Chapter 4: Pricing Your Work
This chapter is a bit of a whopper so settle in. But it is because this area is not only what I receive the most questions about it is also such an important part of growing your business and communicating your brand.
What you write about yourself and your work online, how you speak about it when you're talking to others. It matters so much. When I visit beginner photographers' websites I often encounter things like: I will shoot friday and weekday weddings cheaper. Or, my work is half off in the winter months. Or, if you're planning something really special we might be able to work out a special price. Or, I will shoot your wedding in this or that location in exchange for only my travel expenses.
Offering a bargain, discount or anything of the sorts before the client has even contacted you tells them that you're not super special.
In my experience, the good clients with whom you can build a wonderful and trusting relationship, who will value what you do for the rest of their lives and pass on your name with enthusiasm again and again want to know they are in good hands. They are looking for an expert in their field. They want to feel like they found a rare gem, they want to feel lucky to be able to work with you, like not everyone can.
Calculating Your Base Price:
I cannot tell you what to charge. But I can tell you what you need to take into consideration when calculating your base price. As you grow in experience you can then start to move up from that base price.
Here is what you must get covered, just to make the wheels keep turning:
Any expenses specific to that job, including but not limited to: Transportation to and from the shoot, Online gallery, Outsourcing editing if that is something you want
Then you must have your Overhead covered. Your overhead are all the expenses you have regardless of whether you book 50 weddings or one. This includes but is not limited to: Purchasing or renting and maintaining your camera equipment; Website domain and hosting; Insurance; Bookkeeping/accounting; if you're not working from home, Office rent. When you have figured out what the total is, then divide that number by the number of shoots you plan to do per year and that is the amount you need to add to your price.
You need an Hourly wage. This will depend entirely on your financial situation and whether photography is your main income or only a side job, whether you have a family to support or it's just you so you can handle a bit more risk/instability. In the end you need to be able to pay your bills.
You need a Profit or business savings of some sort, even a small one, without which it is very difficult to develop your business. There is always something new to learn. Reading books, investing in workshops or online courses (like this one) is important.
Finally you must be able to pay your Taxes. Both any VAT (Danish Moms) applicable depending on your country's individual laws, and your personal income tax.
All of this is math. And once you pull out the calculator and get started you may not only be in for quite a shock, you will also have a basic understanding of what it takes to keep your business just afloat, and to stand your ground when potential clients start to question or criticise your price. When the number is something you just pulled out of a hat because it feels right, it can be difficult to explain or justify under pressure. Even worse, if you have copied someone else's pricing without doing the math for your own business it is impossible to make sustainable decisions for your future.
When To Raise Your Price:
The next question is when it's time to raise your prices. And to help you recognise the signs when they occur, because they will! I have created a little guide, inspired by one of my favourite business & money women, Denise Duffield-Thomas. So here are 4 signs to keep a lookout for:
1. You’re getting booked out
Sign number one is that you find yourself flooded with constant incoming enquiries, or you book out months and months in advance and are spending alot of your time passing on enquiries to other photographers because you are fully booked. What is important to keep in mind, though, is that we all have a different version of being booked out. A photographer who don't have kids may well be able to shoot 20 weddings in a season, while someone with kids is practically booked to the max at 8 weddings. Stop the comparison game and always act based on your own circumstances, or you will be on a race headed for a mountain gorge. Your version of booked out is whatever feels right for you at this time in your life and career.
If you’re feeling busy/overwhelmed, pricing is the most effective way to throttle demand for your work and chances are that you can afford to increase your prices even just by a little bit.
Raising prices can be incredibly scary! I'm not gonna lie. Every time I raised my prices it took awhile for the world to catch up so to speak and for awhile it always felt like my career was over. But I kept at it, and eventually every time slowly the enquiries started to flow in again. If you're really good at what you do, people will pay your new prices too. The bonus of higher prices is that you then have the choice between a bigger income or less work/fewer clients. If you increase prices and then take on fewer jobs, you can and earn the same amount overall, but you’ll have more energy, more time, and fewer clients to keep track of, thus being able to provide even better and more attentive service.
To give you a real life example: As I mentioned in the intro chapter I did 119 shoots in 2013. But in 2017 I only did 57 shoots and yet I earned more and made a bigger profit than in any of my previous years in business. Booking out should never be the end goal, turning a reasonable profit and staying healthy at the same time should!
