Freelancing: The Money Issue

The moment you’ve anxiously awaited finally arrives: an editor wants to publish your work. You’ve finally managed to be on the same page about the content. But then, the money issue:

How much should you charge for your work?

Unfortunately there isn’t one right answer to that question. However, there are certain things that you should take into consideration when you’re trying to come up with the magic number.

For Editorial Photographers (EP) the following excerpt should be the golden rule of your negotiating skills:

“… you have a right to ask for a price that is fair and that will enable you to cover your costs and earn some money on top of that. (…) Be prepared to negotiate and don’t be disappointed if you don’t achieve your desired fee the first time. Negotiating, like photography, is an acquired skill.”

Keeping those wise words in mind, try this four-step process:

1. Calculate your total rate fee:

            time spent shooting (hour/day rate) + time spent editing + your expenses
= rate fee

2. Negotiate the rate with the editor. Tips from the pros:

    • “Never under negotiate, not only for the sake of the industry but to ensure that they respect the time and effort put into a story, no matter how big or small the job is.” –Anna Horn
    • “You have to show them that you know how much your work is worth.” –Bonnie Burke
    • “Always start out by asking for what you think you deserve. The worst thing that can happen is for them to say “no,” and frequently they will say ‘yes!'” –Richard Morgenstein
    • “Have in mind two numbers: target amount and minimum amount.” –Editorial Photographers
    • “Don’t ever assume in your head they won’t go for something — ask them!” –Bonnie Burke

3. Discuss terms and conditions, no matter how small the job:

Are you going to retain control of our copyrights? Are they allowed to re-sell your work? Are you just licensing the images? If so, for how long? Establish clear expectations from the beginning to avoid conflicts along the way.

4. Send the invoice:

Billable and VeryPDF are two online services that provide free invoice templates.

As you may already know, this is an unpredictable business. However, it’s useful to have the going rates of different media outlets in mind. Who Pays Photographers is a Tumblr site where photographers anonymously submit their pay rates. Don’t take these numbers as absolute truth, but you can use them as a point of reference. Your prices and terms will be different from another photographer’s, but it’s useful to have a sense of the industry standard.

Photography (according to Who Pays Photographers Submission Results)

  • Bloomberg News  $400/day
  • Bronx Times Reporter (print) $25/assignment (5-6 images). The payment is made only if an image is used.
  • Brooklyn Paper (print)  $35/assignment
  • New York Times (print) $200/day for spot news photos.
  • Newsday (print)   – $250/day
  • New York Daily News (print) –  $250/day
  • New York Post – $200/day
  • The Atlantic (web) – $100 for a photo essay (7-10 images)
  • The Villager (print and web) $25/image for news photos
  • Wall Street Journal – $300/day

Video

  • Storyhunter – $1,000 for a 3-5 minute fully produced video.
  • Time.com – $1,200 per web video piece (about 3-5 minutes)
  • TV – $1,000 per minute

The most important thing you can do is aim high. Don’t sell yourself short. If you don’t value your work, no one else will.

One comment

  1. How about telling your readers about photographers’ copyright rights. Many publication agreement demand all rights. AP instituted this for its freelancers a few years ago. Many of us have benefited many years later from even limited publication rights to pictures taken on assignment. You should warn young photographers of the dangers of buyouts.

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