When chatting to other fairly new professional photographers, a common source of trouble is how to price work.
I figured I'd just blast a quick blog post out covering my pricing strategy (which is far from perfect, by the way), as well as a few things to watch out for! Sorry for another wall of text, I promise that my next post will have some eye candy!
1. Value your work appropriately.
For most this people, this means DON'T WORK FOR FREE! As a whole, photography is usually a vastly under appreciated and undervalued profession. I can't count how many times a potential client has approached me asking for my services, in return for "good exposure", "credit" or "referrals". You wouldn't expect a lawyer or plumber to work for free, so what creates this pervasive idea that photographers are happy to work for free? We spend an awful lot of time learning our craft and a heap of money purchasing our equipment. Valuation starts with the photographer, and especially when just starting out, photographers are afraid to say no to work. As much as it sucks, learn how to do that. If not, you'll build up an image in the client's mind that you're the 'free photographer', and it becomes ten times harder to get paid for your work for that particular client.
2. Do the maths.
You're running a business, so conduct yourself accordingly! Don't leave anything out. You might think the client doesn't want to see a detailed breakdown of costs, but trust me, they do. Think about catering, equipment, models, permits, retouching, travel, time, archiving, go the full Monty! The client is going to be reassured that you're spending THEIR money wisely, and not just pulling a figure out of your behind. When it comes to the murky waters of licensing, using software like blinkbid and fotoquote can be invaluable in giving you a ballpark figure.
Before the shoot date, get your quote set in stone. No-one likes things being changed after the fact, and as a photographer, you're not going to go up to the client after the shoot and ask for more money for whatever reason. Not being clear on budget, as well as allocation, can be detrimental to both parties. Sit down for a chat about who's going to be taking responsibility for what- you don't want a shoot with two caterers, but no models!
4. Deliver what the client wants, then deliver what the client needs.
It happens to everyone. A client contacts you with an idea in mind. It might be a crappy idea, but they're paying you, so it's your responsibility to shoot it. Don't turn around and shoot something completely different from the brief. Shoot what they want, and in your own time, AFTER their quota is filled, shoot what you think would result in a better photograph. However, be respectful if they want to stick to their original concept- it's their money and their brand after all.
5. Manage client expectations.
A budget is a guide, not a quote. With every job, there are three options: one that comes in below budget, one that hits the budget, and one that exceeds the budget. It's up to the photographer to outline each of these options! Just because the company has a huge budget doesn't mean that you have to use it all if you don't need to. While it seems counterintuitive to suggest a cheaper option, sometimes that's all the client needs. Continuing work and a client base needs a foundation of trust, so if you show that money isn't the only thing on your mind, you may be able to reap benefits associated with a regular client- artistic freedom anyone?
Just like lighting, there is no one-size-fits-all pricing strategy. It requires a bit of forethought and planning from the photographer. The more you do it, the better you get at it!
Until next time,