to penalties, encouraging clients to address the issue before it escalates further.
11. Late Payment Policies: Include a late payment policy in your contract, ‘Terms of Service’ web page, and/or your invoice template that outlines penalties for overdue payments. Clearly communicate these policies to clients so they’re aware of the consequences.
12. Upfront Deposits (for large real estate photo-shoots): Consider requesting upfront deposits before commencing work, specifically for large shoots that may require significant investment in travel and shoot time. I normally request a deposit of 50% for jobs over $1,000 if they are a new client. Deposits demonstrate a client’s commitment and provide you with a measure of security. This may deter some clients from using your services, however it can be a sign that they were never going to pay you anyway.
13. Watermarked Image Previews: To avoid potential non-payment issues, provide watermarked previews of your work before receiving full payment. Once payment is received, provide high-resolution, watermark-free images.
14. Real Estate Photography Contracts: In extreme cases of non-payment, having a well-structured contract can be beneficial for pursuing legal action if necessary. While it’s a last resort, it’s essential to protect your business’s interests. A well-structured contract is your safeguard against payment issues. Ensure your contract clearly outlines payment terms, due dates, and consequences for late payments, providing a strong foundation for resolution.
Remember that different real estate agencies and property management companies handle their invoice payment differently depending on the size of the business, and who pays for the real estate photography services they commission you to carry out for the property marketing campaign of a new real estate listing.
Starting a real estate photography business involves mastering various aspects, including managing payment challenges. By implementing these real estate photography tips, you can navigate payment issues with professionalism and confidence, ensuring your business thrives while delivering outstanding service to your clients.
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