I Can't Work for $100 Per Day and You Shouldn't Either

I was just approached to do some photography consulting with an organization doing amazing things in Rwanda. I would’ve loved to work with them but they offered a day rate far below what any photographer should accept. This makes me wonder who is taking these gigs, thus perpetuating the myth the photographers can sustainably work for next to nothing? And do they know that they shouldn’t?

This organization offered to pay me $100 per day with the average day being 8-10 hours. Essentially they wanted me to work for about $10 dollars an hour.  I can’t do that. And neither should you. Here’s why:

Let’s just say hypothetically that I found an organization that would hire me for 300 days out the year for $100 per day. I’d make $30,000. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?



That is until you learn that I do a cost of doing business calculation every year. This year I projected that I will have at least $26,000 in expenses. In addition, I’d like to make a salary and save for retirement.  Refer to bullet one: the day rate of $100 leaves me with about $4,000 to live on for the year.

In addition, I own approximately $20,000 in gear and every piece of gear I own has a life expectancy. This means that as long as I am a photographer I will be purchasing or repairing gear.  This year I’ve spent about $5,500 in gear and repairs. One major unexpected expense was spending $4,000 on a new camera when both of my bodies went down at the same time. Guess where my $4,000 salary just went?

Besides my yearly expenses, I have to take into account that my bachelors and masters degree cost me approximately $85,000. I have spent years learning my craft and paid thousands of dollars in student loans.

Your organization is doing amazing things and I wish I could help. But I am running a business. I can’t work for $100 per day. If I accepted your rate then I wouldn’t make enough money to eat, pay rent, or save for retirement. No matter how great your organization is the answer is still no.