Written by William Manning (www.williammanning.com)
Design a Price Structure
It’s going to happen, so be prepared. When you get that phone call and the potential client loves what they see, the question is bound to come up, “What are your rates/fees?” Be prepared and don’t fumble around or be shy of about your rates. When you hesitate or fumble around for an answer you come across as an amateur and an inexperienced business person. Pricing can be difficult, especially in today’s economic climate. Your prices will determine in many ways your success or your failure. If you over price for your talents you stand the chance of losing a job, if you underprice you’ll probably get the job but you also stand the chance of not meeting your financial needs to sustain your business. If I’m uncertain about a job I would rather overprice than underprice. Overprice gives you room to negotiate, underpricing gives you little to no wiggle room to work.
There will be times when your rates just simply don’t work within the budget of a project. This happens and there are times you have to turn a job down. Don’t compromise your rates, leave room to negotiate but know when to stop. Stock photography is no different, don’t let go of your work and talent for less than you believe it is worth. If you don’t think your work is worth more than a dollar than neither will anyone else. The photography business is like most other businesses, you have your low priced services and products and you have your high priced services and products. I often look at the success of companies like Apple and North Face (and many others) and look at how they control the prices from retailer to retailer and they are never the lowest priced items in their category but they are perceived as the best in their categories. As a photographer I prefer clients to refer to me as being a little higher priced but a good quality photographer who delivers, rather than a lower priced photographer who is simply Ok or risky. If you give it some thought, you’ll see the lower priced photographer has to work a whole lot harder than the higher priced photographer to make the same amount of money. Don’t under sell yourself, you determine your prices and don’t let some middleman decide your worth. Do not develop that, “If you can’t beat them, join them” attitude, it will put you out of business.
Build a Loyal Network
The most obvious of all networking is past clients. I like to keep all my past clients up to date on where and what I’m doing. Every year I send a personal letter and promotional material to all my past clients even if I haven’t done work for them over the past few years. I realize many of my clients don’t use photographers on a regular basis but when that time does come up when they need a photographer or photography my name is the first that comes to mind. Every business works with other businesses in some capacity. These people talk and when they hear of photography needs you want your name mentioned. Get involved in professional organizations that involve the clientele you market your services to. Become active in charitable organizations you believe in, you never know who you might meet, plus you are doing something good for your community.
Social networking sites can work but it doesn’t take long for these outlets to become flooded and hard to make yourself standout from all the others. The best way for these to work is if someone is looking for a photographer within a region. I don’t find these helpful in most cases. Many photographers use Facebook. Facebook is not designed to be a business networking site. If you’re trying to use Facebook as a business tool, it seems to me all you’re doing is revealing your marketing strategy and hard work to your competition. If your looking for compliments of your work then Facebook works well, (although it is not a place for an honest critique of your work), but if your looking to build your business its the wrong place in most cases.
I have a different take on professionalism than some, but it still encompasses the ideal of treating clients and potential clients with respect. I believe attitude also falls into the category of professionalism. A positive attitude is important when doing business in a world where there are so many struggling businesses and circumstances today. Building a relationship that allows open and honest conversation is extremely important. I believe business conversations should be carried in a positive manner but taking it to the point of sounding phony or less than sincere will more than likely yield a short term relationship. I like to deal with people who I can trust and that means I want someone who isn’t afraid to talk candidly with me. In other words, don’t tell a client something just because you think that is what he wants to hear.
Professionalism also means treating you and your business good. Most people I know go into business to make money. If you are going to run a photography business, do it to make money and don’t feel guilty about it. Your first years will be difficult but with a positive attitude, good business sense and learning from your mistakes will lead to success. Deliver what you promise, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If you screw up a job be up front with your client. They know you’re human and honesty always pays better than sorry excuses. Know your talents and your weaknesses, and build on your strengths.
I wish you all the very best, and wish you the very best in your business.
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