As photographers we've all come across the scenario: a potential client e-mails us.
They love our work, can't live without it, and are living on a budget.
Look, I understand. I really do.
But in my experience, e-mails that begin with these key points always end in disappointment.
And not necessarily with the client, but with yourself as a photographer.
If you begin your client relationship with a discount, you're not only doing yourself but your client a disservice because you enter the session with the knowledge that you're not being paid what you should be.
First, a few common misconceptions:
Myth 1: A client asking for a discount does not value your work.
A common misconception is that a client who is requesting your services at a discounted rate doesn't value your work. This may or may not be true.
The chances are, they do see the difference in your work; however, they are on a budget.
And that happens.
Myth 2: If I offer them a discount, they'll book me.
We've had situations before where a client asked for a discount and we gave them one, only to never hear from them again but then see their photos on a competitor's blog. It stings because you did everything you could to accommodate their needs.
This leaves you wondering if they were needs in the first place, or if they were just trying to talk down your price to see if you'd budge.
Myth 3: If I don't offer them a discount, they won't book me.
A family of 15 showed interest in booking our services. Knowing how much work large group portraits are, but really wanting a booking, we considered dropping our prices. Then we realized that would seriously cut in to our bottom line, and the extra work involved wouldn't make the session viable for us.
So I wrote our reasons for not offering discounts, winced as I pressed send, and three minutes later an e-mail arrived. "No problem, thought I'd ask! We love your work and will make it work." You can't blame them for trying - and I'm glad we stuck to our guns because knowing we were getting paid what we needed to for that shoot made it all the more enjoyable.
And here's why NOT to offer discounts:
1. It's unfair to clients who pay your full prices.
If you book one person in at a $100 discount to accommodate their budget, how is that fair to the family who paid full price for a session the next day?
Sure, the family who paid full price may never know, but you will; run your business ethically, just like you hope every business and vendor you work with runs theirs.
2. It's unfair to you. We have our pricing in place for a reason - we live on Maui, we are full time photographers, we have expenses to cover and still want to have a life (yes, as a business owner you are not to feel guilty for LIVING).
Without preaching to the choir, we have a business plan in place and need to charge at least $650 + tax for a session and book a certain number of those sessions - minimum - to break even. If we don't do that, we'll go out of business.
And that's not the idea.
Even if you're not a full time photographer, don't you want to be one day?
Make a business plan and stick to it so you can price accordingly. If you aren't making enough bookings at the price point you need, get another job if possible to make up for the extra income until you build a client base and can rely solely on that photography income.
3. There will ALWAYS be someone who does it for less.
Photography is a popular business. You probably have a lot of competition. And guess what? The e-mail your client sent to you asking for a discount, they also sent to five of your competitors, and half of them probably offered them one.
Let your competition serve as a filter.
You want the clients who want to and can pay for your services - they are the ones on which to focus your energy.
4. You might miss out on an awesome booking.
When we first moved to Maui we were like awesome, we have no savings, and the rent on our one bedroom ohana is through the roof (bad planning? Okay, maybe).
So the first week we arrived, we booked a mini session on - get this - Christmas Day - for $350. Thinking when that time of the year rolled around, we could REALLY use the extra income.
Well, we didn't know that Christmas would be our busiest season. By the time December rolled around, we were booking portraits for three times that amount and turned down a decent booking to photograph the client who got all that and a bag of chips for what, after taxes, would n't even cover our wages.
This point of offering discounts for bookings is especially important for wedding photographers, where you book your services several months or more in advance.
If you are so eager to book in a client that you offer them this and that and an album and extra hours and 1/8th of your soul in order to secure a booking that's one year away, what happens when a client comes along who wants to book the same date, but doesn't question your pricing?
Inevitably, this will happen, and you will have to turn them down. And speaking from experience, it's a really bad feeling.
5. And, in some cases, the client really and truly might not value what you're offering.
And that's okay.
But don't let that mean you have to devalue what you are offering or mess up your business plan. Someone once asked for a discount because they wanted to buy a house and real estate is expensive in their area.
Yes, but that's not our problem.
We're trying to build a life, too.
They didn't value our photography, and that's fine. We moved on. I know, I know, it's easy to say not to discount your pricing and harder to stick to your guns.
But why can't you stand firm? If you're not in the position to turn down work without discounting your services, it might be time to do a little more research on your market.
What are others charging, and what are they offering?
And on the other hand, are there times you should offer discounts on your services? Maybe.
But there is a right way to do it, and I'll discuss this here!
Article by Love & Water Photography