Pass-through costs, ugh. It can be a nuisance in the b&m world, too. When I used to travel a lot for work, I always budgeted travel expenses as directly reimbursable and invoiced separately (due upon receipt) from the project fees (usually net 30). That worked fine for clients who paid promptly. Except when they lumped it all together on my 1099. That is a bear to unravel. I've managed to stop traveling for work, so this kind of thing comes up less often.
If something is needed for the project, the client can either furnish it or I will furnish it and charge the client cost-plus.
Surely the main issue in buying an image for client use has nothing to do with money?
Licensing conditions usually apply to the purchaser. OK, there may be clever ways of paying under one name and assigning rights to another, but even if this is the case it would be so easy to get it wrong.
I do a lot of smaller proejcts (<$500) where I need to have clients reimburse me for participants for studies. Clients can't pay for them directly because I run them through my own participant account. It's a pain, but I have enough repeat customers that the fees are usually 10%. So I charge them enough to cover the fees. When I write up a quote, I call it participant/Upwork fees and they know that I am only passing on the charges to them and not making anything from reimbursement. Then I charge my personal fee on top of that. I always let clients know ahead of time that if I pay for something, then I will need to charge the additional fee for it. No one seems to care much. Most of my clients just pay it so they don't have to go through the hassle of purchasing it themselves. I don't think there is another/better way if you need to be reimbursed. On some of these projects, participants fees are more than half of the total fee, so I can't just eat the cost of participants.
A lot of good thoughts/suggestions, appreciate it. I asked because I needed to explain this to my client and wanted to make sure I had current information on Upwork policies. On this project I provided most of the images from my Adobe Stock supply, have more than I need usually. But in one instance he wanted a particiular image I couldn't source free, and I wasn't willing to go out of pocket. He decided to buy it.
Glad I asked cause I see it's best to state a policy on this before contract, and I'm reminded to charge for handling as well.
The main reason I see to get the images is that way I can assure quality visuals that work with my design. That's a biggie with editorial design work. When clients get into purchasing they often start wanting to choose as well. Yes it does make me the license holder, bur I can't see that being a problem with Adobe stock. I'm not going to complain, why would Adobe care?