November 8, 2011 / to reduce sleepless nights

Dropping your terms and conditions, or reducing your rates to get the job may not be worth the effort in the end I believe that as creative professionals, our first aim is to enjoy the work we do.  Fo...

Dropping your terms and conditions, or reducing your rates to get the job may not be worth the effort in the end

I believe that as creative professionals, our first aim is to enjoy the work we do.  For many of us, the ‘business’ side is an annoyance that gets in the way from what our vocation truly is.  Unfortunately, the business side plays just as important part of our skill set as knowing how to light and taking pictures – without the business side down to a ‘T’, we’d be taking pictures for fun and for ourselves.

So it’s really easy to fall into the type of trap that would encourage us to reduce our day rates and fore go our usual terms and conditions in order to get the job. I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of this either, because I am.  And despite working as a photographer for some time now, I still have not learnt my lesson!

When I was an assisting photographer in London (late 80’s and 90’s) I got to work with some of the best photographers around, in the world.  Yet, the majority of these photographers were struggling, only just being able to afford the rents on their studios each month.  I was in awe of the high level of work they produced, day in and day out, yet they always seemed to be chasing payments and putting out financial fires.  When I  started to slip more into studio management, I was able to see the reasons why.  The majority of the photographers were photographers and definitely not business people.  Quite simply, being a genius photographer is  NEVER enough.

Recently I decided to help a new business.  I lowered my commercial rates, and did more than what was expected.  The clients were happy, they got many more images to use (which they did so immediately) as well as full rights and all the files.  As I write this post, I am still waiting for payment.

Their invoice is over four weeks overdue.  The outstanding amount isn’t that much; what kept me awake at nights was the fact that to me, they didn’t respect the work that I did, nor did they respect my business as I do.  But then why on earth should they?  You see, if I didn’t value the work that I did, then why should they value it?

So here are my five top tips to aid a restful night.

  1.  Know your worth, and stick to it.  Would you rather have a client base that respect you and your worth and works with you, or a client base that you’ve reduced your prices for and still don’t pay?
  2.  Have comprehensive terms and conditions and STICK to them.  Include the terms and conditions when quoting or communicating with proposed clients.
  3. Have a procedure, with standardised letters, for dealing with forgetful account departments.
  4. Chase payment instantly.  No one likes to chase payment.  But if you’re in business then the chances are that you’ll have to get used to picking up the phone, or emailing to chase…and don’t put it off.  You’re a professional, you’re dealing with professionals.  Chase the moment your invoice becomes due.
  5. Don’t allow your clients to put you under a compliment.  If your clients threatens you with taking their business away, or explaining that their other supplies don’t work to such stringent terms …then let the clients go.  Harsh words I know, but again, would you rather your client base appreciate and respect your services and deal in a professional manner…or would you rather regret dropping your fees and have a few sleepless nights?
Of course in the current financial climate it is so easy to agree to a reduction in rates, especially as there will always be someone who will do the work cheaper.  The thing is that in the last 20 years that I’ve been photographing, there have always been others who’ll do the work cheaper, somethings never change.  But what can change is your attitude towards how you value your service and how you value your clients.
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Bio:  I’m Juan Muino and I’m a wedding photographer based in and around Cambridgeshire (UK) and shoot throughout the uK as well as destination weddings.  I’ve been a photographer all my life, and when not shooting weddings, I also run a portrait studio and also shoot head shots for actors, performers and presenters.