For the last 5-6 months I have been going through a huge learning experience. And it has definitely not been a fun one.
I had been doing photo work for a company (which will remain nameless, cause it’s irrelevant) I was brought on to take photos for them by a life long family friend. Since she was a friend, and she is pretty much like my aunt, I didn’t put together a contract. I did a couple jobs with them, and they successfully paid me with no issues, so after that I again didn’t put together a contract. Now I know that isn’t smart, but as a creative, the business side of things is the not-fun part of photography, so it’s so easy to just not bother.
So between June 2012 and February 2013 I did 8-10 jobs for them.
By December things had gotten into a good groove, they were VERY happy with my work (they had had a number of other photographers that they were never happy with) and they started to use me more and for bigger jobs. I did a number of jobs for them in Kenosha, WI November-January. Come January I started to get nervous. One of my checks was a couple weeks late. They had a steady month turn around time for all my other jobs. But as I’ve learned in doing contract work is that sometimes contractors get pushed back behind payroll and sometimes it just takes a bit for people to pay you. And need I remind you, my boss is like my aunt, so I didn’t want to complain too much to her about it. So I continue to do work for them. At the end of January they take me with them to do a job in Arizona. I spent 3 days in Arizona. It was a lot of work, we would work all day long and then go back to the hotel, sleep, and then go back to work. It was hard work, but good work, and as a plus I was enjoying 75 degree weather in January, and avoided the -14 degree weather that was happening back home. After that I did one more job in Michigan, an overnight job, in February. When I accepted that job, I was just kinda starting to realize that my checks were getting to be very late. By the time I actually did the job I understood that something wasn’t right.
Now it is May, and I still haven’t been paid for any of the jobs I did for them, December-February. They owe me over $2,500.
For some people, $2,500 isn’t that huge of a loss. But as someone who graduated from school last year and is still trying to get a client base, and trying to start my business (and hoping to someday move out of my parents house..). this is a massive loss. What $2,500 could do for me is a lot.
A couple weeks ago I got a letter from their lawyers telling me, basically, that I wasn’t going to get paid. I read that letter and was just filled with anger. Through the whole process the head of the company (or anyone else from the company for that matter) never came to me with any info on what was going on. They never apologized or explained the situation they were in. So the fact that the first anything I got from them was a letter from their lawyer was sucky and that it said I wasn’t getting paid, that was worse. I had talked to a couple people that I knew who also worked for them. One of them told me “don’t hold your breath”. After a while I just kinda gradually accepted that I wasn’t getting my money. Just because I accepted it didn’t mean I didn’t every day remember just how un-fair and messed up the situation was. Then (after accepting it all) I got a call from my boss telling me that the head of the company had told her that he was “committed to paying me”. Which brought me hope, but then that letter from the lawyer came, and all that hope was gone.
Over the past 4 months I have gone through a number of emotions. From frustration, to anger, to rage, to being absolutely livid, to acceptance, to flickers of anger, to acceptance again. I learned a lot, what not to do, what to do… Today I sat down to try to calculate if it would be posible for me to make the transition from crop-sensor to full frame, that anger was rekindled. If they had just paid me I wouldn’t have to worry about it. As fellow photographers understand, that’s a scary process if you don’t have a ton of money, you’re not only making a change/transitioning your camera body, you are also completely changing every lens you own. You have to get a new camera, and you most likely will have to change what lenses you have as well. At this point if I tried to make the switch I would only be left with one lens. (I would have to sell my beautiful, amazing L-series lens) The lens that I would be left with isn’t fast, isn’t reliable, and is inconsistant when it comes to getting crisp or in-focus shots. This is my current reality. I have a hard time keeping money in my bank account. And there isn’t much that tells me that that reality will end any time soon. I try not to (but it’s hard not to) feel sorry for myself. It’s been very easy for me to use it as an excuse, and it many respects it is. But I can’t use that excuse forever. I need to buck up and go out and get jobs. I need to learn from my mistakes and grow.
I was going to say that the moral of the story is “get a contract” but I realize that even if I did have a contract it wouldn’t have made any difference…people that had contracts also got screwed too…OH well. If you made it this far down, I applaud you. You are cool I’m sure…or you’re my mom…in which case you’re cool too, mom!