Policies and Practices for Studio Profitability
Last Friday, I gave you some hard facts of the realities of the word of professional photography. The real “secret” of any successful photography studio is the establishment of policies that can protect your profitability and help your operation grow. Here are a few to get you started:
#1. Adopt a pricing/packaging policy that ensures you’ll make money. This may seem obvious but too often new photographers set their prices based on what their competitors charge without analyzing their overhead costs.
#2. People ask me how to establish shooting rates and when and how much to raise them. I tell them to gradually raise your prices until you get some resistance… then stop at least for a while. That’s when you’ve reached your current market level.
#3. Much of your work will come over the telephone, that’s why being able to quote rates and prices quickly is important. Keep your studio’s forms and product information in a binder (or an iPad) so anyone answering the phone can quote price and state studio policies to potential clients.
#4. Here’s a 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.
#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 payment.
#6. Get advance payments for all your work. 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.
#7. 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 charge a high enough rate to cover the time value of the money you’re waiting for.
#8. Be original; don’t be like everybody else. When that happens it reduces your photographic services to a commodity and all commodity purchases are based on price. Every photographer is different and it’s important we express this difference to potential clients.