A question often asked by entry level photogs is how much to charge for their services. Many find it difficult to assess their own value, a major constraint in the path of a promising career. The problem is more often than not beginner professional photographers don’t know how much is an accurate estimation of the value that they bring on to the table.
The biggest value attached with photography are the wonderful memories that they help capture and preserve for posterity. No one can put a price tag on that. But still, although photographers capture emotion they cannot be emotional themselves when it comes to charging a price for their services.
As a beginner professional photographer, people think that the only thing that matters is how well they shoot. Everything else takes care by themselves. That’s not entirely true. While your shooting prowess is definitely the first criterion, there are plenty of average photographers (no disrespect meant) who make a killing because they are more than just photographers. They are also good at doing business. Business acumen is a must have in order to succeed as a photog, period.
Fixed or hourly?
The reason you need business acumen is so that you can make an accurate estimation of the costs involved before you can put a price tag on your services. As a photographer you are likely to work on an hourly basis as well as on fixed price basis. Most wedding photographers e.g.; work on both. They put a fixed price for what’s included in the package and for extras, anything that’s not discussed in advance they charge an hourly price.
But how do you do either? How do you arrive at how much to charge for an hour of your services? Because at the end of the day that is what is used to derive at least part of all the contract prices that you come up with.
There are a number of things to consider really, and this is why it is an added advantage to have business acumen.
The first thing that you should consider is the overhead costs. If you have a full-time business which is being run from a rented place you would need to consider the entire rent, add telephone, electricity, internet, gas bills for client meets and driving to locations, maintenance costs, salary of any assistants that you have employed, refreshments. Then add the costs of consumables such as memory cards, batteries, disks etc. Add to that the depreciation of equipment such as cameras, lenses, lights, tripods etc.
On top of that add your own expected profits. That certainly depends on the kind of life style that you have. How much do you need every year to meet your expenses? If you have just finished your studies and merely testing waters, your expectations would be far less compared to someone who is quitting his full time job and delving into photography as a profession. You may still have to pay off any educational loans that you have. If you are switching careers, you will need to think about your retirement, your mortgage, college fund for your kids and any other responsibilities that you may have to burden in the not so distant future.
Tax is also a liability that you need to consider. Whatever you earn, depending on the country you live in some part of it is due to the government. Add that to your revenue targets for the year because that is something that will be paid out of your total income.
The income of your spouse is a big help especially when you are transferring from one boat to the other. It can stabilize things to some extent. However, the biggest advantage is that you can charge a price that you are comfortable with and not merely seek to survive with at the same time look forward to maintain that over the next couple of years.
Your hourly rate
Once you have jotted down all the costs that is associated with your business divide that by the number of weeks that you think you will work each year. Consider the weeks you would be out on vacation each year. Consider the days you will not be able to work such as when friends and family comes over or you visit them. Consider a few days when you may not be in a position to work due to sickness. You are only human.
Once you figure out how much you need to make every week, you give yourself a concrete target to work towards. Divide that by the number of hours that you think you can spare for your business. That is the magic number, your hourly rate.
One of the most important things to consider is how many hours you spend on editing the photos and see if you could be better off by outsourcing photo editing to someone with the lower hourly rate and use the hours that you free up to spend with the clients and shoot more.