Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Incentivize vs. Penalize

Do you have a hard time collecting payment or getting client selections done on deadline?  If there are no incentives for moving quickly, things may almost always wait until the last minute or just after the last minute with an ask for forgiveness or a distaste for a late fee.  By incentivizing clients to act early and on-deadline, you help empower them to make the most of their time by rewarding early and on time decisions.

Take two different sets of language you might see in a creative agreement:
"Orders placed before the early bird deadline of 2/2/16 will receive 10% off the total order."
"Orders placed after the final deadline of 2/8/16 will incur a 10% late fee."

What excites you more?  What makes you look forward to completing your order early and on time?  What language creates stress for you if you don't complete it on time?  How do you want your clients to feel about working with you?

Here's another example:
"Prepaid packages save 10% when paid in full during booking."
"Payment options available for 3% more."

Another photographer recently said to me, "why would I want to give anyone a discount for paying their bill early or on time?"  My answer is that you should already have this "discount" built into your pricing profit margin for negotiation purposes anyway, and when you recognize that clients who wrap up their orders early are actually creating LESS work for you, you realize that you're actually saving even more money by way of administrative time.  When clients pay early it means you can wrap up their project earlier, it means their work isn't on your to do list overlapping other work you have to do, and it's one less bill to chase down and create a payment system for.

Please keep in mind that I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have late fees or extra fees for added administrative work - merely that by providing incentives for the client side of your process, you can wrap your projects up more quickly and ultimately provide both you and the client with a more rewarding experience.


Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why $60,000 Revenue = $30,000 Income

$30,000 is the U.S. national median of photographer salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  Which breaks down to $15/hr when you divide that by a traditional U.S. working life of 50 weeks a year ($600/wk), and 40 hours a week ($15).  Obviously, photographers don't stay in this profession for the money; they stay because they are passionate about creating great images and can't imagine doing anything else they love more.

What many starting photographers don't understand is that in order to make that $30,000 salary, most photographers actually need to bring in $60,000 in revenue.  Here's an example of how that can break down in expenses for a full time photographer:

Individual expenses will obviously vary from person to person.  One photographer might save more by not upgrading equipment as frequently, but may spend more on education.  Another photographer might have a large marketing campaign budget (which I didn't include as a separate item), but gets health insurance from a spouse.  These numbers are just examples to provide a clue of where the money may go after it walks in the door.

This is also the reason that I suggest a lot of beginning photographers start with a 50/50 split on the revenue that comes in from clients.  Put 50% in a business bank account and 50% in a personal bank account.  This helps make sure that you're beginning your business with a solid practice of paying yourself while also setting money aside for business needs and expenses.  By splitting the revenue into expenses and income right when it comes in, you prevent the practice of not making anything to pay your bills, while also making sure your business can cover expenses to survive another year.

Have you been in business for a while and tracked the percentage of your revenue that goes to expenses versus income?  What percentage has been true for your revenue and expenses?

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Branding Illusion

"I have a friend whose website looks AMAZING, but she can't seem to find any work"
"People say they love my work, but I feel like no one is hiring me"

You'd be surprised how often I hear this.  

That pretty shell, that fabulously curated website, that swoon-worthy instagram account, all of those styled shoots- they all create a grand illusion of a brand having its shit together, but it doesn't mean the person behind it is making a living from their art.

I'm not saying having a lovely brand means people don't have their shit together.
I'm saying don't assume a lovely brand means a lovely business bank account.

How many of those gorgeous images were done for free?  How many were styled shoots with friends who are stylists or make-up artists?  How many were personal projects?  There are a lot of great artists in the world.  There are many fewer great artists who are also great business owners.

Don't assume someone's stage act resembles their behind-the-scenes life.  You'd think in a world full of social media we'd be beyond the assumptions of the illusion by now.

"My website and portfolio are such a mess, I never get around to updating because I'm working all the time"

You only hear this when you meet working creatives in person.  You probably never even heard of them.  You probably never visited their website.  Yet, if you see a brand online and their work looks old or their website outdated, as a fellow creative you might assume something about their business.

The point is, don't compare yourself to an illusion in either direction.
Don't assume an old or outdated website means no business.
Don't assume a pretty website means great business.
An online brand is just an illusion, a stage act.

