When you first started your photography business, did you ever imagine that photography would be the thing you spent the LEAST amount of your time doing? I sure didn't! I was completely unprepared for how much time and energy I would spend on the business side, but now that I've learned a few things about how to structure everything, I am so much better off and I can spend more time doing the things I WANT to do, like spending time with my fam!
So what, exactly, have I learned? Well there are three big things that I want to tell you about so that you can start increasing your sales and have more time for the things you want to do. Oh and make sure you grab the freebie at the end!
Mistake #1 - Pricing Without a Goal In Mind
If you're like me, you started your business trying to be the cheapest photographer in the area. I thought that if I could be the other guys on price, I would naturally be the go-to photographer in my town. What I didn't know then is that being the cheapest wasn't in anyones best interest, least of all my own! My clients weren't getting a photographer they could count on because I couldn't even afford to buy my own backup camera, and I wasn't making enough money to help provide for my family.
It took me a while to learn, but eventually I discovered that there is a very simple formula to determine exactly how much you should be profiting each time you book a session. *You can download our free ‘Pricing Tips & Tools’ Download (scroll to the bottom of this post) to use our worksheet to find your ideal profit number.
First, determine how many sessions you can take on each week while ensuring that you will not only provide the very best customer experience that you can possibly deliver, but you will also be the best (wife, mother, daughter, employee, student) that you are meant to be. Multiply that number by 4.
Next, determine how much money you would like to pay yourself each month. Now this doesn’t mean how much you Gross, because there are expenses that must be considered. Instead think of how much would you like to pay yourself each month. Sometimes this is easy to decide, because your goal is to replace your current salary. Other times it’s a little harder. Take the time to consider your long term goals, how you feel about different numbers, and what each salary option would allow for your lifestyle. Once you have defined your monthly salary, divide that by the number of sessions you came up with by multiplying your ideal weekly session count x 4.
[Monthly Salary Goal / Monthly Session Potential = Profitability Goal]
Now that you know how much you think you want to profit from each session, take it one step further by dividing that number by the number of hours you invest total in each session (feel free to guesstimate here. A good average is about 15 hours per session, but make sure you factor in your editing time!). Now you have a very general idea for your hourly rate. Are you happy with it, or is it less than if you started handing out paper sacks through a drive through window?
Now you have a goal, and that means you now have a good idea of the direction you need to take with your pricing to get you there!
Mistake #2 - Pricing from a Scarcity Mindset
It really does seem like there are too many photographers and not enough clients, and this thinking leads many of us to think that we can't be successful if we charge premium prices.
I remember a time when I raised my prices a teeny little bit and my business slowed down, so of course I freaked out and lowered them back down again. In my mind, it was better to be busy at low prices than it was to be slow with high prices. But this is stinkin' thinkin'!
The truth is that it's not necessary to book every single client that comes your way, and that in order to serve the clients that REALLY value your work, you have to turn away those that don't. It's hard at first, at least it was for me, but once you've had a few RAVING clients who gladly pay the price for your photography, you'll never go back to believing that you have to compete on price.
Mistake #3 – No Sales Plan
Pricing goes hand in hand with sales. In order for great pricing to be effective, it must be coupled with an even better sales process. Photographers are often mislead into thinking that all they have to do is come up with some pricing, slap them on their website, and then wait for the contact form to be completed. But clients rarely come that easily, especially if you’re priced appropriately and profitably.
What’s more likely to happen is that you will get an email, and more than likely it was to ask you about pricing (and it doesn’t seem to matter if your pricing is clearly laid out or completely illusive). They almost always ask about pricing. Have you ever wondered why? I believe that if you could read between the lines of their email it would say something like this,
I’m really interested in working with you, but I’m not quite convinced. To tell you the truth, I’m nervous. Will you help me hide the parts of me crept in after the last baby? My husband is already complaining, and I haven’t even booked it. Can you help me there? Or how about my son? Can you capture the real smile that’s been hiding lately?
I’m too embarrassed to ask you all of these things, because as of right now, you’re just a website. So I’ll stick with asking you about pricing, but if you could put me at ease and hide my double chin, I will forever be loyal.
Digging a little deeper into what your client is really wanting, saying, and needing from you helps you see where you need to do more. For example, pick up the telephone instead of just emailing back. Offer in-person sales session (see below, ‘Free Pricing: Tools & Tips’ Download for more about this) instead of lonely and confusing online galleries. Show them what’s possible with beautiful samples instead of just hoping they understand what an ‘image box’ is.
Have a plan and work to cultivate the absolute best client experience every-single-time. Sales doesn’t have to be sleezy. In fact, when it’s customer centered, clients are not only willing to pay more, but they will thank you for your attention, service and guidance.
We have way more tips and some great templates and worksheets for you inside our Free Pricing Quick Guide Download! I hope you enjoy it! Happy Thriving!