The Great Pricing Hoax - school
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The Great Pricing Hoax

No sales? Hard time hooking clients? Your deep-discount pricing could be choking your reputation.

It's not uncommon to offer your services at cut-rate discount with the hope that you'll snap up eager bargain-hunters. But is this really the right approach?

Successful Pros agree that raising your pricing may not necessarily scare away potential clients - in fact, it'll do a body good. Here's why.

That sounds backwards...

"Cheap" sets bad expectations for your clients. If you're a cheap photographer, clients wonder how you're cutting costs so much, and if it's worth it for them to take the risk. They question your ability to manage expectations and communicate with them. Will you effectively guide them through an important experience, or will you simply fire a few snaps, hand over a CD and call it a day?

"Cheap" makes you look as though you don't think you're any good. Any business owner who doesn't think their brand's the best is probably in the wrong business.

Photo by Adriana Klas Photography<br /> <a href=""></a>

Photo by Adriana Klas Photography

How to Not Be Expensive

Right about now you're probably worried about scaring away clients by being too expensive. How do your clients really know what "expensive" really is? It's all about pricing and a concept called anchoring - meaning that they have to compare the value of something new with something familiar.

In English: Clients will be able to better grasp the value of your work by judging their interaction with you.

Here are some tips to help you prove that your work is worth every penny:

1. Create a unified brand. A clean website. Clearly placed information. A custom domain and email address goes a long way, too.

2. Be professional. Be prompt, cordial, and friendly. You provide a quality service, which is worth paying for.

3. Look and act the part. No one is going to pay $5k to a schlup wearing ketchup-stained t-shirts, particularly if they show up late and forget to bring the paperwork!

Photo by Adriana Klas Photography<br /> <a href=""></a>

Photo by Adriana Klas Photography

How to do the "Free" Thing (the right way)

Just because you should be paid fairly for your work doesn't mean you can't cut clients a break, or even do the "free" thing once in a while. Samples are a great way to give clients a nibble of what you do do without giving away the whole farm. Some quick ideas of how to work this into your model:

Model 1 - Waive your session fee, but be sure to charge for prints and digital downloads.

Model 2 - Apply the sitting fee towards the purchase of digital downloads, making the first (X number) free.

On SmugMug, it's so easy to offer a few deep discounts by creating a custom Coupon to hand out. There are five different types, making sure that you can keep changing it up and keeping it interesting.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Photo by Sphynge Photography <a href=""></a>

Photo by Sphynge Photography

Calculate Your Costs to Avoid Going Broke

The reason most photography businesses don't survive is because their owners didn't properly calculate their costs. And as the old adage goes, time is money. Don't forget that your time and expertise are more precious than replaceable objects like paper and gear; you can hire assistants but they aren't you. (Yes, it's our mission to make you feel like a million bucks!)

Here are our suggested guidelines for calculating your costs:

For prints:

Your pricing should be not less than 4x your hard costs, including packaging and shipping. Seem like a lot? It's not – about half of your balance goes towards taxes, 1/5th of goes towards the base cost of the item and the rest goes towards (ta-daa!) your profit.

Albums and multi-photo goods:

Your pricing should be no less than 3x your hard costs, which may include design work as well as the physical cost of the product.

For Downloads:

Price your larger-than-web-sized digital downloads at no less than the cost of ten prints. Giving away images at any printable size means you have to make it worth your while: They will use that file to print lots of prints, and you also run the risk of having your brand diluted if your client opens Photoshop and makes their own digital adjustments. Check out our resolution chart to find out how big they can print.

Photo by Sphynge Photography <a href=""></a>

Photo by Sphynge Photography

The Bottom Line

Don't be afraid to charge a fair price for your work. By understanding your costs and charging more, you're sending a stronger message to your clients and ensuring that they value you, too.

If you're already in business and think your prices needs a kick, remember that it's simple to adjust your pricing using Pricelists. We have 8 great tools to help you make more money with your SmugMug account. 

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