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Ask the Photo Business Coach: Should I Put Pricing on My Web Site?

Posted By Beate Chelette On May 11, 2010 @ 12:00 am In Video Blog Posts | 16 Comments

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In this month’s “Ask the Photo Business Coach [2],” I answer the following question submitted by a Black Star Rising reader: “Should I put my pricing on my Web site to attract more clients?”

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16 Comments To "Ask the Photo Business Coach: Should I Put Pricing on My Web Site?"

#1 Comment By penelope beveridge On May 11, 2010 @ 3:25 am

Great resources here for all photographers. Thanks

#2 Comment By helen jones On May 11, 2010 @ 11:24 am

Thanks for this, Beate (and Black Star Rising). I have just been having this very same discussion with the photographer that I produce and manage print sales for and I totally agree - you need to open the lines of communication as soon as possible - i.e. if you have everything up there on the site you are not leaving much for a potential client to query you about. And, surely, its all about that initial email - being that you already have their interest if they take the time to contact you and it goes from there.
Great post....I'll show it to my photographer! ;)

#3 Comment By David Tong On May 11, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

Excellent insights, as usual.

I feel that adding price lists on any service-related business is rather counter-productive in the long run. Not only are you taking out any flexibility in pricing for overly complex assignments, your listed pricing gives customers too much data to assume how your service stacks up against your competitors. Excellent advice, as usual.

#4 Comment By Will Seberger On May 11, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

With all respect to Ms. Chelette, I have a different opinion, and a few questions.

True, multiple contacts (touches, in the video) are necessary to establish awareness and trust with a potential client.

By the time a potential client is calling looking for pricing information, though, you're likely beyond the getting-to-know-you stage.

And if they're willing to walk away just on your listed prices, are you going to undercut yourself and everyone else to save the job? Negotiating is one thing, but the parties have to start within view of each other to even begin talking.

Having cost information on the site, I think, is a more up-front way of doing business; and leaves the impression-gathering to other more suitable vehicles. It can also serve as a tool in beginning negotiations, as well as defusing any notions on the client's side that you're trying to take him for whatever he's got on him.

The listings are a new thing for me in the last six months or so, and the only "problem" I've had is that the $50-a-job folks have stopped calling and emailing. And I don't think many $50 assignment folks are going to be talked up two orders of magnitude in price.

Oddly, it's one of the most trafficked pages on my site as well. It's actually in third place after two larger photo essays.

Certainly, most people don't have pricing available, but I also know I'm not the only one who does.

I'm not sure I understand about having packages. Maybe a little clarification, please?

I have a number I won't go below, but costs change widely based on the job.

I'm not sure how to sell an editor on a "good, better, best" marketing scheme.

Is this geared more for personal services vendors? Weddings and the like?

#5 Comment By Milan Kolarovic On May 11, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

No no no no, no. I completely disagree with Beate, absolutely disagree.

Whereas the "packaging your services" -advice was good, the "put no pricing visible" is simply horrendous. I took that strategy for about 5-6 years with my own business, and it just didn't work. In the end it just doesn't pay off, and here's why:

First of all, a very large portion of people interested in your work won't bother asking for the price, a very large portion. If it ain't on the website, they close your pages and move on to the next one. If your work looks finely tuned and expensive, and you don't have a price list, many potential customers take it as "it's probably too expensive for me" and don't bother asking.

Also I'd like to point out that time is money, e.g. I've spend tens and tens, maybe even hundreds, of unpaid hours replying emails with those potential customers who, when heard the prices of your services, get into the uneasy situation where they're trying to find an appropriate and believable excuse to flee from the situation alltogether.. really, I'm sure you all know the feeling what must be on the opposite of the screen. And there's nothing bad about it, but basicly it's just a big waste of your time and the potential customer's time. Time that I could spend stretching my aching back or taking care of my real customers and their work.

I strongly suggest, make your pricing visible and by that you'll probably attract also a lot of those customers who would not have bothered to contact you unless you had the information at hand, and who might not even considered you at the first place (cause you were too expensive), but are now considering you as you are so upfront with all the info and because they couldn't find the same information amongst your competitors with the same ease.

