In my 10 years of working in the wedding photography industry, hosting workshops and speaking with other photographers, pricing remains one of the top pain points for business owners.
While there’s no right or wrong price point to set for your services, you do need to create a sustainable business model. And pricing is one of the main factors that can make or break a business.
Price yourself too high before you are ready and you risk losing your clients and referral base. Price yourself too low and you risk booking too many clients and burning out before you even have a chance to grow. In this blog post, I will share three tips on how to price yourself to ensure long term success for your business.
1. Determine who you want your clients to be
When I first started my business, I used to shoot around 35+ weddings a year. Gradually as my daughters got older, I wanted to be able to spend more time with them. Being able to attend their musical recitals, school functions, or one of the many soccer matches was (and still is) very important to me.
In order to achieve that, I had to cut back on the number of weddings I shot per year. But in order to maintain, at the minimum, our lifestyle, I had to charge more per wedding.
My sweet spot is about 20 weddings a year, so I had to raise my pricing accordingly while still maintaining an overall profit margin. I also had to become very selective of all the destination/international weddings that I take on.
One of the things each business will have to decide is who their ideal client base is going to be. Although the business model might shift over time, without a clear strategy most businesses will not prosper. When starting out, most photographers will fall into the entry-level market. Anywhere between free to about $3,500.
Then as experience and portfolio grow, one might find themselves shifting into the mid-range market; generally from $3,500 to about $5,500. Then after that, you have the entry-level luxury market, probably from $5,500 to $10,000. Then finally the luxury market where photographers can command $10,000 plus for each wedding. Of course, there’s the ultra-luxury market where the sky is the limit. Your price point will determine the kind of clientele, weddings, locations that you will work in.
Once you determine who you want your clients to be, then you can develop the necessary marketing strategies to attract them. Marketing to the luxury market definitely requires a different mindset.
2. You have to do amazing and consistent work. Period.
This is going to be a wake up call for a lot of photographers.
You simply can’t get by based on your personality alone. As much as our moms think we are awesome, it simply won’t be enough to sustain a business.
Your personality is part of your brand, yes. But it’s a supplemental part of your brand. At the end of the day, clients pay us a lot of money to do an amazing job on their wedding day. They really aren’t paying us to be their best friends.If you want to raise your prices, you simply have to do amazing work.
In addition to producing great work, your work also has to be consistent. If a couple books you based on the work that you are displaying in your social media and on your website, that is the style of work that you need to deliver. You may wish to explore new photography styles, but if a client is expecting something from you that you committed to from then beginning, then that is what you need to produce for them.
Our clients expect consistency in our work. Consistency builds trust, and trust allows us to raise our prices.
3. Your fee should be based on supply & demand, not what your industry peers are charging.
When a photographer is just starting out, it’s hard to just pull a number out of the thin air and say ‘this is my starting fee.” So what most photographers would do is look at their local competitions in order to set their own prices.
The problem with this approach is that you will forever be competing with the vast majority of photographers in your local market. At some point, you will have to decide to either move to an upper tier of the market, or drop pricing in order to compete on volume.
What I’ve learned is to simply modify pricing based on supply and demand. If I’m booking too fast, then I know I need to raise my prices. If I am booking too slow, then maybe I need to be a little more conservative when it comes to my pricing.
I never look at what my “competition” is charging. It’s not because I think I that I am untouchable, but rather because I know that how other people chose to run their business has zero bearing on the profitability of mine. I’d rather focus on raising my own perceived value and taking care of my clients, than worrying about what someone else is doing.
Those are my 3 top tips on pricing your business for long term success. I would love to hear what other suggestions you might have. Leave it in the comment below!