Creating a pricing guide for your work and services can be so daunting. In an industry where everyone structures their businesses differently, there isn’t any clear rulebook to tell you how much to charge. We don’t have all the answers – your final pricing structure will be unique to you – but we do have some great advice to help you figure it out.
What goes into your price?
When you determine how much your time is worth, you have to consider a lot of factors. Any hours you spend on a shoot are hours that cost you something – either time with your family, personal time, or time that you could be earning money elsewhere. So ask yourself: how much is that worth to you? Recognizing that you are “spending” your time is the first step to figuring out how much cash you need in return to make that expense worth it.
And most photographers don’t charge separate fees for shooting and for post-processing, so your shooting fee (whether hourly or per project) should also take into account the hours you will spend editing the project.
Flat project fees or hourly rates?
There is no correct answer – it’s up to you. But it can be helpful to create a flat-fee pricing structure for family, lifestyle, or engagement sessions and an hourly rate if you’re quoting corporate or event photography. Business are accustomed to working with vendors that charge by the hour, and an hourly rate protects you from being overworked and underpaid. Any extra hours can be billed clearly.
If you’ve calculated your hourly rate, you can use that to build your flat session fees. Are your family sessions usually an hour or two? Do you spend half a day on your day-in-the-life shoots? Once you’ve decided to charge $XYZ per hour, you can use that as a guideline to determine a flat fee for sessions.
And what about weddings? They’re really a hybrid of the two. Most photographers offer tiered wedding packages (typically three to four different collections), each including different commitments of covered hours and included products. Create your “ideal” wedding package – the level of coverage at the price you’d most like to book, and then give your clients a higher and a lower package to consider. If you find you’re always booking your highest package, you need to re-evaluate and add a new top-level package.
Whether you’re quoting an hourly rate for a corporate client or a flat rate for a session fee, it’s helpful to work backwards. Consider your own expenses for running your business to find your general business overhead. Are you shelling out for childcare or office space? Do you pay for online gallery software? Do you have monthly fees for file backups, cloud services, or editing software? What about web hosting? How often do you expect to purchase new equipment? Do you hire second shooters or have an office assistant? What gear are you saving for? And don’t forget taxes!
Totaling your monthly or yearly expenditures can give you perspective on how much income you need to sustain your business; and in response, how much you need to earn per hour just to keep the lights on, and how much you’d like to earn to meet your definition of success.
Speaking of success…
What are your financial goals? Every photographer is going to have a very different idea of what a successful business is, and you need to have a serious look at what you want. Is this going to feed your family? Is this going to provide a little side cash? Is this going to allow you to travel more? Everyone starts small, but knowing where you want to go is critical if you ever plan to get there.
Structure meets flexibility
This is where you have to use your noggin’. Creating a pricing plan gives you boundaries and expectations. It gives you a framework to manage a successful business. But it doesn’t mean you are bound by blood to stick with this structure forever, and sometimes you’ll have to make changes. You may find that your goals for success change as your life changes. The value of your time three years ago might not be the same as the value of your time today.
You may find that your pricing is not on target with other photographers in your market. You don’t have to raise or lower your prices to meet the market average, but you do need to know where you stand to make informed decisions. Being slightly higher priced or slightly lower priced than those around you will bring in different clientele and a different volume of work. Which do you want? You’ll have to think about it and decide if you need to make changes.
You don’t want to change your pricing every year (hello, headache) but every business makes changes to stay healthy as it grows. Don’t be afraid to adjust as needed.
We’d love to hear from you – what are your best tips (and lessons learned!) as you’ve set up your own pricing? Share in the comments and we can all grow!