What's a Kill Fee in the Creative Industry?

Seventeen years ago, I got my first paid website design project – a trucking & warehouse company based in Sparks, NV. They wanted new photos of their trucks, warehouse, and offices.

Naturally I hired a professional photographer a couple of weeks in advance.

The day before the shoot, the client called and had to re-schedule. The photographer said, “Reid, because you’re a friend of mine I’m not going to charge you a Kill Fee – this time.”

“What’s a Kill Fee,” I naively asked. “When I block out my schedule to show up and take photographs,” he said, “that time is locked in. It’s protected from someone else booking that time. But when the client – in this case, you, since you booked me – cancels (at such short notice) I don’t have time to re-book that time with another client. I’ve lost out on the value of that time.”

(Keep in mind that the Kill Fee for re-scheduling with such short notice was the full 100% price of the photoshoot. And the Kill Fee would have been charged to me).

I learned a VALUABLE lesson that day:

The client pays for the time-slot, even if they don’t use it.

Even if they re-schedule. Even if an emergency comes up. Even if they cancel.

When I re-scheduled the photoshoot with the client for another day, I had to indicate that a Kill Fee had not been charged, but would be if another re-schedule occurred. And the client totally understood the reasoning.

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