Monthly Archives: June 2011

Some Updates

Hey all,

Got a few quick updates for you all.  I’ve been traveling for weddings so things have been a little busy over the last few weeks.  But in that time we booked a speaking date with the Virginia Professional Photographers Association in February of next year.  The info for the event isn’t posted yet, but if you are in East and so inclined mark your calendars for February 24-28.  We’re still finalizing the line-up, but at this point we’ve been asked to produce a program on weddings and business and we are also going to be presenting a program on Video for Photographers.  Any of you that have worked with us at a convention know that we tend to go late into the night and max things out, so we have plans for things to present all 4 days of the convention.

If you know of any conventions, meetings or similar gatherings that we should be presenting at, let them know or drop me a line with the contact info.

I’ve been working on a definitive guide to pricing philosophy over the past few weeks and I’m posting about it here to help get a little accountability from you guys.  My overall question/struggle is this – pricing is a big issue, and one that I know most photographers struggle with.  I want to make an easily digestible and insightful methodology for pricing your work.  The problem comes in when you consider all the facets that influence pricing.  If you want to really help someone understand how they should price their unique work, you have to consider their branding.  To set really effective pricing you have to  understand that person’s financial situation. You have to understand their sales skills.  You have to consider how and to whom they market.  The problem with pricing is that it isn’t just about pricing.

So the question I pose is this – should I segment things to address each individual aspect of business on its own and potentially short change some of the interconnected aspects?  Or should I develop one massive program that will take someone through the entire process of establishing a profitable business that’s worth hiring, a program that will necessarily be fairly large, long, and necessarily more expensive?  I’d appreciate your thoughts.  I hate to see a single topic addressed without discussing how the other aspects of business affect it, but I also don’t know if I can consolidate everything in a digestible format.  Right now the plan is to produce a video project that also has a written guide and audio options (if you like to .mp3 that stuff).  Like I said, it something that a lot of people have asked for and something that I believe needs to be out there, and I could use some accountability and opinions from you guys.

thanks, talk to you soon

- Todd

Post at The Art of Non-Conformity

Is, as an entrepreneur, you aren’t reading everything that Chris Guillebeau says you probably ought to remedy that immediately.  A good place to start is this post:

“How to Make Money of the Internet”

Specifically Chris is talking about selling information through digital means, but the overall ideas are relevant to us in the photography industry even if we shy away from digital delivery.  The most important point I want to address from that post is this one:

Base your price on value, NOT time cost or materials cost. Unless you are selling a commodity (which you shouldn’t, because why would you want to compete with Wal-Mart?), you should think about pricing based on the value you provide to the customer, NOT what it costs you to create the product. The time or materials cost is irrelevant; what matters is how people benefit from what you make. This is yet another reason why “be incredibly helpful” is the most important lesson in making money online.

Side note: once in a while, someone will complain that something I sell is “too expensive.” I always reply that it may indeed be too expensive for them, and I’d never try to persuade them otherwise—but only the marketplace will decide if it’s too expensive overall. If large numbers of other customers are happy buyers, it’s NOT too expensive.

You start out in photography, you price ineffectively, you flounder about, getting your feet wet, and sooner or later you get serious about the business side of things.  The first place most people turn is learning about Cost-of-Goods-Sold.  You need to learn about it, but you just can’t stop there.  COGS are a threshold that you need to be beyond and in control of, but they costs don’t dictate the price.

Your price indicates your value.  It just does.  If your price is cheap you are telling your clients that your product follows suit.  Don’t let yourself get caught in a x3 or x4 markup factor as the defining characteristic of your value.  Your value is what your product means to your client’s lives, not some middle-man-style-markup factor.  Figure your cost of sales, understand the threshold that your product needs to be beyond.  Then think about what your product means, and what you want that to mean in the market.  All this has to be in alignment.

The side note is also tremendously relevant.  I kind of hate the market.  By that I mean how photographers talk about “the market” as some anecdotal justification for whatever they are afraid of.  I went to an event here in Atlanta that was sponsored by WHCC where I met a bunch of new photographers.  It was great – we are all in the same market and at one end of the table people were talking about how clients just wouldn’t spend $3K on a wedding, and at the other side of the table the discussion revolved around how to get the $7K clients nudged up to $10K.  Seriously, it is all a matter of perspective – if you think the market “won’t” afford something just focus your thoughts on that piece of the market that already will spend that magical amount, or who don’t yet know that they want whatever it is that you sell for whatever price you’ve put on it.

There is a ton of other great stuff in that post, so read up, leave a comment, then come back here and let me know what you thought.  How are you helping your clients?  How are you inviting them to invest?

Oh yeah, and his thoughts on advertising are hilarious and on point.

thanks!

- trr

Chat with ThePhotogsHelper

Today we’ve got a conversation with Kathy Campbell of The Photog’s Helper.  Kathy is a photographer who also runs an outsourcing service for editing, social networking, correspondence, etc.  The conversation runs about 50 minutes and we discuss issues like outsourcing, the value of your time, and exactly what to use social networking for.  Please take a listen and check out Kathy’s site at – http://thephotogshelper.com

Drop me a line and let me know what you think.  If you like more interviews, conversations, and audio/visual content please let me know.

