I was doing my weekend read of the tree-killing newsprint that arrived soggy on my doorstep today, and ran across a quote that spurred this piece. It's from Wal-Mart's chief operating officer, when asked about it's competitors offering free generic drugs, he responded:
"Free is a price that is not a long-term sustainable position."Enter a few interesting insights that came this way from the Flickr forums, and Craigslist:
Over in the Flickr Forum (where I visit far too infrequently!), is a post - Email I got ... business related....help!, which includes, in part:
We have a cool opportunity for a photographer who wants to make some great marketing contacts....This is our First Annual Golf Classic fund raiser, so we need someone who’s going to do an exceptional job, yet can give us very competitive pricing (since money for luxuries like photographers is sparing)... [we] would like to own the photos after the event......We would also like to be able to provide high quality photos...to the guests throughout the day...To let you know what you’re quoting: I have received many, many responses, some of which are offering to do it for FREE just for the contacts; yet, we are willing to pay something, looking for a premium photographer, so please at least make your quotes competitive."Zing! They're asking for all three -good - "need someone who’s going to do an exceptional job", cheap - "many responses, some of which are offering to do it for FREE", and fast "provide high quality photos...to the guests throughout the day".
Next up is this zinger from bottom-dwelling Craigslist - "6/24: CELEBRITIES IN BOSTON - WE NEED A PHOTOGRAPHER - HIGH PAY! (BOSTON)":
The photos to be taken are unexpected by the person/persons that you are taking the photos of. The person/persons have a celebrity status and the photos taken will be used in a magazine (both print and online). There may be high traffic with other photographers present on this day and time so we ask the following of you if you are interested in this assignment:..You must be experienced...You must have your own equipment/supplies and staff...This is great experience for you as a photographer. You will have the right to use these photos for your own personal use including your portfolio, but you will not be able to sell or transfer the photos to any other source...We are willing to pay no less than $100.00 per photo and up to $150.00 per photo...The photos must each be unique in settings, backgrounds, and pose...All photos will remain your property until we select the photos we would like to puchase...Once the photos are taken you can upload them to a common public server / hosting website, we would prefer you to upload them to photobucket.com.There seems to be no end to these "opportunities", and no end to suckers lining up to take them.
There's something called the "Project Triangle", and it helps people think through their end-goals. Also of interest is the notion of "project scope", where the area of the triangle inside it is considered the "scope", i.e. "I can do one portrait for the good-fast-cheap" you're looking for, but if you want 10, well, the scope is too big for the same figures to apply. Author James Lewis calls this the PCTS relationship, for "Performance, Cost, Time, Scope." So, perhaps for the fees and turnaround needed, to produce one quality portrait I can do it. But if you want four portraits, the fee and time needed will have to change relative to the scope you've expanded this project to.
It can be light-hearted from time to time, when encountering a prospective client who cites price, to say to this person "I can give the images to you good, fast, or cheap - pick two." Heck, you'll likely not do the assignment anyways, but you can enjoy the conversation none-the-less. And maybe, if you send your estimates for "good and fast", they might just go with you.
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