it all started when i believed people would pay me to take their photograph. yes… some how… somewhere… deep inside my skull, i got the inkling that i could put a price tag on my art and i really believed someone would buy it. oh, and did i forget to mention that when this thought came to mind, i didn’t even own a camera.
well, 5 years later here i am: taking pictures for profit. and i couldn’t feel more blessed, to have the opportunity each & every day to offer something of value to our clients. but as always, when money gets involved things get complicated. fortunately, carlie & i have navigated the mine-field of pricing and have come out on the other side [mostly] unscathed. and i’d like to share our strategy with you.
if you are a fellow photographer/artist/businessperson looking to improve your pricing strategy OR if you are a bride that wants to understand the philosophy behind our prices, i urge you to read on.
so… how do i create pricing that actually works you ask… here’s our approach. it may not be easy, but it is definitely simple.
1. ask lots of questions
2. set it
3. test it
here's the breakdown...
1. ask lots of questions
before you write anything down, you need to ask yourself questions that help define:
- your ideas about money
- your client's ideas about money
- the true costs of the products & services you wish to offer
- the value to your clients of those products & services
i believe that if your pricing is going to work the money needs to be in the middle. what i mean is this:
VALUE to the client > PRICE $$$ INVESTMENT < PROFIT to the business
the value to your client MUST be greater than the price they pay for it AND the value/profit you create from the sale MUST be greater than your investment to create it. that last sentence is the foundation for how carlie & i set our prices. the reason that statement is so foundational, is that it creates a win-win, where both our business AND our clients benefit.
ralph waldo emerson once said money often costs too much. i think what ralph is trying to tell us is that we need to be very clear on what type of time, money & effort we are willing to pour into our work to make a paycheck. and at the same time, we all want to create a remarkable experience for our clients, which costs time, money & effort. pricing that works walks the fine line between the two. and asking the right questions will help you draw that line clearly for yourself to follow.
so, before you start writing down a price tag for your products and services, start defining those four pieces of the puzzle as they relate to you & your market, by asking a lot of questions.
2. set it
there comes a point when you just have to commit. you’ve done your research. you’ve asked a lot of questions. and yes, you could probably keep asking more questions…
but, i would urge you to draw a line in the sand and commit your pricing to paper… literally or figuratively. make that list of products & services you want to offer your market [make sure they are also things that your market wants to buy]. look at your costs and price out each item. then figure out how you want to present those products & services. do you want to offer everything a la carte? totally custom? as a single package? as multiple packages?
that question alone could fill an entire book. and fortunately for you, the book is already written. my friend lawrence chan wrote an eBook on the subject titled creative pricing and packaging for photographers. lawrence has created an incredible resource, and i highly recommend you check it out… especially when you are dealing with step 2 and actually piecing your pricing together.
3. test it
all too often, i run into other photographers who tend to meddle with their pricing continually, which is detrimental to you & your clients. it will confuse your market and it will keep you from finding out what is working and what isn’t working.
the solution to the endless price-tinkering cycle [which causes nothing but frustration] is twofold.
- set it and forget it [commit to the pricing structure you set in step 2]
- test your pricing [use feedback to find what works and keep asking new questions]
make sure to get feedback from your inquiring clients… both those that book you and those that don’t. search and find what is most important to them… why they chose you or why they didn’t… how you stack up against your competition.
and simply look at the numbers. becker will tell you to track the next 10 client meetings after you set your new pricing. if you book 10 out of 10, perhaps you priced yourself too low. if you book 4 out of 10, maybe you jumped the gun and raised your prices too much. it’s a simple metric for testing things out and it’s a great way to start paying attention to the feedback your business is giving you.
it is the feedback your business offers you when testing that should inspire how you mold and shape your work into the business you want.
find other creative pros in your market and swap ideas. the b school is a great place to engage other photographers wrestling with the same ideas & the same real-world challenges. also, if you are in southern california, i am happy to announce that i will be speaking more in depth on this topic at the orange county smug mug user group on may 24th @ 6:30pm. for all the details including location, registration & times, click here.
pricing can be fun and pricing that works can become just another way you add value to your clients AND your business. so, here’s to an industry of creative professionals with pricing strategies that work!
p.s. what do you think of my new avatar?
p.p.s. interested in having us at your wedding? CLICK HERE to drop us a line...