How much photographers charge for their work is always a big question. The answer is the same for everyone: Charge more than you are now. This goes for me, too. I’ve already increased my rates for 2013. Why? My expenses have gone up and I’m worth it. You are worth it, too. (Most likely, your expenses went up, too.)
If I raise my rates, won’t I lose opportunities? Yes.
I do lose opportunities when I raise my rates substantially. If I have clients that I really appreciate and I don’t want to risk the relationship, I’ll give them a pass.
Chances are many people looking for a photographer are not willing to pay my new rates, they’re just looking for any photographer, especially a cheap photographer. Based on experience they don’t treat me very well, either. So, by raising my rates I find myself doing fewer jobs I really don’t want to do and making more money overall.
How much should you charge? Well, how much do you want to make next year? Remember, most photographers don’t work every day. Many of the top photographers only shoot a few times a month and spend the rest of their time marketing. Fortunately, they are paid very well when they earn an assignment.
First things first. Add up all of your expenses for the year. Everything: rent (even home office), equipment, auto expenses, insurance, dues etc. If you believe you really don’t have many expenses you’ve not done this exercise, at least not very well. Next, add how much money you want to make next year. Last, add 10 percent more to your current subtotal for marketing.
What is your grand total? More than you thought, isn’t it?
Now, add up all the days or hours you worked as a photographer last year. If you are under 50 days, I recommend you use the number 50 and divide your days/hour/project number into your total expenses. This is how much you need to charge (minimum) a day, hourly or per assignment for a successful 2013.
Photographers often ask how much I charge. I generally don’t charge hourly or offer day rates. I use the per-image pricing system. If you were to translate my average rate per day, it would be about $3,500 a day. If I’m forced to use day rates (because I want to work with an agency or on a cool project) my rate day rate is somewhere between $5,000-$7,000.
Why so much? Generally when people want day rates, especially agencies, they want to work me really hard and take all the rights or unlimited usage of the images, so I factor that into the rate. Some photographers line item the photography usage and that is fine, too. No matter what you do, you should list the license or usage agreement in your contract or invoice.
If you are too nervous about raising your rates, ask yourself why. If you offer a photography service that is like everyone else’s, then you do have a problem. You need to separate yourself from the competition. You don’t want to be a photographic commodity. If you offer something special (and you do) people will pay for it.
Prospects need to know what makes you different and why they would want to hire you. You need to tell your story. This is where marketing comes into play. (Good thing you budgeted 10 percent). If you are still not convinced, at least raise your rates a few dollars.
I’m looking forward to hearing how you made 2013 a profitable year doing what you love.