2. Your clients are telling you that you’re too cheap
This may seem completely unlikely, but it is possible to reach a point where even your actual clients will tell you that your work is worth so much more than they paid. This is a major one, so if that ever happens you better pay attention! People value expensive items and services more because it feels like an investment, so eventually you may need to ask yourself if your pricing is actually detrimental to your brand.
Above, we did the math, but something we didn't include is that perception is a huge part of it too. Where you position yourself in the market has meaning, and influences who you would like to attract. It is my clear experience, that in the long run, the really great clients will not book you if you're too cheap. Because they are the kind of people who knows that you have to pay more to get excellent quality.
3. You are attracting alot of difficult clients
Sign number three is when you’re more often than not attracting clients that cause you nothing but pain and headache. You know the type who constantly complains, or try and negotiate on price every step of the way, or nitpick with you over even the smallest parts of your package or contract etc. This is a huge sign that what you're offering is a mismatch to your current pricing. And sometimes really crappy clients are the universe’s way to force you to make the changes you need to make.
I will repeat this again and again: with only very few exceptions, I have worked with the BEST people, the BEST clients when I have been at my most expensive!!
The paradox is that we creatives tend to think, “But I’m so cheap, and I keep over-delivering, and I’m trying to be affordable and fair. Why does this keep happening to me? This is so unfair!!" etc etc
The problem is that this isn't really about your price. Allow me to get a little wo-wo for a second, because I genuinely believe this to be true! If the price you set reflects that you devalue yourself, your time, and your service, you are an energetic match to people who will undervalue you as well. You are attracting clients who are mirroring your energy and sense of worth, or lack thereof.
If this sounds familiar, you’ve got to do something about it. You really need to charge appropriately for what you do, so you can attract clients who mirror your healthy sense of self-worth back to you. Trust me. And seriously, if you’re dealing with pain in the butt clients right now, there are easier ways to make money. This is a huge sign that it really is time for you to upgrade your prices.
4. You want to earn more money
Here’s another sign too, that you actually want to earn more money. It’s okay just to decide that you want to get paid more for what you do. That's one of the great advantages of being your own boss and not sitting in a pre-determined job description and corresponding salary.
I know you’re not the kind of person who would just charge an insane price for really crappy work, because I know you are not really in this for the money. You're here because you feel that exploring this work is something you must do.
Over time you will learn to speak and write your new price without choking on the words, or looking down at the ground. And no one else is going to give you permission to raise your prices, it has to come from you.
I am quite sure that somewhere at the back of your mind you have some sense of what you probably should be charging considering your dedication to your clients and the growing quality of your work. But that number might feel scary. I will say though, that you should always feel slightly uncomfortable with your price. It shouldn't be SO high that you feel paralysed by it, but high enough so that you feel like you have to raise the bar slightly for each wedding and should perform at your very best for each and every client to live up to it.
Slowly, you’ll settle into it, and then it’ll probably happen again. At some point you’re gonna feel like you’ve outgrown your price again.
You are allowed to earn more. You absolutely are allowed to change your price whenever you like.
Should I put my prices on my website:
I have tried it all:
Full price list
No price at all
A start price.
My answer may surprise you: I really don't think it matters. If you do the work you learn in this course and keep doing it, keep refining your portfolio, your service, the way you communicate, keep expanding your base of happy clients and wonderful industry contacts who are happy to refer new clients to you, I believe you can build a brand so strong and personal and trustworthy that the right clients will find you, contact you, and yes book you, regardless of whether your price is listed on your website or not.
Here are some great reasons to put a 'starting at' price on your website:
Avoid spending alot of time answering emails from clients who were never within your price range to begin with.
By not putting your full pricing on the site, you get the chance to prolong the conversation with your potential clients, thus wow'ing them with your kindness, personality and knowledge.
Here is a reason to not put any indication of price on your site:
It gives you complete freedom to sometimes drop your price if a couple comes along planning a day in a location that you would basically shoot for free just to have it in your portfolio.
In the Bonus Module which will be released to you at the end of this course, you will find my actual pricing PDFs for both my weddings, elopements, and portrait sessions. But don't just copy what I've done. Figure out what is right for YOU. I do however want to provide that information to you so you get a real life example of prices that are attainable and sustainable even if you are not a hot shot photographer on the "30 Rising Stars" list.