Pricing, Profits and Peace: Why you won’t find any of those by looking at other people’s businesses
A guest post by Joy Vertz
One of the parts photographers seem to struggle with the most is pricing, and I know because I’ve been there. Even now I’m talking to so many other photographers about this – not once in a while but all the time. Pricing issues probably come up more than any other problem I can think of – they cause stress, confusion for clients and sometimes even business failure. Pricing is a big deal.
That’s why, when I was looking through some “how-to” material and saw the following advice, it got my attention immediately… and not in a good way:
“Do your market research: What are the photographers in your area charging? Evaluate the competition and see where your work rates in comparison to theirs. Key factors include customer service, image quality and overall professionalism.”
Now that I’ve fought my battles in the pricing war (and have some hard-won experience and confidence on my side), it’s a lot easier to see why advice like that is such a trap. It’s asking you to find your value by looking at what everyone else does. Let’s look at some reasons why, although it might seem like a good idea, it really isn’t.
First, every business has a unique set of circumstances that can’t be known just by looking at a pricing list. There’s no way to completely know all of the reasons someone else chose their pricing. For all you know, they might have been guessing and hoping for the best. All you will see is the frosting – you’ll never know what’s in the cake.
Second, competitors will change their pricing all the time. Do you have any interest in going back every six months to see what everyone else is doing? I can’t think of a more miserable, thankless task than that.
Third, you have no idea if their plan is working. They might be taking huge losses. Clients might be so overwhelmed by all their snazzy offerings that they barely buy any of it (that’s happened to me). That photographer might be struggling more than you are. They might only be in business for the tax perks, so they’re ok with clearing less than minimum wage per sale. Here again, you’ll never have the complete story.
Bottom line: finding the right path for your business means focusing on YOUR business, not every other one in your area. It’s much more useful and rewarding to get reliable information about what you’re doing than unreliable information about other shops. Plus, your business deserves your time more than they do.
Now that I’m on a bit of a roll here, I think it’s worth talking about what “focusing on your business” means. But rather than opening that can of worms in one loooooooooong post, I’ll break it up into smaller posts that you can take on as you’re ready.
Until then, just take that first step and give up the bad habit of constantly sizing up the competition. Can I make a suggestion about what to do with all the energy you’ve freed up? Start (or do some more) thinking about what your business is IN business for. What are your goals? If you had enough profits to make it happen, what would you love to do?
Recommended Reading / Free Download: Pricing for Profit
Connect with Joy here and on Instagram / Twitter @joyvertz.