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Estimating and Invoicing

Lesson 8 from: Building a Successful Photography Business in a Small Market

Clay Cook

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Lesson Info

8. Estimating and Invoicing

Lesson Info

Estimating and Invoicing

Estimating and invoicing. I think one of the most important assets to building an estimate is the Internet. This comes back to Nike and sort of Bob's Hardware. Research the project and gain a bearing on how much you think that this client is potentially willing to invest in your photography. The more money that they have, the more they're willing to invest. So judge the prospect, do a ton of research into who this company is, who this person is, who are they? Ask a lot of questions, the more questions that can be answered regarding the project, the more foundation that you'll have to properly quote a high but reasonable ballpark fee. I tend to ask a series of like 10 questions regarding the amount of final imagery, including do you have an idea of the budget? Do you have an idea of what you'd like to spend? I ask a few creative questions, I ask some usage questions. So ask a lot of questions, flesh it out. If you've got to hop on the phone, that's cool. Educate and communicate. Once th...

e questions have been answered then I go into detail on the entire process. Often I take this opportunity to hop on a phone call, talk to them, sort of flesh out this creative, creativity, the creative side of the project and get a better idea of who I'm talking to on the quote. I never discuss numbers on the phone though. I always go to e mail because I want that to be documented in writing. It's important to include and line out fees, terms and conditions in your estimate, so upon approval, you want to make sure everything is clearly defined. I use BlinkBid or QuickBooks to draft estimates, it's great resources for a professional looking estimate. And of course shoot for the stars, you'll land somewhere in the sky, you know, that's what they say. You're always more valuable than you think you are, charge high. I guess it's always terrifying to click that like Send button on a high estimate, but you'd be surprised on how many bids I've won with zero negotiation. Make sure it's very clear and the prospect knows, though, that revisions can be made and you can talk it through and you can negotiate. So these are details, I'm going to kind of run through this real quick, that you need to make sure that you have on estimates and invoices. The date, date of project, title of project, description of project, client name, name, address, contact detail, the total amount owed, the terms of payment, this is net 30, net 60, net 90, how many days they have to pay this invoice and then of course the terms and conditions, the contract. My estimates are essentially my agreements, my contracts. So this is a real world estimate. This is for Leap, which is a digital marketing advertising agency in Louisville, Kentucky. Their client was AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia. This estimate was built using BlinkBid. And this estimate, again, acts like the contract. I, in the editorial space most clientele will provide their own contract and I only need to provide the invoice. But in the commercial space, again, my estimate is my agreement. So you can see how all these fees are sort of broken down by expenses, and of course I have the creative and, creative combined licensing fee, which is my fee. I have scout days, production days, first assistant, second assistants, digital text, hair and makeup, all that stuff I have to pay for and it's an expense. These are real world invoices that I've created in QuickBooks online, I love QuickBooks. On the left was a negotiated assignment fee for Popular Mechanics. And then on the right over here was an invoice for a jewelry store in Louisville, Kentucky where I did line out the expenses in this invoice very simply. But all of this is usually discussed very much ahead of time. You know when people receive this they have a clear understanding of what it's going to take. Negotiation, so there's a couple of business ideals that I learned from my dad, who has built a successful flooring distribution company from the ground up, one of them was negotiation. This can kind of be a treacherous process for some but the reward is always worth it. A lot of prospects prefer not to negotiate, while others will honestly jump back and forth with you and that's kind of fun. I guess it all depends on the person on the other line and how much you both want to make it work. You must ask yourself, what is the goal and what do you want? And you have to know what you want. That's very important with negotiation. You need to have options in your back pocket. Where can you cut corners? Can you waive this assistant fee? Can you, what's marked up for cushion where you can take the hit? Know where you can cut some corners. And most importantly know what's the lowest fee you're willing to go before it's not worth it to you. Know who you're talking to, what's their title? Are they the ones making the final call? How much power do they actually have? Are they going to buckle easily, stand their grounds? Who are you talking to? I think personality can tell a lot about somebody and how far they're willing to go to get the job done. And of course it's always remained, important to remain calm, confident. I think passionate people are generally emotional people. So it's crucial to sort of remove the emotion out of the situation, again, it's business, guys. And finally, you must be willing to walk away. So I remember walking the streets of New York City as like a 10 year old, and my dad would bounce back and forth with these street vendors with like an eight dollar pair of sunglasses or like 12 dollar bootleg CDs. And I remember if it wasn't a good deal he would just walk away, soon to be chased down the street by the vendor to close the deal. It was actually a very magical process to watch. But if you go in the deal without the approach of desperation, you'll find negotiation a lot easier. You've got to accept the fact that whatever you're trying to win, you may lose. You've got to be willing to walk away. And so I'm going to close and then go into some questions with this. My success, again, was built on creativity, strategy and relentless action, a pure goal to accomplish everything that I set in my path. So don't chase the money, chase the dream. And that's hugely important and how I built a successful commercial photography business. So, Kenna, we have some questions? Fantastic, thank you so much Clay. We've got some great comments coming in already. From Carol, awesome information, one of the best classes, I'm really enjoying your approach, so thank you. Yeah! So thank