As creatives (photographers, artists, graphic designers) we are in the business of creating 'visual' products. Yet somehow, we are always approached by both individuals and businesses asking us to work for them for free. In today's economy - we need to learn how to say NO.
Family, friends and relatives will always ask us to do things for them for free. We just need to make it clear to them that this is our business. It is what we do for a living. There are costs involved in creating images. If I wanted to put together a package to shoot a wedding and were to start from scratch my costs would be roughly: $8693
$15 in gas to get to the shoot and then back
Camera - $2500
Back-up camera body - $1200
Lens - $1600
Back-up lens - $700
Strobe - $650
Tripod - $130
Memory card - $69
Camera bag - $129
Computer used for editing the image - $1200
Photoshop - $500
(And this isn't counting the hours/days of shooting time, editing time, etc.)
For commercial (business) shoots there are additional fixed costs for additional lights, backdrops, stands, reflectors, cords, and lots of other incidentals. And all of this equipment will wear out over time and need to be replaced. There are also the hours involved in the shooting, the hours (or days) of time involved in the editing, etc.
Many businesses will try to get you to do things for them for free. They will try to hire you to shoot one thing then try to add things or make changes once you are there. They will make offers to "take care of it next time". Or the absolute worst line: "We will give you a credit line in the final product." A credit line in a brochure or annual report is only going to be seen by the insiders at that company or the clients of that business, not by people interested in hiring a photographer. Credit lines don't work! Proof is on every motor vehicle on the road today. If 'credit lines' worked, the name of the manufacturer of your vehicle along with the name of the dealership where you bought the vehicle (both listed on the back of your car) would be enough to get you the car for free.
Take control of your business. Realize that you need to make a return on your investment in training and equipment. Giving away your time and your work is not profitable.
Saying 'No" to a possible client can seem counter-intuitive but in the long-term will benefit your business. The time and effort you put into working with people or businesses that want something for nothing will only lead to additional clients that want the same thing. You have to set the bar for your business. Do you want to make a profit? If so then you have to say No to the "opportunities" that aren't going to further your goals and profits.