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This is Chamira Young from Pro Photographer Journey podcast, bringing you tips, business strategies, and interviews with award-winning photographers.
I’m here with Bernie Griffiths. Bernie is a photography business coach, he is a business aficionado, and he is a repeat guest of this podcast because he is so awesome.
Bernie, how are you?
Bernie – I’m good Chamira, thank you for that introduction. I’m humbled by that.
Chamira – I really wanted to mention the number of times you’ve been on the show but we couldn’t figure it out. During our little pre-interview chat we couldn’t remember. So. – I think maybe this is – Three? – the third. – Four? – Yeah. – At least three, maybe four. – Yeah. – And so the way we start off every podcast, even though this is your third, slash, fourth time being on, why don’t we have you just kind of give a brief introduction of yourself, for the benefit of those listeners who may be just tuning in.
Bernie – Well my story is simple. I was born to be a photographer. I’ve never done anything else. At the age of 15 I started to work in the photography industry. I worked on a ship photographing the passengers for two years, traveling the world. Originally I was born in England. Came to Australia on the ship, saw what I liked, so I emigrated there when I was 23 years old, and started my photography business within six month. I bought an established photography business, and I had that business up to about six years ago, so when I started full-time coaching. So it was a wedding and portrait business which I built from sort of the ground up, and we had a great success with it. So, now I find myself as a full-time photography business coach, coaching photographers around the world, and they’re all at different levels of their photography journey.
Chamira – Fantastic. And I still, even though I’ve heard your story before, I still get a bit jealous when you talk about being on the cruise ship, being a photographer on a cruise ship, because that sounds like a lot of hard work but a dream.
Bernie – It was amazing. I was 23 years old. I was number one photographer, I had three photographers under me. I was with P&O Lines and we used to just travel the world. You name it, we went there. Japan. All down the West Coast of America and so on, Panama Canal, through Cape Town, South Africa, Australia, a lot of islands and yes, we worked hard, we photographed the passengers. Then we’d have to process the film and then do prints and then the following morning, we would display the photographs of them aboard for the passengers to purchase. And I was in charge of first class. So, mine was the harder job because first class passengers, it was sort of no big deal for them to be on a cruise ship standing next to the captain because they were probably more important than the captain of a ship. But the tourist passengers, they were the ones that put the money together over a long period of time, who have to save to go on this fantastic holiday. So, being photographed next to a captain was a big deal. So, our bigger sales were from the tourist side of the ship rather than the first class side.
Chamira – Nice, nice, and so these days you mentioned you are a full time coach to photographers. What range of photographers do you work with?
Bernie – It’s mainly portrait so we could say portrait slash wedding. And because I coach photographers and have over the last six years around the world it’s, the coaching time can vary dependent where in the world I am. So, you know, I’ve got some clients I’ve talked to at eight o’clock in the morning or some clients I talk to later on at night. Like, while I was in New York last year, my working day was from, say, six o’clock in the evening ’til midnight. Because instead of changing the timing, I just left it the same and just adjusted myself. -So it was sort of like working a night shift instead of a day shift but I’m allowed, I can do that. I’ve got that flexibility and that’s what I love. I like the job I do with photographers.
Chamira – Okay, so with every successful photography business, there are key elements that essentially make it successful, and what I like with you, Bernie, is that you have described five key elements of a rock solid photography business, and you’ve mentioned that to me, and that you wanted to talk about that today, and we’re going to pick out one of the most painful of the five to really dig into. So, I guess to start, could you kind of give us a list and brief description of the five key elements of a photography business?
Bernie – Yeah, sure, so it’s the five Ps, and the five Ps are five parts of the photography business jigsaw, and if we get each one right and we can focus on each one and improve each of those five elements, we stand a much better chance of success in our photography business. So, we’re going talk about pricing today but don’t forget we have to remember pricing also relates to the other four Ps, the positioning. In other words, if you position yourself high in the marketplace as an upmarket photographer, your prices are obviously going be higher. Your Product, the type of product you sell. If you’re selling a lot of large acrylic prints or you are selling 30 by 40 canvas prints, those are the products you want to sell if you’re high end. So you prices will be higher rather than if you’re selling just individual prints or you’re selling files or you’re selling portrait boxes et cetera, the other two elements, Photography and Promotion. So, your price also relates to your photography. In other words, if you’re starting off and you’ve only had, say, six to 12 months photographing, one can expect your photography is not that technically good and expressive and creative, so we don’t expect your prices to be high. We expect them to be at a level where the photography is perceived to be. And then the other thing is Promotion. Well, that’s your marketing so, in any marketing you do, it has got to be to show off where you sit in the marketplace to your target audience. So, the price is the thing in the core, and then floating around it, your positioning, your products, your photography and your promotion. And as the core product, as the core, the biggest P of all, and that is Pricing, and that’s the one when I start coaching of clients, we start with first. We craft a price list.
Chamira – And, you know what I love about pricing is that when I photographer gets their pricing right, it affects and improves the photography industry as a whole. I firmly believe that. We have photographers running rampant under-pricing their work and I was definitely one of them so I’m not trying to criticize anybody but when we undervalue our work that affects the industry as a whole. I mean I’m sure, and I’ve had people write into me about this, listeners of the show, so frustrating when they’re trying to give a quote to a client and get to their pricing, and then the client says well, oh well we know another photographer who will do it for half that price, or for free.
Bernie – Remember also some photographers are overpricing their product. I have seen photographs, people trying to sell their photography and it’s just not worth it. There has to be value with it. There has to be some sort of value so it’s okay for photographers to be cheap. The question is, where do you want to sit in the marketplace. You know, what journey do you want to go on? I’ve only known one photographer that I mentored for many years and he became the most successful photographer that I’ve ever mentored. He became a multimillionaire, and retired when he was 50 years old. But, actually 40 years old, he’s just 53 last week. So yeah, 40 years old, time goes quickly. – Wow – But, he started at the top. He didn’t start any other way. He said, Bernie, I want to be the number one, five star photographer in my area. So that’s where he started. And he started five stars. So, instead of in those days where there’s just 35 millimeter film and he was doing what all the photographers having the biggest print they could do was 11 inches by 14 on the wall, he said I want to do bigger than that. I’m going to buy a medium format camera. So, we bought a Hasselblad and started shooting medium format. We had these, you know, 30 x 40s on the wall. Well, that totally separated him from everyone else, and he was more expensive than everyone else because that’s where he wanted to sit, right. He’s the only one I’ve ever known start at the top. It’s a hard place to start. It takes a very strong mindset, and it’s a bit risky.
Chamira – I can imagine.
Bernie – In fact, I tried it. I tried it with one of my clients, and say it is, it doesn’t matter, Marcus won’t mind but Marcus Anthony who is a photographer in North Carolina, he’s in a little town called Wilmington there, and we decided to start him at the top. And it didn’t work. It just didn’t work. After a month, with some test and measure, we sort of pulled back, we went too quickly in having high prices, so we started again. We created a different sort of price structure and now, Marcus, if you talk to him, and I’ve suggested that you maybe like to do a podcast with Marcus, because he will tell you he is “living the dream.”
Chamira- Oh, I’d love to.
Bernie- After, just over a year he has a great photography business. He tells me every week I speak to him, how are you Marcus, I’m living the dream. He’s just loving it as a photographer. So, we do have to be careful, and methodical so we evolve with our pricing, and to climb the ladder step by step, and try not to miss any of those steps.
Chamira – I like it, I like it.
Bernie- So that’s the methodology. You’d said to me earlier, Chamira about, you know when you started off your pricing, you’ve, made every mistake in the book. Well, you have to make those mistakes because the only way you learn is by making mistakes. It’s very important that you make some mistakes.
