If you ask photographers one of the biggest things they struggle with, they usually all have the same answer: pricing. When you have the freedom to set your own pricing, and when that pricing is a direct reflection of you and your art, it can be very tricky and VERY personal.
Pricing Is A Struggle
Most professional women business owners really struggle with charging what they’re truly worth. I absolutely learned the pricing lesson the hard way. When I first started my business, more seasoned photographers in the area cautioned me that clients wouldn’t take me seriously if I didn’t charge a price that was appropriate for the market, my skill level and the level of service I was providing. But I was scared. And brand new…I just wanted clients!
Fast forward six months of business and I’ve wised up. Quick! When I started and my pricing was way too low, I attracted clients alright. So many clients in fact that I almost got burned out before my business really got off the ground! My family resented my time away from them and I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. I made the decision to raise my prices just in time for 2014 and it was the best business decision I’ve made thus far.
Bargain or High-End Business
I stumbled across a wonderful video by Joy Vertz, owner of Shoot the Moon Photography in Milwaukee. Joy compares photography studio pricing to hair salons. She says there’s 3 types of places to get your hair cut: the “bargain” salons, like Cost Cutters, the mid-range stylists and then the very high-end, big-city hair studios. She talks about how each one has its own unique place in the market, each one is a sustainable business model and each one has its own set of very unique clientele. But her point is, they’re defined. They’re not trying to be one another. The lower cost salons are not spending two hours on someone’s haircut, then only charging $35. The high end hair studios are not skipping washing someone’s hair and then charging $250.
She also mentions that customers that are used to getting their hair cut at a value salon will sometimes splurge and go to a higher-end salon for a special occasion. However, those used to a mid-range or boutique salon will never “spend down” and go to a bargain hair cutter, because they perceive those services to be inferior.
The same client psychology exists in our industry. People who are used to going to a mall or value photo studio will occasionally splurge on a more professional photography studio for a special occasion. However, clients that are accustomed to the level of service and customer experience that a higher end studio provides won’t be satisfied with something less special. This is where photographers, especially new ones, sabotage themselves. Charging lower prices seems like a great way to attract clients, but if you’re charging too little, you won’t attract the right type of client. Your ideal client for your level of service.
Your Business Model
Something else Joy says that I really love is that whether you decide to be a lower cost photographer, a mid-range photographer or a high-end, boutique studio, it’s okay! These are all sustainable business models and they all have their place in the market. Just make sure you give thought to and define which one you are, and then price appropriately for your target client.