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Q: I have been shooting club events for a few years now and have been working for free. I did my first gig with one company and now they keep asking me to work for them, but since then have not been paid a cent. I'm from Australia and I am wondering a) How much I should be charging? and b) How to ask them for some sort of wage now?

A: Even though it's understandable to do nightclub photography gigs for free at first to get experience, I don't suggest doing it without setting some payment terms in the future. How the payment is going to be made, how much it's going to be, and when to expect it should be clearly discussed if the company is going to have you do the nightclub photography.

When I was starting out, I did my first nightclub photography gig for free with the understanding that it's going to be a trial run and I would get paid on future gigs. They wanted to see if I would be a right fit for them and if they were going to like my photos. It was also a way for me to see if I would actually enjoy doing nightclub photography and if the photography skills I already had would be applicable to nightclub photography. I actually shadowed one of their photographers. They liked my work and I enjoyed doing nightclub photography so they asked me to start the following week.

To answer the questions:

  1. It seems like you've already built up enough experience from having done club events for a few years now. I think it's fair to say that you should be charging $50 to $75 per hour with a two hour minimum per night. That is, you should be charging at least $100 to about $150 per night.
  2. Since the company has the expectation that they would be getting nightclub photography services for free, it's somewhat hard to ask them to start paying now. Try asking them in a way that they see how it would benefit them. For example, mention that you know the venue, the people, etc. and that you're able to make the best photos for them. Be prepared to walk away if they still don't see the value you're providing for them. Because you're not getting paid now, you're not really losing anything. You've already gained experience from shooting for them and you could pursue new opportunities at other companies that are looking for nightclub photographers.
I hope it turns out well. Best of luck!

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