Category: Pricing

To Black Friday or Not to Black Friday

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the US and is regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season – traditionally it’s a time when American retailers give huge discounts or run special offers.  Over the last few years ‘Black Friday’ has made its way over the pond and it’s now a term we are familiar with in the UK with many retailers here also offering big discounts.

This month in our Photography Business Club we are delivering resources to our members focusing on how to generate more income in the run up to Christmas so, of course, the topic of Black Friday was raised and we thought we’d open this out to our blog readers too.

Should You Offer A Black Friday Deal?

Black Friday deals are traditionally for products rather than services.  As a service business, if you offer a big discount or special offer, you run the risk of making big losses – it’s far more difficult to discount your time and still make a profit than it is to buy products in bulk and use your supplier discount to pass on to customers.

This said you can still use Black Friday to stimulate sales if you feel you need to.  Remember that this time of year is very busy for photographers in general and if you can fill your diary with full paying clients, why would you want discounted ones?

What Sort Of Black Friday Deals Should I Offer Then?


Your first port of call is to check with your suppliers – if any of them are offering Black Friday deals on any products then you might want to pass some of that saving onto clients.  As well as clients you are seeing over the period spanning Black Friday, don’t forget to also offer the deal to previous clients, adding more profit in essence – as you won’t need to re-shoot these clients.

Filling Quiet Time

As we have already mentioned, this time of year can be hectic for photographers so it doesn’t make sense to try and squeeze more work in at a discount.  But maybe you could use Black Friday to fill some space in your diary for when you are likely to be very quiet – January and possibly February.

Here are some suggestions of offers you could use to generate forward bookings:

  • Buy 1 get 1 free – Pay for an all-inclusive package (session and digitals for example) to take any time during January or February and get another all-inclusive session free of charge 6 months later.
  • Free cake for every cake smash (to be booked over set dates in January/February)
  • Limited offer; eg 4 newborn sessions on dates in January in February which include £100 print credit. [disclaimer: your pricing must allow for profit when doing something like this. If you still allow clients to make small £25 orders then this won’t work for you!]

So you might be able to leverage the Black Friday hype to fill some quiet time for you but just bear in mind that people will expect BIG discounts and deals.  10% off or a free print aren’t really going to cut it. Good luck whatever you decide and we’d love to hear how Black Friday works for you – please comment below.

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What Can You Do About Cheaper Photographers?

“Someone up the road is giving all the images on a disk for £25!!! No wonder no one values me”
“I’ve just seen newborn sessions for £5!!?? How do I compete with that?”

As an active participant in lots of photography related forums and facebook groups, I see posts similar to the above posted somewhere by someone at least twice a day.

Here I’m going to break it down as to why you really don’t need to worry – and a few reasons why you SHOULD worry.

• Even if you don’t go looking for these special offers or price lists, even if you just happen to come across them or notice them – by giving them any of your brain power AT ALL you are diverting yourself from your own business. Think about who is losing out there.

• You have NO idea about someone else’s financial situation, their business model or their client experience. Looking at one factor alone (in this case the initial fee) is not enough to decide they are anything to worry about. It’s also not worth trying to find out. Just move on.

• Generally speaking, the photographers who price similarly to the posts detailed above, need to process a huge volume of clients to generate a decent income. They may be busy, but they probably don’t have time to do anything else and they are probably still struggling to make ends meet. They end up raising prices or going out of business – just let nature take its course

• The general public is much savvier than we think.  Seeing pricing as low as this does not make them think ‘oh this is just how much photographers charge’ any more than them seeing a T-shirt for sale in Primark would make them think they could get a T-shirt in Boden for the same price!

• There are clients for every budget – let the budget clients go to the budget photographers. You cannot serve everybody.

When To Worry

If you can’t clearly show a prospective client the difference between your business and a far cheaper alternative then you might have an issue.
Everything about your business and your brand should sit neatly in alignment with your pricing.

When everything else is equal, price wins every time.

This means that if a client is looking for a photographer and there is no clear difference between the 2 or 3 they are looking at – the cheapest price will win every single time.