you, Clay. Thank you. But yeah, we've got a good amount of time for questions, just as you hoped. So going back to, there's a couple questions about going back to when you were getting started and I know we talked a lot about sort of that power of relationships. Yep. But did you also, this is from Garehart, who said, did you also do cold calls to break into the market, mailings, or any other form of when you don't actually already have those relationships? That's a good question, I do those now actually. I don't do cold calls, but I do e mail newsletters and I do mailers, promo mailers. And the reason why I waited for so long is because I didn't feel I truly had the work to make that ROI, the return on the investment into those mailers and into the time it took to do all that stuff. And so in a small market in which I was located, or a medium sized market whatever, relationships played much more of a role than, you know, cold calls or e mail blasts or mailing, you know mailers at the time. So, I think it's important to do it once you've built up a substantial product, you know. But you've got to make sure you have the product to back up that stuff. And so who now then do you go about mailing? Like how do you figure out who to mail, what their position is, how to find them? Yeah, so I use a resource called Agency Access. Agency Access is a, sort of a resource to build lists on potential clients where they give you e mails and mailing addresses and people that you can send mailings out to, or send e mails out to. I also am represented by a consulting company called Found, in which they do portfolio reviews and they send me all the e mails of whoever has seen my portfolio. And then I can e mail them updated work, I can e mail them and try to nurture and build that relationship from there. Cool, thank you. Yeah. Yeah? So, from a commercial standpoint, how do you balance the direction you're given versus what you might want to do creatively and then keep it efficient? Well, you know, if you're, you know, if you kind of brand yourself as the expert then, and you build a loyal sort of trusting relationship with people, then they trust you and they trust your eye and they trust your creativity. A lot of my clients come to me, local clients, they come to me and they're just like, just do whatever. You know here's, here's what we're going to give you, just do your thing. And so that's a large responsibility of course, but it's also because I've built such a loyal trusting relationship, and I am the expert in that particular field and so they trust me to build that product for them. So a lot of times I'm sort of given like this small creative brief and then I've got to like take it further. I've got to go above and beyond, I've got to go take the creativity, whether that's I partner with a creative director, I partner with whoever I need to get on board and on staff to take this sort of, you know, across the finish line. I have a question in regards to the music industry. Mm hmm. And going from that and wanting to cross over from the crew and say back of house side and going directly into, working directly with the artist and the commercialism of working directly with those labels and stuff. Mm hmm. And doing photography directly with them and breaking into that, how would you do that without maybe just doing a free show every night type situation? So what's the goal there? Do you want to shoot like concerts? Or do you want to shoot like portraits of the bands, or both? Concerts and capture that audience, but directly work with the audience as opposed to like venue side or maybe publications side, where you're not always going to be taken care of very well? And you're not maybe going to give the direct freedom or access that maybe an artist will or maybe you know work on them, on their level, you know. I think it's important because there are a lot of people that do that, is to do something that just stands out in that sort of industry, whether that's stylistically, whether that's a personal project, whether that's doing something that can gain attention from the people that make decisions in that world. And then just owning it, you know, owning who you are, owning your brands, having a great social media to back it up, having of course a great product to back it up. And I think just doing everything you can to rise above the noise in that world of concert photography. And then of course building relationships with bands is a huge thing, building relationships with people that make decisions like tour managers, you know, front of house, like whatever, whoever you can build a relationship with to make that sort of easier, transition easier. That could also include publicists or whoever, you know, but I think that if you do something to really stand out from everyone else and then you start nurturing and building those relationships on a ground level, that will make the strides much greater, you know? I had a question on the commercial licensing. Yeah. If you, let's say you do a product shoot for somebody and you license the use of the image for a year, at the end of that year and your images are all up on their website and everything, what happens at that point? That's a good question. I think it needs to be a clear understanding that this term of use. I think that's the biggest faults with a lot of scenarios where that would happen is that communication is just, there's not much communication there. That time period needs to be in writing, it needs to be very specific, very detailed and very much communicated to the client and say, hey, after a year, this has got to cease to be on your website. But honestly from my experience with time periods, the people that do get time periods, like they're already onto the next big thing on their website by the time that that time period comes up. Like they're already hitting you up for their second, third marketing campaign or their next whatever phase of whatever they're doing by the time that time period runs up. I've only had people extend time periods like a few times, like a, I, you know, under five times. Because most of the time that people branded do have time periods, again, they're, they've already phased out those images by that time. But if it does happen, then that's a legal issue, you know, that's cease and desist, you know. You just approach them and say, hey, you know, like this time period's ended, would you like to extend your license? And if they refuse then, then you've got to go to that world of cease and desist. Or just invoice them, you know, either one, because they're using the images without your permission technically at that point, so. A question from online from Jeff. And thank you for actually laying out some of those details of what to charge and some estimates of how much to charge. Hard numbers, yeah. Yeah, so