For Freelancers – Become A Corporation
No, I do not mean to incorporate. Instead, take on the image of a corporation. Become a monopoly. So so photographically powerful that the 'real' corporations can not interfere with your stock photography enterprise. More on this shortly.
First – historically, last-century corporations could offer security to freelancers in the form of enticing contracts. However, history has also shown a corporation can treat the freelancer like a servant. When you are no longer useful to them, they would drop you. Or change the rules when they felt like it. Period.
THE ANNUITY CUT-OFF
Part of the advantage of being your own boss is that the value of your stock photography will pass on to your spouse and heirs. Not so with most corporations. There's a cut-off, and a recent ruling by Time Inc. reminded us of this recently when previously LIFE Magazine photographers, including Gordon Parks, John Loengard, among others, learned that the 50% of net income from sales of their images to third parties will continue to be awarded to surviving spouses, but will end there . Children or other heirs will not benefit.
WHICH GROUP ARE YOU IN?
Freelancers tend to divide into two groups. Those that operate by tried and true methods of the past. And those that roll with the times and adapt.
One group of us is going to spend a lot of energy fighting to maintain a 1900's way of doing business. Even if this group wins the fight (Number 1 above), it might get them a contract that just very well land them right back where they were: kowtowing to the ever-growing size of the creative corporate world, –the recording industry , major stock photo agencies, or multinational publishing houses.
Some photographers appeal for pity from the corporations, the public, and other photographers. These photographers talk about their mortgage and saving for their kids' college tuition. Other veteran photographers talk about having to change their operating methods so late in life. Other photographers are giving up in despair, saying they will no longer photograph again – so disheartened are they in the way this New Media world is treating them.
The other group is going to say they do not want to be tied to any contract, that they are free, and they will become a mini-corporation to themselves, and take on the 'look' of a corporation, call the shots, and became involved in a niche area they enjoy, where the corporations must come to them – because they have the needed photos – because the images exist nowhere else.
Do not belly up. It was bound to happen. Instead, let the old way of marketing your pictures slide into oblivion and do not try to cling to it.
My point is this. Forget it. Start anew. Yes, fight to retain the rights you thought the copyright law provided you in the past (Number 2 above), so you can pass on the benefits of your earlier work as an annuity for your children and grandchildren. Then, instead of fretting about which way the current "Us versus Them" case is going to turn out, put your energy and efforts to the new avenues that the electronic world of delivery of information and photos has to offer you.
I say, step away from the old mold of tight contracts with corporations. The Internet is changing for the better every eighteen months, empowering stock photographers in the progress. Hold on. The balance of picture power is going to shift to you, the individual entrepreneur. You will no longer need the "security" of a corporate publisher. Instead of you going to them, they will be coming to you.
As a freelancer you are free, you need not be subjugated. It's freedom when you are not struggling with corporate entities. You can expect to give up part of your freedom if you let someone subjugate you.
We have come to a fork in the road when it comes to freelancing. Forget working with the corporate world on their terms. The Internet has empowered us with the opportunity to pursue a new direction.
YOU HAVE THE ACE
The publishing houses of the future are no doubt going to select photographers and authors who will follow corporate guidelines and contracts. However, stock photo corporations and major publishers will always make exceptions for artists who have something special – and your ace in the hole is that you will specialize in the very subject they are looking for.
It's going to take some re-building on your part. Sure. And before you take two steps forward, you are going to slide one step back. This is not short-term licenses, it is long-term security for your solid place in the world of stock photography.
Do some self-examination and decide what your real interests are in photographic subject matter (archaeology, wild flowers on the seashore, rock bands, penguins, song birds) and become a `monopoly 'of your own.
The Web now offers you dozens, even hundreds of new markets, who are waiting for you, if you take action. The generic image is out. It belongs in the files of Royalty Free. What do you care if you can no longer sell your generic photo of a seagull against the setting sun, or that picture of the senior citizens riding bikes in the autumn foliage? These kinds of pictures are already gobbled up by the huge major conglomerates. Photo researchers already know where to find them. Forget it. That era is over.
This is a payback. All you have learned about how corporations treat their clients, customers, and workers, you can now forget. You will be a bought-after specialist with a collection of specific kinds of photos in your specialty niche area (s).
When a photobuyer anywhere in the world needs your kinds of photos, he or she will come directly to you. They will not go through the 20th century labyrinth to find you – they will search peer to peer (like Napster), or the 21st century Web, and find you immediately.
Will they demand additional electronic usage? Yes they will, and your fee for electronic use has already been built into your new pricing structure. Whether they do re-use your photo electronically or not will be up to them.
The corporate people will accept your higher fees because you will have migrated from producing corporate generic pictures to becoming a specialist. You do not need the corporations – they need you. You will not deal with a single corporate entity anymore. You'll deal with dozens or hundreds, depending on your specialty (ies). You will become a specialist in the very area where they need convincing photography. They can not afford not to pay you a healthy price for your work.
So you see, although you are not strictly a corporation, you can reverse your marketing tactics and employ the same business principals corporations use, and become a legal `monopoly '(corporations are not allowed by interstate commerce law to be a monopoly). You can become a `monopoly. ' The beauty of it all is that you are engaged in a monopoly that is self-satisfying and one without stringent contract demands. You can not help but succeed in the new stock photography environment. -RE
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Written by Rohn Engh
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