I love the start of a new year and the exciting possibilities that it brings for wedding photography businesses. With the new year comes time to re-evaluate business, create new marketing strategies, and hopefully book lots of new bookings!

As we evaulated our pricing this month and try to find ways to attract as many new clients as possible, it’s tempting to drive bookings by creating huge promos and discounts. We love the immediate results that can come from lowering rates and giving generous incentives. It’s very exciting to see the deposits come rolling in!

However, lots of work doesn’t always promise lots of profit. In this article, I’ll share two cases where lots of work wasn’t worth it and hopefully it’s something we can all learn from.

Understanding Time and Cost:
When Groupon was introduced, we watched a number of portrait photographers close their businesses because of poorly planned sales. These businesses didn’t fail because of lack of work, but instead because they could not physically perform all the work they had accepted. They did not consider how much time these jobs would take, and they did not charge enough to hire extra help or outsource the work to get them through this over abundance of bookings.

Understanding Cost and Time

To ensure your business makes the profits you deserve, it’s important that your prices make sense in relation to your costs and your time.

To avoid any similar mistakes, consider these questions:
1. What does it cost to produce this wedding, event, session, or product?
2. How much time will this work take?
3. Is it scaleable? (Am I able to produce the same results on a large or small scale?)

Calculating Worth:
I recently sat down with a close family member to talk about her business. She had owned a retail store with beautiful products for over 7 years and was tired of working 70 hours a week, being stressed, and making little money. After looking at her finances, it was clear that her business was not financially worth the sacrifices she was making in her lifestyle. Taking a closer look at her finances, she was able to make the clear decision to close her business. She is now working a part-time job that she loves, and is doing really well financially!

My point in telling you this story is not to encourage you to close the doors on your business. But for her, the business was not worth what she wanted to get out of it.

Similarly, if your prices are not set properly, you will find that your work load is high and your income is low. This is a very stressful and tiring position to be in. Every year I discontinue more and more product offerings to my clients. Last year I discontinued our most popular item. Why? It was a small item that was not making any money for me even though I was selling a lot of this item.

Are you working all the time and still not financially stable? Are you selling products or services at or even below what you pay for them? What should you discontinue? What can you raise your prices on? Do some math. Don’t take guesses. If math is not your strong suit, have someone help you with it. Once you crunch some numbers, you may be surprised to find you are selling a lot of something that is not making a profit worth your effort.  And what’s the point in that?

About Peter Carlson

Photographer Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement.

Peter & Whitney run their own studio Dove Wedding Photography as well as own The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

2 Comments

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  • Chris:

    PPA has created a Benchmark that is excellent to help with budgeting in the photography business. All members can download this from their website. A basic rule that is surprising to most is that your cost of sales is recommended to be between 25%-35%. This means you need to take your total expenses in creating a product and multiply that by 4x. Don’t forget to add packaging and presentation to the cost of creating the product. Of course your mark-up will vary from item to item, but you want your overall cost of goods to fall within this range.

    Also, consider what you want to be making per hour. This will help you decide how much you should be involved with the creation of that product. You may find it’s far better to outsource certain aspects of product creation.

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