I write this post with passion in my heart, because I see so many photographers looking to determine their value based on what someone says or doesn’t say about them. The problem with this way of thinking, is that their value level is always going to rise and fall, depending on what the person they are inquiring thinks about his or her business.
Consider this: We all shop at different stores and why?
We all value different things.
We may be a spender or a saver.
The amount of our paycheck may influence us and what we purchase or don’t purchase.
If we are saving for something we would like to purchase, we may or may not pass on something that someone is trying to sell us.
Where do you shop at? Think of all the department stores available to you when you need to purchase an item. There’s a variety of stores available to you. How do you decide where to shop at?
Sears / JCPenney / Macy’s / Dillard’s / SAKS 5th Avenue / Nordstrom
What about retail stores?
Walmart / Ross / Marshall’s / Target / Kmart / Kohl’s
The truth is, we all shop at different places, depending on our personal values and oftentimes, our current financial status.
Different people shop at different stores and what might be okay for one person to purchase at is not okay for the next.
The price-conscious consumer, for example, may balk at the idea of shopping at a fine department store, no matter how much he or she makes because for him or her, the value is in the actual process of saving money instead of spending it (i.e. transferring that value to an item that can be used or enjoyed).
On the other hand, if a consumer finds value in purchasing (in the transferring of value from money itself into the object or service), then he or she is more apt to shop at any store and not limit his or herself to what they have earned/not earned.
If there is a limit with the amount of paycheck that he or she earns, but the desire for that transfer of value (to purchase) is there, then he or she will see it as a temporary financial setback instead of a permanent roadblock. He or she will often save up money in order to make that purchase, because the desire to have the object or service is greater than the limitation itself.
So, what is a photographer to do?
How does one set a value on their own work?
Rather than pricing their work at what others are charging or in what he or she feels is the right amount, emotion should be placed to the side for some time and cold, hard numbers should be crunched and evaluated.
What are things to consider when putting together numbers?
(This list includes suggestions but is by no means exhaustive)
- Cost of goods being given to a client
- Shipping from the lab to photographer
- Shipping from the photographer to the client
- Gas and wear and tear to and from a photo session
- Packaging (labels, boxes, ribbon, bubble wrap or crunchy filler, tape, etc.)
- Stationary (thank you card, letters, stamps)
- Initial contact on phone or via the internet
- Driving to/from the photography location
- Photographing clients
- Uploading images
- Culling through images
- Editing images
- Exporting images
- Uploading images to client gallery or for in person sales presentation
- Slideshow creation
- Online/Over The Phone/In Person Sales presentation
- Uploading images to lab
- Ordering images from lab
- Packaging products
- Hand delivering items or shipping to client
- Writing a thank you card
(Things You May Need to Pull From What You Earn)
- Rent or Mortgage
- Health insurance
- Car insurance
- Business insurance
- Business licensing
- Equipment maintenance
- Taxes (business and personal)
- Debt you need to pay off
- Studio rent and costs (if you own one)
- Computer maintenance
- Hard drives and backups
- Printer Ink
- Marketing Fees
Are you realizing that you need to be making quite a bit more in order to become a sustainable business? Are you charging $150 a session, $300 a session, $500 a session and thinking that’s fair to charge?
When you really look at all that you need to pay from what you make, you realize that those amounts are not sustainable as a business or as a lifestyle. The money you earn will go out of your pocket so quickly to pay for things, it won’t even seem as though you had hold of it.
You will be living paycheck to paycheck and not only is that not fair to you as a business owner, it’s not fair to your talent or to your life.
You deserve to charge what you need to earn in order to live sustainably as a person and as a business. If you feel you cannot charge at least this amount, then you must consider why you are in business in the first place and, if you cannot sustain yourself for 1 year, then where will you find yourself at in 5 years?
In all honesty, if a business cannot charge what is necessary to stay afloat, then it will eventually sink.
You may feel guilty at the thought of charging your clients more until you look at the data itself. Your clients deserve a fair price, yes. But don’t you deserve to charge a price that’s fair to you and your life as well?
If you find that clients are resisting, then instead of selling yourself short, you will need to find a new demographic that can pay you what you need in order to survive and thrive.
With photography, you need to set your level of where you need to be at and then find the people who will join you where you are at, instead of setting your level to where each person is at and saying that that is your level…because that level will always be illusive and always be changing with each person you meet.
Be fair to your clients while seeking out the clients that will be fair in return to you as well.