Monday is Labor Day, so I wanted to post this as a reminder that photographers (and even us writer/photographers) should to be paid for their labors too.
In Benjamin J. Stein’s book License to Steal he said, “The laborer, selling his labor in competition with other laborers who underbid each other until their wages just barely cover their cost of sustenance, also never gets rich.” These words sum up some thoughts I’ve expressed over the years about how some photographers think that the only way that they can attract new clients is by giving them low-ball estimates that undercut their competition. These shooters are blind to the fact that short-term thinking like this does not build client loyalty and only reduces an operation’s profitability.
People in the photo world sometimes refer to these low ball estimates as “giving away your work” and that’s a fair analogy. While some photographers believe customers will only flock to them if they are inexpensive (read “cheap”), that doesn’t mean the concept of discount auto parts isn’t valid. The difference is that low prices were part of their business plan for operations. Is that your plan?
There are resources to help you with pricing your own work including NPPA’s Web page as well as software such as Business Savvy Photographer. But no matter how you do it, pricing your products and services should be fair, competitive, and deliver a return on your investment that allows you to support your family and pay any employees a living wage. Photographers sometimes forget this kind of basic business practice when they’re in a slump trying to pay the bills. The problem with cutting prices when times are tough is that you might not survive.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about occasionally giving clients a break from time to time. Far too often, a voice on the telephone asks you to cut them a deal and my response has always been that I reward customers for their loyalty. Everybody pays the same prices at the start but repeat customers are given favorable considerations. The same is true about working with charitable organizations. The danger is that once the word gets around about freebies from you, others will come knocking at your door. A better deal for photographers is to get involved with events the charity is involved in, such as marathons or golf tournaments, which have a high public visibility and deliver public relations value to your studio.
The bottom line is that if you don’t watch your bottom line, you can’t expect others to do it for you.
Need advice on pricing or other business matters? Check out my Mentoring service and ways that I can help your business grow.