Chamira- You know, absolutely. And it’s even just, full disclosure, I mean I’ve shared this before, maybe with you, maybe with someone else on this show but when I first started, I was charging $25 an hour doing portraits. So family, senior high school. – Wow. – Yeah, wow. And you know, I have a mindset of, oh well that’s kind of what I made at my last job, so, why can’t I make the, I had no idea about business expenses or planning, taxes and insurance, and talk about learning quick, Bernie, I mean, when a family found out they could get me for four hours for a hundred bucks. – Yeah. – That was After that photo session, I was like alright, something has to change here ’cause I was bone tired. A hundred bucks. – Yeah, yeah a hundred bucks. – Yeah. – And it’s like that and that’s where a lot of photographers, and a lot that may be listening now, are at that level and maybe they want to go through that experience or maybe we can help them– – Right.
Bernie – And just accelerate a little bit in their progress.
Chamira – Well, let’s dive into, let’s dive into your pricing structures. So you have three pricing structures?
Bernie – Yeah, so with the pricing structures let’s say, it’s more about the structure than the price. And what is price, you know. Who sets prices to anything anyway. Who says that house is worth a million dollars. Who says that car is worth $12,500. Who says that coat is worth $500. Who puts these prices on these things? – Are you asking me? – I mean where does it– – Do you want me to guess? – Well, I’m, it’s an open question, yeah, have a guess. Who does it? – Is it? You said houses, I’m thinking is it the market? Is it supply and demand? – Well that’s one thing, that that, etc, at the higher end, probably supply and demand. But then again, that could be the lower end because it’s not a demand, and there’s plenty of supply. – Right. – And prices come down. So it’s this thing, what’s it worth. What’s a photograph worth. Who decides on the price, is the question, isn’t it? – It is, yeah. – And there’s only one person who decides that price and that’s the customer because they pay it. Or they don’t. So they decide on what we charge. So it depends on which part of the marketplace we get to whether they’re going pay it or not. If they can’t afford it, just like maybe, you know you can’t afford a Ferrari. – Hmm. – Or you can’t afford a Rolls. Or you can’t, you can’t afford it. It’s not so much you can’t afford it, it’s just that you don’t want it enough, you don’t want to sacrifice enough. – We could– – There you go – We can all afford anything we want, right, and that’s why banks exist and make massive profits most of the time. Because, we all buy houses we can’t afford, and make it affordable. They say, well you can, 30 years, it can be yours. All you have to do is pay $300 a week. And you’re okay, now I can afford it. So, it’s interesting about price and what it actually is when we actually price a product. But the question is, we’ve got to start somewhere. So how do we craft some sort of price structure that to the customer is perceived as really good value. Because when we buy anything I suppose what we’re looking for is good value. We don’t wanna pay too much for something that we’re not happy with.
Chamira – Exactly.
Bernie – So, this is the sort of conundrum and the mixture of things that we have to look at. As I say, it depends on the area we’re in, right. If we’re in a community that’s not so well off. If, you know, there’s no money around, can we expect to have high prices? Maybe we should move to a better area. I know of my friend I was talking about, Danny, he went from a small area an hour out of Sydney into Sydney and moved there because obviously a lot more money. And then from there he moved to San Francisco and opened a studio there. – So, he knew his target market was going to be five stars. So he went for the big money. And so we have to think where we are. What interests me a lot, one of the problems we have and, you know, photographers have listening to this, you’ve decided to start a business in the area you live in without any research about whether there’s a need, you know. They say that the crucial thing you need when you open a small business is a hungry crowd, right. So you don’t know in your own area whether you have a hungry crowd. So you don’t even know whether the people are out there, at any price that want to buy your product.So how do you price something that you don’t even know whether there’s a market for it. So are you saying that we should, as far as where we start, so even before we get to setting or I guess – Prices. – any of the prices, we’re looking at the three pricing structures, we should do research, on the market. – Oh most certainly. – And where we are. – Certainly. Yeah, what I would love to do, and I haven’t done it yet but it’s been in the back of my mind, if I was opening a studio and yeah, I am in now, I’d spend a day or half a day walking the streets and just walking to people and asking a lot of people. If I saw a mother pushing a baby, I might go and ask her a couple of questions and look at affordability. But, we don’t have to do that. One of the great things we can do it with is Facebook, right. So, we can look, is there a hungry crowd out there with Facebook. – Right. – So, I’m not going to get too involved in Facebook but I’m just saying we can do it that way. – Yeah. – Alright. And if we get a great response to our ad, we know there’s a hungry crowd. So once we ascertain we’ve got a hungry crowd then we go, okay. So, did I attract the right or wrong crowd with this and what I did and so on. But, regardless of that we have to set at some sort of pricing structure. Because once we market we get an inquiry, people want to know price.
Chamira – Definitely, definitely. So walk us through, walk us through the pricings– – Your three pricing structures.
Bernie – Yeah, so there’s three different pricing structures that we look at with clients. And it depends on where they are with the journey. So you’d expect, say, a photographer as a qualified, master photographer as an award winning, has been established for, you know, 20 years, has a nice retail studio somewhere. You would expect them to be of fairly towards the more expensive end. And, what I came up with was a price structure where it’s a, you buy two get one free type of structure.
Chamira – Okay.
Bernie – So within the price list anything you buy is just around a thousand dollars, whether it’s a canvas wall portrait, whether it’s a portrait box, whether it’s, you know, 20 files or whatever, it all, all of the products around a thousand dollars. So, buy two get one free. So it means that clients, if they buy two, in other words if they buy a canvas at say 950, and let’s supposing they buy a portrait box at $1,100 which means they’ve spent $2,100 just under $2,100, they also receive 10, 10 by 8 inch prints. As a gift. So by offering the third free item after they buy the first two, do you find that, that clients are seeing that as additional value? That is a way that I’ve used to get photographers to have an average of two thousand dollars.
Bernie – I mean regularly. Well, think of, think of it if you were a consumer and you saw that opportunity. Now, it doesn’t have to be at the thousand dollar mark. If you’re looking to get an average of say a thousand dollars, supposing you’re starting off. And let’s supposing your products were priced at five hundred dollars so there’s nothing they could buy under 500. That means if they bought two products that to be a thousand dollars, and then they get a product free. So, the products we created in the free box are things like say 10, 10 by prints. What does that cost you? $30? Or $50? What about if we say, if you buy two you get one free, and one of the free ones is all the files, hi-res. Your offer must be a lot higher and perceived value than the two products they’re buying. – I see, so with the free item it’s like a list of things that they can, they can’t get anything for free. But a specific free list. – Yeah, they can get, say, four different products which are a high value and you put the value on them. Because those products can also be on the price list.
Chamira – I like, what I like about this is that I can see this, number one people are getting more For their money so there’s value and I think even on the
Bernie- Which is, which is what they’re looking for,
Chamira. – Right, right.
Bernie – They’re looking for value. They’re looking for more, they’re looking for an add-on. Ah, really, I get to buy that, I get that one.
Chamira – Definitely, and as a photographer we don’t want to be trying to rip anyone off.
Bernie – Correct. – Or, as in we’re happy to offer something, you know to make them get more value for their money. – Yeah.
But also I can see so using the five hundred dollar example then, if you didn’t have the buy two get one free price list, I can see people just being fine with one thing. Let’s say spending five hundred dollars. But once they see they can get something for free if they spend a thousand dollars instead of 500, then they buy the two items for a thousand, they get the free additional, you know, the additional value added item and then everyone walks away happy, and they feel like they got a great deal.
Bernie- Correct, that’s the perfect way of putting it, yeah. Everyone is happy, it’s a win-win, and also they’re getting like double the value all of a sudden.
Chamira – Right, yeah.
Bernie- So they’re getting twice as much for the money and that’s perceived value isn’t it. Now, the value to them of say 10, 10 by 8 inch photos is like, if your 10 by 8 price was two hundred dollars that’s like two thousand dollars.
Chamira – Okay.
