Not Sure What to Charge? Ask The Client For Their Budget

A client wants to use one of your photos and requests a price or they have asked to bid an assignment. This can be a difficult position to be in a tight and competitive market.

You may be wondering “what is a fair price?”

The struggle over what to charge comes from not wanting to charge too much and lose the sale but also not wanting to charge too little and later regret it.

A good approach is to find out what the clients budget is. This can save you time and make this tough process easier.

Having the client disclose their budget also allows you to decide if it is enough to license the image or in the case of an assignment, it tells you if you can afford to take on the assignment at that price.

This information makes it much easier to work with the client. You will understand from the beginning the cost boundaries you need to work within and helps determine just what you can do within that budget. You then can avoid a quote that is too high and risks losing the assignment or image sale.

There is a drawback with this approach and that is that it places the client in control of the pricing negotiations and can make you feel as though you have to stay within their budget if you want the sale. But these days with pricing all over the place and RF and Microstock pricing models providing stiff competition the choice of just where to be on price is daunting.

Let’s face it; this is the worst market environment in the history of stock image licensing with no current guidelines on just what is a ‘fair’ price in today’s market. The answer to “what is a fair price” should be “as much as you can get” as long as the result is a happy client and a happy you.

What should you do?

Ask! Simply asking the client for their budget does allow you to quickly decide if their budget is acceptable and within your pricing range. This provides you the option of deciding if their budget is where you want to be or just how low you may be interested in going to make the sale.

For an assignment, this information helps you understand where the client wants to be and if their budget is low, whether you want to do it for that price. And asking for their budget does allow you to immediately discuss how to work within their budget and meet their needs.

If their budget is lower than you would have quoted, it does not mean there is no interest in the assignment especially if we are talking ‘pocket change’ as the difference. Knowing their budget provides valuable information allowing you to decide a strategy on how to do the assignment and still feel like I was profitable.

What if they resist?

Clients often resist providing you their budget information assuming you will just quote a few dollars below that. They might be hoping that you are a hungry photographer and maybe you would quote well below their budget.

The challenge to you is to convince them that disclosure benefits them. You could take the approach that you are asking to make sure you are a good fit for the assignment and that would save them time should you determine you are not. For stock licensing, disclosure prevents valuable time from being wasted while haggling. Of course, you have to know ahead of time what your minimum limit is.

Suggest to them as well, that understanding their budget from the beginning provides important details helping you understand what they expect for their budget and you can quickly provide suggestions on how to work within it.

What if they STILL resist?

In some cases you just wont get the information from them and in this case I will go ahead and work up a budget/price with options such as a high and low range for assignments. In each case I will itemize what they get for the low bid and do the same with the higher budget. The idea is that somewhere in there is close to their original budget goal and from there the negotiations can begin. Another good reason for a high and low budget estimate shows the client flexibility and that you are willing to work with them.

For stock licensing it gets trickier since they have already told you the usage and want a price. I will ask for their budget and explain that it can make the discussion go quicker when I really want to know immediately whether we should continue the conversation.  If they won’t provide the figure I will tell them “Okay, I will give you a ‘book price’ based on the pricing guide I use” and then knowingly quote them a somewhat higher price

After quoting the higher price, I continue the sentence asking “how does that work for your budget?” and wait for the response. It could be an answer of “that’s great” or a “WOW, that’s more than I though it would cost.” Now is your opportunity to again ask what their budget is and this time you should get an answer.

The challenge here is being forced to guess what you think they want to spend in relation to what you want to earn from the usage. But as I have alluded to, is it is often easier to base fees on knowing what they want to spend as long as it is in line with what you want to make. Remember they want your image or services and that is why they requested a quote. So go ahead: ask!

If you have some suggestions on negotiating and pricing, please leave a comment.

Related Posts: The Role of Negotiations, What Do Photobuyers Think?

Books on Negotiating and Pricing:

richard weisgaru negotiate photography

Photographers Guide to Negotiating