Howdy Zack, I've recently run into a situation where a client is mildly 'miffed' that one of their direct competitors has hired me as their publicity photographer. They're both in the same space. I politely mentioned that the competing theatre uses some of the same actors/set/lighting designers/wardrobe personnel as they do. Obviously I don't want to turn down a new client, but at the same time I don't want to piss off a long standing one either. Any words of wisdom? Thanks!
Ooooooo. Hmmmm. I have not been in this position before.
That sucks that your regular client has even put mild pressure on you about this. You have a business to run and in some ways, if they want you to be their exclusive photographer then they should pay you to be their exclusive photographer. That’s how big business work. Big ACME Corp wants the exclusive claim on a product or service from a third party vendor? They pay for that exclusivity.
I’d have a polite but frank discussion with this client. You have bill to pay. If the competitor can’t glean inside information from you then you should be able to work for both companies. Offer to sign an NDA or something so your current client feels assured that any inside info you have won’t be shared.
I have one regular commercial client that I have signed an NDA with. If I happened to start shooting for a direct competitor of theirs then I’d sign an NDA with the other company and work with them in a completely different space. If the first client came to me and said, “We don’t want you to work for any other competitors.” then they would have pay for exclusivity. As it stands now they have not asked that. As it stands now I don’t have that situation. So… I don’t have direct experience with it but an NDA can put minds at ease. Loose lips sink ships and all that.
If this long standing client is truly a great long standing client and they give you regular work then it might be the right decision to turn down the new client. As hard as that may be. The other philosophy here is you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you but it sucks to be strong armed into that position.
The last option is to take on the new client and, if you can, bring on an associate photographer to shoot for them. You at least still get a cut of the work and it keeps you from being directly involved with it.
Have that conversation though. Take them to a nice lunch. Say “pretty please” a lot. :)