Clients find it much harder than photographers to tell the difference in image quality too so make sure that you are ‘showing the difference’ in every area you can such as showcasing products, testimonials, behind the scenes, and the end result that your clients walk away with.

Honestly, the best way to deal with this scenario is to keep on scrolling.

Put your blinkers on, concentrate on your own business and live and let live.

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What Can We Learn From Cake?

We need to have a serious chat today.  I’d like to tell you a story about a small business.

Cathy loved cake.  Who doesn’t?  Cathy loved cake so much and was so great at baking that for as long as she could remember, all of her friends and family had told her she should open a bakery. Eventually, Cathy realised her dream.  She found the perfect spot for ‘Cathy’s Cakes’.  It’s true to say it wasn’t on a main high street so she knew she would have to work a little bit harder to make it work – but hey it will be fine, everyone has been telling her that her cakes rock.  Build it and they will come!

Cathy’s cakes opened to a flurry of activity and PR trumpets.  The bakery was packed and she sold right out of cakes on her very first day.  Let the good times begin.

But by the end of the month, Cathy’s Cakes wasn’t so busy anymore.  Sure, she was fumbling along, making ends meet, but Cathy was having to throw away wasted cakes instead of turning away customers.  Cathy started to feel a rise of panic as time passed and the bakery didn’t get any busier.  How on earth was she going to take a decent wage for herself at this rate?  I mean everyone has been saying for as long as she can remember that her cakes are amazing, what can be going wrong?

Then Cathy had an idea.  Every day she would keep herself busy by baking cakes.  People would see that she was busy and she could share the pictures of her lovely cakes on social media so that everyone could see how amazing they were.  In fact, Cathy came up with an even better idea.  She would put out a call on social media for anyone who needed a birthday cake.  Then she could really show off her skills.  And everyone would tell their friends how amazing Cathy’s cakes were.  Of course she would give them the cake for free for responding to her advert – so she restricted the offer to just a single tier cake.  Why, people might even upgrade when they realised how amazing she was – they might add another tier, buy a tray of cupcakes, perhaps become a regular.  Cathy was delighted with her marketing plan and set it into action immediately.

It worked!  Cathy was inundated with people who wanted the birthday cakes.  People told their friends about her, people shared her pictures on social media and she got a ton of people liking her pages.

One evening, while Cathy worked into the small hours of the night adding finishing touches to the 20th free birthday cake that month, she decided to take stock.

The cost of the free cakes and all of the time she had spent on them were not valued one bit by the people who took the cakes.  They had told their friends about her – but they too wanted the free cake.  One lady had enquired about a birthday cake for her daughters 5th birthday and was horrified at the quote Cathy gave her – she even told Cathy she was too expensive and she was going elsewhere.  Cathy knew that she wasn’t expensive – she had overheads like rent and insurance, not to mention the raw ingredients and paying herself a wage.

All Cathy had done was waste a lot of time money and effort in attracting the wrong kind of client to her bakery.  She had devalued her brand and given herself an even harder mountain to climb.

Cathy realised that instead of making herself busy baking cakes for free, she should have made herself busy marketing to the people who would buy cakes.  Cathy wasn’t a baker.  She was a business owner whose business was selling cakes.

If you recognise yourself in Cathy and you are devaluing your business by offering freebies, discounts or ‘model calls’. I urge you to reconsider your marketing plan.  Start to look for and attract the clients who will pay the correct price for your work and who will value it.

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Mate’s Rates

It’s the words most of us dread to hear from friends, associates and acquaintances….’can I book a session with you?’

I love nothing more than photographing my close family and friends, don’t get me wrong, but I really don’t like doing working for more distant friends and here is why.

Sometimes they haven’t really bought into having a portrait – it’s just something they fancy and they know you do it, so they ask you.  This is the worst type of enquiry as they haven’t really had a good look at the market and the variety of styles and pricing on offer – so quite often they don’t want you whatever the cost, like a really perfect client would.  They want you because they know you and sometimes because they hope they will get a discount.  This teamed with the fact that it can be hard to turn on your professional persona with someone you know, can spell disaster.  You are more likely to cave into demands you wouldn’t normally entertain and might be more likely to offer discounts you really don’t want to give.

