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September 8 2010

READ THIS FIRST!!!  This article was posted, then taken down, then re-posted.  The comments were open, then shut, then opened again.  Obviously, Alicia’s article struck a lot of chords with people who felt that the pricing advice was off-base, but things got nasty, and we’ve struggled with how to deal with the fallout.  So here are the new rules:

1 – Don’t make it personal.  Talk about the merits of the article, but any nastiness will be promptly removed.

2 – No anonymous comments.  If it’s worth saying, it’s worth owning up to.  Read my thoughts on the issue here if you want to know why.

If you previously posted a comment, and it was deleted, re-post it.  So long as it follows the two rules above, we’ll let it stand.

-Doug Boutwell

Alicia Caine, pricing guru and Homeschooling mama to five kiddos, a dog, a cat, AND a chicken, shares her words of wisdom regarding pricing and your Happy Place.  Before you go all crazy and declare a burning-down of the TRA blog for this article, RE-READ IT.  Think on it.  Let yourself be open to the ideas before you bash ’em.  And if you still wanna rumble, or have a question?  A comment, a word of praise? Leave it in the comments for Alicia.

Just want to score an Easy as Pie promo code?  Add both the Easy as Pie cookbook and Pastry School to your cart, then use code HAPPY — Pastry School (an $89 value) is free until Friday, the 10th of September!  😉

wish I could have coffee with every single photographer in this
industry that is struggling with pricing. I’m fairly certain the
conversations would be variations on the same theme:

do I start when I’m ready to put a price on my talent?

comes with other questions, like: My competitors are priced more
than/less than me- how do I use their pricing to know if I’m priced
correctly? How do I price my work when I do commercial work on the
side? How do I know when it’s time to increase prices?

perfectly willing to be labeled all kinds of crazy because I doubt
anyone else in the industry has the courage to answer this question
in so simplistic a way. This is my non-scientific approach that
won’t require to have you post your pricing on forums and ask other
photographers what they think of your pricing, leave you wondering if
you are doing the right thing or keep you up until 4 in the morning
scoping out your competitors to base your pricing on what they are
doing. Ready?

called The Happy Place.
wanna go there, don’t you!? Of course you do!

Happy Place is your answer. It doesn’t look the same for everyone.  There is no model that you can follow, and it might even be constantly
changing as your business grows. It’s not a one size fits
all answer.  BUT it guarantees happiness because, well, how can you not be happy in YOUR happy place — that goal number that keeps your business invigorated and profitable?!

Alicia. In plain English. Where do I start with pricing when I’m
just getting out of the portfolio-building/not-charging-for-your-work

what is the least amount of money that you can make per session to make
it worth getting out of your pajamas?

Happy place.

it $200, or maybe $2000? THAT is where you start building your
pricing and creating a minimum order requirement for your clients.
Maybe it’s all the bills you need to pay for the month. Maybe it’s a
number that makes you feel valued, but is basically the family’s
‘play money.’ Maybe it’s just the number that makes others take your
business seriously. (Hint: no one takes $200 session + high-res CD
combos seriously.)

don’t care if you don’t know if you are worth $2000 or not – if
you aren’t happy making $2000 and you can’t get your clients to
pay you that, you need to find a different happy place.

Mine would be
knitting. If I can’t make my Happy Place amount of $ per session- I
will find something else to do to fill my time with that I will
enjoy…even if it doesn’t make me money.

require a certain amount to be paid per session, otherwise it just
isn’t worth it to me to be taken from my babies for work.

for less than your Happy Place will cause burnout. Choose to work at
doing what you love – profitably — over being dissatisfied.

about pricing and how it relates to my competitors, Alicia?

me ask you: what if every single one of your competitors is
struggling with their pricing? What if they’re unhappy with their
businesses? What if they book zero sessions per month? What if they
HATE their clients or their business as it now stands?

you know this just by looking at the pricing on their web-sites? No.

is one of the most dangerous pricing practices in the industry
because this is one thing that you can never know – how happy your
competitors are with their pricing. Unless you have some rockin’
open book photographers in your market that are willing to show you
their accounting files, I doubt there is any way of knowing if their
pricing is really working for them. Just because someone stays
constantly busy and hasn’t changed their pricing in 10 years
doesn’t mean that their pricing is working for them. Maybe they are
so burnt out and exhausted, they don’t even have time to look at
their pricing and adjust. Maybe they look okay on the outside and go
home from shoots in tears. Maybe they’ve buried their disgruntled
feelings with more and more work, so they never even have to realize
they’re upset. Maybe?

