Creative professionals are facing a wealth of problems when it comes to pricing. I have found that many are running  a race to the bottom.  Gear keeps getting cheaper, which is a good thing in many ways.  The problem lies in the cost barrier.

Being a professional used to have a certain barrier to entry with gear, computers, and software creating a certain threshold of investment.  These days most of those restrictions are gone. Add to this sudden influx hundreds of schools pumping out graduates and you have a cluttered workplace.

I do not say the above to be protectionist or confrontational.  The fact is that the photo, video, and design industries needs to evolve and will benefit from fresh talent and fresh ideas. Just don’t piss in the pool after you jump in. Take a look around you and see what business practices others are following.  Here are a few that I wish more would follow for the good of all:

  • Price fairly – Different businesses will need to charge differently for their services.  Still, be sure you price services so you can survive for the long term.  Be consistent with your prices and be sure to cover related costs like insurance, and equipment.
  • Don’t do spec work – There is a lot of pressure to do unpaid work.  Taking spec jobs to prove yourself or show interest in a client really only shows desperation.  Look at other professions; they don’t face these same pressures.  If you truly need to expand your portfolio, seek out legitimate nonprofit organizations and make a donation of your time and skill. You can also take on personal projects and expand your portfolio through self-funded projects that are deigned to show you in the best light.
  • Don’t badmouth your competition – Your only true competition is yourself. Speaking ill of your peers will only lower the standards of the industry as a whole.
  • Your problems are your problems – Always pay your subcontractors (even if you haven’t received client payment). Similarly, you should not accept excuses from others above you in the client chain due to delayed payments.  Make sure you responsibly keep payments flowing to those you hire.
  • Act more like a lawyer and less like an artist – I’m not saying shelve your creativity… but remember that you are a trained professional with a code of conduct. You need to remember the important aspects of client management, professional communication, and ethical business practices if you want to succeed  for the long term.


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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Great post Richard. I couldn’t agree with you more. As you know from my presentation at SCU, I am a HUGE advocate of personal projects over spec. Bring on the creativity!

  2. Great points! I also dislike when I see photographers bash potential clients with facts about the photo industry. It makes them sound cocky and does more harm than good.

  3. Great advice – and I would expand your last comment to include that “Golden Rule”. Treat others as you want to be treated – keep your promises, and if there are problems, communicate early. Bad news rarely improves with keeping and an early notice can sometimes allow everyone to minimize the impact..


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


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