what to do when friends can't afford?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by j_gallagher, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. I have had 2 clients this year have a session & then tell me they can't afford my prints or cards.
    Also had someone ask to buy a digital image from a sporting event for $5.00 becasue "that's what another photographer does"...
    Do you discount your work so that people can place orders or do you just lose the sale.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks...
     
  2. Judy,
    Unfortunately, friends make the worst clients. No matter what you charge, there will always be someone who will do it for less. Those two facts are absolute. First of all, most of my clients know what I charge before a session takes place, because we tell them. No, I don't rattle off every size and price, but they know they are going to spend money. My doctor, dentist, attorney, CPA, etc., all have office managers. I know all financial transactions will be handled by the manager, not the doctor. Unfortunately for me, I do almost all the sales at my studio. I am frequently asked to discount my work and it is tough every time. Just from you question, I get the feeling you are a beginner. Don't worry, the word " no " is a small one and it will get easier to say as time goes on.
    Warmest regards,
    David R. Lewis
     
  3. Judy,
    Unfortunately, friends make the worst clients. No matter what you charge, there will always be someone who will do it for less. Those two facts are absolute. First of all, most of my clients know what I charge before a session takes place, because we tell them. No, I don't rattle off every size and price, but they know they are going to spend money. My doctor, dentist, attorney, CPA, etc., all have office managers. I know all financial transactions will be handled by the manager, not the doctor. Unfortunately for me, I do almost all the sales at my studio. I am frequently asked to discount my work and it is tough every time. Just from you question, I get the feeling you are a beginner. Don't worry, the word " no " is a small one and it will get easier to say as time goes on.
    Warmest regards,
    David R. Lewis
     
  4. If you want to discount as party of your strategy, Judy, that's one thing. But I have a rule that I NEVER let the customer dictate my fees. I might find creative ways to try to accommodate the customer, but I believe you must hold firm or you will start to set your perceived value--in a bad way. I wouldn't get upset about it, because it simply means you haven't (I haven't) educated my customers enough about why my fees are more (equipment, experience, quality, etc.)
     
  5. Thanks...not a beginner just feel like its been happening more & more...
    What is your take on selling digital files...I don't generally do & if I do it's expensive but so many clients ask for it now...
     
  6. I think the perceived value of photography for a broad spectrum of people seeking photographic services
    has been quite lowered since the advent of digital imaging. At least, in the perception that the technical
    barrier to getting an in focus and well exposed image has almost been eliminated, as well as the expense
    of film and processing. It seems that photographers have been delegated in people's perceptions to the
    status of dilettantes and amateurs competing with everyone else who has a "professional" digital camera.
    This is of course does not reflect the true value of a competent professional, but one really has to position
    and structure and market one's services in a way that really makes clear and desirable the value of your
    services in people's perceptions.

    I actually don't have anything against selling digital files, as almost everyone wants them, but this only of
    it is part of the way you structure your pricing and services and it makes sense in that context. If your
    marketing strategy is different, and you wish to control the quality of prints etc., then of course I wouldn't.
     
  7. Judy, this trend is not only visible in photography, but in ALL services, where the actual "product" is not entirely tangible. Call it a sign of the times, call it a result of the crisis, call it - as it has been noted already - a result of the mass availability of good cameras in the hands of people who are not professionals (but think they are)..it's a fact of life.
    Sure, you can choose to price discriminate - in other words, set each conceivable price for each different customer and hope that none of them talk to each other and you can get away with it. But that way offers you no visible means of properly calculating profits, making predictions, setting an overall annual budget and so on and so forth.
    Are those people your friends? Or are they simply people you know and asked you to help them out? There is a difference. I HAVE shot for true friends for free (but that was agreed before) but whenever a friend of theirs came along, they got my full prices. I offer referral discounts and early booking discounts, but that's all. The problem with offering a discount is that afterwards, it is THIS price that circulates (with no mention of the word "discount" attached to it) and then people who might be attracted to this price expect/hope they can get a further discount on that. This is a vicious cycle which will lead you nowhere.
    There are solutions - you just need to find them...;-) Oh, and be firm. It might hurt a bit in the short term, but will be more beneficial in the long term...
     
  8. As Michael stated, try to find creative ways to accommodate that.
    One small way I've recently adopted to combat this is payment options for some of my clients while not discounting one iota. Actually, my fees are up 6% from last year.
    There are many ways to keep the cash flow flowing.
    This goes directly to your sales & marketing skills.
    Sure, the big store can do a few family portraits for $29.95; do you think I would ever do a portrait session for $29.95? Never.
    My marketing, education of the client and sales efforts (SHOW) them the difference.
    People buy value, not price. Establishing that value is up to you as it is for any business owner.
    Sure; everyone who now buys a DSLR believe they can shoot like Ansel Adams, but the odd thing is, I've never seen ANYONE play in the NFL w/o seasoning and experience.
     
