"I'm a wedding photographer."
I know, I know. You feel like every time you open Facebook or Instagram, you see another person that's taken up wedding photography. It can be super discouraging if you're already a photographer and it can be incredibly intimidating if you're wanting to become a photographer. Did you know that I hated telling people I was a wedding photographer up until like, a year ago?? It felt unnatural and a little pretentious, if I'm honest, because everyone's sister's friend is a photographer these days. People's responses always left me feeling less than, not because I didn't feel like I was talented but because I lacked confidence in myself and what made me special and different from everyone else.
When I say that I didn't like telling people what I did, I wouldn't even say that I was a photographer, much less a wedding photographer. It's a tough industry because while a lot of people do value it, there is a group that doesn't really care for the quality, just the best price. It wasn't until I became confident in myself and being able to stand up for myself that I was able to proudly call myself what I wanted to be. I got a lot of comments about how wedding photographers "charge an arm and a leg" and "I have someone doing my wedding for $200". Trust me, I've heard it all.
Four years into this business, I am now one hundred percent confident in myself, my craft, my pricing, and everything else that I used to shy away from talking about. I strongly believe that if you implement these tips, you will be well on your way to being a thriving wedding photographer with the best clients in the world. ;)
One: Just be YOU!
This really seems like common sense. Right? I can go ahead and assure you, it's not. I remember when I started photography, I hardly knew anything. I knew that I wanted to be a documentary style photographer, but I didn't know what editing style I wanted. I didn't know anything about what kind of clients I wanted to work with. I didn't know what my pricing should be. I did the exact opposite of what I should have done. I looked at what everyone else was doing and based what I did off of what they did. This was so toxic. My pricing was too low, so I was becoming burned out before I really even started. I wasn't marketing for my ideal client. I wasn't basing my pricing off of my own cost of doing business, so I wasn't profiting. It wasn't until I was at my wit's end and wanting to quit that I learned that you have got to be yourself and let your future clients be attracted to that in order to 1. Have really awesome clients willing to pay whatever you charge and 2. Actually enjoy what you do and feel fulfilled doing it. Allowing yourself to be a REAL person on your socials and your website are going to attract the type of client that will make you feel excited about your job. Share things that you're interested in and things that you love to do and people will be attracted to your authenticity. Because you're a good fit with said client, they'll rave about you to everyone they know.
Two: Customer freaking service.
I was just discussing with a friend of mine recently that I genuinely forget that not everyone comes from the customer service background that I do and so this is not a number one priority for a lot of business owners. Guys. This probably should be the one and only tip. How you treat people, CLIENTS OR NOT, is so freaking important. I have booked more clients off of the referrals of other vendors and off of people that I have never done any work for. I have clients that I have done a free giveaway session for that have gone on to book 3-4 sessions a year. When you make people feel loved and taken care of, they will sing your praises up and down to anyone that will listen to them. I know that the saying, "the customer is always right" makes your skin crawl if you've worked in any customer service position. I get it, but there was a phrase at my customer service job that we used: "Be hard on procedures and easy on people." 9 times out of 10, our clients are not photographers. They do not do this everyday. So, when they text you about their photos when you're pushing the 4 week turnaround time, you should not be upset with them. Yes, contracts are in place to keep everyone on the same page. (If you don't use contracts.....please start.) However, if customer service is any type of priority for you, your systems should be so flawless that your client doesn't have the time to ask any questions. People scoff at me all of the time when I tell them that my session turnaround is contractually one week, but I aim to actually deliver within 48 hours. With weddings, contractually, I have a four week turnaround, but I aim to deliver in 1-2 weeks. These are easy ways to really wow my client that literally don't cost me anything at all. Your systems and how you operate directly affect the client and if they're not organized and uniform, then it feels sloppy.
Three: Figure out who you want to be and BE THAT
When you're first starting out, it's so tempting to charge the bare minimum (or nothing at all) because you want to have people in front of your camera and you want to build a solid portfolio. There is nothing wrong with that. At all, but the number one mistake I see fresh photographers making is allowing people to negotiate their pricing like it's a freaking yard sale coffee table or a dang auction. NO!! You have got to be firm in who you are and confident in who you are as a business owner to say, "No, I will not lower my pricing." You are a business and the number one goal of a business, obviously, is to make money. Presenting your information and pricing in a professional manner and have solid processes in place will ensure that clients trust you and will be willing to pay for your service. Just because you are out of someone's budget does NOT mean that you are overcharging. People will make room in their budget for what's important to them.
DO YOUR COST OF DOING BUSINESS. LIKE FORREAL. RIGHT NOW. Cost of doing business is your overhead cost (editing software, equipment, any monthly fees, etc.), plus what your desired salary is (Don't forget to figure up the time you spend editing, traveling, meetings, and correspondence time). The easiest way I've been able to look at this, is to come up with my desired yearly NET income (after expenses), figure out how many weddings I'd be comfortable with doing in a year, divide my net income by that number, and that is ideally what I would charge for weddings.
I.E. Let's say I'd like to gross 60k for the year. If my expenses equal 15k, I would divide 75k by my desired number of weddings. If I was comfortable with 20 weddings for the year, I would ideally want to charge around 3750 per wedding. Obviously, when you factor in shooting sessions, using a similar equation, you could charge a bit less because of that additional income. So, you would coordinate that with your desired number of sessions per year.
I believe in you and am praying that you can grow your business to where you want it to be this year. I'm rooting for you!!