Yesterday I was complimented by Plum Guide – a vacation rental agency in London who said they were really interested in working with me. Naturally, I googled the company and soon learned they, according to their website, offers stays in the ‘world’s best homes’ and were expanding from London outwards and looking for creatives to work with.

Hi James
I work on the talent team here at The Plum Guide – we like to think of ourselves as the Michelin Guide of homes for short-term rentals (New York Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/01/travel/london-vacation-rentals.html). We only select the top 1-5% of homes in a given region for our site – the most striking and beautiful homes.

Your profile seems like you could be a great match for our freelance photographer position in Cornwall. If you are interested, please click here to apply: https://discover.plumguide.com/best-job-in-the-world/

I followed the enticing link ‘best-job-in-the-world’ and filled in all the requested information for the registration, including a link to a portfolio and CV. The process took about 30 minutes in total. The following morning I received an email from Plumb Guide stating that my application had been unsuccessful.  I read further and discovered that while my portfolio was up to scratch, it was my fee that was deemed unacceptable. The application specifically asked for an hourly wage expectation. As I don’t price by hour I price by job as all jobs are different I entered £100 to £600 per property – a very reasonable amount to cover a large number of possibilities.

Dear James,

Thank you again for your interest in joining Plum Guide. We appreciated the chance to learn more about you and are grateful for the time you spent on the application.

We have reviewed your candidacy and unfortunately, after careful consideration and although your portfolio is great, we do not feel that your salary expectations fit the role at this time. As we continue to grow and expand, new opportunities will emerge, and we encourage you to check back and see if any might be a good match for you. We wish you luck in finding your next venture, and thank you again for considering us.

Best wishes and safe travels,

The Plum Guide Team

So it would seem Plum Guide, the self-professed ‘Mitchelin Guide’ is quite happy to get their hands on the most exclusive properties and rent them for between £300-£600 per night in Cornwall while refusing to pay local photographers a profitable fee.

My advice to photographers and other property related freelancers is to stay away and warn as many people as you can.

For anyone considering letting their property with Plum Guide, I would ask you choose another high-end and exlusice holiday agency in Cornwall which there are plenty of to choose from.

I decided to do a little more digging and was able to obtain a link to a job posting by Plumb Guide which outlined what they were prepared to offer as reimbursement to photographers.

Hours & compensation

You will be paid between £60 to £120 per photoshoot, depending on the size of the home. We estimate a photoshoot will take between 2 and 5 hours. This includes travel time to and from the visited homes if you’re based in London.

Let’s just quickly break these numbers down. Assume the realistic situation where you would get one job per day at the middle offered rate. £80.

30 Minutes planning leading up to shoot
3.5 Hours of shooting and travel
1.5 Hours of editing time
Total 5.5 hours

This works out at £15.54 before costs. That’s ok for a photographer just starting out. But wait… running a business has costs.

Camera and lens equipment: £1,000 per year (not fully professional equipment)
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop £120 per year
Public liability and indemnity Insurance: £300 per year
Transport: 45p per mile 10 miles per property 10 * 4 * 52 * £0.45 = £936
Accounting: £350 per year
Website: £500 per year
Marketing budget £500 per year
Total = £3706

Assuming you worked 4 days a week for Plumb Guide (incredibly unlikely) and earned £90 per shoot (likely) that would equal £17,280 per year. Then minus costs of £3706 = £13,547.

If you believe this is unethical and morally wrong then please don’t support companies who exploit creatives. There’s a number of high-end and exclusive holiday property agencies in the UK who offer great opportunities for returns whilst paying their supply chain above minimum wage. Please consider them before you consider Plum Guide.

If there are any photographers, curators, designers who have worked with Plumn Guide or similar companies please do get involved in the comments.