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This Valentine's Day, show yourself some love (and your business) by setting your prices to reflect your worth. 

Far too many photographers devalue their talent and time by undercharging. Just like you are worthy of being treated well on February 14th (and every day, really!), remember that you also deserve to be compensated for your experience, time and effort, art, and passion. 

Here are a few tips to help you get what you and your business deserve!  

Run Your Business with Confidence, Not Fear

It's easy to feel afraid when you're starting a new business. 

You may worry that setting your prices too high will drive customers away. Or that you're in over your head and it won't work out. It's normal to think these thoughts on occasion, but it's even more important to run your business from a place of confidence and self-love, not fear. Think about why you decided to start your photography business. Likely, it wasn't just because you love photography, but because you know you're talented. Somewhere through your photography, you realized that you had what it takes, and your prices should reflect that. 

Think about it this way: If you don't believe you're good enough, why should clients believe in you? Bargain prices may attract many clients initially, but typically these are not the clients you want to work with long term. They can't be unless you can produce photographs in really high volume. But, realistically, you won't make enough money to keep yourself in business! 

Charge Your Worth

You've heard it countless times from seasoned photographers: "Charge your worth." Yet what does this truly mean? When you don't know where to begin, it's hard to make real choices based on such abstract advice. It's even more complicated if you struggle with confidence or feel uncomfortable about money.

If knowing your worth is a difficult concept, try thinking of it as understanding your work's worth. By taking the leap to start your photography business, you've already proven that you believe in your talent. Now take that belief even further by ensuring you're compensated for your business expenses and time. 

Running a business is expensive and takes a lot of time and energy. 

Appropriately charging your prices acknowledges your self-worth and self-love, but it's also just good business sense. You need to earn enough money to keep a roof over your head, food on your table, and your business running successfully for a long time.

Ultimately, charging your worth is far less abstract—and much more logical—than it appears. 

Pro Tip

When experienced photographers tell you to charge your worth, they mean you should know your numbers and charge accordingly.

Calculator, camera and notepad on a desk.

Know Your Numbers

So, let's make sure you know your numbers. Taking a microscope to your money can feel scary but at the end of the day, earning a profit is the whole point of having a business. Passion and fun are part of it. However, making a profit is the bottom line. Remember, you are more than a photographer now. You're a businessperson too!

Charging your worth begins with knowing what it costs to run your business and the amount of time you invest before, during, and after a shoot. Of course,  there is so much more required than taking beautiful photos. You'll also spend time on client communication, editing, marketing, accounting, and beyond. 

Have you calculated your costs?

If you haven't calculated your costs yet, it's helpful to enlist the insight of a financial adviser or CPA to make sure you get an accurate number. Otherwise, start by going through your bank statements and adding up business-related expenses over the last year. 

Thought starters that may include some of these expenses:
  • Camera and backup camera
  • Camera bag
  • Lenses
  • Batteries
  • Memory cards
  • Lighting
  • External flash
  • Computer
  • Editing software
  • Props
  • Backdrops and backdrop stand
  • Tripod
  • Insurance 
  • Business fees
  • Studio space (rent + utilities)
  • Traveling expenses 
  • Website advertising/marketing costs
  • Hiring subcontractors (e.g., second shooter, website designer, assistant, etc.)
  • Childcare while working
  • Office supplies

While you may not regularly need to purchase some of these items, some things on this list are regular necessities. In addition, don't forget to budget for equipment repairs and replace/upgrade your gear every three years on average. Another item to consider is a backup camera as your business grows. You may want to make sure that you are saving enough with each shoot to put some money away for a second camera. This way, you are always ready for another photo session, even when your primary camera needs repairs. 

If you don't already know your profit margin, use the industry average of 25% profit margin to run your business. This means that if you want to make $100 per hour (before taxes and health insurance), you will multiply that by four, giving you $400 per hour of revenue. 

That's a lot of expenses. You should make sure that your costs are covered and you're earning a solid profit.

Have you determined how many hours you spend on your business?

You're not just investing money in your business. You are investing many hours of your time too. Like any other hard-working individual, you deserve to be paid for those hours. Think of a floral designer, auto mechanic, or event planner. They all include a cost for their time in the price they charge their clients. You should be doing this, too! You need to know precisely how many hours you're spending on your business. A good rule of thumb is that for every hour you shoot, there are nine hours of backend/hidden work. These additional hours include editing photos, ordering or producing prints, administrative tasks, marketing, accounting, taxes, and education.

Using this rule of thumb, calculate your hourly revenue. This means that if you want to make $20 per hour (before taxes and health insurance), you will multiply that by four, giving you $80 per hour of revenue. When you add in the backend work that isn't accounted for, you get approximately $800 for a one-hour shoot. So, if you want to earn $20 per hour before taxes and insurance, you'll need to charge $800 for the one-hour shoot. 

A good comparison to consider is that today companies in other industries are paying $20 per hour with benefits for trainees. So how much money should you earn per hour for your photography talent and expertise?  Photography involves many hidden expenses and hours worked, so pay yourself accordingly! If you don't know what you want to make, think of the pay you give up by not working for someone else.  

Photographer happily sitting on a couch with a computer and camera.

Give Yourself the Gift of a Profitable Business

A successful, profitable business is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your family. You're putting so much time and effort into your business to work towards your dream, and you deserve to earn a comfortable living from it. 

The only way to achieve your dream of a thriving business is to go for it entirely. That means charging profitable prices that reflect your talent. Then, when you know your work's worth and ask for it, you'll find clients who are willing to pay your prices.

After all, who wants to reflect on sacrificing time with family and friends for a business, only to not make any money from it? We don't want that for you, and you shouldn't either. 

The team at Picsello knows it can feel intimidating, but we've got your back every step of the way.


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