Wow, what a time to be alive. I feel like there is nothing to say that hasn’t already been said about COVID-19. These are unprecedented times. It’s a scary time for health, the world economy and small businesses. As a small business owner who works in events, I have had to make hard business decisions I never dreamed I would have to make. I have had 11 weddings reschedule as of April 1st, 3 of which I have outsourced to an associate. I had 33 weddings scheduled for 2020 and many of these couples will continue to adjust plans as news breaks about the virus. Thus far, I have lost $14,000 in revenue in the past 2 months alone, a number I assume will only increase. If Stay at Home orders continue into the fall, I will completely lose not one but TWO year’s salary as my 2020 weddings will reschedule to the following year thus removing available dates for new business.
While it is a rough time indeed for small business owners, I know perspective is important now more than ever. My husband and I have our health and he still has his job. We are not supporting small children. We are extremely lucky that we will not go into debt or have to foreclose on a property. Others are not so lucky and do not have the ability to tele-work and a great number of people work paycheck to paycheck. I feel blessed everyday that we have built our lives to survive this. All that said, I wanted to outline my policies for my business given I have seen drastic change in my year and the uncertainty about the future.
My policy with Coronavirus is based on 3 scenarios
1: Clients reschedule to any day I am available in this calendar year (2020). Lovely, I am waiving any change fee and only contract needs updating.*IDEAL
2: Clients reschedule to a day I am NOT available OR cancel entirely. Clients have the options to use associate & keep existing contract or cancel fully with me keeping monies paid. *Waived extra change fee.
3: Clients reschedule to a new available date in the following year (2021). Change fee is waived for non-peak dates: Friday, Sunday or winter. Client needs to pay a change fee to reflect my new yearly price change for peak Saturdays.
Every vendor is different because we are all our own small businesses and choose how we want to run our finances. Because this is no fault of my clients, I am essentially waiving the contractual change fee for 2020 and non-peak rebookings. That said, the third scenario is the most difficult policy I have enacted. I never like charging clients more money and many times it can seem unfair given the circumstances but I want to lay out some reasoning here so that clients, vendors and other photographers can get an inside look into the numbers.
In an ideal world, I am able to capture a 2020 spring wedding (lol not happening but hear me out). My packages were at 6k. I raise my pricing every year (which is standard practice) for a multitude of reasons: my film and editing costs have gone up, my seconds charge more, I’m two years more experienced and I always increase annually for inflation. In 2021, I am charging 7k. If I were able to shoot BOTH, I would be making 13k for these weekends (before taxes and paying out all costs aforementioned). If a spring 2020 wedding moves to a peak 2021 date, thus barring any new business, I am essentially losing 7 thousand dollars. Now, this is a loss I am somewhat willing to swallow for a couple impacted by this pandemic, it’s a horrifying time, it is not their faults they’re having to move and I am trying to remain sensitive and compassionate…. but say this happens 33 times. If this pandemic continues into fall I lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a weight I cannot shoulder and my business would likely not survive it.
Asking my clients to pay a $1,000-$2,000 change fee depending on their package, however painful, is a small drop in the bucket of how much money I am going to hemorrhage this (and next) year. There are 52 Saturdays in a year and, eliminating the winter months when it’s less desirable to get married, I have around 35 opportunities to make wedding money per year. In writing this post, I am really hoping all event clients consider the other 330 days in 2021 as viable options or at least view my policies with a broader perspective.
I am beyond thankful for my sweet and patient clients in this trying time. Thus far, you have all been understanding, kind and thoughtful in this process and it has made my heavy heart lighter. For those that have made the choice to postpone and not cancel, I’m here for you and I appreciate you beyond words.