So how can we counter this?  I’ve been self-employed since I left university at 23 – now, almost 20 years later, I have collected an arsenal of defences to use in this situation.  These are just my ways of coping but I would love to hear yours too.

I’m strict with discount.

I shoot for my close family for free.  By close family I mean my parents, siblings and inlaws.  I shoot my best friend and her family for free.  And that’s it.  I give these people all my edited images to use for free but I don’t do free for anyone else.  Ever.

I have a family and friends discount of 20% for the next tier of people I know.  I judge this by asking myself, ‘If I was getting married, would I invite them?’  And I don’t mean the evening reception – I mean the ceremony and wedding breakfast!  I have actually told people that this is my criteria too.  A friend of a friend once asked me ‘So do I get mates rates?’ my reply was, ‘If you were getting married, would you invite me to your wedding ceremony?’  It soon dawned on them that we weren’t real ‘mates’!

The next tier of people are really friends of friends, acquaintances, associates, people I know through business but don’t actually spend time with.  I find these the most awkward as I’m never sure if they want me because they love my work and are happy to pay for it, or if they instead view my business as my ‘little hobby’ that I love to do so much I would surely do it for free – or at least discounted.  Whenever I get an enquiry from anyone in this category, this is how I deal with it.

I should add in here if it’s an enquiry for a genre of photography that I don’t offer, then I simply tell them that.  “Thank you so much for asking me but I don’t offer wedding photography – I can recommend x, y or z though and if you mention I sent you they will take great care of you”

If the enquiry is something I do offer, I want to weed out people who are asking me because they want to give me a little project for my ‘hobby’. so I would chat to them about how busy I am and I have clients booking a few months in advance.  I’d let them know I could fit them in but would ask if they had seen my website or if they know anyone who had used me and seen their images.  Sometimes during this qualifying chat, the topic will move to price and I will treat them exactly the same as any other enquiry and take their details to send them all of my pricing and booking information.  At this point, I find there are a few common phrases.

“I chose you as I thought you might be able to do me a good deal”

“I was hoping you would have an offer”

“And is there any discount”

It’s a great idea to actually write down all of the common things ‘friends’ might ask you at this point so that you can prepare a response.

My best tip is to play it straight, right back at them…..

“And here was me thinking you chose me because you loved my work!?  But seriously, I don;t have any deals on at the moment but can add you to my mailing list so that you get first notice of any mini sessions or product promotions?”  I’m giving them an easy out here and I know that if they still want to book me it’s because they do love my work and are ready to invest in it.

“I don’t really run any offers, though occasionally I do get promotional prices from suppliers on certain products and I always pass those onto clients.  If you want to wait until one of those pops up I can add you to my mailing list so that you get first notice of any mini sessions or product promotions?”  Again, I’m giving them the option to back out.

“To be honest, I’m so busy at the moment, I don’t need to discount – I’m struggling to fit full paying clients in so I’d be crazy to give myself a pay cut!”  Yes be this honest.

For me, this covers all I might encounter, but I would love to hear how you deal with ‘mates rates’ too!

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The Customer Isn’t Always Right

Today something enraged me.  This is a rare occurrence.  I’m known for keeping my cool when everyone around me is on the boil – renowned for my patience, sometimes envied for my laid back, positive attitude and ability to see the good in most things and most people.  It takes  A LOT to make me angry.  And yet today I was furious.  The reason for this fury is a photographer friend of mine received what is possibly the rudest, most ignorant email I have ever seen:

“I was very interested in a cake smash session for my daughters first birthday after seeing a friend’s that had been done with you recently, that is until I saw you charge £350 to provide a USB stick and drag and drop digital files onto it. This takes no more than a few minutes and a USB stick costs around £10
To charge for canvas and prints I can understand but for digital files this is robbery.
Furthermore essentially without paying for one of the after session options of canvas or print there is nothing to take away from the £50 session. Even if as a gesture your favourite three images were free I could consider it but I was gobsmacked when I saw the price.
Sorry if this seems like a pointless rant but by charging a ludicrous amount for the easiest cheapest and least time consuming part of the process you’ve lost yourself a customer and left myself and my partner disappointed as we simply cannot afford anywhere near that amount but would have loved to have the shoot”

I perhaps should have advised you to pour yourself a stiff drink or grab a stick to bite on before I threw that in here.  Perhaps you’ll feel better if we discuss it, because I hope I will!

