Pricing & Business Strategy
So now we're gonna get into some of the more nitty gritty stuff of family photography some of the stuff that isn't as fun to talk about but it is as important right? Okay. So we're talking about business a little bit. Now business could be a year long class right, so I'm gonna try to just touch on some of the really important things that I know that when you're kinda trying to figure this out you might have these questions, so we're gonna talk a little bit about business, we're gonna talk about my culling and post production process and my gallery delivery process my album design and delivery process and how I wrap this client experience up, again, with good education, so that my clients keep coming back. Okay. So pricing and business strategy. What I wanna say, before I get going on any of this is I am not an accountant. I hire an accountant, I actually have a bookkeeper as well because I don't always trust myself on these things but I will tell you what I'm doing is what has worked f...
or my business. What I have learned about business all over the 10 years that I've been doing this is that it is almost as creative if not as creative as the photography part. I've also learned that being a successful photographer that if you're gonna actually make this your full time gig, is, about 80% business, 20% photography. So you really do have to get a handle on the business stuff and so that's why we're gonna talk about that now you have the skills you need to execute a session we're gonna talk a little bit about business strategy. Like I said, this is how, what works for me that doesn't mean it's gonna be what's perfect for you. Okay. So I am all inclusive. What does that mean? What does that mean? It means that I charge one price and for that one price they get what I'm giving them and I'm gonna tell you exactly what I give them here in a moment. Now this is something that I love to share. I am a very transparent person, right, as you can see, I'm telling you all of the things even though people will criticize me for it. There are many people that tell me that I am leaving money on the table because I'm all inclusive, I beg to differ, I have a very quick and tidy system and I think that I'm making a very good income per hour and we're gonna talk about how I do that. And so what I like to say is that you can be all inclusive and make more than six, you can make six figures, with all inclusive pricing model, it absolutely works. My friend's back there. So that's why I wanna tell you about that. So what do I include? What is included in my price? All of this is public on my website by the way, like I've said before, I'm not hiding anything, it's all public, and so what I include for my all inclusive price is all of the digital files that I deliver in the gallery. So I claim, I promise a minimum of 75, it's usually more than that but, my motto is you know, over, under promise over deliver. So I promise 75, and I include a custom book, and I use Millers. And the reason that I started doing, it's an album, a book, you can call it whatever you want I'm gonna show it to you in a little while, and the reason I started including a book was because I did have families who were coming to me so many years in a row that I really just wanted to add one more thing to just kind of change it up a little bit. And the book that I use is really cost effective, and so it works for my all inclusive model. So why am I all inclusive? Why am I leaving money on the table? What people will tell me. Just had this told to me last week at a conference and when I did the math, my friend and I think that we make more than this person and we're all inclusive. So why do I do this. It suits my style of photography. So what have I been talking about? I am not after that mantel piece image, I'm not. I'm after a collection of images. I never wanna sit there with a family and show them 100 gorgeous images that I edited and be like now you choose 20. And if you don't, you're gonna pay 5 million dollars for each digital file. Call me crazy, that's me, I, this really satisfies my clients, it really satisfies me, I don't have a problem doing it. And that's why it's just simple. It's simple, it's what I would expect, it's what I want when I have my family photos done it's what really works for me. I don't have any interest in selling products. So if you do, some people, like, I have friends in the industry that just get so much out of picking these really great heirloom products and then they get them and they wanna package them and they love that in person sales experience. That's great. If that's what you wanna do, do it. Not me. I don't wanna do it at all. I don't wanna sell products. I wanna know that on that session date, I got the amount of money that I'm gonna get and I know what I'm gonna get paid and if they buy more, which they can, we'll talk about that, from the shoot proof gallery then it's icing on the cake, right? But I know exactly what I'm gonna make before that session happened. I don't have to stress about convincing them to buy something, they've already bought what they came for. Like I said earlier. I deliver really big galleries. I want them to have every image that I edit for them. Like i don't want them to have to make that choice between you know, 10 images that were in a series. And so that's why this model really works well for me. Because I can give these big galleries and not worry about it, and not think that I'm sitting there making them choose between multiple images. So for instance, these all happened within like one minute. So if you can imagine, I can't, telling this mom, each one of these costs, you know, however much you're gonna charge per digital file you're gonna have to choose your