Getting less than I'm worth

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Cinka, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. Cinka

    Cinka TPF Noob!

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    I recently started a project for a small clothing company. When my client said she had "a lot" of items, I guess I didn't comprehend what that meant. It meant over 200 pieces. Because of some issues with my studio (and having to relocate to my dining room) and one day down due to horrific allergies, I've estimated that I'm getting paid less than minimum wage for this gig. Further more, each item ends up being about a dollar or less per image. All of these items are put onto a form or pinned to a board = time consuming.

    You don't have to tell me this is wrong. The problem is, I'm a soft touch and feel for clients who have hit hard times - as she has. I need to break this habit of undercharging. I'm not getting paid what I'm worth, I'm working harder than I should, I'm caving when clients ask for ridiculous turnover times...it's a mess and it's stressing me out.

    Now, I would have lost the job if I charged my normal rates, but times have been tough and I hadn't had a paying gig in over a month. I tried to stand my ground, but she wasn't biting. I even lowered my rate by half and she still wouldn't bite.

    How can I still manage to compromise with my clients but come out feeling as though I'm not working for slave wages?

    I feel like such a sucker.
     
  2. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This is something really only you can decide. If it's true that you may have lost the client if you charged more you need to figure out how much this little pay is worth to you. If you have a load of other clients then sure the loss of this one may not be an issue (other than feelings getting hurt), but if this is your only client, then you're probably as deep in the mud as she is and you do get some mutual benefit.

    I did something similar a few years ago. No job, just back from holiday, and a friend of mine just started a cafe. I ended up doing the job for the most awesome Chicken Parmigiana I ever tasted. These days I wouldn't even consider it simply because my time is worth more simply because I have less of it. I'd probably point them to another photographer who is in a similar bind that I was in and who could also do a job for a wonderful gastronomical sensation.

    If you can get out of doing it by finding someone from the local photo club who may be more willing to except the lower pay I think every one wins. err except you if this is your only job.
     
  3. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    I think that's your problem right there. Get a clear picture of what the job will entail before you do it, contracts are signed, and agreements are made. Get some solid numbers going, and work from that. You'll be able to better estimate how long a job is going to take. Then multiply by two (because we tend to underestimate how long things will take, unless you're really good at it, **** happens, and a larger estimate that's cut-down because you were faster, as opposed to a shorter one that's delayed, will make for a happier client). Now you'll have a clearer picture of just how much wiggle room there is to satisfy both parties.

    Don't feel too bad about it. It's a problem all those wonderfully nice and friendly people in the world face from time to time. ;)
     
  4. Cinka

    Cinka TPF Noob!

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    Garbz, this isn't currently my only job, but it is taking more time than it should. I grossly underestimated her needs/wants, but would like to figure out how I can continue to work for her...just not this strenuously or for as little money.

    musicaleCA, you're absolutely right. Every time this issue comes up, I think: Why didn't I do a contract? Why didn't I think about the project more, get a realistic item count, and then plan accordingly? I suppose I'm still eagar to work - even though this has been my most successful year since I started freelancing. Need to change my mindset.
     
  5. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Know what your costs are, know what the job entails and DO NOT DO jobs that end up costing YOU money or making you work so hard that you stress out.

    I've been there and done that (not with photography)... my solution? I doubled my prices. What happened immediately is that I lost all the "freeloader" clients and found clients that appreciated me for my quality of work... oh, I also increased sales 120%.

    If they cannot pay you what you see as being your worth, don't do the job.
     
  6. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    This client will now never pay your going rate, even when the economy improves.

    It is axiomatic that when an inexperienced business person does business with an experienced business person, the inexperienced business person gets some experience.

    How often do you explore/think about the business aspects of photography?

    Do you have any photography business reference materials?

    Consider how professional you look to other business people by not having the basic business paperwork, like a contract.

    Imagine how much more credible your pricing would be.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2009
  7. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with what everyone else has said, but I think you know full well you should be doing those thing... and yet, you don't. (as you, yourself, said)

    To some degree I thiink you're an example of market economics at work and you don't realize it. You haven't had a paying gig for over a month, they wouldn't pay your prices, so you cut them down... etc. I would even bet you are afraid to use contracts because you're afraid you may scare customers away. I'm speculating, but I bet I'm right.

    To some degree, you probably need to ask yourself... CAN you demand more? What happens if that income from the photo job doesn't come in? Can you pay the bills? What will you do? I think Jerry's experience can be a very real one, but then... Jerry has a lot of experience, a good base of contacts, etc. Do you? Mind you... I'm not saying you don't, I'm just saying you want to think this through and do a bit of analysis beyond the level of "I'm not getting paid enough for this."


    I'll also tell you a story... I learned most of what I needed to know about contracts and setting up business engagements from ONE experience when I was a kid.

    YEARS ago... I was probably about 12... 1980ish... I was out mowing the lawn at my house and some dude came by in a Cadillac (I knew he was the owner of the local motel) stopped by and offered my $200 to cut the lawn at his motel and also the lawn at his house.

    I jumped at the chance, and drove my tractor up the street to his motel and got to work. I even hooked my buddy into helping, figuring we'd split the cash and get it done 2x as fast.

    My buddy and I cut the lawn in about an hour, and stopped into the office to let him know I was ready to go to his house and do it. He said, "Oh no, you're not done here yet."

    "Um, what?"

    He dragged me out the back door of my office and proceeded to march me around to all the areas of grass that were essentially invisible from the road... and it was probably 10x the size of what I had already cut. I had been by this place thousands of times... but never did I see all this grass. It was bad.

