As a photographer, you will likely be “too expensive” for many people inquiring. This is just a natural occurrence in a free-market economy. Nearly all of us admire a Rolls-Royce more than we admire a Chevy or Ford sedan, but most of our budgets don’t allow for such a luxury. While it is perfectly acceptable to haggle a bit when buying cars, it is not acceptable to attempt to get a Rolls-Royce for Chevy prices. Likewise, professional photography is a luxury and it is not acceptable to attempt to get high-end custom photography for friend with an iPhone prices. It is inevitable that, at some point, you will be told your prices are too high, or you will be asked for a deep discount. You should not get in the habit of giving discounts. Why? Because that client has friends and if those friends admire the photos you took, they are going to ask that client about you first. Typically, if a person is interested in a service that another friend used they are going to ask, “Who did you use?” and, “How much did you pay?” This can create a vicious cycle of discounted prices, angry potential clients or a damaged reputation.
Most of the time, the first thing a potential client will ask is for your prices. Let’s be honest, we don’t buy a new lens without first comparing prices, right? Naturally, potential clients will be wondering the cost of what they want as well. Whenever it is possible, I recommend discussing pricing with potential clients in person. This is great because you can show off your images and products, turning your service into something the future client feels like they must have! It isn’t always possible to do this. Sometimes you must give out this information in an e-mail, text message, or over the phone.
Most of the time, it is easy to stick you your guns and simply apologize for not having a discount available. Yet, every now and then, someone’s story just hits you right in the feels. How do you tell someone, “no” when they are already going through an extremely tough time?
Sometimes the financial struggle is true, and sometimes it is an exaggeration, but either way it makes you feel awful to not offer a discount. This is where a payment plan comes in. It is not enough to just say, “You can make payments if you’d like.” It is much better to have a payment plan system in place that you can break down and explain. Think about car shopping once again. When you walk into a dealership, the price tag seems like a lot. We don’t typically just hand the sales manager a suitcase full of cash. It makes us feel much better about purchasing a new car when we know exactly what the payments will be per month. Break down your payment plan for the potential client, making it as attractive and affordable as possible. Take into consideration both time and money. For example $10 per month sounds very affordable, but no one wants to wait 35 months to get their picture.
Does this mean you should never donate your services? Absolutely not. I was once told a saying to do business by, “If you offer, service is free. If you are asked, there is a fee.” If you feel you want to donate your services to a good cause, you should. It is also nice to donate to an organization of your choice, and you can usually even claim such donations on your taxes. It is not a good idea to get in the habit of offering discounts to clients who ask for one, unless you want to offer these discounts all the time.