The Pros and Cons of a Low Budget Shoot
Question: When should I walk away from a potential client that understands standard usage/licensing practices but is trying to low ball the project’s budget? Considering today’s economic climate?
If this is a good potential client, the best thing to do is to understand the position they may be put in from by their client. As a buyer, I remember several occasions when one of our clients didn’t allocate an appropriate budget for a certain product line. This was because they were testing the product with a soft launch to see how consumers would respond, and they just didn’t have the budget until the market potential was established. It is best for you to find out why the person is asking you for a lower estimate. In general, you will find out there is a budget they have to stick to for various reasons.
The Glass is Half Full
If your contact understands standard usage and licensing, I suspect that budget limitations are really the issue. There are different ways you can put a positive spin on reducing your estimate:
- Submit an estimate for what it should cost to do the shoot correctly and fairly - fair fees - along with an estimate to illustrate you may have taken a cut in fees to accomplish it within their budget range.
- Limit the usage so they have to come back to you if the project is successful.
- Tell the potential client that you look at this as a road test to prove that you are a great fit for their future projects.
- Explain to them that if they can take some money out of the media buy, you could do so much more to execute their concept better. I used to do this all the time. As I always say, the medium to show your work - usually a rectangle: print publications, billboard, direct mail or collateral - doesn’t change. What stops the consumer is the image or illustration. So now for example, you can have five greatly produced images versus six that look like corners were cut.
- Use the opportunity to show how you are a team player and a pleasure to work with so they want to use you over and over again.
But if the above pointers don’t work or aren’t appropriate and you are feeling “used,” then you have to decide if this project will get you more work if you were add it to your website and portfolio. Does the project have any award potential? Can you use this project to show bigger clients, with bigger budgets? If you answer “no” to those questions, then you have to decide if it is worth walking away from. Before you shut the door, be sure you understand a project’s potential in the big picture of your career.
Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators all over the world, and is also a partner in the Creative Collision video series featured on Agency Access' blog, The Lab. Suzanne has been heavily involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, giving her the opportunity to work with some of the most established artists in the business. She founded the art buying department at The Martin Agency in 1988 and left in 1999. She has also worked for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and smaller agencies and companies. Suzanne Sease Productions
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