How to Get Paid, Even If Your Client Can't Afford It

How to Get Paid, Even If Your Client Can't Afford It

We all know how the story goes. A client has grand ideas, but a budget that won’t cover your costs. How can you still get the project done, without taking a pay cut? Here are three creative ways of getting fully paid, that should leave everybody happy.

Of course, there will be plenty of times in which you can't do anything about it. However over the years I've heard some wonderful business tricks among a variety of freelancers and industries, and it has seriously benefited me. These are my favorite ways to turn a job you'd otherwise refuse, into exactly what you want. It really revolves around refusing to accept a lower pay and in turn working with the client to suit everybody.


A client asked me to shoot for two days with a charity. Unfortunately the charity didn’t have a lot of money for marketing, and couldn’t afford my quote. Rather than lower my prices or leave the project, I asked if they could get corporate sponsorship. In the end I was paid in full, and the marketing content was sponsored by a large company. How did that work?

Well charities can brush up against lots of corporate sponsors for their events. They can also be run by people who already work for these larger companies - because nobody has the time to volunteer for free all year round. It wasn’t difficult to find a sponsor who wanted their branding alongside a charity, it’s a good look. The added benefit of this arrangement is that the corporate sponsor hired me for further jobs later in the year. Now that’s the right kind of exposure!

Limiting the Time Spent, and the Expectation

Instead of shooting for two days in a villa, four hours from here, why not shoot on the local beach for the day? It saves me time, and then saves the client money. This is the obvious answer, and probably the classic scenario. Sure, you can end up with a client who still expects the same level no matter what the budget, but that can be cleared up with great communication. For me, it comes down to explaining that the real cost is time. If I need to work for two days with them, then that’s two days that I can’t spend with any other client. Those other clients would arguably pay the full amount.
Using time as the variable factor to your price means that you can scale it up and down, and the client will usually understand what they’re getting.

Working for Somebody Else, and Sharing the Content

As bizarre as it sounds, this was a last ditch effort of mine that worked out. I was asked to film an event that somebody was speaking at, but they didn’t have the money to pay for a full day's shooting and editing. Luckily, they weren’t the only brand at this event. Together we were able to contact a much bigger brand who would also be there, and strike a deal. I would shoot for the bigger brand, and when the smaller brand’s speech was on, I would shoot that for them.

The bigger brand was alright with this, because they were getting a discount and only needed their own talk. The smaller brand got their discount and I made sure to shoot enough B-Roll and establishing shots to cover them too.


There aren’t always situations in which everybody will be happy, however I’ve been surprised at how a creative approach can get the best of both worlds. I’m sure there are plenty of other great ideas, and they may depend on the situation you face. These tips were all recommended to me by friends over the years and I greatly appreciated knowing what was possible.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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Great solution, I run into this issue on a regular basis and will try this in the future.

Really informative article, I'll definitely consider these options in the future.

This is useful... working with non-profits charities. But when in most cases its a for profit company can that for profit company really get corporate sponsors for their for profit use of the imagery? I'm not saying this advice is worthless, but the title gives the presumption that is for all types of clients, both commercial for-profit, non-profit, and non-commercial. Just saying, maybe a title change may be necessary.

You're right, sponsorship wouldn't work for two for-profit companies, unless it was an intricate deal like for broadcast media etc.
It did work out with the last point, I think that's as far as you could take it! Obviously that benefits both companies separately though.