I’m worth more than a disposable, temporary employee. But, I need to do the work behind the scenes to prove it.
I wrote the following with photography in mind, but you could adapt it to any business.
Yesterday, someone[1. That someone shall remain nameless.] wanted to know how much I’d charge to cover an event. I scribbled down some non-reimbursable expenses, crunched the simple numbers and replied.
“Um, can you give us a discount?” (paraphrased)
I immediately remembered this going around the internet:
Problem: I’m terrible at negotiating.
I grit my teeth, convinced that I could use the experience. I reluctantly replied with a discounted offer. Gah!
I’m still waiting for a reply as they think about it.
What’s your full price?
Several months ago, Mike Kang told me I needed to write my business plan.[2. At the moment, I have a bit more free time to work on stuff that's been in queue. I'm waiting to get accepted to Cal Poly Pomona or Cal State LA for Fall 2010. So, I aim to complete that by June.]
Problem: I’m lacking a business plan!
Here are some obvious aspects of photography:
- creative fee and time
- initial equipment costs (camera, lenses, strobes, computer, software)
- camera maintenance
- upgrades (camera body, camera lenses, camera strobes, computer, hard drive storage, flash memory, software)
- transportation (time, fuel, car maintenance, savings for future car purchase)
- websites (domain name purchasing/renewal, website hosting, image hosting services)
I can’t break down these numbers for you. They’re different for each person. I would’ve kept going, but there’s a lot.
If you don’t know your Cost of Doing Business (CoDB), you will never be able to state a confident quote/estimate.
(Are you a photographer? Read through the licensing guide that ASMP has compiled. It’s ridiculously informative.)
Problem: I haven’t even read the Licensing Guide.
I need to read and execute its advice. Hush.
You’ll be paid when you’re legit
After a five months with my first DSLR camera, someone paid me[3. The pay was pretty good, too!] to photograph an event. Oh, it was the first event I covered.
A year later, that customer returned. (They’re awesome!)
In contrast, I’m “negotiating” with a someone that’s probably conditioned with this mindset. I actually shot an event for them before, pro bono. They loved my photos, “especially the black and white ones.” They know I’m good. Yet now, they’re still trying to lowball.
I’m not sure if they’re aware of it, but they’re indirectly saying “free or forget it.” If I accept, I’m working at a loss.
You’re probably wasting your time. Don’t burn the bridges. Be gracious and decline.
How should I charge when I’m new?
This topic is always being discussed. I’m going to link to several extraordinary articles and you’re going to read them:
- Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free — David Hobby
- Part 1: Professional Photographers vs. “Hobby” Status (i.e. Working for Free) — John Harrington
- Part 2: Working for Free: Interns and Apprentices — John Harrington
- Part 3: Working For Free: Commentary and Responses to Selected Comments — John Harrington
- How to do it without ruining it for others — John Harrington
- Free as in “Me” — 43 Folders (Merlin Mann)
You didn’t skim. I know you didn’t. You need this to work too much to skim.
Oh, did you see that video embedded in the three-part series of John Harrington’s posts? I’m not linking to the video. Read through his posts and find it. Watch it several times. I want to see that “Aha!” moment.
Who do you think you are?
A burgeoning professional photographer.[4. I'm not sure which market I'm going to attack. Unless I move, it'll be tough in Los Angeles.]
I’m not a grouch or cocky. I’m just trying to do more than survive, and I need every dollar I charge.
If I just wanted to get by, why do all this?
- Take free projects/assignments on your own terms.
- Don’t give out arbitrary numbers. Determine your full price.
- Don’t be the cheap/free photographer. Be the awesome photographer, but not because you’re cheap/free.
- Don’t be a starving artist.
- Small Business Planner (U.S. Small Business Administration)
- How to price your work (Greyscalegorilla)
- Business Resources (ASMP)
Notes about this post
- I wrote this in about 5.5 hours.
- I almost stopped at 300 words, but ended up with about 650 words (not including the links to the articles and resources).
- I reinstalled the FD Word Statistics [WordPress] Plugin to visually motivate myself to write more clearly.
- Skeptical comments will remain untouched, while cynical comments will be tagged appropriately — but not deleted — so you know which ones to skip. (“As opposed to a cynic, a skeptic is doubtful but still open-minded and logical enough to consider new input.” Steve Pavlina)
- Don’t verbally abuse each other. Treat others as you would treat yourself.