Over the last dozen or so years I’ve learned a few things about how to discuss rates with clients and some of the better ways to negotiate rates to earn what you believe is fair for your work ethics.

First off you should establish some structure or baseline for your services. What do you truly believe your work is worth? Now, only you can set your own worth. No one can tell you what you are worth. That said, client’s will determine whether or not they agree with what you think you are worth in the end. Regardless, spend some time to figure out what you feel your work is worth.

Secondly, when you are asked to give a quote or price, do not quote or price immediately. Never do it over the phone when a prospective client calls you. I just had this recently when an ad agency called me asking me to give a quote to do a quick photo shoot the next day. Instead I requested as much information as possible, I asked plenty of questions about the project and the future usage of the images from the project. Once I have ever detail, I can then begin to determine the best rate to handle this project. This way I am not making a random, not well thought-out, guestimate for my services. When you do this – you give yourself the time to think through every facet of the photo shoot and then send in your proposal or estimate for services.

As a quick side note, it is perfectly acceptable to ask a client what their budget for the work services is. They may not be able to or want to tell you – but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Make sure everything in your estimate is line-itemed. You don’t need to show the line items but if a client comes back to you and asked you to work for less – you can adjust your rates in proportion to the work you’re being asked to do.

Let me give you an example of how a model can do this.

Let’s say you are asked to work a booth at an expo for 8 hours and you bid $800 – so $100 per hour. The company comes back and says “well, we can only pay you $500.” If you just take that lower rate, that is the same as saying you didn’t believe you deserved the higher rater. So you can make an adjustment.

For example you can say you are willing to work six hours and get a paid lunch from the deal. Or you can do six hours and the company gives you a certain amount of products.

This is all assuming you want to take the job of course. If you use that technique when negotiating, you are never having to undo or undercharge the rates you set and you remain in control of what you’re requesting and willing to work for.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto