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Stop Losing Money | Cost Of Doing Business For Photographers

By Holly Roa on April 13th 2017

Pricing is a point of contention these days among photographers in our easy-access digital world, where, it’s relatively painless to become a proficient photographer but a bit harder to accumulate business skills. When one sees a possibility for income in their favorite pastime it’s tempting to just jump right in and start charging as soon as your boss’ wife’s cousin mentions she’s looking for a photographer. But, what do you charge?

If you are a part-time professional -you earn some income via photography- there is a good chance you are undercharging for your services. Speaking to many “you’s” simultaneously, the cumulative effect is that of a devaluation of photography services in the eyes of potential clients. The kicker is, many photographers who are undercharging have no idea that they’re losing money, but there is a simple way to map out what your business is costing you which lets you see a clear bottom line; if you are making less than this amount, you are losing money.

The first step in solving the issue of chronic undercharging? Calculating your cost of doing business. The cost of doing business is exactly what it sounds like, the sum of all expenses incurred in order to operate your business annually, plus your desired salary. With that, you divide that sum by the number of shoots you realistically predict you will do that year. That number is your baseline, and if you make less than that amount per shoot you lose money.

[REWIND:] WHEN ARE YOU READY TO RAISE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PRICING?

It’s a simple thing, but it can make a big difference in the way you look at your business. Seeing that number for the first time can be a much-needed slap in the face, and it’s likely your number will be more than you’ve been charging, and maybe even an intimidating price to ask from a client – but now you know that if you don’t make it you’ll be in the red.

So many of us struggle to see the value of our own work or don’t come from backgrounds where we are accustomed to people dropping the kind of money we need to charge and so we don’t feel comfortable asking. Knowing your cost of doing business removes feelings from the pricing equation – it’s a hard number, and it will help you see what your value is, and embolden you to raise your prices.

Knowing your cost of doing business will also help prevent people from taking advantage of you. It’s all too common for people who don’t negotiate on the price of their dinner, haircut, doggie daycare, gardener, or any number of other goods and services, to try to get you to lower your prices, and it’s easier to stand firm when you know that what’s being asked of you will effectively subtract from your bank account.

Now, you can’t make less than your number without causing yourself problems, but feel free to make more. Check out what other photographers in your area are charging, and remember, if you significantly undercut them because you think it’ll swing clients in your favor, that’s your income you’re slashing. Stay out of the race to the bottom; it hurts us all when clients know they can get a quality product at a basement price that’s unsustainable for the photographer.

There are some great tools on the internet to help you calculate your cost of doing business, and two favorites are from ASMP and NAAP. Just plug in your expenses (if it doesn’t apply, leave it blank), your desired salary, and predicted billable days/shoots and the calculators will do the math for you.

Of course there’s more to creating a photography pricing structure than calculating your cost of doing business, but it’s an ideal starting point.

So, did the calculator have a surprise for you?

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About

Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jason Hagen

    Looks like the ASMP link has changed. I tried googling it, but I didn’t find anything.

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