Hello. Is it better to take the underpriced jobs at a silly rate and have work coming in, or is it better to politely say thanks but no, and have nothing?
When you are just getting started I kind of have the blue collar philosophy of git what you can git when you can git it! You’re just starting. You’re inexperienced. You need to learn on the job. You’ll be doing crap work for crap pay for awhile. Hopefully you are keeping your expenses as low as possible. Hopefully you are handling $50 jobs as though they are $5,000 jobs. You have kids to feed? They don’t live long on plate of “integrity”. Sometimes you do a job just because you need grocery money today.
You do that for awhile. Some will struggle here for a year or two. Some will go through this crap for five years or more. Eventually, hopefully, if you can shoot and run a business. If you can survive this sort of boot camp then you’ll start to get the jobs you want. The ones you’ve been fighting for. You’ll have experience and skill and talent. Your expenses will be growing a bit to handle it. Your rates will get to a point where you have to start picking and choosing jobs based on rates.
Once you are at that point then you can politely say no. You have a track record to look back on and know what you can expect to come in. You will know that if you have to come down on a rate you will also have your client come down on their expectation. You want two days of work done for half my rate. I’ll do one day of work for that. You’ve made a compromise. They will have made a compromise. You navigate those things based on experience. You get that experience by doing anything you can get your hands on.
Some photographers tell new photographers that they need to get to X rate and stick to it. But new photographers don’t have the experience to get that kind of rate. Someone has to do the $500 weddings. Right? Someone with one year of experience can do that. Someone with twenty years can’t. Someone with twenty years shouldn’t be loosing sleep over the folks with one year of experience.
So. If you have to eat… take the job. Hold on to your copyright. As the late Paula Learner used to say… “If you are getting screwed on a job then at least know that you’re getting screwed.” Know why you are working for a bad rate. Know why it is a bad rate. Know why you are getting paid dirt to deliver gold. You’re at the bottom. That’s ok. You have to start there. Just don’t stay there.
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