I almost don’t know where to start so I’ll start with the obvious.  Quite how someone thinks it’s perfectly ok to email a business to berate their pricing, is frankly beyond me.  I must make a note in my diary tomorrow to email Rolls Royce for a little rant – I mean how dare they charge an over-inflated price for a chunk of metal with rubber at the corners.  They might not realise that they’ve lost me as a customer because I can’t afford one.  They’ll be devastated when they realise I’ve flounced off to the Citroen garage to bag myself a bargain that’s so cheap to run it doesn’t even require road tax.  And get this – it’s almost EXACTLY the same – a chunk of metal with rubber at the corners.

I mean I could understand it if I was getting a chauffeur or something thrown into the deal!?

What has happened to us a society when some of us think it is ok to do this?  My friend isn’t a faceless corporation – she’s a very hard-working self-employed business owner.  If you can’t afford something, move on or save up – don’t be rude about it.

Secondly, the level of ignorance displayed here about what actually goes into creating a gallery of images that you are able to ‘drag and drop onto a £10 USB stick’ is frankly, incredible.  It seems there is a need to spell this out so here goes.

A photographer at this level does not pick up a magic camera that is programmed to capture amazing images at the press of a button.  No more than Marco Pierre White’s culinary skills can be credited to his oven.  There are years of training and thousands of pounds investment in both training and equipment to consider for starters, before you get anywhere near that shutter button.  What about all of the costs incurred in  running a business – rent, rates, insurances, software for editing, telephone & internet.  You could argue that money spent on marketing and advertising is a waste if it attracts lunatics like this one, but nevertheless, it is a necessary business expense.  What about maintaining a website, a social media presence, blogging, packing up and posting orders, replying to emails, answering queries, attending fayres, the list is endless – are we as photographers supposed to carry out all of these tasks in our free time – therefore making them free of charge?

I’m baffled, I’m disappointed and I’m angry.  Angry that our highly skilled industry is be-littled and devalued.  Even if it is by a small sector of the population.

As for the ‘client’ that sent the email,  I hope they buy a few cheap cupcakes, dust off their point and shoot, glue it to a selfie stick and enjoy their portrait session.  Their £350 would be much better spent on purchasing a reality check.

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The 5 Profit Pitfalls Photographers Fall Into

Wherever I look online at the moment I see photographers worrying about their income. Feeling deflated that they don’t earn what they feel they are worth and yet in constant competition with the ever growing army of shoot and burn photographers who can undercut them.  Nearly all the responses of support I see are about pricing.

Putting your prices up is one way of increasing your income for sure, but as my first wonderful, straight-talking accountant said to me, ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity’.  Those wise words have stuck with me over the past 20 years and in every business I’ve been involved in I’ve found inventive ways to ramp up profits without affecting the customer experience.

Here are the five major profit pitfalls I see photographers falling into and how you can avoid them.

#1 Time Is Money

If you can reduce the time you spend on a client’s job, you increase your profit.  You can fit more marketing or promotional work, or even another clients job into the time you save.  Look at every area of the process from start to finish and decide what you can streamline – can you automate messaging and communications to a degree, improve or speed up your workflow during the session, speed up your editing or ordering process?

#2 Consider In Person Sales (IPS)

I understand that IPS is not for everyone.  Lack of sales skills or confidence are cited as common reasons why photographers don’t offer IPS but never use lack of time as a reason. Recent graduates from my sales skills course are easily doubling their previous order values.  An hour spent with a client at an ordering session is producing the same for them as a whole entire new session – all that marketing, communications, the session, the editing.  For the sake of an hour, they are saving themselves several, becoming far more profitable in the process.

