This is the fourth post in a 10-part series called "10 Reasons Why You Aren't Getting More Clients." Here's a link to part 1 of the series in case you missed it.
One of most common things I hear photographers who are struggling to get clients but are still underpriced from where they need to be is that their market simply won't support higher prices. They're afraid to raise their prices because they have heard time and time again that they are too expensive, yet they're not even coming close enough to charging as much as they'd like to.
It only takes a few clients to say you're too expensive before you start to believe it. If you're having trouble booking clients and this is the main feedback you hear, it's logical to think that lowering your prices will help you get more clients.
So you lower your prices and find that you're still not booking clients. Then you start to get frustrated and discouraged and start wondering if you should even be in business at all.
Lower prices do not equal more clients. In fact, low prices can keep you from getting the clients you really want.
Price implies quality
Imagine you're throwing a small dinner party in honor of a friend who loves and appreciates fine foods. You are planning to hire a caterer to make sure it's amazing because your cooking skills are okay, but you want this to be a dream meal for her.
So you go looking for a caterer. Prices are all over the board from $15 a plate to $150 per plate.
If you really want quality, you'd pick the caterer who charges $150 a plate instead of $15 a plate for the same meal. Right?
You're not going to even consider the cheap places because clearly if they're charging less the quality and/or service can't be nearly as good as the ones that are charging more, and this is really important to you.
See how price implies quality?
People who don't value something use price alone as a deciding factor
Now, let's say you're throwing a different informal get-together with lots of people and you simply don't want to have to worry about the food. As long as it's not terrible, you'd be happy with whatever.
You're going to look at the caterer charging $15 a plate, and because you have so many people coming, this is still too expensive for you. Instead, you just ask some friends to help you out with preparing the food and do it yourself.
You're not going to pay that much, because it's not something you value at all.
Who do you want as a client?
If you are constantly hearing that you are too expensive and your clients don't seem to value you, your work, or your time, chances are you're not charging enough to attract clients who really value photography and are willing to invest in your work.
People pay a premium price for what they really want. I'm always amazed at how many people in my blue-collar, low-income town have iPhones and pay a premium every month to have them, even though a huge percentage of their household income goes towards paying for it.
The mom that really wants and values beautiful professional photography that captures this precious time in her young kids' lives will not even consider the photographer who is charging $200 for a session and digital images because that seems too cheap to her, so in her mind seems like it'd be lower quality. She'll pass right over your page and move to someone else who charges more.
The mom who just wants a quick photo of her kids for a Christmas card but doesn't really care about having high-quality images will see the photographer charging $200 for a session and images and decide she doesn't want to spend $200 for a Christmas card photo and will say they're too expensive and will do it herself for free.
So how much should you charge?
First, run your numbers using this guide and see what it suggests you charge to make sure you make your desired profit. If you feel the pricing it suggests is still too low, you can increase your desired profit number, decrease the number of sessions you hope to book, or simply use that as a reference for knowing your minimum but charge more to increase your implied value.
Most people who haven't done something like this tend to find that they're undercharging and need some pretty significant increases to reach their desired goals. This will give you some idea of where you'll want to be.
How to increase prices?
If you think you need to make a significant increase to your pricing to start attracting the clients you really want, the hardest part is deciding how to best do this.
Because you're going to be attracting a different type of client, you're likely going to lose most of your current client base. That's okay. You simply cannot be everything to everyone. If you rely upon your photography income for your needed monthly income, you'll want to come up with some sort of transition plan so that you don't suddenly lose your current clients while trying to woo and attract your new clients.
However, if photography is a part-time side business for you and you have other income that pays your bills, I'd personally just jump right in and increase my prices right away. In fact, that's what I did back in the first few months of my business. You'll likely have a dry period (or at least it will feel that way) right after raising prices for a few months, but in the end it will be worth it and you'll start booking again. A great way to keep this from interrupting your income is to email all your clients to tell them that you'll be raising your prices on a certain date, but that you'll honor your current prices for anything booked before then as long as the shoot takes place within the next 60 days. This will fill your next 2 months, and this also helps your clients to know that your future prices are going to be higher.
What's your biggest pricing struggle?
Leave a comment below and share what your biggest pricing struggle is!
Jamie M Swanson is a Madison Wedding Photographer who shares her secrets about photography marketing over at The Modern Tog. Click to check it out!