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One of the most frightening things for photographers is having to negotiate for their bread and butter and having to talk somebody into paying them, and not someone else to take the shots. Unfortunately, in today’s economy and photographer-saturated world, there is no dancing around it. If you want to go pro, sooner or later you will have your first negotiation and chances are you’re going to hate it. A lot of photographers are artistic characters, and business is not their strong point, to say the least. They would much rather have someone else do the money talking for them and concentrate on photography only.
But negotiating doesn’t have to be that hard. Sure, it can be a pain in the butt in the beginning, but as you gradually learn how to use some tools, it becomes a lot easier, even fun. The word “No” is one of these powerful tools. First of all, without it, there would be no such thing as a negotiation. It would simply be called agreement without any options. No is a scary thing to say, especially when you’re a rookie and next month’s rent depends on the talk.
The first thing you need to do is assess the situation and spot the kind of negotiation you’re about to get into. You have to tell if saying NO is an option, because sometimes it just isn’t.
If you are at a contract negotiation and hear something in the line of “I’m afraid this contract is nonnegotiable, you either accept it or move on” you might as well decide right there if you want it or not, because you are clearly dealing with a no flexibility situation. Fortunately, most of these cases are exceptions.
The rest of the times, the client wants to see how much they can get out of you, or in other words, how much cheaper can they buy your services. There are of course the “”poker bluffs” when a client will tell you that the budget is very tight for photography, but this situation is very rare in large cities. So how do you say no to a proposition? Well, you could start with something like “No, unfortunately I cannot afford to work on that budget”, or “No, my assistant’s presence at the location is not optional”. You can continue with something like “I’d be happy to work with you on future projects or I might be available for last minute assignments”. The basic idea behind this kind of communication is to let your client know that you have a stand and you want to keep it that way, but you are also not closing the door completely.
There is a saying among photographers: no photographer has gone bankrupt after saying no to a bad deal, but many have done so by saying yes to bad ones.