Most of us have had a photography client request a discount, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will, and when it does, you’ll need to know what to say. You may be fearful that someone is trying to take advantage of you or that your work/brand/reputation may be diminished if word got around that you gave someone a discounted rate, or you may think nothing of it. In either case, knowing your stance on discounts in general and knowing how to respond will give you more confidence so that when a photography client does request one, you can properly respond to their request.
Before we begin, it would be good to keep in mind that clients asking for a discount may not necessarily be undervaluing your services. Sometimes, asking for a discount is part of the culture of your client. For instance, my mother will ask for a discount everywhere we go…be it a street vendor or a local Starbucks (it’s a bit embarrassing really). Seek to understand where they are coming from and know how to respond to them, making the situation less awkward for you and maybe you’ll both end up getting what you want.
1. Say No
If you’re a people please, telling someone ‘no’ can be for difficult. But if you decide not to discount your prices under any circumstances, just say no. An example,
“Unfortunately, I am not offering any discounts for my services. I hope you understand.”
This may cause you fear of losing out on the job, and that is a real possibility, but keep in mind that discounting your prices may lower your perceived value and the client may end up not booking you anyway.
Once, when I was new to the photography business and just building up my portfolio, I agreed to lower my pricing for a potential client, and when I hadn’t heard back from her and contacted her the following week, she informed me that they ended up booking another wedding photographer in the area, someone I knew was in the same price range as my typical rates. Reflecting on that situation, I realized that I either lowered my value in the potential client’s eyes, or I didn’t provide enough perceived value.
2. Ask Why?
If you’ve done your job of educating the potential client of your perceived value and they still ask for a discount, one way to respond is to simply as, “Why?’ or, “Is there a reason you feel you are entitled to a discount?”
This places the ball back in their court to respond. Perhaps they cannot afford you, but they love your work a lot; maybe they (like my mom) just loves a good discount; others may say, “Oh, I have a lot of friends getting married soon.” (Don’t fall for that one!)
In any case, listen to what their “why” is and go from there. They may have a good reason you hadn’t thought of or perhaps you haven’t educated your potential client on the value of your work. Whatever the reason they provide, once they provide it and you where they are coming from, you have more information with which to use to overcome their objections.
3. Negotiate A Small Discount
If you’ve decided that you have built in wiggle room in your photography packages and are okay negotiating a discount in certain circumstances, you could always say,
“I can offer you a 5-10% discount, if…”
Fill in the blank yourself. Some cases could be:
- They offer to sign the contract and pay you in full on the spot
- They are willing to book an additional add-on to their package
- They have multiple projects you’ll be signing a contract for or the project is long term
Whatever the reason, if you choose to offer a discount, be sure to set forth the parameters you’re willing to work with for yourself so that you can negotiate without surprise, and there are no misunderstandings.
I’ve given my previous clients small discounts in the past knowing that they love my work and will continue to book me for future services. Two years ago, I was able to take a 10-day, all-expenses paid trip to Greece to be a set photographer on a music video. She was a former client, and I offered her a discount because I knew that I would get future bookings from her…and I got to visit a country I’d never been to before!
On a side note, you might consider a flat-rate ‘friends & family’ discount so that when a close friend requests your services, you can tell them that your friends and family discount is __% and leave it at that.
4. Offer to reduce the scope of their package
Another way you can respond to a client requesting a discount is to offer to reduce the scope of their package. For example, you can reduce the number of hours of coverage in a package or maybe downgrade to a smaller album with fewer pages.
“If price is an issue, then maybe we could omit this from the package…”
In my experience, most of the time, they end up paying the full price anyhow because I’ve already educated them on the value of everything in the package they were considering (i.e. engagement session, second shooter, x hours, wedding album, etc.)
5. See if they can provide something of value to you
Otherwise known as a trade, this could be a win/win situation for both of you. Perhaps your potential client is a graphic designer, and you’re in need of a new logo, you could offer a discounted rate for x number of design hours. Maybe they own a Chick-fil-A and will offer you a year of free spicy chicken burgers and fries in exchange for a discount of equal value. You can say,
“I’m prepared to offer you a x% discount off my day rate in exchange for…”
Ultimately, like everything in your business, it comes down to you, what you value, and your business goals.
Bargain-hunting clients are just part of a small business owner’s life, and having a preconceived and confident approach on how to handle them and what to say to them can go a long way when you do encounter a discount request.
Do you offer discounts? What are some ways you respond? Comment below.