READ THIS FIRST!!!  This article was posted, then taken down, then re-posted.  The comments were open, then shut, then opened again.  Obviously, Alicia’s article struck a lot of chords with people who felt that the pricing advice was off-base, but things got nasty, and we’ve struggled with how to deal with the fallout.  So here are the new rules:

  • Don’t make it personal.  Talk about the merits of the article, but any nastiness will be promptly removed.
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If you previously posted a comment, and it was deleted, re-post it.  So long as it follows the two rules above, we'll let it stand.
<p>-Doug Boutwell</p>

Alicia Caine, pricing guru and Homeschooling mama to five kiddos, a dog, a cat, AND a chicken, shares her words of wisdom regarding pricing and your Happy Place.  Before you go all crazy and declare a burning-down of the TRA blog for this article, RE-READ IT.  Think on it.  Let yourself be open to the ideas before you bash ‘em.  And if you still wanna rumble, or have a question?  A comment, a word of praise? Leave it in the comments for Alicia. Just want to score an Easy as Pie promo code? Add both the Easy as Pie cookbook and Pastry School to your cart, then use code HAPPY — Pastry School (an $89 value) is free until Friday, the 10th of September!  ;)

I wish I could have coffee with every single photographer in industry that is struggling with pricing. I’m fairly certain conversations would be variations on the same theme:

do I start when I’m ready to put a price on my talent?

It comes with other questions, like: My competitors are priced than/less than me- how do I use their pricing to know if I’m correctly? How do I price my work when I do commercial work on side? How do I know when it’s time to increase prices?

I’m perfectly willing to be labeled all kinds of crazy because I anyone else in the industry has the courage to answer this in so simplistic a way. This is my non-scientific approach won’t require to have you post your pricing on forums and ask photographers what they think of your pricing, leave you wondering you are doing the right thing or keep you up until 4 in the scoping out your competitors to base your pricing on what they doing. Ready?

It’s called The Happy Place.

Wanna go there, don’t you!? Of course you do!

Happy Place is your answer. It doesn’t look the same for everyone.  There is no model that you can follow, and it might even be changing as your business grows. It’s not a one size all answer.  BUT it guarantees happiness because, well, how can you not be happy in YOUR happy place — that goal number that keeps your business invigorated and profitable?!

Ok, Alicia. In plain English. Where do I start with pricing when I’ just getting out of the portfolio-building/not-charging-for-your- phase?

First, what is the least amount of money that you can make per session to it worth getting out of your pajamas?

Answer: Happy place.

Is it $200, or maybe $2000? THAT is where you start building pricing and creating a minimum order requirement for your clients. Maybe it’s all the bills you need to pay for the month. Maybe it’s number that makes you feel valued, but is basically the family’ ‘play money.’ Maybe it’s just the number that makes others take business seriously. (Hint: no one takes $200 session + high-res combos seriously.)

I don’t care if you don’t know if you are worth $2000 or not - you aren’t happy making $2000 and you can’t get your clients pay you that, you need to find a different happy place.

Mine would be knitting. If I can’t make my Happy Place amount of $ per session- will find something else to do to fill my time with that I enjoy…even if it doesn’t make me money.

I require a certain amount to be paid per session, otherwise it isn’t worth it to me to be taken from my babies for work.

Working for less than your Happy Place will cause burnout. Choose to work doing what you love - profitably — over being dissatisfied.

about pricing and how it relates to my competitors, Alicia?

me ask you: what if every single one of your competitors struggling with their pricing? What if they’re unhappy with businesses? What if they book zero sessions per month? What if HATE their clients or their business as it now stands?

you know this just by looking at the pricing on their web-sites? No.

is one of the most dangerous pricing practices in the because this is one thing that you can never know - how happy competitors are with their pricing. Unless you have some rockin’ open book photographers in your market that are willing to show their accounting files, I doubt there is any way of knowing if pricing is really working for them. Just because someone constantly busy and hasn’t changed their pricing in 10 doesn’t mean that their pricing is working for them. Maybe they so burnt out and exhausted, they don’t even have time to look their pricing and adjust. Maybe they look okay on the outside and home from shoots in tears. Maybe they’ve buried their feelings with more and more work, so they never even have to they’re upset. Maybe?

Okay, Alicia, but what if I do mainly wedding or portrait work but get call to do a commercial job that looks CRAZY AWESOME? How do I that?

Simple: Happy Place. How much do you need to make to walk away thrilled you got hired? Every time I have done commercial work, I do not a pricing model that I use. I literally throw a number out there. I’ used to being all up in my Happy Place - so these numbers look different for each inquiry. (You’ll get used to being in YOUR Place with practice.)

example, please?

Etsy store calls me wanting images of babies in their onesies - will send me 20 onesies to keep in exchange for digital files. I do this shoot at home using my baby as a model, and I get to these rockin’ onesies. I also get exposure on etsy…. Heck, I’ do it on the cheap.

company wants me to fly out to them, has 4 days of shooting, babies, they provide editing of the images by a professional they have on staff (and who does fantastic work), requiring over final images - totally awesome, but so much time away from family? I’ll do this for $5,000.

bridal store calls me wanting to do fashion images of some of wedding dresses for a printed promo - 100 dresses in 2 days, I to present them at least 200 images in less than a week. Well, don’t particularly love shooting bridals - but I love a and breaking away from my usual baby work. Sure - I’ll do it - for $7K.

how the price keeps going up as it requires more effort and time, relative to my interests? Maybe you would KILL to do that session, but would charge $9K to do that Etsy shoot. It’s all the Happy Place.

but but..what if I bid for my Happy Place and they don’t pick me?

because you will always be in your Happy Place with your doesn’t mean that you will always get hired with that pricing. lost the bridal shoot gig because it was considerably more than were willing to spend. Me? Still in my happy place because discovered that they wanted all of that and more and had a budget only $1,300. That would NOT have been my Happy Place. It would have been worth the time it would have taken to shoot, edit, pay eating out for my family while I was unavailable to make meals them, babysitting, sacrificing sleep, etc. etc.

don’t have to feel discouraged when people don’t hire me when am pricing my work and my time in my Happy Place because that is is important to me. I’m not willing to sacrifice my Happy Place make an extra buck.

Great, Alicia, but I’m nowhere near working for my Happy Place. I need make money YESTERDAY. What now?

I was first starting out, I took tons of jobs that I knew I underselling myself for. Did we need the money - we sure did. So did them. Now that I am more established, I am able to put myself my happy place with every single inquiry no matter what it is I know that even if you feel desperate for a job, it’s NOT worth if you are miserable the whole time.

being in your Happy Place is apparent to your clients.

know that you are NOT totally in love with them when they write you $100 check for a killer session. They can sense that you aren’ thrilled to be bending over backwards for them to get their $ order delivered in half the time that normal clients get because are going out of town and need to take a 5X7 for Grandma with them Hawaii. (Note the expense of the vacation versus how much they spent on your services. Harumph .)

you are in your Happy Place, you can bet that the people that hiring you in this place are going to know it.

they make special requests to do some extra retouching, you thrilled to do it for them because you aren’t in Poor Me that is grumping and griping at every little special request. profit margins are built right in, you’re working with ideal clients, and you’re doing work that brings you alive. THAT’S what I’ advocating here.

know your clients value you, and you in turn are showing appreciation to them in every way that you possibly can by above and beyond because you WANT to!

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