Trust me, there's a whole less "bull*hit" and much more direct business (not to mention a lot less wasted man-hours) when you are being as transparent as you can be with all the information the potential client is seeking :)

#6 Comment By Scott Baradell On May 11, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

This is an interesting debate. From my perspective, if you've got customers coming out of the wazoo, by all means put a price list on your site so you don't have to deal with nuisance calls from people who can't afford you. However, if you believe in aggressively marketing yourself, I think Beate's advice is on the money. Offer to give them a free quote or complimentary consultation -- draw them in before raising the issue of price. Price is often an objection that can be overcome through persuasive selling. It comes down to whether you want to sell or take orders; you choose.

#7 Comment By Dorit Thies On May 12, 2010 @ 1:36 am

putting a price tag on your work in advance is not a smart move. Every assignment requires a custom quote, every assignment requires different set ups. come on you guys, no job is ever the same. get as much information as possible from your clients. I even ask my clients who I m competing against and how many other Photographers are submitting quotes, so I have an idea. You do NOT want to intimate your client upfront with NUMBERS. Keep it open. or do you want to kick yourself out of the "global ad deal" that would pay for the rest of your year living/promotion/vacation expenses? you never know
what tomorrow brings.

#8 Comment By Milan Kolarovic On May 12, 2010 @ 5:24 am

Doris and others,

My mistake, I forgot to clearly mention what was my perspective. I was speaking mainly on behalf of "products" like e.g. environmental wedding photography / portraits and child & family photography / portraits, those two are always the same IF you have made your productization adequately.

My environmetal portraits include always the same package, 14-16 ready and fully post-processed images and the only difference in price would come if the the location of the shoot resides out of town.

Take a look at my website's price list for example, and you'll find that products like newspaper / magazine / editorial photography are always priced on offer / needs, and that's true, it would be hard to put one price on that cause the clients needs are almost never identical, but familiar and "hip" products and services like wedding photography should _always_ go through productization and be priced the same, and that price should be visible to the client without any barriers or obstacles.

#9 Comment By Dean Buscher On May 12, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

An interesting debate. For corporate clients or commissions there is no such thing as a fixed price point so it makes sense not to put prices on your site because it doesn't work. In the case of my wedding business giving price points allows people a starting point where they can work from. It also saves me the tire kickers a huge time savings.
It is also not my experience that people need 5 to 7 touches to remember you. One email and one consultation is all that is require. Clients for this area of my photography usually have very little time. They will narrow it down to 3 choices and that is it. They aren't working in normal business hours, because this is a one time deal. I could go on and on. So showing prices is not a simple answer as it would appear in my experience.

#10 Comment By Suffolk Wedding Photographer On May 14, 2010 @ 6:03 am

I just wanted to thank you so much for this great advice Beate. This always seems to be a big question with differing on opinion, however what you say ties in with what the marketing gurus are saying with permission marketing, building relationships and the multiple-touch approach to getting a sale.

Getting people to request pricing information has proved successful but then moving on getting them to come for a free consultation hasn't worked so well. It still seems to be too quick.

Do you have recommendations for a sales funnel to lead people towards this over several stages?

Perhaps I should give free information like money saving tips. But am afraid of straying too far away from the goal of leading them to a consultation and hopefully close the sale.

It's great to hear advice on marrying up the photography business with best marketing practices. I look forward to future posts.

Pat
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#11 Comment By Beate On May 18, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

Thanks Pat, I'll address the 'how to follow-up after a price request' in the next video. Glad to hear that you are enjoying my business tips and trick on Blackstar. Hope your business is doing well.
Beate

#12 Comment By Bristol Wedding Photographer On July 23, 2010 @ 9:24 am

Thanks Beate for advice, however I tend to disagree to this. I think, Milan Kolarovic was right here on comments. There are some many photographers around that if a potential client comes to your website and sees no pricing information at all he will just close your page and move to the next one!
I actually am doing an experiment! :) I have never publish my prices in the web site and now I did it just a few days ago. Let's see what it will change!
Martins

#13 Comment By Milan Kolarovic On July 25, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

Martins, probably the same it did for me (as I had no visible prices for 3-4 years, and now published them along with my new website some 6 months ago).

I see you're coming from a wedding photog poin-tof-view, so here's my 2 cents in seeing into your future.

