Adam Hinton pushed the boat out to make this ad for Nikon, taking a lower fee to cover the cost of shooting it in Rio, and fitting in extra work for a local charity to pay for a fixer. It won awards at D&AD, New York Art Directors Club, Creative Circle and the Campaign Press Awards, which led to several well-paid commissions. Sometimes you’ve got to speculate to accumulate. Image © Adam Hinton.
Negotiating fees during tough times can feel like a constant battle, but it’s important to recognise that you’re not involved in a war against your client – you’re two people trying to solve a problem. Constructive thinking can help ensure the shoot goes ahead and both parties get what they want, says photo agent John Wyatt-Clarke
John Wyatt-Clarke has been a photo agent for 15 years, and is a founding partner of Wyatt-Clarke & Jones, which represents multi-award-winning commercial photographers such as Nick Georghiou, Chris Frazer Smith and Julia Fullerton-Batten, shooting for clients including Nike, British Airways, Land Rover and Barnado's. He's our second expert to share his advice on how to prosper in 2011. His tip: Learn to negotiate your fees.
At Wyatt-Clarke & Jones, our first steps in negotiations are finding out everything about the job, in order to know how much to charge. With a regular client we’ll already have an idea and we talk in ballpark figures while we try to find out what the budget is. We’re not just finding out “how much” but also “why”. This “why” might lead to a way of doing a deal – is there something extra we can add that they’d pay more for, maybe from a different budget? Is there other work they need shot that they could combine costs on? Are they asking for things they don’t really need, which can be dropped?
Even so, the chances are that we will end up needing to argue about the price. No-one likes doing it, and everyone wishes they knew how to do it better. It’d be nice to be able to say how it’s done, but it’s so complex, personal and important that most companies send their buyers on full-scale training courses in negotiating techniques. Anyone who has been trained knows to ask for more than they expect to get, so you shouldn’t necessarily believe the first figure they give you. Be aware too that they’ll assume you’re doing the same when you quote a price. You probably will have to concede something, so when you do, ask for something in return. This is how you edge towards something mutually acceptable.
If you agree to do a job for a cut price, you must still be sure to put in as much effort and treat it as if it was for top rates. Never ever do any job less than spectacularly well. Some jobs are worth doing anyway, even if you won’t make much money. Adam Hinton shot an ad for Nikon with DDB on a tiny budget, for example and, by roughing it in Brazil with no crew and charging a very reduced fee, he was able to produce a shot that went on to win major awards. He didn’t make any money out of that job, but it guaranteed him more work in the future.
Ultimately though, you’ve got to know what your bottom line is and to be willing to say no if you can’t agree on a reasonable fee. It’s hard to turn down work, but it’s better to lose one job than to lose your long-term value.
This article, and the other 10 tips from our panel of experts [to be published each day until 31 January], were first appeared in BJP's January issue, published on 05 January 2011. It's still available for purchase from your nearest newsagent until 02 February 2011. To find your nearest newsagent, check our Store Finder.
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