Last one, folks…thanks for sticking with me!
Where is the future taking me?
Now this one is tough – who can predict for sure, right? I will say this, every time I make a change to my business it’s because I’m thinking two years in advance, but using data from the last two years to make that decision.
So every pricing change, every session change, I think about it’s potential impact today, and in the future. With pricing, I keep an eye on what I want to END up at, so I don’t make drastic changes. Over the years, I’ve “stepped” into the end pricing I wanted to have, so I didn’t have to be drastic.
Right now, I’m pretty happy with my current base pricing, so I don’t have a two year plan for large increases except the basic – watching COGS and new product offerings, samples, etc. Minor tweaking, maybe, but I know my offerings are a good value for my clients, and they meet the business needs I have identified, AND they support the end results – selling the products I want to sell – at pricing that works for all the areas I’ve already identified.
With my session offerings I stay a little more fluid. I will always watch my market carefully and look to stay on top of whatever speciality I’m pricing for – and evaluate overall if that speciality is a positive impact on my business overall. Changes are made when a specialty becomes a negative impact, for sure…but also if something becomes less desirable for me either emotionally, or financially. Remember – it’s always about the bottom line, but I do consider who I am in every decision too – because maybe I want to do something that looks interesting, but it just might not be a good fit for my personality type, therefore I might cause it to flop.
I really work hard to create session offerings that are around what the clients are asking for, and how I can best offer them the options they want in the end products at the same time.
For example, I changed my very popular Split Studio Senior session for this year. This is a HUGE risk. It was actually the most popular session I had, and making a change seems silly if it’s working right? But it needed some tweaking…and so I did what I do, and re-evaluated it.
It was a three hour session, and I’ve changed it to a two hour session. Why? Because every single senior was tired in the third hour. Very few of those images were purchased because of that. Their smiles were different. And the name of the session was sometimes confusing to the public. People assumed they had to have both indoors and outdoors. So it’s now a Premium Senior session – 2 hours in length – and you can do it any way you want. If you want half in the indoor studio, and half in the portrait park, great. If you want ALL portrait park, that’s great too. But two hours is the better session length to keep everyone looking good, and get great results for storyboards, books, and prints.
That’s what I do – I constantly evaluate what is working, and what isn’t. What is confusing, and what is helpful. For customers, and for me!
Photography as a whole is a really, really, tough business. Mostly because much of society isn’t valuing the results the way they used to. Everyone is a photographer, and because we all have these devices in our pockets that take pretty decent images, many people don’t think it’s worth the time or investment to have a professional session with someone. And there are so many folks who do not consider the cost of a professional photography session worth the time or money.
They are wrong, and I know that in my heart.
But I am not trying to change public opinion. I don’t want to stand on a soap box and yell at people that they are missing out, losing precious memories. I can make emotionally driven arguments for prints vs. digital files, good photos vs. bad photos, good experiences vs. just ok, professional vs candid, great wedding photos vs yuk, … all day long, but I don’t think arguing with people is a good use of my time.
I have a service, one that I work really really hard to provide with my customer’s experience being paramount in every aspect. That service is priced fairly for what I offer, and what my clients receive.
Some folks will value that, some will not. When the scales tip to the majority NOT valuing it, and the numbers turn to negative instead of positive, I’ll have to make tough decisions.
So bottom line – you want to know what I’d tell you if you were just starting out, right?
Best advice for someone just starting out? KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Do not make purely emotional decisions. Study the business of photography. Learn marketing. This business is about the art, but any business is about the business. Be willing to make investments financially, and emotionally. And physically. Sweat equity is a real thing. Be able to tackle the technical challenges like websites, marketing, making lights flash when you want them to – or have funds to pay others to do it for you. Be truly prepared for all possibilities. If you don’t have the time or dollars to truly commit, DON’T. Keep it a great hobby, and enjoy it. Do not hang a shingle as a business until you know for sure you are prepared for what it truly is – not just taking pretty pictures for a few extra dollars in your pocket.
For now, I am paying my bills. I am providing a good product and have good offerings for my particular areas of speciality. I know that in my heart.
I am not going to get rich on this business. I’m blessed that it pays it’s own bills and affords me a chance to offer more to my clients in a positive way. Is it profitable? Enough to continue to support itself with a few new investments here and there. But I’m not needing a set amount of money each month out of it either. If so, I would have made very different decisions along the way. (I might define success and profitable differently than someone who is looking to find a career that would replace a salaried job position. In my opinion, to get to that level in this business is going to be very hard, and most likely cost more than it’s worth in the beginning to someone just starting out.)
So forward…with my head held high, and a double check on the bottom line periodically to make sure I’m still actually moving forward.
That’s my future, folks.
Oh, and the new shed I’m building at the pond…THAT IS GOING TO BE SO AMAZING. You should watch that on Instagram and my Facebook page.
And then I can take more pretty pictures! And meet more people! And learn more…
Thank you for reading my journey. There were many nuances that I left out, many twists and turns that were huge learning experiences for me. I’ve grown so much emotionally with this journey, I can’t even begin to tell you all of it. I’ve recovered from mistakes, learned to get back up when I’m down, and took the good with the bad. Everyone’s journey is different, but I can’t imagine who I’d be right now if I hadn’t taken these chances.
Well, I’d probably have more money, and a cleaner house, but oh well, right?
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