Hi, this is Jay P and Kenneth Merrill and today we are going to talk about how the coronavirus is affecting the photography/videography world.
The virus will negatively affect many industries and the photo/video world will take a big hit due to events and shoots being canceled and many creative pursuits not being invested in.
“I’ve had thousands of dollars of jobs canceled in the last 24 hours!”
You still have to pay rent; you still have to meet your overhead, so how can you face this and get through it and still have a healthy business on the other side.
In this type of environment we have travel being banned, gatherings being banned, everything is being banned and people are very reluctant to get together and do shoots as usual, so you’re going to have people calling and saying “we need to cancel this shoot”. Maybe they’ll say they can do it in a couple months, and you never know what kind of pressure is on them, because their revenue might be going down because of the coronavirus. The worst thing you can do is say “okay” and hang up the phone and feel sad. What you should do instead is say “okay cool. Let’s plan on 4 weeks from now” but be flexible with people. You can just put a pin in in, just incase things start to get better. Anything to keep that project on the map, and not just “sometime”.
If you just hang your head and walk away, they’ll think “oh well that was easy!” and they might come back to the project later. The very worst thing you can do is start demanding cancellation fees. It’s just going to upset them and the likelihood of getting it is very small. It just makes you look ungrateful and you could be destroying your relationship with that client.
It’s an unfortunate situation for them. They don’t want to cancel that shoot or fire you or anything and then to turn around and say, well now you have to give me $500 because you’re canceling our shoot next week – it’s just going to make the whole situation worse and they’re not going to call you back.
If you’re a wedding or portrait photographer and in your contract is says if you cancel the event you lose your deposit, you might want to think about that and just say “let’s reschedule the wedding”. You still have their money, they still will get married, they still have siblings and friends that will want to get married in the future and you don’t want to destroy that relationship by hanging on to a deposit.
If you have written in your contract a force majeure like “if something happens, I get to keep your money” if that’s not in your contract, they have a really good case to get their money back from you anyway, so you’re almost better to try to work it out with them and push the shoot ahead.
You have to work with people, let them get through the scary part of this experience, but take their money as “we’re still working together, and we’re going to push this out for a couple of weeks.”
Take this as an opportunity to improve your business and not let it affect you negatively. Do something nice for clients, go out of your way, be extra understanding towards clients that have to move or cancel the shoots, because they’ll remember that more than they may have even remembered the shoot in the first place.
It’s a great time, if you’ve got a couple weeks off to start working on a skill you’ve been wanting to perfect; whether it’s editing or Lightroom or Photoshop. There have got to be things you want to work on, or things in your business you should work on like fixing your storage, update your forms/contracts, update your portfolio for your website!
Portfolio work is huge because I never really take the time to go out and shoot personal work that I’m proud of that expands my portfolio in the direction I want to go. So I’m going to be taking the new few weeks to go shoot the stuff that I’ve wanted to shoot for a long time, but never took the time to do.
If you get in a situation in this experience where cash flow gets very tight, but you still have to pay your rent, the worst thing you can do is try to hide from your creditors. It’s much better for you to start reaching out to them and communicate with them, sharing your situation, and ask if you can pay them just a smaller amount against the larger bill that you owe, at least they know that you’re thinking of them, and that you’re going to pay your bills, and then they know you’re taking some action, even though it may seem meager, to resolve the situation and you’re not going to just disappear.
Another thing you can do is reach out to everyone you know. Reach out to the clients you used to work with, clients you’re still working with, friends, the PA you met on a set last summer, anybody you can think of that has any connection to your industry, because they’re sitting around, they don’t have anything to do more than you do. Reach out and say, “hey, let’s do a video chat. Talk about work, talk about plans for the year. Isn’t this virus thing crazy?!”.
It’s a good opportunity to connect with people on a more face-to-face level, even if you can’t do it in person. Video conferencing is a great idea because you can now have a face-to-face, but you don’t have to go out in public in a place that might make them feel uncomfortable. Saves you 2 hours of driving if you’re in the LA area!
This is something I’ve learned over the years, diversify your revenue streams! I am so lucky that not all of my money comes from being a DP, most of it does but I do still have some revenue from editing from previous clients. I also have revenue that comes from stock footage and from camera rentals – those will go down now because no one is renting gear for shoots. But in a situation like this, the more revenue streams you have, you’re more likely to have that safety net that you’ve built.
DIVERSIFY DIVERSIFY! If you haven’t by now, it might be too late this time around, but coming out of this you’re definitely going to benefit from learning a new skill, investing in other things and it’s a good time to contemplate “how can I be less severely hit next time this happens?”.
We’re not saying go start a restaurant! Just within the industry there are a lot of ways to diversify. Pick some different things you can do and invest in them over this year and it could dramatically impact your future.
If you do get the coronavirus, or just feel sick in general STAY HOME! I’ve seen it time and time again, some grip or even me getting sick and I just think; “well, I’m irreplaceable, I’ve got to push through!” and then a week later the whole crew is sick and everyone is miserable and they all hate you. So especially in this situation, if you have a shoot moving forward but you’re feeling sick, recommend a replacement.- someone good, but maybe not quite as good as you because that can be dangerous but someone that will do a good job until you are ready to step back in.
Be a clean, normal human being that washes their hands and takes care of their life!
DON’T DO THIS!
Do not go and selling all of your gear off! I’ve seen people do this many many times, and what does it do? They kick themselves out of the business and they can never get back in because they don’t have the gear necessary to make it happen. So don’t panic like that. Figure out a way to make those payments and to keep those moving ahead and if you can do that, you’ll get through this and on the other side you’re going to be working again, because it’s going to come back with a vengeance – drop like an elephant right in your lap, and you’ll be busy once again. DON’T PANIC.
It will absolutely be a buyers market, as everyone is in the same situation as you and if you sell anything, it’ll be at a deeply discounted rate. Hold on to your assets until this blows over. If you pawn your stuff off you might never get it back.
Do a personal financial audit and get rid of anything you actually don’t need, like your huge TV. Cancel your subscriptions, check in on things you’re spending money on that you don’t need, and educate yourself on budgeting.
There are our thoughts and advice on this, but keep the conversation going. Support and encourage each other to help get the industry and fellow creative through this tough time.
Keep those cameras rolling and keep on clickin.