Have you ever wished you didn’t have to deal with the money side of your business? If you’re a creative, and you’re nodding your head yes… you are not alone. The money side scares a lot of people, and yet it’s those denaros that make your business…well…. a business. Without an exchange of funds, you’re just a really nice hobbyist.
So you set up some prices, and you charge (I hope). But are you charging the right amount? Are you profitable? Are you happy when you check your bank account balance? Are you confident in why you charge what you do?
If yes is a hard word to squeeze out right now, you’re also not alone. Feeling confident in your pricing is something that few small businesses get to claim, and yet it’s a critical indicator of long term success and growth.
Undercharging leads to burnout, frustration, and eventually (if you don’t learn how to price yourself properly) failure.
I’m going to share the 3 most common mistakes I see as a success strategist, and what really works for increasing photography sales. Make sure you grab my freebie at the bottom of this post!
Mistake #1 – Pricing without a Goal in Mind
It can be unsettling to say the least. You knew you needed to be charging, but knowing how much is the right amount was daunting. So you did some “market research” and took the Goldilocks approach. You found some fellow local photographers, sized your work up to theirs, and decided somewhere in the middle seemed juuuust right. But you don’t know how they came up with their numbers. Are they profitable? Are they paying themselves adequately? Are they making more than minimum wage? The average photographer is only making about $15 per hour so chances are… they didn’t.
What to do about it…
There is a very simple formula that will help you 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, how many sessions can you take on each week and ensure that you will not only provide the very best customer experience that you can possibly deliver, but you will also be the best ___________________ (insert: 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 of 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?
Mistake #2 – Pricing from a Scarcity Mindset
I hear it all the time… “People in my area just won’t pay that!”‘ This viewpoint is coming from a scarcity mindset, and it’s one way of thinking you want to ditch! The truth is, there are incredibly profitable photographers everywhere from corn fields in Illinois to a stay at home mom in Israel!
Success is possible anywhere.
The truth is… it’s not where you live that’s stopping you from being successful. It’s what you believe. So you have to take a deep look at how you view money, business, success, wealth and all that other money stuff, and determine if you’re what’s actually getting in your way. Here’s the thing… there is a high, middle, and low end of every market. We can look at chocolate, handbags, makeup, produce, automobiles, literature (hardbound, used or your public library and the content doesn’t even change), and even water! Yes, there is a luxury, middle and budget-friendly version of water. Don’t believe me? Check out Voss Water in its beautiful glass bottle, your average Dasani water you grab on your way out of the supermarket, and of course the tumbler you grab from your cabinet and fill yourself at the kitchen sink. We are talking about water! Water is water is water! The creative space is no different with varied price points and levels of photography. There will always be the luxurious & exclusive, the middle man, and the budgeteer (everyone’s photographer who no one stays loyal to). So where do you want to be?
What to do about it…
Decide now who you want to be. Where you want to be. Why you want to be. Do you want me to know you for your art or your great prices? Do you want to live month to month or with savings to secure the experiences you’d only dreamed of previously? Do you want to use your income to give more and be more for others, or is your only goal to keep the electricity on? Take a good look at where your pricing habits are coming from. It may be time to dispel feelings of scarcity so that you can embrace a mind shift toward abundance.
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 misled 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 elusive). 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 that never found their way back 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 sessions (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 don’t have to be sleazy. In fact, when it’s customer-centred, 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!
thank you so much for your help!
You’re so very welcome Mindy!
You must be in my head! I am starting a photography business, at the prompting and encouragement of friends.
Years of photographing as a hobbyist is one thing. They only person I had to satisfy was myself. I am stressing myself out that I now have to ensure I have a satisfied customer!
Your tips are spot on and I thank you!
You are so very welcome Terri! Good luck!