Top 3 Photography Business Resolutions for 2014

Happy New Year!

Every January, I try to refocus my photography business ambitions for the coming year, so in my first post of 2014, I thought I’d share my top three photography business resolutions for 2014.

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Photography Business Mission Statement

Put loosely, my photography business mission statement is something along the lines of:

“Make as much money as possible, with as little effort as possible, while producing photography that I personally love and that continuously challenges my artistic and technical limits”.

All of my photography business resolutions for 2014 essentially stem from my overall photography business philosophy.

Please adjust as you see fit.

2014 Photography Business Resolution 1
Raise Prices – And Stick To Them!

I recently heard a story about a guy who is a high end cabinet maker.  After working years for a luxury kitchen and bathroom contractor, he started his own business.  In order to get jobs, he put in prices that were slightly lower than his competition.

Except, he didn’t get very many jobs – so he kept lowering his prices.

Eventually, he was building custom luxury kitchens and bathrooms at the same price point as guys slapping up Ikea kitchens.  The worst part was that the clients he was getting actually just wanted a budget kitchen/bathroom – they didn’t appreciate his work and were always looking for more discounts throughout the job (wedding photographers should be able to relate to that).

A friend of his suggested that because his prices were lower than everyone else, he was giving potential clients the impression that he was a budget installer, so they went with higher priced options.

On a whim he decided to double his prices – and within a couple months he was getting twice as many jobs, for twice the price and making four times as much money.

Psychologically, it is hard to raise prices over fear of alienating existing and potential clients.  But, like the cabinet maker, I have had the suspicion for years that I am undervaluing my work.

So, my first photography business resolution for 2014 is to review my entire price structure and adjust my rates to be higher than my immediate competition.

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2014 Photography Business Resolution 2
Identify More Scalable Income Opportunities

Scalable income is basically making money that does not directly depend on payment for time.

For example, charging an hourly rate for a photography assignment is stable income.  Selling fine art prints is scalable income.

As photographers, we have the luxury of working for both stable income (an hourly rate) and scalable income (royalties, sales commissions, licensing, retail sales etc.).

The big advantage of stable income (as the name implies) is that it is predictable and reliable.  However, there is a cap on how much stable income any one person can earn.  If you bill by the hour you only have 24 hours in a day.  No matter how high your billable rate, you can never increase your income by an order of magnitude.

On the other hand, scalable income is not constrained by the number of hours in a day.  If one person purchases a stock photo, it is the same time an effort for the photographer as if one thousand people purchase the same photo.

The big disadvantage of scalable income is that it is unpredictable, with a small number of winners and a huge number of losers.  Tomorrow, Justin Bieber could Tweet a photo of one of your fine art prints that he just bought for his crib – and you could sell a million copies of the same print the day after.  Or, the much more likely scenario, you struggle for years hustling fine art prints that nobody buys.

So, my second photography business resolution for 2014 is to identify more scalable income opportunities.

I already generate some scalable income through stock sales, online photography courses and advertising revenue, but in 2014 I would really like to shift more of my total income from stable income to scalable income.

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My most profitable stock photo of 2013.

2014 Photography Business Resolution 3
Pursue Strategic Clients

As photographers, we tend to want to generalize our client base.  The idea is that it is better to have a large variety of different clients rather than just a few select clients. This is why so many photographers shoot weddings, babies, lawyers, real estate agents…etc…in addition to their regular commercial work (myself included).

However, similar to having a focused photography portfolio, it is often more profitable and much more rewarding to work with a smaller number of preferred clients.

In 2014, my third photography business resolution is to focus on a fewer number of clients, but to strategically select clients that offer the biggest potential for reward.

By reward, of course I am talking about clients that offer the largest financial opportunity – but even more importantly, I am also talking about clients that offer opportunities to grow my brand and challenge my talents.

With that in mind, as a long term investment, my goal for 2014 is to identify and slowly build relationships with a select group of preferred photography clients.

At the same time, I am also going to do the opposite – identify the clients that take up the most amount of time and effort for the least amount of reward – and refer them to someone else.

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What Are Your Photography Business Resolutions for 2014?

Are you thinking of raising your rates – or do you think you need to drop your prices to compete?

What would you prefer – stable income or scalable income?

Do you work for anyone who calls, or are you selective with the photography clients you accept?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

  • Bert Stern

    You ask what are our business resolutions? I have a simple, single resolution — SURVIVE!

    It is fun to sit at a keyboard and churn-out cute little easy to read “how-tos,” with stock photos attached but making things work in a competitive professional world is a much different and complex issue.

    In a world where any “Wannabe Photographer” buys a digital camera and has access to a program like Photoshop and suddenly thinks they are a professional photographer, it becomes more difficult for real pros to make a living.

    In a world where commercial clients suddenly discover some employee in the mail room has a Smartphone that makes 40MPix image files as the Bean Counters think… “Hey, we can do this our selves and save a ton of money,” it becomes more difficult for real pros to make a living.

    In a world where clients stop caring for quality, well lit and well composed images to save a few bucks it becomes more difficult for real pros to make a living.

    In a world where Big Box Merchants sell mass produced, canvas wrapped, wall sized “Fine Art” pictures made in China for $5.00 it becomes more difficult for real pros to make a living.

    In a world where a kid with a high level digital camera and a CD Burner starts shooting weddings for $50.00 and gives all the JPEGS to the bride on a disk for free it becomes more difficult for real pros to make a living.

    These are some reasons why “Survive” is my resolution for 2014.

    • Kay O. Sweaver

      I don’t think so. There are MORE opportunities for photographers out there, not less. Sure there’s a lot more at the low end, but if you can articulate WHY things like lighting and composition and concept matter, people will pay for it.

      I realized last year that it would be very easy to be lazy and fall into a rut of easy, cookie cutter jobs like many photographers do. Clients can tell when you’re calling it in instead of pushing your creative limits.

  • René Pirker

    I am studying Information Technology, have finished my bachelor studies last year and am working for a well-known global semiconductor company part-time. I do photography in my free time and have started doing stock one year ago. Till now it runs better than expected and I will continue to built up my portfolios on several agencies. Till now I have around 1.000 downloads worldwide, which is great if you’re doing this just as a hobby! Looking forward what will come this year. I will also visit Italy 2 times, so the Images I take there should usually also increase my downloads and income!