Bernie- So, your price can be whatever but it should be a high, perceived high value. – Right. – You know if your files are normally priced at $1,500 for 20 files then it’s, but it’s not costing you. The perceived value for them is $1,500. – Exactly, exactly.Bernie- But it’s not costing you, it’s not hitting your profit at all.
Chamira – Very cool, I like it. – And that actually works well. I’ve done it with many photographers and- And it’s so simple.
Bernie- Yeah, but it’s got a downside, alright.
Chamira – What’s that? –
Bernie- I’ll tell you the downside. And we’ll talk about a la carte in a minute. But the downside is it limits your sales.
Chamira – Hmm, okay.
Bernie – So, where I’ve got one client on one hand getting consistent, you know when I go, when we, at the end of the month go through his sales and we look at the average it’s $2,200 or 2,100. And I say, tell me your sales and he says, like, you know, $2,100 $2,500 $2,400 $1,950 it’s all around the $2,000 so it’s limiting any possibility that there may be of doing higher sales.
Chamira – Good point.
Bernie- Which you can get when you do a la carte.
Chamira – So the a la carte is that the second pricing structure?
Bernie- Yeah. So with a la carte it means that you’ve just got that sort of open price list. You’ve got your canvas prices with two or three different sizes. You’ve got your acrylics, you’ve got your portrait box, you’ve got, you know your files and, I’m in favour of selling digital files. They’re a product whether we like it or not. They’re a product people want to buy.
Chamira -They do.
Bernie – Let’s not stop them buying them. Let’s not stop them buying what they want. Don’t question why they want them, or what they’re going to do with them, sell them to them. They’re just products and I mean if you went and bought a car, they’re not going to, they don’t care where you’re going to drive it, or if you get it dirty and don’t clean it every week, or whether you get it serviced. They’ve sold you the product, what you do with it is up to you.
Chamira – That’s a good point.
Bernie – You’ve paid the money for it so, so with a la carte you can buy different products, different sizes, different prices. So it’s an open price list. I’ve got a client that does that but she’s more high-end with her prices so she does sell those, and get those bigger sales
Chamira – Okay.
Bernie- Like four, five, $10,000 she’s done a $20,000 on a portrait sale so, the other structure stops you doing that. Because you’re basically giving them a lot for the money.
Chamira – So here’s a question for you, Bernie, something I’ve come up against. Maybe, that’s, I don’t want to frame it in such a negative connotation but with an a la carte I’ve tried different pricing structures for my business and I remember when I was offering an a la carte price list to specifically family, so non-business clients, so family, senior high school photos et cetera, a lot of people would just want to buy the digital files and nothing else – Right, sure. – How do you feel about that? ‘Cause I found it so frustrating because instead of getting any canvases or acrylics, they buy these digital files with the intention, everyone you know, good intention of getting things printed but nine times out of 10 they didn’t print, they never print anything. – Yeah, price saved. – Or they’ll get it printed and it’s not the way they wanted it, I mean—
Bernie- It’s their choice, isn’t it?
Chamira – Ah, it’s so frustrating.
Bernie- Why it’s frustrating for you is, maybe, what would you rather sell, an acrylic for a thousand dollars or 10 digital files for a thousand dollars.
Chamira – I would personally rather sell an acrylic because I know they’re getting something physical from me that they can put on the wall.
Bernie- Okay, let’s take the personality out of it. – this is a business Chamira. This is not a relationship you’re having with your business, this is a separate thing. Don’t get emotional about your business. You’re going to make– – when you take the emotion out. – a lot more profit.
Chamira – You’re right, yeah, absolutely.
Bernie- It’s about profit. – If you just get the files instead of an acrylic then yeah, it’s far more profit. – And why should you tell them what they need. – Because they need guidance.
Chamira – But you’re right, you’re right. – Give them what they want. You can’t tell them they need something on the wall. That’s their choice.
Bernie – Well, one thing I’m telling photographers, I say you’ve got to take the emotion out of the business. Look at your numbers. Numbers are everything, that’s it. End of story. If your numbers aren’t on the plus side, you can’t continue your business. You’ve got to make a profit. So in my example there, you’re going to make far much more profit if you just sell them the files instead of what you want them to have but they don’t want it. They’ve told you so, and that’s the difference. If you sell files, yeah price them high.
Chamira – That was gonna be my next question. Is there a minimum amount with an a la carte price list that we should stick to per item? Or I could, it would probably depend on the business but– – Yeah, yeah.
Bernie- We wouldn’t want it too low right? – It’s a bit harder because with an a la carte, theoretically, you have to have individual prints like a 10 by eight or a five by seven or a whatever, individual ’cause that’s what a la carte’s about. You can choose different things. So, it’s sort of unrealistic in a way if you had a 10 by 8 priced at six hundred dollars. – Right.
Although there’s some photographers do charge that but it’s sort of a bit unrealistic. But you can do a 10 by 8 for $200, $250, $275 even, one print, people want to buy one print. But then again you’ve only got a sale of $275 which is, there’s no profit there. – It better be a darn good print. Yeah. – Well, well it’s called a waste of time. I mean, personal profit. So to the business owner, that’s the downside of a la carte, and also the upside. With a la carte there’s a downside and an upside, right.
Chamira – Right. –
Bernie – You can make massive sales, but you can also make lower sales. So you have to be very fine tuning and targeting. And when you’re doing your marketing that you get the right type of clients in and that they’re quite aware that they’re going to spend, you know, two thousand dollars upwards.
Chamira – Definitely.
Bernie- So those are two types and those have worked very effectively. So the a la carte is how most photographers start off and it’s not the one I recommend. The other one we mentioned about buy two get one free that’s for more experienced photographers, but could also be incorporated into a price list for a photographer starting off. It’d just have to be crafted a little bit differently.
Chamira – Before you get to the third, I’m sorry to interrupt, with the buy two get one free price structure, have you ever had a photographer try buy three, get one free, or kind of switch up the numbers at all?
Bernie- So two is like the sweet spot. – Yeah, I think if photographers, I think an average of two thousand dollars for a portrait business is quite a good result.
Chamira – Hmm, yeah, true.
Bernie- If you get it consistently. I think, and if you’ve got a turnkey type of operation where you just get an average of two thousand dollars all the time, it’s pretty cool, right.
Chamira – I’d be happy with that, yeah.
Bernie-So, it’s just that multiplication factor. You know.
Chamira – Gotcha.
Bernie- So, that’s the, that’s the thing. And there comes a point where you have to decide whether you want to grow your business or whether you’re happy just, you know, where you are with the amount of money you’re making, so. That two for one idea came because, you may know with most cosmetic industries that’s one of their major marketing ploys that they use on you women. Buy this and you get this gift which is actually worth—
Chamira – yeah, true.
Bernie- Worth more than what you’d bought. Now the gift is normally samples of their other products, right? So then you use those up and then you go back and buy those products but that’s where that came from and it’s just worked within the cosmetic industry for years, buy this get this gift free.
Chamira – Good point, yeah. – Women go for that. – Yeah, we do.
Bernie- It’s called saving money. 30% off, if you buy you’ve saved your husband money, you know. – Right, it’s all the perceived value. Perceived value, yeah. – Yeah, you get it. Come on, I’ve saved 30% and the guy says, well, if you hadn’t have bought it, you could have save me more money, but that’s not the point.
Or for the working women who are spending their own money, by the way, that would be.
Yes, that’s exactly right. And, they can spend it whatever they want.
