This is easily the most important time of the year for many photographers. "Booking Season." This is the time of year when 80-90% of couples are getting engaged, and looking for photographers. For a lot of photographers, this time of year brings with it a roller coaster of both success and frustration. The phone rings, and and the emails start coming in. You work on booking consultations and getting signed contracts, and somewhere along the way the doubt starts to set in.
It only takes one of two "you're too expensive," responses to begin to wonder if anyone will ever pay you what you think you're worth. Then, you start questioning whether you're really worth anything at all. "All of these inquiries keep telling me that I'm out of their price range... what's wrong with me?!"
One of the most common struggles that photographers face, is knowing whether or not they are charging the right price for their market. This happens frequently at the beginning of the year, as so many photographers have just raised their prices, and aren't experiencing the same "results" as they had previously.
There is a level of panic associated with the question "am I charging too much?!" In our minds, we play out a scenario where, if we keep our current pricing, we'll never book another job!
It's natural as our businesses grow, that our prices will change based on our increased experience, quality of work, and overall experience we provide our clients. I think that the "crisis" occurs when we fail to step up our game plan, when we step up our pricing.
This isn't going to be a post based on how you should price (contrary to what the title might have suggested). My core belief is that you should be charging what you're worth. You should be charging based on the value you add to your clients. YOU have to figure that out.
The truth is - you can charge almost anything you want, IF you're able to align yourself - and your value - with the right market (or demand). But as we increase our value - and our price as a result - we often fail to re-align ourselves with the appropriate market.
Here's what I mean. If you were charging $1500 to photograph a wedding last year - and your work was good - you probably attracted a lot of brides. You probably were able to generate business through bridal shows, online advertising - even craigslist. You were able to align yourself to that market pretty easily - because it's a LARGE market of consumers.
But let's say you now want to charge $2750 because you realized that you're worth much more than you were charging - AND you'd like to actually make money. What are the chances that you'll continue to attract a new type of client (one that will see value in spending $2750 on you to photograph their wedding) if you don't change the market you're aligned with. It's not likely that you'll attract the right clients without changing your approach to the market.
And what if you next year want to charge $4500. Chances are, the strategy - and market - that worked for you at $1500, and then $2750, will be a failure as you try to elevate your value. You have to ask yourself "where do couple's that spend this amount on wedding photography, find their photographer?"
You have to find the right market - and then go after that. For me, as we've grown, an increasing part of our business comes from our past clients, venues, and event designers (planners).
As you increase your value - and what you charge clients - the reality is, you're going to need to find a new source of clients. The things that worked at lower prices are no longer going to work. We often spend a lot of time trying to find the right price for our market. Who says that has to be your market? If you want to charge higher prices - you have to find the right market for your price.