From Netflix to Pandora, Zipcar to cell phone plans, more and more businesses are offering subscription or membership service plans — and consumers are embracing them as a way of simplifying their lives and budgets.
It’s time for independent photographers to consider this business model, too.
Look around. Photo agencies have already moved to subscription billing that offers monthly or yearly packages that provide a limited number of images for a flat fee.
Why not you?
How the Model Would Work
Here’s how it would work:
- You decide how much money you want to make for the year.
- You offer “shares” of your time to numerous clients who would want to ensure access to your services throughout the year at a predictable cost.
- Once you’re hired by enough clients (maybe 50, maybe more or less than that number), you’re done selling shares.
- Clients book you when they need you, using an online calendar as with Zipcar.
To make this work, you would have to stop thinking in terms of jobs and start thinking in terms of annual revenue. You might lose money on some jobs but make it back on others; everything would level out to generate a nice profit. And your clients would be happy, since they would be able to manage their photo budget on a yearly basis instead of per job.
Example: the Wedding Photographer
So, how might this work for, say, a wedding photographer?
Most wedding photographers have hit-and-run operations. They try to extract the most money they can from a client they expect to see one time only.
In a subscription/sharing model, the wedding photographer would not only offer wedding pictures, but baby pictures, family portraits and so on. He would offer his photography services for a set fee for, say, five years. During that time, he would be on call to shoot whatever the wedding couple needs. In exchange, he would receive steady income.
The couple, excited about all the things they have to look forward to (and record with pictures) in the years ahead, would be attracted to simplifying this part of their lives. And they would receive the added benefit of paying less upfront for their wedding photography, as the photographer could spread his fees over the next several years.
Multiply this by 50 clients and the photographer could live comfortably and stress-free, with far fewer financial highs and lows.
Time to Get Creative
A corporate shooter could use the same model. Replace wedding couples with companies and there you go.
Obviously, you would need some incentive for the clients to sign up for the share/subscription model. Free unlimited online storage of images? One hundred free prints a year?
The options are wide open. Be creative, folks.