What Are You Doing in Business for These Tough Times?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by betty_lowrey, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. With all the economic hardship stories popping up around us, are you tweaking your business at all (pricing, offerings, etc.) to fall in line with what may be a tough year ahead? Do you worry about the impending recession destroying your business as people seek out cheaper photography options? How do you intend to market yourself to still bring in new business in these difficult economic times?
    I thought this would be an interesting discussion...as we wait for contest results! : )
     
  2. I am not feeling the tough economic times as of yet. I am completely booked through September and still getting inquiries. I am maintaining status quo and not making any hasty decisions. I am concentrating on getting out a good product so that the word of mouth clients keep calling. I have not heard of one bride that said she was going to cancel or postpone her wedding because times were tough. I live in a military town and Uncle Sam still is putting out the dough. I did wonder if I was niave or something like that, but I soon found that our area is not getting hit as hard as others. Now on another note, our market is not like others that can afford to charge 5 digit figures. I am in a quest to capture as much as the market as possible. I seek out vendors and ask them if I can bring in an album and/or portrait. Most of them say yes. As a recipocal, I display there literature in my studio and link them to my website. I feel as long as I continue to foster good relationships with other wedding professional, continue to produce a high quality product, and not price myself out of my market, I will weather the storm and get through it all with a very well branded company.
     
  3. Betty, I'm surprised to see post from you. In a recent thread you just mentioned how busy you are and all the new bookings. What is your strategy for these tough times?
     
  4. I am extremely busy...I was just opening it up for discussion. But, I am also very cheap...which is why I'm assuming I'm so busy. My strategy??? Remain cheap...for now anyway. That's about the extent of my strategy.
    It wasn't really a personal question, just something I thought interesting to bring up. Since a lot of you have been in business for much longer than I have been it may be good to get some business insight from pros.
     
  5. Lower our prices ---But, offer less product /time .
     
  6. Recently increased prices and offering less in packages than I was previously. I'm booked for most of the summer and now into 2010. For this year I'm focusing a lot on building vendor relations and relationships with other photographers in my local area as well as surrounding areas, increasing my exposure in the community and of course improving my skills. I've also launched a new site this month. One more thing I am doing is including thank you cards as a thanks to my clients. They're happy because they aren't expecting it, and I'm happy because my work (and name) gets sent out all the guests that attended the wedding.
     
  7. My pricing is based on a creative fee, so my headline costs appear less than those offering packages with bundled products. Bookings and enquiries are frequent enough, but as a new business I benefit from starting the year with an empty diary so do not have to decline anyone because the date is taken (yet!) :)
     
  8. The recession is here, and "officialy" has been since Dec 2007. We've raised our prices, partnered with some very high end vendors for product offerings and have worked very hard to get in with the high end photographers in our area. Regardless of the dire economic news, the money is still flowing for quality wedding photography.
    We had to make a decision, do we want to become know as the "cheap" wedding studio or the "high-end" studio, I think you can tell what we chose and guess what, those brides are still out there. And since we've made the decision to go after the higher end weddings, we've received more inquiries but more importantly more bookings even with a very high retainer requirement.
    Another question to ask your selves during these turbulant times: Could I and/or my family survive on just the income from my photography business if need be? With all the layoffs, bankruptcies, and businesses going away, could you survive on the income of your photography business? If your one of the "cheap" photographers out there, doing this as a money making hobby, and you have incredible creative skills (looking at you Betty...LUV your work!), I wouldn't stay there for very long, if at all. Move on up, there is still room further up the ladder.
     
  9. Thanks Chris!
    I'll be upping my prices at some point I'm sure. The good thing is my husband and I are very frugal (we live pretty much below our means) and I could survive on what I'm making now if something were to happen to my husband's job, which is something we are always aware could happen.
    We live in Wisconsin, which has a relatively low cost of living, which is also a good thing.
    I've been kind of afraid to raise my prices, wondering if I would be just as busy if I upped them.
     
