For years, we've heard clients ask photographers for a few images. The client would pay for all types of usage rights and then they'd ask for a few images as freebies, for social media. And that trend continued for several years. We'd throw in a few for social media and make the client happy. As social media grew, the budgets stayed small.
Social media was often treated as a small side order, nothing substantial. Then it grew to overshadow everything from TV to massive billboards, but the budgets stayed small. I want to remind you that social media isn't a side order anymore; it's the whole meal, the only meal that matters. We know our value, now let's chat!
Photographers (and our counterparts, the entire glam team) often hear "it's just for social" as a method to drop our rates. That would make sense if the clock stopped 8-10 years ago, but social media is the biggest part of any campaign. We have to pause and recognize that. Then we have to take that knowledge and bringing to the negotiating table. It needs to be a part of the conversation and it's our job to raise the topic.
It's Not the Client's Fault
The vast majority of clients do care about the artist/freelancer. They love our work, our creativity, and what we can inject into their businesses. They aren’t the bad guy here, but because of circumstances they often bring the bad news. It’s not about them seeing us in a negative light, it’s more about the speed of change in our industry and sometimes the old rules that worked a few years ago are now borderline insulting. It’s not intentional.
Things have changed in a major way. Today one post by a social media superstar could overshadow the impact of yesterday's methods. When the world changed, the rules should have changed and they didn’t and the artists pay the price.
Is it the Photographer's Job to Fix This?
In my opinion and respectfully, it's our job to raise the topic and draw a line. It doesn’t matter how things progressed, it’s up to us to manage our future and growth in the industry. And that’s why you’re here. That’s why I am here. Let’s work!
It's a tough-love moment. If you want the problem solved, you have to roll up your sleeves and fix it. Complaining won’t do anything. Bad-mouthing clients definitely won’t fix the issue.
I’ve noticed that 98% of the time when I explain to the client, they understand and are willing to negotiate. They do this because they don’t want to steamroll you. They want you to win and they want to win. They want to do this without conflict and with so much on their plate, this is something we should remind them of. The video talks about the solution and the method of speaking to them.
How do we speak to them? What should we tell the client when they say, "it's just for social" at the next meeting? Watch the video, it will guide you through the process.
Put Your Business Hats On
I want to remind you that your clients are entrepreneurs and negotiating contracts is something they do in their sleep. This should not be a tip-toe situation where you might offend them, and often times photographers feel awkward when it comes to negotiating.
Here’s how I would like you to think about negotiating with your clients: They aren’t new. They’ve done this for businesses far bigger than yours, budgets far scarier than what’s in front of you. At the end of the day, they need a stellar product at a budget-friendly rate. They want to do it quickly, without much friction and if at all possible, they want it to be pleasant.
Here’s where we as artists can do better: Normalize talking about money and terms. You’re not offending anyone. You’re actually being more honest. Speak to them about your needs and what it takes to afford your services. They’ll decide if that’s something to move forward on. Explain to them your usage rates, and what certain rights/licensing may cost. They’ll decide if it matches their budget. Explain to them all of your terms. Explain to them your hesitations and offer some solutions. This is a two-way street. Artists, we must stop this passive tactic. Talk to them!
These people are human beings who can empathize with you and me. So, when they say “it’s just for social” - that’s your job to tell them your thoughts. The video goes into the approach I'd like you to consider when a client says "it's just for social" — and if practiced enough, you will win far more than you lose.