Sep 26, 2011

Rerun: How do you know what you’re really making?

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I am currently on a 9 day cruise with my handsome husband to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. While I’m away I decided to have a rerun week. Each of the next 4 posts you read were written between one to two years ago. This first one was written in 2009. It’s funny to see how things have changed for me when I read back over these old blog entries!

How much should you be charging? How much do you want to make? Are there any other variables? Most definitely!!
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The topic of new photographers who aren’t charging anywhere near enough and the effects it has on the more seasoned photographer has come up in conversation with multiple veteran photog friends lately (not that I’m one of em’) but it’s made me think enough to want to share some thoughts here. Maybe I can help someone realize the value of their time just as a further along photographer did for me!First of all, how much are you making?
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Let’s say you charge $200 for the session and disk.
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All in all you spent about 30 minutes emailing, setting up location and putting together contracts. Then we’ll say you spent 4 hours shooting (I’m including drive time because that is time away from your family).
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Next there is editing, processing and formatting for proofing. 4 hours.
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Last there is burning the disk, packaging and mailing (remember you have to go to the post office too) – another 1.5 hours. So we are guestimating about 10 hours.
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So 200/10 is $20 per hour. You may not think that’s to bad… But you also need to think about the cost of the disk, packaging, insurance, gas, equipment and any other costs that you have. Once you figure all that in, you’d be down to about $12 per hour. Yikes!
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Find out your hourly rate for yourself. Keep a note pad and pen and track your hours or do what I do and use an app. I start it when I close the garage (although I guess I should when I’m getting all my gear together) and stop it when I come back in. I can keep track of different jobs and start and stop the clock to keep hours. Plus I keep track of my “other” business work as well. Keep track of the next few jobs and see what your average comes out to.
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Here’s the thing for me… Yes. I take pictures because I truly LOVE photography. But I’m not in this to burn myself out and sell my self short. It’s my name on the front of my business card. I put my heart and soul into my work and I take myself away from my family to do that. And even if I wasn’t sure that my own heart and soul is worth more then $12 an hour… I know for a fact that my kiddo’s are!
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You’re a business owner. Don’t degrade it. Don’t say, well it’s part time, or it’s just my pictures, or I’m a housewife having fun… Or anything else. {p.e.r.i.o.d.} Do you realize that at that rate, The Picture People are paying their photographers more then you are paying yourself? Think about that. I’d bet your clients are getting a lot more from you then they would at Picture People!
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Find the confidence to really own “it”. If you don’t have that confidence then maybe it’s still portfolio building time. One of my biggest mistakes was coming into “pro” status (not that even today I feel pro!) before I was even close to ready. I didn’t have a plan, a pricing structure, not even an idea of what it was I was trying to accomplish outside of taking pictures. It’s a lot harder to back pedal then to follow a nicely plotted course. No doubt that course will still have bumps but at least you’re going in the right direction!
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WOW! This was really great for me to read! I’ve come a long long way since that post was written in 2009. I no longer time myself with clients but it was a great step for me back then. It really opened my eyes! Back then I think I was charging $200 for the session and $200 for the disk with no other options. Today I still charge $200 for the session, but my clients now invest in the thousands on portrait art and I still offer the disk but at a premium. I worked hard to create that vision I’d neglected in the beginning. I designed a brand, created a plan and put everything I had in me, into making myself proud. Today, it’s so incredible to not only know that I’ve made it but to help other photographers get there too!
I’d love to hear what you think as you read this OLD post, so leave a comment and share!
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  1. Samantha says:

    Thank you for this information! I love your website. Like many others, I am a budding photographer and I have spent hours reading your articles. I love your website, your brand, and the honesty and transparency that you offer here. You are an inspiration, and your site is just what I’ve been looking for. Your article outlines my main issue right now:

    “…If you don’t have that confidence then maybe it’s still portfolio building time. One of my biggest mistakes was coming into “pro” status (not that even today I feel pro!) before I was even close to ready. I didn’t have a plan, a pricing structure, not even an idea of what it was I was trying to accomplish outside of taking pictures. It’s a lot harder to back pedal then to follow a nicely plotted course…”

    I have done several shoots for my closest friends, expecting just to get some practice, but they were actually blown away! One even cried when I showed her the portraits I took of her daughter. What a great feeling. They have already been telling their friends, who then expect me to have pricing and everything together like you said above. Which I would love to say I have together, but I don’t, yet. So should I do some more shoots to build my portfolio at this time and tell people that’s all I am doing at this time? Or should I “Go4Pro” now so to speak, and full throttle ahead start charging for shoots and set a full plan in place? Sorry for the long comment, I would just love to have this advice from you to know how I should start. Thank you so much!

    Samantha A.

    • My answer would depend on your personality type. If you do well under pressure, handle set backs well and can think fast on your feet then full throttle baby! But I would suggest getting the pricing and marketing material in place pronto. Even though they are planning to pay you, you can make them start doubting their choice really fast by not being professional and prepared.

      If you are not those things I mentions then I would stay portfolio but be working very hard to get all your ducks in a row. Get your pricing and marketing material in order and then come out with a big beautiful bang!

      It can be really NICE to get some money flowing in but all of the new found stress of trying to wing it could make it not worth it. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before you decide.

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