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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About The Author
JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.
JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.