When you’ve nothing else to do

Occasionally I’m asked to work for a fee the client sets, a fee far below what it costs me to do the work and certainly far less than the benefit the client would get from the images I would make for them.

The client will try to justify this by arguing that the work is flexible and I can do it “when you’ve nothing else on” as if when I’m not shooting pictures I must be sitting around, twiddling my thumbs waiting for the phone to ring or desperately wishing I was working for less than it costs me to do the job.

Tim Gander sits before a strobe softbox looking into the lit panel

Spare time to take selfies? No, testing a new lightbox before a big assignment.

In practice, the work isn’t always that flexible either. It might be weather dependent, or rely on the availability of other people, or it might even be on a set date. This kind of “opportunity” also ignores the after-shoot processing and administration which is attendant to doing any assignment at all, regardless of the fee involved.

In any event, if a client requires photography, booking a date when I haven’t anything else on is kind of how my business works. There isn’t a single assignment I do that gets booked into a slot when I’m already working, being that I am not omnipresent or master of quantum physics and thereby able to occupy two dimensions at once.

If I happen to have assignments which will clash I let the client know and offer to take on the administration of the job but pass the work to one of a network of trusted colleagues. That way the client gets to deal with me, the job gets covered by a trusted photographer and everyone is happy.

Conversely to being double-booked, what happens on days when I’m not shooting? Surely that’s a day off isn’t it? No. Anyone who runs a proper, grown-up business will know the astounding amount of administration which is attendant with keeping things running smoothly, or in my case just keeping them running.

I’ve spent much of August doing my end-of-year accounts. When I’m not keeping on top of the books, I’m backing up work, archiving it to my searchable database, updating my website, improving my SEO, making contact with clients to keep in touch, setting up meetings, shooting test images to try out new techniques, writing blog articles… I’m just scratching the surface here, and all this happens around assignments which are booked by clients willing to pay my fees.

Every day of every week I’m putting in the hours. Sometimes I’ll scale back the time I work in order to remain sane; I might even take a day off, but this year I haven’t managed a proper holiday. I haven’t been away anywhere, because so far it’s been my busiest year since I left the Portsmouth News to go freelance 15 years ago. And after the struggles I experienced at the start of the credit crunch (one day I’m going to invent a biscuit with that name) I’m determined to make the most of the resurrection I’ve experienced over the last two years.

That has been and will continue to be a lot of hard work; work I’ll be doing when I’ve nothing else to do.

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One comment

  • John Fowler September 3, 2013   Reply →

    Photography is kinda like the 20-80 rule. 20% fun (shooting), 80% plain hard work (running the bus.)

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