We’ve all been there at one time or another. It matters little if you are specifically a photographer, you could be a designer, a calligrapher or another type of artist. Regardless of your job title, at some point, a potential client has gushed, raved and admired your work only to reply to your pricing with “Oh, I was hoping to spend a little less…”
What gives? Why is it, that in an artistic field pricing is inherently negotiable? Why would we never in a million years waltz into a local Best Buy, gush and rave about the new IPAD and then tell the sales girl that “we were only looking to spend around $200 today….” and expect them to re-price that coveted tablet? I’ll tell you why: it is because we value those products at their price. When Apple tells us that the Ipad is $499, we don’t question it because we value it. We see it as a luxury item, not something we necessarily need, but something we would really like to have (it has video! and the retina display! and the pretty colors!)
Just like Ipads, new phones and fancy vacations, professional photography is a luxury.
Photography is a Luxury, Not a Given.
No, not everyone can afford to have their pictures taken every single year, but I gaurantee if they value your work they will pinch their pennies and save up to be able to afford such a luxury. So although I try and work with people as best as I can, at some point I had to start valuing myself– my time, my art and my business and standing firm in my pricing. It’s not up to you to try and explain the cost of quality equipment, taxes, insurance, website fees, etc to your clients. Your ideal clients will value your work where you price it, and that is the type of person you want to form a relationship with.
You Get What You Pay For
We all know that when it comes to anything in a creative field, you absolutely get what you pay for. Recently I had a potential client (who decided I was too expensive) mention they got their photos done for a fraction of my cost —with unlimited time, locations and outfit changes. Needless to say, the photos reflected the pricing. Aside from business costs, your clients are paying for your expertise. You’ve most likely spent years learning your craft, investing in equipment and becoming a master of your skill. As business owners, we have to be okay with letting clients move on. If they don’t value your work, then let them go elsewhere (and chances are, they will be back asking for you after they see for themselves what the difference is!).
Beware of Offering Discounts
When I first began my business, I did a lot of work for little or free. I was portfolio building and it made sense for me to do that. I started to increase my pricing, and would get contacted my friends of those I had done the free or cheap work for. Of course those friends expected the same price, and it was a bit tricky to un-paint myself out of the corner of being the “cheap” photographer. Now, I rarely (if ever) give discounts or price breaks. I know what I am worth and stand behind that. In some cases, trading services works well and can be a huge benefit to your business. Maybe you need a new logo– find a calligrapher and see if they have any projects that need photographed. In that case, you are both getting something you need. The key to these kind of relationships is making sure the work traded is even and fair– you never want to feel, or have someone else feel like they got the short end of the deal.
In the beginning, when you are starting your business you are going to have to make decisions about these type of clients. Is it worth it to offer a discount during your portfolio building stage? Do you need the work? At some point though, you will have to make that mental move from being an unsure beginner to confident professional. Stand behind your skill, because you are valuable! Your time is valuable and I promise, the clients you want will agree wholeheartedly!