About once a month I get a panicky e mail or phone call from a former student wanting me to help them price a job. More often than not, they have gotten a really nice phone call from a marketing, advertising or PR firm saying nice things about their work and wanting them to shoot something that they are told is simple and won’t take too much time. The best thing to do is to ask all the relevant questions that will help you price the job. There is no easy solution or number you have to throw out there… you have to go through all the motions that you would go through as you would with any job.
1. Do they have a location? Is it “Free” or is there a location fee? Do I need to find a location? Permits for location?
2. Are models needed? Do I have to cast models? What is your budget for models? Is there a certain look you would like?
3. Styling (clothes) for models? Hair and Make-up? Budget for this?
4. Which of my pictures in my portfolio did you like? Is that the look you want for the images I will shoot for you?
5. Length of USAGE for the images? 1 year? 2 years? 5 years? (Usage is something you might have to negotiate.)
6. What is your budget for the entire shoot? (more about this later.)
7. Will you need the images to be re-touched? Â (If so, include retouching fees, and a retouching schedule.)
8. What is the final format you would like the images to be in? Tiffs? jpegs? PSD?
9. How would you like the images delivered to you?
Once you have all the information, you can proceed with your estimate. Keep in mind that most of these jobs are jobs that the client is trying to get you to shoot at a low cost, that is why they contacted you in the first place. There may be some sticker shock when the client sees your estimate, but you do not want to loose money and you must have your costs covered on any shoot. In the end, you will have to decide what the least amount of money is that you will shoot a job for: YOUR FEE. So if $2000. sounds great to you, $1500. alright, and $1000. is the absolute limit, then keep that in mind when you are negotiating with the client.
A former rep of mine uses this little trick to try to arrive at a number for the client’s budget:
Most of these clients will say that they don’t know what their budget is, but they don’t have a lot of money. At this point, you can get off the phone, sketch out some rough numbers for the estimate, so you know roughly what your expenses are and call them back. Say you are still working on the estimate, but you wanted to talk about their budget some more. You can say something like, “Perhaps you don’t have an exact number in mind to cover the expenses and my fee for the entire job, but how does, $10,000. sound to you?” If they gasp and make some kind of awful sound after that, say, “What about $8,000?” And if to that there response they say, “Oh no, way too high!” You can say, “Well, then you must have a number in mind that you are willing to pay. What were you thinking?” If they give you a number of say $1000., you can probably stop wasting your time. Almost all jobs will cost more in expenses (even the cheapest of the cheap!) than $1000. You can try to hedge a bit and say, “I know the expenses are going to be at least $3000.” Then if they scream and gasp again, you’re done. If they say, send me the estimate and I will try to get it approved…. you might be in business.