Why Your Friends May Kill Your Photography Business

Now today’s topic may rub some of you the wrong way depending on what side of the fence you fall. Let the record state that this is not based on any true story and it’s not an attempt to speak about anyway in any subliminal tone but seriously, how many of us have thought ____________ is a photographer and my friend too. If I call him to just snap snap some photos at my party or company event or wedding, I don’t really have to pay him, do I?’. The unfortunate thing is that we have all thought like this at some point in our lives with little thought of the people from whom we ask these favors. But just reason with me and bear with my rambling if you may but I seem to be of the school of thought that you should succeed more with lots of friends in this business and not the opposite. I imagine that many friends would translate to many people that are interested in using my services because they believe in and support what I do… I may be wrong.

Now if your friend had just opened a supermarket, what do you do? I think you then even change your movements a little bit so as to make sure you do all your shopping at the said supermarket (I assume that he has good pricing and a nice setup that also encourages you to go there). I mean I imagine you’d do your shopping there and actually pay for your services to support the said friend, yes? The alternative is that you pass by every so often and pick a few sodas, cake & sweets and let the men asking for money know that the owner is a really good friend of yours and that he really shall not mind you doing all that.

The point is, it’s awkward when you have to charge your friends the rates you charge everyone else but you hope that when you do, they shall not be difficult and that they actually pay. The fact is if they don’t pay, your business dies slowly but surely from lack of making any money. All you shall have is very happy friends who refer many other non-payers and who shall post your photos all over facebook praising you but you shall be very broke. Also you may end up resending them for always taking instead of giving into your young business.

For the friends of photographers

It’s not wrong to ask for favors but if you really are concerned for you friends’ welfare, don’t ask them to give you free services when they can’t. Go ready to pay. If it’s for charity, ask but also expect to get a negative answer based on how busy they are at the time.

If you wanna get really subsidized rates and good vibe from your photographer friend, refer them for may paying jobs. Help build their business (it shall not even cost you) that way you shall be able to even get free shoots once in a while as return favors.

Remember they are in business. They are your friends but the business is not your friend. Pay on time so that they keep their books well maintained.

For photographers

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to shoot friends. If it takes out of your business more than it gives, then just make it an effort not to shoot friends, refer them to other photographers (of course this may hurt your business but it’s better than darn straight loses).

Make it clear that the business is a different entity and that needs to be maintained with money so they need to pay up. Talk about it before hand so that they are clear about it.

If it’s a charity case make a pint of noting it before starting to avoid any disappointments to both you and the client. Consider each charity project and see if your business can handle it and if you can, do it and help someone out, if you can’t, make it clear and politely decline.

It’s all about clear communication.

All that said, photography is a lot of fun and sometimes friends make good test subjects and make some dull projects fun so don’t make enemies, just let people know how you contact your business. Help out friends but do it in moderation. Friends enjoy your discounts but if you really care about your photographer friends, help them make money and help them get better. It’s a tough industry and we need all the referrals we can get.

Disclaimer: You can obviously tell that i’m no finance expert on business and all so take my advice with a pinch of salt. If you don’t like what I have to say, you have the freedom of unreading it… :), if only. If you have better or additional advice, kindly share it in the comments below, i’d love to hear what you have to say on the matter, I’m sure each of you guys has an opinion on this.

Have a great day.

Some Aerial photos from Tanzania