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Photography Marketing: The pricing conversation

I’ve heard it too many times. Nightmare stories around pricing — a client understood this, we never talked about that and on and on. While pricing is often hard to talk about with clients, it really shouldn’t be. When everything is clear, it either works for them, or it doesn’t. Here’s how to avoid that grey area.

DO NOT list your prices on your website

Here’s the thing. If you put all your packages on your website, you’re immediately narrowing your client base. You might be too expensive for some of them or look too affordable for others (yep, that’s a thing). If you list your pricing, you’re essentially locking yourself into those prices, with no wiggle room available which is not a good place to be.

I guarantee that if you have a pricing page, and check your Google Analytics, it’s probably the number one page before a client exits your website completely.

Even putting a line such as “packages start at $500” is something I advise against. Because there might be that photoshoot you really want to photograph, so much so that you’d do it for little or no money. Don’t price yourself out before the conversation even takes place.

DO NOT talk pricing over the phone

This is when most of the confusion sets in at the client-level. You know your price list by heart. And to you, it makes sense. But to non-photographers, it’s like navigating the ocean. You never know what you’ll stumble upon. Your client-to-be won’t understand what we take for granted.

So when a potential client asks you for your pricing over the phone, avoid it at all costs. I usually say something like “let me put together a line-item quote and send it your way in the next few minutes.” You can get away with saying “my packages start at $500.” But always follow that up by saying “let me send you a proper quote outlining everything for you.”

This does two things. One, it lets the client know they don’t have to memorize your pricing scheme. Two, it lets you start a paper trail. A record of what you discussed. In essence, this record will eliminate or at worst, minimize any confusion.

DO send an easy-to-understand quote

As soon as you hang up the phone, it’s important to send off the quote. If you’re unable to, be sure to let the potential client knows when they can expect the quote from you. This lets you set expectations and doesn’t let them wonder when it’s going to arrive.

In the quote, be sure to outline everything. Confirm the details of the photoshoot, and then go over each line item by line item. Is editing included? What is a sitting fee? Is travel included? Are any prints included? These are questions clients are sure to have.

In addition to the quote you send, make it clear that you want to work with the person (if in fact, you do). This makes it easier for them to come back and ask if you can add something to the quote, ask for more details or ask you to meet a specific budget they have for the project.

Finally, don’t just send a canned email. I always start with an email template I put together in Studio Ninja, but then I customize it for the client. This is especially important if it’s a new client. Your existing clients will be used to your pricing and understand what your quote will look like. But new clients will need, and want to be educated.

DO follow-up

The most important step throughout this whole process is to follow up with the person. If they don’t respond to you right away, give it some time. They might be gathering other quotes, or discussing with the rest of their team. Here’s a past column on what to do when potential clients don’t respond.

For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.

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