Commoditization Posts

3 Tips to Get the Job in a Bidding Situation

Business planningYou receive a phone call from a prospective client asking you to “bid” on an upcoming photography project she has. It’s an opportunity to forge a new relationship with a new client and you really want the job. Here are three guidelines that have served me well, resulting in me being selected as the successful “bidder”:

Phone Inquiry? Remember These Three Tips

Selling on telephone photographersYou receive a phone call from a prospective client asking you to “bid” on an upcoming photography project she has. It’s an opportunity to forge a new relationship with a new client and you really want the job. Here are a couple of guidelines that have served me well, resulting in me being selected as the successful “bidder”:

1. Never, ever, give a “ballpark figure” for the project; you’ll surely overlook something if you provide an estimate on the spot. It’s just impossible to quickly throw together a figure while under the pressure of “I want an estimate now.” Instead, gather information by asking open-ended questions and let your caller know you’ll get back to her quickly with the estimate.

Why I Don’t Quote Prices via Email

michelle kawka

Thanks to New York Photographer Michelle Kawka for this guest blog post.

Often times, I will get a price request for my photography services via email. Generally, the inquiry looks something like this:

I need a photographer for X photo or video project or event and it is on X day and time. Are you available? How much do you charge? Please email me back with your price.

To which my email response is generally along the lines of:

A Candid Dialogue About Success in Photography

McCleary Intro

©Rick McCleary, used with permission

The following is a reply to a post on one of the photography forums I read daily. In it, Rick McCleary, a Washington DC based photographer, replies to comments and questions posted by another photographer.


Your post has been stuck in my head for a couple days because it makes me recall the exact same sentiments I felt when I was starting out – all full of myself and feeling like the world owed me something/everything. There are a couple things you need to embrace that will help you get out
of your own way:

1) This is a business, just like any other business. Nothing is given. Learn the basics. Read some business books that stress marketing. Read Seth Godin’s blog.
2) No one owes you anything.
3) Your job is to make your client’s life better. See the world from your client’s perspective. User experience, and all that.

Q: So, let me see if I got this straight: I have to be “persistent”?
RM: Yes, exactly.

Think Outside the Box, Improve Clickthrough

A small chain of outdoor adventure clothing shops based in Ann Arbor, Michigan sends me emails from time to time since I am a regular customer. Today’s email was a holiday promotion but what caught my eye was a link titled, “Gifts for Ex-Lovers”.

Ex-Lovers

Like everyone, I have ex-lovers so my curiosity got me and I wanted to see what the gang at Moosejaw would suggest I give an ex. If you’re unfamiliar with the psyche of the company, one day this past summer, they were bored, took a hunk of bologna and a deli meat slicer up to the roof of their headquarters and whipped sliced bologna at passing cars and made a video of the fun! (click here, opens in new window). Suffice it to say, they’re an irreverent bunch… one reason for their success in their target demographic I’m sure.

I clicked the link and was sent to a page of the site containing 16 items that I guess they deemed appropriate for ex-lover, most of which I’d be grateful if an ex-lover sent me. A few stood out from the rest (and I’m keeping my comments to myself): a “Ruffwear Roamer Leash”, a “Black Diamond Pecker” (that’s it to the right), a “SOG Flash I Knife”, and a “Back Country Access B1 Shovel”. Hmmmmm.

In any case, I’m guessing that link in the email will get the most click-throughs of any. Think outside the box, be different, and be successful!

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He Admits He’s Cheap. He’s Also a Commodity.

Written by Detroit People Photographer Blake J. Discher

He’s correct, he is an inexpensive photographer. But I’m not sure this is the business model that will lead to long term success.

The photographer does have a website, and from the pricing pages, for portraits the sitting fee is $50 plus $15 per edited photo. Weddings start at $500 and, “we will give you a CD with your photos downloaded and you may print as many copies as you want… You may request up to 5 CDs at no additional cost.”

Here’s the important question for him: What is his differentiation, or, how is his product unique from anyone else’s? If he cannot differentiate his product from that of his competitors, he will forever compete only on price.

Nine Tips to Help Succeed in Sustaining or Growing Your Business

Written by Detroit Corporate Photographer Blake J. Discher

I’ve just returned from the American Society of Media Photographers’ (ASMP) event at the stunningly beautiful Times Center in New York titled “Sustainable Business Models: Issues and Trends Facing Visual Artists.” I’d best describe this day-long gathering of some of the brightest minds in our business as enlightening and thought-provoking. (If you were unable to attend or did not watch it live, a complete video archive of event is available here.)

The afternoon panel discussion, “The Challenge: Sustainable and Ongoing Creator Compensation” was moderated by former ASMP President Richard Kelly and the panelists were Kevin Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, CLA; Rob Haggart, Editor, aPhotoEditor.com and former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine; Henry Oh, Principal, Transpecific Media; Stephen Mayes, CEO, VII; and Susan White, Director of Photography, Vanity Fair.

Gale Zucker, watching the live stream of the event, asked a great question of the panel: “What three steps would any of the panelists suggest working photographers do tomorrow to succeed in sustaining or growing their business?” What follows are three of the panelists’ answers. (If you can contribute to the conversation, please do so by commenting on this post.)