3. Time Is Money
And that doesn’t just mean YOUR time. Sure, your time is important, and you know you’re going to be putting way more hours into your final product than your clients would like to believe. But by hiring you, they’re buying themselves time, too.
One of the biggest arguments people have against paying for photography services is that they could just take the photos themselves: “My uncle Albert has a really nice camera and he said he could shoot my wedding for free,” or “We have a blank wall in the conference room, we could just have someone at the office take our headshots there.”
However, these people have often not considered how much time actually goes into shooting photos – time they’d likely much rather be spending on other things. That employee who gets roped into shooting poorly-lit headshots in the conference room is spending company time struggling through a project that they’re really not trained for, and Uncle Albert isn’t able to enjoy seeing his niece get married if he’s stuck behind the camera.
Time is a luxury that we all value highly, and it’s something no one wants to waste.
How Do I Know How Much to Charge?
Now that we’ve convinced you that your work is worth something, it’s time to move onto the harder step – actually figuring out what that worth is. There are a number of different strategies you can use to price your services, but there are some important criteria that you need to consider before you make up your mind.
What Is Your Market Like?
Don’t make decisions about your business without first doing your research. To determine a reasonable guideline to help you figure out your own rates, take a look at what other local photographers are charging. While you might decide that you’re worth $500 an hour, there might not be anyone in your target market willing to spend that much on a photographer.
The demographic you’re trying to appeal to will have a big influence over what kind of rates you should be charging. If your focus is families on a budget, you might need to look at creating smaller packages (as we will discuss later on) at a lower cost, to make sure your potential clients can afford to hire you. However, if your specialty is high-end wedding photography, your clients likely have the disposable income for premium packages – and they’ll be expecting them.
And don’t stop at prices – check out the work of the photographers in your target area to make sure you’re comparing similar products. The market for wedding photographers is likely very different from the going rates for product photography. Find a selection of local photographers who offer comparable services and look at their pricing to get a solid starting point.
What Is Your Experience/Skill Level?
Though you should never sell yourself short, it’s just the truth that novice photographers will not produce the same level of work as established professionals. Be real with yourself as you look at other photographers in your market. Are you on the same level? If you’re not quite there yet, your pricing should reflect that.
Don’t let it get you down, though. Remember, you’re not setting a forever price. Professionals raise their rates regularly to account for the growing expenses of doing business, the increased cost of living, and the higher quality of work they put out after gaining experience.
What Are Your Expenses Like?
As mentioned earlier, investing in the equipment required to run a photography business comes with a hefty price tag – but make sure you’re not forgetting about the other costs associated with being an entrepreneur. You’re going to have to take into consideration things like income taxes; insurance costs; basic expenses like rent, fuel, and vehicle maintenance; and even professional development investments, like fees and hotel stays for conferences or seminars.
Your operating costs should be worked into your rates, so you’ll need to figure out what these are before you can settle on any final numbers. Keep track of your monthly expenses to get an idea of how much money you spend on your business each month, and look into what percentage you’ll need to set aside for taxes.
What Are Your Hours Like?
When you’re working for yourself, it’s easy to lose track of your hours – especially when you’re doing something you love. But, as we pointed out earlier, your time is worth money, and your clients should be reimbursing you for the hours you spend on them.
This isn’t just the time you spend shooting, either. The time you spend on each client starts with your initial communications about the shoot and covers all the hours you spend on the project after that: scouting potential locations and taking test shots, driving to and from each location on the day of the shoot, and the post-processing work you do on your computer once the shoot is over.