How to ensure your clients pay prior to the session date (free email response)

How to ensure your clients pay prior to the session date (free email response)

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You definitely want to be paid and have your client date secure prior to the day of a session.

And why?  

Because most likely a client who hasn't paid will not take the date seriously.  

If a client has money on the line they are more likely to keep the promise and less likely to cancel.  

But how do you ensure you receive payment prior?  

Here are some easy policies you can enforce to protect yourself from a client who leaves you standing with camera in hand and no one to shoot.  

Feel free to copy and paste these sample responses right into your daily email workflow.  


Do not schedule a clients date without payment and contract received.  PERIOD!

If you start this bad behavior of scheduling with no deposit you will inevitably get client cancelations.  

You will start to feel frustrated and your calendar will get out of control.  


Here is a sample of what you can say/write to someone interested in booking a date:  

I am super excited to schedule your session.  

Here is what I will need to secure your date and time.  

Please send a check in the amount of $____, payable to _______, along with a signed copy of the attached contract.  

Immediately upon receiving this your date will be scheduled and a confirmation email will be sent along with a fun little document telling you what to expect on your special day.  

Please note, until I get this we will not be able to secure your date.


What to do if a client cancels?

In your company policy you need to state that all cancellations need to be made 24-48 hours PRIOR to the scheduled date.  

If cancelation is not made within this time frame the retainer fee will be forfeited.  


Here is a sample of how you can state this:  

In the unfortunate event that something comes up and you can not make your scheduled date please let me know within 24-48 hours prior to your session.  

If the session is not cancelled within this time frame the retainer fee will be forfeited.


Now stick to your gun about this!  

It is also not a bad idea to state that though you understand things may come up only one cancelation per session is accepted.  

Any more than this will may result in the forfeit of their retainer.  A great place to put these policies is in the contract which will be signed PRIOR to the scheduling of their session.  


Final Payment Policy

Lastly, do not ever START a session WITHOUT final payment.  The night before your session send an email to your client stating your excitement about the upcoming day and a little letter about what to expect such as final payment and your policy regarding it.


Here is an example:  

The day is finally here and I am so excited to photograph it!  Tomorrow we are scheduled at ________ (location) at _______ (time).  

Please arrive approximately 15 minutes early so we can discuss things to expect during your session and where best to photograph.  

Please bring along a check (or other payment method you take) in the amount of $________ which is the final amount due.  Once I receive this we will begin photographing.

I can not wait to see you tomorrow.  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.


Remember that you are in control of your company.  

If you don't like what is happening you can only blame yourself for allowing it to.  

Yes, that might be harsh but it is true.  

Having a policy is a necessary step to any successful business.

Without rules you have chaos!


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  • Just make sure you stick with it going forward. Very important :)

    Stacie Jensen on
  • Hi Stacie,
    Couldn’t agree more. I require clients to pay a booking fee (deposit) that is part of their total session charge. It is always non-refundable. And their total payment is due 7 days prior to their session. Anything paid up to the time of a cancellation is not refundable. This is to protect my business but is always spelled out clearly in the contract. The only time I go away from this method is if I am photographing family members, but even they do not get their products ordered prior to payment.

    Kyle Rinker on
  • Girl, your the bomb! This is wonderful! I am SOOO BOOKMARKING this!!

    Jenn Canfield on
  • This was really really helpful for me today! I FINALLY asked for the payment upfront. I have it in my policies document that I require a deposit, but I’ve had trouble enforcing it. Today I finally did. Thank you for the push!!

    Bethany on
  • Thanks for the great advice and sample wording! I’m just starting out and this is really helpful when putting together a contract.

    Christina on

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