Inside of Marketing School for Photographers, we do coaching calls where students can come on Zoom with me and ask questions. I had a really great conversation with my student Tina all about if and how to raise her prices. The convo was SO good I just knew I had to bring it to you here on the podcast.
So if you’ve ever wondered how to raise your prices and still stay in business and how to handle all that comes along with the price increase, listen up girl this conversation is for you!
The Struggle When Raising Your Prices
Tina: I am kind of struggling right now trying to decide if I need to increase my prices. I have not changed my prices for probably about two years now. My fear is that I’m going to increase my prices and bookings are gonna slow down. And right now, just with the current economy and kind of the way things are like, I need every booking that I can get. But I also, I want to try to get the most that I can for the quality of my work and all of that as well. I’m, I’m kind of struggling with it, honestly.
Tavia: Let me ask you this, are you fully booked?
Tina: So for March, April, and May I was pretty much fully booked. But now we’ve hit June, I felt like I was gonna be fully booked for June, but I had a lot of like personal stuff and family stuff going on. So I was fully booked, but it wasn’t necessarily as many sessions as I would typically take. A lot of it was just because I had other things happening that needed my attention and I couldn’t shoot sessions.
Tavia: Okay, what’s your core offer niche? Is it newborns or birth?
Tina: So right now I’m listing myself as a motherhood and family photographer. And I’m saying that I do maternity, birth, lifestyle, newborn, and family. It’s a lot, I know!
Tavia: So, looking forward to July, you said you have one session. Past that, nothing? Well, I’m primarily asking because if you came to me and you’re like, I’m so booked, I can’t keep up. People are knocking down my door, I’m working so many sessions, I can’t keep doing this,”
I would say raise your prices. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re saying. Sounds like you’re booking a good amount, but not so much that you can’t keep up. So what’s causing you to think you wanna raise your prices? Hey, I’m all about raising your prices, okay? I just wanna know what’s making you think you need to raise your prices.
Tina: Financially, I feel like I need to bring in more money, honestly.
Tavia: What are your prices and how do you do your pricing? Are you all inclusive?
Tina: Yeah. So basically my maternity sessions and my family sessions, it’s $250 for an hour long session. I have a client closet that I include. I include usually 30 plus edited digital images, private online gallery, they view and download, all that stuff. And then for my lifestyle newborns right now, they’re $275.
Tavia: Does this include digital files?
Tavia: Okay. That is probably what I would consider like an entry level photographer price point. So what has stopped you? Because I thought you were gonna say a lot more than that. So what has kept you from raising your prices up to this point?
Tina: I don’t know if I technically feel like I’m maybe not worth it or if it’s just that I was booking and so I was scared to raise my prices because I didn’t want that to stop. I don’t know if I can really answer that. I think it might be a lot of different things.
Some Shifts to Consider When You Raise Your Prices
Tavia: Okay. So here’s the thing. And this is for everybody because pricing is a really big conversation and it’s something that I don’t take lightly because I think that there’s a lot of educators out there, and just photographers in general, who are in this raise-your-price camp, that the solution to everyone’s problem is raise your price. And I just don’t think that’s true.
I do think that there comes a time and a place where you do need to raise your price. And I think that there is something to be said for pricing psychology. People think that whenever you cost more, you’re better. They just do. But it’s gonna be a total shift for you, Tina, and this is probably true for a lot of people.
A Shift in Your Mindset
Tavia: is gonna be a shift for you because if you raise your price, I don’t think you should raise it a hundred dollars. I don’t think that that solves your problem. I think you should be looking at doubling or tripling your price or considering like, “How do I average at least $500 profit a session?”
Tina: $500 a session?
Tavia: You know what my average is, you know what other people’s averages are, why can’t that be true for you? Our portrait average is like $1500. Why can’t that be true for you?
Tina: I do agree with you. I think I’m just so scared. I’m just really scared to do it.
Tavia: Yeah, it’s scary.
Tina: I think I need to really sit down and figure out. If I’m gonna really be honest about it, I’m bringing in money and I’m sustaining the business, but I’m not supporting my family. And so that is gonna have to change if I want to continue to have a business.
Tavia: Also, what typically happens in a down economy or a recession, inflation, whatever, what typically happens is the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And so the people who have a lot of money, they’re not going away, they will still have a lot of money and probably more money.
And so what oftentimes happens is, and it feels weird like in this time to like, raise your prices so much. But having a luxury brand that appeals to people who can pay me $2500 in one sitting and not think twice about it, those clients are fewer and farther between. So that’s also a mental shift that has to happen to you. Booking 7-10 clients in a month is not a thing. I book 4 or 5 and that’s what I need. You know what I mean?
A Shift in Your Ideal Clients
Tavia: And so I don’t think that keeping your marketing the way that it is now and raising your prices to $800 is gonna do what you want it to do. I think that raising your prices comes along with intentionally seeking out that new, different kind of client, because the $250 client is a very different client than the $1200 client.