  9. I have had 2 clients this year have a session & then tell me they can't afford my prints or cards.​
    Are these friends or acquaintances? It seems an odd thing for freinds to do if they knew the prices up front - but if I knew their immediate circumstances had changed I may agree favourable payment terms after the fact because they are friends.
    In another business, I have had clients do this as a devious negotiating tactic. They know prices up front and order the goods with the full intention of saying 'whoops, sorry...!". One or two came to us through mutual acquaintances and (ab)used that emotional lever. We always politely refused. I am not saying it is what happened here but you can get cynical when in business. If you get known as someone who discounts at the drop of a hat, there is a chance you will attract more of these non-profitable clients.
     
  10. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Assuming that these people knew up front what the charges for prints and cards would be , and assuming that its obvious that you don't make a lot of money from the sitting itself, then frankly they have deliberately wasted your time, maybe in the hope that you will take pity on them and give them prints. Not good behaviour, and I wouldn't want to count them as friends.
    On the other hand if you charge nothing or next to nothing for the shoot, and don't disclose what the finished articles will cost until the day, then you are virtually asking for this sort of thing to happen, because everyone's expectation of the price of prints etc is different.
     
  11. had someone ask to buy a digital image from a sporting event for $5.00 becasue "that's what another photographer does"​
    "I'm not sure how they earn a living selling images for that price but if you prefer to purchase the image from the other photographer, I'll understand."

    "Oh, they don't have it? It's a good value to get an image of your son that since you can can only get here. It will be even more valuable to your family years from now. I can print out an 8x10 real quick if you like."
     
  12. For friends, I reverse this in my favor, and shoot for Christmas and birthday gifts or favors in kind. No is a big word, but it also helps to avoid issues.
    You are dealing with a fact or life: I want everything for nothing.
    There was a time when you needed to hire a pro just to take a decent picture, and only those whom mortgaged their homes or were able to front the cash, time, and effort to create the image had access to a large playing field. I am certain that if today's digital technology, including printers and software were as readily available in the 80's, the market would have embraced that all the same and many would have been put out.
    The world still need pro's. The world still has clients whom have work that can only be trusted to experienced folks in product and event photography. You have to be good, and many times you only have one er, um, shot at it. It's those clients whom you need to seek out, as they see value in good money spent. Also be aware that some things cannot be overcome, no matter how good you are. Such as relationships clients have established with other pros. Trust is a big thing, and that takes time.
    Everyone else will only experience buyers remorse, and drag you down. Worse, if you accept such a deal, they can spread the 'word' that you are cheap and you don't want that.
     
  13. My response above is really in the spirit of an encounter with the ordinary customer or ungrateful acquaintance. Actually for friends that would cut me a break on something if they could, I would do that for them. Its hard to describe where the line is drawn on doing free or super cheap work for friends and acquaintances is and each situation is unique. But we know "taking advantage of" when we see it.
     
  14. One approach that might help is to negotiate a minimum purchase before the shoot. It sounds like you are doing your shoot for free or very little -- I draw this inference because you seem pained that the friends are not buying prints, which wouldn't be a big concern if you priced the sitting as your primary money-maker.
    If your pricing model depends on print sales, then the "sitting fee" becomes the "package fee" which the client should choose before the sitting. A minimum package approach can work here, because clients readily grasp the idea that you need to have a guaranteed minimum fee to justify the work in the first place. ("Well, I can't just go around taking pictures for free, can I?")
    So you can insist on a certain fee that allows an equivalent "print credit," with a few package options that perhaps provide a bit of added value as compared to a la carte purchases. This effectively puts you into a sitting-fee model, but adds the obligation to fulfill orders. There's value in that, because it increases the odds that the client will actually order and display your work, which increases satisfaction and referral business.
     
  15. Judy,
    As others have stated, you need to educate your customer (regardless of your relationship) ahead of time. If it's someone really close to you and you're going to give them a session and a print or a package, that's OK, but you need to let them know upfront what additional prints will cost. Unfortunately, whenever you do work for people you know and you discount it, they always expect more. When you tell people your "friends and family" pricing, give them the option of going elsewhere. Let them know that this is what you can do and if they don't want to pay that, let them go to "the other guy". It's so unfair for someone you know to dictate your price to you after you've done the shoot. And anyone who's been around for awhile will tell you that when they get their way, they'll brag about it no matter how much they promise not to. And so spreads your reputation as a discount photographer.
    Is it such a bad thing to let them go elsewhere?
     
