IT'S BEEN A WEEK

It's been a week since you joined us.  We are now a family of 6, which seems somewhat strange, and at the same time, perfect.  We're so grateful to finally meet you, and - as you can see - your brother and sisters are completely in love

Happy one week birthday Mason!

JUST WAITING

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in all the things we do.  It's easy to get hyper focused on the details, the to-do lists, the "tasks."  It's almost as if life sometimes becomes one list after another, causing us to miss out on actually, you know, living.

Our 4th child was due yesterday.  He's apparently in no hurry.  He has only one thing on his to do list - be born - and he'll get to that when he's ready.  In the meantime, we're all just anxiously waiting to meet him.   There's really nothing else on my to do list that gets me more excited than that - "meet your son."

We'll be honored to introduce him to you, once he finishes his to do list.

FOUR MAGIC WORDS

If you're ever faced with a situation where you encounter a client with misguided expectations, or a client wondering why you offer what you do, there are four simple magic words.  These four words can make all the difference in helping create and manage expectations for your clients. 

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"Most of my clients....." and then whatever it is that you want them to do.

- Most of my clients choose either a 10x10 or 12x12 leather bound book in brown or black.

- Most of my clients find that an hour and a half is a perfect amount of time for a first look and your wedding party photos.

- Most of my clients find that it's a much more enjoyable process to come back to the studio and place their print order.

- Most of my clients find that taking a small amount of time for a "first look," ends up being the most relaxed, enjoyable experience of their entire wedding day.

- Most of my clients find that a disk of images ends up being the perfect way to archive their wedding images, but it's not how they re-live the memories.  For that, they prefer an album.

- Most of my clients find that they can fit 2-3 outfit changes into a 90 minute session without feeling rushed.

- Most of my clients spend between $3,500 and $4,500 at their portrait sales session.

- Most of my clients find that two photographers helps capture all of the important moments and details of their wedding.

- Most of my clients spend between $7,500 and $10,000 for a complete wedding collection including a limited edition, signature wedding album.

- Most of my clients feel that one of our signature wedding albums is the perfect way to share their story.

- Most of my clients find that a 24x36 is the smallest print size suitable for hanging over a fireplace, or a couch.

Most of my clients.....

Of course, there's nothing really magic about them - but they help a client know exactly what to expect.  By the way, this is only useful if whatever you tell them is actually true.

Your turn - what do you think?  Leave a comment below and let me know how you help create realistic expectations for your clients.

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IS YOUR PRICE A SECRET?

Though this post was originally published over a year ago, it seems to be just as timely and relevant today.  This is one of the most asked questions I hear when working with photographers: Should I post my pricing on my website?  My answer:

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From a photographer's website I came across recently - under their "pricing" link:

"You're wedding is different than any other I've ever shot, so it would be impossible for me to simply list a bunch of prices without us talking.  I need to know more about you - and your wedding - before I can create a custom quote that fits your needs specifically.  Please contact me today, so we can talk more about your wedding - and how I might be able to serve you."

I’ve noticed, more and more, that a lot of photographers - for whatever reason - are requiring clients to contact them before they will give any kind of pricing information.  And based on what I hear photographers say, it seems that they want clients to engage in what is basically a sales conversation, before they will give detailed information about their pricing.

I think there's a mentality that says "if I am able to talk to someone, I'll be able to convince them of my worth - even if I'm out of their price range."  

Sure, that’s true for maybe one out of every 1,000 inquiries, but it’s not how it usually works in the real world.  In the real world, you are not the only photographer your prospects are considering.  Even if they found you as a result of a referral, most often - they’ll be looking at several photographers. 

As they filter through the choices, they look at whether they like the images, and they look at whether you fit in their budget.  If you make it hard for them to do either of these two things, they’ll move on.  Sure, there are other things that matter before they make a purchase - like whether or not they feel like you’d personally be a good fit - but they’ll never even get to that point if you make it hard for them to get the information they want.

