Archive for Pricing
There are more choices for finding a photographer these days so help your callers out. Help them get through the uncomfortable moments of opening a conversation they may not know how to do.
Last week I shared an experience I had as being a new customer myself that helped me understand what it must be like for a new person calling a studio for the first time. You can read that here:
Even though they may start with the question of how much you charge, it is not necessarily the question they are really asking.
The salesman in the horse feed booth at the fair could have helped me out by asking some fact finding questions to get me talking. Since I did not know how to start shopping for new horse feed, I needed some help but I was unable to verbalize that at the time.
The salesman could have asked me questions like:
- What kind of horses do you have?
- How many do you have?
- Are they varied in ages and jobs that they do? As there are different feeds based on the amount of physical energy they exert.
- What are you currently feeding them and how is that working?
All of these conversation starters would have been more helpful to me.
So as a photographer your conversation starter questions for a new prospect can be very similar. But first, ask permission not to answer their question right away with a statement like: “I would be happy to answer that question [about pricing] for you. Before I do, may I ask you a few questions first to get an idea of what you are looking for?”
- How many people are in your family?
- What are the ages of your children?
- Do you have a family hobby? Something that we could use to tell a story about you as a group?
- Do you have a location or style in mind?
- Where are you going to display your portrait? (This question also sets you up for planting seeds of a wall portrait sale.)
All of this discussion delays the “how much is it” question. You have time to build some rapport and get to know your prospects needs without focusing on the cost first. They will quickly find out how much you care about them too. You will also get the information you need to more accurately answer their pricing question, which, as you are discovering, really isn’t the real question anyway.
In order to get the prospect to move from a being caller to an actual booking, I offer a consultation in the studio. This is a low pressure invitation for more information so they may discover that I am indeed the photographer for them. At the consultation we look at images, discuss clothing options, and pricing. Personally, if someone does not want to invest an hour of their time to take this step, they are not a good customer for me and I let them go.
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach | Gordon Photography & Gallery, Inc.
The past couple of weeks we have talked about your attitude toward money that affects your ability to sell your work. Here are some action steps that might help you improve your profits.
Do not discount or renegotiate your prices when pressured.
Study your business. Know all of your expenses, overhead, and goals. With accurate information you will be able to arrive at prices you know are correct for your studio. You do not have to justify your prices to your customers but you will have confidence behind the numbers and will less likely to feel pressured.
Selling is a numbers game. Ask any good marketing person and you will learn that a postcard mailing, for example, has a typical response rate of three percent. By tracking each step of your process and looking at the results, you can develop a formula for success. You might also find that 20% of your clients account for 80% of your income, so spoil those clients and keep them!
Write a sales script. One way to overcome your own hang ups or programs about money and sales is to write out scripts that are the message you really need to say. We all get ideas, or programs, about money and sales as we grow up. If your parents had issues, you may carry those issues on or behave in the extreme opposite. Well, these programs that might say “that art is too expensive,” “you are not worth it,” or “you can not afford it” need reprogrammed. Writing a sales script is a good way to prepare yourself for discussions about money and prices.
I found once I wrote out responses, or scripts, to difficult questions or unreasonable requests, the questions and requests stopped coming.
Practice with clients you are more comfortable with. If something is scary, who wants to start with strangers?
This is a great strategy I use when I am making any kind of change. For example, when I wanted to start having clients sign an agreement that they had place an order and will pay for it, I simply said to them, “thank you, I know you would not break this contract, but it helps me practice and build my confidence for when I have someone new that I am unsure of here.” There is no reason you can’t say this to everyone indefinitely either, no one will know who is who.
Remain calm. It is easy to get emotional whether it is excited or scared. Keep your cool and act as if you get huge orders every day. Stay optimistic as your thoughts and body language can give you away and influence the outcome of the sale.
Set a sales goal and assume you will make it. Again, your assumptions can influence the outcome. If you remain optimistic you will do much better than starting out negative and with no idea what the sale should be.
If you are anything like me, it is easy to be overwhelmed. You want to do it all and you want to do it well. The advice I go back to again and again is to start with one. Pick the most important step that will make the most positive difference the fasted and start with that. As time allows, go to the next.