Bernie- That’s right. – They earned it. So they can, they can do what they want. – So then the third pricing structure. The third one is a combination in a way, it can be al a carte with an add-on collections. The add-on collections is perceived value. So, you’ve got your individual sized prints, which again can be canvas, acrylic, wall art, can be portrait pops, can be files, whatever. But, you’ve also got as well, four collections. Now, what you can do with this price list, and this is what I recommend as a starting off price, because it just makes sense. I’m just crafting one now for a new client I’ve got. This price list was very, very messy, and he’d had, he tried to put everything on it. You know there were six different sizes of canvas, and six different sixes of acrylics and six matted and framed and, it’s just too confusing, and that’s the other thing about a price list, it has to be simple so the consumer understands it. If they don’t understand it, if they can’t work out in their own mind what is great perceived value for them they won’t go for it, right. They just get confused. Confusion leads to not making a decision, and that’s no sale. – Huh, definitely. – So we have to keep it simple. Now, if we have say two different sizes of canvas, two different sizes of acrylic, we just have one portrait box with 20 photographs in, and we just have one size, and we just have one album on size, and so on. And then we can add on to that. Four different collections. So, we a collection, a first collection, it’s the least amount of money, the minimum order in a way. So if you wanted your minimum order to be five hundred dollars. – Hmm. – Collection one, it could be say one 10 by eight inch print and then three, let’s say, three five by seven inch prints, matted, ready for framing, right. So, they’re having four, four products really. And let’s say we made that 495 or, even at the lower end if you start it at 395, you’re just starting off but let’s go 495. So that becomes like your minimum order, right. Because collection two, three and four are going to go up from there. And each time we go up, we go up in price but we go up with more value. In other words, you’re not getting much for 495 theoretically. In fact, I think most of the structures I’ve done, it’s just two five by seven, yeah, three five by sevens and a 10 by eight. So there’s only four images. But supposing our next one which goes up a little bit from 495 to 675, so it goes up nearly a couple of hundred dollars, and instead of three five sevens we give them say, five, and we give them two 10 by eights, and we also give them some social media files of those images that they’ve purchased. So, you’re getting a lot more for your little extra money. And then we keep going up. So, as we go up from 675, we might go up to, you know, 890. So at 890 we might get eight five by sevens and three 10 by eights, and maybe we’ll give them the hi-res files of those images. So that means they’re getting more product and they’re getting more, but it’s not so much more in price, so we can lead people to see the best perceived value. And if you create a price list like this, just show it to friends and just ask people and say what do you think of this? Which would you go for? That’s all you need, which would you go for? If they pick the one you want which is generally the number three, and if number three collections is where you want your average to be. So let’s suppose you want an average of about 800 and collection three is 890, and people say yeah, I’d probably go for that, number three.
Chamira – So, just to make sure I understand, with this combo pricing structure, you mentioned we have a la carte items and then these, in this example, four collections, so with that, clients can pick either whatever they want from the a la carte menu, and or the collections, so even if they just want something from the a la carte, they could go that route. But it’s not as much value.
Bernie – Yes, but what, yeah, but what you do with the a la carte, you take away individual 10 by eight and five by sevens. So they can’t buy just one 10 by eight. Are you with me?
Chamira – I think so, say it one more time. Sorry, it’s evening time.
Bernie- So, on the a la carte. On the a la carte part of the price list, we take away individual five by seven and 10 by eights.
Chamira – Oh, so that they have to buy’em and a certain number of them, like a certain number of 10 by eights.
Bernie- Correct, in other words when you’re speaking to people on the phone, you say we make a time to come back and have a look at the photographs, show your slideshow, and I go through all the prices and products and from there it’s up to you. The least expensive thing we do is 495. That does include three prints by the way, ready for framing so that’s a good start for you. And then the collections go up from there, and we do have an a la carte price list if you’re looking for more wall products, where there’s portrait boxes and files, so when’s a good time to, you know, you know what I mean?
Chamira – I like it.
Bernie – So that’s your pricing done.
Chamira – I like it, Okay.
Benie- That’s all people need to know about your pricing, isn’t it. And it’s like a minimum order. Now, if they’re, if they’re not willing to spend what you’ve created as your minimum order, which in in this case is 495, you don’t want them in the door.
Chamira – Such a good point.
Bernie- If $495 scares them then let them go somewhere else.
Chamira – So this is not something we spring on them after the photo session. We should be having this conversation before, right?
Bernie – Of course. We all want to know what things cost, right. There’s another perception as well. At lot of photographers say, but Bernie, you know, my customers are already winging about my prices saying they’re too expensive. So, what do I do about that? Well, you get some new customers.
Chamira -And I think that’s painful for a lot—
Bernie – You’ve got the wrong customers.
Chamira- Right, and it’s painful for some reason. I know it was for me, to say no, or to let a client go, but I’ve found that it was one of hardest things to do. The best things, not that I was letting everybody go, but if you’re not the right fit. – Yeah, yeah, yes, say no. Then you don’t have to work together, yeah.
Bernie – I know, it’s the hardest thing to do. It’s like you’re please, please don’t let me photograph you. It doesn’t matter, you know, I’m going to pay you to photograph you.
Chamira – Right.
Bernie- I’m going to spend all my money and time and I want you so much to have these photos. Let them make the decision. And that’s a very good point you made, of the same knowing and finding the right customer. Now sometimes it does take time if you’ve been going for a while, even a short while and you’ve started to collect these people and the expectation. But the thing is, what you’ve got, prices are just numbers alright. Prices are only numbers. That’s all they are. And that’s the way you talk about them. There’s nothing more. You don’t have to justify them. They’re just a number. And let’s face it, every photographer in the world charges different prices. There’s not set rule. In my business I just have to say that, you know, I read a lot and working out your pricing and working out a percent of cost of goods and all of that, I’m not a believer in that. I just don’t get that. Because, the question to ask is, how much money do you want to make? Right, how much money do you want to make in your photography business? For me, there was only one answer. And that was as much as possible. So how could I work out my prices, on a multiplication factor of what it cost me. You know, I’ve got some information here. The real cost of an 8 by eight and it breaks it down to the print price, retouching, the box, the postage, the sleeves, the stickers, whatever, total cost $22.75 it costs to actually produce that 10 by eight and that’s with time, for the photographer and which includes shooting and post production. And mean so if your cost of goods cost $22.75 are you saying I’ll multiply that by five and make it, you know, $110, and are you gonna be happy? No. If you sell one of those to every client you get, no. You’ve got to be smarter than that, You’ve got to create a price list and a price structure that gives you the best chance of maximizing your sale with every customer.
Because that’s all you’ve set out to do. Maximize your sale. I never cared in my business whether I had a small order or a big order, the question I ask myself was, did I maximize the sale and what is maximizing the sale, it’s when the customer spends more money than they really wanted to but they’re happy that they did. That’s maximizing the sale.
Chamira – Gotta have a happy client.
Bernie- And the customers whose, Yeah, the customers who spend the most money are always the happiest, you know that.
Chamira – Yeah, yeah, that’s what I, you know, it’s interesting. That’s what I’ve seen with my business too. Yep, yep. Far more satisfied.
Bernie- Make them happy.
Chamira – I have to add in, I love the fact that when you started very briefly you went into the pricing script, I guess. As if you were talking to a client. You did this a few minutes ago, and you slid right into it. You were so comfortable and calming and soothing and I just wanted to mention that because a lot of us get stiff and awkward. And I know for me it was a real struggle to talk pricing with clients, and I think we need to rehearse and practice. – Yeah, you’re exactly right.
Bernie- And just to add in, yeah there’s nothing wrong with practicing, rehearsing with family, friends, because you want to, you know, your clients will reflect what you are project and emoting. And if you’re confident and calm they’ll feel that, and it’ll put them at ease. – And don’t forget you’re also reflecting your position.
Chamira – Yeah, yes. Because if you’re confident, you’re experienced, you come across in the way you talk about price. I love, I think you’re exactly right, and I do that with my clients. We do a lot of role-playing and it’s amazing to watch the progress, where they start and they bungle around and we get a script as well. And, after doing it four or five times with them they’re different people, it’s amazing. They don’t, because the way we can lead people is that we know what objections we’re going to get. You know, it’s like, what if someone says to you, gee you’re expensive. You know, you have to know how to answer that. – Hmm yep.
You can’t say, oh well yeah but, it’s a lot of work and I, er, use a very expensive camera and er, I spend hours just taking that one, you start to go into that, justifying yourself. – Right, defensive, yeah.
