I’m Being Asked For COVID Discounts – Help!

I’m Being Asked For COVID Discounts – Help!

M Asks: I’m getting quite a few requests for shoots starting late April / May. Everyone is pleading poverty, from £120m new openings (who I know had already budgeted marketing) to £10m refurbs. Every quote so far has asked for a reduction in fees. My own view is that I won’t lower my fee (mostly because my expenses & talent are same as pre-covid and I have a gut feeling that if I lower it, it will be impossible to raise later) but I am being super-flexible on pretty much all else. Anyway, assume this is happening to everyone else so just thought it could be useful to have an article to help out with some strategies to hold firm on rates.

Yep, it’s happening to me too. I had one company ask for a reduction in fees because their business, with offices in London, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris – had a reduction in business due to their showroom closures.

I’m sorry. My one-bedroom-apartment operation which grosses less in a year than your company does in a day doesn’t care. I’ll be sure to pour one out for your multi-national conglomerate with 1500 employees, though.

My approach is pretty simple. No discounts, but increased flexibility. Under no circumstances does the economic uncertainty mean you should be discounting your rates. As you astutely mentioned, you are still doing the same work, using the same skills, and using the same tools. Asking for a discount implies that not only does the company hiring you not respect your skills, but also you as a person. Asking you to work during a global f-ing pandemic at reduced rates is preposterous, especially in places where society has collectively decided to forge ahead, despite the risks.

Not to mention – nearly everyone in our industry is making a killing right now. Contractors are booked up six months+ out, materials costs are at an all time high, and the real estate market is booming. Maybe the rental market is down, but the cost of photography for a development is a mere drop in the bucket. I had a more colorful analogy loaded up here, but I want to keep this a family-friendly site!

Now, the one area where I have seen it make sense to be more flexible is in timelines. I have had projects be pushed back an inordinate amount of time – months in some cases – due to supplier-side delays and transit issues. Those are very real, so I’ve been flexible. I’m not charging any fees for cancellations and reschedules besides my usual deposit, which is required to book a date in the first place. I want to be easy to work with, so for the time being am being relatively flexible there.

I suppose at the end of the day, if anything, we should be raising our prices to work in this environment. We have to bear the cost of PPE, new restrictions, liability for ourselves and our own contractors, and the added risk, however large or small, depending on your circumstances. There can be a lot more legwork that goes into pulling a shoot off these days, especially if the client is not on set but wants to see images as they are taken (basically long-distance tethering!).

I think you get it – under no circumstances should you offer a discount!

Mike Kelley is an architecture and interiors photographer who has photographed projects all over the world. He is a self proclaimed airplane food enthusiast and the founder of the Architectural Photography Almanac.
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