In the world of photography, there are two ways to price what you do.
The first way is to package everything out. You charge a low sitting fee and rely on the customer to buy packages and/or extra prints in order to bring in enough sales to manage your business.
For example, a portrait photographer may charge $100 for a sitting fee and have a “popular” package for $500 that the majority of her clientele purchases – meaning her average sale is $600. Minus expenses, she knows exactly how much she’ll profit and how many clients she needs to bring in at this level in order to survive.
The second way is to charge a high creation fee that covers your needed sales quota without needing additional sales in order to make your required limits.
In this example, the photographer would provide a photographic experience with her clients and charge a flat fee for that experience. In this case she might charge $1,000 for her time, energy and the overall experience. She then hands over the files, or they can come back to her for images, albums, frames, etc.
What’s the difference between the two? The level of confidence in the photographer.
When I explained this concept to one client, her response was “How can you charge that much for nothing?”
A creation fee isn’t “nothing” if you’re good. If you have the expertise, the recognition, the following, and the rapport with your customers, a creation fee can be the best way you operate your business. If you have years of experience, the knowledge to do the best job possible every time, a certain style that is recognizable and not like everyone else, a creation fee can yield you a ton of profit.
Where the problem comes in is mixing the two types of pricing up. And there are two ways in which this happens.
Charges little for everything
In this case a photographer mixes up the two ways of pricing. He decides to charge one fee and hand over the files. But instead of developing his style, his expertise and his experience, he shoots an average portrait, sells it for a low creation fee – $100 – and then wonders why the client never buys anything else. This photographer always needs a second job for income, and will never create a full time business.
Charges a huge creation fee without the experience
This type of photographer goes in with a high creation fee – $1,000 for example – yet gives an average experience. He shoots on boring backgrounds without exciting props. He takes them to the local park instead of creating an entire experience. His work isn’t recognizable and looks like everyone else in the marketplace. He has trouble finding clients willing to pay his fee because they don’t see a difference in what he has to offer.
Can you make money using either of the methods? Can you create a full time business using either of the pricing system? You bet. But which ever way you choose, you have to be the best you can possibly be. You have to charge your prices for a reason – a well defined reason that allow you to know exactly what profits you’ll make. You have to set up your business explaining this to the customer. And you have to be true to your business model, no matter what it is.