Bernie- So that you get defensive, that’s right. You know, someone said to me in my business, gee you’re expensive, I’d say yeah, I actually am. I’m probably one of the top five most expensive photographers in Australia at present. There are some, I know, that are more expensive than I, but erm, yeah so what size were you looking for?
Chamira -I like it, I like it.
Bernie – You don’t have to justify it because you can’t.
Bernie – Oh man, yeah. – You just can’t. There’s, there’s some other, you know, sales pitches that I don’t like, like the retort to that question gee you’re expensive, the retort is compared to what?
Bernie- Oh, I’ve heard that one. – I mean I don’t, I don’t like I don’t like that, that’s not me. I like to talk price, happily and fun. Price is fun. Making money’s fun. Getting money out from people is fun. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it, that’s the most enjoyable part, the happiest part, is when you take the credit card and put it through the machine, and thank-you, that’s great. – It creates a sustainable business. It really does.
Ah, that’s so much joy in that thought. That was the best part for me. Was taking money.
Chamira – So, can you give us just a quick recap as we wrap this up of the three different pricing structures that we chatted about.
Bernie – Yeah, so when you go into your pricing when you revisit it. If photographers are listing they wanna go and revisit. Revisit, keeping in mind those other four things that you need to get right. Positioning your products, your photography, and the way you market, your promotion, where do you sit in the marketplace, but this is the key, this is all I needed to say in the first place is where you set your prices are at your cringe point. So, when you write those numbers down, write the numbers down where you go, ah that’s a bit expensive, I don’t think I can charge that but I’m going to write it down anyway. There it is, there’s my prices list thank goodness I’ve done it. And then, let that be your price list and work from there. So because a price list evolves, stick with it, for at least five sales, 10 sales. See how it goes. What you will find, or should find, is people will start buying a particular product, called a core product, you put that price up, nothing else, just that price, maybe tweak the other prices up a little bit. And that’s the way you keep moving forward. I did this in my business. It was amazing. I credit the product. It was on acrylic paper, on 20 mil art mount, and it, I didn’t always charge for it. It got a large image in the middle, and it got 10 images on the outside, and I didn’t know what to price it. And I thought, ah, I don’t know, $750, no I’m going to make it $850 dammit. Put it on the wall. Did a sale, someone bought one. Oh, wow, that’s good. I’ll put it up to $950. So I did. Two other people bought them, right. I kept going until I made it $1,450. Over about two months. And then I put it to $1,550. People stopped buying it. I put it back to $1,450, people started buying it again. So there is a price rejection point. But that way you’re taking it to the market place. You’re taking your prices to the market place. And that’s why you start with your price list, and then you tweak it up, tweak it up, tweak it up, and your market will tell you. I mean I was fortunate because in a business where you’re doing a lot of turnover, you know, if you’re doing 10 sessions a week or more, you can do a lot of sales so you can accelerate your progress of moving your prices. But I learned so much from that, that, the funny thing is each photographer I have given that product too, who have got a sample and put it on acrylic or had it framed that has become their core product. And a good example is to say, is Marcus in North Carolina, that is, they just buy that product. And that product, if it’s $1,500 it’s a good product to be your core product, if that’s something most people are buying. And the way you talk about wall art and people’s wants, I think we have to get a bit smarter with products, and I think we have to create products that people will actually buy. And this product was one of those products because of the perceived value. ‘Because you’re getting it, 11 images you’re getting right.
Chamira – And yeah, I’m taking notes here and I need to write that down then. So, you said there was the one big product in the middle.
Bernie- Yeah, and 10 around it. – and then 10 around it. And the overall size was round about 32 by 32 inches. Why I loved that being my core product is the print cost me $40 and the mounting cost me $40. So it’s costing me, cost of product $80. – That’s it. – And I’m selling it for $1,450.
Chamira – My goodness, interesting.
Bernie- Yeah. Not taking time into consideration but, the collage itself was templated so I could just drag other people’s photos into it and make slight adjustments. And every photographer I’ve given that product, it just worked. I mean, it’s just that exciting. So, when we think about wall products, let’s think a little bit of why we’re not selling them. Maybe we’re not selling the right wall products. So, that’s another discussion. It’s pricing, getting it right, taking it to the market place, the right clients, and just, and as you know Chamira, what we have to do to progress is get outside of our comfort zone. We have to feel uncomfortable. We have to. ‘Because that’s so exciting when you come through that uncomfortableness with a confidence and it’s another little step and that confidence just grows. And the quicker we can grow that confidence and belief, the quicker we can grow our business.
Chamira – Absolutely. See, this is why I’ve had you on the show multiple times. Because you give some solid, some great information. This is fascinating.
Bernie- The difference is, Chamira, see, because I coach a lot of photographers from around the world, it means I’ve tested measure can be very quickly. And it’s not one size fits all
Chamira – Right, right.
Bernie – And, that’s the beauty of what I do. We find out what suits best. And there are so many alternatives. But there are certain things that do work, right. Always have words that are proven to work. So, that’s a great thing. I, I’m not like a working photographer that says I do it this way so this is the way you should do it. ‘Because, it may not be. Just because it works for me, it really doesn’t mean it’ll work for others. It may not. But there are alternatives if you know them that will work for you.
Chamira – So, as we wrap this up, are there any other final thoughts on pricing that you wanted to mention before we close?
Bernie- Yeah, just probably two or three things. One is, as we spoke about just put a price list together, and put it to your cringe point and just live with it a while, getting comfortable. You know, getting comfortable with people saying gee you’re expensive. Get comfortable with that.
Chamira – Love that term, cringe point.
Bernie – Be proud. They think you’re expensive, you know, because they may be in the wrong shop. They may be, you know, shopping at the low end when you’re a little bit higher than where they should be. And the other thing is, always always, just keep trying to improve your photography. Look, you can’t expect people to pay high prices for something ordinary. No one does. You’ve got to get creative, you’ve got to separate yourself. You’ve got to become something different than everyone else. And in my case, one of the things I did, I just became black and white. I specialized in black and white wall portraits. That’s what I used to tell people. That says everything, doesn’t it. I specialize in black and white wall portraits. And I’ve had photographers go from colour to black and white. Just flip it. Just do black and white. How many photographers specialize in black and white. Very few. I’ve got a couple of photographers I’ve got doing a little bit of sepia in it, like a warmer tone, not cold black and white, just a little bit warmer. Specializing, show people we do this. Then let them come to you for that because you specialize in that. It’s a little thing. And you can charge more because you specialize. You’re a specialty person so, so photography is a key. Always work on it, work hard on it, do a lot of test shots for yourself, get some models, get some people, and do a lot of free stuff, shoot like crazy, get creative. And stylize, become different, and just go nuts. It’s crazy, do silly things, make mistakes, grow. That’s the fun part, you know. That’s the fun part. Just let it go. Just go nuts. Don’t worry about what people think, you’re nuts or something. Just let the creative bit take flow and do unusual things. – Just go nuts, just go crazy. I can think of no better way to end this episode. Than with that advice
Chamira – Yeah well. You’ve gotta enjoy it.
Bernie- You’ve got to enjoy it. Don’t let it drag you down. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. If it’s dragging you down, get rid of it. It’s not worth it, and it can be fun. And financially very beneficial.
Chamira – Ah, Bernie, I wanna thank-you so much, for taking the time to come back on the show, and just breakdown pricing. I mean it so painful for many photographers but like you said it doesn’t have to be. And we can even be proud of our pricing. Imagine if we got proud of our pricing. I just, thank-you so much for just chilling and chatting with us.
Bernie- Yeah, that’s fine. It’s great to be on the show again and to those listening, if you haven’t checked out the blogs that Chamira’s got on her work site, go have a look, there’s some great information there, that I was looking at this morning.
Chamira – Well thank-you. – There’s some great blog posts, really good information. – I almost forgot to ask, even though we’re gonna have this on the show notes, where can folks find you online, especially if they want coaching?
