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Marketing: Pricing

Lesson 9 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

9. Marketing: Pricing

Lesson Info

Marketing: Pricing

How to charge. This is the big argument. Do you charge per person, per hour or per day? In my world, I'm shooting for a business so I charge commercially. I generally charge by a day rate or a half day rate. It's the simplest way to do it for me. But here's how I want you to look at it. You can charge however you want but I want you to think about this first. What are your income goals? You have to decide how much money you wanna make. This is gonna be a ballpark, very rough. But typically, you're gonna have about a third of the money you bring in is gonna be profit. Should be. About a third of it's gonna go to taxes. And about a third of it should go to cost and overhead. Depending on whether you have a home business or a retail studio. That cost number is gonna change. But largely speaking, I think most people fall pretty close to this as a healthy business model. Most accountants will tell you that you should account for about 30-ish percent for their taxes. Unemployment, income tax...

es. If you want a business where you desire to make $75,000 a year, that means that you're going to need to charge enough to buy a new clicker. You're gonna need to charge. Have gross sales of $225,000 a year. Now again, these are all malleable numbers but I want you to think about that. The point is that you need to know how much money you need to make. And you wanna base your business model around that. Not around how you charge but how much you need to make per job. How much money do you wanna make? And how much do you want to work? That's the question. Pricing per business model. If you have a high business model, just look at it this way. You wanna shoot 200 jobs a year out of 365 days. The average amount of money you need to bring in per job is $1125. Okay? Doesn't matter how you charge it that's gonna be your average and that's how many jobs you're gonna shoot. I'm right about medium. You wanna shoot about 100 jobs like this per year. Then you need to make about 2250 per job. So let's just circle that number and let's just say that that's a pretty good place to start to how much you should be making when you go out to shoot a job. It's not necessarily your day rate but by the time you're done upping and selling in marketing that's a pretty solid number. You'll sometimes be double or triple that. Sometimes you're gonna be less. But on average, if you wanna make $75,000 a year and you have to bill out $225, you're gonna need to be around that number per job a hundred times a year in order to make that much money. Now you know how much money you need. Now you gotta decide how much you wanna work. If you got a more boutique business model. You're gonna charge more. You're gonna work with people with more money. 50 jobs a year, you need to average 4500. See, here's my sample pricing breakdown. This is how I charge for stuff. And I went over this in great detail in my headshot class so I won't bore you too long. But I break things down into little pieces. And the reason that I have instead of giving a company when they ask for a price on something. I don't give them a big number. I send them my pricing menu. Because I like them to be able to build up to their budget using my stuff. In my area, my day rate of 1500. That's a pretty solid average. I don't want to send them a big scary number and lose the job. I wanna send them this. So that they can say, "Ooh, I want that thing and I want that thing and I want that thing." But I want you to understand that you have to have how much money you wanna make. How much you need to make per job. And build your pricing around that. Don't get hung up on how much you charge per person. Per hour or per day. Know how much money you need to make per job and find a way to make that much money. Understanding the big picture is how you become more successful. I can't tell you how to charge or what to charge but I can tell that you if you don't understand how much money you need to make to bring home a certain amount. And if you don't decide how much you wanna work you're not gonna have a very successful run in business. Make sense? Here's the great equalizer. Most clients will have a budget in mind. You have to decide what if anything you're willing to give them for that amount. At the end of the day no matter how you charge they're gonna say, "Cliff, our budget's 1200." And you have to decide if you wanna go out and shoot for 1200 bucks. You have a question, Cliff? Yes. The sample that you just had up there like file administration. You said the clients might choose what they want out of that so what is actually file administration going to be for them? That is how we organize the files for them so that they don't have to. If we shoot 500 people for a company and they want to distribute them it just makes it easier. We give them the files with the name of each person as the file. It just makes them easier to distribute. The thing is I don't want you to get hung up on what those lines are, or those numbers. I want you to understand the idea is to break down your pricing into little bits and pieces. If you wanna charge hair and makeup is one of those light items. You wanna charge for whatever you wanna charge for. Whatever you normally do in a job. You gonna take out all your year. Break it down into smaller bites. This is how I bid and book everything because my numbers look smaller. But my average job is going to be more around not 1500. More around 35. Because they go in. If their budget's 2,000 I'm gonna go, "Oh, well I can get those two things." If their budget is 2500, they can go, "Oh, I can get those three things." So it doesn't matter what those are. It just matters that I have all of the things that are available for me to add to a job as a thing that I will do. I have them broken down so that I'm sending them smaller numbers so that they don't get freaked out by a big number. So no matter what somebody's budget is you're gonna find it in your area there's a sweet spot. And 1500 for a day rate is about my sweet spot where most people are going to be able to spend that amount of money. But that's gonna to be different where you are maybe. But the point is, I send them a menu instead of a particular price. Okay, and it doesn't matter how many executives where you're shooting in that day? Nope. Not at all. If they, it depends on. The other thing that I want to get to is you have to know how much you can do in a day. So here we're gonna finish up with