Every photographer does not need to raise their prices.
This may be a controversial statement. However, I stand by it. If your business does not show these signs, there is no reason to raise your prices! And, when I say “raise your prices”, I’m talking a significant jump in prices, not a little bump each year to adjust for inflation.
Am I raising my prices for the right reasons?
This is a very important point to make. There are several WRONG reasons for raising your photography prices:
- You want to make more money.
- You are trying to copy another photographer’s prices.
- You haven’t raised your prices for a while.
- You just took on extra expenses.
- You start using nicer camera equipment.
- You took a workshop.
- Your style or specialties change.
- You read somewhere that “you should be confident in yourself to charge what you are worth.”
These are NOT good reasons to raise your prices, especially the last one. While you should be confident in yourself and your business, this should not be the sole motivator for a price increase. Besides, how do you “measure” if you are pricing yourself what you are worth? It sounds nice, but nothing in that statement will help you, specifically, to determine if a price increase is right for your photography business. Rather, read the following 6 measurable signs that it is time to raise your photography prices.
#1 – You work too much.
You work late, every night. You hardly have time to spend with your family and friends. You don’t have time to relax. In other words, you are always working. If you were to count all of the hours you work a week, it would definitely exceed 40 hours. Some people may have the stamina and the desire to work more than 40 hours. In that case, you are not too busy! Your feeling of being busy is all based your situation and your personal preferences. You could be working 10-hour weeks, and you would still feel busier than you want to be. It’s all relative. This indicator comes down to simple supply and demand (click chart to view the full size):
While this chart seems overly complex, it is a simple concept. If you are working too much for too little money, you need to raise your prices, so the supply = demand. Conversely, if you are charging too much and not working enough, you should consider lowering your prices.
#2 – Every inquiry books.
This is directly related to the chart above. If every inquiry is booking, the demand for your business is high. I distinctly remember when I first started out with my cheap prices. Nearly every wedding client I met with and every email inquiry I received booked. It took some time before I realized this was a huge indicator that it was time to raise my prices. People felt like they were getting a steal by booking me at my low prices! Just do a quick analysis of your consultations and inquiries. If over 90% of them are booking you, your prices are too low.
#3 – Clients book far out in advance.
I mostly noticed this with booking weddings, however it can be applied to portrait sessions as well. When my wedding prices were cheaper, I realized many couples were booking me a year and a half, sometimes two years out! I am not talking about 1 or 2 weddings, but several weddings that are trending towards booking out this far. One day, it dawned on me that this is not the norm. The norm is for couples to typically book anywhere from 6 months to a year out from their wedding date. With portrait sessions, this kind of ties back into #1. If you have a high workload and have to book out months in advance on a regular basis, you should consider raising your prices.
#4 – Your work has improved.
This one may be tricky, since we all have a hard time taking an honest look at our work. The way most of us try to assess the quality of our work is by comparing it to other photographers, which is not a good practice to get into. No two photographers are directly the same, even though they may have similar shooting styles. The only way to measure this is to take a long, hard look at your work and your work alone. Let’s say it has been over a year since you raised your prices. One day you are reviewing some of your earlier sessions. You think to yourself, “Wow, I’ve come a long way. I can’t believe I edited that photo like that.” or “My work is completely different now!” If you notice this trend with nearly every photo, it can’t be a coincidence. If you are still not sure, ask a trusted peer for his or her honest opinion on your work and how it has improved.
#5 – Other photographers are telling you “it’s time.”
If one photographer has the guts to be honest and tell you, “you need to raise your prices,” you know there are at least 10 other photographers thinking the same thing. Everyone in this industry is trying to keep the quality high, so by giving each other feedback, we improve the industry standards. Someone (like yourself?) may not have the confidence in their work to raise their prices. If a peer goes out of his or her way to say to you “it’s time to raise your prices,” that should go a long way in making that business decision.
#6 – Your business is not profitable.
Before I dive into this, I will say that if your business is not profitable, raising your prices is only one way to remedy the situation. The other way is to reduce your expenses. This sign is on the list, since there are many, many photography businesses out there that are not profitable, simply because their prices are too low. If you are racking up debt and seem to be struggling to make money with your business, you will want to sit down and crunch some numbers to see if your business is making a profit. Want an easy and simple way to do this?? Check out The Photography Pricing Workbooks!
If I do need to raise my prices, how do I know how much to raise them?
This is the final piece of the pricing puzzle. If you have determined it is time for you to raise your photography prices, next comes the hard part of figuring out how much you need to raise them. Simply stated, look at how severe those indicators are for your business. For instance, if you are crazy busy, almost every single inquiry is booking, your work is leaps and bounds from where it was a year ago, and your business is struggling to make a profit, you should make a larger bump in your prices. If you are only a little busier than you want to be, most inquiries are booking, and your work has improved slightly, then a smaller bump in prices is may be appropriate. The bigger the signs, the bigger the increase!
I’m scared I’ll lose all my clients after my price increase.
This is the main concern of photographers debating about raising their prices. If you made the 4 pricing mistakes in the previous blog post, this is a very real possibility. However, if you are at the point where you are considering a pricing change, your business will not be sustainable for very long on the current course. You may have some growing pains, but you will be thankful in the end that you made that change.
Will you lose clients if you raise your prices? Short answer: yes. How many? It depends on if you made the jump from one customer type to another. If you make a significant jump in prices, chances are you will loose a decent chunk of your client base. To offset this short-term drop-off in business, there are two techniques to help during the pricing transition. First, change your prices during your peak season vs. the off-season. It seems counterintuitive, but you will feel the drop in business even more during your off-season, rather than during your peak season, since the demand is lower. Second, announce to your current clients that you are raising your prices and give them a limited time to book a session with you at your lower prices before you make the jump up to your new prices.
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