Write this down and post it near your phone, or print it as a label and put it on your cell phone where you can see it before you answer any incoming call:
THIS WILL NOT BE MY LAST PHOTOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENT.
When you’re taking a call, you absolutely must not think, “This may be the only assignment opportunity I get for tomorrow” — or this week, or even this month.
You must tell yourself that it’s just one incoming request, or you will find your fee structure, rights demands — and ultimately, self-esteem — slipping away.
The Power of Diversity
Your negotiating power comes from the presence of real or potential alternatives. If you don’t believe in your ability to find alternatives, you will be at a distinct disadvantage when called for any assignment.
That’s why diversity of a client base is one cornerstone of success for any photographer.
A talented photographer friend of mine has just one client; that’s right — one. He’s a freelancer, and he relies soley on them for his work.
Sure, it’s a high-profile client. And yes, they have sufficient work for him (for now.) But he’s left himself vulnerable to lose his entire business in an instant.
How do you avoid this kind of risk? By building a diverse mix of clients across a number of specialties.
Specialization is Overrated
I know that many photographers argue in favor of specialization. Perhaps, for some people, portraying the family dog is a calling.
The truth is, though, that everyone from Ansel Adams to Bill Allard has shot plenty of images in genres other than what they are known for. I’ve lost the image of Adams doing an outdoor school portrait I once had, but when I saw it, it changed my views on specialization. Even Annie Leibovitz shoots corporate portraits for the right price.
If you ask me, “Have check, will take picture” is an underrated business strategy. And it sure gives you a lot more leverage when you take that call from a prospective client.