How to charge what you're worth.

You’ve probably been in a situation where you look at another photographer’s work, then check out their pricing and go ‘They are charging HOW much? Who would pay that much for their work, my work is so much better than theirs!’ I’m sure you’ve also been at the receiving end of advice that urges you to raise your prices immediately, but when you bite the bullet and do so, all you hear is tumbleweeds. Right?

The thing is, obsessing over who an earth would pay so much for work that is subpar to yours doesn’t really get you anywhere. What will serve you better is to start figuring out WHY someone would happily pay that higher price in the first place.

The reason your business slows down when you raise your prices has nothing to do with the actual price. It’s about understanding where your true value lies when it comes to your photography and your business, and grasping the real reason for being able to charge more. Price is really just a reflection of the value you provide, and it only becomes an issue in the absence of that value.

No-one buys anything based purely on the product anymore. Not even you. You won’t get that trendy haircut just because it’s by a hairdresser in your area, you get it from a stylist you trust, who’s up to date with trends, and who treats you well. You’ll pay more to eat in a restaurant where you enjoy the ambiance and customer service and, perhaps, because it gives you a certain kind of status. You don’t buy a specific pair of expensive boots because they are the only pair of boots in the store, you buy them because you desire the brand, because you appreciate the quality and perhaps because you love the experience at a particular store. Simply, you choose these purchases because they make you feel better, and because you can.

The reason these examples are of things like fancy haircuts and fine dining is because photography is a luxury service. Anyone hiring a photographer will have their basics like food, water and shelter covered. There is no physical need for having professional photographs taken. Potential clients are making decisions about their photographer based on completely different criteria: emotional need.

So, what need are you filling for your clients?

Giving them memories.’ is one that comes up often at my workshops. And that’s ok as a sentiment, but it’s also the standard proposition of the photography world. Look at every photography website out there and you will find promises of memories. To connect with a need that hits your customers where they really feel it, you’ll have to go deeper than that. You’ll have to be intentional with the way you present your work to the world, and about who your client is.

Start by figuring out what your pictures are about. The great thing about you being a part of the Moment Design/Beloved community is that you already have an idea about this. The very reason you found yourself pulled towards this technique was that you felt like something was missing. That magic ingredient that elevates photography to something more immersive and important. Now you’ll just have to figure out how to define that magic for your particular clients. Then you’ll be a step closer to elevating your brand to a level that allows you to raise your prices and see your business flourish instead of drying out.

So, what are your images about? They’re not just pretty pictures of someone. They are the essence of why this combination of people coming together in the world is magical. They are a gateway to falling in love with your partner over and over again. They are exposing a glimpse of your muse’s soul.

There’s a reason why you create the pictures you do. Take a pen and paper, and write down every reason you can think of. Do it now.

Try to think from your customer’s point of view. How do they see you and the service you provide? What needs do you serve for your clients? Write it all down. See if you can identify that one core need you are able to fill.

Do you know the market you serve?

Understanding the need you fill is the first part of the puzzle. The next one is understanding your market, and finding an opportunity for what you provide.

Often not finding the right market simply comes down to not seeing the woods for the trees. There are plenty of opportunities right in front of us, but because we tend to be overly focused on what others are doing, all we hear is how ‘saturated the market is’. But who’s market is that?

This is where you can really leverage your understanding of the First Phase of Moment Design, Intention, and see how you could define your market differently.

One of the biggest blind spots in our industry is that photographers tend to think of their market geographically. This leads to two types of trends. There’s the global market, where the whole industry is following the same trends that famous photographers are setting and thus end up taking similar images and presenting them in a similar way. And there’s the local market, where photographers are observing what others in their town are doing and then end up utilising the same ways of marketing themselves to the same audience.

Sometimes, it can seem like sorcery that someone else seemingly in the same market is doing really well, while someone else, who’s pictures might be better, is struggling to get by. The reason for that is that some photographers know how to look for their market, rather than blindly throwing their work out into the world, without understanding that they need the right target for anything to stick.

I’m a huge advocate for creating a clear target client persona as part of your branding and business planning process. However, the problem I most often see is that the profiles created are not based on any real-life research. It’s too easy to just throw together an ‘ideal client’, one that has lots of money and loves everything you do, without really putting in the time to find where this magical unicorn of a client might actually exist.

Here’s the real trick to putting together a useful target client persona. You’ll want to identify a target client who wants what you offer and who’s needs you are filling with your service. BUT, in order to be truly successful, you will have to identify a segment of the market where there is a gap. Forget about competing for the same piece as everyone else in your local, or even global, market. Trust your ability for seeing everything in the world differently, and find a place in the market where demand is high but supply is low.

It’s not sorcery, but it does take a little bit of work.

Now, remember that need you wrote down before, the one you are filling for your clients?

Next, go through all the clients you’ve worked with in the past, paying special attention to the ones that felt like a really good fit. Start your profiling from them, making personas for all the different types of clients that really need what you do, and whom you feel you are truly helping. Get as specific as you can. For example, someone working in finance will probably be too broad, but a marketing manager for a bank who loves fine art and wants to find ways to have meaningful moments with their family is starting to hit the right mark.

Now you know the kind of people who love what you do. From there, narrow it down to the ones who fit your own needs the best, and then ask this question: ‘Where can I find people like this, who are being ignored by other photographers like me?’.

They are out there, and they might not even know that they desperately need what you have to offer. A company who needs headshots, but who’s brand and ethos would fit portraits with more feeling to them. Husbands who want to find a way to treat their hard-working wives and give them a present that makes them feel beautiful and appreciated. When you start digging deeper, you will find so many pockets in your market you haven’t even thought about serving before, filled with people crying out for what you can do.

That’s the sorcery part, seeing those opportunities. Once you identify that gap where your ideal clients are being under-served and start marketing directly to them, you will be unstoppable and able to charge what you’re truly worth.

Marianne Taylor is a Certified Beloved Teacher, former Director of the Beloved Collective, the creator of Beloved Magazine and founder of Her Lovely Heart.