Real Estate Photo Terms of Service--forget and you'll pay

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Real Estate Photo Terms of Service--forget and you'll pay

As a real estate photographer and videographer, I'm essentially selling a service to realtors in the Toronto and GTA area. Since this is not a product, and there is no immediate exchange, I have to--or at least I thought I did-- give realtors the benefit of doubt regarding payment for my work. For quite some time, I would do the work without any payment upfront and would trust that I would be paid for it. Hehe. Except for a few realtors who chose to pay me three months after I did the work for them and following many emails and calls, I got paid for all my work. I was lucky, I guess.

Since learning that my competition takes payment upfront before doing any work, I have began doing likewise. 

And I wish I would have implemented this earlier. Yesterday, I received a cheque from a client (I would never divulge any client names so don't ask) for an amount less than what I had invoiced. This client decided to alter my invoice, straching out the travel charges with a note stating "I was not aware of this", and then proceeding to recalculate the total before the travel charges. At first, when I saw this, I was upset and ready to email this client a piece of my mind. I had, after all, travelled 1 hour each way (that's 2 hours total--not to mention the hour of photography) to this property, which is my time (which I could have used to shoot local jobs for clients in need), car fuel, and wear on the vehicle. But, thankfully, I stopped myself before reacting and quickly realized that I was at fault. I had failed to have this client read, sign, and return my terms of service agreement before commencing work, so he could not have known that I charge for extended travel (which, by the way, is industry standard) and was right (I think?) to modify my invoice and pay me less.

I learned two lessons here:

1) Always request that your clients give you a signed copy of your terms of service.

2) Always take payment upfront.

After I cooled down, I emailed the client back, apologised for the misunderstanding, and explained that I had forgotten to request for the terms to be read and signed. I hope that was appreciated.

I appreciate my clients and over such a small misunderstanding, would rather swallow my pride and admit fault than to bicker about what's right, etc.

Oh ya, one more lesson: You learn quick when you lose money!

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Stone Home Photo + Video is a real estate photography and videography company serving the Toronto and GTA real estate community. We offer: Property photos, HD video tours, MLS photos, Virtual tours, Panoramas, High-resolution photo, Head shots/portraits, Feature sheets, Brochures, Fliers, & general Real estate marketing.  

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Dan Tabit
Keller Williams Bellevue - Sammamish, WA

Peter, Good choice.  You looked at it from their perspective and realized how you could have done better.  You protected your relationship with that agent, your reputation in that area and changed your practices to protect yourself in the future. 

Dec 10, 2009 04:15 AM
Brian Madigan
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto) - Toronto, ON
LL.B., Broker


Well I guess you won't be making that mistake again.

Some agents assume that you get paid, when they get paid. That's the way the construction industry often works, but not here.



Dec 10, 2009 11:18 PM
Janice Ankrett
Burlington, ON
Staging Professional

Peter I'm sure we all have been in your place at one time. Sometimes those life lessons cost you money. Your post it an example of how AR works. Others will read your post and learn from it.

Good Post.

Dec 11, 2009 03:45 AM
Peter - Toronto Real Estate Photo & Video
StoneHome Photo & Video - Toronto, ON

dan: I figured that this is a service business that relies heavily on word-of-mouth advertising, so I'm glad to have kept a client rather than a few extra bucks.

brian: lesson learned. Actually, every job I do I learn a small lesson...this one was perhaps a bit bigger. :)

janice: Good point. I just hope others are as receptive as you! :)

Dec 11, 2009 04:06 AM