Joy Vertz, Milwaukee WI, is a photographer who is passionate about the business side. Having started in her basement in 2003 and now running two profitable studios, she has seen (and learned) a lot about what it takes to run a successful, smooth operation. She routinely blogs and educates about pricing, marketing, workflow and process. Joy holds a degree in Studio Art from Lawrence University. Follow Joy on Instagram & Twitter: @joyvertz
In my 10 years in business, one of the most frequently received questions is not about photography at all, it is about pricing. And photographers tend to struggle with pricing because let's face it: Numbers don't come naturally to artists. This is the most common pain that photographers feel in their business because pricing causes stress, confusion for clients, and sometimes even business failure. Pricing your photography is a big deal – and it is something that can make or break a company.
That's why, when I was looking through some “how-to” material recently and saw the following advice, it got my attention immediately…not in a good way:
“Do research on your competition: What are the other photographers in your area charging? Evaluate them and their price lists and see how your work rates in comparison to theirs. Key factors in this comparison can include customer service, image quality, and overall professionalism.”
Now that I've fought my battles in the pricing war (and have some hard-won experience and confidence on my side), it's a lot easier to see why advice like that is such a trap. It's asking you to find your value by looking at what everyone else does. Let's look at some reasons why, although it might seem like a good idea, it really isn't.
First, every business is unique and their price list will reflect their individuality. There's no way to completely know all of the reasons someone else chose their pricing and whether those choices were made on solid business experiences and practices. For all you know, they might have been guessing or worse yet, copying their competition.
Second, do you have any interest in going back every six months to revisit your competitors pricing? I can't think of a more miserable, thankless task than that.
Lastly, you have no idea if they are profitable or struggling. They might be taking huge losses or only be in business for the tax perks, so they're ok with clearing less than minimum wage per sale. Here again, you'll never have the complete story.
Bottom line: finding the right route for your business means focusing on YOUR business, not any others. It's much more useful and rewarding to get reliable information about what you're doing than unreliable information about other shops. Plus, your business deserves your time more than they do.
A great first step that you can take would be to give up the bad habit of constantly sizing up the competition. To learn more about pricing for profit please join me in a 4-part Free Video series http://www.howtopricephotos.com.