Why the Photographer's 'Day Rate' isn't good for the client.

The following is my contribution to a Professional Architectural and Interior Photography group discussion on LinkedIn. The subject was on photographers publishing their rates and although very much addressed to other photographers it has, I believe, a point or two that commissioners of photography might consider:

Another note from the UK.
The ‘Day Rate’ is the biggest killer of both realistic fees and an educated informed photographer/client relationship. When you give an all in rate to a prospective client you are giving them permission to ignore all of your USP and all that’s involved in getting a great job done. You become no better than the newbie down the road. Your business model may as well not exist as the would be client won’t get to understand how you differ from anyone else. This is particularly important now that much commissioning is undertaken by people who have little practical knowledge of photography beyond how to use an iPhone. The ‘day rate’ buries you. And as Nick [discussion contributing photographer] mentions it takes no account of usage so you charge the same for an all time & all media job as you do for a short use quarter page website job.
And why don’t all other industries use it? Architects, designers, etc? Because until you have an accurate brief you are holding little more than a piece of string whose length you cannot determine. Would you price a piece of string if you didn’t know it’s length?

Let’s look at the analogy of buying a car. You go into the dealership and ask how much will it cost over the five years that you drive it? Not just purchase and servicing and petrol. Everything please. Purchase, servicing, running costs, tyres, damage repair, depreciation …. absolutely every last penny that it will cost over those five years. The dealer won’t give you an answer because he or she will need to know your driving style, your milage, are you parking it on the street or in a garage, will you kill someone and face a damages claim,…….. there are just so many unknowns for the dealer that they won’t give you that answer. In other words they won’t give you the equivalent of a day rate. 
Yet we seem happy to do so.

Any ‘typical’ photography job will vary enough from the last job that you cannot simply copy and paste the estimate and invoice. If you do you may be ignoring so many factors that will dent you profit. And remember we’re here to make a profit. That’s our living. Does the job require special lenses? Does it need to be shot at special times? Require permissions? Pre Production? Post Production. An assistant? I could go on. Simply throwing in a day rate isn’t covering these extras. And adding them later isn’t a great way to keep a client happy. All of this needs to be upfront and discussed. That way the prospective client gets to understand the nature and possible complexity of the job and gets to understand that you are a creative problem solver rather than a mere button pusher. If they’re not interested in taking these onboard than maybe they’re not the client you want now or expect to keep into the future.
Image
Of course there will always be someone who insists on knowing your day rate .’…….because it’s the only way to compare’. So it clearly compares length of experience? Creative abilities? People skills? High end v. Low end capture and output? Knowledge of the subject area and even things like Public Liability and Employee insurance. The latter is a legal requirement in the UK if you have an assistant working for you - even freelance. The former is something you’d be totally mad to be without. Yet in all the years I’ve worked I’ve only been asked once to show evidence that I have them in place.

The ‘Day Rate’ compares nothing of value. Rather it puts us in a straight jacket that prevents us giving our best to our clients.

All the best for 2014.