Step Three: Successfully Bidding On Jobs
So successfully bidding on jobs. So you got them engaged in conversation. Here are some things to consider. Do you need the money? Number one. I'm not going to dissuade you from bidding a low amount on a job if you're desperate for money. A lot of photographers say, you're killing the industry. You charged how much for that job? Okay, if you can't put food on the table and feed your family, that has no bearing on anything. Take the job if you know you can get the job, and they say, our budget is $600, but you know it's worth $1,000, but you're willing to do it for $ to put food on the table, by all means, take the job. That being said, you should also consider if you do not need the money. And that is where you really have the power to bid, and bid at will on these jobs. So if you don't need the money, you A, instantly act less desperate. And like I said, it's a dating game. The cooler you act, the more likely they are to want you. Do you not need the money? (laughs) It's totally true.
You guys are laughing. I swear to God. So if you don't need the money, you can send a completely unbiased quote, right? Here are the facts. This is what it's gonna cost. When the job is awarded to you, you have hopefully bid appropriately on it, you will not harbor any ill will towards the client for overworking you, and you'll do a great job with great photos. I mean, you can also obviously be motivated if you need the money, but if you don't need it, you come from a place of power, and it's really cool. Do you want the project in your portfolio? Yes, I have worked for free. Some things are so freaking cool, I will shoot them for free just to put it in my portfolio. I still do it all the time. I have more work coming at me than I know what to do with. I still carve out weeks at a time to just do personal work. So if it's something cool in your portfolio, be flexible on the price. If the client comes to you and says, we have $1,000 for this, and you know that it's worth 10 grand, but it's the coolest new high-rise in town, you could use it in your marketing. There's a value inherent in that to have it in your portfolio, to be able to put that in your mailer, your nice mailer that I told you about, send it out, and everyone will see that and be like, oh, my God, John shot that, and it's amazing. We gotta hire him for our next project. There is value in having something good like that in your portfolio. I try not to cut my rates at this point, but I'll still do it. There's some things that I just think are totally cool and worth having. So be flexible if you can. And do you have the skills? Nothing can really tear you down quicker than taking on a job that you're completely undergunned for. And by that, I mean if you need to shoot a brand new development and high-rise, these really cool condos, and you don't have the know-how to deal with huge floor-to-ceiling windows with sunlight coming straight in, nothing bad will come from referring it to someone who knows what they're doing. I have referred plenty of work away to colleagues of mine, friends of mine, guys who I think are way better than me, and every time it pays for itself over and over and over. It's kinda counterintuitive. It's like, oh, you're giving work away. But generally, I like to vet people. If they're a good person, they will remember you forever, and if they have jobs they can't do, (clicks tongue) as you get better, they'll send them to you. They'll have you assist, you'll learn things. Nothing but good comes from it. So don't be afraid to kind of refer work away. More on bidding. So what does the client want, and how complicated will the job be? A lot of times, I'll get an interior designer or a magazine, and they want it to look a certain way. They want it to look like it was in Architectural Digest or a Restoration Hardware catalog. And I'll say, okay, I personally don't do the styling, and there's a whole art to it. And people come in, and they'll tweak the blankets just right, and they'll fill the teacups up, and they'll make it look beautiful. Personally, not my thing. I'm into the composition. I'm into the photography. I mean, I could spend three hours bent over, adjusting pillows, and fluffing blankets and all that, but if they wanna hire a stylist, they can do it, or you can build it into your cost. I have a few stylists that I keep their number in my phone. I call them up if I know it's a big job and I need their help. And I say, hey, so-and-so magazine wants a shoot, and they have a pretty aggressive schedule. I don't wanna style everything, and you know how to do it better than I do. I will build a stylist into the quote. Props. Sometimes you need to bring props. Sometimes the props are there, so. If I need to organize props if I'm trying to for a commercial client, say they want to create a lifestyle feel, sometimes it's our job to organize the props. And a stylist kinda tie into this, but we may have to bring furniture. We may have to bring computers, and stands, and flowers, and all kinds of stuff. It's like a smorgasbord of things I can bring. I have to build it into my price. So as you can see, the more complicated jobs get, you need to bill for these things. Is there a certain time of day that the picture needs to be taken at? If someone wants me there at four in the morning, I'm gonna charge more than if they wanted me there at 11:00. I'm a 27-year-old male. Let's be honest. I don't wanna get up at three in the morning to be somewhere at four in the