Business Trends
How To Increase Profilts

Being a profitable photography business means dealing with pricing more successfully than you have been. The problem seems to be that pricing brings out feelings of hesitancy, doubt, and uncertainty in many creative professionals--photographers included. You will not be able to price your work for profit if you focus on these feelings. Since you can't change your feelings, learn to change the words you use and your behavior when discussing price with the client. Also, learn to switch gears--from the creative side to the business side.

It is of absolute importance because with your initial response, you set a precedent almost impossible to break. So you must learn and be prepared before the pricing question comes up again. Here are some techniques to establish a successful and profitable relationship with a photography client.

  • Professional networks are the first places to look for the support you need to be successful and profitable. Talk to other photographers in your local association chapter. Make the contacts you'll need to call on in a pricing dilemma before you need them. Associations of professional photographers can inform and educate you and your clients on pricing issues. If you are not participating in your professional photography association, do it now. If you are not a member, join now. Check for an association suitable to your area of photography on one of the photography web sites such as http://photogra phersindex.com or www.generation. net/~gjones/index.htm.
  • Pricing also means good business practices. Read business books for photographers that focus on this issue: Pricing Photography by Michal Heron and David MacTavish (Allworth Press).
  • One new way to maximize profitability is to find out the difference between the budget for photography and the budget for the entire project. When the client determines a photography budget, this is just one line item in a project budget. This is true whether the project is a wedding or a commercial product shoot.

Since digital technology today allows you to do more work before, during, and after the photography, there is money already there for you in other parts of the project budget. Ask about the other line items in the project budget. Check on budgets set aside for consulting, preproduction, research, retouching, postproduction, and pre-press (just to name a few). In other words, the way clients budget for photography has not quite caught up with the way you are doing the photography. The money is probably there to pay you for the extra work; it just may not be called "photography fee" when you first go into the project. It is up to you to go look for the money.

  • Be sure to share with your client the costs of changes they make on a project. If you do not, it will come out of your fee. The client will usually ask for something you cannot do without spending extra time or money. You want to make everyone happy, so you respond "Sure, fine, no problem," when in fact you have a big problem, perhaps a costly one. The better response is to stop and discuss their request. You can say, "Yes, and that will cost (name something specific)," or maybe, "No, but here's what we can do instead (name some other option)."
  • What happens when the client wants to pay less? Before you take the project and leap to lower the price, ask a few questions. My favorite is the very common situation where the client tells you, "I can get it for half price from someone else." I usually ask a simple question in response, "How is that possible?" What I am really asking is, "How can it possibly be done for less money?" Your client will understand this. What will the "less" be? Does the client want to know now or be surprised later? Photography is not a product pulled down off a shelf and sold for half price discounts. When your client pays half, they will get half. Maybe not at first glance but always in the long run.
  • When your client has less money than your quote, don't drop your price without some negotiation. There is one technique that is a simple one to learn. When the client wants to pay less the client must get less of something or you will get more of something. Here is your "script." When the client names a price lower than what is acceptable, your answer is any variation on "Let's take a look at how it can be done for that price." Then you look at two categories. The first category names the considerations the client can make to lower the price. For example, they can get less usage rights or less shots. With the second category, the client can pay less money if you can get more time or better payment terms. They must be tangible items of value to be considered. Prepare your two category lists today. The bottom line is do not accept less money for the same terms. You will damage your chance at a profitable relationship with clients and appear to be giving your work away.
  • Make a project followup call at about the time you think your work has been in use by the client long enough for them to answer this question: "How is the photography working for you on that project?" The idea comes from the fact that our definition of "concept to completion" has changed. Completion is no longer just the delivery of the photography. At that point, everyone loves it. Rather it is the performance of the photography that makes the project complete. Not only will this technique keep clients coming back for more but you also can find out about their next photography job for you.
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