In my facebook feed, this showed up:
I have made the official decision I will not be returning to photography after my maternity leave. [..] I have many reasons for not returning but the number one reason is it just isn’t a profitable industry [..]
I felt I needed to reach out to “Jane” (her name isn’t really Jane, but I promised not to mention her name), so I just left a comment, let me know if you need help. Minutes later I had a message from her, basically saying “IPS does not work in my area” – this is something I know, for a fact, just isn’t true – because IPS (In Person Sales) works everywhere.
I did a little digging, asking her about her process, what she had done, what she didn’t do and when she think she was loosing the client. The answer was “as soon as they saw the pricing, they where out the door” – and I do believe that anyone who had ever been doing this, had had that experience. By all means, I have had people looking at me like I am a mad woman, when I showed them the pricing – in past tense … so what has happened since the beginning of IPS (where my prices where lower than they are now) to where I am now where people still say “no” to my offer, but at least does not think I should be in a room with padded walls?
It does sound so simple, doesn’t it? But off course it isn’t – digging a little further, I found out that “Jane” used to be in the foster system, and had gown up poor, and she felt bad when people just couldn’t afford her – and she did not really think she could justify the pricing. Too simplify, she wanted to help people who could not afford a professional photographer AND she did not believe she was worth that much. She did not think her photography was good enough for her to make more than a minimum wage – and she often felt run over by bully-clients. It is a shame she has decided to close down, because “Jane” is a talented photographer, and should not have to be among the “working poor”.
So lets start with the helping people who cannot afford a professional photographer, because I do this, every year!
I was a teen-mom, got pregnant at 17 (Yes, I have a daughter in her 20’s – it is insane), in Denmark we have a good social system, so I wasn’t poor by any international standard, but I could not afford luxury things (such as photography), and I was looked down on. I still remember a social worker, too my face, saying the words: “People like you will never amount to anything” (boy was she wrong?). But what I had was something called “Mødrehjælpen” (“Mothers Help”), they are a charity, with groups for teen moms. So I went to the group through out the pregnancy and during the first year of my daughter being born. It was amazing, we got so much support and help from them.
So each year, I return to “Mødrehjælpen” for two days – for two days, I photograph all of young mothers babies (and a couple of the pregnant ones, if they haven’t given birth yet), my lab sponsors one print, my framer sponsors one frame – so each and everyone of them gets a gorgeous framed picture of their babies. So between the shooting, the editing, the framing and so on, I spend a good week works on this … and you know how I can do this? Because people pay me enough to be able to do charity work as well!
If I was in “Jane”‘s shoes, here is what I would do:
- Do my CODB
(Cost of doing business), but instead of setting the numbers to what I “wish” to make a year, I would set the numbers to what I needed to make, to make ends meet and have a fair pay.
- I would get one kind of wall art (I would do dibond), and one kind of album as samples.
I would do the pricing so that I made sure that I with one piece of wall art or album + the sitting fee matched my minimum. My “bare minimum” is ~300£ pr session. (~420$) – but yours could be lower or higher, compared to your CODB. And let me stress, I wouldn’t be happy with that amount, but I would (barely) be able to pay my bills (and would probably loose some weight as well) – and the amount of clients I would have to get in the studio to get what I wish to make, would be insane.
So why would I set the pricing so low, I would just (barely) get by? Because this will build confidence! And this is what “Jane” needs. And how do you ask? Because, “Jane” isn’t good at selling (right now), and she does not really believe in her on value and the value of her art.
And she will have the clients, doing the bare minimum – but then she will have that one client falling in love with the images – and ordering five (big) wall pieces – and two albums (grandma needs one as well!) – and “Jane” would be doing a victory dance after the session! And gaining some confidence – so for the next sale, she will be a little more confident, which will make her another great sale, and then another and another… and all of a sudden, “Jane” is bulletproof – she knows people will pay her for this, she knows she is worth it … and she will raise her prices, she will raise her “bare minimum” to “I WANT to make this much each year, because I am worth it“. And when people come in to her studio for pre-consults, she will, with confidence, no hesitation show them her gorgeous samples, and telling them the price – and people will love it, and want it! Because “Jane” believes in it, she will sell it.
And how do I know this? I was just like “Jane” – did not believe I could get people to buy it – and it killed my sales … I was apologizing for not being less expensive (when I in fact was to cheap!) – but from time to time, I had those client, just buying everything, and the more clients I had like that, the more confidence I got, the better I got at selling, at the more the clients spends! (This process took me around 6 months to be able to make the numbers that I really wanted.)
I am not cheap any more – and I am not willing to shoot for the “bare minimum”
I DESERVE to get a fair pay! Just like YOU DO!