Bernie- Pretty straight forward, just my website, berniegriffiths.com. I won’t confuse people and give them any other details, but berniegriffiths.com. Or there’s a bit of information in my book about pricing and other things if they want to go to Amazon and just search Bernie Griffiths, and the success secrets of a professional photographer. There’s a lot of information. I actually use it as a reference myself, a reference book and there’s quite a lot on pricing there. Developing business systems
Chamira – Excellent.
Bernie- So, that’s another good, a good thing to get.
Chamira – Excellent, well thank-you again,
Bernie. – Okay, pleasure. And I’m pumped and I’m excited. All you photographers out there, get excited, have a great journey. It’s a great, great industry to be in. So have fun
Photography business coach.
Just over 3 years ago when I exposed a great Facebook Ad strategy on the Photobizx podcast, https://photobizx.com/Book+More+Portrait+Photography+Sessions many
photographers thought that every lead that responded was an eager buyer
for their photography.
These were “cold” leads, and the reality was that only 25% of these leads were potential buyers.
Bernie’s Facebook Ad strategy which I defined in the podcast, still works extremely well if you build the right conversion funnel.
Originally we built a funnel via a series emails, and then along came Chatbots.
The Chatbot we use, once set up, automatically runs through Messenger with a trigger that is pulled by a specified word put into the comments box below the ad.
By a series of strategic multiple choice questions, we are able to qualify our “cold” leads and turn them into “warm” leads, and create much stronger potential buyers.
This is the ultimate speed Marketing machine!How great is it to have qualified leads coming in while you sleep!
Getting leads is crucial for your photography business, and segmenting your audience can help you avoidthe customers you fear the most…..the low spenders.
If you are not into Chatbots yet, it would be a good idea to get on board this technology, as it offers a great solution to automating part of your photography business.
Check out this video all about Chatbots from our Group session last week, where we set up a Chatbot for a family Facebook ad.
Let’s Do This Together!
When you are ready for some serious coaching…….
Level 1 Online Course….Get More Portrait Photography Clients ….FAST
Take this Online Marketing Online in your own space and at your own time.
If you are a photographer who also has a full time job, this is the ideal way
to start earning money from your photography.
Level 2 Getting Started Course
This course is designed for those photographers who are just starting out
part time to create a photography business. With weekly Skype sessions over
a 5 week period covering Pricing, Marketing, Selling, and Photography.
Level 3 Business Boost Coaching Program
A great program to start to move your business forward. Created for
photographers looking to advance their business on a longer term basis. Personal
Mentoring with one personalised 60 minute Skype session every two weeks.
Level 4 Signature Coaching Program
The Signature Program is for those photographers who want to accelerate the
success of their photography business. Weekly 60 minute Skype sessions over
a 12 month period will make you accountable, while new marketing strategies
and fresh ideas, will give accelerated growth in your business.
World’s Number One Photography Business Coach
I have never seen such a massive change in the photography industry since the digital revolution.
Digital changed ninety percent of the way photographers did on a day to day basis.
The way photographers photographed changed, as did there workflow and production of products.
The digital file became the most requested product from the consumers, and large wall portraits became almost obsolete.
Now we have a massive shift in the way that photographers do their Marketing.
If you have had your photography business nowadays you now need….
…great engaging text copy in your Facebook ads, and on your website,
…have a Pixel as well as a Lead Magnet on your website,
…send out regular newsletters via Mailchimp or similar,
…and be using a tried and tested Sales Funnel ,
…use Calendly, for prospects to book in a phone call with you.
Oh boy !
A photography business sure wasn’t this complicated a couple of years ago!
The world sure has changed and as photographers we have to keep up with the change.
Below is a Sales Funnel from a Facebook ad.
It may look complicated, but once it is set up it is automated and gives the potential client lots of touch points to build trust, and also at the same time qualifies them.
If you have a Sales Funnel that isn’t working just contact me and I will see if I can help.
Setting Your Prices Can Be Hard.
One of the hardest things for photographers to do in their photography business is to set their prices.
In this podcast with “Photographer Journey”, that just went live , I talk about the different 3 different options on creating a price list,
and how to get your mindset right to maximise your sales.
There is also a great FREE price guide download.
When you are ready for some serious coaching…….
World’s Number One Photography Business Coach
Last year The Professional Photographers of America implemented a great initiative and created a movement to encourage consumers
to get their files printed, and to help professional photographers in the art of selling photographic printed products.
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international, non-profit association created by professional photographers, for
Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA’s roots date back to1869. It assists more than 30,000 members through protection, education
and resources for their continued success and is leading the effort in helping consumers, professional photographers and photographic suppliers
see the value in printing photographs.
The most photographed generation of all time could wind up being the next Lost Generation.
42% of people between the ages of 30 and 44 will likely look back and wonder where photos of their childhood, holiday get-togethers, relatives
and friends have gone decades from now, and, reportedly, 67% store their photos solely on a computer or phone.
Statistics show that a staggering 53% of consumers have not printed a photo in more than 12 months, 70% don’t have photo albums, and 42% no
longer print photos at all.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We know that everything from candles, bicycles and vinyl albums have survived the “disruption” caused by technological advancements.
We have to remember the value and importance of printed, framed, and mounted photographs in our lives and for the generations after us.
Children love to see images of themselves around the house, newlyweds have fond moments when they see their wedding photo on the mantle
or walls, and our most beloved pets are sealed in time…all thanks to the power of print.
That’s why PPA, along with leading photography industry partners, has created PRINT.
The movement’s mission is to educate photographers and consumers alike on the value and importance of printed photographs.
For photographers, it’s a chance to show their community and their clients that they know what it takes to create a finished product that speaks
much louder than a digital file and that will withstand the test of time.
Some of the partners backing this initiative are: American Color Imaging, Bay Photo, BWC Lab, Canon, Canson, Chromaluxe, Collages, Finao,
Fundy, GW Moulding, H&H Color Lab, Hahnemuhle, Kodak Alaris, Marathon Press, Meridian, Miller’s Professional Imaging,
Professional Photographers of America, Simply Color, Tyndell Photographic, and White House Custom Color.
When you join THE MOVEMENT you get FREE marketing resources to help your clients and prospects see the value of printing and preserving family histories in photos.
All the information is here.
A lot of these resources can be used in your Blog or Newsletters, or social media.
Great to see the photography industry getting together for this great incentive.
World’s Number One Photography Business Coach
I love nothing more than visiting photographers and chatting to them about their photography business.
As my ongoing role as a photography business coach I have been able to do this in many countries around the world.
There is one thing that all these photographers have in common, and that is they all tell me that it takes time to create a successful business.
It seem like nowadays that we all want the quick result in building our photography business.
The Magic Wand.
If you are just starting your photography business, my advice is to change your Mindset and be prepared
to play a much longer game.
It does take time to build a photography business.
It also takes time to build trusted relationships with potential clients.
Focus on delivering on a regular basis, great products and good services.
Build your reputation and watch your photography business grow
The most successful photography businesses I know, have their clients coming back to them time and time again.
In my own business as a studio owner I had many clients coming back to me for their photography over
four, seven, and sometimes more than ten years.
Think of your business long term, and you are much more likely have a lasting and financially rewarding return.
Check out this video that I recorded last week with photographer Dean Mainsbridge from Zanzo Studio,
in Hobart Tasmania.
Dean has had his studio for 10 years now and mentions how building a photography business takes time.
CLICK HERE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPwUZA88MUU&t=408s
When you are ready I have 5 ways that I can help you grow your business. https://berniegriffiths.com/work/
World’s Number One Photography Business Coach
As a photography business coach, I am a big fan of self professed millionaire photographer Bradford Rowley.
A lot of his advice a totally agree with ( but in some cases I don’t agree with his thoughts.)
Here is a recent article of his on attitudes and behaviours that are sabotaging your photography sales.
