How Much is Your Time Worth?

This is a question you have to know before you ever think of setting the prices for your photography.  This question is two-sided and much deeper than most photographers think.  The two sides are how much are people willing to pay for your time and how much do you have to charge to make a living.  For many photographers thinking of the time involved in the creation, editing and delivery of their work is too difficult of a variable to even think of.  This is why most photographers in this industry base their prices on what other photographers charge (hoping they know what they are doing when they set their prices) or they come up with some magic percentage like 10 times lab costs.

Time is the missing factor to consider in most photographers pricing strategy, even those more established studio owners.  Many speakers like to talk about high averages, which is something all of us strive for, but then when you listen to them talk about the time they put in to a consultation, the session, the editing before the view, the viewing and finally the order, they invest so much of their time into working with each single client they have to sell thousands of dollars in portraits to make more than minimum wage. And of course being photographers we have large ego`s and think no one can a job like we can, so we tend to try to do as much of each of these jobs as we can, which is just plain stupid!

I generate anywhere between $1000 and $2000 an hour in sales when I have a camera in my hands, however the minute I move from the camera to the computer, my value has just been reduce to about $15 an hour.  To edit your own work, you either give up profit (working when you could be shooting) or you give up your home life (working when you should be spending time with your family). You have to watch and reduce the time you spend with each person to a minimum without the client feeling like the experience was not personal enough.

In times like these, lowering the amount of time you spend with each client isn`t only a good idea to increase your profit, but a must to keep your prices competitive. I spend 45 minutes to one hour total with each senior I photograph.  Between employees and a streamline business system, that is my total investment of time.  This means I can see more people in less time. This means you can keep your prices lower to raise your volume and keep a steady stream of people coming through your door.

Volume is very important in economic times like these.  High end photographers all over our area that used to only photograph a few people each working day are scrambling trying increase their volume of clients, since the order sizes have been reduced with clients having less money to spend.  Large orders are still happening but less frequently, so you much see more clients to make up the difference.

The concept of time management in your business is a key to success that you must master.  If you think of yourself as an artist and the whole idea of valuing your time is beneath you, what is the logic of “artistic” photographers that take the time to shoot 250 images in a session, then taking the additional time to edit those 250 images down to the 50 to 80 images they should have taken in the first place?  The business process of our photography doesn`t make sense because in most cases it has been developed and taught by people who think of themselves as artists who are in business, rather than business people who happen to be artists!  While time is only one of the factors involved in your pricing, (others are cost-overhead, competition, etc. etc.) it is the one factor that most photographers don`t want to address because it makes them be responsible with the use of their time and seem less artsy!  When all is said and done you only have so many hours to work this year and for every hour you spend on the computer, shooting too many images and editing down and dealing with things employees could do for you, the less profit will end up in your pocket!

 

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on October 28, 2010.

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