If a client has ever laughed at your quote, you know it’s hurtful and embarrassing. But there are ways to respond so that you can keep the client and get a price that’s good for you. First, I want to say this isn’t an article about how much you should charge for your work. That’s up to you, and there are hundreds of variables to consider. This is about how to respond to someone when you tell them your prices and they laugh at you or tell you they’re far too much.
Over the years I have tried many different responses and ways to negate the scorn that clients often hit me with when I give them a quote. We all know how much photography work is undervalued and underappreciated, so we need techniques to deal with people who don’t want to pay what we think we’re worth.
There’s no point in throwing your hands up in the air and giving the client the proverbial finger because you won’t get any work that way. But you shouldn’t bow to demand either and price yourself so low that you’re barely picking up peanuts. I have a number of answers I give clients now, but these two are some of my more successful ones.
Response 1: "You Contacted Me"
The first response I usually go with simply reminds the client that they initiated the contact. It’s usually my second email after the initial price quote and goes something like this:
Once again, thanks for getting in touch with me about the job you have, it’s much appreciated. But before we start negotiating a price that’s fair to both of us, I just want to quickly remind you that you have initiated the contact with me. Now usually this happens in one of two ways: either you’ve seen me online through my website or Instagram or Quora, etc. (you can insert whatever social media channels are relevant to you) or I was recommended by someone you know who I’ve worked with in the past.
If you know me through my online presence, then I’m going to guess that you didn’t just come across my work in the last couple of days. You’ve probably been following me for a while and checking out my work, and seeing that I consistently deliver a good product.
You probably follow hundreds of people across social media and you see lots of great photos every day, but for one reason or another you’ve chosen to contact me, now that you’ve got a photography job coming up. So there must be a reason for that, right?
In the event that someone you know recommended me, or you heard about working with me through word-of-mouth, then what you heard must have been positive. The person that you know must’ve been satisfied enough with my work that they felt happy to recommend me and say that I was good to work with. In that case, if you’re like most people, you went and checked out my social media profiles or my website and had a look at my work. And after going through my work, you decided to sit down at your computer and write an email to me introducing yourself and that you wanted to work together.
I’m really happy to hear from you and I’d love to negotiate a price that’s good for both of us. But I am a professional, and this is my living. So I just ask that you be mindful of that and understand that I stand by the quality of my work and I expect my clients to respect that. If that sounds fair to you, then I’d love to work something out together.
This is usually my first stock response, and it often works very well — probably because everything I’m saying is true and the client has very little to object to.
Response 2: "Skills And Qualifications"
The second response I use if the client is still on the fence relates to qualifications, particularly in other fields. You can get creative with this and adapt it to your needs, but I often go with something like this:
Let me ask you a question. Do you send your kids to school? (The answer is almost always, "Yes," because I’m in my 40s and most of my clients are around a similar age). So when you send your kids to school each day, you expect that the teachers there are qualified and have been to university and got the required training, right? You trust that every time your kids walk into the classroom, they’re being taught by someone who knows what they’re doing. That’s why you pay the school fees and why teachers draw a salary. And it’s why private schools with the most outstanding teachers and facilities have the highest fees.
Do you think any guy who has browsed Wikipedia a couple of times should be up there in front of the classroom teaching your kids? Of course not. You expect a certain standard of teaching and you expect the teachers you entrust with helping your children to deliver the highest possible service.
Well, it’s exactly the same with photography. If you want a quality product, then you need to pay a fair price for it. You have come to me because you have a photography job and you want the best possible product. Almost every person in the world has some kind of camera they can use, so why haven’t you gone to them? Your mother, your sister, your wife, your kids — they all have cameras, right? So why have you come to me?
It’s because you’ve seen my work and you like the look of it. Or you’ve seen the work I’ve done for people you know and I have been recommended by them. I am a professional and I deliver a service that I stand by 100 percent — and one which has delivered positive results for many previous clients.
I’d love to work with you and give you results that you can be proud of and display happily forever. In return, I hope you respect my position and the cost of my work, which I think is fair for the service and results I provide. If you’re open to talking more, then I’d love to hear from you.
Key Takeaways: Be Neutral and Willing to Negotiate
I always try to be quite neutral in the language that I use and not overly emotional. And I also try to end it without giving some kind of black-and-white ultimatum. I like to say things like, “If you’re open to talking more,” or, “If you’re willing to sit down and negotiate,” and so forth. That usually gives them a bit of leeway and shows that I’m reasonable and happy to engage more in conversation.
I’ve found this approach to be quite successful in the last few years. How do you deal with clients who scoff at your price quotes or come back with some kind of abusive or sarcastic response? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, so perhaps we can all put together a bank of resources that will help all photographers deal with such situations, as these that happen far too often.