If you’ve been around my Facebook Business page for any length of time you’ve undoubtedly heard the following statement in advice to newbies.
Someone asked “Why do you say that? Isn’t it counter-intuitive to not negotiate in a flooded, over-saturated “faux-tographer” market?”
“Good question. And I wanted to further expand on my reply to them here on my blog.
With so much business savvy telling you otherwise it seems, I have to tell you this is NOT a contractor’s market where the lowest bid wins. The lowest bid in a Creative’s Market will hurt you, your fellow creatives in your area, and your industry standard, in the long run.
I say this because 1) as long as people will choose to drop hundreds on shoes, purses, sports equipment, sometimes even dinners, children’s birthday parties, etc… They can also choose to pay what a professional ___________ *insert your creative field here* costs & 2) Can you imagine someone asking Michelangelo, Monet, or even Beethoven, Andy Warhol, or Annie Leibovitz to “come down” in price? HA!
I’m not saying I’m Annie Leibovitz over here, but in my area I’m striving every.single.day to be better than yesterday…and THAT’S worth ponying up more dough for than the under paid fee I was charging when I started fulltime a few years ago! 🙂
You’re worth at least your industry standard, whatever that may be for your area, (around my Southeast TN area for Professional Portraits that’s about $250-350 for an hour session with a print credit or choice of favorite images with print release…that’s not including hi-res print rights for every finished edited image which runs about $600! Yes you read that right!), so find out what that is & stick to your guns. If you don’t you hurt your fellow photographer’s around you by devaluing your craft as a whole (Which won’t make you ANY friends, and in the creative industry you NEED other creative friends!), but mostly, as I learned alllll to well, you hurt yourself in the long run.
And NO that’s not “$75 for an hour and a disc of all your high resolution images” like I did for OVER A YEAR in my first year! I could seriously CRY thinking back to what I did to myself…both back then and even now. Doing the math with those low figures your accountant quickly makes you realize, after alllllll the HOURS, sometimes DAYS, spent editing/retouching a session, that in the end you actually paid your clients. OUCH! That’s one lesson I’ll never forget though.
See I’ve learned that because I did that for SO LONG that’s STILL what people expect. And it was wrong then…it’s down right pathetic now. Sure, everyone starts somewhere, but what I didn’t know then, what no one told me out of fear of “competition”, was that you should be “stair stepping” your pricing every 4-6 months as your portfolio and skills increase toward professional shooting, posing, retouching, and editing levels.
You see I’ve learned the hard way that you DO NOT want clients who don’t see your professional art/gift, & try to haggle you down. You want clients who VALUE you & your skills, & will make it happen to use you. You want clients who can distinguish your dedication and hard work for true professional quality over that of “Uncle Bob” or “Cousin Suzy” who only want a quick buck, or just do it “for fun”.
Last year I posted on my business page the following scenario just to kind of bring it in to perspective for the *Few* 😉 folks who just don’t get why Professional Photography (or whatever creative profession you’re in) is worth so much more. *The below price points were completely fabricated btw, but you’ll get the point.*
“Let’s say you were convicted of a crime you did not commit. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, but you did.not.do.it!
Who are you going to call upon to represent you? The just out of Law School, green behind the gills, $50/hr newbie who’s never represented anyone before? The 3 year Lawyer who bills $150/hr, but has decent court experience in defense work? OR the 15 year, well seasoned, veteran Lawyer with a proven track record of winning defense cases…like yours…for $500/hr?
I don’t know about you, but I’d flat out mortgage my home, sell my car, whatever it took to get that $500/hr experience on my side.
Do you not expect a raise, bonus, or compensation every year at your career, or when your skill set, knowledge, talent, increases? Whether through experience, certifications, or school/training do you not expect to be justly compensated? So.do.creatives!
We spend thousands upon thousands more EVERY year bettering ourselves, our craft, and our EQUIPMENT…do we not deserve to be compensated for that increased knowledge?”
Professional Photography isn’t life or death, but the years of experience, knowledge, training, equipment, etc… is welllll worth saving up for for memories that are meant to be captured for a lifetime.
I always remember what a fellow creative said once “How many women are walking around carrying 300-400$ purses and/or 100-200$ wallets? How many men (and children) are playing sports in, or with, 100-200$ cleats, bats, etc… & have multiples of such? Those things won’t be there 50 years from now. So, Yeah…they CAN afford you…they just CHOOSE not to.”
In life in general do we not spend more time with people who make us a priority and not an option? So goes the same for the creative business professional. You do not want those people, you want people who see your gift, your eye, and want to pay you well for that talent and skill.
Chin up, stand strong, & show them WHY you’re worth your worth! The more you cave to people’s price expectation, the more they will devalue your worth…because you’re devaluing it.
To leave you with some visual motivation advice, when you start to get down about not being “where you want to be”, go back and look at where you came from. Put them side by side, and viola…instant proof you’re leaps and bounds better than you were!
One of my first ever weddings in Summer 2010…
A current 2014 BJP Wedding:
My first ever Newborn Session on bottom complete with bad lighting, under exposed, and no retouching 😦 Top: Current BJP Natural Light Hospital Newborn Session Editing, Natural Lighting, and Retouching!