Increasing Your Profit As A PhotographerJune 14, 2016
When you are working for yourself, it’s important that you can maximise your opportunities to put together the best possible living for yourself. That means making the highest profit you can, whilst ensuring you can do the things that matter, like spending time with your family. It’s easy enough to say that you should work more hours in order to increase your profit, but it’s not always that easy. If you have constraints on your time, don’t have enough clients yet, or just need to optimise the clients that you do have, here’s how you can increase your profits as a photographer.
Step 1: Cutting Costs
The first step to increasing a profit is always to cut as many overheads as possible. As a photographer, these may be many. You might be renting premises or equipment, might be travelling often, might have subscriptions and website costs. You may have to replace certain parts of your equipment, such as batteries or bulbs, on a regular basis. Plus there is the cost of electricity to run your equipment, and so on and so forth.
The first thing that you should do is to write out all of your expenses, including those which are incurred when you are selling prints or shooting. Go through these and see where you can improve. Do you need to keep all of your subscriptions active? Can you switch to a different camera rental store for a lower cost? Would it be cheaper to switch to a different method of travelling – for example, to go on public transport if you don’t need to carry much equipment? How about getting rechargeable batteries and long-life lightbulbs?
You could even look at the parts of your process which involve sales. Can you get your prints done more cheaply elsewhere? Would picking them up from the printers yourself cut down on delivery costs? Think about these factors to trim down your expenses and give yourself a bigger profit margin.
Step 2: Reinvesting
If you have managed to save some money, now is the time to reinvest it. This could mean upgrading a piece of equipment – perhaps purchasing something that you have been renting for a while. It could mean taking a short course to improve your sales technique, or buying some Photoshop actions that will make your images easier to edit.
Whatever you spend that money on, keep profit in your mind as a goal. Before you let go of any cash, ask yourself this question: will it earn me more money in the long run? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and do it.
If your sales are currently low, this is also the point where you could take out some advertising. Consider your options very carefully, and shop around – some publications where you could take out an ad will be very expensive compared to others. Think about where your ideal customer is most likely to spot an ad and how to target them. Get a graphic designer on board if you don’t have those skills yourself, or your adverts will end up looking amateurish. You can even go for training through webinars like those on Creative Live.
Step 3: Raising Prices
If you want to make a bigger profit but you’re already selling a decent amount of sessions, what you need to do next is to raise your prices. A lot of photographers are scared to do this, especially when they have a fully-booked schedule and have a good rapport with their clients. It seems like it might put people off ordering from you when the prices change.
Well, the truth is that it will. You will absolutely lose some clients. But the clients that you want to attract and keep are the ones who can pay more, not less. When you are making more money per session, you can afford to have a few blank spots for a while – and you will gain new clients to fill those gaps over time.
The general rules for a price hitch are not to increase them by too much, not to overcomplicate your price list, and to put the package you want to sell the most of as your second most expensive (ideally out of only three or four packages total). Buying behaviour suggests that this will be your best-seller. The more expensive package will be a bonus whenever you do manage to sell it.
Set yourself a goal for your next price raise. For example, you might decide that when you have managed to stay fully booked for two months, you will raise your prices. This helps you to keep on track and never stagnate for too long. Don’t waste your potential!
Step 4: Selling Stock
Stock images are a huge source of revenue if you can make them work. Even though the market is flooded with them, people still need to purchase them every day. Companies need advertisements, websites need illustrations, news articles need archive images.
Make sure you work hard on creating high-quality stock – you may need to put a little investment in, such as by hiring a professional model (or actor, depending on the set-up you are approaching). Think about niches that need filling, as well as looking into research on the most searched terms or the most popular images. Don’t leap in blind, as this may waste your time. Know what will sell before you shoot.
Choose your stock agency carefully, too. There are some great start-ups out there like Picfair, where you will get a higher percentage of the fees but probably less opportunity to sell. Then there are niche markets like Canva, where users search within the website’s exclusive stock images to put into graphic designs. Or you could go the route of one of the bigger stock agencies that come up on your first page of a Google search, though you should be aware that competition will be higher and profits per sale lower.
