How do I price myself as a professional photographer/film-maker/creative? I ask myself this all the time. This is my job, this is my income, I have bills to pay, I have to eat, and I can't work for "exposure." Now sometimes when you first start out in photography, or really anything, you gotta prove yourself. You have to have some type of portfolio to build trust with potential clients.
When I first started getting paid jobs, I never knew how to not only come up with a rate but sell that rate and my service to potential clients. I use to rate my time for my time worked. For example, I would charge a couple wanting an engagement session $150 for a one-hour session. Now, it's not one hour of work, that $150 has to pay for the time of emailing, location scouting, shooting, editing, uploading, and follow up emails/phone calls. That's a lot of time for so little. One engagement session could very well total an 8-10 hour day of work.
Now, I'm charging for time lost. Those 8 hours to shoot, edit, travel, and plan could be used for other meetings, phone calls, email, personal shoots, YouTube videos, etc. Time is money. Probably one of the biggest shocks to people is how much work goes into shooting a wedding.
- Meetings/Calls - 2 hours
- Shooting the Wedding - 8-10 hours
- Editing the Wedding - 12-18 hours
- Uploading/Sending final images - 2 hours
- Travel - 2-5 hours
- Total = 26-37 hours
Charging for time lost has been a really beneficial way of thinking. When writing up an estimate, I ask myself: What could I do instead of this? How much of my time will this take? Does this have potential in future projects? If it won't be good for my wallet, will it be good for my portfolio or network?
One of the most helpful things to figure out your day rate or price per shoot is first to organize your expenses then divide that number by the number of shoots you think you could do that month. Of course, there will be months of little or no work and months of enough work to make you feel like your drowning. So for instance, if you have $2000 of expenses every month and can do 10 shoots in a month you need to charge no less that $200 per shoot. If you shoot 12 shoots in a month save that extra $400! Don't buy that new lens, you don't need another TV, forget about that latest video game (that's a waste of time and money).
I'm speaking from experience. I've had consecutive months of plentiful photoshoots, lost of revenue, and lots of good outlooks. Then I had months of little to no work. The only thing that works is to keep working. Keep pushing. Set goals, then go after those goals with all you got.
I feel like I am writing this mostly for myself. "Ryan, get after it! GO! Make that video, shoot that project, email that client." So in conclusion, the best way to make a living doing what you love, be it photography, graphic design, starting a t-shirt business (that's a funny story for another time), is to figure out a rate and own it. That's your rate, that is how much this job will cost. This is the value of my work. Own that number. Sell that number, but more importantly sell yourself.
If you actaully read this whole thing, I thank you and hope you found it helpful. Check out some prints I have for sale (only about 20 are left of each).