Monday, June 30, 2008

Photographer Learned Helplessness


One of the things I enjoy is my daily read of the Consumerist website. In this piece - Do You Suffer From CLH? (Consumer Learned Helplessness), they write, in part:

After getting shocked from every angle for so long, with credit cards' shrinking due dates, flagrant violations of our privacy, rebate scams as acceptable business models, and "it's company policy" as the magic wand to excuse it any time a company screws us, that we just lie down and accept it.
So too, does this apply to photographers.
(Continued after the Jump)

Thus, I've evolved the term from CLH to PLH, or, Photographer Learned Helplessness.

When your client, or a proposed client says things like:
  • You're the first photographer who's ever raised a question about our contract
  • We require original receipts for all expenses
  • Our contract is non-negotiable. We haven't modified it for anyone else, so we can't for you, sorry.
  • Of course we own the reprint rights to the photos and article. We paid you for the assignment.
  • We can't pay in 30 days. I know your contract that we signed says that, but we pay in 90 days.
  • We can't promise adjacent photo credit, or that it will be accurate, but we'll do our best.
  • We don't pay a digital processing fee. Don't do any processing, just burn the photos to a CD and send it to us. My assistant can pick out the photos and work on them.
Simply just laying down and accepting eggregious terms is what results from PLH. It's as if there are no clients out there who you think respect you, and so you just have to take whatever scraps and morsels of assignment work this client has.

Don't believe these things. I have drawers full of contracts from clients that counter the above. I have FedEx receipts from clients who paid in 30 days (and I have collected administrative fees for those who have not paid within 30 days). I have clients who respect me and what I bring to the table. Did they take time to become my regular clients? Sure. And I surely declined assignment offers where the deal did not show me the respect that a reasonable person should expect.

Avoid PLH. Don't accept deals you know are bad. Sometimes it's easier than others. But in the long run, it's what will sustain you.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, great post. So many people let themselves be treated like crap as photographers because "that's how it works" or "that's how it's always been done." And it always will be done that way if you let it. As you've pointed out in the past, you bring a lot to the table as a pro, so you should get paid promptly for it, and treated with respect like any other profession. Again, great post. Let's hope all the photo editors and 90 days to pay bean counters everywhere read it as well as photographers.

Anonymous said...

Why not simply put it in one's contract
that one charges 0.5%/day, compounded, for
after-30-days?

90-days would mean about 35% increase in fees.

The longer they leave it,
the more money you've a right to.
( exponential curve, though, so they better pay soon... )

---

Dell, a company many of us rely on,
uses its suppliers as financing:
They require 30-days from everyone who owes 'em money,
but refuse to pay quicker than 90-days to anyone they owe money.

For billions.

They get away with it because most rationalize that
it's better to make little money for much work than to not do so,
but some go bankrupt doing it,
because currency fluctuations ( or surprise costs ) can take you down,
with that kind of arrangement.

---

I'd rather do well in a niche, than be screwed in the ocean,
but apparently others like the opposite?

Whatever, I'm putting the compound-interest clause in my contract,
and that's that.

"after 30 days, price is

$PRICE * (1.005 ^ #-of-days-after-30)"

Cheers.

( & thanks again, JH! )

MarcWPhoto said...

I love math geekery as much as anybody, but while of course laws may vary, a court in the US typically wouldn't enforce a clause with such ruinous penalties for reasons of public policy.

Typically in licensing agreements late payments earn interest at some fixed benchmark rate (like the NY Prime, or something) plus costs of audit and/or collection under various circumstances. Consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for legal advice.

M

Anonymous said...

Firstly, if you don't get paid in 30 days, your
*likelyhood of being paid*
decreases precipitously.

Secondly, if the price I *quote* 'em
- before contract-signing -
states explicitly
"this is the 30-day price",
then the compound interest is more likely to stick in court,
IF I've that documented.

Thirdly, court-ordered
"punitive damages"
for refusal to pay, amount to more than this,
and aren't pre-arranged IN the contract.

Yes it is something to check with one's lawyer,
but I believe that if done right:

1. it'll put front and center,
that one gets paid for one's work,
in timely fashion.

2. that one is no longer going to be robbed
by everyone who feels they have no consequences for doing so.

3. that one's work is worth protecting,
just as one's clients' work is worth protection.

and finally

4. that one is forthright in being explicit about this,
& one *intends* to be around 10 years from now.

Yes it's entirely possible that,
in some jurisdiction putting ANY price increase on one's work would be disallowed
( it's going to be a criminal-offense to use filesharing software, soon,
so anyone trying to share their favorite Linux distro will
be spending the rest of their life unemployable or in prison -
- if the G8 finish hammering out their new secretly-negotiated for the last 1.5 years deal.. )...

laws have a habit of being made
to fsck-over those who aren't lobbying.

BUT, if it is legal for me to put a 30-day-price on my work,
and to put a 60-days price ( 14% higher, or so )
and for me to put a 90 days price on it
( 34% higher than the 30-days price )..
*because* I'm a lot less likely to be paid, as time goes by,
AND because it costs much more money to recover *anything* by then
( collections-agencies, anyone? or legal fees... )

..this could well be deemed reasonable charge for increased cost
& for being denied one's rightful timely pay for one's work
( which *was* provided in timely fashion ).

I don't think any of us are going to have any rights at all,
in a few years, though...

STASI was a bunch of foolish amateurs, compared with the modern governments...
http://yro.slashdot.org/
Your Rights Online.

Don't read it unless you want to send letters to gov't types,
fighting for your little remaining rights...
while you have any...

We, as a race, are reproducing the serfdom
we made our home for so many centuries.

With "persons" ( gov't-corporations/private-corporations )
as our monarchs.

At least we get what our action shows we deep-down want,
so god can't be blamed for any of it...

:)

Anonymous said...

This should be filed under "Things To Know When Abroad", for most of us,
though for Europeans, when England is considered part of the Union,
it's a little more treacherous.

http://photorights.org/blog/42-days-and-hand-over-your-flash-card

The "42 Days",
is 42 days incarcerated *before* they have to either release you,
or charge you..

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Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! thanks a lot! ^^

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