When I stumble across stories like this, I cannot help but let out a small sigh. The types of practices that I am about to describe give all family photographers a bad name. For example, a perfectly innocent competition I ran this summer prompted some very odd responses for precisely this reason. The competition was to win a free shoot including ten digital files – not a bad prize. All they had to do was sign up for my newsletter, which I made very evident. However, I was all too often met with statements like, “Oh, I know how this works. Everyone will win, and you’ll then charge loads”.
Company May Face $1.1 Million In Fines
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings against Lifestyle Photography Pty Ltd. If proven guilty, the resulting fines could amount to as much as $1.1 million. The ACCC alleges that between 2012 and 2014, Lifestyle Photographers operated kiosks and pop-up shops throughout Australia. Customers would be offered free photo shoots or free photographs as a means to entice them into booking a session. Thus far it doesn’t sound too bad, right? We all use these kinds of tactics to try and drum up new business and done correctly, there shouldn’t be a problem.
Allegedly, Lifestyle Photographers not only offered the initial enticement but also claimed there would be no contracts, or seemingly implied that the photos would come free. Also, it has been alleged that the company specifically targeted vulnerable, often poorly educated individuals who would leave their studios with expensive payment plans ranging in price from £2800 to $9900.
Coercive, high-pressure sales tactics were employed with little or no thought to their clients ability to meet these payments. The ACCC claim that Lifestyle Photographers ought to have known that consumers were vulnerable as they were Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander whom spoke little English and had low levels of education.
You can find more information on this story on the NT News website here. I, however, would like to take this opportunity to discuss how to avoid situations like these and know when to reveal your pricing to potential clients.
When Is the Right Time To Reveal Your Pricing?
Family photography is time-consuming, requires great skill (when done right) and, as a result, is expensive. This expense WILL put some people off. Undoubtedly, you will have inquiries, maybe even speak with people over the phone, but once your pricing is revealed, communication runs dry. As a result, you may be tempted to drastically lower your prices, (which in my opinion is a recipe for disaster), or to hide your pricing until the very last minute.
Offering very low prices means that your profit from each session will be significantly reduced. You will have to work far more to meet your necessary income, and you will not be able to spend as much time with your clients or editing their photos. The result of which could be burnout for you and a sub-par service for your clients.
Side note, find a good ‘Cost Of Doing Business’ Calculator and work out how much you need to earn to live. It can be eye opening.
No matter what I do, I know a certain percentage of those that contact me will decide to go elsewhere, purely based upon pricing. Nevertheless, I am always up front with my pricing as I never want to mislead people. That being said, a good salesperson does not start their pitch by telling you the price. They teach the benefits and make you see the value before the price is presented. For me, I carefully word emails and, where possible, speak over the phone. Not only do I pay attention to the language I use but I also present my pricing in a professional manner, in the form of an investment guide.
I really could go on and on here but to save this article turning into an essay, I will say just this; think about your business, what makes you unique and figure out how to present this to clients. Consider your pricing structure, the wording and the methods you use to present it. If you do all of that, then at least once you do reveal your pricing and the client runs a mile, you can say, “They obviously weren’t my ideal client,” or “I need to learn how to sell myself better.”