There have been plenty of times when I’ve been asked to agree to things that were not in my best interests. In particular, I’ve had a lot of lousy, one sided contracts presented to me over the years, and sometimes I had to walk away.
One thing I’ve learned about contracts is that if I want to have any leverage in negotiating, I have to be in a favorable position. If the type of photography I am doing can easily be done by hundreds of other photographers, then my options are very limited – sign the contract – or not. There won’t be any negotiating. But if I set myself apart from the crowd and offer something unique or better than my competition, I’ll be in a far better negotiating position.
It seems like more clients are looking for “buy outs”, these days. They have a much greater need for imagery for multiple communication outlets – print, broadcast and digital, including social media portals. Art buyers are commissioning larger projects to fulfill the demand for lots of fresh content and it is impacting the traditional business model of “licensing” that most photographers have adapted. So, what can a photographer do – other than just say no to a bad deal?
Here are a few ideas:
- Find out the real needs of the marketplace. Most photographers are so focused on explaining what they offer – they forget to find out what clients need.
- Do the research and then figure out where your skills and strengths fit in the marketplace. For example: I am good with interviews. People open up to me. That rapport I have with people is unique.
- Raise your own bar. Be better than most. If your work is interchangeable with hundreds of other photographers, then you will always be negotiating on price and that’s a quick way to the poor house. Stand out from the pack. You will pull in the right clients and repel the ones just looking for the cheapest guy in town.
- Flip the paradigm. If you have done your homework and found out your client’s needs, then you can offer solutions and present them as an upsell, putting more money in your pocket. For example – if you are asked to shoot one still image for an annual report and are given a budget – ask if they need more images for their social media portals. Then offer to shoot additional imagery for a bump up in fee. That’s an upsell.
These are simple basic business principles. Find out what the market wants. Do the work, be better, raise your own bar and finish the sentence “Just say no…because you can”.