Last week, we heard from Kezia of Supernaturally Healthy about what she’s learned in 2.5 years of business. Kezia and I will be taking turns writing posts on being boss for eight weeks, because we’re both really fired up about seeing compassionate, whole-hearted women find their girlboss tribes.
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This week, I’m continuing our Boss Break series on a topic we as creative business owners can get kind of weird about – money. Specifically, pricing our art.
It’s the thing that can make us feel all cringe-y and weird. When someone contacts us and says, “How much do you charge for ____?” And we hold our breaths and say a number, and brace ourselves for a reaction somewhere on the spectrum between “That’s all?” and “Holy Moly are you CRAZY?!”
I’m no financial expert by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a few things I’ve learned about pricing in my first few years of business, and I’m going to share a handful of them with you today. Ready? Here we go.
When I first started my business, I regularly spoke to a photographer friend who’d already been in business for a few years. I was once having a conversation with her about pricing, and she told me this story:
When she first started out, she was shooting lots of sessions just to try and build her portfolio. Because she was a new photographer, she charged people $75 for them. Yes. Seventy-five. And she was really good.
One of her $75 clients posted a family photo on facebook, and someone commented saying, “Wow, what a great picture! Who’s the photographer?”
And the client replied: “Jane Smith (not her real name). She’s so good and SO CHEAP.”
My friend was horrified. She sent the client a kind message asking her to remove the comment, and made the decision right there and then that she didn’t want to be Wal-Mart.
She told me she decided to do a few more sessions for FREE, because free was better than cheap. And then, when she started charging, she went in with her Anthropologie prices.
She challenged me to think about the same thing early on in my business. Do I want to be the “cheap” photographer? Or do I want to be the high-quality, great service, awesome customer experience photographer? Like, am I going to be Tesco? Or am I going to be Anthropologie?
(For the record, Anthropologie, all the way.)
If people want a cheap photographer, that’s totally fine, and there are plenty of those out there. But if they want Anthropologie, I’m your girl.
*no offense to Tesco. I do my big grocery shop there every week because I like to use my Clubcard vouchers to take my kids to the movies. 😉
Here’s how pricing goes for creatives a lot of times: “He’s a little bit better than me, so I won’t charge as much as him. But she’s not quite as good as me, so I need to charge more than her…” And then we just pluck our prices out of thin air based on what everyone else is doing and because we kind of just want to blend in so no one will question why we’re charging the amount we’re charging because – if we’re honest – we kind of still feel like we’re faking it, EVEN THOUGH WE’RE NOT. The problem with pricing this way is:
When I stopped basing my pricing on what everyone else was doing, and started basing it on what my own financial needs are, and what the costs of running my business and providing the client experience I provide are, it took the emotion out of it and became just cold, hard facts. Which took a lot of the fear out of telling people how much I charge. It’s not personal. This is just how much it costs. So when someone says, “Oh, that’s a little bit out of our budget,” I don’t have to think, “OH MY GOSH I AM WOUNDED TO MY CORE.” I can just think, “Okay.” Pricing art we create can feel emotional, because making art is emotional. But when we put our business heads on and think more like entrepreneurs than artists, we can still create with our hearts while we price with our heads.
This is actually a revelation I had when I was away with Kezia a couple of weeks ago, so it’s a pretty new lesson for me (always learnin’).
If I keep pricing myself at just-starting-out prices, I’m making it harder for new talent to enter the market. Who would someone choose to go with a brand new photographer who’s only shot one wedding when they could get me – a seasoned photographer with dozens of weddings under her belt – for the exact same price? One of my real heart passions is to help new photographers build successful businesses, but if I keep my prices low, and I’m actually preventing them from doing just that.
Mean, right? And I don’t want to be mean. Do you? I didn’t think so.
So, what lessons have you learned about pricing what you create? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
And if you’re a female creative entrepreneur who’s interested in connecting with other women like you, we’d love for you to sign up for our email list so we can keep you up-to-date with what we’re planning (ahem, Mastermind Retreat)!