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Your Money&Your Life: Guard Your Name and His Ego

R. C. Steif

“I’m not going to be a good fit for every potential client, and not every potential client will be a good fit for me”

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

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I ’m a freelance commercial photographer. My work has appeared in all sorts of media, online and in print, showcasing models and products. Sometimes my clients come to me with an idea — either something basic that they want me to “polish up,” or something they think is finished and all I have to do is just snap the picture. To be honest, their ideas are often terrible — very last-year, don’t present the product well, or just don’t reach their audience. While some of them are happy with the recommendations I come up with, others insist they know best. How can I keep them happy without ruining my reputation? 

Naftali (Mark) Horowitz is the managing director of JP Morgan.

I can relate to your dilemma, one I often face in my own professional life. Clients call me ostensibly to seek my advice, yet they think they already know the business better than I do. If we just give them exactly what they want, we compromise our professionalism and our sense of right and wrong. And it won’t even necessarily stop them from blaming us when things don’t work out. There’s also the matter of our reputation, which can easily become tainted if we put our name on other people’s bad ideas.

Here are some ways of approaching this.

1. I enter every meeting with the confidence that I have the informational advantage. If I just go along with whatever they want, then I’m charging fees that are unwarranted, and I don’t ever want to do that. You need to decide if you want to be just a photographer or also a consultant. A photographer takes whatever picture the client wants. A consultant helps the client design the photograph that will achieve the desired result.

2. I understand that I am not going to be a good fit for every potential client, and not every potential client will be a good fit for me. My reputation and overall success come before my desire to win over any prospective client. The wrong client can diminish your practice even if he pays your fee. If it isn’t a good fit, say so; it’s far better to do so at the start of a project than to go through a messier break-up later on. Keep in mind also that clients who aren’t a good match will drain you of your creative energy.

3. You don’t want a duel of egos — your way versus their way. You can adapt their way to yours without bruising their ego. Try to get a deeper understanding of why they want what they say they want, and see if there is a workable compromise. The right solution might not be the one you envisioned at the start, but it’s the right one, because it makes the client happy, preserves his dignity, and adequately addresses the objective.

If you hit a complete impasse, then you need to decide if you want to be “just a photographer” for this one shoot, or stick to your professional standards. Personally, I would not accept the client, and would explain to him why. But I am not at the liberty to spend your money, so this is your call to make. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 692)

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