Most photographers wear all of the hats in their business and the position of sales person is one of the critical ones. You can create all of the beautiful images in the world but you will starve if you can not sell them.
Find ways to not to let your preferences or assumptions get in the way. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Be aware that everyone has their own money personality. Do not assume other people respond like you do. Some people are driven to hold onto money for security. Some people are spenders, some are savers. Others are risk takers and some do not really think about money at all. (A great book: First Comes Love Then Comes Money http://www.amazon.com/First-Comes-Love-Then-Money/dp/0061649910 )
Don’t take it personal. When you work for yourself, especially if it is for the first time, it is a personal undertaking. I was fortunate to work for many retail companies and photography studios before I started my own business. Working for a successful studio with substantial pricing helped desensitize me to pricing sensitivities. It helped me see those prices as normal, correct, and valid. When I started my own studio the prices felt right, I did not have to get comfortable with them. Try and take yourself out of the numbers.
Do not assume what someone is willing to spend. If someone really appreciates your work they might even save up or use a credit card to be able to use your services. A family that is losing a member or has lost a member may be more willing to invest in portraits than a family that has never considered a tragedy striking.
Do not assume what someone is able to spend. Have you been ignored in a fancy store if you are dressed down? I sure have. You are not alone if you have ever misjudged someone’s ability to spend money. Sometimes the most unlikely person will surprise you with a substantial order. Have you ever read the book The Millionaire Next Door? The insight it provides about who people with money really are is good business information.
Remember that not all people are going to be good clients. Sure we believe that everyone needs a family portrait but we certainly do not want to deal with all people and the headaches they bring. It is okay to pre-quality customers to find the right ones for you.
Next week we will discuss some action steps you can take.
I like the way poverty conscious is described in an article, “Ending Poverty Consciousness” by Jeanie Marshall, of Marshall House Personal Development.
“By ‘poverty consciousness’ I mean the set of attitudes and beliefs and feelings and values associated with material lack or fear of material lack. Poverty consciousness equals a belief in limitation, and almost always includes fear.
Poverty consciousness is not directly related to the amount of money you have. Rather, it’s the relationship to that money or to material possessions. If you worry about not having enough money, you’re in poverty consciousness. If you believe there is not enough for everyone in the world, you operate from poverty consciousness.
You can live in conditions of poverty without necessarily living in poverty consciousness, which is a state of mind and heart. The amount of money or other material possessions is a matter of fact. Your relationship to that amount is a matter of thoughts and feelings.”
Your attitude and your staff’s attitude about money will affect your sales. If you are uncomfortable with the prices you charge or don’t feel worthy, you will not be able to charge what you are truly worth.
I have been in many situations where people put their poverty consciousness onto me and it is a big turn off. I have been ready and willing to spend money on something important to me only to have the salesperson say something like, “oh, that one is so much, maybe you would prefer this one.” Talking themselves right out of a sale.
As a photographer, you will be selling your photographs. You must find ways to not to let your preferences or assumptions get in the way. We will talk about that next week.
(Credit information for the above quoted paragraphs: © 1995, 2007 Marshall House, http://www.mhmail.com. Jeanie Marshall, a Personal Development Coach specializing in deep transformation and personal success, writes extensively on subjects related to personal development and empowerment. She assists professional coaches and consultants to write their knowledge, wisdom, and experiences.)
Pricing products and services is indeed a challege in every business. Simply copying someone else’s price list is a dangerous idea. Each individual business has its own unique overhead, expenses, and goals. But let me see what I can do to get you started.
First of all, when ever you photograph an event like a church directory, school dance, or a Christmas party typically there is no session fee or a charge of any kind to the organization who hires you. I am not saying I agree with this or that you should not do so, but it is customary that the photographer sells images to the participants in enough volume to make a profit.
In some cases, the host will accept, ask for, or require a percent of the sales to come back to them as well like in the case of a fund raising opportunity. Be sure you keep this in mind and are on the same page with your host.
We all want to make a profit on all of our jobs we do. But if you are new and end up under pricing yourself you can look at it in a couple positive ways. You got some great concentrated experience. Paid training. You will still have names, addresses, and emails of all the people you photograph no matter how much they purchase to follow up with.
