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6 Great Ways to Negotiate the Best Rates as a Freelance Photographer

Posted on July 11, 2019 - By Lilou Hoffman
6 Great Ways to Negotiate the Best Rates as a Freelance Photographer
6 Great Ways to Negotiate the Best Rates as a Freelance Photographer
For many photographers, setting and negotiating rates can seem intimidating and complicated. You often have to face the fear that the client will feel you're overcharging them. Understanding how to negotiate your service rates is a crucial step to a successful freelance career.

Knowing what you're negotiating for and having a real belief in your skills and value is important. Attending the best negotiation seminars can help you assess your strengths and value proposition. The following six tips can support your price negotiations as a pro photographer.

Anchor Your Price

When you understand what you need and why you need it, your negotiations have a greater chance of success. When approaching a client, understand and rank your needs and those of your client. For most clients, affordable pricing is a concern.

If your client makes the first offer, they are usually trying to anchor you. For example, a client may say they only have a $600 budget. The message here can sometimes be that the client is actually willing to pay $600 or more.

In the same way, you can state your pricing and counter anchor. You might say something like: For this kind of service, I charge $1,000.

Since your offer will likely become the top of the price range, be careful about the figure you quote. That top range becomes your price anchor, and you're in essence asking the client to agree to a figure closer to your anchor. If your anchor is too low, you'll find it very challenging to later ask the client to pay more.

When setting your rates, leave some wiggle room for negotiation. You will likely not always achieve your full asking price. Be prepared to make some trade-offs and compromises.

Charge on Value

There are some key differences between an in-house photographer and a freelancer. The freelancer sets their own prices, of course, while the in-house photographer typically works for a salary. Professional freelance photographers often charge based on the perceived value of their photos.

Try and understand the needs of your client and be flexible to accommodate those needs. Consider the client's budget, what their business is, and what they will use the photos for. For example, pricing for event photography at a seminar may vary from the typical rates you'd expect for product photography for a shoe retailer.

You can also negotiate rates based on rights and usage. Commissioned single-use photos may attract a lower fee compared to multiple-use photos. Pricing also depends on who owns the copyrights and licenses. The value your client attaches to the photos usually dictates the price.

Be Professional

The more professional you are in the negotiation process, the more your clients may be accepting of your pricing. Clients don't want to feel like they're being charged more than others for the same service. Neither do clients want to feel like you're pricing them based on preconceived ideas about who they are. For this reason, it's advisable to have standardized prices available for prospects to see.

Create materials such as a professional price list and a beautiful brochure. Once a prospect contacts you, send out a formal proposal together with the price list and brochure. Most people can be persuaded to pay for what they perceive as quality. Your marketing and communication skills are great chances to show quality and professionalism.

Make Genuine Connections

In most cases, professional photography requires you to work in close contact with people. Making genuine connections can make your work easier. It can even create more opportunities for your business. Negotiation seminars prepare professionals to network and make genuine connections across many industries.

Establishing an authentic connection with your prospects can persuade them to agree to your proposal. A positive rapport can make the session a much better experience for you and your client. A positive environment can lead to better results than where there's no rapport.

Instead of communicating back and forth over email, consider meeting face-to-face. Arrange for on-site consultations to discuss the artistic aspects of an upcoming photoshoot. When you're personable and professional, you're likely to successfully secure the rates you've set.

Establish Deliverables

What are you charging for? When can the client expect results? Negotiation seminar leaders emphasize the need for value exchange in sales negotiations. Make clear what value you're bringing to the table, and you can achieve more success claiming value in return.

When preparing your proposal, make sure to include an outline of what goes into your production process. Provide schedules and timelines to set justifiable expectations.

Where applicable, let your client know what you are charging for. Your rates can include equipment use, travel, and post-production processes. Some editing processes take longer and use more costly tools to achieve. It's wise to set your rates according to the time you'll spend in post-production. In addition, make sure your client knows that longer deadlines can be due to the longer time spent editing.

When negotiating, if the client balks at your rates, you have the option to reduce deliverables. If the client will accept fewer licensing privileges or accept fewer photos, then you can negotiate a discounted rate.

Be Willing to Walk Away

As a professional photographer, you may have to deal with prospects that are not an ideal match for you. Some prospects may need different services than those you provide. Others may just be difficult to work with.

Resist acting out of desperation or taking all types of jobs that come your way. Your ability to walk away from unfavorable conditions is a powerful negotiation tool. If you accept a deal out of desperation, it's possible your client will value your service less. The client may pile up extra demands and squeeze you for lower rates.


Your clients will most times want to maximize their available budget. Your negotiation skills can determine how much value you gain out of each photography contract. Be open to some give-and-take, but avoid compromising on quality. Be proactive about creating positive connections. However, be brave enough to walk away from unfavorable deals.
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