Never Work for Free

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Three Gossips at Night, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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I see too many photographers busting their butts for a solid paycheck, working so hard for so little. Oftentimes these photographers are setting their own prices, and then finding clients who will pay those prices. If you factor in the amount of work it takes to schedule a portrait session, consult with the client before-hand (what to wear, what to bring, etc.), show up, photograph them, go home, process the photos, post them to an online gallery (which you probably pay for), and then have them maybe buy some prints, how much could you have really made? What is your bottom line? It will be different for everyone, but chances are a few hundred dollars for a single session is not going to cover it … not if you want to make photography a significant income.

People who do this are working for free. Or, even worse, they may even be working at a loss.

Here’s the thing: Never work for free.

Instead, work for reciprocal value. If what you have to offer can be valued by someone else, then you should be equally compensated for your time, skill, energy and technical expertise. Money, of course, is typically the preferred form of exchange. But what about working for a cause? Gratitude and improving your sense of well-being can be a huge motivation. Or maybe you are working for a trade, such as receiving a product in exchange for a blog post with a review. Maybe it’s just so you can see your name in print, and that may be extremely valuable to you.

In order to continue doing what we love there always needs to be balance, skepticism, and the ability to say no. How you value your time and energy will change over the years. Be sure to react accordingly.

By | 2016-12-18T17:00:57+00:00 December 3rd, 2013|3 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Portland, Oregon, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

3 Comments

  1. Vijay December 4, 2013 at 7:16 am - Reply

    Totally agree with you Nicole.
    Coming from Indian market perspective, it so happens that “Photography” is just click and print. The amount of physical effort, creative effort and value added is generally not thought of by clients. Vice verse is also true, photographers are ready to work for low prices hence underselling.

    Vijay
    @_lightcraft
    http://www.lightcraft.in

  2. Rokaiya December 6, 2013 at 2:48 am - Reply

    Yes NIcole you are right and it is happening not only in photography section, in other many section. some people always offer free trail, cheep cost etc.. We should avoid it as a professional worker.

  3. Mitch March 12, 2014 at 11:09 am - Reply

    What you’re describing is why I switched careers, from being a pro photog to being an IT guy. The same thing happened graphic designers and typographers; cheap computing power and software, combined with ready access to cameras that do all of the thinking for you has really gone a long way to drive the market price for images down to just one dollar ($1). Think I’m kidding? Check out the following link and see for yourself: http://www.dollarphotoclub.com/

    Now I just shoot for my own enjoyment.

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