1. You will get a lot less emails to answer to, in another words - those to whom you are too expensive won't even contact you in the first place, because I strongly believe that if the client cannot afford you, well, he cannot afford you, period. And no amount of "reeling in" and "sweet-talking" him/her won't overcome this fact).
2. You will get more mails where you can see that the client has done his/her homework and comparisons, and he or she is simpy contacting you to make sure the date is free and booking you.

In another words, my guess is that you won't be loosing any clients, but might gain some of those who are either ..
a) a little lazy on contacting someone to qet a quate on prices
b) or thought you were more expensive than you actually are, and would have never bothered contacting you in the first place (even to ask about your prices)

#14 Comment By John S On August 27, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

I found this article extremely helpful even though I disagree. I do agree for specialed services you should not post prices, but for portraits and weddings you should.

I know when I am looking for something on the internet (service or product, photography related or not) if a website does not have any prices (even base starting packages), I go on to the next one. I only make contact if prices are not listed and “IF” it is something specific I can't get anywhere else.

When it comes to wedding and portraits, I do agree you should have a few different packages for you clients but list that you can also custom design a package to fit their needs. I agree that you should have your premium package (the one you would love to sell), your mid range package (this being the one you want to sell) and you should have your base package and this is the "lowest" you will go. I once heard you should have three to five packages. The top one being the one you never expect to sell (as Beate said, pop a cork and celebrate if you do), the middle one you will probably be 70-80% of your sales, and your lowest one being the smallest part of your sells.

Also I believe if you are not updating your website at least once a month to show you latest and greatest or to show any new services you offer, you are doing yourself a disservice. I am not talking about a total redesign; I am talking about updating some of the content. - John

#15 Comment By Vance Wagener On July 19, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

IMO: whether to put prices on the website or not is dependent on your regional market and targeted client base. I live in the Midwest. Photography is a service based industry and is most often judged by price vs quality. Our customers are willing to pay a more if the quality there. By having prices or at least a range on the website pre-qualifies customers and discourages bargain hunters who are looking for our quality for Walmart pricing. We the phone rings it is mostly people who are ready to book and are aware of what I charge. I agree with John S. that our clients would most likely move on to the next website if no range is indicated. Am I the most expensive? Not by far. But I also am not person who you go to with 3 crumple shirts in a paper bag for Sr. Pictures and say "Let's get this done." either.

Packages? Really... that is so 80's. Also a good way to limit profits. I have found incentive pricing to work effectively without limiting the client psychologically to a cap. Besides I have never had a package where they didn't modify to meet their needs. We did so much horse trading and substitution that the packages became almost useless other than to cap what they were going to spend.

To clarify: I'm currently speaking about our portrait and senior business. I am in the midst of changing our weddings back to packages seeking the higher end market. Our children's pricing is currently discounted as it is a new market that we want to expand to. As the demand rises it may very well go to the incentive pricing I've been using for the other 2. We do not put commercial pricing on the website as services are based on the needs of the client and often involve licencing agreements.

The one thing I did get from Ms. Chelette is the power of video. I found her video to be compelling and wanted to take everything she said as truth even though I knew it not to be true for me. I am seriously thinking about putting a personal video on my website chatting about all the wonderful things we can do for you the customer. I will be adding that to my list of web updates shortly.

#16 Comment By RJ IMAGERY On January 8, 2012 @ 2:06 am

Well I'm going to be honest here. I've surveyed around 300 workers at my place of full-time employment about this. Out of those 300 all but 6 people said if they can't see some type of pricing on the website, they don't even bother calling. I think a large majority of people like seeing if they can afford something before they call and have to tell the photographer they "can't afford his or her services". That also leaves the clients in an embarrassing position when they go through all the humdrum listening to the photographer sell themselves only to talk price at the end and then have to tell them "I can't afford you." I myself as a photographer am the same way. If I go to a website for any type of product and they don't have prices, then I just assume they don't want my business and I move on to the next website or company that is willing to share their prices with me or at least a ballpark quote before I bother calling them and wasting my time on the telephone. I see to each their own, but in the end I'll be posting my prices, which I can change at any point by just updating my website. Besides, posting my prices should keep people from calling me and freaking out and hanging up when they find out I don't charge Walmart prices.


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