A follower and fellow photographer sent me a message asking the following: “Xav, are you doing any photography work during the lockdown? If so, could you share some advice on pricing, adding value to my work and how to get paid. Everyone expects me to work for free these days”
O.K. I have firm opinions about working for free when it comes to creative work. I never advise any photographer to do so without setting out their terms and conditions for the “job” and making sure there is a financial gain for their time, creativity, and intellectual property. And before you ask, NO, EXPOSURE IS NOT AN OPTION.
There are rare exceptions to this and I believe one should only work for free if we can agree to a substantial benefit to our name and reputation or if we do it for a genuine noble cause.
Ok, so we are clear on that. Yes, I did some work at the beginning of the quarantine. I offered a “reduced emergency rate” to clients who wanted to promote their new takeaway options. This lasted for a couple of weeks and the inquiries stopped as more businesses decided to shut. I considered jumping on the “work for free” wagon as I saw many photographers did but I had to be very honest about two questions: Do I really want to expose myself and put everyone at risk? Do I really want to do that and risk devaluing my work?.
In my opinion, the value of your work is not based on how much you charge for it but on many other factors like knowledge, experience, reputation, customer service, understanding of your niche, efficiency, attention to detail, creative input, demand, the list is endless. The value of your work is the result of these variables rather than just a transaction between you and a client; value is everything!
When I was approached by new clients asking to photograph products from my home studio (that is my living room) for their delivery services. I was very tempted to say yes and get back to work; but as I thought about it over the weekend, I had to politely decline as the treatment I got was the same that is happening to her.
I understand the situation we are in, everyone is struggling and there is this ever-growing pressure on fees being butchered by clients so they can survive. However, they are still charging their full price for their products so why shouldn’t we do the same? A photographers group I’m in on Whatsapp was discussing how they hate dealing with demanding clients not paying their full rates at the moment but they do it because it’s better than nothing, others are even doing it for free… that’s their decision to make.
It is agreeable that we all want to get back to work but I’m asking you, RESIST THIS PRESSURE WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. Try to find ways to offer a finance system to your clients where they pay your full rate over 3 or 4 months maybe. Value your work and your worth because this is everything you have as a creative freelancer. Once you lower your rates, it will be nearly impossible to get them back up.
Think about it, the choice is yours. 😉