You don't have to have a well-put together brand to have a thriving business.  I'm not saying you shouldn't strive to keep your website updated, or you shouldn't do personal work when you don't have any clients, or that you shouldn't strive for a lovely brand.  I'm saying you don't NEED any of that to be successful as an artist and a small business owner.  It's just wrapping paper.  The real gift is underneath all of that.

All those things you think will make you "look" better are great for the ego, they are great for making you feel confident about putting your work out into the world, however they don't guarantee that clients will hire you.

The brand is the impression we want people to have of our business, but the actual business and financial exchange comes from our SERVICE and our desire to serve others with our talents.  The real brand experience comes from how we SERVE.  When people meet you in person, are they excited to work with you?  Was it your website that gave that brand impression, or was it your energy and passion?

You don't even need a website to be in business and to make a living as a creative.  Yep.  That's right.  You still exist, and you still have the ability to serve as a professional creative, even if you don't even have a website, even if you don't have a pretty brand.

Stop comparing.  Stop holding yourself back.  Stop thinking you're not good enough to serve with your talents if you don't look like you have it all together.  Stop underselling your gifts.  Stop thinking you need to look a certain way in order to serve others.

Get out and serve.  Find your clients offline.  Set up meetings with people.  Listen to what people need.  Offer to work together.  Spend more time focusing on your service to others than you spend on your brand.  Your bank account will thank you.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

When Client Doesn't Understand Time Needs

A question I see frequently on photography boards is how to address clients who want 100 images to be created in 30 minutes of time- or some variation of how to deal with a client who is expecting too many images in too short of a time frame.

The Problem: 
Generally, clients have this expectation because they haven't fully understood how much time professional image creation takes.  You're the expert, and perhaps you even provided them with timeline suggestions, but somewhere along the line your suggestions weren't understood or were trumped by someone else who told your client that it wouldn't take that long.  As far as the client is concerned, taking a photo is like taking a selfie- a few seconds and you're done- so you need to help them understand why it takes longer when working with a professional.  They aren't ignorant, they just aren't professional photographers who see 100x more detail in every image and spend extra time making sure it looks better... which is exactly why you're being hired in the first place.

The Solution: 
Address this as early and as soon as possible by quantifying the amount of time each image takes for the client.  Help them understand the process and what happens during that time so that they can be realistic in their time goals.

Wedding Example: If it takes 5 minutes to round up the right people and create a great formal portrait at a wedding, than let the couple know that every posed image request needs to have 5 minutes allocated in the timeline.  If they request 50 posed images in 30 minutes, remind them that each pose can take 5 minutes to get everyone in place and properly focused, and then ask if they'd like to add more time or remove some of the requests.

Commercial Example: If it's a product shoot and you know it takes about 1 hour to get the lighting right with all the variations you need in post-production, than help the client understand that every photo request will also require 1 hour of time from the stylist, studio, and lighting crew.  By helping a client understand what is involved in the creation of each image before you get to the shoot, you save everyone time and frustration in the end.

Be The Expert:
Clients come to you for your expertise because they don't have a full understanding of what it takes to create the work you create.  Make sure you educate clients and help them understand as much as possible in order to have a successful shoot with realistic expectations.  A client needs to know when their expectations aren't reasonable or accurate, and you are the only one who can help them understand what time is needed to create your professional quality.


Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Adding Value Into Pricing

When a client requests a price list, how do you quantify that value beyond a number of images or time invested?  If you've been in the business for a long time and are no longer booking based on a low price point, do you also quantify your experience, professionalism, and good reputation?

Since many clients collect a series of price lists in advance to compare side by side with other price lists- you can also use this opportunity to include some variables that other creatives with a similar level of image quality and pricing may not be able to include or compare to....

Example A: Time & Deliverables
-8 hours of on-site photography
-second photographer
-at least 600 images
-online proofing gallery for 3 months

Example B: Experience & Excellence
- 2 Award winning photographers with 10 years of experience
- Verified excellence in service with over 100 five star reviews
- Professional album design team
- Professional retouching team
- Archival quality print lab
- 10 International photography awards
- $2m in liability insurance
- 8 hours of on-site photography
- 20 hours of post-production artistry
- minimum 600 images delivered
- 3 months of image hosting & sharing online

How can you demonstrate your value beyond the basics?  Clients are going to make comparisons no matter what, but if you can give them more variables to compare with that will help demonstrate the value of experience and excellence, than they will at least start considering those variables as they make their comparisons.


Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
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