Alicia, but what if I do mainly wedding or portrait work but get a
call to do a commercial job that looks CRAZY AWESOME? How do I price

Happy Place. How much do you need to make to walk away thrilled that
you got hired? Every time I have done commercial work, I do not have
a pricing model that I use. I literally throw a number out there. I’m
used to being all up in my Happy Place – so these numbers look very
different for each inquiry. (You’ll get used to being in YOUR Happy
Place with practice.)

example, please?

Etsy store calls me wanting images of babies in their onesies – they
will send me 20 onesies to keep in exchange for digital files. I can
do this shoot at home using my baby as a model, and I get to keep
these rockin’ onesies. I also get exposure on etsy…. Heck, I’ll
do it on the cheap.

company wants me to fly out to them, has 4 days of shooting, 50
babies, they provide editing of the images by a professional editor
they have on staff (and who does fantastic work), requiring over 300
final images – totally awesome, but so much time away from family?
I’ll do this for $5,000.

bridal store calls me wanting to do fashion images of some of their
wedding dresses for a printed promo – 100 dresses in 2 days, I need
to present them at least 200 images in less than a week. Well, I
don’t particularly love shooting bridals – but I love a challenge
and breaking away from my usual baby work. Sure – I’ll do it – but
for $7K.

how the price keeps going up as it requires more effort and time,
relative to my interests? Maybe you would KILL to do that bridal
session, but would charge $9K to do that Etsy shoot. It’s all about
the Happy Place.

but but..what if I bid for my Happy Place and they don’t pick me?

because you will always be in your Happy Place with your pricing
doesn’t mean that you will always get hired with that pricing. I
lost the bridal shoot gig because it was considerably more than they
were willing to spend. Me? Still in my happy place because I
discovered that they wanted all of that and more and had a budget of
only $1,300. That would NOT have been my Happy Place. It would not
have been worth the time it would have taken to shoot, edit, pay for
eating out for my family while I was unavailable to make meals for
them, babysitting, sacrificing sleep, etc. etc.

don’t have to feel discouraged when people don’t hire me when I
am pricing my work and my time in my Happy Place because that is what
is important to me. I’m not willing to sacrifice my Happy Place to
make an extra buck.

Alicia, but I’m nowhere near working for my Happy Place. I need to
make money YESTERDAY. What now?

I was first starting out, I took tons of jobs that I knew I was
underselling myself for. Did we need the money – we sure did. So I
did them. Now that I am more established, I am able to put myself in
my happy place with every single inquiry no matter what it is because
I know that even if you feel desperate for a job, it’s NOT worth it
if you are miserable the whole time.

being in your Happy Place is apparent to your clients.

know that you are NOT totally in love with them when they write you a
$100 check for a killer session. They can sense that you aren’t
thrilled to be bending over backwards for them to get their $222
order delivered in half the time that normal clients get because they
are going out of town and need to take a 5X7 for Grandma with them to
Hawaii. (Note the expense of the vacation versus how much they just
spent on your services. Harumph.)

you are in your Happy Place, you can bet that the people that are
hiring you in this place are going to know it.

they make special requests to do some extra retouching, you are
thrilled to do it for them because you aren’t in Poor Me Territory
that is grumping and griping at every little special request. Your
profit margins are built right in, you’re working with ideal clients,
and you’re doing work that brings you alive. THAT’S what I’m
advocating here.

know your clients value you, and you in turn are showing your
appreciation to them in every way that you possibly can by going
above and beyond because you WANT to!

Alicia, Happy Place is an awfully vague term. How much should I
charge for ______ or ______? What about collections? What about

answers to your questions lie in Easy as Pie and Pastry School if you
aren’t yet ready to go all wild and free and Happy Place on your
business. Learn to price your session fees, your prints, your
albums, canvases, collections, etc…for profit. And from there you
can, you know, learn to feel the Happy Place vibe.

peeps who buy the Easy as Pie pricing guide get Pastry School free
until Friday! Add the Easy as Pie + Pastry School combo to your
cart, then use promo code HAPPY to subtract the $50 cost of Pastry

$50, score a free copy of Pastry School, get your portrait pricing in
order…and say “Aloha” to your Happy Place.