I keep hearing the argument presented that if one separates one’s usage licensing fee from one’s creative fee, that photographer “runs the risk” of losing money if the client changes its mind on the usage. For example, if the deal is struck for 1 year local print ads and the client changes its mind to 6 months local prints ads, the photographer would be forced to change the usage licensing fee and, by this argument, lose money.
I think that it is better to be fair and equitable in business than to make every dollar possible in every situation. Thus, I have no problem with a photographer changing the usage licensing fees to reflect a reduction in usage license to be granted, or even refunding payments already made (though most folks won’t get paid so quickly)–with one major “if.” Here is the big if: If the change comes within a set period expressed in all the paperwork (terms and conditions), for example, within 15 or 30 (or whatever) days of the invoice date. After that pre-set period (chosen by the photographer, mind you!), the deal is done-done and the client has the original bigger license which it can choose to exercise in whole or in part. No more chances at changing the deal, no more potential refunds, after the “changeable” period expires.
Look, why shouldn’t the photographer reduce the usage licensing fees and/or refund (if payment has already been made) if the license needed is reduced (within the parameter I just set out above)? If the license was expanded by the client, the photographer would demand (rightly!) greater fees–so why do some people have an issue with being fair on the other side of that equation?
Clients will understand the limits of the refund/reduction window–they understand business and contracts. And, more importantly, they will appreciate the fairness you show in how you run your business–which will build trust.
I did this with my photographers when I repped, and I was repeatedly thanked for it AND given additional projects for my guys because of this. I think it happened something like 3 times total in my years of repping. This is not something that happens often, but if you set out a policy for how to handle it and do so with fairness, the long-term good you will gain will far outway the short-term loss of money that may occur.
Running your business with fairness and compassion will get you much farther than running it our of fear or greediness.