I’ll be heading out of town to photograph a wedding so we’ll be quiet till the middle of next week.  I will be reading comments and formulating answers to questions, so please keep the comments and inquiries coming.

- trr

People Pleasing

Don’t ask, do tell,

Quick question – are you asking your clients what they want or are you telling them what you can do for them?

One thing that has really plagued our business is the urge to be a people-pleaser.  I don’t know what it is about creative types – maybe we feel like we don’t deserve to make money at this.  Maybe we feel afraid that our clients won’t like our work?  Maybe we’re just really desperate for acceptance?  I get it.  I’ve just found that after a few years of trying to please people and second-guess and try to preemptively cut off every potential complaint before it happens you start to really lose control and direction of your own life, not just your business.  There will always more work to do, you’ll always come up with another issue to get neurotic about and try to manage before your clients find out.  At some point, you find yourself constantly working to put out fires that may or may not even be an issue.

It is a slippery slope.  You can try to keep pleasing people or you can manage the relationship and take the control back.  I think we feel the need to please people because we are totally afraid that someone might not be totally happy with us.  I think the best way to manage that is to take control and tell clients what they will experience, rather than asking them what they want.  I think that in reality your clients will be the happiest when you (the professional) are defining the relationship instead of asking them for guidance.

If you are feeling the urge to please people, think about how you can take control of the relationship.  If you have decision points in your interaction with clients where you are asking for their guidance, instead see if you can find ways to tell them what will happen.  I think that clients are the happiest when you are managing the expectations of what will be happening as well as reducing the number of decisions that they have to make.

Ultimately, the urge to please people is a way of asking for permission and acceptance.  But if you think about it, the act of being hired by a client should be all the permission and acceptance you need.  They want you to be you.  You just have to decide what “you” are and put that out there rather than asking them what they want you to be.

How has the urge to people-please impacted your business?  Does it change your creative impulses?  Let me know in the comments below or through Twitter and email.  Many thanks!

- trr

What’s wrong is what’s right

I’ve had quite a few conversations with my photographer friends lately about how the entire industry is against us.  They keep telling me that a smart, determined, hard-working person could make a much better living doing almost anything other than photography.  I don’t know, photography isn’t the easiest way to make a buck, but I’m kind of over all the complaining about how hard this has gotten.

I’m over the bitching and whining about the newbies coming in and screwing it all up for us (we ARE the newbies we are complaining about!).

I’m sick of the complaints that the barrier to entry into this business is too low.  I’m over the cries for licensing, certification, standardization, etc.  The low barrier to entry is a GOOD thing.  I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.  I don’t want them telling me that I need to photograph a certain way, or to fit some set of guidelines.  I’m fine with camera companies putting out ridiculous, kick-ass cameras to the consumer crowd (Nikon d7000 – I’m looking at you).  I’m fine with it.  Makes it so I require less capital expenditures to run my business.  I don’t care that the new person can afford good gear – it means I CAN TOO.  Hell, as good as the stuff is today I won’t have to buy any new cameras or lenses for a very long time.  This is a BENEFIT to me!

I can’t stomach the part-timer argument – that it is too easy for them to compete against the full-timer.  Sure, they can make a go of it on evenings and weekends.  But the full-timer has the most precious of resources – TIME.  If you have extra time to devote to your business, you’ve got an advantage money can’t buy.  If you can’t leverage that to stake your claim in the market, that’s on you.

I keep seeing photographers complain about the fact that even if they work their whole lives it will be nearly impossible to sell their business to live out their later years.  Yeah, that sucks, and it isn’t likely that you’ll sell your business for a mint on the backside.  BUT (!) there are now more ways to leverage your knowledge in profitable ways that the standardized method of just selling the business isn’t nearly the best way to protect your future.  Your business is a set of systems you put into place and you.  Sell the systems, sell the methodology, sell the “how” of the business – it is worth more than the business going forward.

Oh yeah – and the solution to not being able to sell the business for retirement is already there – I’ve been advocating it for months.  I call it “charging more.”  Seriously.  Make what you need now, plus make what you are going to need later.  No one is going to do it for you.

I also have had to put to bed my anger over the legions of people willing to do this for free.  I’ve stopped being angry that those free-shooters are getting better all the time.  All I can do is run this blog, put out the type of thinking I want to see more of, and encourage everyone else to do the same.  I can’t fight the price battle. Yeah, there are more people out there with cameras.  They are creating a perception about this business.  I can’t complain about the perception they are creating, I just have to position myself as a purposeful, meaningful alternative.

Instead of lamenting the fact that people are out there doing this for free I have to make price work for me.  I have to take value from my price instead of looking at those numbers associated with my work as an obstacle for my clients to overcome.  Price can tell someone a lot about what you do, who you are, and why it matters.  Make your price a positive thing!

Look, I’m not naive.  I can sit around and bitch about the state of things with the best of them.  But I think it is in our best interest to look at all the things we dislike about the industry as the benefits they are.  Low barriers are a benefit.  Higher prices can be a benefit.  More competition can be a benefit if you position yourself correctly.

I want to try something new.  I want to hear about the advantages.  I want to hear about what is great about the business side of things.  I want you to tell me how you are turning all the problems in this industry into advantages.

- trr