An article by Millionaire Photographer Bradford Rowley.
“A great salesperson can help your clients understand the value and treasure of beautiful photography. A great salesperson can also cause your bottom line to explode. Unfortunately, many sales people (and especially photographers who sell their own work) have attitudes and behaviors that limit them from reaching their potential and actually end up massively sabotaging profits.
I have sold over 20 million dollars in portraiture. My studio finishes our portraits like original art, and we charge for our portraits like original art ( you can see our prices at http://bradfordportraits.com/pricing.html ). I have had a lot of sales people in my 27 year history. From my experience, here is a list of attitudes or behaviors that are most likely to sabotage your potential to earn a massive amount of money from your craft:
- I’m in it for the Art, Not the Money – If so, you don’t have a business you have a hobby. One of the biggest lies out there is that you have to choose between the love of the art, or be a sell-out for the money. Hey, you can still be a great artist who commands top dollar for your work.
SOLUTION – It’s time to look at your own inaction and insecurities. Many times it is easier to just say you are in it for the love of the art when in reality it could be a cover-up to mask the fact that you are not taking actions to become a legitimate business or you have an insecurity about charging respectable prices for your work. `
- People Would NEVER Pay that Amount of Money for Portraits– If you believe that, you’re right. I had a very skilled salesperson, but she had the mental block of believing people wouldn’t spend over $5000. for portraits. As a result, most her orders were between the $2000.-$5000. range. In a year’s period, she had only sold two 30” x 40” portraits (by contrast, we usually sell one a week). If you suffer from this same syndrome, it will damage your sales more than you can possibly imagine.
I remember a time when the jump from a 16 x 20 to a 20 x 24 in my price list was just $150. When I rose it to $300. more, that same salesperson said people wouldn’t pay that much difference. Today there is a $2000. difference between the sizes, and yet I have about the exact same percentages of people who purchase the 20 x 24 as I did when the difference was just $150.
SOLUTION – Go visit high-end art galleries, and notice what they charge for their work. I have lived most of my adult life in Laguna Beach, CA where the artist Wyland has several galleries. I would walk inside those galleries and see printed reproduced lithographs sell for thousands of dollars and some original work sell for $100,000. plus. Visiting such galleries can have a huge effect on your psyche as to what people are willing to spend on art. Visit websites that showcase high-end art. Here is an article that might be a good place to start:
Subscribe to the Robb Report (an excellent magazine to have on your coffee tables by the way) to see what people pay for a variety of things. Conditioning your mind to what people pay everyday on the high end of the market will help you believe that people will also be willing to spend significant money for your work.
- I Could NEVER Afford to Pay That!– There is an old saying that says, “We don’t see the world as it is but rather as we are”. There is another saying that says, “tell me the average amount of money that your five closest friends make, and I’ll tell you what you make.”
Solution: By all means, don’t give up your close friends, but do look for opportunities to broaden your circle of acquaintances to include people who have obtained a higher level of success than you. They will help stretch your mind to what is possible, and help adjust your mental thermostat to think beyond your own situation. In my circle of friends and acquaintances are people who run major international banks, owned professional sports teams and started major airlines. Besides being humble and wonderful human beings, their success has inspired me to think beyond my own limitations of what I can expect of myself and others.
Remember, just because you can’t afford something doesn’t mean your clients cannot.
- Worrying About Your Client’s Finances– Have you ever worried about the financial impact a large portrait order would have on your clients’ finances, especially if they are poor and struggling? Have you ever seen a client sacrifice a long awaited family vacation to have one of your portraits? Have you ever seen a child be willing to give up a summer camp so their parents could get a wall portrait at the proper size? I have. It pulls at your heart. Situations like this would affect me greatly. But I think it was Dan Kennedy that said, “If we don’t get their money someone else will”. And if people are going to give up money, can you think of anything better to spend it on than a portrait which will be a representation of the love and value they have for their family?
Solution: Let clients make the decision on their finances,not you. It is good and noble to have a big heart and to be compassionate for others. But ultimately, clients are responsible for what they spend money on and what could be more amazing than a beautiful wall portrait.
- Believing People Don’t Pay as Much for Photography Anymore – Are you buying into the doom and gloom that much of the industry is spouting…..People just won’t pay that much for professional photography anymore because their neighbor has a camera and will take family portraits of them at the park for free or next to nothing.
Solution: Stop complaining about how cheap photographers are ruining the industry, and start looking for ways to elevate your work and differentiate yourself. If you are offering the same thing as the soccer mom with a camera down the street then be afraid, very afraid. If not, then you have to be an expert at educating clients on what makes you different.
- A Lack of Enthusiasm – Brian Tracy said that a SALE is the transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another. NOTHING will affect your ability to sale more than the level of your PASSION, ENERGY and ENTHUSIASM.
Last week my wife and I had the opportunity to observe first hand the sales strategies of Erica Feidner. Erica was on the cover of Inc. magazine as one of the 10 greatest sales people of all time. Another website lists her as the second best sales person in history behind Dale Carnegie. Erica has sold over 41 million dollars in Steinway Pianos…more than any other person in the world. Knowing this, I began to observe her techniques. Overwhelmingly. her number one trait was massive passion and enthusiasm. Her energy was contagious and somehow you could spend a small fortune with her, and still be smiling and giving her hugs at the end.
Solution: To be successful, you have to leave every stress behind and have 100% focus and energy on your clients. Watch masters like Tony Robbins and others. Learn the level of energy they bring. Dress the part, act the part. and HAVE PASSION and excitement. Don’t be low energy. Sit up straight, stand up straight, and exude confidence.
- Not Having a Sense of Certainty– Do you know how much money you will make this year? How about on the next day you do sales? Most sales people don’t.
Solution: Sit down right now and pull out a sheet of paper and a pen. What do you want to earn this year? This week? WRITE it down! Put it in sight. Look at it often. Develop an attitude of certainty that you can achieve it. Instead of feeling uncomfortable about earning too much money, feel uncomfortable about not achieving your goal. Make achieving your goal a MUST!
- Having a WRONG Sense of Certainty– Some weeks ago I asked my salesperson in New York how much she thought she was going to sell for the weekend. I thought her potential for the 3 days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) was $100,000., but she replied $70,000. I told her I thought we had a great line-up of clients, and offered her a bonus if she could achieve $100k. Instead, she achieved $69,800., just $200. off from what she thought she was going to get. In fact she achieved within .2% of her goal. I don’t believe that was an accident. We usually achieve exactly what we expect of ourselves even if the goal is too low.
Solution: Get yourself out of your comfort zone by making a goal just a little bit higher. Again, write it down and gain a sense of certainty that it will happen.
- Lacking Confidence – Are you embarrassed to ask your clients for the sale? Do you announce your prices with hesitation. If so, you may lack the confidence you need to achieve great sales.
Solution: Same as Item #1. On occasion, I will tell my clients that we are probably the most expensive portrait studio in the country. One client said, I love how you say you are so expensive and do it with total confidence….It makes me feel confident about doing business with you.
- Giving Too Many Choices– The more choices you give clients, the lower your sale will be. That’s a proven fact many times over. Books such as Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill teaches this principle as well as the attached link is a great read on the subject with case studies: http://unbounce.com/conversion-rate-optimization/psychology-of-choice-conversion-rates/ If you think offering more portrait finishes, many frame styles, many choices of locations or studio work is the way to make more money, you are betting against science.
Solution: Narrow the options your studio offers. I have taken all my portraits with the same look and background for over 25 years now. I don’t offer multiple finishes. I don’t offer many frame choices.
I like In-N-Out Burger. They are wildly successful and yet offer only four items on their menu other than drinks. Shake Shack will never beat In-N-Out Burger. They offer too many items such as hot dogs etc. At In-N-Out. you know you are only going to get one thing…An amazing hamburger. And, Grocery Stores that offer 40,000 products will never outsell Costco that offers only 4000 products.
