So, you have reached the point where you realize having a photography business is a lot harder (and much less lucrative) than it seems—lots of hidden work and costs that you just didn’t consider when you first set your prices. You now realize that you haven’t earned much (if any) money for all of the work you have done. There’s a simple solution...It’s time to raise your prices!
There’s no doubt about it...this is hard.
You love your current clients and hate disappointing them, but you still need to pay the bills!
Often, it’s helpful to give existing clients advance notice of your price increase. For example, send an email thanking them for their business and stating:
“As of [date], my pricing structure will increase.”
Most customers prefer finding out about a price increase ahead of time instead of hearing the news the next time they book a shoot.
We recommend waiting until the next time they reach out to book a session to inform your clients. IF your existing clients balk at the increase, be transparent. Tell them you had to increase your prices because you underpriced last year and worked hours for no income at the end of the year.
There are many hidden costs of photography and a lot of behind-the-scenes work that you didn’t calculate into your original prices. You had to raise your prices to continue doing photography and turn a profit (make some money to pay your bills). You would still love to keep them as clients, but you understand if it is out of their budget.
Some businesses believe in “grandfathering” clients into old prices. This approach isn’t recommended for photographers because photographers often undervalue their time and expenses as it is! Even if you hold specific clients to older prices, continue to factor in inflation, and the cost of living increases. (Who else doesn’t get a pay increase for 10 years?)
Even if you lose a few clients, that’s ok!
Remember, you weren’t making much (if any) money from their shoots anyway. There are plenty of people who will value your services and pay your prices without question. And aren’t those the clients you want to have?
If you’re still determined to retain existing clients who aren’t thrilled with your new prices, try some of the strategies below:
Photographers sometimes choose to raise their prices slowly over time. But consider whether you can genuinely afford incremental price increases. For example, let’s say you need to raise prices by $500 to cover your business expenses, and you want to increase them by $50 every six months. Can you continue to operate at a loss for three more years?
Plus, many clients will object more to constant price raises than to one big jump. As a result, you may encounter clients complaining, “You’re raising your prices again?” This can lead to frustration and a lack of trust from customers who no longer know what to expect regarding your pricing.
Raise your prices all at once to a profitable level!
Remember what other professions would work for free? What is your time away from friends and family worth? How long can you or your family afford for your business to lose money?
So the big question is now — when do you raise your prices?
You need to be strategic about the exact timing, but we have outlined the options for you to choose from:
If you are running your numbers and realizing that you aren’t making money, raise your prices immediately. Don’t work for free for any more shoots — value your own time and use this time to work on your marketing and building a stable client base!
Some businesses like to start fresh in the new year. Seems logical, right?
BUT there are some significant downsides for those in the photography industry.
The winter months are notoriously slow for most photographers, and it can seem like your higher prices are deterring bookings, and that isn’t the case. It is simply a slower time — but this can cause a lot of self-doubt about price increases if you raise them in the new year. (See above if you aren’t profitable)
Depending on your niche, you may see a significant increase in bookings during certain months. Consider raising prices before this spike when you will have more inquiries about booking shoots. Then, even if a few clients dispute your prices, you’ll have plenty of other clients to make up for it.
Overall, the best time to raise your prices, so you don’t lose your mind, is when you are fully booked and can’t take on any more clients!
You’ve wanted to raise your prices, so go ahead and do it! Of course, you can always go back to your original prices if you need to, but let’s be honest—once you learn to value yourself and your time, you will never want to work for less than a livable wage again.
Not only do you deserve increased rates, but it’s also a wise business decision that will propel you to a better profit and greater success. If you need to find an accountability partner, ask a friend (or even a photographer friend) to challenge you to increase your prices and see how it goes.
Owning a photography business means thinking like a business owner, and business owners set prices that ensure profit and longevity. You’re a professional who deserves to be compensated for your time and your craft so you can pay your bills, put food on the table, and spend less time worrying about making ends meet. Ask for what you deserve, and you’ll find clients willing to pay it.