#3 If You Suck At Something – Don’t Do It

We all have areas of business we don’t enjoy – it might be book-keeping, admin or sales calls.  And we all have areas we excel in.  If you outsource the tasks you hate, you have more time for the tasks that only you can do – the ones you excel in.  Something which might take you 5 hours of head scratching, facebook surfing and googling, might take your accountant half an hour and you know it’s done properly.

#4 Employ An Accountant

A great accountant will save you more than they cost.  They ensure you claim for everything you’re entitled to, are up to date with the latest tax laws and loopholes and can take a pile of unnecessary stress away from you.  This is an area where spending money will actually save you money.

#5 Separate Your Inner Artist

*disclaimer*  This last point is a general one.  If you are running a business and need to generate more profit, I’m speaking to you.  If you are an exhibiting artist who commands thousands of £££ per image, this is not for you!

We are photographers – creatives, some might even say artists.  However, most of us HAVE to separate this from our business if we want to see profits improve.  When you are working for paying clients, you are doing just that – working for them.  You are a business owner who is in the business of portrait photography.  You are not a photographer.  Yes, you can bring your own style, flair and vision (you’d be crazy not to) but the whole process of delivering for a client is very different to delivering as an artist.  As a portrait photography business, you can’t afford to wait until somebody sees your art and falls in love with it.  You have to work for clients who call the shots.  You can’t afford to create individual sets for clients that you will never use again, nor do you have the time to spend hours editing galleries.  Make sure you always have a personal project on the go to keep your creative juices flowing, but never confuse the two areas.

As usual, I love to read your comments and feedback below.

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Should You Sell Portrait Gift Vouchers?

This is something I see discussed.  A LOT.  Of course, every business is different and every business has a different plan and their own target market.  However, I’m going to raise some points you might want to consider when you think about selling gift vouchers.

Consider The Reasons People Buy Gift Vouchers

There are, generally speaking, just two reasons why you would buy a gift voucher.

  • Purchaser chooses the gift voucher.  Gift vouchers are easy and convenient for the purchaser.  They are a great option when you want to treat the recipient but aren’t quite sure what they’d specifically like.
  • Recipient chooses the gift voucher.  The recipient would like something specific (usually with a big price tag) and asks you for gift vouchers they can use to put towards the purchase.

This may be a sweeping statement but problems almost always arise when you, as a portrait photographer, allow gift vouchers to be sold to people who fall into the first category.  As an aside here, I tried to find some figures on how many gift vouchers go unused and the results varied between 6% and 30%.  Consider why that might be – if the gift was really valued, it would be used.  I would suggest the main factor here is the fact the purchaser values the gift voucher more than the recipient.

Here Are Some Strategies To Help You Make More Profit And Waste Less Of Your Time!

Firstly – if you include a complimentary print or sell single files or prints, you might prefer to not sell gift vouchers AT ALL.  Someone who has received a gift voucher which includes a session and a product is likely to take their complimentary print or single file and run.  They didn’t choose you (usually), they didn’t bank on having a gift which they then had to spend more money on and they aren’t usually invested in the relationship.

Disclaimer: there is an exception to every rule.  Some of you reading this will have had 4 figure sales from gift voucher clients.  A far greater number of you will have had nothing but hassle, leaving you out of pocket.

Purchaser Chooses A Voucher

What usually happens is the purchaser will see that your session fee is affordable to them as a gift for a friend or family member.  They love your work, follow you on social media – maybe they’ve even had a session themselves.  They would LOVE a gift session with you.  I would strongly suggest only selling a gift voucher for the minimum amount you’re happy to work for.  So this might be your session fee PLUS your smallest package.  And this is exactly how I explain it to purchasers:

“That is such a lovely thought for your friend.  Has she ever had a session with me before?”

