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Lately I was asked to realize a few slides for an ecommerce site. The work was to go in the company, shoot many photos of sold objects, back to office, clip the images and put them in many backgrounds (I had to make a research of stock images).

The ideas of the final result was sent to me by email, the client took photos from the web of high quality professional advertise and wanted "something like that spending less possible".

I made my best to fulfill his needs and made many tests based on his requests, in the end I sent him something like 30 different images of products in different backgrounds and colors.

The client accepted only 2 images. Now he is complaining that I charge too much for "just two images", when he asked me to work for many hours.

I usually charge him a cost per hour and he knows that.

How to deal with situations like that?

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It is never easy to negotiate after the fact.

When doing any type of project it is important to set the expectations ahead of time. In your case, you could have estimated that your effort would be in the X-Y hour range or if the client would be paying for accepted images rather than time and materials.

Some of the benefits to this approach are:

  • The client gets a general idea of how much of an investment they will make for the project.
  • You are able to more easily communicate challenges that you face that may affect the original estimate. For example, "I know I estimated X-Y hours, but due to these factors...it looks like we are looking at Z hours. Would you like me to proceed?"

And to answer the "how to deal with these situations" question, there are two options that I would consider:

  • Have an honest communication with the client and mention that just like previous projects, you have been working on an hourly basis and not per deliverable.
  • Or, chalk it up to an education cost and be more clear on future projects/contracts, even for existing clients.
  • This ends up being good in the sense that you're explicitly telling a client when you think you may take longer than expected (or go over budget) and are asking their permission (or rather, they feel like you are), and so the client feels more in control and so ends up happier. – Amelia Apr 9 '15 at 11:51
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When working on projects that will require a lot of revisions, I sometimes charge a piece rate (based on the time I estimate it will take) and send an explicit email that outlines the number of revisions/research/etc. that the price includes.

Once the client has agreed to a clear list of items, it makes it easier to negotiate again if they want more work to be done. Then you can pull out the hourly rate and explain how much more time you'll likely add to the project.

Unfortunately I've experienced that some clients can't comprehend the amount of time that creative work takes, and an hourly rate becomes a hurdle with those clients.

Sometimes you end up having to eat the cost of the extra time. If that's the case, I recommend communicating tactfully that you're sorry for any misunderstanding and will discount your services for lack of clear communication (even if you think you were clear). Hopefully this makes the client feel at ease and also makes them aware that you cost more than what they're being charged.

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