morning. Of course, I'm gonna charge more for it. If they can do it at night, that's fine, too. But it's not just time of day, but it's all kinds of complications and difficulties. So how hard is it going to be to get the light just right? How many chances will you have? If someone wants a twilight photo, you get one chance per day, unless you don't. Sometimes you can do it in the morning. I don't bother with that, really. I try to do them at night. You have time to get ready, you can see what you're doing. You only get one shot at that. So if there's a lot riding on it, if it's a hotel that they are booking up, and you need the room for a whole night, and it's a penthouse suite, and they can't make money on it, it's a $15,000 a night suite, you have one chance to get the shot. That's a lot more pressure, a lot more difficulty than if I had an entire day to just screw around and make a daylight photo. So I'm gonna bill more for that. Billing for travel and transportation. I travel all over the place, and this always comes up. Now, I don't know if you guys have any questions about billing for travel, any questions that have come up online, but there's two ways to do it. You can do a flat rate for that, or you can have the client book your travel. I usually try to get a stipend for food, and gas, and meals, and that thing. If you're using your own car, I bill, the IRS, at least in California, IRS mileage is 55 cents a mile. I will do a little Google Maps chart, and then I'll add a daily stipend to that. That generally takes care of gas and maintenance on your car, and it's just an easy write-off. Let's see. Always make it worth the time and effort. I said earlier that if you need to take something in your portfolio, there's still a value in that. It could be worth the effort. But if you underbid, I'm telling you, you're gonna regret it the whole time you're working on the job. Because I can tell you what happens. Without fail, every time I underbid, there's some magical force at play that says, I'm gonna make your life hell. This client's gonna want all kinds of retouching. They're gonna want all kinds of revisions. They're gonna want all kinds of crazy requests. They're not gonna know what's going on. You didn't get paid what you're worth. You're gonna be grumbling about this, because you've done far more than you should've for a price far less than what you should've bid. So when you can, always, always, just I struggle with this all the time, but bill what you think the job should really cost. Look at someone that you're fond of, a photographer, and say, what would so-and-so charge for this? Charge that, because that's what it should really cost. Send a quote. If you don't hear back, follow up once, and hopefully, they'll award you the job. Here we are, next part. Client awards you the contract. Prepare for the shoot appropriately. What I do is I'll get the address. I will scout with an app called LightTrac or Sun Seeker, and you can basically aim your phone at a certain place, and it will tell you where the sun will be and when, which is very useful for planning your day. I always go in with a plan. And I try to follow the sun to make my job easier. And you can use the sun to make your photos more interesting. So know where the sun is gonna be. Know when you wanna do exteriors, when you wanna do interiors. You wanna make sure that you don't spend an entire day doing interiors, then oh, you forgot, you need an exterior, but the sun's gone, and the house is in shadow. So you need to know where the sun's gonna be and when, so planning your day is pretty big. You need to coordinate access and details with the location owner. I've had shoots where I learned this lesson, a very hard lesson, the homeowner had no idea I was coming. I'm locked out, I drove an hour. Or I've gotten $200 parking tickets in Downtown Los Angeles, because I get to a hotel and they don't have parking arranged for me. And I'm loading gear in and out, and I'm fighting with the police officer. It's ridiculous. So please always coordinate access and the details with the location owner. And you can see as I go through this and make it more and more complicated, you'll know why I told you to bid what the job should cost. Send information to everyone letting them know your plans ahead of time. You wanna tell them when you're gonna be where, what you're gonna be doing, if furniture's gonna be moved, homeowner, client, anyone else involved in the shoot. I have done shoots on multimillion-dollar houses. And again, a hard lesson, I figured my client would tell the homeowner that I'm gonna come in and move furniture and turn things upside down. The client did not communicate that. I have been chewed out (laughs) like a cartoon through the phone with the sound waves coming out, telling me about how I've ruined everything, and I did a millimeter-long scratch on the floor. Let whoever's in charge know what's gonna be going on. It'll save you a lot of headache. Get ready the day before. Again, it goes without saying. Charge your batteries. Get your cards ready. Everything's in the bag. I pride myself on I've only forgotten one thing in my entire life, (tapping) knock on wood. I forgot a card one time, and I vowed to never do it again. I have a checklist that I go through every night, make sure I've got everything. It's pretty obvious stuff, but when you have all this going on, and coordinating, and doing locations and scouting, it's easy to forget. So it's almost like a whole day of pre-prep before shooting.