dilemma of independent contracting.

I’m going back and forth with myself on a recent decision I made and I thought I’d let you all in on my thoughts and maybe you could tell me what you think.

As you know, I am a self employed photographer, and recently I’ve been much more successful than I anticipated. I have also recently become an independent contractor for a company who links together clients and photographers.

The upside to working as an independent contractor in this way is that I don’t have to do any marketing for it whatsoever. Marketing takes time and should probably cost you money. I do little marketing that costs save for having a website and business cards. I assume I’d be even more successful if I invested in marketing. I can easily fill holes in my schedule by being an independent contractor. I also get business cards for free.

The downside to working as an independent contractor via a placement company is that I get paid significantly less than I would otherwise.

I threw some numbers together to give you an idea of the differences. This company, who shall remain nameless, actually has four companies under their larger umbrella. A value service, a middle of the line, a fancy service, and an even fancier service (that I left out because I’m not part of that one right now). The middle of the line and fancy services let you choose your photographer, the value line photographer is chosen for you. The fancier service comes with a face to face consultation. Just like I do, engagement sessions can be added on for an additional fee. For the sake of comparison I did that with the quotes below. Tax and shipping also apply, but don’t for me.

Value:
8 hour coverage – 895
engagement add on – 295
rights to photos – 0
consultation – no
total (before tax) – $1190
(I get paid $425)

Middle:
8 hour coverage – 995
engagement add on – 295
rights to photos – 0
consultation – no
20 bonus prints
total (before tax) – $1290
(I get paid $425)

High end:
8 hour coverage – 1595
engagement add on – 295
rights to photos – 0
consultation – yes
bonus photo book
total (before tax) – $1890
(I get paid $675)

Frost on Flower:
8 hour coverage – 1000
engagement add on – 100
rights to photos – 50 (unless you purchase a photo package for 75, 130, or 170)
consultation – yes
total – $1150
(I get paid $1150)

So, as you can see… the cheapest option is me. The option that pays me the most is also me.

So what is the point of the middle man? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Why should this company get paid 765, 865, 1215 while the photographer is paid 425, 425, 675, respectively? Is the marketing and the “brand” really worth that much?

As an independent self employed photographer I do not like the idea of these big companies marketing themselves as a professional database of photographers when they found their photographers completely randomly, don’t give them any additional education, tips, or bonuses. I don’t like to think that people are more attracted to a company like this because it seems “safer” or more “professional”. Really it seems unfair. When I photographer engagement photos for them honestly I feel bad – They pay $145 more than they would have if they booked with me and I get paid $25 less than I would have if they booked with me.

So my question is… Should I encourage this type of thing by being part of it? I don’t do much work with them right now because I’ve already been booked enough on my own. But something about it just makes me feel icky. But what are your thoughts? As a potential consumer of photography services how does this make you feel?

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4 comments
  1. CriRi said:

    I can see how this company would appeal to a photographer desperately in need of customers and to build up experience, portfolio etc. You however aren’t that photographer. You have gotten a lot of experience under your belt this year, are very busy and you’re are starting to make a good living. Given the fact that this whole matter is making you feel uncomfortable and you will be payed far less for your valuable time.. I don’t think it’s the right fit for you IMO

  2. Anonymous said:

    I sure don’t see why you’d go with the company. You’re doing great on your own and you’re calling the shots, or should I say shoots! ;-) That’s my 2 cents!

    • oneowl said:

      Tyler likes it for now because it helps with schedule filling. Though I’m already completely booked this month on my own. And since I don’t always have time to find clients. I’m just wondering if I should be encouraging “it’s” existence by participating, ya know?

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