You set out to find your first client. But you don’t know what to charge.
So you hop online and pull up a half dozen photographers websites to see what they charge.
Since a friend asked you to photograph a wedding, you look at wedding packages. The sites you’re on show the photographers have been in business for quite awhile, and they have great portfolios. They charge anywhere from $1000 to $5000 for a complete wedding.
So you low-ball it. You’re new, right? Why not charge $500 for an all day event, just to get started in the business.
Sound familiar? I know a ton of photographers that start out that way.
So your first client comes in, and you photograph her wedding for $500. She now has certain expectations. She knows she gets you photographing all day for the price of $500. She gets whatever is in her package (prints, digital files, albums – whatever you promise her) and she’s happy she got such a great deal.
Now she goes out and talks about you to three of her newly engaged friends.
“I got all of this for $500 – can you believe it?”
You’ve now set yourself up for referrals for bottom end clients.
If you now decide to increase your prices to $1500, those three referrals are probably not going to sign up because the good deal is no longer there. So your referral sources dry up.
You know have to start over from the beginning, trying to find that first client willing to spend your increased prices of $1500.
It’s important to think about where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there.
If your goal is to shoot 20 weddings at $5000 each, you can’t start out at $500 and expect to be at the new level in two years. A $500 client has a completely different mentality then a $5000 client. And you reach out to a $500 client in a different way then you do a $5000 client.
So what are your options?
1. Shoot as an assistant to gain your experience. Talk with photographers in your area. In many cases a photographer may be willing to take you along to allow you to view how she works.
2. Take a class. There’s nothing like a shooting class to improve the way you shoot. And you can use these images as a part of your portfolio too.
3. Establish a high level fee from the start. Tell your first clients your fees are $1500, but you’re looking to photograph two weddings at half off to gain samples and marketing materials. You’re programming to sell you at the higher price rather than the lower, even though they are getting a “deal”.