The Threat of Client Badmouthing

Dear Jasmine,
I've been in the industry over 7 years now and honestly, it's been a relatively pleasant experience. But sometimes; however, you end up in a situation where there's a clash of personalities. Although I've never had this happen with clients, I've had it happen when interviewing potential second shooters. Not every second shooter is the right fit for the primary and vice versa too. I've recently had a potential intern/shooter threaten to "badmouth" me across their blog and any other platform they can find because they simply weren't a fit for the position they were applying for.

Have you ever been in a situation like that? How do you respond to that kind of person? People fuelled by anger are so unpredictable.
Clash, Smash, Boom

Dear Clash, Smash, Boom,
I think angry people should be shipped to an island just off the equator line and served frosty beverages until they find their happy selves again. But since that won't happen (because angry people will find something wrong even with frosty beverages), let's get real about the scenario.

I was in the exact same position...but it was a bride who threatened to ruin my business (her exact words). We corresponded via email for two days and during that time, I realized we weren't the best fit (amongst other things, she wanted two hours dedicated to family portraits and sent instructions on how to capture her bridal photo...nothing is wrong with this, but it doesn't play to my strengths). I carefully crafted an email stating I believed I wasn't the right match for what she requested and even sent over a list of photographers who would be better suited for her requests. I breathed a sigh of relief, then hit the Send button.

And, boom, my world exploded when she responded an hour later.

If it was possible for emails to spit fire, hers would have been a dragon. She threatened to ruin my new business (I hadn't been a photographer for more than a year) by going on every wedding forum and saying how awful I was...and update her social media outlets to complain about my services...and warn brides to stay away from me. I was crushed. I immediately panicked and asked JD what I should do.

The advice he gave me is what I'll pass along to you: Who cares?

Does it sound way too simple? Well, yes. But it's true. If the bride (or the assistant shooter in your case) were to badmouth me, what could she say? That I refused her? That I was selective? That I sent her better suited alternatives? If anything, that would prove I'm a photographer who wants only what's best for both parties. If I don't think I'm the best fit, I'll be honest.

Likewise, CSB, if a prospective employee bashes you because s/he wasn't hired, then the only person it makes look bad is her/him. Really. And guess what? I searched online for a month after that bride threatened to ruin me...there wasn't a single post, thread, or word about how "awful" I was. I wish the same for you.

