If I gave you a $5 bill, and asked you to go to the store and buy me $10 worth of stuff, would you do it? Maybe you're nice, and maybe you like me a lot, so maybe you would. What if I gave you a $20 bill, and asked you to go buy me $50 worth of stuff? You'd really have to like me a lot...
Now, what if you made a living going to the store for people (stay with me a minute)? What if you paid your mortgage by going and getting stuff for people at the store, and they paid you for it. What if that was how you fed your children, put clothes on their backs, and planned to pay for their college tuition.
It seems less likely, if that were the case, that you would take my $20 bill and go get me $50 worth of stuff right? You would be losing money like crazy - money you could be using to add value to your family.
Yet, photographers do that very thing ALL. THE. TIME. Every single day, photographers create the most crazy rationalizations for why they don't charge what they're worth. Every single day photographers come up with the stupidest reasons that it's okay to get paid less than their value.
"But I can't get anyone to give me $75 to go and buy them $50 worth of 'stuff' from the store, I can only get them to give me $40, and $40 is better than $0 right?"
NO. It's not better. Because every time you take that job, you lose money.
Unfortunately, so many photographers don't see that. Why not? Because my analogy isn't really fair. It's not that you're asking people to give you $75 to go buy $50 worth of "stuff." You're asking people to pay you for your service, your talent, your expertise, and everything else that makes you, YOU. It just happens to include (in this example) $50 worth of stuff. In reality, you're asking people to pay you $2,000, or $5,000, or $10,000 to do what you do.
The problem is that if you allow someone to give you $2,000 for something worth $5,000 in your time, talent, service, expertise and products, the exact same thing is happening. You lose.
And here's the thing. As much as I like my clients, I don't like them enough to write them a check for the privilege of shooting their wedding, or portraits, or whatever. As much as I like them, I don't like them more than my family.
Amazingly, so many photographers don't even know what they've lost because they don't know how to value their time.
Now, let me be clear: There are plenty of times when there is value to your business (or your life) to doing something, even when you aren't paid cash. Sometimes that's okay. Sometimes you add value to your business in ways that can't necessarily be measured in dollars. In those situations, it's okay, because you're not really working for free. The important thing is, YOU KNOW YOUR VALUE, AND YOU KNOW THE VALUE TO YOUR BUSINESS.
On the other hand, photographers often dramatically undervalue their own work by discounting or giving it away, for no reason other than the fear of standing up and saying "this is the value I bring to you, and this is the cost." When that happens, you end up in a place where it becomes almost impossible to build something profitable.
Of course, it's your business. You can do whatever you want. If that's what you want to do, fine - but let's not call it a business. Let's at least call it what it is. A hobby.