Last friday just around 10 in the morning I got a call from a person that could have become my newest client as she wanted to use one of my landscape pictures, but as it turned out the call was not about business relationship but more about an instant kill of an aggressive hunter. I am not all to new on such a type of instant business kills but there was a twist to this one. The "its friday we have to act quick twist". This twist had not been played on me for a long long time.
There are several years, probably over 15 since I stopped doing maths over the phone and give a price that way. Ever since internet came to be, the usual way of conducting business, once people have stated their wishes I ask them to send me an e-mail to clarify their wishes and to get any misunderstanding out of the way.
This has proofed to me to be a very good way. People will have to write down what they want from me and be clear about it and I can be clear about what I can do for them. If things need any further clarification or discussion I will pick up the phone after having sent an answer to their e-mail and thus we both have the same ground to discuss the projects and costs and come to a conclusion. It may need some further math and more email correspondence but that is just a process of negotiations and usually a rather pleasant one.
It turned out that I was off to a bad start of the day almost as bad as the ending of the phone call, just about when I had finished asking the person to send me an e-mail with specifications, she asked if I was by the computer and could act quickly. The decision had been made and they wanted my image and needed a quick access to it. The first pressure point had been pushed and before I had finished my first cup of coffee I had been thrown up against the wall. Still I decided to keep my calm and wait for the email.
This particular friday the e-mail sounded more vaguely than most or all other email of this type and I was a bit surprised. Basically it said we like your image. We want to use your image. Free of charge. I was a bit stunned and then I did a research of the company. After that research I concluded that I might be misunderstanding some thing and thus wrote back a mail where I specifically told the person that the word free was not to be found in my dictionary as I could neither eat it nor live on it but if they wished to buy my image they could do so by following the given link. The link sent here straight to my image at my Photoshelter site where she , as others have, could just fill in the facts and buy the usage she wanted and thus download the image right away.
This is where she went for the second half of the kill. Realizing that she had in fact insulted me with the e-mail She called me, and said she definitely did not mean free as in free of charge but free as in free to use in what ever she needed. Well I excused my misunderstanding and began preparing for a whole new ball game and sure enough it came, just not the way I had hoped for. It was not the game of finding fair price for unlimited use of the image.
From experience I have learnt that when people contact me after finding my image on flickr they want the image for free, as in free of charge, or free as in free from having to throw more than peanuts at me. Not free as in free to give me a fair and good price for my work. As things had happened fast this morning and I was in the middle of preparing a two day trip out of town with my wife, I had not taken the time to fully do my usual research in the beginning, but since the first email I had done further research on the company and seen through the link of attached image that they had found my image at flickr. This changed things a bit but not as much as the conversation of the call that followed.
As we got the facts out of hour way she began the job of reeling me in after having put the hook in my mouth. Now she had looked at my images and I was a fantastic photographer. Very professional and they where in need of some more images. Especially they need some images with winter scene and had plans on getting them taken this winter exclusively for them. She also said that the photoshelter site was to complicated to use and wanted me to name a price. I played along and told here that I had long experience in this and was equipped for doing long term projects as I could work out of my motorhome and was used to it. So future business could definitely be on the table. I asked if they did buy much photography and assignments and that is when she gave me the name of my competitor they had been dealing with.
Sorry to say for here is that I am not 15 years old. I am 50 years old and have been doing business for 30 of those years. She should have done some research on me before she went in for this type of a photography kill.
Number one I do not give my images away and number two as your long story as to how fantastic photographer I am and how much work you are going to bring me in the future and how much you would like to work with me in the future grows longer, the less likely I am to believe a word of what you just said.
Once again I am not 15. I am not starting out and never ever in my lifespan has any one given me this promise and kept it. I repeat Never ever. You want to do business with me then I love you. You start that business proposal by trying to screw me over and I loth you. Buy my images or my photography service. Like it and then come back or dislike it and never come back, but don't try to tell me that if I get on my knees know, we will be doing business later standing up.
If any one promises this you can be absolutely sure they are lying. My best an longest customer relationships have grown from trust. They trying me out with out any further promises and as I have delivered more jobs have landed. That is a good and fair way to do business, not only for the customer but for me to. Respect is the key. Respect me and I respect you and gathered we can do something wonderful even some thing above your expectations. I stretch my limits long way for good customers.
As I now knew the facts that she did really want my image free, as in free for nothing but peanuts, I knew we would never get an agreement on the table and what ever price I would throw at here it would be to high. As she was very vague on the usage and not sure on how to use the image in spite of me trying to get here to realize that the more specific she would be the better price I could come up with. I was certain by now that what ever I did she would want more and here main goal was to get my image to use as much as she could and preferably for the peanut package with out the peanuts in it.
I decided to test here out to the fullest. She had already ruined my day and I had already ruined my wife's day by spending it on doing business in stead of spending it with here as planed. But then my wife is used to changes of planes and forgives me most any thing. She knows that the life of a freelance photographer is a constant fight of you wins some you loose some.
I did a thorough research as to what such a picture packaged should cost and what could be considered a fair price for such a package. Then I did the drastic thing just to proof my point. I cut the price in half knowing that I was playing with fire and would probably hate my self if she would take it. At least though I would not have spent the day for nothing and would get some money in on the cost of doing this image. Get some thing for my travel expenses.
Of course I was to high according to here reply. Way above the photographers she was used to deal with and no where near the price they where willing to pay. This did not come as a shock to me. I was already prepared for that answer. Yet it was half of half of what my client up to now would feel was fair.
To add injury to the insult I sent here an e-mail and politely asked, on the grounds that I was learning about the business side of photography in Norway, what she could see as a fair price and what she was used to pay.
Here answer proofed to me that she had gone for the kill with out doing a research on whom she was going to kill. She sent me prices and proposals as in a way where I would know nothing about photography and the business of it and what was the standard in Norway or around the world as the matter of fact. Of course I did expect that and wanted that just to confirm that when she said free in the original e-mail she indeed meant free as in Im going to screw you over on a friday morning free.
She might have fooled the poor young photographer soul up in Oslo to give away his work for next to nothing. I doubt he will get any work from here in the future and I am sure she will try to find some other bait. She will not contact me again I am sure of. I would love it if she does and at that time show me and my work some respect. I would then gladly do some business with her. But if you run a business and contact me to give you my work, for get it and for get me respecting you or your company after that.
To you young guns out there or any one in any age starting out. Take my advise. Spread this post to ohers you know might be in the same situation.
Don't be fooled by the I will land you lot of job later trick. Nor act fast now and get some reward later trick. You are being used. Be aware. Don't let any one use you. I have been there, done that and tested this thoroughly, so have others. Life does not work that way.
Work with those that show you respect and respect those that you work with
Here are some recommended reading for you: