When you’re a freelancer looking for more clients, lowering your photography prices might seem like a good choice. But is it worth it?
Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. At one point, when you were busiest, you were shooting 25 weddings per year. But this year you’ve only booked a few wedding shoots, and you want more clients. How can you grab their attention? Should you decrease your prices? Or will that just look desperate?
It’s a question that a lot of freelancers struggle with: should you lower your photography rates to attract more clients? Laurence Kim, a professional photographer who blogs about the business of photography, answers this question with a resounding “no.” Here’s why:
One of the unique things about wedding photography is that your potential market is temporary. Unlike, say, a hair salon or a restaurant, you don’t expect repeat customers. Not only that, the potential client base is constantly changing. The same bride looking for a wedding photographer in January 2017 will not be looking for one in March. By then they’ll probably have found a photographer. Once they’ve found one they’re done.
If a potential bride passed you over because she thought you were too expensive, she’s not going to check your website again a month later to see if maybe your price has gone down. It just doesn’t work that way. Given the transitory nature of the market, there is zero chance that lowering your prices will negatively affect your reputation if that’s what you want to do.
Just who, exactly, is even going to know you’ve lowered your prices and how are they going to find out?
As someone who was constantly testing pricing to come up with the magic formula, I would change my pricing with pretty much all the time. Nobody will notice, believe me.
Go ahead and test your pricing. It’s part of the fun of running your own business.
While testing a slightly lower price might be a worthwhile experiment, don’t fall into the trap of believing that’s the only thing that’s wrong. Unless their rates are grossly mis-priced, it’s unlikely that pricing is the biggest reason for a photographer’s lack of business.
I would ask any photographer looking for more clients lots of questions . Questions like these:
Are you giving your clients such an outrageously good experience that they have to gush about you to all their friends? For example, are you delivering better customer service than any client has a right to expect? Are you delivering the images within a couple weeks of the wedding, or do you make your clients wait for months? Do your clients receive thoughtful gifts along the way (e.g. an inexpensive, framed 5x7 from the engagement session)? Do you act with calm confidence at the wedding, even if the timeline gets thrown off? Is your client proud that you represent her at her wedding, or is she cringing because you look like a slob?
Are you making at least five outbound telephone calls (yes, calls — not emails) per day? Are you calling wedding planners? Other wedding vendors? Other photographers? Venues?
Do you have at least two face-to-face meetings every week (over coffee, lunch, drinks, etc.) with other wedding vendors?
Do the top ten wedding venues within two hours’ drive of your home all have one of your beautiful sample albums featuring their venue displayed at their sales office? If not, then why not? How about a canvas gallery wrap featuring a gorgeous image of a couple on the venue grounds?
Are you blogging at least once per week? If not, then why not? Are your blog posts correctly optimized? For example, instead of “This weekend’s wedding” are you titling your blog posts something like “Jack & Jill’s Wedding at Achnagairn Castle, Inverness Scotland”?
Do you have a small (e.g. three photographers including yourself) group of wedding photographer friends that share a Google calendar and have a formalized process for exchanging referrals? If not, then why not?
Do you shoot at least one “portfolio shoot” per month? You know, with the works: model, wardrobe, hair/makeup, etc?
Do you display your starting price on your website? Or are you naive enough to believe that in today’s day and age a potential client will bother asking you for it instead of just swiping their finger onto the next photographer?
Have you set up a networking/mastermind group of like-minded wedding professionals (e.g. caterers, bakers, DJs, florists, etc.) in your area? For example “The Association of Cardiff Wedding Professionals.“ Does your group meet at minimum once per month and have a formal process for exchanging referrals?
Those are just a few of the many questions I would ask. If you answer “yes” to most of these questions and still struggle to get booked, then yes, maybe pricing really is the problem.
On the other hand, if you answered “no” to many of these questions, then I’d say you have a lot of options to try in order to attract new clients. Get busy!