“MOMMMMM!!! I can’t figure my math homework out!”
I heard a pencil hit the counter hard, propelled by the force of a frustrated 10 year-old and turned the corner to see a scowling, arms-crossed child at the counter.
“What are you stuck on?” I asked.
“This.” He pointed to a question on his paper that had nothing but blank space below it.
“Well, have you tried to solve it?”
“It’s just so hard!”
“I bet it is, but it doesn’t look like you’ve even made an attempt.” I knew he wanted me to just tell him the answer, but I wasn’t about to let an opportunity pass to allow him to struggle a little. I knew the reward would be much better if he worked for it, and that he would also retain the information longer if he found it himself.
While I am often confident in my parenting skills, I feel like a kid myself when it comes to being a new photographer. When I started my photography business back in March of this year, I was confident that I had all the skills I needed to in order to run a business… except figure out how much to charge. I wanted desperately for someone with experience to just show up and tell me what to collect. I wanted the easy way out. I was the student approaching their teacher during a test hoping for a moment of weakness and a free answer.
I wasted lots of time being frustrated, just like my 10 year-old working on his math homework. I looked at other photographer’s websites. I looked at statistics. I asked my friends what they thought was reasonable. I did everything BUT take my personal goals and priorities into consideration. I knew I needed to struggle through my own problem so there would be a why behind my pricing.
I’ve never wanted to work full time. With three young boys in our house, and a desire to expand our family again in the near future, photography is a way to supplement our income and support what would otherwise be a very expensive hobby. I was never looking for a six-figure income or a 40+ hour workweek. Those three simple sentences built the framework for my pricing. It allows me to value my work time, because it is time away from my family occasionally, and that needs to have a price attached to it. Writing my goals and priorities also allowed me to see that, for this season of my life, my family was more important than my business.
I also know it is unlikely that I will ever be a fancy boutique photographer. I live in yoga pants. I shop clearance racks. My current purse is a Nine West bag I found at a garage sale for $1. I have a degree in Accounting and often coach business owners to reduce their spending! My point being, I don’t think I could EVER look at someone and tell them I think they should spend $5,000 on a portrait package unless it was Oprah, or maybe Queen Elizabeth. I know myself well enough to know that I want to be mid-range priced photographer. I want people that I can relate to buying my images – people that don’t necessarily make a lot of money, but value photography. I know that means I won’t necessarily make six figures – BUT – since that isn’t my goal, that’s okay with me!
Do you know that the national average wage for photographers in the US is less than $30,000 annually? Statistically speaking, if you make more than $60,000 a year as a photographer, you are in the top 6% of photographers. I don’t share this to be discouraging, but I share it say that it’s not as simple as “I’m going to price my packages really high and make $200,000 a year.” It is much more likely that you will make a modest wage. I’m okay with that, because I’d rather do something I love and share that talent with people than make lots of money doing something I hate. I could get a job at a Big 4 accounting firm tomorrow and make a lot more money, but that’s not what I want for my life.
We are all at different stages of life. We all have different goals. Yes, you have to value your time. Yes, you can’t give away your images! But, you also need to know yourself, and know your goals!
Need a little help? Check out this amazing e-book, The Ultimate Pricing Guide for New Photographers. It will help walk you through the math (woo hoo!) to find a pricing model that suits YOU! You can also use the code "PRETTYPRESETS" to enjoy 56% off the ebook for a limited time.
At the end of the day, you MUST be confident in your pricing. Do the work and wrestle with the issue until you know why you are priced the way you are. Then, you can stand behind what you are charging.
Do you find pricing challenging or not? We always love to hear from you!
Photographer Depot has given us a free sample of this ebook. You can download it by clicking here.
Shannan Painter is a newbie photographer who has spent the last 5 years working with the left side of her brain helping small businesses organize their accounting and taxes. She decided to take the big step and pursue her dream of becoming a professional photographer in 2013 after adding a third boy to her house that was already full of super heroes, trucks, and sports equipment. She and her husband, who is a local TV meteorologist, play pick-up games of basketball in their free time and like to take road trips to Lake Minnetonka with all 3 boys, and their dog Growler. Visit her on Facebook!