  16. To have the confidence to charge full freight for your work and reject requests for freebies, your work has to be significantly superior to the pro-am photographer masses. This can be made easier by presenting the finished images on fine art paper etc.
    If one looks at the recognised portrait, landscape and wedding photographers, one will see that they always try to make their finished product look like no one else could do the same. Thats easier than you think. Its better to sell one print from a limited production (say, 50) for $300 than to pich your image at $50.
    I was at a function earlier this year for one of our most successful landscape photographers. I asked him whether it was difficult to sell his iconic panorama images for the high prices he demanded. He said that it was easier to sell one, framed, for $1200, than it was to sell the same image, on inferior paper, unframed, for $300. High price brings with it a perception of exclusivity and quality. He also said that he could name three photographers out here who made better images than he did. Its all in the perceptions.
     
  17. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have had 2 clients this year have a session & then tell me they can't afford my prints or cards.
    . . . not a beginner just feel like its been happening more & more...
    Two from how many?
    Two from 200 sittings or two from 20 sittings?
    If the former then don’t worry, if closer to the latter then you likely have a business model which is disadvantaging your sales. I suspect little if any of the gross profit is reaped from the sitting and you are relying print sales?
    If this is the case, then I suggest that you look closely at this business model with a view to re-gigging it dramatically, because, notwithstanding that IMO it will not survive anyway, unless it is a niche market / marketting / product: but rather, moreover in a depressed economic climate, which most societies are at the moment, it is NOT business smart to extend the buying decision making process . . .
    So if your clients have a Portrait Session and then a day or a week later are THEN deciding whether or not to buy prints: then that business is more likely to fail, than survive.
    Also had someone ask to buy a digital image from a sporting event for $5.00 becasue "that's what another photographer does"...
    The request came before or after you had made the shot?
    If before you made the shot then that is negotiation and I am open to negotiation.
    If after the event has finished - then it is very likely that the “other photographer” does NOT have THE image which is required – my answer would be along the lines of the answers JH gave . . .
    And after they bought the 10 x 8: I would show them the other six I had of their son/daughter and offer a discounted package deal for the whole seven . . .
    And then because they were then "Current Clients", I would offer them the Christmas Family Sitting – that’s the one where the Sitting Fee is discounted by 50% and also includes the 33% DISCOUNT on all the INITIAL Print Purchase, provided of course the Print order is made, and paid for at the Viewing Session.


    Do you discount your work so that people can place orders or do you just lose the sale.
    Depends.
    One is NOT in business to Lose Sales.
    One is NOT in business to generate an huge TURNOVER and reap a GROSS LOSS.
    One is NOT in business to waste time with TYRE KICKERS.
    For example (taking you question and my position) - I sell 5x7 prints from Sporting Events for AUS$15. This is NOT my main income stream. I choose what events I cover and essentially what I shoot, the images I sell and the price I charge is pitched to be revue neutral, for me, but my price is relative with Photographers making a living at mainly covering many sporting events.
    If a Parent came up to me at the Field or Pool and said they wanted to buy prints at $5 because that’s what Joe/Mary charges, then I’d suggest that they buy their prints from Joe/Mary.
    OTOH, If the President of the Club bought me a coffee and mentioned that at the upcoming Club Christmas Swimming Meet he wanted me to cover the event and could I discount the Prints to $5 each for the members, because Santa was coming, lots of family photos, and he is sure the print sales would be great and etc . . . I would likely make a counter suggestion, that I would shoot the event at no cost; anyone can pre buy a $30 Print Voucher - Allowing them any 4 prints of their choosing (i.e. 50% Discount); and for every print Voucher Purchased I would donate $5 to the club – which would be paid by my company cheque and duly receipted - as a Donation to a Non-Profit Organization. Accordingly I would invoice the Club for my time at my usually rate – and then apply 100% discount and that would be a donation, as well.
    What is your take on selling digital files...I don't generally do & if I do it's expensive but so many clients ask for it now...

    Please list the reasons why you do not do it.
    Why is it expensive?
    In what country do you work?
    What type of Photography are these requests for the Digital Files from – e.g.: Portraits / Sports / Weddings . . . etc
    My take is that I sell digital files to Commercial Clients only.
    But what I do is certainly not necessarily applicable to what would be best for you to do and in the best interest of your business model.
    If more than generalist answers to your questions are required, then you need to provide more information. Your difficulties are specifically relevant to your business, without details, advice or comment can only be general and not necessarily applicable to your situation.
    WW
     
  18. ...selling digital files. Depends, if you want to work around losing total control of the file, you can license the rights to the file for a limited use or a one time use and for a limited purpose. Google photo licensing and stock photography. I know for the couple of weddings I've done. I want to be rid of the images and after backing them off to external drives and media, I just give a set of the processed finals to the couple. But that's not my real business either and others like to control the files and the prints. There's no set way to approach that. In commercial, fashion, product etc. the files are delivered to the client, but the use of it is worked out by contract usually.
     
