There are 3 major rules when making your business plan that need to be considered for you to actually make a profit: Track Your Business Expenses, Consider Your Ideal Hourly Rate, and Evaluate Your Sales Tactics
1. Business Expenses
With every business there are expenses. From the moment you “open” your doors, you will be surprised at the things you can write off and how much money will seem to just fly out the door. Please keep this in mind: “Do you REALLY need that (fill in the blank) to be successful?” Really think about this before you make a purchase. My advice is be the cheapest person on the planet and view EVERY dollar as a success you wish not to part with. Be careful at what you buy and who you give your money to. Do NOT take out a business loan. Grow slowly and you will be able to build as you go and never owe anyone a dime. Here are some common things that will and should eat up your pennies:
– Equipment (computers, faxes, printers, cameras, etc, etc, etc.)
– General Business Start Up and Upkeep (DBA, Bank, Collateral, Taxes)
– Web Presence
– Memberships to Organizations
– More Equipment
2. Your Ideal Hourly Rate
People often get stuck at the question, “What should I charge?” There is really no straight answer because we all have different educations, experience levels, and talents. You will need to decide for yourself what you are willing to get out of bed for in the morning. Is it $50 per hour? $150 per hour? $800 per hour?
The average wedding photographer (remember, there are thousands upon thousands all across the globe) charges $1,850 for their time and an album. This may be quite shocking to many of you, however if you do the math you will see why this is. Get out a piece of paper and write this down:
Divide your sheet into three columns.
Above each column write ACTION PORTRAITS WEDDINGS
ACTION PORTRAITS WEDDINGS
Consultation 1 1
Prep Client 1 1
Drive Time 2 2
Shoot Time 1 ($350/hour) 8 (charge the client $100/hour or $300/hour)
Processing 2 4
Total Hours 7 hours 17 hours
$ per Hour x $50 x $50 x $150
Charge to Client $350 $850 $2,550
Under “Weddings” the $50/hour plan is what the $1,850 photographer is going for. Consider they will shoot an average of 100 weddings per year at that rate. That is 2 weddings per week working 34 hours per week with a two week vacation. There gross annual revenue is $185,000 with a net profit of $120,000 before taxes. ($1,850 – $350 for the album, -$150 for their assistant, and -$150 for misc. expenses, leaving them with $1,200 profit for each wedding.) This is a pretty impressive salary however they are the turn and burn variety of photographers because they HAVE to keep to the 17 hours per wedding. Take a look at how I come up with 17 hours per wedding. I have listed out a portrait session too to give you an idea of what you may want to charge. (NOTE: I am not an $1,850 shooter, nor do I advocate this type of service.) Feel free to booo me if you are one of them. 🙂
3. Sales Tactics
There are 7 tactics to consider when meeting a client and selling your services. These are just a handful of the many things you can get into with understanding sales. I have tried to break it down into the main ones I feel are most important. As I always say, please consider taking one or two psychology classes to help you understand human nature and communication.
PRE-QUALIFY BEFORE YOU MEET: Your consult is quite frankly the most important tool you have. If you can get them in the door you are 90% there.
Pre-qualify them first. NEVER meet with someone whom you do not know if their budget is in your price range.
Talking money is hard for most people. As a business owner, get over it!
ASK FOR THE JOB: Your consult is billable time even though the clients does not know this. If you do not book them, you have just LOST your hourly rate. This is NO JOKE. I know so many vendors who feel like this is a gift to these potential clients. They will spend 2 or sometimes even 3 hours with a potential client. This is a HUGE mistake. Your time IS your money and if you do not look at it that way, you will be letting people walk out the door only to hire someone else. Your consults should be 45 minutes. If you go any longer, you will overwhelm them. Do not get me wrong, I am not a fan of pressure sales, but I do understand that for someone to take their time to come and see me, they are shopping AND ready to buy. So this means you always need to ask for the booking. At the end of your consult, simply say “I would love to work with you, would you like to book my services?”
It is okay if they say they are still looking. Tell them to please look around, but laugh and say, “You’ll be back!” 😛
Put the positive energy out there. It will amaze you at how many people will come back.
Okay, I kind of put the cart before the horse.
Let’s start at the beginning…
When your clients come in consider the following: How do you look? How does your place look? Have you set a good mood?
Offer them drinks. This can be tricky with a $4,000 custom book on the table, but know, most people will respect your work.