Shine On,
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Ruben Nunez - Agree 100% with JD. Better to stick to your guns and follow your gut, rather than worry about offending someone and find out how crazy they are when you are already in a business relationship with them.   05.05.14 - 12:41pm
Bobbie Brown - ohhh, great advice! I wish you the best CSB! I am sure it's not a pleasant place to be :( Jasmine and JD - ya'll rock!   04.09.14 - 6:51am
Melissa Pointer - Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've only had one unsatisfied client and in all honesty I was misled about the venue. Had I known what I would have been dealing with I would have never tried to help this person out in the first place. Sometimes the best of intentions can leave you feeling so low. My husband had to actually step in because the person started sending me threatening text messages(on Christmas Eve, no less) and chose to mention our child in them. I went to my friend and mentor and she gave me the same advice that you got from JD, "Who cares." There is always going to be that one person that you just can't make happy, no matter how hard you try.   04.08.14 - 4:54pm
HayleyLane - So, so true! People like this are usually just blurting out empty threats because they haven't got their own way. You have to be true to yourself and make the best decisions for you, your client and your business.  04.08.14 - 4:26pm
Ashley Rogers - Great advice! Thankfully I've never had to deal with this, but, boy, I'd need a Chai Latte through an IV and then a vacation in a warm, sunny place if this ever happened to me. Who cares sounds simple, but feels hard to apply to one's heart and mind in any area of life. But so freeing when applied! (something I'm still working on.) Thanks for sharing this Jasmine! <3  04.08.14 - 3:08pm
ashley goodwin - I think I need this cocktail. ps: can never get enough of the colors in your new stylleeeeee. xo   04.08.14 - 3:00pm
John - Love your first comment back, so true! "I think angry people should be shipped to an island just off the equator line and served frosty beverages until they find their happy selves again. " I am going to use that saying too.  04.08.14 - 2:23pm
Keith - Great advice J.D!!! It's tough when so much of owning your own business (especially photography) is about who you are as a person. When someone threatens to (or does) say negative things it feels like you've been gutted. I felt that way when I noticed two "1 star" ratings on our Facebook page. Even though there also 59 "5 star" ratings I wondered what we had done to make someone do that to us. Of course the ratings are anonymous but I started trying to figure out who it was.... finally I realized that it really doesn't matter at all. The more you put yourself out there, the greater chance of exposing yourself to people who are mean and childish. It will happen. As long as you have done your best to treat others fairly, and apologized when you' have fallen short, let it go when people are jerks.   04.08.14 - 1:53pm
Cristal King - Excellent advice, I haven't come across anyone mean yet but I have turned down clients because we weren't a good fit, I could hear my husband giving me the same advice as JD gave you. Thanks for sharing this!  04.08.14 - 1:34pm
Rayna | Rayna McGinnis Photography - This situation is so sad and I keep hearing about it. But J* is right, there isn't anything you can do. These people are out there and the best thing we can do is live our lives. By trying to fix the situation, we're only rewarding their behavior. Blah.  04.08.14 - 12:52pm
Angel Menendez - You are exactly right Jasmine! I've been there and I've done the same thing you did and we are still in business. One thing people that bad mouth others don't realize is that their comments speak more about themselves than the person they are trashing. All the best to you!  04.08.14 - 10:28am
Rachel - We have met once in passing at a Fix even but statements like, "If it was possible for emails to spit fire, hers would have been a dragon." make me know we could totally be besties. That said I totally agree. You can't fix angry people. As long as you handle your side well that's all you can do. Not an easy pill to swallow but it is what it is. Happy Tuesday!  04.08.14 - 9:36am
Esther Andrews - The problem is sometimes these people lie. If she tells the truth it can't hurt you. But if they lie to make you look bad, that can hurt you. And I don't know how one can protect him/herself from this.   04.08.14 - 9:14am
Caroline Frost - Great encouraging story- thanks for sharing!   04.08.14 - 8:50am
Angie Diaz | PHOTOGRAPHY - Jasmine!, you always have the perfect words!, I feel so bad for this photographer, how could the second shooter be that nasty, what kind of future for this fella photographer and what kind of images will show of our jobs if he starts to be this cruel so soon in his career. I hope everything goes well for the main photographer.  04.08.14 - 8:49am
@adventuresofjames - I have to agree. I feel you already have a clear answer. As a service to others it is our right as the professional to accept or decline an assignment. Bottom line. This should not offend anyone. Its the freedom of owning your own business. People can be hurtful for many reasons. but their actions only reflect on themselves. What I have found is.. *always be kind. That does not mean to give in. If you have a specific way of running your business... then run it. There is no need for peddlers looking for an excuse to cheapen your service by providing petty complaints just to save a few dollars. It happens to all creative minded people. I agree that it is healthy to provide other resources if you feel that they do not pre-qualify within your specific shooting style. One thing I have said before "I do not claim to be the best. I do enjoy what I do. I am an option out of many and am flattered that you have shown great interest in my work as do many others. It is my passion in life. Here is the services I do offer 1.2.3 As you know I have been around long enough to know how the game is played, including the time and effort that goes into delivering you the best. (If it is my services you desire) People set their own traps. Goodness always rises from the ashes. Keep up the good work. -James  04.08.14 - 8:45am
Rebekah - Very true. We cannot control our reputations beyond the goodness (or badness) of our actions. We have to let go and trust that it will all balance out in the end.   04.08.14 - 8:45am
Stephanie Arieno - Well said, Jasmine! Negative feedback is terrifying, but I think people are smart enough to read between the lines when they see reviews like that!  04.08.14 - 8:44am
Stefanie Glasgow - Good advice!  04.08.14 - 8:43am
Erik - This scenario is definitely something I worry about sometimes. I think all you can do is be professional and try your best to diffuse the situation. Oh, and realize that sometimes people pour their frustration/anger/emotions into an email and hit send before they've really thought it out. I've definitely had that happen to me, and with kindness and a measured response, I'm usually able to diffuse the situation.  04.08.14 - 8:40am
Laura - Some people never outgrow their niche as playground bully.  04.08.14 - 8:37am
Missy - You. Rock, Jasmine. Such good advice!  04.08.14 - 8:30am
Meutia - Yes to this.   04.07.14 - 8:26pm
Cramer Imaging, Pocatello Photography - Jasmine, thank you very much for this post. I have had a couple of dissatisfied customers myself that I have been worried about. I don't think that they went about trashing my reputation, especially since I went to efforts to make things right. This makes me feel a lot better to hear someone like you reaffirm that we shouldn't care so much about what other people think about our business. My spouse gave me some similar advice. Good for JD.  04.07.14 - 6:22pm