Should You Increase Your Prices?
That’s a hard decision, but let me try to help!
By: Jenna Michelle of Jenna Michelle Photography
There is always a heated debate about prices changing in the new year. You have last years pricing that clients love (okay, that they are willing to pay), but your expenses, talent, or availability for sessions has changed. This pricing is no longer working for YOU, but you need to find a way to balance your business needs with what your clients want. So, something has to give. There are a few options to consider: increase your prices because costs and/or value have changed or decrease your costs so that your prices can stay the same. Whichever you choose, find ways to make these changes more palatable by manipulating perceived value. Let’s look at ways to review your old pricing and revamp for the new year, strategies to help you achieve one (or both) of the options above.
First, it is always a good idea to evaluate your cost of doing business for the new year.
Take a look at last year’s expenses; have any of those changed? For example, has your professional printer increased their prices? If they have, you should consider adjusting YOUR prices accordingly.
Is there any new equipment that you purchased at the end of last year, maybe to take advantage of tax deductions? You may want to include this in your cost of doing business for the new year. This will help you bring in enough profit to “pay off” this expense.
Don’t forget your time. The amount of time you spend on each client is definitely a “cost” in running your business. Time is money. It is important to evaluate how much your time is worth. Generally, the more experience you gain in any given trade, the more valuable your time is. Has your skill level increased? Do you believe you deserve a raise? If so, give yourself one!
Revisit your business goals and ask yourself, “Do my pricing, packages, and product offerings reflect these goals?”
What are your main goals this year? To increase your number of clients, decrease your time commitment to the business for more family time, spend more time with each individual client…? Ask yourself what these goals mean for your pricing. If you want to increase your number of clients, you may want to find some way to re-arrange your budget so that you can afford to offer specials multiple times this year. This is a good way to entice potential clients to make that decision to book their session with you.
What do you want your clients to take away from their session with you? Do you want them to experience their session in your very own studio? Those marble walls are going to cost some money… In all seriousness, the cost of upkeep on a studio will definitely change your prices. Some photographers want their clients to feel like they received a one-of-a-kind personalized experience and thus offer pre-consultations or in-person ordering sessions. This will change your time commitment and thus increase the cost to your client.
What products do you want your clients to have? My business goal for this year is for each of my clients to receive something tangible. This means that I will not hand out JUST digital files anymore! I have changed my packages so that they all include print credit AND digital files because let’s be real, digital files are like lollipops at the doctor’s office, everybody wants them! The funny part about this whole thing is that my clients think they are getting MORE (when in reality they are paying the same amount as if they ordered à la carte, it is just presented differently). One of my clients recently thanked me for being so generous and giving them a print credit to order products! Why, you are welcome!
Consider reorganizing your business in a way that will help with costs and increase profits. This is one of the best ways to alter your business for the new year if you DO NOT want your clients to bear the burden of business changes.
Like I said earlier, time is money. So, find ways to be more efficient. Watch your editing patterns and create actions (if you use Photoshop) to expedite your post processing. I found myself spending a lot of time manually adding my watermark to photos. I quickly made an action that does that with one click of a button and it has saved me so much time! I cannot believe how many people still do everything manually. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR. USE PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS! You do not have to spend the time making them yourself; you can also buy them from wonderful people such as Stacie Jensen. Consider batch editing; edit multiple photos at a time. Sometimes, especially for big events, I will apply actions or general edits to multiple photos and then quickly go to each individual photo to do finalizations.
Do the “Panda Express”. I’m not sure if any of you eat at Panda Express, but I LOVE their orange chicken. Yum, yum, yum. What I noticed about Panda Express is that their prices don’t really change much, but what DOES change are the sizes of their containers. The trick: it’s not very noticeable (and the only reason I noticed it is because I am a nerd and measured the containers). You pay the same amount for your orange chicken, but you get a little bit less. Panda express is making bank and orange chicken lovers are still happy. So what do I mean when I say, “Do the Panda Express”? Make small changes that clients probably won’t notice, but may save you a lot. Have you considered decreasing the amount of photos you edit or provide, say from 30 to 25? This can save you time (which is money, DUH), costs for an online proofing gallery, or maybe even a bit of time at the session itself. This is definitely a strategy that can be employed to combat increased cost without increasing prices.
Take a second look at your products and vendors. Are there opportunities for you to save money? I recently switched to branded USB drives from personalized CDs and I am saving about 80% per client! I have heard of other photographers switching their business cards, online proofing, or even professional printers. The possibilities are endless. Take the time to do the research for yourself.
Consider changes you can make to your business that will increase your product sales. I have heard of many photographers switching from online proofing galleries to one-on-one ordering sessions. With apps like Preveal or Shoot & Sell, you can show clients what their products would look like on walls ahead of time, increasing the likelihood of large product sales!
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