  19. I think the first thing you need to do is figure out how badly you need the business. If you're a full-time photographer, you need to find a way to differentiate yoursef from these other people that will lowball themselves. This can be by occassionally shooting film (since your competition won't be), by offering products that they don't offer, or by shooting amazing photos that a Guy With Camera couldn't match. If you carry an iPod, smartphone, or anything with a large, nice screen, keep a portfolio on there to show at a moment's notice. I have 20 or so portraits on mine, but I also have a dozen images from personal projects that are nothing like what the other guys shoot.
    If it's a part-time gig, don't worry about not getting the job. If someone wants to lowball me, I tell them the same thing every time. I've been taking photos for 20 years. I teach photography at the collegiate level, and I do a lot of shooting on my own time. If you want to hire me for a job, that's great. If you feel that my experience doesn't deserve my asking rate, and that I should charge what someone else with very little experience charges, than you should just use the other guy. I can tell you why you want me, but I have too much else to do to take on clients that don't value my expertise.
     
  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Typo error:
    " . . . the images I sell and the price I charge is pitched to be [revue] revenue neutral . . ."
    . . . though you can critique, if you want to . . .
     
  21. Judy:
    Do you discount your work so that people can place orders or do you just lose the sale.​
    Doesn't sound like there's a sale there to be lost.
    My prices are my happy prices. I'm happy to do the work for my listed fees. I'm happy not to do the work and spend time with my family. I'm happy either way.
    Eric
     
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "My prices are my happy prices"
    :) Sage.
    ! evaluated the real value of Time and then accredited it to the business model, I suspect.
    I bet you don't spend too much time with the tyre kickers.
    Merry Christmas.
    WW
     
  23. I charge everyone(friends) a sitting fee and let them know up front in case they dont order or order much, I am not in the hole for everything . If I dont then my phone will ring off the wall and everyone will want my work for free. Even semi close family, cousins etc may get a free sitting fee but I still charge full price on prints. I simply cant do everything for free or discounted because I know someone. I would spend my whole life fulfilling favors and never be able to earn a living.
     
  24. To have the confidence to charge full freight for your work and reject requests for freebies, your work has to be significantly superior to the pro-am photographer masses.​
    No it doesn't. Confidence is psychological and its existence may be enhanced by, but is not dependent on, the nature of the product and service being sold. Countless sales (in all consumer industries including photography) occur due to confidence of the seller irrespective of the quality of the product or service. Frequently it exists in spite of the poor quality while sales high quality product suffer due to a sellers lack of confidence.
    There is also other phenomenon. Someone may have a unique product and have the psyche to market it. One average shot of someone's son shooting a score that no one else has is going to command much more than a nicer shot of something insignificant or of other people. Average stock images of with releases of people interacting with the right props and setting will sell more than a awesome image of some grizzled old guy from Timor seen on photo.net. The list goes on and on.
     
  25. I have been in this same situation and I agree stand firm. Wise words from my Dad who is a DJ business owner said to me "No pay no play." Short and well said I think. As well as what my Aunt also a business owner said "Can't take the groceries out of the store with out paying first." I felt odd at first telling people my prices because I wasn't sure if I was to high or to low. I wanted to tell friends and family I'd do it for less but I held my tongue and am glad for it because my family now knows I don't do freebies and they still ask me to do photos for them. Also I try not to do what "the other photographers do" because I have found not all photographers are the same as well as people will say anything to get a lower price. They are your prices stand by them.
    As for the people who after the session couldn't afford them should not have set up a session if they could not afford to do so. Maybe asking for a % up front so that they have some investment into the session likely will cause them to follow through.
     
  26. I have not read all the responses but I suggest loose the sale, why start a trend? You would quickly be known as the photographer who will bend at will.
    When I started business my grandfather gave me some advice. "If your friends and family won't pay your prices how do you expect strangers to" I either charge my prices or do friends and families as a gift. If they insist on paying me something I let them decide. Basically I use the reciprocal rule, Would they do this for me?, are they asking or expecting? I go out of my way to accommodate people (friends, clients, family) who ask if I can do something but get mighty stubborn if they expect it. (my biggest weakness)
     
  27. I like your stubbornness, David. I've found that the folks I do free work for sometimes seem to have the highest
    expectations and the least appreciation for the work involved in doing what they've asked for.
     

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