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You’re reviewing notes for a business meeting that is scheduled to start now, but the other person hasn’t yet showed up (or connected to the conference call). Waiting, waiting… Fifteen minutes pass, then twenty, and your partner/client/accountant/(applicable title) still hasn’t made an appearance or sent a text message explaining the delay.

It’s happened to me plenty of times. If this has happened to you, I think we can agree it’s annoying and just plain rude. I have the same sentiments of people who register for a seminar and then never attend. This kind of behavior seems to be popping up everywhere. Have you noticed it, too?

Business experts and sociologists confirm that good manners in business are declining. They suggest this shift reflects the general deterioration of etiquette in society, often considered a consequence of our changing times, attitudes, and the influence of social media.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t technology supposed to make communication better?

If you are like me and a photography business professional, your business and personal lives are ruled by gadgets. Sure, your smartphone makes connecting with people simpler and faster, but I feel it’s a stretch to say technology has improved our communication behaviors. Being able to contact anyone virtually everywhere in an instant makes it less important to make (and stick to) planned events. It’s easier to send a text when you’re running late than it is to get your butt in gear and make it there on time. People hide behind their little devices and send an email or text to cancel appointments last minute, or to say things that are uncomfortable in person. We have all done it. (Yes, me too.)

And the result? We’ve inadvertently lowered the bar of acceptable business conduct. And I am sad to say that a lot of creatives have a hard timer filtering out what one can think versus what one should say out loud. I see bad behavior all the time, especially in the Photography Business Group on LinkedIn.

It has become so prominent that a new term has found solid footing in our vernacular: digital flakiness. But here is the thing… If you believe nobody notices or cares, you need to think again. The people you do business with definitely notice, and they don’t appreciate it one tiny bit.

Last week, one of my potential clients set up a consultation and then he didn’t attend. His excuse was he thought the meeting was scheduled on the following day. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. This time he contacted my Executive Assistant to confirm the appointment—and then didn’t show up AGAIN!

Sure there are excuses. Some are genuine while others are just ridiculous, and both kinds can hurt your professional reputation. For example, one of my former clients, a beautiful and stylish public relations specialist, cancelled plans so routinely that people started to believe she had some kind of psychological pathology. Eventually, word got around and no one would hire her anymore.

With the progress of technology comes the need for updated etiquette rules. We are no longer expected to send a handwritten thank-you note for every event or party we attend, but we are expected to operate with respect and consideration of others. (To be honest, I still hand write my thank-you notes because I feel the personal touch makes a huge impact.)

It’s hard enough to make it in this rapidly-changing photography business as it is. The last thing you want to do is shoot yourself in the foot. So, how do you know if you’ve been guilty of acting like a flake and created some of your own problems? Here are a couple clues:

  • Flakes don’t follow through on everything they should. They create an electronic calendar or use old fashioned sticky notes to remind themselves to call a client back, or check that a project is on track, or deliver the additional information that was promised—but then don’t. In other words, they drop the ball.
  • Flakes have problems with time management. They routinely cancel last minute or are late for meetings. In other words, they are unreliable.

Follow these three basic behaviors to ensure you are never accused of being a flake:

  1. Show up for appointments on time. If something does come up that makes it impossible to be there, give as much notice as possible, apologize, and hope for a bit of sympathy. Do not miss your second chance.
  2. Don’t promise the moon and then show up with a handful of dirt. Do the opposite. Under-promise and over-deliver by setting smaller goals and exceeding them each time.
  3. >When you say you’re going to do something, think Nike and just do it. If you tell a client you will call on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., I want you to start dialing at 9:59 a.m.


Most important, remember that it’s never just business. It’s the people who you do business with that matter most. Follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way you wish to be treated (and send them this article if necessary).

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