The Top Ten Things Nobody Tells You About Marketing, Pricing and Contracts
- Marketing is not the same as branding. They may be sisters but they are not twins. They function very differently from each other. You would have heard of marketing practices from other photographers such as building your email list of potential clients, reaching out to them via calls, emails, meetings, printed marketing materials and LinkedIn. Shooting personal projects, updating your portfolio all fall under marketing. Personal branding however means that prospects remember you. It could be because of your portfolio, content, personality or what not but it does set you apart from the rest of the crowd. It’s this subtle but clear difference that could provide you with the winning edge to say the least.
- Marketing is something that has to be done consistently, just like exercise and requires much discipline. It's not a one-off hoorah or event but requires commitment and a schedule. Sometimes people mistake marketing as selling... the hard core, pressure cooker selling tactics is not marketing. The ultimate aim of any business is to sell, no doubt about that, BUT marketing is a supporting function of sales. Be clear what you are fearful or dread to do. Is it the seemingly drudgery of marketing and the lack of connect between marketing and sales of your services or do you freeze up when selling yourself and your services?
- If you hate marketing, consider outsourcing part of the process to a virtual assistant. Yes that would cost money but it could make you less resistant to the entire marketing process. I've learnt with age not to take things personally especially with strangers unless it's crystal clear that they hate my guts for no rhyme of reason. If you cold call a creative director (CD) and got through only to hear that he/she is busy and can't talk. Yes he/she may be lying or could really be busy but it's not personal! Especially if it's the first time you called! Just ask whether you could call again later that week, hang up and then call the next CD on your list. Same goes for no replies to cold emails although you could see that they have read your email. Out of the thousands of cold emails I sent out, I get like a handful of replies each time and that's perfectly normal.
- Pricing is like the unicorn we read in childhood fairy tales. It’s magical and shrouded with much mystery. No 2 photographers would price the same project at the same price. It’s also the No 1 thing that photographers ask other photographers about. My belief is that you need to be comfortable and happy with the price you are quoting, regardless of what others are telling you. When I was first starting out, I did the rookie mistake of pricing according to what I think the prospect would accept. That usually means lower prices than I’m happy with but I thought it was to compensate for my inexperience and expertise. Quoting a lower price doesn't get you off the hook if you don't deliver awesome images and it also doesn't lower client's expectations. It took me time but nowadays I often ask myself before sending an estimate across whether I would be happy and excited to work on this project should I win the bid. If the answer is No or Maybe, that means I need to up those numbers!
- There are many ways to price your services but the bottom line is that it covers your creative fee, licensing fee, post production fee and the expenses incurred due to the shoot. It doesn't matter whether you wish to line item every single detail or lump them up into 1 number. I've presented my estimate in various ways over the years to prospects and clients and NEVER had any of them question me WHY I have changed my pricing model over the years. They accept that as a business, I get to set my price the way that works for me. To them, they care about the final price and what you can deliver, not the pricing model or how it is presented!
- How you price your services is not tied to your identity as a human. Remember your photography services is a business whereas you are a photographer providing those services. Yes you may own the business but you are not THE BUSINESS. That means you need to treat it as a separate entity and not give discounts or free images just because you were asked or you felt obligated to do so. I often think of myself as an employee in my business whereas my business is the boss. That means if anybody asks for special treatment, I would ask myself whether I would dare to relate the request to my boss and possibly get reprimanded in the process. If the answer is a clear HELL NO WAY IS BOSS GOING TO APPROVE THAT!, I simply turn down the prospect or client's request. It's easy since I used to work for people and have a boss so I know what bosses in general can accept.
- If you didn't land the job, it may be tempting to think that it's due to your price. Decision making is a complex process and price is just part of it. You can be the cheapest or the most expensive photographer but could still lose the job. Sometimes your estimate was used as part of a bid process and the prospect NEVER had any intention to hire you. They just needed your estimate to fulfil their company's policies. An easy way to filter out such companies would be to ask the prospect why you didn't get the job. I get honest answers from most of them but hey if you don't ask, you will never know. Asking is your prerogative and the worst thing that can happen is just them ghosting you after they got what they want, which means you just put them in a TO BE IGNORED list if they ever email you again for an estimate.
- Contracts may seem like an after thought for new photographers but it is also one of the most important as it can protect your rights AKA getting paid for a shoot. It is inexpensive to get a contract read and customised by a lawyer if you provide them with a draft template, such as from APA or PPAS. Over time as your experience grows, you may tweak or add in new terms into your contract to further safeguard your interests. Never ever just do a job and hope that your client will honour the verbal agreement and pay you. We don't live in an utopia world so expecting others to pay you when you have delivered the images ain't happening.
- Occasionally, you may be asked to sign a contract or agreements. This could vary from a non-disclosure agreement to a work for hire contract. Always, I repeat, always get it vetted from a lawyer. I know it’s just more money out, but that’s part of running a business. Whether you land the project or not is irrelevant to the fact that you need legal expertise to ensure that you don’t get screwed over unknowingly by trying to save a few hundred bucks!
- Always issue out a separate contract for cases like increase of job scope, renewed licensing, purchase of additional images etc if your initial contract has already been signed. Get them signed off before you proceed to provide whatever additional services that have been requested, thereby protecting your own butt in the process.