Posts Tagged ‘freelance’
I’m currently looking for a designer to help me re-launch my website and creative branding. Yesterday I got a quote that stood out because it was poorly executed. Here is my response:
I think I’ll pass. Here’s why:
* I was looking for a project bid, not an hourly rate. I even provided a
handy little form to fill out, just to make it easier for you to give me the
information I needed. The fact that you didn’t seem to read my instructions
does not instill hope that you’d connect with my brand enough to provide
good identity design for me.
* You don’t have a graphic design portfolio at the web address you provided
* The design of your website looked even more messy and amateur than my
current website. How can I trust that your service would be an upgrade over
my current design?
Sorry we couldn’t work together. I hope my comments help you do better on
Part of Suzan’s response:
I in no way see anything different or exciting about your photographs.
My heroin addict cousin could take better photos than yours. Your
website is bland & boring. yawn. DJ’s are lame. Why would you want to
take so many photos of them? Wow! The blurriness of your photos is
ASTOUNDING! I have photographed numerous bands & got the same effect.
There were light trails & everything, but the subject was in focus.
That $500 camera did you no good.
I have clients from every walk of life. I have done design work for
bands ranging from metal to rhythm & then some. I am not about to
limit myself as you have chosen to. Unfortunately for you, I am a
talented designer with innovative designs who you have now burned your
1. When bidding on a project, be sure to read every detail the client has provided. Go to their website. Research them thoroughly. If you can’t follow directions, you’re not likely to get the job.
2. If you don’t like their style, don’t place a bid.
3. If you don’t have a portfolio online, stop reading right now and go make one.
4. If a potential client hires you, that’s good. If you don’t hear back, that’s bad. If a potential client takes the time out of their busy schedule to let you know you’re no longer in the running, and give you a helpful list of reasons why, that’s awesome, even if it sounds mean. Why? Because it can help you fine-tune your bidding process with future clients, and that can earn you more sales. It may even pay off more than if they had accepted your bid in the first place. This is what we call the school of hard knocks. Grow a thick skin. We all get rejected. Get over it.
5. “Under Construction” stopped being an excuse for a crappy website a long time ago. You absolutely must have a great website if you’re going to be a freelance creative — which is why I’m trying to hire a good website designer right now.
Are you a good designer? Think you can do better than Suzan? Please fill out the handy Request for Quote form.
* name changed to protect the guilty
The big topic floating around the photo blogosphere right now is the subject of working for free. We have some great write-ups by a lot of really smart guys. In case you missed the conversation, here are some of the better posts (discussion and partial link list inspired by Strobist.com and 1001 Noisy Cameras):
- Strobist.com – Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free
- Chase Jarvis – Will Work for Free?
- Vincent Laforet – Work for Free? “1 project a year at most”
- Kenneth Jarecke – A photojournalists perspective
- Don’t miss John Harrington’s three part shoot down
- TWiP offers a summary of David’s points
- A Photo Editor interviews Bil Zelman, who shoots pro bono, but not for free
- Free is Killing Me! (SportsShooter)
- Then, of course, there’s my article from March about When to Work for Free, suggesting a trade-for-access strategy that got the ball rolling for me.
Readers of my blog may already know that I advocate shooting for free in order to get your start, and to keep the ball rolling ever onward toward your dream career, but I don’t want anybody thinking that I condone willy-nilly freebies for just anybody. To get my career started, I went straight to the biggest electronic music promoter in Utah. They have a long established reputation for putting together great shows with great headliners, consistently. I went straight to the top of the food chain for my little niche industry, got in through friendships and networking connections, shot a handful of shows to build up an impressive portfolio quickly, and in the mean time charged everybody else my target rates, and sold photo licenses from the “free” gigs to cover some of my costs (but not all… I took a net loss on those gigs).
These days, that first promoter is still a customer, and they pay me now, but converting them from a free customer to a paid customer has not been an easy task, through no fault of theirs. I didn’t do a great job of educating them on the value of photography. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, my clients are starting to see it and realize the benefits, but it’s too little, too late.
The whole process was a serious challenge, from start to finish; dumping thousands of my own dollars out-of-pocket into a client relationship I was not sure would ever pay off. Honestly, it was scary, it was irrational, and if I had to do it all again — I would.
But I would do it differently. I would be more careful. And I would put higher numbers on those invoices. It’s harder to raise your price later than to set it where you need it to be to begin with. Put your true value on the invoice, whether you’re offering a freebie discount or not. Let people see the figures you really need to bring in to reach your pressing income goals. I was initially afraid that the sticker-shock would scare them away, but that was the wrong outlook. Those who are scared off by sticker-shock do not buy photography enough for you to pursue them as serious clients, anyway. You’re better off pursuing clientele that values photography, and will display loyalty, rather than hire the first jerk with a camera who offers to do it cheaper.
You should be very careful when you work for free. Here’s some advice:
* If you’re doing it for a charity, have them cut you a check for your normal rates, then make an equal (and tax-deductible) contribution to their charity.
* Regardless of who it’s for, always send them an invoice with your normal rates, minus a discount (up to 100%) — just to emphasize that this is a business, and they’re getting something of real value.
* Be sure that you can use the project as a stepping stone to your dream career. Imagine where you want to be in three years. Does this project take you in that direction? (This was the ONLY reason I did what I did. That access was worth every penny I spent on it, and that was a lot, see below).
* There is plenty of wisdom behind the “never, ever work for free” message. You need to understand that photography is expensive. LIVING is expensive. There is inherent value in what you do. See the point above about the invoice. This can help your psychology as much as it educates the client.
* BEFORE you do anything for free, decide how much money you want to earn per year, and work up a serious Cost of Doing Business calculation. Factor in replacing your camera bodies every two years (shutters wear out when you’re working full-time), a budget for glass and flashes, insurance (individual medical insurance is very expensive), liability coverage, transportation costs, client entertainment, contingencies… Did I mention your salary? Better not forget that one.
If you do this realistically your annual CODB should fall somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000+ / year. If it’s much lower, and you’re just getting started in your photography career, do it again, and ask an established pro to look over your numbers for you. You’ve missed something important, I guarantee it. It took me several months to come to grips with my true cost of doing business.
Now recognize that you might need time off for illness, that there will be slow weeks, or even slow months… consider that you may only work 40 weeks per year. How many gigs can you really squeeze out per week, factoring in processing time, client discussions, delivery, and your marketing and business activities? Keep in mind, many photographers cite 80% business, 20% shooting.
Multiply the number of gigs per week by the number of weeks you can shoot per year (~40).
Average charge per gig = annual costs / gigs per year. Let’s call that Average charge per gig number The Big Sacrifice.
Now, when somebody asks you to shoot for free, ask yourself, “is this opportunity worth $The Big Sacrifice? Am I willing to pay that much money to work for these people?”
The sooner you realize that free isn’t free, the better. It sure is easy to forget all those numbers in the spreadsheet — until the bills come due, that is.
Every time a “free” gig comes up, imagine that the “client” is a pair of Girl Scouts at your door. Are those cookies really worth $The Big Sacrifice? If it’s a great project, or a great cause, and you really think it’ll help your career, go for it. But don’t pass out those freebies without seeing $The Big Sacrifice flash in your head, really big, in red.