Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed over 75 photographers – students and assistants who have yet to launch their own businesses, veterans with over 30 years experience and everyone in between – about pricing, particularly pricing pain points and challenges.
My findings? Well, as one interview subject put it:
“I don’t know a single photographer who’s 100% confident in pricing today.”
While those with decades of experience tend to feel pretty comfortable with their pricing for specific projects and clients, even they are quick to point out that the moment they’re asked to do something outside of their normal routine, they feel just as unsure about what to charge as someone new to the business.
They also expressed a lot of frustration over clients demanding more images and broader usage for less money than they would have charged in the past. Adapting to a changing market is difficult and many experienced photographers struggle to anticipate market trends, identify untraditional opportunities and pivot quickly enough to stay ahead of new client needs.
“I’m afraid to come in too low and I’m afraid to come in too high.”
Many of the photographers I spoke with feel like there’s some magic number you have to hit and if you miss it, you’ll never hear from that client again. Ever. For the rest of your life… Talk about pressure! And, to add to that pressure, there’s a lot of confusion about what clients really want, what they value, what your work is really worth and how to communicate – or in some cases justify – the true value of your work. There’s also a strong feeling out there that if a client isn’t willing to pay your price then you or your work must be worth less. It breaks my heart.
“I feel like I’m pulling numbers from thin air and when I go on forums for pricing help, I feel like they’re just making up numbers, too.”
After talking to all these photographers, it’s clear to me that the heart of the problem is a lack of conversation and real-world information about pricing. How do you know if you’re too high or too low if there’s no way to get solid data about spending patterns in your market? How can you figure out what the market will bear if no one is sharing information? How can you find out what clients really value, want or care about when you can’t ask them directly because they’ll think you don’t know what you’re doing?
“I wish I could just see what other photographers are doing and hear what clients are really thinking.”
I originally set out to build an online course on pricing for photographers, but after talking with all these people, it’s clear that a course alone isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong – courses are great and I’m still working on that – but I want to go beyond the limitations of a course to bring all the information you need to get paid what you’re worth, together in one place, so you can find it, use it and keep moving forward.
But, I can’t do it alone. I can’t share best practices without your stories, your examples, your successes and your failures. I can’t give you useful market data without numbers from a lot of different projects, quoted by all levels of photographers working in every genre and market. I can’t give you deep insights into what clients are thinking without talking to a wide range of people from the client side, including those outside of my personal network.
Are you in?
If you agree that it’s worth sharing your experiences in order to get access to a resource that will show you what other photographers are doing, give you deep insights into what clients are really thinking and give you the data, skills and tools you need to price your work more effectively, I promise that you’ll get back more than you put in, that I’ll protect the identity of anyone who wishes to stay anonymous, and that I’ll credit everyone who wants to be acknowledged for their contributions. I will respect your ideas, listen to your needs and do everything in my power to create valuable resources that will help you make more money doing what you love.
I want to build this so badly but before I can invest in the necessary infrastructure that will let me share all of this with you, I need to know you’re with me. I need to know that you want a solution to this problem badly enough that you’re willing to share your experiences and your data.
If you want to see this happen, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you an easy 5 question survey to get us started.
C’mon, let’s do thing, together!