So if you’re raising your price by $100-$200, you could probably do about what you’re doing and it wouldn’t make that big of a difference, that’s just not enough to matter. Doubling or tripling your price, you’re gonna look at who is this new ideal client and what do I need to do in my brand and marketing to reach that person?
Tina: Yeah. I am taking the marketing course and I was chipping away at it and then I kind of lost focus, honestly. So I’ve gotta get back into that because I’m sure that you probably cover quite a bit of that in the marketing course.
Tavia: Oh, yeah. Do you want this course that I sell? Oh, wait, you already bought it. That’s exactly what I teach inside of it. That will show you everything you need to know. So I think that for you, it’s a matter of, if you didn’t already go through the pricing challenge, go through it with your new ideal client in mind, really thinking about what do I want/ need to make for your family and just backtrack it.
How IPS Helps When You Raise Your Prices
Tavia: If I need to make $5,000 a month, how many clients can I reasonably take a month? 5-8, so that starts to look like $800 or $1000 a session. And I know that feels scary, but in an all-inclusive model, I do think that that’s high.
I think that when you have an all-inclusive model, meaning you’re giving the digital files for one flat fee, $1000 is a lot to ask somebody to pay. Because they’ve never even seen the photos. And so somebody paying $250 is willing to take that gamble, willing to take that risk. You know, I’m a big fan of IPS. I know not everyone here is, but it worked so incredibly well for my business. I literally charged $250 a session, switched to IPS, and my first sale was $2200 or $2600. That big of a jump.
Tina: I would like to do IPS, but I have absolutely no clue. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do it. Is there anything that you can recommend? Do you teach IPS?
Tavia: I would consider it for sure, but let me just give you a short version because it doesn’t have to be super complicated. I think that sometimes we see people who have been doing IPS for a long time or people who teach it, and we think that it has to be like super complicated and it really, really doesn’t.
What it boils down to is meeting with the client and showing them a slideshow of images, having some sort of packages or products that they can see and touch and feel, and a way to take an order from them. And so you’re gonna have to put together some kind of packages, which the pricing challenge walks you through. I have all of my IPS packages, exactly how we do it, so you can see my pricing structure and how we do it, but literally it’s just instead of, “Hey, here’s all your digital files,” at the end of the session when you’ve edited them. It’s “Hey, here’s your link to schedule your ordering appointment.”
And then you’re coming with them and you’re showing them a slideshow of images. You’re making it a fun experience where they get to sit, watch something emotional to music. And then you transition to “Here are the photos,” or “Here are the photo options. We have Package 1, Package 2, Package 3 – let’s sit down and pick these out together.” And you just choose everything right then and there. So I might be oversimplifying it slightly for time’s sake, but it’s really just a matter of getting some samples and getting a way to take some payments.
Tina: Now when you do samples, where do you go to do samples? Because I have an account with Miller’s. So do you do samples for each client?
Tavia: I try to keep my IPS pretty low-key so it’s simple for me to go and do. I do still have to go meet them and make the slideshow and all of that, but I’m not printing anything special for them. Basically, the samples are there to show them what sizes and products look like because people are way more likely to purchase something when they can touch and feel it.
Pre-designing wall galleries is another thing that’s worked really well. So if I can show them, “This is what your images look like with a 20 x 30 and two 11 x 14’s. And this whole thing is $1,200 or whatever.”
They’re so much more likely to purchase something like that because they’ve seen it and they see the samples and I don’t mean in person, they see it digitally. And they see like what it could look like with their photos in there. And I just do that in Photoshop.
Tina: See, that’s the other thing I’m not prevalent with Photoshop. I use Lightroom.
Tavia: You can use Canva.
Tina: I use Canva a lot.
Provide additional value when raising your prices
Tavia: You can totally use Canva. But all of that to say that this is for everybody, if you’re gonna raise your prices, there has to be additional value too. You have to really show people, why what you’re offering for $1000 is worth $3000 then it becomes a no brainer.
But like I’ve said to you guys before, when you’re showing somebody that what you’re offering for $1000 is worth $1000, it’s so much harder to sell because it’s like, “Cool. So it’s worth what I’m paying” versus “This is $1000 and it’s worth $5000. And here’s why when you buy all these things a la carte it’s equals this, but when you buy them in this package it’s equals this. Just pricing, packaging, psychology stuff like that, which is all in the pricing module.
So that’s kind of a lot. I know that it’s easier, honestly, as a photographer to do $250 – here’s all your digitals. But what you start running into is burnout. It’s like I’m doing all this work for $250. $250 is our session fee, they don’t get anything.
And I haven’t seen a ton of your work, but from what I know, it’s good and you could charge more than $250.
Tina: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Tavia: But you have to believe it too.
Tina: I think I’m just terrified that I’m not gonna book and then what do I do?
