I recently received a call from a potential new client. Like a lot of calls from folks I’ve never met before, she began with the phrase “We love your work…” Usually this is a good indicator, but there are times when it can have a double meaning. Such was the case with this call. At this stage of my career, I’d consider myself an experienced business owner, and so I’ve learned to take a cautious stance when evaluating a potential client’s candor.
After learning a bit more about the images this company needed, I quickly sent a cost estimate to her, and awaited a response.
With small companies, I’m usually pretty generous with image reproduction rights, since I know that most small firms cannot afford to pay based strictly upon how the images will be used. On the other hand, most large manufacturers know that images have real value, and that it’s not unusual to spend many thousands of dollars producing images for their marketing needs. They are also familiar with paying for images based upon how the images will appear in various media outlets and channels.
So imagine my surprise when in the follow-on conversation she essentially asked if I could use “less lighting” or “less time” in creating the images...in essence, could I dumb down the process, in exchange for a lower fee.
Now, imagine my puzzlement here. On one hand, this marketing rep for a well-known aviation company likes the way I go about producing images, and yet, she doesn’t want me to use my full faculties and experience in creating work for them. BAD SIGN #1.
At one point, “lots of future work” was mentioned as an incentive to lower the rate. I countered with “that’s great, I’ll be happy to consider a discount, in exchange for a contract for this future work.” She countered with “It’s our policy not to sign contracts...” BAD SIGN #2.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that their policy was to have unlimited usage, for an unlimited period of time, to all images commissioned by the company. If the money matches this broad usage, then I'm happy to strike a deal. If not, then that is BAD SIGN #3.
Although I met her desired lower price, it wouldn’t have made business sense to agree to the same unlimited usage and time (which she wouldn't budge on), for the reduced price. As you can imagine, I passed on the job.
Champagne taste on a beer budget is a fact of business life that we all constantly face. Would I like to drive a new Mercedes? Sure! But for that kind of quality, safety, and comfort everyone knows it’ll come at a premium price point.
Such is the case with creating high quality commercial images. As an experienced professional, asking me to put less into the creative process is like asking me to take shallow breaths. While I can do it, I’d rather not, as I know that I wouldn’t be creating the best images possible, and that’s never good for me…or the client.