Best Practice Tip: Thinking Ahead About Client Responsibilities

Whatever type of creative business that you own, it is not only important to think about what your responsibilities are and will be, but also about what the clients’ responsibilities should be. Some of these responsibilities will vary depending on the type of service that you provide or the type of event or scale of the project. In certain circumstances, the responsibilities will also vary depending on the client themselves, such as where there are particular cultural or family traditions or where the client or their guests and family have public notoriety and fame. The key is to think about the particular unique characteristics of that client and their project or event and how those characteristics might impact your ability to deliver impeccable service.

Mary Lee Herrington, Esq.

For wedding planning companies, clients often rely on you to achieve everything with respect to the wedding. But there are some actions that the clients must undertake on their own and which planners simply aren’t able to do for them. For example, for a foreign client or a destination wedding, the client will need to ensure that they comply with the country’s immigration laws. The client will also need to personally apply for all the necessary licenses with the local authority. Should you be held responsible if they don’t meet the strict rules and timeframes for their visa applications? Since they are often relying on you to keep them on track of everything wedding-related, even though the planner is not their immigration lawyer or travel agent, some clients may assume that you just happen to know all of the particulars because you are in the business of weddings. It’s a good idea to, at the very least, discuss the limitations of your wedding-related service in the beginning of the project, and, better yet, get it all down in writing.

For any vendor who works events, they should also think ahead about how their service or property can be affected by the guests and guests’ actions. Where planning companies sign contracts in lieu of their clients, damages resulting from disorderly conduct leading to fire hazards or property damage could very likely end up in your lap. Photographers may also find that, when clients expect an extensive shot list of images and family portraits to be produced from the event, the family and friends from such a list have wandered off from the main event space – here, it’s the client’s responsibility to facilitate the process so that the photographer can take the photos, not waste time rounding up guests. For stationers and graphic designers, their clients are responsible for chasing down all of those RSVPs and then supplying and signing off on all copy for the various printed goods so that the printers (whether letterpress, engraving, or flat printing) can be produced in time.

A smart business owner should set forth the clients’ responsibilities not only in contractual terms, but also factor those complicated needs in the amount calculated for deposits. If you only take minimal deposit amounts from your client, then you may have to cover the cost of penalties in the event of unforeseen circumstances (e.g., cancellations, rush printing orders, rush deliveries, etc.). It’s understandable that creative business owners do not want to seem too pushy in telling clients they too have “work” to do on the projects, but it will save you a lot of hassle, potential liabilities and unsatisfied customers in the long run, not to mention laying the groundwork for a healthy professional relationship.

{ Photos by Polly Alexandre }