If you haven’t noticed by now, I believe that continual education is key to a thriving business. I have so much to learn, but I’ve also learned a lot over the past five years! Here are three “better business” tips from personal experience. These are geared towards a growing photography business, but should be somewhat applicable to other industries as well.
Accurately price your service/products and beware of changing them too often
If you’re anything like me, you tend to get discouraged and maybe even freak out a little when it feels like no one is booking sessions with you. Obviously the first thing our minds go to is our prices. “Maybe I’m not worth what I’m charging” is one of the most common, detrimental thoughts photographers have. I’m absolutely not saying that you should be totally booked no matter what you charge and no matter what value you are actually providing to your clients. What I mean is that there are ways to determine your prices based on experience in the industry, education, equipment and overall experience provided for the client, along with the market you find yourself in. Rather than pulling numbers out of the sky and hoping for the best, my advice is to do your research.
Education and Experience: There are so many self-taught photographers in our culture today because information/education are so easily accessible online and because entry-level equipment is relatively affordable and simple to obtain. I know you already know that, but what are you doing to set yourself apart? Consider how many hours you have spent watching videos or reading books and what the quality of the source of information is. Is your education solely from random YouTube videos? Don’t worry, I’ve been there, but there are so many more in-depth options out there… resources like KelbyOne and Lynda.com do cost, but they give a much more well-rounded picture of specific topics and can really help grow your knowledge base. Taking it a step further, have you taken any classes or earned any certificates? Are you a CPP (Certified Professional Photographer)? How long have you been shooting/how many sessions or events have you done in that time? Have you attended any interactive photography conferences? Are you confident you can create beautiful images in any lighting situation? I think you get the idea.. All of these things lead to your credibility, which leads to being able to charge more.
Equipment: Know where your equipment fits on the scale between entry-level and professional, both quality and quantity-wise. Yes, I believe that you can achieve great results without having top-of-the-line equipment, but there is definitely a point at which it will be difficult to increase your prices unless you update your tools because they do make a difference (take a peek into my camera bag). In order for your clients to invest more in you, you need to invest more in them and the value you provide… it’s reciprocal.
Market: To find roughly where you fit in your market, do some research from your client’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and search as though you were trying to find a photographer for whatever you specialize in. Take note of the quality of work for each photographer you find and make an educated guess as to whether you are as experienced and/or provide as good of a final product or not. Be sure to consider what they include as far as digital files, prints, etc. in their pricing. In my research on wedding photography prices in Kansas City, I found this incredibly helpful infographic and supporting article from SnapKnot that affirmed that my pricing is right where I would like it to be in this market. Obviously our perspective of our own work may be a bit biased, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a good friend or family member do a little research of their own to give you another set of eyes (especially helpful if they’ve seen your website/work but don’t know what you charge yet).
Client Experience: Evaluate the overall experience that you offer your clients. Are there things you can do to add value? For example, I recently added a welcome guide as a tangible planning and educational resource for the brides that book with me to add worth to my service. I include a few small, branded gifts and a discount on invitations through a printing company to complete the package and make them feel as special as they are. From first contact to final product, your processes, personality and authenticity should result in the comfort and satisfaction of your client.
If you change your prices, make any updates to your packages all at the same time. Then give it at LEAST a year before you change them again (whether you increase or decrease). Your clients need to know what to expect from you and if you change your prices too often, it can negatively affect their trust and confidence in your services. It is also a crazy hard, awkward process to charge previous clients more than you used to, so the less often you have to go through this transition, the better.
2. Identify areas for improvement and create a plan to progress and meet goals
What makes you most nervous about photography? Do more of that.
I love to-do lists. Like… REALLY love them. Sometimes I write things down that I’m about to do solely for the satisfaction of crossing them off when they’re done. Call me crazy, but I think that feeling of celebrating progress has a snowball effect and makes me want to accomplish more! The key to to-do lists is prioritizing and making yourself go roughly in order of what is most needed.
For example, earlier this year I really focused on branding my business. Yes it involved a new logo/color scheme, but the overall priority was CONSISTENCY. While I had mostly discovered my style of photography, I lacked consistent guidelines and purpose in my processes. Of course, my branding to-do list was a fluid entity, growing and changing as I explored different opportunities to streamline my workflow and become memorable to my viewers/clients. Here is an idea of what my list might have looked like towards the beginning of the year:
Select color scheme that will complement my photographic style
Make new logo using those colors
Utilize a feather → meaning = freedom (flight) and constant growth/change (molting)
Take photos to use throughout the year wearing brand colors
Reformat and rebrand wedding contract, wedding questionnaire and printing release
Create wedding welcome packet for new brides
Interject more of myself and personal life posts on social media. You ARE your brand!
Improve SEO by writing more detailed and location specific blog posts (wedding stories, educational posts, etc.)
Utilize Google calendar to remember anniversaries, track leads, follow up on prospects, set reminders to check in with clients, etc. (I set up a separate Photography calendar so I can toggle it on and off from my daily life calendar - I move leads to my personal one once they are set since I share that calendar with my husband)
The ongoing goals are obviously harder to check off, but as they become habitual, I replace them with more priority objectives.
3. Pretty please, pay attention to your spelling and grammar
After making this request, I am suddenly ultra self-conscious of the grammar in this post! We all make mistakes, it’s bound to happen. However, if you are consistently making common errors like the misuse of “their,” “they’re,” and “there,” it IS noticeable and it decreases your chance of being taken seriously as a professional.
That’s all for now! Do you have something specific you’re interested in knowing? Shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org