Pricing can be a challenge to any photographer. We're creatives first, so getting down to the numbers isn't always our strongest suit. But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't give the attention they deserve if we want to be in this for the long haul!
Most photographers have made at least one of these pricing mistakes along the way, and I hope is that by sharing these mistakes and what you can do instead, you can be saved from years of trial and error trying to figure it out all on your own!
Here are 3 of the most common pricing mistakes photographers make and what you can do instead so you can find your path to success faster!
1. Pricing Without Covering Your Costs
Do you know how much it costs to run your business? If you don’t know your cost of doing business (CODB), you can’t be sure if the money you’re charging is covering your costs and you could very well be in the negative! Setting prices without knowing what you’re spending on gear, memory cards, and other must-haves like Lightroom and Photoshop is a HUGE risk for your business. Knowing your CODB is one of the FIRST steps to creating a profitable and sustainable business. You don’t want to run yourself out of business; you want to be in this for the long haul! So, list all of your expenses you have throughout the year - from gear, software and insurance to travel, educational courses, and props. Add them up, divide by 12, and you’ll see what your average CODB is per month! You’ll need to earn at least that much per month just to cover your business expenses alone.
2. Charging Based On What Other Photographers Are Charging
Let’s face it. You’d probably be lying if you said you didn’t do an online search to see what other photographers were charging and felt compelled to price your services based on what those other photographers were doing. While there’s nothing wrong with doing some market research to see what rates are in your area, there are some big problems with basing your pricing on what others are charging. Every photographer's income needs are unique. Business expenses and personal budgets differ, so even if they’ve done the math and set themselves up for profit, their numbers may not be profitable for your own unique situation. But, what if they haven’t even done the math? Maybe they’re pricing low thinking that will attract more clients. Maybe they’re not even making an actual profit! You have no idea if another photographer has sat down and ran their numbers, determined their cost of business and income needs, and is actually paying the bills. Every business owner’s financial needs vary so be wary of basing your prices on other photographers’ businesses!
3. Assuming Your Clients Can’t Afford What You’re Charging
Each of us is an individual and what we personally value differs. Living in Orlando, Florida I see tourists who come here from all over the world because it’s their life’s dream to visit Disney World. Being a Florida native, I couldn’t imagine spending thousands of dollars on a vacation to Disney! A few hundred for a seasonal pass? Maybe. But thousands? No. People do it every day because it has meaning to them. Meaning enough that the thousands of dollars they will spend for the experience they and their families will have and remember forever is worth it. There are plenty of people who will do the same when it comes to photography too. Don’t project your personal budget on someone else and assume you know what they value and what they will pay. Clients who value service and experience will invest as much in your business as you will allow!
BONUS: Not Charging for Additional Edits
All photographers will eventually come across a client who has a special request. Maybe they love a particular image of their family, but they love the expression on their child’s face in another and you haven’t the Photoshop skills for head swaps! Or maybe the requests are in your wheelhouse, but will definitely take some time. Your time is valuable and requests for additional edits can be fatal to your bottom line if you are doing them for free. DON’T waste your time diving down a rabbit hole of special edit requests unpaid. Make sure to have a cosmetic and extensive edit policy, put it in your contracts, and charge appropriately! So, you might be asking, “How do I respond to a client asking for a cosmetic or extensive edit?”Here’s a response you can feel free to copy and paste into your client communication: “Absolutely! I’d be happy to help with that! Due to the time and labor involved, cosmetic and extensive edits are an investment of $_____ each. Let me know what specific images you had in mind!" P.S. There may be some edits you aren’t comfortable performing, paid or not. If you’re like me, you may not feel right about changing someone’s inherent qualities and would rather support the beauty they naturally have. Determine your boundaries and notate that in your client contracts! P.P.S. Need an editing specialist for those tough to do or time-consuming edits? Try Retouchup! Retouchup is FANTASTIC for challenging edits with a super-fast turnaround time!
Want to learn more about making an income as a photographer? Download this FREE guide and discover some of the myths you're probably believing right now that are preventing you from making more money! 5 Myths About Making More Money as a photographer