Step 5: Following Up
This is something far too few photographers do, and it could earn you some serious sales. You need to follow up with your clients, and remind them that you are still around and available to help them out when they need you.
If you shoot a baby shower, remember to get in touch with the parents around the time of the birth to offer them a newborn session. If you shoot a newborn, keep them in your files for a few years down the line when new siblings arrive or more opportunities come in for photoshoots. If you’ve been in the business for many years, you might have shot children who are now getting to the right age for their senior portraits.
If you see that one of your old seniors has just got engaged, offer to do their engagement party or their wedding. And once they get married, make sure you keep tabs on them so that you can be the first to shoot their baby shower! It all adds up, and it’s super easy to do.
With social media, you can keep track of everything. Just add those good clients to your Facebook friends list or follow them on Twitter. Keep an eye out for announcements. You can also do this by looking through the local paper and reading announcements of pregnancies, engagements, and so on. When you have already worked with someone, it’s a lot more comfortable for them to choose you again. Sending them a handwritten note of congratulations adds that personal touch whilst also reminding them of your services.
Step 6: Rewarding Referrals
Your current clients are the people who are most acquainted with your work. They know what you can do, and they know that you can do it well. If you really are a good photographer, then they are happy with their results. So how likely are they to go out and tell everyone they know that you are a great choice next time they need some photographs taken? Surprisingly, not very.
Sometimes it takes a little extra push to get your clients talking about you, and bringing in extra business for you. Introducing a referral reward helps to give them the idea. You don’t have to do this all of the time, but could use it as a boost at normally quiet times of year.
Here’s an idea for a deal you could offer: for every client referral that results in a paid shoot, the referrer gets a free print. It will hardly cost you anything, and you already have the images ready to get that print made up, so there’s no extra work on your part. The price of the print is swallowed up by the fee from your new client, which you would never have had without the referral. It’s a win on all sides.
You could also practice generosity towards those who refer clients to you. Send them a bunch of flowers or a thank-you note. People really appreciate the personal touch, even when you’re not giving anything of real value away.
Step 7: Learning Sales
If you are shooting non-stop, but not making as much as a profit as you would like from each shoot, then there’s one easy area to address: after-sales. When you get your clients to sit down and look through their images, how many prints do you sell? One? Two? Enough?
Working on your sales technique will allow you to upsell those clients who are on the fence, and convince those who want big prints to get a larger volume of them. This is how you really get your extra money rolling in. As with a referral offer, it doesn’t put any extra work on you – you just have to order a few extra prints or a bigger photobook. What it does do is get you a bigger profit margin on every shoot.
You could maybe fit in more shoots at the same price, but making more money from the same amount of shoots makes a lot more sense if you really want to grow your profits. Sales technique is a complicated business, normally involving psychology, as well as setting up your sales area properly. You should absolutely have a dedicated area where you meet your clients in person to show them their images, with a big screen that allows them to see every detail. You should also have product samples on hand, if not actual print proofs of their images.
All of this will help them to see what their finished product will be like, and you need to make them realise that they want bigger, better, and more. Emotive language always helps, and you should take the opportunity to remind them that smaller prints can be great gifts for family members.
Sales shouldn’t end after that first session, either. You’re keeping those old photographs on your hard drive, so make them work for their space! Send out emails now and then to old clients: hold a print sale, or give them a nudge at special times of year, such as before Christmas. Let them know of any new product items you have available, and encourage them to take a look back through their old gallery and decide if there’s anything they would like to get printed in this new form. You may be surprised how many people will come back and order long after their photoshoot. You just have to let them know that the opportunity is there.
Step 8: Repeating Again
There’s no upper limit to where your profits can rise. When you are truly on top of your game and master of your niche, you can charge as much as you like – clients will still come to you because you are the best.
There’s also no limit to how much money you want to make, most likely – you wouldn’t be reading this article if you were happy with how much you were earning, after all. So when you’ve finished working your way through these steps, there’s no time to rest on your laurels. Get going again from number one – and see how far you can push your profits. You may just be surprised at how far you can go!