Working with international clients can be an exciting addition to a photographer’s client list. But opaque business practices coupled with the difficulty of pursuing payment and legal issues means photographers need to be wary of the risks involved in dealing beyond the borders of your home country.
Here are a few tips to consider before you work with international clients.
Prior to accepting work:
- Talk to other photographers who have worked for a particular client. There are a number of private photo business groups on Facebook. Do your research on social media, i.e, checking websites, Instagram and Facebook pages.
- Insist on payment up-front for first time clients (or at least a deposit and kill fee)
- Consider only working with companies that have an office in your country.
- Insist on a written contract for services from the Agency or client that includes stipulations for overtime, travel fees (if needed) and most importantly, amount of images and usage.
- Business terminology and intellectual property rights vary by country, and Google Translate isn’t a reliable way to translate business docs. You might be willing to take a loss on a US$500 editorial job, but you could really put yourself in financial jeopardy with a larger job.
- If payment is electronic, don’t forget to build in the cost of international wire fees.
- You might want to consider international payment services like TransferWise, which also provides SWIFT and IBAN codes (international standards for account identification) for facilitating international wire transfers for a reasonable fee.
Prior to publication:
- Register your copyright. For international clients, U.S. Copyright isn’t a bulletproof guarantee, but the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works provides potential protection.
If client is in arrears (aka past due)
- Countries have different holiday schedules. For example, many Europeans vacation in July and August, so plan accordingly.
- If the assigning photo editor isn’t returning your emails/calls, contact the accounts payable department.