|LSU #7 burns the UNC defense in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.
|LSU’s #7 burned the defense of UNC a few times that day and that is why they defeated UNC.
Editorial Note: This is written to help photographers and I hope this helps you to learn from something I do when I am in a difficult situation.
I have just been burned again by a client. It happens and will probably happen again. I am writing about this because I have watched not just other photographers screw up in these situations, but I have as well.
In this business I have come to see that even with using solid business practices and doing everything right you can still get burned. The reason is simple you can be right and exercise that right only to burn yourself.
Micah Solomon’s blog today talks about “Digging in your heels… to destroy the customer experience.” I have stood up for certain principles in the past and was right and the customer was wrong. I lost some of those customers. You need to be very careful when you decide to dig in your heels.
There are times when you must think strategically. Where do you want to go in your life? How will you grow your business if you are always right?
Just like the football game photos, if you get burned once you can still win the game, get burned too many times and you loose.
My latest experience
I have a couple of agencies that call me for work. The way this works is they get a cut of the gross, because they booked the job and found the client.
The agency was courting a new client. They contacted me before they had a signed contract to see my availability.
They then sent me a terms and conditions document that outlined the Usage Rights last Friday. I agreed to these terms.
I get the contact names and time they are available Tuesday afternoon. I then shoot the assignment Wednesday morning and transmit the images on Wednesday late afternoon to my agency.
Within a few minutes of the images transfering to New York I send an email letting them know everything is there, the photos and model releases. I get this email:
You are great !!! made us look good.. here..:) I finally landed this corporate account, hoping she would give us more work, they just want to try us out to see how we do regarding our services, good photographers and professional.. !!! she is talking about a potential another round of 4 or 5, finger crossed
The client couldn’t do __________. . .
There was a change in the agreement after the images were delivered. I was furious and steaming mad. I had to get up from my desk and take a walk outside. I knew from past experiences like this I needed to calm down and really think this through before formulating a response, which was needed.
I let her know that the rights change needed to normally be compensated and was very disappointed. Then she responded to my email:
You are right.. this was just came to me last night before we signed the contract, we did not sign it as of yesterday, so either I pulled the plug or take the job..
Going forward with this client.. this is the rights !
I can and still have the right to say they cannot use the photos, because this is not what I agreed to as the terms.
My choices and possible outcomes
I have the right to say they can not use the photos. The terms and conditions that I agreed to are still in place, but if they are not going to live up to them, then I can refuse the use of the images for their purposes.
I can say nothing and just take the deal. For many struggling photographers this is where they are often caught. They have bills to pay and don’t have much room to turn down any offer–at least that is what they think.
I picked up the phone and called my good friend Robin Nelson who is also a very talented photographer. Both of us do work for similar clients and when I am booked and someone calls for an assignment, Robin is one of the names I give to my clients.
Robin and I need each other as sounding boards. I think without someone like Robin that I can call and helps me think through the scenarios I would have screwed up even more relationships with clients than I have ever done.
This is why it is so important for photographers to join organization like American Society of Media Photographers. This is where you find colleagues who can be your sounding board and you can be theirs.
When you are called by a photographer you will soon realize you have an ability to see the solutions that when you are the one in the quandary cannot see. The reason is you have nothing usually at stake and you are not emotionally involved.
Who is to blame here?
The client isn’t the real problem here it is the agency where the ball was dropped. They had time to communicate to the photographer.
This is important to understand what relationship is at stake here. The agency needs two thing to survive. They need clients and they need photographers to do the work.
I have lived long enough to now understand how negotiations take place. I have accepted terms and conditions that I normally wouldn’t do because I just had a car repair I didn’t expect or an unexpected medical expense.
I talked with the agency and wanted to be sure they understood I was quite upset with the change in the terms. I also let this one go because I want an ongoing relationship with the agency.
Perfection wanted–Mercy needed
The agency hires me and expects me to deliver every time, which I do for them. However, I have had cameras fail me in the past.
I had a Hasselblad camera screw up a photo shoot in the days of film. The lens had been left in a car and got so hot that the oil that lubricates the lens became like a liquid and flowed onto the aperture blades and made them stick. All of my photos using studio strobes were over exposed.
It was some portraits that we had to reschedule and shoot again, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Friends of mine have shot weddings and the film was dropped off on a Monday at the post office to be delivered to the lab. The semi truck of a lot of photographers weddings was on it’s way to the lab that week and caught fire. Hundreds of weddings were lost that week.
Thank goodness for digital both of those scenarios can’t happen now, but other things can go wrong.
If you want some mercy extended to you in the future you too need to be careful as to how you deal with forgiveness yourself.
The agency apologized and while I still am disappointed I am able to move on with my life.
“Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice shame on me” is what my good friend Tony Messano reminded me a few years ago. He too gets burned by clients. There is a certain amount of trust that you have to have in a business relationship. Tony said I will take a risk once, but not twice.
I will have it understood that I will not allow changes in our terms without compensation. If it happens a second time and I do not take actions then I will be communicating that I can be bought at any price.
I do not believe I have sold out by letting my agency slide on this one, but if I continue to let this same behavior continue then I am a fool.
When it happens again, you will be better prepared. Football teams watch game footage of the teams they will play so they will have seen most of the plays before. It is one thing to be beaten by a new play and another thing to loose by something you have seen before.
Got to be flexible
While you can try and run your business by a set of rules, everything is not so black and white. When you are flexible you are communicating your willingness to work with someone. You are taking into account the situation and not selling out, but trying to make things work.
I hope by sharing this with you that you are now aware that negotiating is an art and not a science. You have to use your heart, mind and as I do often a community of other creatives to be my sounding board.