Coming up with pricing is probably one of the trickiest parts of being a small business owner. It’s also one of those things that doesn’t really seem to ever completely be solved and settled. You’re always going to be looking at your pricing and deciding whether or not you need to adjust things, or whether or not it’s time to increase (or decrease) where your prices are at.
Before we dig in, I just thought I’d let you all know, in case you didn’t already know, I’m no expert on financial matters. I’m a wedding photographer, not a CFO or an accountant. I can’t tell you for sure one way or another what will or what won’t work for you, but I can tell you what’s worked from my experience, and that’s what I’ll share here today!
First things first, I have to admit that one of my biggest pricing strategies is probably going to be somewhat controversial to some people. It goes against so many things that “the industry” says you should be doing. I don’t answer to the “industry” though. I answer to my landlord. And to Geico and Capital One. All those guys care about is that my bank account has dolla dolla bills enough to share with them!
I think this first pricing post will be so much more helpful to people like me who HAVE to make a living off of their photography and really want to be doing it full time as quickly as possible. If you have a full time day job and you are content doing that, this might not work for you. This also might not work out as well for you if you’re a film photog. But hopefully you’ll read on and decide for yourselfThe best pricing advice I have ever been given is to price yourself in a way that works for YOU.
The biggest secret to my pricing strategy has always been to price myself conservatively. In the beginning, I set my pricing slightly below where I really thought I was worth. I think this is one of the biggest reasons that I have consistently grown my business every year and why I was able to go full time in the middle of my first full wedding season. I still continue to do this on some level, but with slightly different goals in mind that we can talk about in another post. There are a few reasons I picked up this strategy:
1. I believe that there is power in momentum when you’re growing your business. When you’re first starting out, or you are in those first couple of years, I think it is really powerful to be shooting 15-20 weddings a season (if that’s what you want, at least…I wanted 20+ weddings and to go full time ASAP…that’s not for everyone though, so keep that in mind) because you’re going to have that many more opportunities to get your name out there. Having more weddings means having more work to show, more vendors to build relationships with, more clients to wow, etc. Shooting more is so helpful when you’re building your business because that means you have more opportunities to get your name out there and to get in front of people who are going to be booking for the next wedding season. I wanted to grow my business quickly and make my dream happen sooner than later, so I decided I would rather work 17 weddings my first year at 2700 than charge $3200 that year because I thought I was worth it and that’s what my peers were charging and then only book 10.
2. I believed in being the BEST photographer in my price range. This is pretty simple to understand and explain. By keeping my prices slightly lower I was able to be the best photographer in that price range. Instead of being one of hundreds in a certain price bracket with very similar work, websites, etc, I chose to be a standout in a slightly lower price range. I still kind of live by that mantra, however, when you get to a certain pricing bracket, different types of psychology come into play because you’re working with different types of clients. At this point in my business, I think about my pricing strategy a little differently, but we’ll save that for another blog post!
3. There’s also power in having choices. While growing the business with my pricing like this, I still looked for clients that fit who my ideal clients were. Getting more inquiries and booking more weddings allowed me to be slightly pickier than if I was only getting one inquiry a month and felt obligated to book anything that came my way because I just didn’t have much on my schedule.
Now, one thing I feel like I have to say is that by no means am I trying to tell you to charge less than you’re worth or that you should take on 50 weddings a year at no money. (If you’re booking 50 weddings a year, you can definitely raise your prices!). I’m saying that if there’s a pricing range where I felt comfortable at based on my experience, equipment, skills, and booking rate, I would usually steer towards the lower end of the range because I valued momentum in my wedding photography business. My pricing strategy is definitely a little bit alternative compared to others that are out there, but it really worked for me and helped me get my business to where it is now. I have mentoring clients and photographers who email me asking about pricing and why they aren’t booking. I can’t answer that for everyone, but for some people, I really do think getting a momentum going is more important than raising prices or setting their prices at x number just because they think they should. The best indicator that your pricing strategy (whatever it is) is working is that you’re booking clients at it. If months and months go by without bookings, it may be time to re-examine your pricing!
Next time in this series we’ll talk about when to raise prices and on the flip side, when to LOWER prices if you have to.
Got a pricing question?? Shoot me an email or use the contact form to send me a message!