Thursday, April 24, 2008

Negotiating Fees

I was talking to a photographer friend about fees. Actually we talk a lot about it because I like his approach and I want to learn more. He manages to earn a lot of money. He's been in business 10 years now, so he does have an established clientele. Yet he still uses this approach with new clients.

When he gets a call about a job, he tries to find out the budget. Oftentimes, he won't be given the info, so he'll charge what he thinks is fair. Now what I think is fair is different. He charges way more than me. What happens is he gets less clients than he could, but the ones he shoots for, he earns a lot. So he's working less, and earning more.

My friend has this mentality of 'why limit yourself in your thinking? Just because everyone else is charging this amount doesn't mean you can't charge more!' I love it, it's the opposite of low-balling. You have to have balls to charge that kind of money, but he gets what he wants some of the time. One of the reasons is he can handle objections when they come up. He knows what to say to clients in response to their doubts or concerns. He's good at selling himself. That takes studying, thinking and practice.

It's also how you are with the client. He doesn't come off as needing the business. It's like when a guy approaches a girl in a bar and seems needy and insecure. The girl is turned off and rejects him. Yet when a guy is confident and doesn't care if the girl likes him or not, the girl becomes attracted. Same concept. If the client turns him down, he's not worried about it. It's more like a game to him.

Photographers starting out have a tendency to charge too little. The problem is sometimes, we're not aware of market prices, or we're not confident in our skills, or we're desperate for money or the opportunity. When we charge too little, we end up hurting the market and it becomes harder for everyone, not just us, to make a living.

It's our responsibility to learn from other photographers. The other day, I got a call about doing food shots (which I have hardly any experience in) for a restaurant. I told them, "sure I can do it," as I was trained to do. I can always bring an assistant experienced in that type of photography to the shoot. However I had no idea how much to charge, so I called up a photographer who did, and asked him. That easy. Photographers will share that kind of info because it's in their best interest to do so, for the reasons listed above.

Why stop at that though? Why not charge enough to live well, rather than to just get by? That's what I'm pondering. Believe me, I'm not charging as much as my friend, but I will be. I want that kind of lifestyle, where you can work hard, for less hours per week, and still have time to play and relax.


Andy Ortega said...

I love the analogy of being confident when talking to a pretty girl! Well I'm currently a business owner in another field and recently started dabbling in photography. I can tell you that if you want to be the best, you won't do it if you're ashamed of making good money. I have plaque in my office that says:
We do not have a problem with what our competitors charge. For they know better what their services are truly worth.

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