thank you for that. Are there resources out there in the commercial world as to where else that you could figure out how to know what to charge? That's a good, it's tough because again, like there's so many agencies and photographers that like use their own language or use their, it's a sliding, it's such a sliding scale. But there are a couple of great resources, one is BlinkBid's a great resource to use for generating estimates. And then fotoQuote, if you're really confused on licensing fotoQuote is a great software to basically plug in the exact terms of what this license is, just like we kind of laid out. And it'll give you a scale, just like I did, of what to charge. Now with licensing, because I am in Louisville, Kentucky, I usually go on that low end, you know, I'm cutting that by 40 percent, I'm cutting that high number by 40 percent or 50 percent sometimes because it is a smaller market, so I usually land on that lower end. But fotoQuote's a great resource, if you're just like utterly confused on where those numbers are. Other than that, you know, the consulting firm I work with, Wonderful Machine, has a great few blogs on their site to, it lines out sort of the commercial space a lot and how to build estimates and gives real world estimates, you know, that they've done in the past and generated in the past. And that was, again, what was the name of it? Wonderful Machine. Wonderful Machine, great. Yeah. For everyone at home. So it's basically a consulting firm that I work with, that sort of plays my agency in a lot of these, a lot of these negotiations and a lot of the estimate building and they have a blog which is a great awesome resource for learning a little bit more about commercial licensing and the muddy water that it is, I guess. That's great, thank you for that. All right, we have another question as you, similar to what you just mentioned, but the question from Dev Photo is, do you deal mostly with brands directly, or with an agency, does it make a difference? And does it make a difference in how the clients then perceive you? Yes, I'm so glad that this was brought up. I didn't find really place to put this in the presentation, but I'm glad this question was asked. I use Wonderful Machine, I pay them a flat rate to basically act as my agency, act as a third party. Because when you're going into generating estimates and going into negotiation, going into all this stuff, having a third party can look really good on your perceived value. So suddenly someone's going into this and they're like, we need this photo shoot. And I say, hey, I'm copying my agent, Craig, who's going to walk you through the process and he's going to generate an estimate and then he just takes over from there. He'll hop on a call, he'll talk to them, he'll flesh out all the numbers and he'll give them an estimate. And a lot of times if I was to do that then the perceived value would be much lower. Because, you know, I am working with an agent that, I mean it looks a lot better. Now real agencies and real representatives, producers for example, tend to charge up to like 25, 30 percent, so it can be very expensive to be represented by somebody. So I prefer to actually just use a consulting firm to do all that on a flat rate basis and it's a lot less expensive, it's the secret. (laughs) And that's great, and. Yeah. When did you make that, when did you, when are you at a point when it's acceptable to do that, or when those reps will work with you, or? I've been doing that for a long time. OK. I think I started using Wonderful Machine to sort of play that role a couple years ago. And it's, I've learned so much. I'm honestly like, I don't think that I could talk to you about a lot of these numbers without that help from them, without that knowledge that was shared by the number of years of generating estimates. Like I'll put in so many bids, I might only get one, you know, I might only get a couple of them. But I've learned a lot through that failure and learned a lot through putting in those bids and not winning them of, you know, where I need to land either locally, nationally and internationally. So it's been very helpful to work with them. All right, awesome! Yeah. Well, do you have any final words for everyone? First of all, like where can they follow you, how can they follow you? And maybe then a little preview of what you have coming up for us in your next class. Yeah, so I love social media. It's, you know, I said in the beginning of my presentation that I started dabbling around in MySpace and Friendster a long way ago. So you can find me all over social media at Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, @ClayCookPhoto, Facebook, ClayCookPhoto. I have a blog which, if you want to learn more about my international projects and some of the NGOs that I've worked with over the years, especially in Iraq and Wings of Kilimanjaro and in Tanzania, Water Boys and whatever, I line a lot of that stuff out in my blog, I do a lot of behind the scenes stuff on my blog as well. So check out my blog and then of course my website, ClayCookPhoto. And something I don't have on here is my e mail address, I make it very public so that if anyone has any questions ever you can e mail me, I will always respond, I will always get back to you within a reasonable time. But yeah, so I put it out there, you can always e mail me if you have questions. I love talking about this stuff and I love empowering others and helping others. And that's really been a variable of a success for me. So yeah, I'm going to be talking about tethering. So going into that world of efficiency, going into that world of time is money we're going to be talking about tethering and really why it's important for me on set and sort of the journey of where I am to now. And the journey of all the, you know, sort of the technical stuff I've been through to get to the production level I am now on my sets.

Ratings and Reviews

Koko Hunt

I love Clay Cook, his stories and his teaching method. He is genuine and to the point. This class is very concise and easy to follow; it touches on basic yet important points that are practical and useful. He provides good insights into commercial photography business for a small market, using some good, benchmarkable examples.


Clay Cook gets into the nitty gritty of the business side of photography. He is super informative and confidently concise about his knowledge and experience in the industry. As a modestly-small business owner, I found this course to be insightful and motivating. It is very helpful, and I highly recommend it!


I really appreciate how he just lays out numbers. I think that's super helpful for the industry as a whole, and it sets some perspective of how much guac photographers can really make.

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