Slide, Swipe, Chip or, Charge?
Accepting Credit Cards in Your Photography Business
In the infancy of our business, we always felt a little sheepish telling customers that we only took cash or checks. And, if it was a check, they needed to make it out to our personal account, not our business name at the time, Our Little Ranch Photography. (Read more about what we learned while operating under that name here.)
Can you imagine it? We found ourselves having the same awkward conversation time and time again:
“Actually please make it out to Luke Neumayr.”
“Nope, not Y-E-R. Just Y-R.”
“Yup, strange spelling.”
Then, one day, after a very successful wedding shoot, we had the newlyweds and their immediate family members over for a “Preview Party”. (This was before the amazing online galleries of today were really a thing.) We showed them the highlights of the photos we took, and then, left them in privacy to discuss their ordering options. When we returned, we were beyond thrilled—the bride and groom wanted an upgraded album and the mother-of-the-bride wanted to purchase a separate album. The newlyweds started writing out a check (see conversation above) while that proud momma pulled out a credit card.
“Sorry”, we explained, “we don’t accept cards – only cash or check.”
“Ugh!” she sighed, “My husband will kill me! I’ve already overspent on the wedding. If I could pay with a credit card, I’ll have an entire month before I have to tell him!”
After fumbling for a checkbook – did she even have one in her purse? – she finally wrote out a check.
Checks in hand, we said goodbye and went back inside to celebrate another successful business transaction. Until the very next day, when we awoke to an email from that sweet, worried lady asking us to void the check. And that was our ‘aha’ moment. We’d just lost out on $2000 sale because we had never bothered to set up a merchant account, and we preferred to avoid processing fees.
Think about appearances. People are more likely to feel confident in a business that is professional and credible-looking. If you cannot accept cards or you only take checks written out to your personal account, your business practices may be speaking louder than your photos:
Incorporate your business or set up a DBA
Get a business Checking Account
Get business Insurance
Set yourself up for Credit Cards
If you’re anything like us, chances are that your photography business started in some type of unexpected way. Like so many of our counterparts, we had no formal photography training and we had never operated a business before. When we first got started, the “boring business details” were the furthest thing from our minds. We are creatives – it was all about chasing light and making great photos.
We had long put off the hassle of signing up for a credit card system, telling ourselves that we wanted to keep all the money we made. We learned the hard way that this was not the best system. While some things give you piece of mind (insurance), others give your business it’s best chance at success (accepting cards). The next day, we signed up for a Square and the rest is history.