James Cavanaugh recently posed this question to members of LinkedIn's ASMP group: "A client wants you to create photographs that they can use on social sites so they can 'go viral' to promote their company. It means potentially countless people may use your copyrighted work. How would you approach such a request?"
I suggest handling the job as an all-rights assignment. Forget about copyright. Make sure you earn enough from the assignment to cover your costs, overhead and profit. Since it is highly unlikely that your name will remain attached to social network uses, do not discount your price based on some imagined promotional value.
And do not worry about — or expect to earn anything from — residuals, but do retain the right to license other non-exclusive rights to use the images.
There is no way we will ever control the use of imagery made available on social network sites, so stop agonizing over it, accept the paradigm shift of our industry and adapt to the new reality.
You have two choices. Either establish a fee that makes it worthwhile to produce the images without any hope of residuals, or refuse to do the job. Do not factor in, in any way, a potential value for residual use of the images.
Calculating Your Fee
There is a simple formula for calculating what the fee should be. First look at all your overhead expenses to operate your business, not counting expenses specifically applicable to shooting various jobs. Assume $75,000.
Add what you need in take-home pay before taxes. Assume another $75,000.
Thus, the jobs you produce need to generate $150,000 annually.
Now, estimate how many jobs you will be able to do in a year given the pre- and post-production time and marketing time involved with each one. Let's say 100.
Divide the number of jobs into the total you need to produce, and you get an average of $1,500 per job.
You should charge that fee per job, plus all the expenses related to the particular job. (Obviously, your own numbers may be higher or lower than these illustrative figures.)
Some jobs will take a lot longer than others. If the job is not going to take much time you might want to charge less, but when thinking about time involved do not forget pre- and post-production time, waiting time and travel. For those jobs that take a lot longer or are a lot more complicated, you want to charge proportionately more than your calculated average.
In some cases, you will want to take into account the value the customer will receive from using the images produced and add appropriate fees — for example, charging more if the images are to be used in a major ad.
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