How to offer payment plans without getting screwed
Updated: Jan 31
You finally raised your photography prices to something you can live off of. Congrats!!!!
Your clients ADORE your work and want to buy *all the things*, but they just can't afford that package right now. You saw a huge profit just walk out the window until you said, how about a payment plan?
The obvious solution is to break up the total cost into some kind of manageable plan. But how do you make sure you get paid? Every extra day you have money that should move between a client and you is another day something could change or go wrong.
So how can we set you up to make sure it goes right, without needing to just cross your fingers?
1. Payment first, goods later
Some folks can be sweet as pie when they want something from you. Then when it’s time to balance the scales, they turn mean, rude or ghost you. As harsh as it may sound, why wouldn’t they?
They have what they want from you, so why bother with you anymore. Between shady clients, chargeback claims, nasty online reviews and more, make sure you keep some power in your hands to make it that much more likely that you get paid.
Don’t release their digital’s gallery or let them pick up physical products until you have been paid in full. I mean every last penny, including sales tax.
2. Backup the backup
‘‘Declined payment’ is a phrase that strikes absolute terror into the heart of anyone who’s seen those words flash across a screen. But let’s be real, sometimes the expiration date hits and you forget. Sometimes that auto withdrawal is a bit bigger than suspected. Sometimes a client bails on you because their financial situation rapidly changed (sometimes it’s real, sometimes it’s not).
Either way, it means your business isn't getting paid.
So get a backup payment option
Most payment systems will let clients store multiple credit cards. That way you have multiple options to charge when something gets weird. It's secure for them and you don't have to do more work now to keep that financial information secure. Require multiple payment options, get authorization to charge another automatically if the first fails, and communicate that in the contract. Now you’ve got another safety net!
3. Put it in writing
Most of the time, a solid contract, communicated in the right way will scare a client back into honoring their original commitment to you. If it doesn’t, it means you have something to show them, their bank, and their boss (jk on the boss) to get them to pay up. Worst case scenario, you’ve got solid stuff in front of you if you decide it's worth your time and effort to bring them to small claims court.
4. Don’t order custom products until you HAVE to
Look, yall agreed on a pickup date when you set up this payment deal, right? If you didn’t, time to start doing that.
If you did, then you know exactly when you need to have those custom physical products by. Order them when you have to for your pickup/delivery date. Pay for it when you order. Then if the situation changes, you haven’t put out money before you were most likely to be able to collect on it.
Make the first payment in any plan at least the out-of-pocket cost for any custom products. That way, if the world burns down, you aren’t out a dime, just the profit. It’s not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than spending 10 hours chasing down 2K. Focus your energy and contracts where it prevents the most harm with the least amount of energy from you.
These are the kinds of strategies I create with all of my chief legal officer clients.
Strategies that have legal backing, that match their business, that make life easier.
I’m all about that efficiency cuz it lets all of us go live life a little more and get buried in admin a little less. If that sounds interesting to you, check out our intro CLO package here. Want to dig deeper? Check out this post comparing payment plans and layaway plans. You can also check out the payment plan template and the layaway plan template in the store
**Disclaimer: This is only general information, not legal advice specific to your situation, and does not create a client-attorney relationship between you and Samantha Bradshaw, a Virginia licensed small business lawyer, or InLine Legal, a 100% virtual law firm. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer in your area.