- Believing You Must Have a Pre-Portrait Consultation– Everyone I know who makes around 100k a year in the industry has pre-portrait consultations. Everyone I know who makes a million dollars or more a year in the industry does not. The idea that you must have a pre-portrait consultation is so proliferated among those who teach in our industry. A pre-portrait consultation is usually needed when you are offering too many choices (see above), or you believe that a portrait size should be determined by a specific area in a client’s home (see a previous article I wrote on this subject: http://milliondollarphotographer.com/how-i-sell-differently-than.html ).
Solution: When a client books an appointment with us, we spend quality time on the telephone with them, we send them out all the information they need via email and snail mail. We include a “Dress Code” as well (that’s for a future article) because our studio is very specific in the style we offer. I believe that many of my clients, especially men, appreciate that we are succinct and don’t require a long and laborious process, including multiple get-togethers in creating a beautiful portrait for their family. Even if you have higher orders when you have consultations, that doesn’t mean you have a higher P/T ratio (another subject for another article). It’s okay to have consultations if you want, but orchestrated correctly it is not necessary.
- Not Understanding How Profits Multiply at Certain Prices– Sometimes us creative types can be bad at math, and that can really hurt us financially. Let’s say that we sell a product for $500., and our cost is $250. But what if you raised your prices from $500. to $750. By so doing, you only increased your prices by one third, but your actual margin increased by one hundred percent! In other words, under this scenario and profit model, if I lost 1/3 of my clients due to the 33% higher price, I would still make 25% more money than under the old price and work a lot less.
Solution: Take a look at your prices, but more importantly your margins. Have a crystal clear understanding of your exact costs. Religiously watch The Profit on CNBC as the show illustrates this principle over and over to small business owners who lack an understanding of how to increase margins.
- Failure to Dollarize– How much does it cost your client to own a 24 x 30” portrait over a 5 year period? If you can’t answer that question rapidly, you need to learn to be able to.
Solution: When a client is thinking about purchasing a size that cost say $5000., and they are vacillating, I like to ask the question of how long they think they will keep the portrait. Of course, the answer is simple: Forever! …But then I say, “well, imagine if you kept the portrait for just five years, the cost actually ends up being less than two dollars and seventy five cents a day.” Remember, people buy for emotional reasons, but they need logic to help justify and give permission to themselves to make the large purchase. Dollarizing is a great way to help clients see the long term value of their purchase, and break it down logically.
- People Won’t Spend the Same in My Area as They do in New York or Los Angeles– If you believe that, then be prepared to live the self fulfilling prophecy that your mind is perpetuating.
Solution – Understand the cost of living in New York and Los Angeles is way higher than middle America. People who live there often have to spend all their money on basic living expenses and have very little left over. I have operated my studio in California for more than 25 years. I did a study of all the zip codes in our area and which produced the highest averages. Newport Beach, which is generally considered a very upscale area around our studio finished middle of the pack, while other much more modest areas had higher averages. People in areas that aren’t as pricey often have more disposable income to spend and sometimes they value portraits more. I tend to do very well with middle america clientele…For example, my average order in Missouri is higher than my average order in New York.
- Not Offering a Payment Plan– Do you offer your clients the opportunity to pay over time? If not, you could be leaving serious money on the table.
Solution: Early in my career, I was inspired by the successful companies that would offer easy-pay payment plans to purchase high end products, so I started doing the same. At my high point with payment plans, I was charging $60,000.00 at the first of each month. Offering a payment plan is simple. Allow your client to pay for a portrait over 12 months or other predetermined time period by having them give you permission to charge their credit card once a month. Collect a second credit card as a back up. Really want to increase your average order? Have your clients agree to a payment plan where you collect all the credit card information but don’t charge the first payment until 30 or 60 days. Will some people default…? Yes, it can happen, but it is rare, especially if you collect two credit cards. In business if you want to make a lot of money, you have to take risks sometimes and make things as easy as possible for a large order to be placed. The monthly cashflow will also balance out your high and low months.
- My Studio is Not Nice Enough– Every now and then I see pictures of other studios that just make my studio seem so insignificant by comparison. Maybe you feel the same way.
Years ago in California, one of the most respected photographers in the area had a grand piano in the middle of their several thousand square foot studio which was also filled with antiques and the most lovely decor. At the same time, I had a one room studio that was 300 square feet, and had enough room for just 5 sample portraits in the back side of an older shopping center. When clients had to change, I stepped outside the studio and waited in the parking lot until they were done. It was all I could afford at the time.
Solution: As embarrassing as my situation was, I learned a valuable lesson. I still succeeded at sales. It taught me that I didn’t need the fancy studio to make big money. Today, one of my studios is on world famous Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, and my neighbors are Gucci, Louis Vuitton etc. It’s nice to think how far I have come from that tiny one room studio in the back of a an obscure shopping center, yet I know that in the end, it is our work, presentation, marketing, passion and enthusiasm that ultimately makes us successful, not necessarily the location and grandeur of our studio.
- I Don’t Have Expensive Equipment– I bought my first camera in a department store in Tijuana, Mexico 28 years ago, and I used it through my first million in photography sales. When I finally switched to digital, I bought the Hasselblad HD3 system and lenses that cost me about $50,000. per studio. As a back-up camera, I bought the Sony a900 with some Zeiss lenses that was just a tiny fraction of the cost. On one occasion while in Palm Beach, I used my back up camera, and in my opinion, the cheap Sony took better images than the Hasselblad. I had bought into the whole name thing, along with megapixel count etc.
Solution: Just weeks later I sold my Hasselblad on eBay to a guy in China, and started using my Sony. In my Palm Beach Studio, I have a 48” x 72” portrait that is stunning and was taken with the Sony. I don’t need my camera to impress clients, and neither do you. The samples of your work should do that, not the brand and price of your equipment.
P.S. Did I mention that in my Palm Beach Studio, I photograph with just one simple light?
- Not Reading Books or Listening to Programs on How to Sell– How can you possibly become a master of something you do not invest time to study? As I have mentioned throughout this article, I have several friends that make well over one million dollars a year in photography. All of them, including myself, are avid readers on the subject of sales. Still, it amazes me how many sales people don’t read anything to increase their talents and abilities.
Solution: Commit to reading at least one book or listen to one program a month on sales.
- Not Showing Proofs by Projection – I am assuming that almost everyone shows proofs via projection. If there is still someone out there who doesn’t, I have just one question?…Are you CRAZY?!?! There is no more powerful tool than letting clients see their potential portraits in the actual sizes for making the selection. I show sizes starting at our 72” size and work down from there until the customer is comfortable with a particular size. If you are not showing proofs by projection, you are losing out massively.
Solution: Buy a projector today! Get software such as ProSelect, and start projecting immediately. Your investment will be paid for almost immediately!
- Believing People Who DON’T Believe in You– Back when I had just a one room studio in the back of an obscure shopping center, my photo lab rep. came to visit me with his boss. I shared some ideas I had for marketing my studio. I clearly remember how the boss of my rep discounted my ideas, and said in the future he’d share with me the things that really worked. As my photo lab rep and his boss walked out of my studio, there was a laugh, and the person told my lab rep, “He’ll be out of business within a year.” It was an ugly feeling to hear this. Have you ever had a similar experience? It can be deflating and cause you to doubt yourself.
Solution: Let people’s doubts become your motivation to succeed. Nothing is quite so sweet as the revenge of success in the face of those who doubt you. I am grateful for people who believed in me such as Don Burrell. When I was a very small studio, he believed in me and I never forgot it. I have gone on to be one of his largest customers. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and believe in you, and try to stay away from those who are negative about the future of the industry
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About the Author:
Bradford Rowley is perhaps the most expensive portrait photographer in the United States with an impressive list of prominent clientele. He operates studios in New York, California and on world famous Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. He has taught photographers in more than 26 countries. He currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and youngest child.
#photography business coach
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