CONNECT WITH THEM PERSONALLY:
The first thing you need to remember in consults is THIS IS THEIR DAY NOT YOURS.
What I mean by this: you will win over a client by talking less than more. Ask questions that are not related to what you do such as, “Tell me about how you met?” “How did he propose?” “OK, give it up… let me see that rock!” Remember, there is a tremendous amount of built up excitement surrounding the proposal moment alone. Learn a bit about them. Let them share with you one of the most intimate times of their lives. They will feel more important to you just by you asking. Continue to ask questions and let them answer in a conversational mode. Pretend you are having coffee, not giving an interrogation. Don’t memorize a series of questions, just think about what this day would or did mean to you and go from there. The emotion is what will connect you to them and make them HAVE to hire you. LISTEN. LISTEN. LISTEN.
MAKE THE SALE:
Once you feel it is time to move on to your work simply ask, “What is the most important thing to you when you think about YOUR wedding photography?” This is THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION you will ask in your consult. They will tell you how to sell to them.
HOW TO UP SELL:
There are a few questions you can ask that will help you understand how to “up sell” them.
1. Where are you getting married and how many guests will be in attendance?
Often the location and guest count will tell you where a major portion of their budget is going.
2. What is the average age of your guests? Older, younger? Will their be alcohol? Are you having a DJ or live band? Will there be dancing? Will you be the last person standing or will you have a grand exit?
These questions will go towards their reception and potential desire for a portrait booth or extra shooters for the fun and funny candids of their guests dancing.
3. To the bride: How is your relationship to your dad? To the groom: How is your relationship to your mom?
By this point of the consult, this will not feel pushy or invasive because they will feel like you are friends by now.
The reason for this question is to consider offering a bridal or groom’s portrait prior to the wedding day for them to offer as a gift to their mom/dad on the wedding day before they walk down the isle. This is a wonderful gift for a bride to give her daddy, however if the groom is a momma’s boy (you know who you are) then this could also be a really great thing for his mom on the wedding day. I know my husband’s mom is the sole reason he started crying during our wedding and then spurred on a bunch of other criers in the audience.
DISCOUNTING vs. PADDING:
Discounting is the single worst thing you can do. It cheapens your service and often will cause you to work at less than 100% on their day. If someone is looking for a discount, I always explain that is not a great way to look at it. I can always throw in extra services to help them get more for their dollar or lessen the amount of time it takes me to complete a full service wedding, but I never want to discount what I do. The absolute best thing to do is have items that do not cost you much in the way of actual product that you can add on.
Here are some of my items that I use to pad a photo agreement:
1. Engagement Session. This only takes my time and is usually included in every booking. Some couples will not want one, but I always try to get them to agree only because it will allow me to test with them. I find out what issues they have behind the camera while teaching them certain moves and how to work with me.
2. An extra shooter. This is easy. If they want extra coverage, this is the least expensive thing to throw in. 3rd and 4th assistants will cost you $0-$15 per hour. Most 3rd or 4th assistants who work for me are training so I pay them with a lesson and critique after the wedding.
3. Portrait Studio. Set up a simple backdrop and shoot fun posed candids of their guests at the cocktail hour or reception. This is something I always throw in. It costs me money for the shooter, and my equipment is not free (this is considered a rental to them) so the studio set up and expenses are actually in the $2,000 range. So why do I throw this in? Two fold: it acts as a base of operations for my team. We can leave our equipment behind the backdrop (venue staff are notorious for swiping camera equipment that is left unattended) and it acts as a means for post wedding print sales to their guests. I collect their emails at the studio after they take their portraits and then email everyone once the photos are online. It is smart marketing. They look their best and you are offering a professional portrait without the sitting fee AND you are giving a novel yet entertaining part to the reception. Win-win-win.
I hope you this information will help you get off on the right foot. I know so many people who get so overwhelmed with it all but if you can understand and apply these basic rules you will be headed in the right direction!
To hear the live recording of this lecture please go HERE. (Recording expires in 30 days. Please email me if you need it emailed to you.)
Copyright © 2010 by Jen O’Sullivan http://www.jenosullivan.com
Beverly Hills Wedding Photographer, Jen O’Sullivan is a boutique wedding photographer who specializes in portrait journalism.
Jen O’Sullivan Boutique Wedding Photography | 357 South Robertson Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California, 90211 | 310-494-6547