Top 3 Things to Establish Before Taking on Clients

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Here’s the thing: I made a lot of mistakes when I first started taking on clients. Like, A LOT. Looking back, there’s a long list of coulda/woulda/shouldas that I should have established before taking on food photography clients that honestly make me cringe now.

While I can’t go back and undo the mistakes that I’ve made, I hope to help you avoid them in your own food photography business. That’s why I’m sharing my top 3 things to establish before taking on client work.

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Top 3 Things to Establish Before Taking on Clients

1. Pricing: this may seem obvious to some, but I remember my early days in business when I was quick to say yes to client work before discussing pricing. This led to me taking on projects that I knew very little about, then having a long list of deliverables and not much return to show for it. Not only was I being unfairly compensated for my work (by my own hand), but it also made me feel sour about the work I was producing. Instead, ask your clients exactly what content they require and give them a quote for those specific deliverables. If their budget isn’t in line with your quote, I suggest offering them less deliverables to meet their price point (so long as it doesn’t fall under your base rate).

2. Deadline: what does “no rush” mean, exactly? 1 month? 6 months? 1 year? Ask your clients to be specific with their deadline. Also, if a client needs a project completed faster than your normal turnaround time (like say 1 week instead of 4), I suggest charging a rush fee. Having to quickly complete a project could mean reorganizing your schedule and potentially delaying other projects. A quick turnaround also means longer working hours and you deserve to be compensated for this.

3. Expectations: talk to your clients to really understand their vision. This will help avoid disappointment on the client’s end and a potential reshoot on yours. Mood boards and shot lists are a great way to understand what your client is looking for. For example, it would be a mistake to assume that a client wants a light and bright shoot simply by basing the shoot on their current branding.  It’s possible that the client had planned on going a different direction aesthetically with this campaign, like dark and moody, and would be disappointed by the images produced. Also, we often like to think clients hire us because they love what we do, but sometimes what a client wants and what we can deliver aren’t sympatico. It’s ok not to be a good fit for every project and FYI – it’s also ok to turn down a project you don’t feel you’re a right fit for.

By establishing pricing, deadlines and expectations, you’ll have a good foundation to create work that both you and your client will be happy about.


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Hey there! I’m Jennifer, the human behind Cashmere & Cocktails. I’m a food, product and travel photographer from New-Brunswick, Canada. For business inquiries, please email me at:

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