Hourly coverage vs. “Unlimited”

Wedding photographers tend to be pretty concerned with pricing and how you offer your service.  I’ve heard the argument about respecting your time – that if you don’t charge for every minute the client won’t respect your time and will run over you in negotiation.  But it almost seems too easy to offer “unlimited” coverage and basically make time a non-issue while potentially allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.

I know what I do, and I’ve never been big on making an issue of what I do – you’ve got to do what is right for you. But I do think that “time” is a somewhat strange metric to base all pricing on.  I don’t think anyone thinks about their wedding in terms of how long it is going to take.  It is very difficult to equate deliverables to how much time is spent (sure, it makes sense to us photographers, but I think we understand it largely through the experiences that we’ve had that the client simply doesn’t have).  I do tend to think that many people fantasize about what their wedding will be like – I doubt that any of those fantasies involved a clock.

I realize that time is relevant to us as professionals.  But I think that anything that we care about has to become a value to the client if we are going to make it a decision point for them.  I don’t love making time an issue for clients because it isn’t a positive metric in their minds or anything that they are excited to worry about.  Anything that you make a pricing-based decision point ought to be something exciting to think about in my opinion.  Time doesn’t seem like an exciting thing from the client’s perspective.  I want the decision points to be things they could want, and things they are interested in – I don’t want to focus on what they aren’t getting.

That doesn’t mean that I think you should do “unlimited” coverage.  Besides, everyone who says “unlimited” puts a fucking limit on it anyway which makes the whole concept ridiculous.  Regardless of the way that you build it you need to manage expectations on what you’re going to do, what you aren’t going to do, what options the client has, and what the ramifications of those options are.  Expectation management always rules in this case.  You can’t charge the client more in the moment if they don’t understand what you’re charging or why.  And as a side note, a contract is NOT a communication device (it is a protective device) so you can’t expect them to read the contract and understand how your system works.

But I like to think about it like this – I want to be paid for what I’m doing, not how long I’m doing it.  I don’t think it should cost less for me to shoot because this job is a little shorter than the next.  The value of what I do (IMO) is the preparation, the reputation, trustworthiness, the approach, etc.  None of those things have anything to do with how long I’m doing the job.  If I want to sell those things then making time a decision point seems silly and takes the focus off of the things I want them thinking about.  When you charge for something you tell the client that it is important to think about – I personally don’t want them to be thinking about time.  Your approach may be very different, and you should act accordingly.

What do you think?

 

– trr

 

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right things, rightest things

I was a little vague on yesterday’s post/question about doing the right thing or the profitable thing.  It wasn’t necessarily on purpose, just how it came out.  Some people speculated that I was talking about not charging enough or making photography more affordable, or possibly talking about doing immoral or unethical things for profit.  Neither was really on my mind.

I was more concerned with the idea that the “right” thing to do rarely seems like the best course of action from a business perspective.  For instance, if I really wanted to grow this site and monetize the shit out of it I’d do a lot of gear reviews.  I’d post more inspirational stuff and tell people to follow their dreams.  I’d whore out every affiliate product out there.  The audience would grow much faster and I’d make money from this site.  That isn’t what I think would be “right” for this site (but it certainly isn’t unethical) but it would sure be a great business move.

In photography I know that things would be better if I edited every image by hand and perfected everything before delivering to the client.  But most of us don’t do that because it isn’t profitable.  We know that our album designs are tasteful and that the client wants to cram as many onto the page as possible.  We know that clients don’t use the digital files and yet in many cases we settle for them as a primary deliverable.

I suppose what I’m wondering about is degrees of “rightness” and where on the scale we draw the line? Most of us to the right thing, but do we always commit to doing the “rightest” thing?  Is there a measurable benefit to doing the rightest thing instead of just the easiest right thing?  Can you quantify and sell the “rightest” or are clients just looking for “good enough”?

I’ve just sort of been ruminating on this issue for a while.  I have a record number of people coming to me asking for help because they aren’t booking as much as they would like.  I struggle sometimes because the biggest part of me wants to suggest building a crazy-committed brand that only does the rightest of right things.  But I’m seeing evidence that taking the easiest, showiest, oftentimes least committed way out seems to be more salable.

The easy thing to do is to tell you all that everything will be OK, and that the rightest thing always wins out in the end.  I’m not sure if that is the rightest thing to tell you?

 

– trr

 

Do the right thing, or do the profitable thing?

I’ve had a sort of depressing thought rattling around in my head, and I’d be interested in your opinion.  I’m wondering if the right thing to do is ever the profitable or most marketable thing to do?  I’m beginning to think that the right thing is hardly ever the profitable thing, sometimes not even a sustainable thing, and rarely the most attractive or marketable approach to take.

I’d be curious if you believe that is true or not and what your experience has been?  If it is true, then we have choices to make about how we present our work and services don’t we?  Do we then pick our battles on doing what is right in favor of what sells best?  Do we let the market decide where they want the emphasis placed?

– trr

 

EDITED TO ADD – since a few comments have already mentioned this I want to point out that I’m nor suggesting that doing something immoral or unethical is even on the table in this discussion.  I’m simply wondering if the “rightest” thing to do is viable or a great business decision.  Often it feels like catering to the lowest common denominator is what is preferred, or aiming for the easiest and flashiest solution is what the free market rewards rather than the highest quality or the unpopular but hardest work.

Episode 30 – The …a Man to Fish… Photography Business Podcast – Your Brand Value w/ Anne Schmidt

anne

Anne is a Maine Wedding/Portrait photographer and also a good friend of mine.  Anne is the kind of photographer that I run this blog for – the working entrepreneur in the trenches getting their business established.  I think too often we focus on the people who stand on the mountain and claim to have it all figured out when the reality is that those of us who are making our living as creative entrepreneurs are always figuring it out as we go.  You never really “make it” – you’re always working to figure out how to get to the next level.

Anne and I discuss her process in photography, from being a college newspaper photographer to deciding to quit her part-time job and the realities of that decision.  Anne talks about the significance of being able to articulate her brand value proposition and what that understanding has done for her progress.

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Check out Anne’s photography at http://www.anneschmidtphotography.com/

– trr

 

If you like the podcast and would like to see it continue please share it out everywhere that you can and join our subscription list for updates on future episodes as well as exclusive podcast content.

 

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Which number is bigger?

A photographer recently lamented that the number of people who valued photography as an art instead of a commodity was obviously diminishing every day.

I think that what is diminishing is the number of photographers willing to communicate value. The market is NOT to blame – the industry is.

Which number is bigger? The number of people who could be compelled to love what you love and believe what you believe or the number of people that already value photography?

Our responsibility is not just to grab the low-hanging fruit of people who already want what we do, our responsibility is to create new believers. It is completely within our ability to make the market as large as we want..

 

– trr

 

I’ve been pretty happy with this week’s content.  If you haven’t already checked out Monday’s post “Who wants to shop at JC Penney’s” head over now – It gets referenced in next week’s podcast.  Also, check out this week’s podcast with Spencer Boerup where we talk about easier sales for photographers.  And if you’d like to make some more money buy his Salesographer product here.

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