Make sure you make the best use of the names you collect and market to them smartly with the right message at the right time. And stay with it. Sometimes it takes many years for someone to feel they need our services. Every event or marketing piece I have done eventually pays for itself even if at the time I felt like I was wasting my time.
So how do ensure you don’t loose money if you don’t charge the church for your time? You can’t really. That is the down side of photographing on speculation. It is difficult to know without having a track record with this group and knowing what they typically order. I can not simply tell you what to charge either because every studio’s overhead and expenses and financial goals are all different. In a one on one coaching situation, I could do that.
What you can do is educate yourself first. You can do some research as to what church directory companies typically charge and compare that to your own business objectives.
Do not be afraid to charge what you are worth. It is so easy to undervalue ourselves for fear of not getting a job. This is why you need the research on what is currently going on in the market and what your per hour rate needs to be.
Here is a list of some other key things to consider:
- First of all you need to know how much per hour your studio needs to produce to be profitable and meet your strategic objectives. What is your typical hourly rate?
- Are you going on location to the church? Is there proper space to work?
- How many families in the church to be photographed?
- Next, how many families per hour can you photograph? A beginner may need 15-20 minutes per family. That is three to four families an hour.
- Are you going to do one pose and shoot x number of shots?
- Then you need to estimate how many hours of photography it will take to do the number of groups in the church directory.
- If a family misses an appointment or wants to reschedule, does that end up costing you more? Are you going to lug gear back to the church for one or two families or have them come to the studio?
- Are you going to take any assistants with you, what is their rate?
- How many office hours in downloading cards, editing, filing.
- Are you going to retouch images before they see them, after they place an order, or not at all?
- Are you going to proof one image, proof all of the images, print an entire package on speculation like Lifetouch does (I don’t recommend that.), show them digitally. What are the costs for doing this?
- How much time organizing the orders after they are placed?
- How much is the printing for the directories?
- How much will the packaging materials, folders, mailers etc cost to deliver the images?
- Now you have a base price, you need a price list. Keep it simple! A confused mind does not purchase.
For example, if you determine that your studio per hour rate needs to be $50 per hour to keep your doors open and pay yourself, by shooting four families an hour, each family needs to order $12.50 plus all of your other costs from the list above you will incur.
In a typical church directory project I don’t see them ordering everything for their home, family, and friends. Some might. But lets say everyone just politely buys only one thing, an 8×10. What is the minimum price you need to charge?
If (this is just an example) an average church directory purchase ranges from zero to two hundred dollars, can you live with that uncertainty? As a beginner, some paid training is better than no training. You will learn a lot working with that number of people so go for it. You can always increase your price the next time.
Personally, I would simply take my regular studio rates and take off 50% and call it good. Since I know my studio rates are right for me, shooting a volume of four families an hour I would do fine.
As you can see, what to charge is so different for everyone. Each part of the country, even town to town, your overhead needs, how much you value your personal time, if you have staff, your expenses, and your experience are all pieces of the puzzle. Ultimately your skill in marketing and sales coupled with photography that pleases the customer will make you profitable. Don’t undervalue yourself!
Follow up! Keep marketing to the list, let them know they can reorder, let them know about your other services and you will see a return in the future.
Do you sell your digital files? Should you? If you do, how do you price them? These are all questions we still struggle with even though digital technology has been with us for quite some time now. The convenience of emailing, burning CDs, and the internet in general has made pricing digital files a little tricky and, in my opinion, undervalued.
There are many photographers, for example, burning entire weddings to DVDs and that is the end of their involvement. Often times they are under charging for their service. The public’s perception of that kind of value does not help those of us that are in retail establishments justify our pricing. And if you attempt to price your work by comparing yourself to what other people charge, you run the risk of undercharging too because they are more than likely under pricing themselves as well.
I do offer digital file pricing on occasion. I do not, however, list files for sale in my regular portrait price list. There are a few applications for selling or even giving a client a digital file.
I might consider I selling a file if is for product I do not offer, if the client is insistent, or if it is a business person, or commercial application, needing an image for multiple uses and/or internet use.
After finding out what the image will be used for, and if I am okay with that, I take in consideration the size of an order that is placed and the loyalty of the client.