“Ah so she knows/doesn’t know my work? You see I don’t sell gift vouchers for sessions because the session fee doesn’t actually include any products.  So this means if you buy her a gift voucher, all you are doing is buying her the opportunity to buy products from her session, and I’m sure if you buy her a gift, you don’t want to put her in that position?  I do sell gift vouchers which include my smallest print package and these are £xxx.  I sometimes sell these to work colleagues or family groups who club together but I would need to speak to your friend first.  Portrait photography is a really personal purchase, photographers have different styles and price points so she’d need to make the booking herself”.

This professional conversation is enough to help the purchaser understand that a gift voucher for a portrait session is very often, an unsuitable gift.

Recipient Chooses a Voucher

The above conversation can occasionally lead to the recipient contacting you to make a booking.  In this case, you can easily set up a gift list for her where she can let friends and family know that you are selling gift vouchers for her session.  You would still have all of the same terms and conditions as your usual bookings including taking a deposit or payment for the session in full.

I hope you found this useful. Would love your feedback in the comments below!

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Should You Have Your Pricing On Your Website?

Pricing is never a stand-alone topic.  The psychology of pricing has a huge part to play in pulling together a price list, and it’s difficult to answer questions on a specific business without understanding more about that business and its goals.  However, one common question that regularly pops up is ‘Should you have your pricing on your website?’.  I’ve been asked it four times in as many days so I’m going to pull together the reasons why you might or might not have your price-list on your website so that you can decide for yourself.

When Everything Else Is Equal, The Lowest Price Will Win Every Time

This is a really important point to grasp because it’s your job to ensure that clients considering portraits, can see why they should choose you.  If they think everything else is equal they will go for the lower priced competitor every time – why wouldn’t they? Stop them comparing you on price alone by having a tab for prices on your website and then using that page to write about your business, the portrait experience customers have with you or to list written or video testimonials from delighted clients. Somewhere within the text of that page, include a link to your price-list.  They will then be visiting your pricing page with the amazing benefits of your business ringing fresh in their minds.  Much more effective than linking them straight to a cold hard price list!

Your Goals

It is important that you consider your business goals and your personal circumstances when making the decision about having a public price list.  The following summary will help you to decide if having a price list published on your website is right for your business.

Cut Out The Time Wasters.  If your website is generating enquiries from customers outside of your target market, having your price list easily available can cut down on lots of the time-wasting enquiries.  However, if you get more than 50% of enquiries from people outside of your target market (particularly those with a much lower or higher budget than you cater for) it’s time to re-vamp your website and marketing to ensure you are ‘talking’ to your ideal client.  This will work to improve your conversion rate.

Improve Conversion / Bookings.  You might have enquiries from people who are surprised they can afford you.  These people may never make an enquiry with you if you don’t indicate your prices publicly so this is where ‘prices starting from…’   or ‘Session fees are just £x’ can help to convert these visitors without having your full price list on display. Be cautious and try and employ the tactic of showing them the benefits of choosing you before revealing the price.

Data Capture.  If you are building a mailing list and are serious about your marketing you can capture data by not having a public price list and asking people to provide you with their details.  You can integrate forms from studio management software like Lightblue or 17Hats so that data is pulled through automatically from enquiries.

Reduce Bookings.  There may be times of the year where you want to reduce the number of enquiries you receive.  For example, during the summer if you have children or are planning to take holidays or over Christmas when you want to switch off. You might even find you have a steady stream of bookings from other sources (in which case I would suggest increasing your prices but that’s a whole different post!) and want your enquiries to slow down.  Generally speaking, publishing your pricelist will reduce enquiries.  This is because most enquirers think they are only interested in the price.  People are conditioned to compare price because that’s the simplest option.  A reduction in enquiries will generally lead to a reduction in bookings.

Measure, Measure, Measure

It should go without saying that any changes you make to your website should be monitored and measured so that you can see the difference made to enquiries and bookings.  Use a variety of techniques, but one at a time, so that you know which factors have influenced your results.  This will allow you to fine-tune your website in terms of how much pricing information you give visitors.

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