Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cooperating with the Uncomfortable

I get that dealing with the business end of photography isn't always comfortable. Whether it's determing the specific fees and applicable production charges for an assignment, providing an explanation to a client about a particular item (i.e. "what is post-production? Can't you just copy the photos off the card and burn me a CD - that's all I really need...") so that they not only understand, but they can explain it to their superiors/client, and be on board with it, or calling up a delinquent client about an overdue invoice, all of these, and countless more situations frequently make photographers queasy, even week in the knees.

Frankly, you don't actually have to worry about these things.
(Continued after the Jump)

That is, if you don't want to be in business very long, or if you want to slowly sink your business into the ground.

I was reading my Sunday Washington Post, and the 7/6/08 article Art's Real Thing Was Never Sold On Success, struck me, but not for the reason that was intended. At the end of the article, the artist Chuck Connelly said "I'm not like a 9-to-5-er, get up and paint. I can lounge around all day, get up and put a couple of strokes on something. It's not how much you do. It's that you do the right thing."

When you are just starting out, don't worry about having an assignment every day, or even every week. Worry that each assignment you do is done right. From a qualitiative standpoint, as well as a business standpoint.

This past weekend, I covered the AT&T National Golf Tournament. When my assistant asked what the dress code was, I told her I would be in Khakis and a polo, and she should dress accordingly. When I got there, there were many spectators who were in shorts, t-shirts, and jeans. Though, everyone that was working for the tournament was wearing some variation of khakis and a polo. Immediately, we stood out as being there as a professional doing a job, and we received the respect we were due. I wrote a piece back on June 1 (Proper Attire Whilst Making Pictures, 6/1/08) and it's worth revisiting.

Ensuring that your paperwork is in order, with signatures from clients on contracts/estimates, alleviates other issues down the line, from bad language on purchase orders that come along, to misunderstandings over who owns what.

Moreover, practice explaining things like what post-production is, and why the client should be paying for it; why there's markup on certain items, and what the difference is between a creative fee and usage fee. Oh, and why the client doesn't own the images to do with them whatever they want.

discussing these things - especially at first - is uncomfortable. Add to that uncomfortable situation the fact that you want this client to like you, and to hire you, and yes, to pay you a fair fee for these things, and it gets worse, because things like money are on the line that pays the rent and electricity, and so forth.

But heck, if you'd rather not, then don't bother. You won't be around very long. Your choice. The problem though, is that you'll just make it that much harder for your friends and colleagues who are making the effort to cooperate with the uncomfortable.

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