Making Money in Photography the Old Fashioned Way
The real “secret” of any successful photography business—if there is any— is the establishment of practices and policies that protect your profitability and help your operation grow. Here are nine suggestions to help insure profitability no matter what kind of photography you do.
#1. Adopt a pricing/packaging policy that ensures that you’ll make money. This seems obvious, but too often new photographers will set their prices based on what their competitors charge without analysis their own overhead and out-of-pocket costs.
#2. People not only ask me how to establish shooting rates but when and how much to raise them. I always tell them to gradually raise your prices until you get some price resistance… then stop at least for a while. That’s when you’ve reached your market level. That’s why it’s important to maintain an up-to-date Rate Sheet and Schedule of Costs that you can show or even e-mail to potential clients.
#3. Most of your work will come to you over the telephone, that’s why being able to quote rates and prices quickly and easily is important. I think it’s a good idea to keep all your studio’s forms and product information in a binder (or maybe an iPad) so that anyone answering the phone can quote price and state studio policies to potential clients.
#4. Here’s one rule you should never forget, “every exception you make to your policies costs you money.” When someone tells you “give me a deal on this one shoot, and I’ll throw a lot of work to you in the future” don’t do it because it has been mu long, sad experience that that future day never comes. And if you do make an exception, know that this will cost you money.
#5. Don’t begin any assignment without a written agreement specifying what you’re going to do and what the client is going to do, including method and timeliness of their payment.
#6. Get advance payments for all your work involving on-location photography. Ask for a 50% advance on or before the day of the shoot. I think wedding photographers should collect 100% of the amount due before the big day. More often than not, once the loving couple returns home from their honeymoon, they’re broke.
#8. Don’t sign an agreement with anyone other than the party for whom the work is being done — unless you can bill that party directly. Some photographic consultants tell you it’s OK to wait 120 days to get paid but my banker disagrees. If you’re willing to live with that kind of payment schedule, so be it, but you should be charging a high enough rate to cover the time value of the money that you’re waiting for to finally arrive.
#9. Be original; don’t be like everybody else. When that happens it reduces your photographic services to the commodity level and commodity purchases are based on price alone. All photographers are different and it’s important that we express this difference to potential clients.