Lessons learned from my recent client snafu:

I learned a few things from the recent snafu I had when trying to get a reenactment coverage gig for an event in a few weeks.  While the guy was definitely condescending, I also realize that I made a few mistakes that could have helped the process go a little more smoothly, even if it still resulted in me not getting the job.  Here’s what I’ve been mulling over for the last day or so:

  • Never deal with a client through an intermediary.  Always deal with the client directly.  You can use an intermediary to introduce you, but that’s where their role should end.  It’s too easy for someone else to misrepresent you or your services, which can lead to misunderstandings and possibly losing the client.
  • I need to work on moving my personal “brand” even farther over into the photographer category.  Right now among reenactors I’m known as “that reenactor who takes awesome photos” when really I need to be known as “that awesome photographer who also reenacts”.  As long as I’m seen as a reenactor first and a photographer second, it will be difficult for other reenactors to see me as a professional.
  • I desperately need to write both a “why you should hire me” page and a “what I do” page.  These pages serve two very important but very different purposes.  The first is all about marketing, and explains why it’s likely worth your money to hire me to shoot you, your family, your reenactment, your horse, etc.  There are some very real benefits to hiring me, and I think that putting them out there is important.  The second is a page that better explains what it is I do when I’m photographing people/horses/reenactments.  Every situation will be unique to a certain degree, but there’s kind of a standard groundwork to how I shoot that needs to be explained.  This will help people to understand that they’re hiring me for a professional shoot, not to stand around and take a few random snapshots.
  • I have more friends in high places than I realized, and I need to start using that.  I’ve always known that I’m fairly well-connected in the reenacting world, but in the last few months, I have realized that “fairly” is actually “very”.  I know the directors of three major historical sites, assistant directors at a handful more, plenty of event organizers, and more unit commanders than I can count.  I’m pretty well-known in the hobby for my photography, and now I need to start tapping those influential friends of mine to help with getting paid work.

On a completely unrelated note, this is where I’d rather be today.

So, while I’m annoyed at myself for how that particular mess went down, at least it has helped me to figure out a few more things that I needed to learn, and that’s almost as important as getting work.



Clients who low-ball you…

So, it’s a no-go on shooting an event that I had tentatively been hired to shoot.  I got the terms back from the person in charge of approving me as official photographer, and was quite honestly aghast at how condescending they are.  Unfortunately, these sort of things are more common than you’d think when it comes to dealing with clients.

Note:  My original quote for them was $500, which is half what I typically charge for full-weekend event coverage.  The discount was due to the smaller size of the event, and the fact that it was a period I had never shot before and was interested in shooting.

Here’s what I got back (this was the email to a mutual friend, for me):

I agree that most of us are too busy reenacting to take good pictures… and having a photographer and hopefully some short video clips as well would be of value to the [organization] for future advertising. When I did this in 2008, I did it for free, but I understand that gas is more expensive these days, so here is what we can offer…

* I’ll pay her $25 on Friday when she arrives. (I will be reimbursed by the [organization])
* If she is seen to be actively photographing and video taping us all day saturday, saturday evening, and sunday till we finish.. we’ll pay another $50
* We are to receive the edited images in jpg format on disks with full rights to use them in any way the [organization] wants. If I am pleased with the quantity and more importantly the quality of the images, we would then be willing to pay an additional sum between $50 and $125. If I am really blown away; I’ll personally add a tip from my own pocket over and above what the [organization] can afford.


You’re kidding, right?

“If she is seen to be actively photographing” um, as opposed to what?  Sitting around on my butt?  Sir, if you’re hiring me to shoot, I’m there shooting.  And what is with that piecemeal payment system?  Do you pay your plumber for each pipe he clears and then only give him the rest of the money if you really love his work?  No.  This was not an event I was already attending as a reenactor – it’s not even a period I do; this was an event I was going to be hired to shoot, so I would have been there as a civilian, sleeping in my car.  The fact that he says that “he used to do this for free” tells me that he doesn’t really understand what it is I’m going to be doing.  I’m sure he’s a good guy, but I don’t think he understands that at those prices, I’d be working for well below minimum wage on that job.  Considering that my hourly rate is generally closer to $25-$30 an hour, this offer is just insulting.

If he had come back with a well-reasoned, professional response and said that they could only afford X amount, I would have worked with him.  I would have maybe only shot one day instead of two, or I would have worked out a payment plan, or something.  But the attitude behind those terms shows me that he really doesn’t understand anything about hiring photographers.

Especially this early in the game, it is very important for me not to low-ball myself, or when I do, to do it on my own terms.  Accepting terms like these would have sent the message that I’m not really a professional and that it’s okay to pay me like an amateur.  My good tailor friend Neal Hurst charges $700 and up for a coat, and what you’re getting for that price is an exceptional product made with Neal’s years of experience creating high quality garments.  If he charged only $200, I’d be suspicious.  Price reflects quality, and you have to price your services according to your own abilities and skill level, otherwise people will forever see you as unprofessional.

What are your thoughts?  How would you react if someone tried to pull this with you?