Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Collection of Inconvenient Facts

Ignoring facts cannot change them. Far too many photographers, and aspiring photographers, simply ignore the facts before them, believing that the laws of physics and economics just don't apply to them.

I see these photographers arrive on the scene, and then depart in short order. Many not only leave DC, they leave the profession altogether. The sad fact too, is they also leave the state of the profession they tried to succeed in just a little worse off as a result of poor business practices.

Here are a few facts for your consideration:

Fact #1: If every time you produce images, the copyright to them is not yours, you will not earn money - any money - from them in the future. You're a day laborer, like a ditch digger with some creativity.

Fact #2: According to the IRS, if you are 1) required to comply with the employer's instructions; 2) the services are to be performed in a particular method or manner; 3) the success or continuation of a business depends on the performance of certain services; 4) the worker personally perform the services; 5) the worker have a continuing relationship with the employer; 6) the worker has to follow a work sequence set by the employer; 7) Can the worker work for more than one employer at a time? If you're a freelancer, and these sound familiar to you, then, perhaps you're entitled to be an employee of the employer, including benefits, and their paying the standard part of your taxes that an employer pays.

Fact #3: Taking standard manufacturers' statistics for the lifespan of equipment (camera and computer), coupled with the amortization tables for deductability, will give you how much you can reasonably expect to pay over each year. Combine this with other expenses (data lines, software, rent, and so forth) and this is what it costs each year to make pictures. When divided by 52, if you don't earn that much each week, you will most decidedly not be making pictures professionally very long unless your sustaining income comes from other sources.

Fact #4: If your time is not your own, and thus you are doing something at the behest of a client (travel, post production, planning, etc), and you are not charging your client for those efforts, you are short-changing yourself and taking a loss on that time.

Fact #5: If you charge for your time at an hourly rate, the better you get at completing an assignment, the less you are being paid for your talents. While an hourly rate may work when you are covering a luncheon, or all day conference, it doesn't work on most other assignments. Banish "day rate" from your vocabulary before it costs you.

Fact #6: Just because a client says they won't pay for something, doesn't mean you must accept, and work under, those terms. You have the power to say "no".

Fact #7: When you are working for just one or two clients, the loss of their work would have catastrophic effects on your revenue steam. You are overly beholden to them, and whatever whim they exert. Diversify your client base for long term stability.

Fact #8: If a client signs your contract, and then demands, after the fact, that you sign theirs to be paid, you do not have to do agree to sign, or actually sign their contract. Simply point out that you already have a contractual relationship for the assignment. They must pay, pursuant to your contract, or be in breach of contract (or copyright, depending upon the language in your contract.)

Fact #9: Operating your business without insurance is akin to gambling, every day, with the likelihood of being able to continue to do the job you love the most. A stolen camera bag, or an accident on assignment could easily put you out of business.

The truth of these facts may be inconvenient, but that doesn't make them any less real.

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.


Anonymous said...

Great read and brutally true.

All beginners should read this for additional information to help with their business.

This should be required reading for all college photographers.

harry said...

Case in point- A client recently wanted to pay for a trip from NY to Paris, but they didn't want to pay for airfare. I negotiated, and ended up paying for only a few meals over 5 days. Even though I essentially "forced" them to pay more than what they wanted, they were so happy with my work that they are sending me to London in July.

Anonymous said...


I don't take back anything that I wrote about you; damn the "negative Karma"

Your post reeks of poor business acumen, enjoy the business now; you'll be a photographer for a short time.

I'm sure you'll look good in Starbucks green.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, anonymous, but I'll be retiring next year, early, with plenty in the bank. I put my 3 kids through college with photography.

Maybe you won't be so bitter when you finally quit selling P&S cameras at Wal Mart. I don't know. I'm not sure why you have such a chip on your shoulder.

I am, however, sure that your tactlessness is your own problem, not mine.

Anonymous said...

What insurance do you recomend a photographer carry and with what insurance companies?

Newer Post Older Post