This post originally appeared on April 25, 2011 before I graciously deleted my blog. I’m re-posting items that I believe others might find useful or that others are still searching for. This post was inspired by Melissa Jill.
I walked into the Apple Store the other day and heard someone say, “I’d love to get this iPad, but how about you sell it to me for $200 instead of $600?”.
Then, stopping at the food store on the way home, the person in front of me asked, “Oh, my total is how much? How about we knock off $50 and call it even?”.
Do you think that really happens in other industries?
At times I am asked by photographers and occasionally clients, especially when I was at a lower price, if I offer discounts or will be flexible on price. The short answer: no. The long answer follows.
I only offer a discount to family and extremely close friends. These close friends are people I would have had in my own wedding or at my holiday dinner table. Unfortunately, I cannot offer discounts to everyone, or I would be shooting every weekend for less than it costs to run my business.
If someone outside of my family/super-close-friends ask if I’m willing to negotiate based on price, the answer is no. No matter what type of photographer you may be, I recommend you to do the same.
Why don’t I negotiate the price?
1. I value my time, experience and expertise. I’ve decided how valuable these are and if a client doesn’t agree, we’re probably not a good fit. Clients who ask for a discount generally don’t value what I have to offer and they will continue to try to negotiate every step. In the end, you’ll find yourself burned out.
For example, my prices have increased slowly in the past five years (and are still relatively inexpensive compared to the market) and I’ve learned so much, it’s easy to see…
2. I am not desperate for work. I only want to shoot a set number of weddings/portraits per year. If I discount one, that means I have to take on another or miss out on the opportunity to work with a client who I have a connection with.
3. It devalues my work and brand. I offer more than the every day shoot-n-burn photographer. I work hard to set myself apart from others based on quality and well, price. I am not affordable to everyone, but that’s a choice I’ve made and built around it.
I understand clients are working within a budget, but budgets are all about prioritizing what is important to you. If you prioritize in one area, you will cut corners in others to make it work.
In the end, photographs are the only lasting memory after a big wedding day or a special time period in our lives. Food and flowers disappear almost immediately, gifts get used up and thrown away, and a wedding dress will most likely sit in an attic for many years. I know mine has 🙂
If you race to the bottom, you’ll most certainly get there.
I will never be less expensive than JCPenny, Sears, or a college student. I offer a different type of service, quality, passion and expertise. I don’t compete based on price, or truly much at all.
I work hard to always learn more and create something new for every client I work with. To discount my efforts would surely undermine the quality I offer.
Photographers, realize that you may not be the right fit for everyone. Decide what type of client is best for you, believe in what you are worth and offer the best service you can to those clients.
I like what MJ offers as an idea: if you aren’t getting the bookings based on price, then lower your prices across the board to what you are willing to work for.
This doesn’t mean from time to time I won’t offer free sessions for portfolio or experimental purposes, or other flexible packages for long time clients. But, if the first thing someone is interested in about my work is the price, we’re probably not a good fit.
Know who your audience is and gain their trust. It’ll go a lot further than slashing prices.
– kn –