John Harrington is an award-winning Washington, DC based photographer who covers the world of politics as well as doing a wide range of commercial assignments. His success is due in no small part to his excellent business skills. His books, Best Business Practices for Photographers
, and MORE Best Business Practices for Photographers
should be in the library of everyone who hopes to earn a living taking pictures.
The following is some advice regarding the pricing of your work.
It's impossible to charge too much. Period. If you provide a client a figure for your services, and you outline all of the up-charges, add-ons, rush fees, and so forth, regardless of the price, and your client accepts the fees and expenses, then you are not charging too much, as they have agreed to pay that amount. If they don't want to pay that much, then, well, you can't charge them for that. Thus, while a bit of word play, it's impossible to charge too much.
Dialing that back a bit, take a minute to examine what you're charging. First things first though, it's important to remember, that the main goal of being in business, is not to be doing lots of work, but, instead, it is to be profitable. For whatever you are charging, if you were to double your fees and licensing, and that resulted in a drop of 50% in your work, not only would you be earning the same in fees, but you would have more free time, and have to carry much less in expenses for each job. Now, this is a risky proposition, and, frankly, much too risky for me, but there are many photographers out there, at the $15/hr, $25/hr, and yes, even $50/hr, or, doing assignments for just $200-$400, that could easily do this, with much less risk.
Surely, a raise in rates will cause your more price conscious clients to drop off. That's ok, that just makes room for better paying clients who are less price conscious. I can't recall the last time a colleague said to me that he was slow and didn't have any money because he or she was charging too much, but I hear all the time from friends who aren't making any money because they aren't charging enough.
Further, low rates will wreak havoc on your profit margins and will damage your credibility. More than once, I was the only photographer, among three considered, that was priced appropriately, the others were so far below me that the client knew - they knew - the assignment could not properly be completed for those low figures, so I received the assignment. In addition, when you expect clients to hire you because you're the cheapest, you'll have just that - cheap clients - wanting to do business with you. That's no way to succeed, let alone, get ahead.
There is a general rule in business, which is that if 20% of your clients are not complaining about your fees, you're not charging enough.
Consider Pareto’s Principal that states, “It is a common rule of thumb in business that 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients.” The same is true of the productivity of your business, focusing on the top 20% of your business priorities yields 80% of your production. It is therefore critical that you identify that top 20% of your customer base and top 20% of your business priorities, cultivating, caring and spending time on them accordingly.