Getting Your Money
With this column, we will review three stages for getting the money for your photography services. We'll look at how to use an industry standard contract with terms and conditions of payment, discuss making agreements with the client as to the payment terms and end up with client invoicing, payments, and credit card merchant accounts.
Consumer (wedding and portrait) photographers customarily package their services at various levels of pricing depending on such variables as proof, prints, and albums. A 50 percent non-refundable deposit seems to be the standard, along with a contract that specifies a schedule of payments that concludes with the balance of payment due upon delivery. There is usually no copyright issue as the consumer is buying real property (prints and albums) and not intellectual property (copyright usage).
Commercial photographers would like to get paid upon delivery but are often required to invoice their clients based upon an estimate confirmation. Both the estimate confirmation and invoice are standard forms. Also, it is always a good idea to have the client you will be billing complete a standard credit application (available at any good office supply store). This is not as much to check their credit (though it would be a good idea), as it is to have all the business and legal information on hand should any legal action be needed to collect your money. Yes, it may sound presumptuous to anticipate you won't be paid, but the worst time to try and get this information is once legal proceedings begin!
In the case of commercial photography,
the client is paying for specified rights to copy your images (your intellectual
property). One of the most important industry standard terms is the relationship
between payment and transfer of rights. Your estimate and invoices should
state (along with all the other standard terms) language similar to the
following three important conditions:
2. The client shall assume
responsibility for all collection of legal fees made necessary by default
Getting An Agreement
For a reference guide to industry standard forms, check out Business and Legal Forms for Photographers by Tad Crawford (Allworth Press Publications). This collection of essential forms includes an estimate form; confirmation of assignment; invoice; agency contract; collaboration agreement; privacy release; property release; permission form; lecture agreement; contracts for weddings and portraits; contracts for sales through a gallery; licensing agreements; stock photography contracts; transfers of copyrights; and more. A CD-ROM with electronic versions of each form is provided. Also, check out Pricing Photography 2nd Edition by Michal Heron and David MacTavish (Allworth Press Publications). This excellent guide walks you through pricing and negotiating basics and a survey of both stock and commercial assignment usage pricing.
Credit card merchant accounts are popular for wedding/portrait and fine art photography where the client is a consumer accustomed to bringing out their credit card to pay. Before you sign up for a merchant account, check on the following conditions:
This column is written for you. We appreciate your feedback and questions. One of our readers, Richard Duncan, proposed this topic. Thank you, Richard, for this suggestion--a most basic business topic!
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