Tavia: And there probably will be a lull because your current audience of people are people who are used to paying your old prices. And so I don’t think that it’s bad or wrong if you do have a lull for a little while. So it’s better to prepare for that, “For maybe 3 or 6 months, I might have a little bit of a lull while I’m building up a base of people who are ready to pay my higher prices.”
And that’s definitely what happened when I raised mine. All the people who were paying that higher price were brand new clients. My old clients, very, very few of them transitioned with me. I think two transitioned with me and started paying my higher prices.
Mindset Shift When You’re Afraid to Lose Clients After Raising Your Prices
Tina: I guess a part of it too is when I have clients who I tell them what my prices are and they’re like, “That’s what your price is?” And of course I’m thinking, “Oh, they’re not gonna wanna pay that. It’s too much.” And they’re like, “That’s great. That’s amazing.”
Tavia: Those people probably won’t pay you $1200. So then it’s like, “Okay, how can I kind of go through the ideal client exercise with the new person in mind?”
Tina: And I guess, you know, I don’t know if anybody else has this issue, but I think most of us feel like our ideal clients are sort of ourselves to a certain extent. And so like, I’m not in a financial position right now where I could spend $1200 on photography as valuable as I know it is. And as much as I love it, and I would love to do that financially right now, I can’t. So I think it’s hard for me to envision someone who would. So how do you get across that?
Tavia: Great question. You find those people, whether they are anyone here’s client. I can tell you that I’ve had newborn clients spend more than $2000, multiple, lots of them, and others can tell you the same thing.
If you can understand that there are people in similar markets, Oklahoma Cty is definitely a lower cost of living than Florida, so you could add some money to that and understand that there are people out there. Are there less of them? Yes. But is that okay? 100%.
And so if instead you can think about maybe even yourself with like a zero added to your monthly income, that person, what would her life be like? It would be the same as it is now for the most part. There would just be some more probably luxuries. So what would Tina with a zero on the end of her monthly income spend her time and money on? Well, she would probably have more money than time, so she would be looking at ways to save time.
She doesn’t do her nails herself. She goes and gets them done to save time and she wants a professional to do it. She doesn’t clean her own house, she doesn’t have time and she wants a professional to do it. So she would rather somebody come in and do that. And so if you can start to imagine yourself as that person with the extra zero and get into that head space with the ideal client, she’s still you. Just you with an extra zero.
Tina: Yes, I totally get that. It’s funny because I have actually thought to myself, “Golly, it would be so nice to be able to go and get my pedicures every month again and get my manicures and to have somebody come in and clean the house because I just don’t feel like doing it or I don’t have time or I’m tired.” So yeah, I can totally identify with that.
Tavia: So then just come at it from that place. It’s still you. You know what I mean? Because I told it’s so much easier to, and I don’t think that everybody has to use that model for their ideal client, but it’s definitely me. When I was making my ideal client profile, it was definitely like an older version of me at the time.
Because I was probably 25, 26 and my ideal client was more like 32. And so instead of the money part, I was thinking more like what would Tavia in 5 or 6 years? That’s how I was making the ideal client profile.
So go through that, with that in your mind, that’s like my homework for you, the Ideal Client Profile exercise, as well as the pricing challenge, which is in the course. And after you go through the ideal client thing and you’ll see how I lay out my pricing and all of that, and start to put together even if it feels scary, what your packages could be, don’t let the fear paralyze you into not doing anything.
Just like, if the fear comes up, be like, “It’s fine. I’m not actually doing this. I’m just putting the prices together.” Just push it away, make your packages, and then we can start to deal with the fear piece, because I agree with your wife, you have to be able to overcome that in order to sell it, because if you don’t believe that your price is like a bargain, basically, because you’re so great and your work is so great, nobody is gonna hire you because they’re gonna think you’re too expensive.
But when you can confidently understand and know, “I am 100% worth this,” and you know why and what’s unique and special about you that your ideal people wanna work with you, your price becomes a no brainer to you, which makes it so much easier to sell.
There’s one point that I want to reiterate. If you listened and maybe didn’t hear it clearly. And that was in order for Tina to raise her prices and have success, she has to believe that she’s worth more than the price that she’s charging.
Friend, that is so valuable for you to understand yourself, because if you don’t believe in your pricing, if you don’t believe that it’s a steal, almost like the client is almost ripping you off because it’s such a good deal, it’s gonna be so much harder for you to sell your services and products afterward.
So do you believe that you’re worth your price and if not, what can you do to start to believe and understand that you’re worth your price?
One thing that I used to do was I kept a folder of all of the nice things that my clients had said about working with me, whether it was the session experience or their photos, and I would just over and over, remind myself: There are people out there who love working with me and who love their photo, and don’t mind spending a thousand, $2000, $3000, $5000 on their photos because they love my work.
When you can really dig in and believe that is when you’re going to start selling your photography and booking clients with ease.
Remember my friend, if you have a passion, it’s not an accident. Not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, I hope that you will get out there and make it happen. Have a great week!