If it hasn’t happened to you yet – it will! A friend or family member approaches you to take some photographs for them and so begins the traumatic dilemma of what to charge them or whether to charge them at all! If you want some tips on charging friends and family for photography stick around and watch the video…
Only when you become self employed do you truly understand the nightmare that is working with friends and family for money. It can really be a hideous and agonising experience and I’ve heard of situations where relationships have been destroyed beyond repair.
In my experience (and what I’ve heard from hundreds of others) the problems always seem to occur when you work with friends and family and give them the same experience and treatment and service as you would a real client BUT you give them a significant ‘mates rates’ discount.
Because unfortunately what happens is you work your butt off and go above and beyond for no real financial reward and then get really upset and angry when they appear to not understand or appreciate what you’ve done for them. Maybe they don’t really thank you or they don’t share or comment on social media. Or even worse, they end up expecting the earth and maybe even complain about the work you’ve done. You can’t help thinking that you could have spent that time working for a full-paying client OR on your marketing so you could GET a full-paying client.
Or what about this one – you give them a discounted price and they turn it down and go to one of your competitors instead!
Yeah, that doesn’t feel good.
And let’s face it. It’s not just photographers. Most self employed people face this challenge. The struggle is real but the secret is simply to be prepared. Most problems in life come from a lack of communication and lack of preparation and this one is no different. As long as you know what your ‘friends and family’ policy is and you communicate it loud and clear to them then you should have no problems.
So here’s how I see it. If you want to avoid any sticky situations with friends and family there are three ways to deal with this.
1. You don’t work with friends and family. Ever. If anyone asks you simply say that you wish to keep work completely separate from your relationships with friends and family but that you can recommend someone to them. You can even add some humour if you want. Some might be a bit put out but they’re not going to hate you and if they’re really offended – they’re probably not worth bothering about, let’s be honest.
2. You charge friends and family full price and treat them the same way as any other client meaning they can take it or leave it. Again, some of them are going to be a bit miffed at this and they might choose another photographer. You’ll have to be prepared to suck that up and not take it too personally.
3. You do what I do and put together a special ‘friends and family’ package and offer this to any friends and family who enquire.
So what do I mean by a ‘friends and family’ package? Well I mean something super simple. For me, I tell them:
“Look I’ve actually got a great ‘friends and family’ package for you. It’s WAY cheaper than working with me as a client but the thing is it does mean that you really don’t get the full client experience. I’ll do a quick shoot for you in a spot nearby and we can combine it with a catch up and then I’ll choose ten images to edit for you and transfer them over to you as high resolution JPEGs so you can get them printed. As long as you don’t mind being last in the queue behind my full-paying clients you could take advantage of that? It’s only ‘x’ amount!”
When you do this you are doing several great things:
You’re letting them know in a very friendly way that your time is precious and that you have other clients to look after so they are going to appreciate and value your time much more.
You’re outlining a very clear offer that is win-win for both of you.
AND you’re allowing them to pay you something (because most friends and family will WANT to pay you something).
Believe me they’ll be delighted. Because don’t forget that they feel awkward about the money side of things too – they’ll be relieved that its all so clear and they know where they stand.
When you meet you can spend 30 minutes or so taking some shots and you can have a coffee with them or a play date with the kids. Afterwards you can spend 30 – 60 minutes or so editing ten of your choice and sending them over to them. As for money – you can charge whatever you feel is appropriate for that. Whatever will ensure that you don’t feel undervalued whilst at the same time ensures they are getting a great deal.
Since doing this I’ve never had another awkward experience with a friend or family member. They’ve been so happy and appreciative and I’ve felt satisfied and rewarded.
So I think I know what you might be thinking at this point.
What about those REALLY close friends and family members? The people you love to bits. Well personally I don’t charge them anything. Why? Because I’m more than happy to take photographs for them. I love spending time with them and I see it as a privilege to be able to do this for them. I do the same thing though. Just a short shoot and a few edits. I find that these are the people who actually insist on paying me but I don’t accept it.
THAT is definitely a personal decision you have to make though. It can be hard to do something for free for one friend and then charge another, because what if they find out? I always ask those I don’t charge to keep that fact to themselves and they do. I love them for a reason you know – they’re good people!
As for acquaintances or very distant relatives? I would really recommend treating them the exact same as any other client. No discount, no friends and family package, nothing. You simply have to draw a line somewhere. You’ll know in your gut who to offer your package to and who to treat as normal.
So what about you? Do you have any stories about charging friends and family? Let me know in the comments!