The Digital Journalist
Common Cents

by Mark Loundy

"And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country."
-- Luke IV:23

I usually write about other people, but this one is from The Loundy Files.

A client recently surprised me by objecting to the last clause I would have expected in my standard agreement -- the clause that gives me the right to display the work to future clients. Suspecting that their legal department was ignorant about dealing with creative freelancers, I opted to educate them rather than walk away from the deal.

Here's my e-mail to the client, with the company name changed to protect the ignorant:

"It is customary for so-called 'creative' contractors to obtain new business by displaying a portfolio of their body of work. The right to do so has considerable value, which has been folded into my proposal.

"I have worked with a number of clients on jobs involving proprietary content. In those cases I have had no trouble adhering to non-disclosure agreements and/or Work Made For Hire agreements by including the lost promotional value in my fees.

"In the case of our current project, however, the final product will be shown to the general public and no proprietary or otherwise confidential content is involved. Since I am only seeking the right to use the final version of the video, the content will have been approved by ABC Company for release.

"My business philosophy is to create solutions for my customers and provide the greatest possible value for the fees that they are paying me. I can forego permission to include some or all of the final video in MediaWoorks' promotions, but I will have to significantly adjust my fee to make up for the lost promotional value. If you do choose to go that route, I honestly think that you would be paying me for something that you do not need."

The client called the next day saying that, after reading my note, Legal had signed off on the agreement with no problem.

Giving the client background on standard industry practices showed them that my requirements were reasonable. Telling them that the rights had monetary value gave them an opportunity to save money. By couching the entire message as a service to my customer, I also scored points on professionalism.

Note: Work For Hire agreements are customary in corporate and advertising videos. This particular agreement was for about $5,000 for two days of work — including postproduction.

The Good

- I know it's out there. Send it to me.

The Bad

- North Jersey Media Group for its all-rights contract in exchange for $150. Unless you live with your parents, that won't cover anybody's cost of doing business.

- Thomson Media for their "Photographers Pool" scheme. It's really just another way of saying that they won't deal with anybody who won't sign their contract. Independent businesses (freelance photographers) should set their own business policies. Clients should not dictate them.

The Ugly

- Collegiate Images announced plans to dominate the ownership of all images generated from college sporting events. (More about them next month.)

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.


- As freelancers continue to use poor business practices, they also become more cost-effective. So the cuts continue among staffers -- this time at The New York Times. According to a May 25th story in Editor & Publisher, 190 employees, mostly at its flagship newspaper, will be axed. About two-thirds of the reductions will occur at the Times, with the rest coming from the company's New England Media Group.


NPPA Cost of Doing Business Calculator

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Resource page

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers Cost of Doing Business Calculator

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group (Discussion Archives)

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

© Mark Loundy

Mark Loundy is a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose, California.