favorite, I just don't wanna do that, it's not gonna work for me, so that's why I'm all inclusive, okay? And I already said this, I got ahead of myself. But, this is just not what I'm after. So you just have to really think about what's gonna work for your business, you have to think about what kind of pricing or what kind of delivery of products and whatever you're gonna do, you have to think about what's gonna work for you. And going back to that client experience that we talked about a lot in segment two, is, you know, how do you want your clients to feel with what is the experience that you're providing. If you're doing a really, you know, hand holding type experience, than maybe you are gonna be all inclu, or maybe you are gonna do in person sales and maybe you are gonna sell products, that's great, but mine, remember, it's about being quick, and easy and simple. So this just really works well for me. Again, this model may not be for everyone. So I never want you to walk away from today and be like, oh my gosh, I've been doing it all wrong. That's not true. You haven't been doing it all wrong. You're doing it right if that's what's working for your business. I am just simply sharing with you what works for me, what has worked really well for me and has brought me a lot of success. Alright, let's talk about pricing. (chuckling) This is one of those things that everybody wants to know, right? When we're starting out. And you are gonna get the pricing guide in the bonus materials, and it's a lot of, you know, it's a worksheet, and that's why I can't bring it up here it would just be too much text, but we're gonna talk a little bit about pricing okay? So, why I say take emotion out of pricing is because this is where we go wrong in the beginning. Now I'm gonna tell you how I started pricing myself and I bet any of you in here and many of you watching were doing exactly the same thing. So I was new to photography right, and I'm like okay I'm gonna make this a business I wanna make money doing this, I want to support my family doing this, I maybe wanna leave my career, what am I gonna do. So I get online, and I start going on the Google and looking around and I'm like well this person's really good, and she's charging this much. I'm not quite that good so maybe I need to charge this much this person's not so good and she's charging this much I'm a little bit better than that person so maybe I'm gonna charge myself like right here and then you come up with a random number, right? Who, anyone in here done that, yeah? Okay. We all do it, we all did it and it's funny because even though I'm very established in my business now once in a while I'll you know find a local photographer I'll see what they're charging and that mindset comes back. And this doesn't work. Because you're not pricing yourself for profit you're pricing yourself based on what somebody else's business model is. You don't know what her cost of goods are, you don't know if she's supporting her family all by herself, you don't know if she's a single mom or if she has the support of her husband, you don't know any of that, so you're pricing yourself based on somebody else's circumstances. You're putting emotion in there. You're not doing what you actually need. If you're gonna do this as a business, this has to make money, right? What's, don't, even if it's a side hustle, if you're leaving your family or leaving your life for a couple of hours you need to be making money, you really do, and money is something a lot of people don't like talking about but I'm gonna talk about it. So you have to take that emotion out of pricing and really think about what you need to survive. This is a business, okay. Sp the first thing that you wanna think about and I'm gonna look at this, is you think about your fixed costs. So if anyone's jotting things down, feel free to jot a little bit but know that you're gonna get this in the bonus material so don't panic if you don't write it all down quickly. So what are some of the costs? I'm gonna give you some examples of some costs you might have more our friend who's charging more than us might have less it just depends, right? Everyone's business costs are different. And this is one of the things, I feel like that, we don't think about, because a lot of these costs, they're fixed and so we kind of don't factor that into what we're charging because we already spent it or we're not really thinking about it so it's something you really need to consider. So camera upgrades would be a fixed cost, something that's gonna happen. Computer upgrades, editing and organizing software upgrades so if you're using a subscription based service, you're paying for that every month most of us are nowadays with editing, right? Rent, if you own a studio space, but even if you work outside of your house you know you can like use part of that as a cost. Business insurance, photography forum memberships and photography education whatever you're using for proofing, so a proofing site, photo storage hardware, so if you're buying a bunch of hard drives, I'm a hard drive hoarder, you guys, I have so many. Online photo storage if that's what you're using and then anything else that you're spending money on. So we got gas and we got, I mean, it's just crazy right. Okay health insurance if you are your own, my corporation I do my own health insurance, so those are the fixed costs. Okay. So think about that. Sometimes it's like, oh yeah, I forgot that I'm paying for that forum membership, I forgot that I'm paying for, I may wanna buy a new lens this year. Those are some of the things that you're paying for and there's probably many many more, right? Okay. So those are part of your, part of what you're gonna take out of what you make. So now, I want