    I had this major sinking feeling, but felt essentially trapped so I got to work. Many many hours later I walked into his office and said I was done and I was going home and asked for my money. He said, "You don't get the money till you do my house as well!"

    I was enraged. He was right, of course, but I was 12... I was 12 and being taken advantage of and at least had a clue enough to realize it. I got on my lawnmower and proceeded to deliberately run over a newspaper in the parking lot, which he then made me pickup.

    My friend and I then got in his car (!) and he drove us to his house where we found a ridiculously large lawn which took us another hour and half or so to cut. He then took us back, handed us our $200, put on this big toothy grin, and asked if we wanted to do it again next week. I'm not sure what my response was. I'd like to think I told him to **** off, but I think I put my tail between my legs and left without answering.


    So, what do we learn from this? I mean, sure, all the stuff about contracts and such... but there are more LIFE lessons here than business ones when you think about it.

    - Understand what you are getting yourself into before you accept.
    - Be clear and honest with yourself on what you are willing to do.
    - Get it in writing.
    - Know that some people WILL take advantage of you if they can.
    - Have the nerve to walk away from something when you realize you're in too deep (and when you have the option to do so)
    - Understand that TECHNICALLY walking away is ALWAYS an option- but you have to understand and accept the cost of walking away.
    - When you realize you're up to your neck in your own mistakes, handle it professionally. Know that you're going to eat it this time, but you can alter your rules and your process so it won't happen again. Being childish about it will only make it worse and make you look ridiculous besides.
     
  8. benhasajeep

    benhasajeep TPF Noob!

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    Since photography is not your full time job, I would finish up this work for this person. And in the future when she calls back. Give her a quote higher than you normally charge and don't budge from it. Obviously she will say no, and probably try and get you to come down referencing this last job. Politely tell her you lost alot of money on the last job and cannot afford to take a loss like that again. Obviously if she really can afford your work she will go to another sucker that will work for peanuts. You do not want this lady as a customer if your working for nothing. Even if you have a dry spell, its better not to shoot than to loose money shooting. Especially if something from someone else comes along that would pay a good rate. And doing the work for the cheap lady, your now going to have to turn down the good paying work. It's not a situation you want to be in.

    My wife has similar situation as you with one client. And we are in the process of bringing up his rate. He has a great deal becasue my wife was excited to get her first customer and even though I told her what to charge, she paniced and charged about half as much. Have to learn to hold your ground. I am positive he knows how good of a deal he has. She doesn't want to upset him, so we are slowly raising his rates over a period of time. Basicaly we are doing it in a way thats not so severe. When we want to raise rates we send out an announcement that we acuired this new equipment that will allow us to do such and such better. And of course then next job he requests there is a slight increase in fees. We are now about 3/4 of the way we need to be with him. And he is still happy so far.
     
  9. benlonghair

    benlonghair TPF Noob!

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    I sell sheetrock. Not even close to photography. I'm just a hobbiest.

    I've learned some things as a salesman that will help if I ever decide to try to make a go as a photographer. If you lose money on the first job, fine. That happens. Once you've learned what you're up against, you start pricing accordingly. If it comes down to it, put a price per item on your work. If the person doesn't understand they're not much of a business person. (Sometimes we'll send out a full truck to a difficult job and tell the person it'll cost so many dollars per hour and that's what they get billed at the end of the day.)

    It's gotten to the point that if somebody comes into the showroom complaining about our prices, I'll turn the monitor around and point to the cost of the material and then to the margin. Then I'll do the math for them on how much I'm really making on that 20 sheet delivery that just cost me 4 man-hours.

    Basically, everybody's gotta make a living. If a client won't allow you to do that (after the first lost lead) tell them where to go and what to do once they get there. It's pretty liberating to tell a bad customer to go eff themselves.
     
  10. CygnusStudios

    CygnusStudios TPF Noob!

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    You have to keep in mind that this is a business. (even if only for this job). Too many photographers choose to believe that photography is somehow different than any other business, and therefor they are willing to take jobs that would not pay for a decent meal.
    You mentioned that this client was not willing to pay your normal rates, and with the way things are now, you wanted to cut a good rate. While that is nice of you, how many other businesses are cutting you a large break?
    You also mentioned the need of a contract, and this is absolutely true. There is no way to accurately quote a job prior to a contract being drawn up.
    Would this client have hired someone else to do the job if you did not budge on your normal rate? Maybe. You would not however be working for less than a dollar an image if she had.
    Now I do not know what the market is like in your area, but with products it doesn't matter. 95% of my work is in product photography and more than half of my clients are not located in California. If they cannot ship the items to me, they fly me to them.
    I receive emails daily from prospective clients asking about discounted rates because of the economy, the weather, the rotation of the earth and every other possible excuse for a discount.
    While I don't mind discounting for regular clients on large projects, or something that I truly want to be a part of, the rest have to earn that discount.
    I tell them that when the gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores and the state of CA starts giving me discounts I will pass them along to everyone else.
     
  11. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    This will turn into a very positive experience. After this job you will never "low ball" your bid, because you know that it is not worth it. It will also be the last time you work without a solid estimate and or contract. Tough lesson to learn, but I have been there and I think most startup businesses have been there as well. You can take business classes 'till you are blue in the face. They neglect to mention that it comes down to experience and common sense.

    Make sure to get some shots for your book. Finish the deal and move forward.

    Love & Bass
     
  12. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    :lmao::lmao::lmao: Bahahaha. How very appropriate, given your avatar.
     

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took a job for less than im worth