Have you ever discounted your photography work for someone, only to kick yourself later? You’re not alone! Read on for tips about regaining your confidence to charge.
Oh yes, friends, I’m going to talk about MONEY. I honestly don’t get why it’s such a taboo subject. In fact, I think we should ALL be talking about it because it can empower us, especially as small business owners.
Photography Pricing Can be Tricky!
I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you have confidence issues with money. I know this because I’ve been there, and I was too embarrassed to admit it. No matter what your pricing model, confidence is really the key to charging what you’re worth.
I have personally continually battled with these issues (read: LAST WEEK). I realized that when I feel insecure about myself or my money, the universe is HAPPY to bring those bargain shoppers right to my front door.
So let’s touch on a few scenarios that could be keeping you small with money and in business, and how to approach these scenarios differently.
A few ways you could be sabotaging your pricing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re part-time, full-time, or something in between, photography pricing can really touch on some deeply-rooted insecurities that we hold about our finances.
You could potentially be sabotaging any success you COULD have, due to how you communicate about money to clients and to yourself.
Have you ever done any of the following?
You blurt out “free” before you even let your client speak.
I am the first to admit that I genuinely LOVE doing work for free and that it has led to a lot of paid work.
But let’s make something VERY clear. There is a difference between working for free because you want to do something genuinely nice for someone, and there’s doing work for free because you are afraid of being judged or feel like a fraud.
“There’s no pressure when it’s free!”
This is literally what I said to my husband when he asked me how much I was charging a friend for photos.
“If she’s not paying, she can’t be upset if they turn out horrible.”
And boy, did I hang on to THAT excuse for a LONG time. (I probably could have bought a fancy 50mm 1.2 with the money I let slip through my fingers that first year if you catch my drift.)
Lesson: You CAN charge money. You’ve invested your time, your OWN money, and brain cells into learning photography. You’ve stayed up late, and you’ve ignored your kids (maybe I’m projecting).
You absolutely are allowed to charge for your SERVICES, and you should.
You give a discount when you don’t actually want to.
Let me guess. You meet a delightful person at the coffee shop or run into an old friend while running errands. The conversation turns to what you do, and you mention you’re a photographer. They light up and say, “oh wow, we TOTALLY need family photos taken, how much do you charge?”
You: “Well, I usually charge $250 for a family session, but for YOU, it’s only 50 cents!” (INSERT FOOT IN MOUTH!)
Why do you do this?!!! It comes down to confidence (and some courage). You are afraid to stand tall in the face of your pricing, or worse, you are deathly afraid of rejection.
“Why would ANYONE pay ME that much to take their photos?!”
Trust me; they will. No matter what type of photography, no matter the local market, the right people WILL pay for your work. You simply need to find them.
Lesson: Tell them your SET price and KEEP YOUR BIG MOUTH SHUT until they respond.
Silence is golden, friends. Also, try practicing in front of the mirror while you repeat your pricing.
- Do you feel like you keep yourself small and don’t know why?
- Maybe you feel guilty for doing well when others aren’t, and so you don’t want to make them feel bad?
- Are you afraid of rejection or judgment?
- You say “yes” when you want to say, “no.”
- You want people to like you.
If you’ve answered “yes,” to any of these, just take a minute and ask yourself WHY? It’s such a freeing feeling to be confident in your work and with your money. It’s worth digging deeper, I promise.
Let me tell you a little story. Back when I was in France, I met a nice dad at the local school. After chatting, I found out he was a local artist, and I told him I was a photographer — a match made in business heaven…or, so I thought.
Guys, I made a HUGE rookie mistake. He asked me about pricing, and because it was my very first experience with product photography, I beat around the bush and said we’d “work it out later.”
I spent over 12 hours photographing plant holders. Yep, you read that correctly. If I charged him my regular price (that is now SET IN STONE), I would have sent him an invoice with a total cost of $1,800.
Because I was unclear and didn’t value my work, I told him he could just give me what he could afford. I got an envelope with 150€, which I accepted gracefully.
THIS WAS NOT HIS FAULT.
He was a beautiful person that simply didn’t know the value of my work because I DIDN’T TELL HIM. He’s NOT a photographer, so it was not his job to determine MY prices.
But the story gets even better! I asked to buy one of his pieces of artwork (which I do genuinely love). He was SO excited and grateful.
He packaged it up beautifully and came to my house to hand-deliver it. In MY mind, he’d SURELY offer it to me for free because I had done so much work for him. WRONG. He charged me 280€.
So not only did I have to give him the 150€ BACK that he had just given me, I had to give him an additional 130€.
It was the reality check I needed, and it also made me admire his confidence. He knew how much his time and talent were worth!
Lesson: YOU and ONLY YOU, know the worth of your product or service: not your mom, your competition, or your friend who you’ve only spoken to twice since high school.
You know your costs, what your time is worth, and the value of your photography. You are allowed to ask that price and people are allowed to say, “no thanks, you’re too expensive.”
*Just in case you’re wondering, my gorgeous handmade plant holder sits above my desk and I get to be reminded of this lesson EVERY SINGLE DAY. And it makes me giggle every time.
Whether you are charging a flat rate or hourly rate, these rules still apply.
You barter for something you don’t even want.
Your acquaintance wants a 1-hr photo session from you, and instead of paying, wants to trade you for a 30-minute massage. You don’t really WANT a massage, but you say yes because you want them to like you.
Does that pay your mortgage, buy your fruit at the grocery store, or pay for your daughter’s ballet lesson? Uh, nope, sure doesn’t. And it’s ok to say no unless you WANT TO. Make a pricing calculation and make sure that any bartering STICKS to that set rate.
Lesson: Do NOT convince yourself to do something you DON’T WANT TO DO. Say this out loud: “I will NOT convince myself to do something that I DON’T WANT TO DO.”
This is the tip of the iceberg, y’all.
These insecurities come in SO many different masks, and you need to start asking yourself some hard questions. Why are you staying small WHEN YOU KNOW in your soul that you can be so much more? What are you afraid of?
How to Grow Your Confidence
A really uncomplicated way to suss out your pricing is to do a pricing calculation. This is also known as the “cost of doing business.”
You literally sit down and price out the cost of your gear, all of the monthly subscription services you pay for (like Lightroom and a gallery delivery system like Shootproof), what you’ve spent to further your education, the average cost of gas to drive around town to sessions, and the list goes on.
When you solidify a tangible number, things get a bit more clear. Say you’re a full-time photographer and you want to do sessions three times per week, then you know how much you’ll be working during the year.
When you really start breaking down the numbers, you’ll feel more empowered to charge! No more giving away those digital files!
Another way is to set goals for the number of sessions you complete at a given price. For example, maybe you do event photography or product photography and you currently charge $75/hour. Maybe you tell yourself after 10 sessions, you’ll increase that rate to $100/hour. That makes it less daunting, and a bit more clear.
A photography pricing guide can also help communicate your pricing without feeling awkward. If you put together a well-written, good-looking guide for your clients, your work will speak for itself. You can easily list your day rates as a wedding photographer and not feel guilty!
When to Increase Your Prices
Probably before you’re ready.
We’re not saying you need to double your prices right away, not even close. But maybe you throw out a number into the world, and then to challenge yourself, add another $50 to the total if you’re a portrait photographer.
If you’re a wedding photographer, check out prices in your area and push yourself to meet those prices and maybe increase them a tad. Now, if you’re just starting out, you’re not going to jump into charging $8,000 for an 8-hour event.
But maybe you notice that photographers of similar skill and experience are charging $3000, and you’re charging $1500. It could be time to bump your prices a bit to really be some competition!