When it comes to items I do offer, like graduation cards, here is what I do. If they want a file to produce their own graduation card on their own computer which is something I don’t want them doing at all. Chances are good that they do not have the skills to do it well and we are concerned how that reflects on us. Since directly saying “no” is not an ideal response, I will sell a file for a lot more money than if I designed and printed cards for them.
If they want a digital file to take somewhere else, like a local copy store, to have cards made I am, again, loosing business on a service I can provide. Again in this case I would offer to sell the file for more than if I was doing the work.
The key to preventing the above two scenarios from even coming up is to prevent it from happening in the first place. When spring rolls around months after their senior pictures are done, we don’t want the seniors getting mad at us at this point. So at each consultation I make a point to explain to them, even before they book their session, that I do design and print graduation announcements and that my files are not available for them to take elsewhere. My pricing brochure has another notation by the graduation card sample image that says, “Digital files are not available for purchase.”
These days some clients assume, or even expect that digital files will be available. Communicate with them in advance what your policy is or what your expectations are. It is always best to say yes but how you control their response is the price tag you put on it.
I think it is easy to forget that a digital file is as valuable as a negative is. One way I attempt to educate my clients is I have a statement in my pricing brochure that says, “The value of our work has not changed with the introduction of digital photography. Digital files are just as valuable, if not more so, and there is a fee for them. Our images are copyrighted, and images may not be scanned on your personal scanner. The usage fee of a digital file is similar to that of ordering a photograph.”
If I decide to sell a file, some things I consider when determining the price is:
- If it is just for a birthday cake or something similar, and a minimum order has been met, the image is usually at no charge. The minimum order amount is what ever number that I have predetermined as a nice size order and that I am glad to provide a file for. They are then receiving a value added service.
- A loyal customer that I know values me can on occasion use an image with out charge and enjoy that value added service.
- If the order is not of significance, there is still the hassle factor of preparing a file, emailing it, and other little things that do add up to time involved. So I will charge a fee that covers my time.
To make them aware of the “favor” I am doing for them, I enter the amount on the invoice and then cancel it out so they can see, notice, and remember my nice “favor”. I usually type “super nice client discount” or something similar next to it to subtly point out what I am doing for them. I want them to understand the value provided so they don’t take me for granted.
So how do you determine a price for a digital file? Consider first how much money you would loose if you did not sell a file. Again you can risk alienating a client or charging enough for it so you feel great about selling it. No one says that your price has to be logical. There are no standards to go by for this.
Let’s look at the high school senior graduation announcement example again. If you could make $300 dollars by designing and printing 300 graduation cards, then you could sell the digital file for $300 and call it done with no extra work involved. Or $400 and that might really encourage your client to have you do the work instead.
If you are a control freak and you could not stand the thought of what someone will do to the design of the image, I suggest you consider letting go a little bit. Consider accepting $300 over no sale at all. In addition to losing business you now have an unhappy customer too. That may not be too productive. I just don’t think most people want to pay professional rates to hire us then turn around and destroy our vision with a bad reproduction of an image. You can always talk about it first. Maybe a photo credit would be acceptable. You get paid and you still get the advertising.
How about selling a file of an anniversary photo? I was asked this once and here is what I did. I figured out what an average sale normally is when I have done similar types of sessions. Average sales are just average sales so I rounded up a hundred dollars or so. Let’s just say that if an average sale was usually $250 I decided to charge $400. Not only were they happy, they purchased the file, and they also had me print their 16×20. They were just worried about loosing the ability of printing more if something were to happen to me or my studio. It was a profitable job and I enjoyed the couple very much.
Just take some time and consider these options. We are not all the same, this will not work for everyone, but maybe I have helped open you up to possibilities so you will remain profitable. We can’t stay in the business we love so much if we go broke doing so!
Barb Gordon, of www.BarbGordonPhotoCoach.com, is a Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman, and Certified Professional Photographer with the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) to which she has belonged since 1984. She is a nationally published and award winning photographer, entrepreneur, speaker, and author including being published in the prestigious PPA Loan Collection 2006, PPA Showcase 2003, twice named Iowa’s Top Ten Photographer of the Year, and 2010 Iowa’s Master Photographer of the Year.