Can I keep my retainer/deposit?

Mar 15, 2022

Topic: Business
Time Investment: 4 minutes
Suggested Product:   All-in-One Contract Bundles


Should I take a retainer/deposit?

Yes. Always. You want to be compensated for the on-boarding time and other services, as we will discuss below.  Our opinion is that no client is considered a client or "booked" until you receive


Should I use the term retainer/deposit?

The industry standard is to take an initial, non-refundable payment to cover the following services:

  • Scheduling clients on calendar and turning away potential business during that time slot
  • Consultative actions (email, meetings, etc.)

While the term used in your photography contract is important, the definition of that term and the connected operative language is more important.  For example, TheLawTog recommends removing as much ambiguities as possible.  In our contracts, we take this "initial payment" to cover the services outlined above and we call it an "Non-refundable initial payment" with language outlining the services that are rendered to client and, in turn, photographer is compensated for with this payment.


So, can I keep the initial payment if a client cancels? 

If you have properly drafted contracts in place, such as outlined above, then you should legally be able to. It is up to you, as the business owner, to know your legally obligation or benefit then allow yourself customer service above and beyond if you want. 

As a side note, in the interest of allowing customer service  - this is why we include language in our photography contracts that allows the Photographer to waive client breaches but keeps the remainder of contract in place.  The most common example is if a client misses payment deadline - the Photographer could waive this one delay in payment without waiving client's legal obligations. 


Can I keep all payments made by client if they cancel? 

Maybe. Maybe not. 

What a lawyer answer huh? 

Let's baseline with this: You can only keep monies equivalent to services rendered and/or a liquidated damages clause outlines as such.  For example, if your contract states that you can keep 100% this does not necessarily mean you can.  So again, you can only keep monies for the services rendered and/or if contract includes a liquidated damages clause to off-set potential damages.



More information about deposit/retainer can be found here:


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