ARE YOU PRICED FOR YOUR MARKET?

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.

5 THINGS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE MUST HAVE

Building a photography website can be tricky.  First, there's the decision on whether you want a template, a custom site, or a DIY solution.  You can certainly end up with a great site using any of these - depending on the balance between how much time you want to invest, and how much money you want to spend.  But even once you decide how to build your website, there's still the question of what to put on it.  Here's my list of 5 things every photography website MUST have.

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1. YOUR NAME  

Even if your business uses a name other than your own, somewhere on your website, people need to know who YOU are.  Wedding Photography is personal, and people want to know who the man (or woman) is behind the curtain.  Even if your business isn't solely based on your personality, people still want to know the faces, and names of the real-life people behind it all.

2. YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER

Did you know that having a contact form isn't the same as providing your email address?  Sure, it goes to your email - but the experience is different.  I also know it's easier for you if people complete the form, and if you have a form - most people will contact you that way.  At the same time, there's really no good reason to not provide an email address.  What if I want to contact you but my question doesn't fit into your form.  What if I'm already a client, and I have a question - do you really want me filling out your lead form?  Make it easy for people to contact you.  

By the way, you should also provide a phone number.  If you're not super-excited about random people calling your home phone, or your cell phone, get a google voice number.  Not only is it free, but when people leave you a voicemail, it transcribes it and sends it as a text or email.  You can also set up where you want your calls to forward.  My business number is set to ring at my office during business hours, and to my cell phone when I'm out.  In the evening, it's simply set to go to voicemail.   

3. WHERE YOU ARE LOCATED

I was just looking at a photographer's website to see where they were from, and NOWHERE did it even give you a clue where they were located.  Not a single clue.  In fact, on this website - it wasn't even in the metadata!  If your goal is to generate leads, why on earth wouldn't you want people to know where you're located?! 

I know the arguement - "I want to be available for people anywhere, so I don't want list my po-dunk little town I live in cause then they won't contact me."  You're right.  They won't.  More than 98% of weddings are shot by someone local.  And most of the rest are shot by someone the bride and groom had a previous relationship with.  It basically NEVER happens that someone will randomly google for photographers, find your site, and hire you regardless of where you are.  It doesn't happen.  Never mind that you're totally screwing your chances of being found on google anyway if you don't list your city!  

You don't have to list your address (especially if you work from home), but at least tell us what city you're in!

4. INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR PRICING

Do you know why people look at your website?  Sure, they want to see your photos - but if they're interested in hiring you, they want to know two things - "are you available?" and "how much do you cost?"  While it's harder to answer the first question without constantly updating a calendar on your website, you can make it easy for people to conact you (see above).  

As far as the second question, I've written before about how strongly I feel that you should list information about your pricing on your website.  While I don't think you need to list every package, and every print price, I DO think you need to give people the information they want.  They want to know if you're even in their ballpark.  Do you charge $2,000 or $20,000.  Don't waste their time and yours, by making them contact you and scheduling a meeting to find out.  

At a minimum, list your starting price, and/or a range.  For example; "our wedding commissions begin at $3500, and most of our clients spend between $4,000 and $5,500 for a complete collection including a handcrafted album"  You can spend your time responding to unqualified leads all day, and you can kid yourself into thinking that you can talk that $2,000 budget into spending $5,000 but more often than not, that time would be better spent investing in your ideal client.

5. YOUR BEST WORK

 And only your best work.  In fact, you should probably leave off a lot of your best work.  Your website should only include your best work that represents the type of client you want to book.   What you choose NOT to show says as much about your brand, as what you choose to show.  Your website should only contain your A+ work, even if it means you show less photos.  As soon as you start showing work that is off-message, or work that isn't your very best, you start to dilute your brand and lower the impression of your artistic value.

Your turn - what do you think?  Leave a comment below and let me know what every website MUST have (and what to avoid). 

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THE FIRST 90 SECONDS

The first 90 seconds matter more than you think.  Whether it's the first 90 seconds of a conversation with a new client, or the first 90 seconds of speaking in front of a room full of people - it matters.  Bottom line - in most situations, people make up their mind about you and your message in those 90 seconds (even less in many cases).  

What does that mean for you?  It means there are no throw away moments.  In a world where people are constantly introduced to your brand through social media and the internet - you never know when your 90 seconds started.  You never know what will be the first "tweet" someone will read, or the first post they stumble across on your blog.  

It's even more important because, for most people, the filter is binary.  You're either a 1 or a 0.  Within that first 90 seconds, the switch is flipped.  Yes or no.  Credible or not.  Interesting or not. 

Knowing this, how does that change things for you?  How does it effect the next email you write, phone call you make, presentation you prepare, or client meeting you hold?

 

Did you find this post helpful? CLICK HERE to have posts like this delivered to your email inbox, then CHECK OUT YEAR ONE: to learn how to build a profitable and sustainable photography business.

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