In our last post, we considered 3 Reasons NOT to Raise Prices:

  1. When your current offerings or presentation don’t match the price.
  2. To arbitrarily charge a wealthy client more for the same product.
  3. When your ideal clients can’t afford it.

So, should you ever raise prices? Of course! Every successful professional needs to raise prices; it’s not a question of IF, but WHEN.  Simply take the same reasons and flip them on their heads!

When to Raise Prices:

  • When your experience and presentation match a higher price.
  • To offer a wealthy client a more valuable product to consider.
  • When your ideal clients can afford it.

Always be on the lookout to offer more value and command a higher price point!

When your experience and presentation match a higher price:

Let me tell you a story.

Before going professional (and way before Instagram,) I just had my little photography-enthusiast account on Flickr. I would post my personal photography; Streets, Flowers, Coffee, Amateur Portraits… basically anything and everything I took pictures of.

I shot my first wedding for free, which I believed was very fair, considering my inexperience. The couple was actually kind enough to donate something for my services anyway! With one wedding under my belt, I felt I could reasonably charge for the next one.

I agreed to shoot the next wedding for the astronomical price of… wait for it… $96.00!  Which to this day, I was never actually paid.  I decided it was a fair trade for learning a lesson (Have a contract) and for adding another wedding to my “portfolio”, which was still just directing people to an album on my Flickr page.

I wanted to have a dedicated online portfolio, but also didn’t want to spend any money on it.  A common paradox. So I created something simple and free on Carbonmade. Back then, they had a free plan with ads. Today, you might create a free site with a company like Wix, or Weebly.

Let’s Pause Here:

Like many “Make a free website” companies, my site:

  • Had little to no cohesive design or colors.
  • Didn’t have any logo, branding, or well-written copy.
  • Had mixed content all on the same site: Weddings AND Street Photography AND Food & Nature Photography.
  • Was hosted by companies who displayed *their* name on my site and web address.

Put yourself in the mindset of my next potential customer.

How much could I expect to charge for the next wedding, when:

  • I show by my portfolio website choice that I only want to pay the absolute minimum to display my work?
  • I email my client from a free personal hotmail account, or *gasp* AOL account?
  • My portfolio shows that I photograph everything, and therefore, specialize in nothing?

There’s a lot more that I could add to this list, but these are the biggest detractors of value when looking to charge more:  An apparent apathy toward your own work, signs of unprofessionalism, and inconsistency of work.

Fast forward to today:

Now, working with my wife, I’ve shot closer to 200 weddings. It’s our primary source of income.  Experience alone allows us to charge much more than I did for my third, or even tenth, wedding.

But, can you imagine if, at this point in our business, we still had a free website, emailed prices from a free hotmail account, and had a gallery with brides next to pictures of food and vacation pictures?  Would that affect how much we could expect to charge?  Absolutely.

Throughout our years in business, we gained necessary and valuable experience, yes. But, we also took lots of our profits and invested them in creating a website that:

  • Shows how much we value our own experience and products, with zero third-party ads.
  • Has cohesive design; with logo, thoughtful branding, and passionately-written copy.
  • Is dedicated to only displaying Wedding & Portrait photography, our speciality.

(Note: We currently use Squarespace to host our main site, and Bluehost or HostGator to host all our WordPress sites.)

This kind of presentation, combined with years of skill and experience allows us to charge wayyyy more than $96.  It’s not perfect, and there are still improvements we could make.  But that’s the whole point!

As you keep shooting and gaining experience, you keep building a more and more valuable product: Yourself. Stay alert to all the ways you can package and present your growing worth.

Ask yourself:

  1. As time goes by, have I gained experience? (Yes, you have.)
  2. Have I changed my presentation to match my experience and reflect my passion for my own work?
  3. What else can I do to strengthen my brand? Improve my website design? My logo? My copy?
  4. Do I have everything expected of a professional company? A paid, fast website? My own email address?
  5. Does my portfolio clearly demonstrate what I specialize in, specifically?
  6. How else can I show that my services are a specialty product that deserves a higher price?

Revisit these questions from time to time, and see if you can take action on at least one or two items each month.

How about when a potentially big-spender comes along? Do you raise prices? You could just inflate the price on all your services (bad) or you could offer them more value for their spending power.

To offer a wealthy client a more valuable product to consider:

As we considered in the last article, arbitrarily charging a wealthy client more for the same product is shady and wrong. That doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the situation to offer more value.  If your client can spend more, simply give them more options to spend on!

Here are some ideas:

  • Offer more personalized service
  • Deliver faster
  • Include special extras

Offer more personalized service and extras: 

Send a small and awesome gift, customized for your client!  They’re spending extra on you, so why not invest a bit on making them feel extra special?

  • Do they like coffee?  Pick up a special small batch at a local roaster and send it with a hand-written note, and some business cards (or gift cards) for their friends!
  • Send a Greetabl box with little treats, maybe with some of their pictures decorating the packaging! Get 15% off your first one, on us!
  • Find little ways to show that you’re interested in them personally, outside of just being clients.  It’ll make you a better photographer, too!
  • If it’s for a wedding, a wedding survival kit might be a good fit for a bride and her bridesmaids, especially if they end up using something from it on the day of!

Deliver Faster:

Just like an “Expedited Shipping” option is available for people that are willing to pay a premium to have their product come faster, can you offer a faster turnaround on your products?  Faster developing time? Quicker shipping for their album or products?

When your ideal clients CAN afford it:

Here’s where good old-fashioned research comes in.  You have so many ways to find out the average for similarly priced photography services in your area, and you can use that information to see how much you could potentially be making, in your part of the world.

Web Searching:

If you’re a wedding or portrait photographer in the US, you can find a lot of information simply by Googling “Wedding Photography” + the name of your city, or nearby areas.  Expand your search to use Yelp or Google Maps, which will show local established businesses.

Find out the dollar average in your area for similarly skilled photographers and try to put your starting services within the range or higher, assuming it balances with your personal business expenses.

Now, don’t just copy another photographer’s pricing dollar-for-dollar! You have no idea what their personal finances may be, or if they are even profitable.  You’re simply doing this exercise to see what other, respectable, skilled photographers are asking for their services. What are customers in this area generally willing to pay?

Too Low?

Not happy with your search results? Sometimes your local county may not be the most profitable area. It may also be a good idea to search for more affluent cities or counties nearby.

Is it wrong to want to work in a richer area than your own?  Not at all.  Millions of people commute long-distances every day because they are earning more in another city than they would earn working at their local neighborhood business.  Changing work areas for greater profit is not a new concept.

Photography is a luxury service, so it makes sense to market to individuals that have more flexible finances and purchasing power vs. bargain-hunting clients who are looking to save every penny possible.

Conclusion:

As a professional photographer, you will always need to be alert to areas in which you can improve your skill, improve your presentation, or market to a more ideal client audience.

One, or ALL of these factors combined will give you the power to raise your prices!