Monday, August 13, 2012

Magic words for the freelancer

Staff vs Freelancer

When you are on staff and you are asked to do more then you just have to do it. However, there are a few things you can do if you are on staff and the requests are unreasonable.

If there are reasons you cannot accomplish all that is on your plate then you need to ask them what you need to take off. I would enjoy helping you, however I have these other projects. Which of these projects can I let go of or can we send these to an outside freelancer?

Sometimes the requests requires something that you do not know how to do or you may need more resources. This is when you explain you could do this but without these resources I am unable to accomplish your request. You articulate as necessary why you need it and let them determine if they want to help make it happen.

You do not want to be known as the staff person who is always saying no. You want to be viewed as the staff person willing to make adjustments to make things happen.

Yes ..., However ...

I had a eureka moment when I was explaining a situation to my friend Tony Messano.  Tony is a creative director and helped me to know how to be positive.

"You need to let the client say no," said Tony. No matter the request you can handle almost any request with yes I would love to help you, however to make that happen this is what I need from you.

  • While you are here, can you photograph this?
  • Can we just stop by here on our way?
  • Your camera can do video right? Can you just get me a quick shot of this?
  • Can you put these up on the web in a gallery for us?
  • Can you make a few extra DVDs?
I am sure you can think of numerous other scenarios to add to this list. The key is these requests land outside the contract and agreement that you have with the client.


If you do not have a contract you are already screwed. You need something that you and the client can look at which lists what the client will receive.

I recommend writing a contract based on a project rather than an hourly wage. If you base it on an hourly wage then whatever they ask you to do in the time you have given to them is fair game. You have become a day laborer or just like the staff position.

When you do a project contract there are a few things I recommend you cover. This is specific details of the work, price, and rights.
  1. Work to be performed
    1. What you will photograph
    2. The style that it will be photographed
    3. How many images will they receive and the format they will receive them
    4. Time of delivery of the images
  2. Price 
    1. How much for the work
    2. Expenses
    3. Time of payment for the work
  3. How they can use the images (rights)
You should get even more specific in the terms and conditions which ASMP has a recommended contract for this here

Carry the contract with you to the job. When the client asks for any changes outside the realm of what the contract covers, be ready to pull it out and say we can make the necessary changes here to the contract so we can get what you want done. This is when they ask for more you give the additional price for the work.

Tip: Ken Touchton a freelancer friend of mine recommended even writing into the contract a fee for any additional photography. He usually adds this as any additional projects the price is a certain amount. The idea is that you are quoting on similar projects that you are already doing that day. An example is adding one more portrait.

Magic words

Yes I can make that happen for you, however to do that then this must happen .... What would you like to do?

But Stanley ...

What if I don't want to do the work? If there is an ethical or legal reason to say no to a request be sure and price it to make it worth it if they approve your price. This is similar to my jerk price, where I charge enough for those difficult clients that I can work with them for the day. 

Too often I have said no when I should have taken my own advice in the past. Two things would have happened. First of all I would have maybe made more money and second I would have kept more clients because of my positive attitude.

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