you to think about how much you wanna make a year. So we're gonna take the emotion out of it, right, we're gonna think about pricing from an actual profit standpoint. So how much do you wanna make a year? Now this one is, this is an interesting question for people who are doing this as a side hustle. And so a lot of times when I'm mentoring someone and we're talking about and they're either I mentor a lot of women that have started like me and maybe they have like a part time job or they have a husband who's working and they've been home with the kids and they're wondering if they wanna make this a business. And so we say okay let's start with a number that's not scary okay. We don't have to say, you're gonna make a whole salary, we don't have to say you're gonna make $60, we're gonna say 20, right, or something like that. So and that's what I'm gonna use in the example, I'll get there in a second. Then you wanna think about how many shoots you wanna do per month, so think about that and write those two numbers down, okay? So how much do you wanna make a year and how many shoots do you wanna do a months. Okay. So you take the number of shoots you want per month, times 12, and you're gonna get a number there, right? So say you wanna do one shoot a month even, let's just make it really easy, and then you amount you wanna make per year, you divide that by the number of shoots you want and that's what you should be charging per shoot. So a lot of times when we do this, I say, let's start with a low number, $20,000 per year, and when you do the math it ends up being about $400 per shoot, and so that's a good starting point right? But if you're gonna make a full salary and you start doing this math, you're gonna go up to, you know, a much higher price, or you're gonna be doing more shoots. So you have to decide how is that gonna work how is this gonna work out so that I can end up making the profit that I need to support my family. Now, for me, when I was transitioning out of being a nurse, what I did was I decided that I needed to match my salary, I needed to match it before I quit my job and that was a very stressful year, I'll never forget it, I had a, but I needed that security I had a one year old, a five year old and an eight year old and I was like I'm gonna hustle, I'm gonna do this, and I'm gonna match that salary and that was, it was doable, and I did it and I priced myself not from emotion, but for profit and I raised my prices more than I ever had before and I did it. You have to do that. If this is gonna be a real job, you have to price yourself for profit. It's advised that you save 25% of your earnings for taxes you should do that. You should definitely do that, okay? So for me, if you're selling packages, what you're gonna do is you're gonna subtract the cost of the goods that you're spending from your profit. And so like I said, I'm all inclusive right, so I don't have a lot of cost of goods. But even so I end up with, you know, a deficit. So you end up losing some of that money that you're making. So I charge, I'm gonna be totally honest here, I charge 850 per session, and we're gonna get into the editing stuff in a bit here. But I, I'm sorry, I charge $850 per session and I spend about $50 on editing. So I'm gonna talk to you about that, I outsource my editing, we're gonna go there in a minute and I include a book, and I spend about $40 on the book. I save 25% for taxes, and that's a little more than $200 so I'm really only taking home about $560. So if I was selling a bunch of products, you know, then yeah, I would have to charge for those products and make up that so you just have to think about it like that. Does that make sense? Okay. The next thing that I want you to do is I want you to really think about what you are making per hour. So before I was a photographer, I was a nurse and in that job, I was paid for every second that I worked. You clock in and you clock out. I have another nurse here in front of the audience. And so when I think about my photography career I wanna be paid for every second that I'm working. And so a lot of times when you're doing this in person sale model, that's great if you're doing that but you need to make sure that you're not, that you are tracking how many hours you're spending on every single thing that you do. And a really great exercise for this, I try to do this myself like once or twice a year, is to track a client from inquiry to gallery delivery and if you're selling products that kind of delivery and see how many hours you're spending. So track how many minutes you're spending on email for that one client, how long you're taking, door to door to go to the sessions, not just the time that you're at the session but actually the whole time that you're away from home right? Door to door. How much time you're taking to communicate with them after the session, to edit the session, to deliver the session, to design the gallery, it's a lot, it ends up being a lot of time you are in a boutique service. This is a specialized service, you should be making a lot of money an hour, this is, you're giving a very high end thing, I think. So think about what you're making per hour sometimes I have students work this out, and they're making like well below minimum wage. Doesn't feel like it 'cause you're a one woman shop and you're like, alright, this is no big deal, I'm at home, doing this while I'm watching Netflix or whatever I hear a lot of people talk about that. I never do that, I don't work now, outside of work hours I try to have those boundaries but you really wanna think about what you're making per hour. Okay? Does anyone have any questions about that? I mean that's a lot. I just wanted to really kind of touch on pricing though before we go any further.
