So you read our post about the pitfalls of underpricing your digital products. You’ve realized that your image files are not “just pixels,” but the culmination of thousands of hours of coffee, sweat, and tears that you put into honing your craft. And you’ve decided that 2016 is going to be the year that you stop underestimating yourself and start valuing your work (and asking clients to do the same).
But going from that a-ha moment to actually implementing full-service pricing can be daunting. You can always quadruple your prices and wait for dream clients to line up at your door, but that requires some brass you-know-what. More likely, you’re going to want to make a more slightly gradual change, so you have a chance for your confidence to grow alongside your pricing. Here are the baby steps you can take now, so you’ll be ready to rock a brand-new business model by the end of the year.
1. Fact-check your fear.
You may be thinking, “If I raise my prices, I’ll lose all my current clients and I’ll go broke!” While it’s true you may lose a few clients, if they’re paying less than $100 per session, you’re probably not making any money. If may seem like pure profit, but by the time you recoup your equipment costs -- not to mention taxes, insurance, memory cards, software, online backup subscriptions, external storage, advertising, and office supplies -- it’ll be time to buy new gear, renew your insurance, pay taxes again, restock your supplies, and basically start over again at zero. Plain and simple, you can afford to lose clients who aren’t paying you enough to turn a profit.
2. Think outside the (drop)box.
Decide what you’re going to offer clients to create a sense of luxury. As useful as file-sharing sites are, they’re intangible (you can’t hold a download link in your hands) and they’re accessible to anyone (it doesn’t feel expensive or exclusive, because it’s not). Start looking around at beautiful products you can deliver to your clients. Test out a few print labs to find one that makes your images look stellar. Order a sample set of frames to show clients. Grab a 20% discount on sample albums and add those to your line-up. Even if you decide to stay strictly digital, invest in branded custom-printed USB drives to create a “wow factor” when clients receive their images.
Download links get lost, cloud storage can evaporate, but physical heirlooms last for centuries. Figure out which keepsakes you can add to your product line. We suggest press printed albums, keepsake luxe albums, framed prints and gallery wrapped canvases which are fantastic ways to display fine art photography AND will keep you in business.
3. Get yourself a mantra.
This sounds silly, but when you’re fielding emails from people who tell you -- with widely varying degrees of tact -- that you’re out of their budget, you’ll need it. Our personal favorite is a simple reminder that time is a limited and valuable resource: “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” Repeat as necessary.
4. Create your end-game price list.
In a perfect world, what would you like to be charging by the time the year is out? Create that price list, and post it on your website. Let prospective clients see it and make their own decisions. Then send your current clients an email letting them know that you’ll be moving away from your portfolio-building pricing as of such-and-such date, but as a thank-you for their loyalty, you’ll be extending a 15-30 percent discount (or whatever you feel comfortable with) off your new pricing for the next 1-3 months. Feel free to tweak any of those details to fit your personal goals and comfort level. Link them to your price list, and remember that helpful mantra when you find out who valued your work and who only valued your price tag. It’s gonna happen. But it’s okay.
Oh, and one more thing: Every price list should include a little fine print alerting clients that your prices are subject to change at any time. And when you feel like it’s time for a change, go ahead and change.
5. Take seasonal steps.
You’ve probably heard the adage about eating an elephant one bite at a time. Likewise, if you’re overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite number of photography products out there, start small. Add print packages, and get comfortable with fulfilling and packaging print orders. Once you’ve got that down, add canvas. When the holidays roll around, add a unique specialty product like metal ornaments or prints on wood. Not only does this give you time to adjust to this new facet of your business, it also gives you an excuse to email your clients about your exciting new offerings -- and stay on their radar.
6. Deliver the absolute best.
When it comes to digital files, less is more. Let’s say you delete all the blinkies and outtakes from a session, and you’re left with 100 solid, deliverable photos. Now let’s say 30 of those photos are outstanding -- beautiful light, natural interactions, happy expressions. Should you give them 30 or 100? While handing them all over may seem like the best value for the client, you may actually be doing them a disservice. For one thing, ordering prints is hard enough without having to sift through 100 images to find your favorite micro-expression. And consider this: If a client splurges on you, receives 100 images, and 30 percent of them are amazing, they may feel underwhelmed. But if they splurge on you, receive 30 images, and 100 percent of them are amazing, they’ll think, “See, I knew this would be worth it.”
7. Keep learning.
Never stop learning new skills, perfecting your technique, finding your signature style, and devouring every little bit of info you can find on how to get better both as an artist and as a successful business owner. You have to believe you’re worth it, and very soon you will actually prove you’re worth it. Sure, changing up your business model can be scary…..but remember, you are changing it for the better, to a sustainable long-term approach that better serves your clients and respects your time and your talent.
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When I was in college, I had a friend who was a professional photographer. The first time I went to her home, I walked in to find stunning photographs of her children on the walls.
There was a huge canvas in their living room and a creative photo display in the main hallway. I remember being so moved by the beauty of those images, thinking to myself, “I want to create images like this!” I bought myself a DSLR as a graduation present, learned photography from online courses and started my photography business about a year later.