Now, I’m not suggesting you need to put every package, every print size price, every session fee, EVERYTHING right on your site.  I think that generally speaking, MORE information isn’t always helpful.  The key is getting the right information to the right people at the right time.  When someone is browsing for photographers that fit their budget, they don’t need every detail - they just need to know if you fit.

Pricing is one of the issues that photographers - and all small business owners - wrestle with all the time.  It's one of the most important decisions you make, and can impact the health and viability of your business like almost nothing else.  Just as important, is the way you use your pricing - and it's presentation - to reinforce the customer experience.

I think there’s another choice, and it’s the way I’ve chosen to present our pricing.  On my site, I list our starting commission price.  I also give people an idea of the amount of money most of our clients choose to spend.  I help manage their expectations by letting them what we charge, and what people usually spend.  This allows potential clients to quickly decide whether or not our studio fits with their budget.  Does it mean I get a lot less people contacting me?  Sure - and I’m okay with that.  I'm okay with not answering countless emails to couple's that are clearly not our ideal client. 

I send my complete wedding pricing information to EVERY client that inquires.  I let them decide for themselves whether what we're offering is a good fit for them.  I let them know that if they feel like we're a good fit, then I'd love to schedule time to talk.  I don't want to waste their time or mine, so I don't FORCE them to talk to me before I'll give them what they really want - my prices.

I don’t think it does anyone - you OR the client - any good to waste time.  That’s exactly what it does, when you make someone contact you to find out you’re out of their price range. It wastes both of your time.  And it wastes even more, if you make them jump through even more hoops.

So, ask yourself, is your pricing a secret?  If so, why?  If you’re charging what you’re worth, why not at least do yourself - and your potential clients - a favor and let them know upfront what you’re worth.  

IS IT A BUSINESS, OR A HOBBY?

I hear the same story from photographers all the time.  "I got into photography because it was something I loved.  I took photos of everything.  At some point, people started to tell me how much they liked my photos, and started asking me to take photos of them.  Eventually, they started to pay me to take photos, and suddenly - I had a business."  

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When photographers tell me this story, it's almost as if they were walking through life, tripped, and when they got back up, they suddenly had a business.  So often, photographers never intentionally set out to start a business, it just grew out of a passion, and a hobby, and became so much more. 

Whether this photography thing you do is a business or a hobby is totally up to you - but you have to decide.  It can't be both, and if it's a business - it has to make money.  Often, there is a tension between the photographer, who started with a hobby, and the businessperson, who now has to figure out how to take this hobby and turn it into something that makes a profit. 

For many photographers, it's as if there are two completely different people, living in the same body.  There's the photographer/artist, and then the business owner, and they are rarely on the same page.  Figuring out when to think like a photographer, and when to think like a business owner, can be difficult, and can lead to some tough decisions.  If you've decided that this photography thing you do is a business, here are three things you can do to help grow something profitable and sustainable:

1. Think Like a Business Owner First

Photographers think about things like photoshop actions, apertures, cool new gear, blogging, composition, bokeh, natural light, and pretty photos.  Business owners think about acquiring new customers, streamlining their workflow, eliminating inefficiencies, increasing market share, and the bottom line.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't think about the things that photographers think about - but when thinking about your business, be an owner.  When making business decisions, figure out what's best for your business.

2. Business Owners Make Money

Photographers make pretty pictures, business owners make money.  I'm not sure why it's so taboo to admit it, but if you're running a business, it has to make money.   Why? Because you can't pay your mortgage with pretty pictures.  If you're going to give your life to something it should add value to your life.  Sure, you may not get rich being a wedding or portrait photographer, but your business has to make money.  

3. Every Decision Has A Cost

Every time you say yes to something, you have to say no to something else.  Every time you say yes to working with the wrong client, you have to say no to the opportunity to work with the right client.  Every time you say yes to buying a new piece of gear, you have to say no using that money for anything else - like paying your mortgage.  Every time you spend your time on things that don't help you grow your business (editing photos for example), you have to say no to marketing and growing your business.  Be sure to count the cost of every decision, keeping in mind that the financial cost isn't the only cost.  Often the opportunity cost is even bigger.

 Is this photography thing you're doing a business? Or a hobby?