How to Handle Difficult Clients as a Real Estate Photographer

How to Handle Difficult Clients as a Real Estate Photographer

As a professional real estate photographer it’s very likely that you’ll have to deal with some difficult clients from time to time. At best these situations can be frustrating and at worst they can be detrimental to your business.

This article will outline several ideas and tactics that you can use to handle your most difficult clients as a real estate photographer.

Table of Contents

Are Difficult Clients Even Worth It?

This is a question I ask myself every single time I’m working with a particularly difficult client. I can handle a somewhat needy client, or a client that has to be educated about real estate photography and its benefits, but I think truly difficult clients are a different thing all together.

When considering if the difficulties of working with a client are worth it or not, I like to remind myself about the 80/20 principle in business. If you’re not aware of the 80/20 principle (also called the Pareto principle), it’s relatively easy to understand.

The general idea is that in business, about 80% of your revenue comes from about 20% of your clients. Likewise, about 80% of your frustration and time wasting comes from about 20% of your clients.

I constantly consider the 80/20 of my business relationships and try my best to be honest with myself. Being able to identify the 20% of my clients that make 80% of my revenue means that I’ll be able to focus more on helping them directly.

At the same time, identifying the 20% of my clients that lead to 80% of my frustration and issues allows me to cut ties and give myself the opportunity to create new, more efficient, and more enjoyable relationships with other clients.

Figuring out if you need to simply ditch a difficult client is no easy task. They represent a form of income and therefore your livelihood as a business owner. Coming to the conclusion of dropping a client should be well thought out.

If you’re having trouble making that decision, it might first be easier to see if the relationship can be fixed. Which brings us to the next part of this article…

How to Make Difficult Clients Easier to Handle

The absolute best thing you can do if you are set on keeping a difficult client and attempting to have a better business relationship is to create some boundaries and expectations.

Figure out what it is that makes them such a difficult client and then address it directly. Here are some examples:

  1. If you consistently show up to a job and the house is not photo ready, send them a home staging checklist and tell them you have a policy that if the house is not photo ready, you will charge them a fee and cancel the shoot.
  2. If they are adamant that they must be on-site for the shoot but are always showing up late, inform them that you have a 10 minute late waiting period. 10 minutes after the scheduled shoot time, you will need to reschedule the shoot and they will be charged a fee.
  3. If they are always complaining about the price and asking for a discount, simply tell them that your prices are non-negotiable and they either need to pay the full amount or search for a different real estate photographer.
You get the general idea from the above examples. Clients can be very difficult in a bunch of different ways, but the way to fix it is always the same. Give their actions repercussions.
While it might seem harsh to both cancel a shoot and charge a fee, you need to remember why you are in this position in the first place. This client is consistently making your life and work more difficult.
Unless they are made to see that their actions, whether that’s lateness, rudeness, or anything else, make your job more difficult they won’t make changes on their own. You have to set boundaries and then be prepared to cancel shoots, charge fees, or drop them as clients in the end.
I always think it’s worth it to try and fix a relationship with a difficult client before just dropping them.
Maybe a home staging checklist is exactly what they need and now all the homes will be better prepared when you arrive. Maybe knowing the shoot will be cancelled if they’re late will have them showing up on time.
If setting boundaries and communicating expectations doesn’t work however, cutting them loose is probably the best choice. It’s likely not worth it for you to spend more time worrying about one difficult client than you do on all your other clients.

Reasons to Stay with Difficult Clients

As frustrating and time consuming as difficult clients can be, sometimes it’s simply just not a good idea to cut ties with them, at least for the time being. There are plenty of situations where you might need to stick with them.

For example, if you’re just getting started in your real estate photography career and you only have 1 or 2 clients, it’s obviously not a great idea given the circumstances. Wait until you’ve built up a larger client list so you’re not desperate for work.

Also, if this difficult client happens to bring in a lot of work and therefore income, you might need to reconsider. Saying goodbye to a large percentage of your businesses income is probably not a great idea.

In both of these cases, it’s best to wait until you’re in a more comfortable place with your real estate photography business.

If the client is really unbearable, then do your best to land at least a handful more clients before you cut them loose.

Likewise, wait until you have a much better diversified income stream if you want to drop a client that pays you good money.


When it comes to difficult clients, each situation will need to be examined differently. You’ll need to consider all the pros and cons of leaving this client before you decide to make a move.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. You can use this advice to determine the best course of action and possible outcomes. Just make sure that you do whats best for you and your business rather than keeping a difficult client just because you don’t ever want to lose clients.

If your business is successful and lasts long enough, you will inevitably lose clients for reasons that are out of your control. Sometimes, difficult clients just aren’t worth it.

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About author
Matthew Digati is a professional Real Estate and Architectural Photographer. Matthew has worked as a Real Estate and Architectural Photographer since 2015 and has photographed properties and projects all over the United States.
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