*Ask Rachel Post*
ICYMI, you can submit you questions on ANYTHING to me using the contact form. My responses might just appear on the blog! This reader's questions focus on how to price yourself and ask for payment when getting started. She asks:
“I am an amateur photographer in college and not currently getting paid enough to afford even a low end tripod or professional photoshopping software, and I really can't launch an official business, but I need to make money so I can spend money to make more money.
….Anyways I just took a few moment to calculate how much work I put into the after photo process which added up to anywhere between an hour to three hours for roughly ten to fifteen photos.
… So after all that I am basically wanting to know how should I ask to be paid? Should I wait until I have a few more pieces of equipment to ask? If I do get paid do I charge by the hour or have a flat rate and additional charges after a set number of photos/poses? Is there a big difference in the two? and what do I really need to get started?”
*Question has been condensed to protect writer's anonymity
Phew! Okay, so first of all, major kudos for the hustle and entrepreneurial spirit in college!
Also, I want to give you major kudos for recognizing you're not at the point of launching an official business. Too often, people won't have the right equipment or training under the belt, but the fear of needing money gets to them and they launch subpar services, which isn't cool. Ultimately, it will just hurt your reputation in the long run, so don't do it.
With that said, you are investing a lot of time and do need money so I am going to share a couple of stories with you then my advice:
Story 1: My friend from college, Sami Kattan, hitch hiked a ride off Craigslist from Cali to Mexico, where he lived on the beach in a hammock, bartering his videography services for food and the occasional shelter. Over a fairly short period of time, he was able to work with local business and get paid for his services! That's turned into a full on videography company in the states and tons of freelance work for him. He now supports himself through his business and rickshawing during certain high demand times of year in our college town.
[CHECK OUT MY INTERVIEW WITH SAMI] Inspiring Millennials ft Sami Kattan of Nomad's Land
Story 2: After I decided to officially launch my coaching business, I offered my services to a handful of friends for free to make sure I could workout the kinks. Some friends were awesome, and gave me thank you gifts or lunches; Another friend borrowed money from me and still haven't paid me back three years later. She proceeded to block me on all social channels, despite the services working. Both were great experiences that money couldn't buy. I gained confidence in my abilities, and learned how to deal with difficult clients who were just going to always be unhappy. It really tested my will on whether or not I wanted to stay in the game.
Notice, that in both of those stories, we were offering our services for free! You could try bartering like Sami did to start also, but get in the mindset that we all pay our dues at some point.
How To Price Yourself:
From my free clients, I was able to determine the hours invested into a client, and get feedback from consultation calls, to determine my rates. I used this formula:
How much money needed in a month (including a little money into savings) divided by how many clients could realistically be seen in a month and subtracted any other side hustle income = your price
*Note, this is for when you are starting out, overtime there will be other ways to refine and determine your pricing!
UPDATE: Also, I wouldn't recommend this formula for bloggers/influencers! That's an entirely different formula:
((Pageviews divided by 10,000) * 100) + ((Total social following # divided by 10,000) * 100) = blogger rate
MAJOR KEY ALERT: Notice I used the word REALISTIC, that means both based on how many I could see based on hours in my day juggled with other responsibilities and some self care/down time – you'll also want to take into account that you aren't going to come out the gate booking 20 clients in a month!
Personally, I would charge per package (a one hour session with 30 edited proofs – for additional edited proofs it's an additional number) – exploring other photographers sites to see how they break down the packages, but don't charge buy the hour. If it takes you 7 hours to edit 30 photos, your customer shouldn't have to pay for that – it could also leave your models with pained expressions if they keep checking their watch so they don't go over. Check out Rising Tide Society's Facebook Group for more photographer related tips & advice (and you can creep on lots of photographers sites to see how they package and price – but keep in mind you're still an amateur with limited equipment and a limited skill set, so don't just copy their prices!
Now that you've calculated your worth & set your prices….
How To Ask For Payment:
Self promotion as an entrepreneur is one of the biggesstttt struggles! My friend Summer wrote a great post on “How To Over Your Fear Of Self Promotion”. The post has goodies for everyone, but is geared towards bloggers.
Honest & Humble:
When thinking about what you want to say, start by being honest & humble when you're first starting out. I would rather undersell myself and give someone amazing results, than pretend I have my sh*t together and disappoint. Acknowledge that you're still a ways off from being a full blown professional and are willing to do things at a deep discount compared to others.
Tap Your Network
Let people in your existing network know about the change! Start with people you've been previously doing pro-bono stuff for. From there, let friends & family know. Our networks are often our best sales people. Word of mouth is powerful! That's pretty much how I get ALL of my business (and Instagram… and my blog… ).
Source Your Own Business
Think about people you would want to work with (specific example to follow) and reach out to them! You won't get anywhere sitting on the side lines, you have to make your presence known. But don't be spammy! Make sure you've actually done your homework on them and can speak to why you want to work with them specifically. From there you can create a mutually beneficial relationship!
Tip for finding some new business:
Check out local bloggers. Bloggers always need photography on the cheap. Normally they don't want 200 edited photos from a set, but rather jut need a handful edited. Some photographers charge bloggers per hour or per outfit. You could set up a relationship where twice a month you shoot two outfits for $30 per session with 5-10 edited photos per outfit – or really ask the blogger what they can afford and what they would be looking for! At this point you should be building credibility, not focusing on the almighty dollar (as hard as that might be).
Hope that helps & for those looking for more advice, check out my services page!
Does anyone else have suggestions for our reader? How did you determine prices or ask to get paid when you were starting out?
I would love to hear in the comments!