  10. Betty - a good rule of thumb - for me anyway is that as soon as I saw I was turning away business for the following summer - I raised my prices for the later bookings by $300-$400 and sometimes in combination with reducing the time spent shooting. Anotherwords, if my 7 hour package was $3200 and I was booked with 3-4 weddings amonth into August - I'd raise my price to $3500, or - I'd make the $3200 a 6 hour wedding. Some would opt for the 6 hr. but others would make the jump to the 7 hour. What the reduction of time did for me over the years was to work smart not hard and keep my enthusiasm for weddings and avoid burn out.
     
  11. It's important to evaluate your current client base when thinking about strategy. If you've done a good job for them, you can anticipate referrals. I've booked 37 of the 40-45 weddings I want to shoot for 2009 and nearly all of them have been referrals or word of mouth from previous clients. I don't want to alienate those referral customers by doing any significant changes in a short amount of time. Especially now with this economy.

    There are a couple of wedding "workshop" presenters out there right now advocating that it is time to "raise your prices" and go for the higher-end brides. (I often wonder about some of these presenters - if they have such a successful studio practice, why are they doing weekend workshops at the Holiday Inn instead of the high-end weddings?).

    I've resisted price increases when I know I could/can get more. As a result, my referral and "niche" is well established here in Dallas/Fort Worth. 90+% of my "adjustments" to pictures are at the time of capture, I spend minimal time post processing, so "backroom time" isn't a big factor. I also spend practically nothing on advertising. Technical camera skills and minimal business expense/overhead are great ways to minimize costs without having to increase prices. You might be the busiest photographer in town with your $1500 wedding, but it's very possible that at $2,000 you'll have a lot of time on your hands.

    A photographer here in the Metroplex was offering a $14,995 wedding pkg and apparently booked a few of them during 2006-07. Currently, she is offering that same pkg on her website for $3,495 - the same price she was shooting it for in 2002-2005. The problem for her comes from the clients she did book at the insane rate - they are trashing her reputation on every review board in town. I know the photographer is having a hard time getting any business at all at this point...at least, that's what I assume since she is offering herself as a photo assistant to area wedding photogs. It's pretty difficult to 'go back down' with pricing, so be sure you know what you're doing.
     
  12. $15,000 for a wedding?!?!?
    Wow...that's...insane! High end or not I think there is definitely a "cap" that we need to keep in mind. You can ask for any amount, but you run the risk of alienating people.
    Being from Wisconsin, there isn't really a high population of "big bucks" brides. Most are middle-class brides looking for affordability and customized packages. I think knowing my population helps a lot. I know what I was looking for when I was getting married, so I always keep that in mind.
    I can't see ever getting near 5 figures, that's just....amazing. I mean, more power to the people who can get that, but I think if I tried that in Wisconsin I would be laughed out of the state!
     
  13. Yes, the $15K is an extreme case. But even if a photographer raises their price only $250 and books a few clients. Then discovers business has slowed down and drops prices back $250, there will most likely be consequences that could hurt a photographer's reputation if he/she isn't careful. Brides talk quite a lot, and prices are posted on websites, so the point remains, upward pricing is easy...just going back down that's much trickier.
     
  14. You are right Christopher - but it does depend on your market. I could do it in Stowe, VT as 90 percent were out of town brides and here in DC the market is huge. We're talking Md, DC and VA. And IF I dropped prices - it would be a clear marketing incentive - Something like, if you book before such and such a date the price is ....... My prices were never posted. I had a questionnare where the couple/bride would pick a "range" that they were thinking of spending and my choices for 'range" started at $3200.00. There is a way to do these things so you can stay flexible with what the market is doing
     
  15. You are right Christopher - but it does depend on your market. I could do it in Stowe, VT as 90 percent were out of town brides and here in DC the market is huge. We're talking Md, DC and VA. And IF I dropped prices - it would be a clear marketing incentive - Something like, if you book before such and such a date the price is ....... My prices were never posted. I had a questionnare where the couple/bride would pick a "range" that they were thinking of spending and my choices for 'range" started at $3200.00. There is a way to do these things so you can stay flexible with what the market is doing
     
  16. You are right Christopher - but it does depend on your market. I could do it in Stowe, VT as 90 percent were out of town brides and here in DC the market is huge. We're talking Md, DC and VA. And IF I dropped prices - it would be a clear marketing incentive - Something like, if you book before such and such a date the price is ....... My prices were never posted. I had a questionnare where the couple/bride would pick a "range" that they were thinking of spending and my choices for 'range" started at $3200.00. There is a way to do these things so you can stay flexible with what the market is doing
     
  17. In many circles, 15k is not insane, but highly priced for sure.
    Large numbers of photogs charge upwards of $10k or there about, for an average package. Depends on your market.
    If you can get Annie L to shoot your portrait, what do you think it will cost?
     
