Say 'No' to Your Clients and Win!

You’ll get many opportunities to photograph someone for free or to offer you work for less. You don’t have to take all of them or even any of them. As a successful photographer, you’ll need to learn to say "no" more often than "yes" and how your career development depends on saying "no" to the wrong people. This blog post will guide you through the different scenarios and how to protect yourself.

Here Are 3 Reasons to Say No

Helping Your Business Grow

They feel that a free photoshoot would help you build your business. While this could happen, it’s unlikely to move the needle in 99.9% of the real world.

You’re a for-profit business, and while you support charitable contributions, you are not a charity. I would add, “with the help of my paid clients, I am able to support some of my favorites charities like charity A, charity B, and charity C.”

This puts the conversation back towards you getting paid for your work because that's how we're able to support the community. You’re proudly a for-profit business, and at no point would they ever demand free groceries, free gym memberships, or a free car in exchange for promotion. Why would a professional photographer be any different?

Rude Requests

Here’s a story for you: I had a person who once said “you can practice on me if you want” and really thought that would get him somewhere with me. Not only did I never ask for a test subject, but it was quite presumptuous. Not only are you suggesting my work requires more practice, but you’re making sure it benefits you. It’s rude and passive-aggressive.

Let me say, I will always be practicing my work. However, that’s on me and never a method you should use to take advantage of me or my skills. Clients like this deserve one of a couple of options:

Option 1: No. Say "no" and say it with a firm but polite demeanor.
Option 2: You don’t owe them anything, not even a response. Silence is golden.

When the Client Is Polite but Still Wants a Discount

It’s understandable that people may want a discount on their photography requests. This is normal. There is always a polite response that can serve both of you. The simplest way to say this would be:

I can appreciate that you like the work and are hoping for a bit of a price reduction. I’m also excited to be working with you! I always look for ways to reward my repeat clients because I value loyalty. And I look forward to putting you on that list of elite clients to receive a future loyalty rate!

There are five ways to say "no" to free or discounted work. Watch the video to catch all five and go into a little more detail on the ones already mentioned. Your career will be determined by the jobs you decline. Choose wisely. 

Walid Azami's picture

Walid Azami is a Photographer/Director and creative consultant from Los Angeles. He got his start working with Madonna + Co by contributing to her many projects. It was then he realized his place in the creative world & began teaching himself photography. He has since shot Kanye, Mariah Carey, Usher, Bernie Sanders, JLO, amongst others

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Great article/video. I love the way that you structure your responses to always be polite and considerate while telling them exactly what you need. Thank you for the pointers.

Thank you Carlos. Normally the comments on this website like to tear apart lol so this is very appreciated.

Watch this great video from a screenwriter who talks about someone wanting to use his work for free, and anytime he says screenwriter, substitute photographer.

LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:) thank you