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About 6 years ago I worked as a freelance web designer, developer and products photographer for a local company (15 minutes of car distance from my office) that works in the fashion industry.

At some point they needed a more intensive service that I couldn't phisically provide (being a single worker) so they moved to a bigger agency with specialized teams of many workers. This agency is at 1,5 hours of car distance from the client.

The client after 6 years contacted me again because he wants me to provide him the products photography service because for him is too expensive and time consuming to bring the products to the agency, and the quality of the photos made by that agency is less or equal than the photos that I did for him.

In short words, he will give me a room at his factory, I should be there on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to shoot products photos, the products can be maybe 50 to 80 pieces (hats, bags, etc) each time, each piece should be made in 5 views (front, rear, etc), then I should take all these pictures and do the post-production in my office and return them to the clients in 3-4 different formats. He wants also me to assure that service with a 2 or 3 days or forewarning, each time he needs that job to be done, he will call me and in 2 or 3 days I should be there.

He said that this could be a long lasting work, if all goes good that could go on for years.

We already discussed the prices and he seems ok with that, we should meet by the end of february to try to organize the work for the next months (we did not agree yet to start or not, just discussed about it).

My problem is that if I get this job it will be almost a full time work for me. I have already many clients with long lasting good relationship and I don't know if I will be able to properly follow all of them if I take that new job. And I don't feel like disregard or abandon other clients because if this client will go elsewhere (as already happened) I'll remain with no other clients.

I asked the client if we can "concentrate" the photo shootings once a month, so I know that the first week of the month I have that task to do and for the rest of the month I can follow others jobs. He answered that this is not good for him because he sells a lot in e-commerce and when he has products to sell they must be ready as soon as possible not the month after.

I also have another problem: along the year my work schedule is already fixed for other clients. I have clients that does important trade fairs, conferences, etc, they usually call me 1-2 months before to say "please be available to work for me in the first week of july because I have that important trade fair...". In these periods I will not be available for the photo shootings with 2-3 days of forewarning.

The job is very interesting, I am specialized in products photography and it will be an easy going task with a trusted client and good earnings, but in the other hand he is too demanding with time commitment and availability, I already know that I will have problems with other clients for the above said reasons.

I thought that I could hire myself other freelance collegues to help me, I did that in the past, but the other clients were not happy that I sent them to another freelancer or sometimes I had problems with the general work quality.

What would you do in my place? I am very uncertain and undecided if I should go on or not.

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    Polyas approach to problem solving has served me very well over the years. Perhaps it will help you as well. Expansion isn't all it's cracked up to be when good help is hard to find. Been there, feel your pain. – Elder Geek Mar 8 '17 at 3:12
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Well from what I can see, you are a good photographer and you have more work than you can handle. So this is a good position for expansion. The same happened to me in the programming field.

Declining a long-term client is never a good idea. Especially if a client is paying you your price and if he's a good client. So bringing another man to a team is a way to go.

Now, any client that worked with you before will not be happy if he sees another man working instead of you. They like you, your style, your quality,... It's up to you to persuade the client that by bringing another man, quality will not be jeopardized.

You have to make the client understand that you are too busy and working for him over your energy will produce bad quality. Tell him that you cannot sacrifice quality no matter what. So bringing an extra hand is the only way to preserve quality. This guy will only do the shoooting and you will do post-production. Even if this guy is good at post-production, you do not have to disclose that right now. If the client likes the output, he will not care who did post-production.

In cases like this, what worked for me is offering a risk assurance. I usually tell the client that if he is not happy with the work, that I will charge him zero. This usually calms them down as they know that they don't have to pay you in case your guy screwed up.

But take care of this!!! In order to preserve your quality, you will have to approve of every output because clients see this as your work. So train the new guy the way you do and examine every output he makes. If you don't like it, the clients will not like it eventually as well.

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You've already answered your own question.... " I don't feel like disregard or abandon other clients because if this client will go elsewhere (as already happened) I'll remain with no other clients."

Putting all your proverbial "eggs" in one" basket' for a freelancer is never a good thing.

See if you can work out a shooting schedule for 2 days a week with this new guy. Or a week of shooting, then a week off. You may not be able to turn things around as fast as he wants, but if it's your work, experience, and quality he is seeking, he will undoubtedly understand. It sounds like it's just a matter of finding a schedule which suits you both. I can understand that once a month isn't often enough. But a couple days each week may be.

Most of my clients want things right away. However, they all understand I have other commitments and work as fast as possible. Most decent clients understand this.

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Have the client send the products to you. I assume you have some sort of lightbox/room or you can make one or if the demand is so high have the client rents you a small space nearby. The products get sent to you with a return call tag, you shoot them and send them back, upload the images. Saves you 3 hours driving each trip, likely you can get the work done faster working evenings or weekends and with less notice in some cases. Much more efficient.

  • Creative. I like it! – Elder Geek Mar 8 '17 at 3:50
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Do the math. Try to find creative ways to free up some more time. What if scenarios can help. (What if I do X on the weekend, can I free up some time for Y during the week?) If you can manage that you can put off the need for help and control quality (provided you don't exhaust yourself)

Consider what you can sub out without impacting quality. Possibly conversion into the 3-4 different formats.

One good way to reduce demands on your time is to raise prices (carefully, gradually)

Sometimes expansion isn't all it's cracked up to be when good help is hard to find. I've been there and feel your pain. Absent the ability to clone yourself it's very difficult to find someone who will do things at the level of quality you yourself deliver.

Most importantly don't let the decision making process paralyze you. We always want to do everything right, but we learn the most from our mistakes. Regardless, if you take a systematic approach to the problem you will get better results than if you flip a coin

My typical approach to a clients scheduling demands is to offer them a choice. For instance "I can manage Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, which works best for you?" Of course the choices you offer fit your schedule. This makes it clear that you are trying to be accommodating and allows them to feel like they are in control as they get to pick (from the narrow field of choices that you have provided) It also makes it clear that requests for other days and times are unmanageable and will be declined, in most cases this is enough and they won't ask for unavailable times, If they do, I simply reiterate my original statement.

I'm not comfortable with the "jump when I call" service he's requesting. Poor planning on his part shouldn't necessitate an emergency on your part. Offer a manageable response time frame and tell him that's the best you can guarantee, but that you'll do your best to be as accommodating as possible. Or offer to contact him each month with available days for him to pick from.

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