What to do when your client cancels

As a freelance makeup artist or hair stylist, working in the personal services industry, it is inevitable that from time to time a client will cancel. While this is never ideal and usually not pleasant (unless we are talking bridezilla and then maybe you’re better off!) the first thing to remember is that it almost always isn’t about YOU personally. Yes there are those rare instances where you will come across someone who just doesn’t “click” with you, it happens to all of us. I like to remind myself “you can’t please all the people all the time” but most of the time there’s another reason.

Sometimes, a client will cancel for a perfectly valid reason, and while that may be annoying when you’re thinking about the lost income, you can totally understand. Other times, however, it is clear that the client was left not completely happy with your services and has therefore decided to cancel. Over my career I’ve had more than a handful of cancellations (but probably less than 1% of my bookings… they come for many reasons, the very sad (husband-to-be walked out with no warning, or death in the family) to that old chestnut “one of my friends has agreed to do my makeup/hair as her wedding gift to me”. This “excuse” always begs the question “If your bestie is a makeup artist/hairstylist, why didn’t you ask her first?” but like I said, that’s usually just an excuse so she doesn’t have to say “I really wasn’t happy with the makeup look you did but I don’t want to hurt your feelings by cancelling”. As artists OF COURSE we take it personally, our art is our passion, but this doesn’t serve us or make us a better artist.

brisbane makeup artist, editorial makeup, fashion makeup, editorial makeup artist, creative makeup
Editorial shoot published in Scorpio Jin magazine

Sometimes a bride will cancel because she really didn’t know what she wanted at the trial, or she thought she wanted one thing, and then when she saw it, she didn’t like it.  These brides will often go to two or three artists before they book.  Its human nature to want to save face, and not confront or upset another person, so this client is simply doing what is easiest for her. Again, its not about you, she is trying to stay within her comfort zone, and rather than saying “I’ve realised that wasn’t the look for me, can we try something different?” she just cancels and moves onto the next artist, without thinking about the impact she is having on our business.

I have learnt that’s its OK to be upset for a little while after a cancellation (particularly if I thought the trial went well), but as a BUSINESS person, I try to see each cancellation as a learning opportunity. I think back to all the interactions I had with that bride or client, and ask myself if I served them as well as I could have throughout their experience with me. Did I respond to emails in a timely fashion? Was I fully “present” with her during the trial? Was I patient? Did I ask enough questions? And most importantly, How did I make her FEEL. One of my all-time favourite quotes is “People will forget what you said, and forget what you did, but they will NEVER forget how you made them feel”. I try to live by this. None of us is perfect, and I’m sure I don’t always leave everyone feeling as good as I would like, so I try to constantly remind myself of this.

bridal makeup artist, brisbane wedding, brisbane wedding makeup artist, sunshine coast makeup artist
Holly and her beautiful bridesmaids

While you’re reviewing your interactions with the bride, go back over the photos from the trial too, and critique your work. The ability to critique your own work, and identify where you could improve is an important skill for artists to develop. These days so many brides and clients come to us with unrealistic expectations, with inspiration images from Instagram or Pinterest, that have been photoshopped and edited beyond all reality (or worse, with Snapchat dog filters applied!!). Did you address this with your client? A great tip I learned from makeup artist Mia Connor is that she asks her clients to choose an inspiration picture from HER Instagram feed.

Once your client cancels, you have several choices with how to deal with the news. Firstly, you can ignore her email, but this is never a good choice. You can choose to be defensive, or even try to argue to keep the booking, but the best thing to do is accept her decision, wish her well, and move on.

And then…. I can hear you all asking… “but what about when she asks for a refund?” Refunds… the dreaded “R” word!! And yes, this is when things can become tricky. Sometimes your clients will ask for a refund, and other times they won’t. Whether you choose to refund your clients deposit really depends on the situation and I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule, you just have to take each case on its merits. I’ve noticed a lot of chatter on the forums lately with people asking about refunding clients. It seems like half the advice is “stick to your T&Cs, don’t refund her, she signed a contract, etc etc” while other people are advising leniency, depending on the circumstances. If a client gets angry, and threatens to leave a bad review on your business page, you should ask yourself if that will be more damaging to your business (and result in more lost income) than the small deposit she may have paid.

Please note, I’m only talking about refunding the deposit (or retainer or booking fee – whichever it is legally called in your country) the bride may have paid, and NOT refunding her the cost of the trial. Unless you have been grossly negligent or completely unable to deliver, I don’t believe a trial fee should ever be refunded. You did the work; you deserve to be paid.

brisbane makeup artist, commercial makeup artist, sue mclaurin makeup artist
Commercial shoot for The Ruby Collection holiday apartments, Gold Coast

This highlights the importance of having a good Contract and/or Terms and Conditions that you issue to every bride. Your contract or T&Cs is a legal document, and you should have yours reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it will hold up. Your Contract/T&Cs is as much about protecting your bride as it is about protecting you. If you are in Australia, you can purchase a specially written Contract at makeupandglow.com.au This contract was written especially for those makeup artists working in the wedding industry, in conjunction with a team of lawyers. The small cost for this document is way less than it would cost you to have a lawyer look over your own document.

A good contract should cover all eventualities, including your payment schedule (how much is due by when), and your cancellation policy. When you have this in place, you have something to refer back to if and when a client should wish to cancel.  So, take the time to review your Contract and Terms & Conditions.  Is it time they were updated? Do you need to have them looked over by a lawyer?  Are you protecting yourself AND your clients?

I hope you found this post helpful, if you have any questions, please send me an email, or head over to my Facebook page and leave a comment.

 

Photo credits:

Alan Hughes Photography
Eli Samuel
Dylan Evans