Now that the boxes are unpacked and your household is in order, it’s time to crack your knuckles and get to work. In my previous article we talked about networking, SEO, getting legal in your new location, as well as some other helpful tips.
I really want to help as best I can but I’m going to need you to do something for me first. I need you to throw out all your preconceived notions. I need you to wipe away the remnants of expert opinion and listen with an open mind and maybe a grain of salt. Can you do that?
Re-evaluating Your Business After a Move
Today, I’m going to devote this post to pricing because it seems to be the most asked question. No, pricing is not everything when moving your business. Just adjusting your pricing will not get you clients or help you to establish your business. But, if you’ve done all the other things that we discussed, if you’ve marketed well, networked locally, concentrated on SEO, etc. and you’re still not getting bookings, then taking a look at your pricing structure is the next reasonable step. Let’s dive in.
I’m going to be really upfront here. I’m about to say some stuff that a lot of my peers won’t agree with. Things they may chastise me for. But I don’t worry too much about that because if there’s one thing that moving my business has taught me, it’s that I’m the best gage for what does and does not work for me.
Have you ever heard of pricing based on demand? That means that you are in such high demand that you can basically charge whatever you want. Guess what? That’s probably not you. It’s certainly not me.
Instead, most of us will need to take several factors into consideration when determining our pricing. I’m no pricing expert but Jamie from The Modern Tog has a great pricing tutorial (completely free, by the way) that you may find helpful. It takes into account taxes, overhead costs, product costs, time, etc. and is a great resource.
Why Your Location Affects Your Pricing
One thing that isn’t often discussed in pricing tutorials is your zip code. When doing your market research for your new home, you should look for information such as median household income, whether your area is predominantly single or dual income households, etc. This information can tell you a lot about what people in your new location are able and willing to spend on luxury items such as day spas, boutique shops and yes, custom photography.
It would be great if you found that your new area is more affluent and you can actually raise your prices to target this new clientele. But, you may find that instead of raising prices, you need to lower them or restructure your product offerings.
Here’s My Real Life Example
I’m going to do a little breakdown of my own process when I moved because I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier to write things off when it’s presented in vague terminology. I don’t want to give you that excuse.
For instance, my immediate area has a median household income of only $43,000. This is almost $20,000 less than where I used to live. My area is also made up of predominantly young, single income households. The average age is only 29-years old. Again, this is much different than where I used to live which had an average age of 36-years old. The average home price in my area is $132,000 while the average in my old area was $420,000.
Surely you can see the huge difference in the local economy. The young families in my area have less disposable income. That’s just a fact. My old pricing was simply not sustainable in this market. I don’t compare myself to other photographers but I do take into account other luxury businesses. How much does the day spa charge for their services? Are we comparable? In my case, no. I was priced significantly above many of the other luxury brands in my area.
So, I had two options. I could either change my pricing or I could market my services to a more affluent area and prepare myself for the necessary travel.
This is the part where other professionals may balk. Anytime there’s talk of lowering your prices, our peers chime in with terms like “shoot and burner” and “cheap.” But you see, they haven’t lived in my area. They don’t know my demographic. They don’t know my business goals and desired income. Just like they don’t know yours.
Due to the time commitment, I simply couldn’t make traveling work. For my family, and with my husband’s demanding military career, it would simply have been too much of a hardship on my loved ones so I had to think of another alternative.
So Why Am I Telling You All This?
Simple. I want you to take charge of your own business and realize that at the end of the day, as long as you are operating legally and ensuring that all your overhead expenses are being taken care of, you can do whatever you want with YOUR business.
Too often in this industry we look to everyone else to tell us what to do. That’s why you’re reading this, right? But in the midst of all that information overload, we forget to go with our own gut and structure a business that fits our life. Before we know it, our business is running us instead of the other way around.
My End Result
I spent a year trying to force my old pricing to work in my new location. My business consumed me as I tried to make it successful. I got tons of inquiries but lost 98% of them over pricing. I knew I needed to make some changes, but every time I resolved to sit down and hash it out, I’d read another blog post about how lowering pricing or including digital images would kill my business. Then I caved to peer pressure and kept trudging away, clinging to my sinking ship.
In the end, a friend of mine (another local photographer) gave me a suggestion and even though it was against much of the advice I’d heard, I decided to give it a try and it got me on the right track. This little bit of success gave me the courage to really re- evaluate my business after my move and take a hard look at what I wanted.
In the end, I didn’t actually lower my prices, but I did change how I structured my business and what I included with each session. My minimum spend is exactly the same, except now I market it as an all inclusive experience rather than a separate session fee and print order minimum.
I have moved from a product based business model to a service based model. I charge for my time and any product purchases are icing on the cake, so to speak.
Do I include digital images? Yes. Does that make me a shoot and burner? Maybe, though I include printed products as well. The point is that I simply don’t care what others think anymore. My bookings have gone up, I’m shooting what I love, being well compensated for my time (hint: shoot and burner doesn’t have to mean cheap) and my family gets to enjoy more time with me.
What This Means For You
You shouldn’t care either. Do what works for you and understand that while advice and tips can be helpful, they can also be used as an excuse not to make the changes you truly feel you need to make.
I am not an expert, by any means. But I hope that reading about my real life experience will offer you some perspective and teach you to take all the industry information you may find with a grain of salt.
Lea Hartman is a family lifestyle photographer, a proud army wife and the busy mother of three. While she dreams of vacationing in exotic places and taking tropical cruises, all she really wants is to sleep in! You can get to know Lea better by following along via her website, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram (@leahartman).