Mistakes and Lessons Learned

I have made many mistakes in this business.  I think the biggest one was when I tried to conform to be like “industry standard” type of photographers.  The problem with being an industry standard photographer is that there are so many people who are doing this type of work.  It is like striving to be mediocre.  Why work so hard to be unoriginal?

I definitely do not see the world like everyone else so why would I want to shoot like everyone else?  It just doesn’t make sense at all.  And honestly, the money is not better when you conform.  It actually raised my production cost therefore I really didn’t make any more money in the end.

Another mistake was letting the old saying of “The customer is always right” get into my business plan.  No, the customer is not always right, especially when they are asking for freebies!  I had a client years ago who made it impossible for me to do my job.  When he didn’t like the end result he kept asking me to make it better, he then wanted to get his hands on the post production end and he still wasn’t happy.  He then insisted on free items to compensate for him not liking the final results.  After giving him a bunch of stuff I realized he was never going to be happy and he just wanted free stuff.  This was an expensive lesson to learn, but if someone wants that much control over my shoot I won’t do it.

The most recent mistake was working for a friend’s business and helping them build up their business.  We had a verbal agreement which seemed to be thrown out with the trash once they realized they could make more money if they didn’t continue on with the terms we both set.  And instead of them just telling me up front that things had changed they made up excuses and it ended up ending a working relationship as well as a friendship.  My mistake was not confronting this immediately and waiting for them to bring it up to me.  Honestly it was a mistake for the best as I learned not to trust them with anything ever again, and I learned that sometimes when you help someone they will not always appreciate it.

My mistake seems to be in trusting that people will stick to their word, but that rarely happens when money is involved.  This is why I make sure everything is in writing and I just stick to the contract unless it is a change made in writing.  Working in this industry having it in writing is about the only way to really cover your ass.  Even then you will get people who want to change the rules after the fact.  I’ve had people get paid, sign a release and then when they realize more money could be made down the road they want more money.  That or they claim they “didn’t understand the terms” and therefore it is void.  People will make up excuses for things all of the time, it is the nature of this business.

The last mistake I will talk about here today is taking on clients for less money than what the job should actually pay.  I understand that certain people just don’t have certain budgets, but here is the lesson to be learned.  One time I took on a job where the actress wanted photos for the promotion of her career and a movie that was coming out.  She couldn’t afford the full rate for this but negotiated a deal with me to where I could use certain images for my own promotion.  Well, after the shoot she decided that she and her agent didn’t like what I shot for my own use and asked that I not use them without her approval.  This was not part of the original agreement but suddenly she had the money to fight me over the usage but not pay my rate to begin with.  The images didn’t mean that much to me so I just didn’t waste the time on the argument.  I will never negotiate these types of terms again.  Another side of this mistake was when I took on a client and gave them a discount because they were a newer business with a start-up budget.  But the lesson here was this.  If they are not willing to pay your regular rate in the beginning they will never be willing to pay more than they originally paid.  In fact they will search out other photographers who are willing to do it for less.

I no longer take jobs where I am not making what I feel is a fair rate.  I no longer take on contracted jobs for other photographers, other than 2nd shooting.  I would rather do something for free than to have a small rate involved.  The smaller the rate the bigger the headache.  There are some small jobs that are not a headache, but I’m talking about the bigger ones where you have a full team and spend a full day shooting with tons of post-production involved.

We all make mistakes, these can be expensive lessons, so be sure to learn from them and not repeat them!

This shoot was not a mistake, in fact lots of good things came from it! 🙂

Tabatha by The Average Jim