  18. You are right Christopher - but it does depend on your market. I could do it in Stowe, VT as 90 percent were out of town brides and here in DC the market is huge. We're talking Md, DC and VA. And IF I dropped prices - it would be a clear marketing incentive - Something like, if you book before such and such a date the price is ....... My prices were never posted. I had a questionnare where the couple/bride would pick a "range" that they were thinking of spending and my choices for 'range" started at $3200.00. There is a way to do these things so you can stay flexible with what the market is doing
     
  19. David, Annie L. takes about 23 people (support crew) when she goes out to take a snapshot of just about anybody. That drives the price up with coffee for everybody and all...:)
     
  20. Betty, I'm a couple hours away from you, and have been continually raising my prices since last year. My mindset last year was like yours is now: I knew what I would pay for my wedding photography, and didn't want to price myself out of my market.
    At first I was afraid I wouldn't get any bookings if I priced higher, but I've been quite surprised that it hasn't slowed down too much! I've got 17 booked this year and a few pending right now which is a few less than last year, but I'm more than making up for it with the higher prices. Basically, once I got 5-10 booked, I'd raise prices knowing that there was less pressure to book more. After I kept getting bookings at the new price, I'd raise again.
    I'm over by La Crosse, WI, and I'm almost at the top of what my market will bear for regular work. BUT I'm willing to travel for where higher paying work is- Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Dubuque, ect.
    Lastly, I cut out everything from my packages except the DVD and online gallery. They get a small upgrade credit, and they choose their upgrades. I sell it as something I'm doing to help them out with the economy and all... they know the bottom line they will pay, and if they are doing well financially at the time of their wedding, they can add on albums, ect.
    So basically: I made it as easy as possible for me, added value for them, and everone is happy. :)
     
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I am going with Nadine’s answer: I think the 3 options sum up what the realistic alternatives, to stay in business, are. (What happened to never ending a sentence with a preposition, William!)

    Personally I did option 3. That was put in place several months (a year and a bit) ago. It is documented in various of my posts.

    Not wanting to imply a Smart Alex attitude, but it is important to fireproof the house and prepare for the floods, before the event, not during them. . . but that is only learned from loosing a few hands early on in the game.

    Gee I even amazed myself with that mixed metaphor. . . more coffee please.

    ***

    BTW positive talk, balanced with a realistic approach is very important: but unfortunately it doesn’t sell many newspapers . . .

    So ,”Do you worry about the impending recession destroying your business as people seek out cheaper photography options?”

    No.

    I do not worry, I put my bum up and my head down and get toe to toe and face to face with as many potential customers and decision makers and get busy selling my skills my wares and my time . . . there is no use worrying about the “impending” anything . . . $4*T . . . heaven forbid, but I could be hit by an omnibus, tomorrow.

    WW
     
  22. Christopher H.,
    yeah and she probably needs them all. Coffee prices are not getting cheaper I notice.
     
  23. WW,
    that would be "smart alec", but I don't want to come off as being a smart a$$ in saying so...
    :)
     
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hah! David,

    I did not know that! (Of course I just spent ten minutes confirming some Primary Sources).

    Well done! I love it. In our Family (since when I was a little boy) we have said Smart Alex (definite "x" sound) . . .

    I have just added another bit of trivia - it is my Dad's birthday on Sunday - I can't wait for the debate!

    Thanks,

    WW
     
  25. haha. Hope the family union remains intact through the strom ;-).
    Best, D.
     
  26. Working on getting some high end using direct mail.
    Planning to charge based on their ability to pay- a lot more than the average.
    Watching my investment- you can't justify $5,000 bodies if you are shooting $1,000 weddings.
     
  27. Steve H said: "you can't justify $5,000 bodies if you are shooting $1,000 weddings"
    If you want to you can ;-)
     

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