One of the toughest things for a photographer to do is to say “no” to new business, even if it’s a bad deal. Especially in today’s environment, your prospective clients have an arsenal of pick-up lines — ranging from sweet talk to coy bluffs — to make bad deals sound like good ones.
Here are some examples of client sweet talk:
- “It will be great exposure for you with the right people;”
- “If things go well, it will lead to paid opportunities with us down the road;”
- “It will add another dimension to your portfolio.”
Here are some examples of client bluffs:
- “If you don’t want to do it for us for free, I know several others who will;”
- “My uncle has a digital camera and can shoot it if you don’t want to;”
- “All our photographers give us unlimited usage rights;”
- “If you’re not interested, we can just find something on a stock site.”
If you heard the equivalent of any of these pick-up lines at a bar, you would turn them down flat, wouldn’t you? So why fall for them in your professional life?
Not a Good Trade
Recently, a publication approached me about an assignment. When we got down to talking about compensation, they said they couldn’t pay me in cash, but would give me free ad space in return for my work.
That sounded OK — until I did a little investigating and learned that this was their standard offer to everybody who shot for them. So my ad would be running next to those of several other photographers, clearly diminishing its value.
I turned down the gig.
It occurred to me that this episode is symbolic of what’s happening to the photography market today. We are being pitted against one another in a way that diminishes opportunities for all of us.
Granted, we have all felt the pinch of smaller budgets, microstock photography and a less-than-stellar economy. But you’re not helping anyone — especially yourself — by abandoning common sense when it comes to compensation.
Don’t let clients walk all over you. If the terms and compensation they’re offering sound like a bad deal, they are a bad deal — no matter how much lipstick they try to slap on the pig.