Pricing & Negotiating: Comparing Two Bids with Identical Concepts

Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Employee profile in multiple workplace situations

Client A: Fortune 500 professional services and consulting company

Client B: Fortune 500 insurance company

Here are the estimates:

screenshot of a pricing estimate for a professional services and consulting company

Estimate for Client A 

screenshot of a pricing estimate for a large insurance company

Estimate for Client B 

I thought it might be interesting to present two bids for very similar projects, in similar markets, shot by comparably experienced photographers, for two different Fortune 500 companies with wildly different bottom lines.

One client (A) was a professional services and consulting company, the other (B) was a large insurance company. Both concepts were nearly identical – profile an employee, shoot in a few different situations in/around the workplace in an “editorial style,” with a change or two of wardrobe ranging from street clothes to active-wear to business attire. The resulting imagery would effectively be the same from both shoots.

There was a subtle but significant disparity in the usage; Client B required more limited use (just Web Collateral) of an unspecified number of images for one year. Client A required a slightly broader use (Collateral and Publicity) of an unspecified number of images for a much longer duration (forever). Despite not being willing to limit the usage to a specific number of images, they both expressed reasonable expectations, 3-5 finished images. Generally, we prefer limiting the usage to a set number of images, but considering the nature of the concepts and usage, it was pretty clear that whatever value they might be able to squeeze out, the entire shoot would be limited by the fact that we were shooting just one subject in 2-3 different scenarios. The variations would be subtle and likely wouldn’t generate a significant amount of value relative to the hero images. As such, we were comfortable foregoing the limitation on the number of images in both cases.

The other divergence was in the production expectations, which varied quite a bit. Client A expected a low-impact, editorial-style approach, while Client B expected a more comprehensive approach with a fair amount of production support, replete with a tech/scout day, stylist, digital tech, supplemental wardrobe, and catering.

What’s most interesting and noteworthy is the difference in the overall budget allocated, and specifically the photography fees. Bear in mind these are two companies that operate on the same scale. We were only able to muscle out a $1,800 creative fee from Client A, including the more extensive usage. Our first bid was more than double the bottom line shown here and we were ultimately presented with a take it or leave it budget. On the other hand, Client B accepted a $5,500 creative fee for more limited usage.

There are countless justifications for the discrepancy. Organizational structure, intended use (passive profile page vs. an internal campaign), the importance of the subject, fiscal timing (one may have had money to burn, who knows), audience (consumer, trade, internal, external, etc.) all factor into the value a client attributes to any given project.

Licensing value is subjective, driven more-so by the client’s expectations than anything else. Until we determine otherwise, we approach each potential project and bid with the assumption that the client has high expectations for quality and a budget to match. From there, we sometimes whittle down as needed to land the gig, while avoiding the pitfalls of underbidding (leaving money on the table, doing more production work than agreed to, etc.).

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at 610.260.0200 or reach out by email. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

Wonderful Machine

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