Last week I was having a conversation with a friend and fellow photographer. He had recently received a job offer that had him concerned. However; he was afraid to question the job simply because he didn’t want to lose it. Ironically, although he feared losing the job, he wasn’t sure he even was comfortable taking it at all.

It got me thinking about the jobs we take and how to define the terms in a way which we are comfortable and also knowing when to walk away.

Hopefully this information can be found applicable to anyone in a creative field from photographers to graphic designers to models and so on.

Truthfully; especially with the way the economy is; it is very hard to say “No” to any job. Despite how bad the terms may be. But the reality is that taking on some jobs actually ends up costing us more (either in the immediate with time being taken away from better paying work, or in the future with the potential of not getting certain projects in the future).

The following is not a fool-proof list; nor is it complete; however it does include some guiding points that have helped me. Feel free to comment and/or add to this list with things which have helped you.

1… Initially consider (before you even look at money, terms, or anything) is this a project that you see investing yourself into? Is it within your genre? Have you been wanting this job? Sometimes it is hard to look at this first. We can get so intoxicated by the terms or the money or the “illusion” of opportunity that we don’t ever stop to think if we really want the job to begin with. It’s surprised me the number of times I’ve spent countless hours figuring out how to approach and bid on a job when in hindsight I realized that I just didn’t even want the project at all. Perhaps it doesn’t help me achieve long-term goals or doesn’t meet my creative vision. Now; if you answer yes to Number 1, then you continue to explore the job. If you answer no, why continue?

2… Now it is time to consider some of the finer details. These include budget, schedule, expected results, creative control, and yes, opportunity.

3… Is the client’s budget within your needs as a business owner? If not, can you negotiate it slightly higher or revise the scope of work so it is not as time intensive. Can you increase the level of creative control you have to make the project more yours in place of budget?

4… Does the time frame of the project coincide with your schedule? Can you meet or exceed the client’s deadlines? If not; can you adjust the schedule?

5… Are you being given the creative control you feel you need to complete this project? Sometimes clients will not allow a lot; and other times they will give complete control to you. Is this something which can be negotiated juxtaposed to price?

6… How many times does the client use the words “opportunity” and “exposure” in exchange for pay? Creative artists hear those words quite often in sentences such as “well the pay isn’t much now, but there is a lot of opportunity in doing this project.” It is important to realize and understand that you determine the value of the opportunity and exposure. If you see it as a large opportunity and a significant amount of exposure; fantastic! But sometimes those are cover-up words.

Those are six of the things I look at. I will also say that when turning down a job; it is imperative to do so with the utmost level of professionalism and gratitude. This client did not HAVE TO come to you with this opportunity. And just because this opportunity may not work for you, doesn’t mean one in the future won’t. So you never shut the door completely. You show thankfulness for them to consider you. You state professionally that you cannot take the job. Perhaps you even offer a few recommendations on other professionals who could do the work. And you close with nothing how you hope to collaborate with them in the future.