In any business what you produce must have, or more accurately, be perceived to have value. Without that belief by your client you will fail to garner business and future clients. How does this translate into the photography world? Most people, especially newer photographers, place their value in their portfolio, in the quality of the work. While this is true in some sense I would say there is another place that holds more weight to the client… you.
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”- Warren Buffet
Often times as photographers we come across clients that ask or passively imply they would like a discount. Most of the time we stick to our guns and will not budge on pricing. I think that is great, and appropriate if the discount they are asking for is significant, but what if it is minimal? What if it is only $150? What do you do then? I read comments in a thread that ranged from tell them you are booked, to tell them you are not the right fit, to suggesting they don’t eat out at their favorite restaurant next month. Seriously?! All this over $150 dollars? This is a perfect example of the client not seeing the value of one over the other. Somewhere in the consultation process the value got barreled down to one photographer’s photos over another. To the client, the perceived value was in the quality of work. The client is thinking “Hey this photographer does really good work as well and they are $150 less!” That is not how we as business owners want them to make their decision.
“You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” -Jim Rohn
From the moment we first respond to a client inquiry our value is being measured. They have already made the decision they like your photos otherwise they would not be contacting you. As soon you hit the send button your value, your ability to give them something no other photographer can, is being evaluated. If they email you back later haggling over $150, maybe she doesn’t see the value in you. We need to educate them as to why we are more and why going with us will be worth it. Somewhere along the line, the value of your service got lost. Guys, I completely understand sticking by your prices believe me I do. But we can’t stand on the quality of our work alone because there are others whose quality is just as good. Using the reason that your portfolio alone should be enough cannot be the reason for non-education of clients. Your value is in you and how you make the client feel from the very beginning.
“If you create incredible value and information for others that can change their lives – and you always stay focused on that service – the financial success will follow.” -Brendon Burchard
“Its not my job to educate the client,” is a phrase I hear applied to this and many other situations with tough somewhat high maintenance clients. So if it’s not ours, whose job is it? Should the client really have to find the time to explore the ins and outs of why we charge what we do on top of trying to plan for their own wedding? Plus, I doubt the client would ever really understand the ins and outs anyway. So why shouldn’t we help them? I am not saying we need to do this all the time.I am saying that if we set it up so that the very first email we send makes them feel wanted, we wont ever even have to broach the subject. The foundation of our perceived value will be won and lost on that first correspondence. Do you send your prices in that first inquiry, or do you congratulate them and ask for more info about how they met? Do you wait for them to reply or do you take initiative and call them to personally thank you for inquiring with you? When the time comes to make the decision to go with you or the photographer that is $150 cheaper, these things could very well be the weight that tips the scales. This is upon what we want the client to base their decision.
“It seems like photographers are so quick to just say “RED FLAGS, LET THEM GO!” and walk away from what could be a good business relationship. If you take the time to talk to her, educate her as to why your rates come with more experience and talent, and what the higher price tag will entail, maybe you can convert her. It’s happened to me more times than I can count.”- Susan Stripling
Now let me clarify: I fully believe in getting paid what you are worth and that we should not give into clients trying to book us for less, especially if that request is significant. I also fully believe that if a client is having a hard time booking you over $150 dollars that we should not automatically apply the red flag or problem client tag to them either. Maybe in this situation we need to step back, breathe and re-evaluate where we went wrong in presenting our value to the client. Never assume your process is perfect, always be willing to learn and serve, your business and your clients will thank you for it.