Photography. Like a relationship, requires commitment, time, patience. It requires a strong will and sometimes the ability to backdown when you’re in the wrong.

It can often feel at times, like when in a new relationship, that the whole thing is building up to those three…..little…..words.

How do you know if its time?

Is it too soon?

What if they don’t feel the same?

Am I making a fool out of myself?

If you haven’t guessed yet, those words aren’t “I love you”, well they can be if you want them to be, but for me, in photographer there are three far more important words…

“Here’s your invoice”

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Now read those few questions again;

How do you know if its time?

Is it too soon?

What if they don’t feel the same?

Am I making a fool out of myself?

 

I was going to start this sentence by saying, the truth is only you know when it is time to start charging for your work. But, thinking back to the hundreds of photographers I’ve spoken to about this subject over the years is that they don’t know. They don’t have a clue. Or perhaps, they do know and are too scared to admit it.

I remember at 13 years old, sitting on a swing in a park with my first real girlfriend who was a couple of years my senior, and whispering in her ear so that my friends didn’t hear “I love you..”

She took a sharp intake of breath and almost choked on her panda pop; “Ha thanks Ordy”

Safe to say, I wasn’t expecting that response, but at least it was a response.

 

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I had the same feeling the first time I issued an invoice to a commercial customer. I was nervous, palms were sweaty. I sent the invoice via email and eagerly watched for the reply to ask “Why are you charging me?”, that email never arrived. 9 days later (two days overdue) the payment was made to my bank. That was easier than expected.

Now don’t get me wrong, not all love stories end this way, nor do relationships with clients, particularly when you’re looking to make the transition from Hobbyist to Professional.

Just to note when I say professional photographer, I mean someone getting paid to take photographs. No matter how much or what level.

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I speak to a lot of photographers when coaching and training and I’d say that 90% fall under the same category of “I don’t think I’m good enough to charge”.

They’re answering the wrong question without it even being asked. What they should be thinking is, “Does the client think I’m good enough to charge?”

Therein lies the issue.

I have talked about this time and time again. As photographers we find it incredibly difficult to value ourselves, praise our own work, admit when we are good at sometime. I find it frustrating. Many a brilliant photographer will miss out on a potential long and fruitful career due to self-doubt or a lack of self-worth within the photography genre.

 

So here is my thoughts on when it is time to charge;

  • Would you feel your images were of a good enough quality for someone to use if they received them for free?
  • Do you think you can create better images than a company/client can on their own?
  • Did the client approach you or did you approach them?
  • Is the client going to make money from your images, directly in indirectly?

If you have answered YES to any of those questions then the answer is simple. It is time to start charging for your work….

IF

…You want to go down that line.

 

If you’re not interested in making money or a living from photography then you’ve probably wasted 10 minutes reading this.. Sorry!

 

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The industry is overrun with photographers who will offer their services for free, I’m not going to bad mouth those people or ridicule them or saying they’re doing something wrong. Everyone needs to start somewhere and get experience somewhere. But, If you do fall into that category and you shoot free, then you should re-asses why you do that?

Do you need those images in your portfolio?

Are you actually getting any work from that (and I’ve avoided this word) exposure?

Or is it that you’re too scared to now so to that client, “Actually my time and skill is valuable, if you would like me to shoot this it will cost you £xx”

Now I get this isn’t a one size fits all approach, but another simple way to check its viability for your business would be to complete a very simple DR Pepper Analysis…

What’s the worst that could happen?

All they can do is say no..

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