Do you think it's possible to do both? Can you do packages and also have an offer all inclusive? Like if you really wanted, if it means a lot to you to have prints for your client and you wanna offer those packages but also you love the idea of offering an all inclusive where you get all the digitals, is that realistic, do you think?
Hmm, I personnally think those are two different types of clients, that's just my personal opinion on that though. So what I do is you know, I went there, I went back and forth with that because I do want them to print their stuff that's why I started with this, with the album and my clients can purchase prints if they want from my, their galleries, I use ShootProof so they can purchase from there. And so, I used to think that I wanted them to have prints and so I would put in, like, you know, whatever I had a couple packages, like this was way back in the day, and I found that they really didn't appreciate the prints that they got because I sort of forced them to get 'em. That just wasn't my type of client it didn't really work well. So maybe you can, maybe you can come up with a hybrid for that, but I really, personally think they are two different types of clients. I think that somebody who wants all of the digitals and somebody who wants like this more of a product based service is probably a different person.
Question just to clarify and then we're gonna talk about the client delivery, but, this is from Kelly. You're not giving the client all the images that you took--
You're giving them the ones that you send out for being edited.
Yeah, yeah, so, no, I wouldn't give 'em like, no, I go through and pick the images that end up in their gallery. So I shoot about 800 frames in a session and I give them about 100. And so yeah I go through and I call and I pick the ones that I want to be edited and then those are the ones that they get. So yeah.
Not sure if we're gonna touch on this but a question also from Kelly. How did you know when you, we talked earlier about portfolio building and perhaps charging nothing when you're doing that when, how do you know when to start charging money. And would you recommend people go, if they're following this type of model, they got straight to the price that they want to get?
It's a really good question. When do you know? You're always gonna have an insecurity about charging money. Especially if you didn't do a service business like this you're selling yourself, it feels weird right to start charging money and I will never forget like my first time that I made, and I didn't do it right, I was charging way too little and then I had to like lose those clients and then keep going and lose those clients. And hmm I'll never forget when I got my $100 from that session and I was like (gasping) oh my gosh, I can't believe I just took a check from this person like this is so weird. It doesn't feel normal. So there's never gonna be that time where you're like I am a bad ass and I'm ready. Even when I raise my prices now after 10 years I'm like (gasping) nobody's gonna book me and then it totally ends up being okay right? So you're always gonna feel a little bit insecure about it I think that we are, this is personal, what we're doing is personal. Yeah, so that's, it's really hard to know but what I do think, that's why I think that pricing needs to be not emotional you need to charge, if you're gonna start charging, what it's worth to actually make this work as a business. So if you are working out of your side hustle then you might not have to charge as much because you are kinda slowly building and that's okay. It's okay to not start at $1,000 a session, we're not all there of course at one point. But you shouldn't be charging pennies. And especially if you're spending a lot of time on this session like if it takes you a long time to edit and that kind of thing, you need to make sure you're charging accordingly.
How many of your clients then purchase prints afterwards?
So I would say that about 25% of my clients purchase prints afterwards. From me. Many of them print them on their own. And I get to see it when I go into their home for newborn sessions and whatnot, which is really cool. And I know that, what's gonna be asked next is don't you worry about where they print? And I don't. And I used to. And I just let that go. Because really the only person who's gonna be like, that person's face is magenta, is us. They're probably not gonna notice. I do give them some education when I deliver my galleries and tell them like hey, I don't recommend budget print labs and I can only guarantee print quality if you print from me but I let them print wherever they want and it hasn't been a problem. I've been like this for a long time, this model, so. Yeah?
Do you find that they really appreciate being able to have all of the digital files from you? That sets you apart?
Absolutely. I will go on a limb and say that it's more than norm these days, actually. To get digital files. And I know that there are a lot of photographers who have been at this a long time that are gonna be mad at me for saying that but erm that's what I would expect when I have my family photos done I want, yeah I want the digitals. And I think that that's what my people want too. And yes they absolutely want them and they're very happy about it. When I used to try to do like, a packagy type stuff, they would be like, so how do we get all the digitals? How do we get all the digitals? And finally I just gave them all the digitals and I've never been happier (chuckling) so it's much easier.