these pricing tips and I'm gonna cover that. Know and understand your market and your business model. Not everything is gonna work in every market. Some places have more convention work. Some people have none. Some places are covered with real estate agents and some people have more attorneys. You have to understand your market and what people want. And what business model you're going to enact in order to be successful in that market. If you don't know those things you probably gonna have a hard time being successful. I would recommend you have a minimum to go on location. If they say, "We have only two people that we need photographed." I think that we have a minimum of like. I don't know exactly the number. But if we do have a per person rate as opposed to a day rate for small amounts of people. But the minimum I'll go out for is four people plus a location fee. I pay every month for my studio so people can come to me. And they pay me to go to them. But my minimum would be like, let's say it's 600 bucks. I'm not going out and dragging my equipment and hiring an assistant to go out for $250. I'm not going to do that. So figure out what your minimum you're gonna need to get out of you studio and go on and make sure that you have a minimum. And don't move on that. I really wouldn't. You gotta know how much you. Cause when you work on location you're not gonna be able to do five jobs a day. One or two maybe. So you're gonna limit the amount of money that you can make in a day. So create a minimum so that you don't loose money when you go on location. Charge separately for retouching because guess what? If you don't, people will take you to school. "Oh well, fix this." "Oh, fix that." "Oh, fix this." "Oh, do the other thing." And you're gonna find yourself pretty miserable thinking that they've already paid for it. So we always charge separately for retouching on all of our professional portraits and images. I will give them the images process, raw process. But I will not do any fine retouching or spot retouching unless they pay extra for it. And here's the clincher that'll get this to where you talked about, Cliff. Know how much you can get done in an hour. Whether you charge by the hour. By the half day. By the day. By the person. You have to know how much you can get done in an hour. In an hour I can do 40 simple head shots. I can probably do about 20 professional portraits. And one look per person. If they want two looks per person I know that's cut in half. Know how fast you are. Know how much you can get done so that when somebody says, "I need 50 people." If that's gonna take you eight hours make sure you charge for the whole day. If you work faster than that, maybe you don't need to charge that much. But if you're gonna charge by time or by the day you need to know how fast you are. How much you can comfortably get done. Because guess what? No matter what they hire you to do if there's any extra time, they're gonna say, "Oh, can you do this?" "Oh, can you do this?" "Oh, let's get one more look at this." Clark Sanders says "You're obviously amazing at SEO in your area." Thanks, Clark. You sexy animal. "Do you find you get inquiries from other states and countries?" If so, how do you charge for travel expenses included in your rate? Basically, for travel I usually an extra day. If the job's gonna take one day it's gonna take me a day to travel there. I do get increase from out of state. Luckily Orlando where we live, people come to Orlando for business all the time. So I don't end up traveling out of state a lot. I do have a location fee and it's up to a certain number of miles. So let's say if somebody wants photos in Gainesville. Which is two hours from me. That's past 60 miles and then I have a per mileage rate on top of that for my location fee. If I'm traveling, it's all my travel. Airfare per diem for food, all that stuff. Build it into your cost. Plus 15 percent on the total cost of the job. That's typical for me because no matter what when you go on location. When you go out of town to work, you're not going to make as much money. It's just a fact. You're not going to be able to charge enough to where they're gonna wanna pay it. To fly you out there. So if you charge what you actually should get to do that they probably won't hire you unless they really, really like you. They'll hire somebody local. So for me, I do charge all my travel plus 15 percent on the total cost of the job. Which helps buffer some of that extra time spent away from my studio. Orchid. "Can you still get listed on Google Places if you work on location and don't have a studio?" Yes you absolutely can. I did it for years. I would recommend that you get into some Google searching and articles and Google has a whole support section that's gonna tell you exactly how to do that if you want. What you have to decide is do you care if your home address is listed on Google? You can share space with another photographer. You can get a post office box. There's a lot of different ways that you can come at it. You need to check on Google to make sure what the latest requirements are. And that's how you're going to find out if that will work for you. Okay Etienne says, "Do you get more business from social media or from referrals from clients?" "Is it appropriate to ask clients for testimonials?" I get more business probably from search engine optimization than anything else. Because that's the first place that people go. As time goes on, you will get more and more referrals. You will get more and more repeat customers. But most of the new business is coming from search engines optimization. I would say prioritize that above almost anything else in your three pronged plan. But I would not give up any one for the other. I ask every single client for reviews on Facebook and reviews on Google. It's in our email when we send them the deliver the final product. "Thank you for blah, blah, blah." "We really appreciate it if you left us a review." And it has probably about one in, every one in seven or eight clients will go ahead and do it. It depends on how good of a time they had. (chuckling) If they have a lot of fun and they remember you and you were really memorable, you're a lot more likely to get a good review. Again, it is against the terms of service of Google to solicit them by offering something for free in exchange for review. So you can totally do it. But you shouldn't do it. You can totally do it. All right.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ten Tips for Professional Portraits
SEO Workbook
Posing Guide
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.

Student Work