Why you must be the cheapest photographer in town in order to be successful
You want to make a living in photography and have long-term success as a photographer. There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to use your camera to put food on the table and to put your kids through school. There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to use your camera as a means to buy your next car, your next house, as a way to pay for your next vacation, your next 10 vacations, and eventually, as a means to retire on.
Living your life and supporting your family all while doing something you love … that’s the dream!
What if there was a way to greatly increase your chances of reaching success?
What if I told you that the best way to make a living from photography and create a sustainable photography business was to be a great “deal” for your clients? What if I said that if you want to make the most amount of money from photography, then you must be the cheapest photographer in town?
Seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t what you might think.
What being “cheap” really means …
Let’s dive in a bit and look at what the word “cheap” really means. Two synonyms for the word “cheap” are “reasonable” and “worth the money”, and furthermore, if you look on Dictionary.com, the word “cheap” is partially defined as being relatively low in price.
Interesting … relative to what? Well, relative to the value received for the price paid.
Therefore, we can re-define cheap in this context, and say that “cheap” means to be low in price, in relation to the value received.
If value is what you get, and price is what you give, then it’s clear to see now why you must be the cheapest photographer in town.
Value is what you get. Price is what you give.
This is a big part of what I call the “Get-Give Principle”, which I'll explain a moment. First, let me quickly give you an example of this in the real-world.
Would you give me a quarter for two dimes?
If I walked up to you on the street and said “Here’s two dimes, can you give me a quarter?”, what would you say to me? You’d probably tell me to go take a hike, right? But what if I said “Here’s a $5 bill, can you give me 2 quarters?”, you’d probably be reaching into your pocket pretty quickly, wouldn't you?
Why? Because in the first example, what you're giving is of greater value than what you're getting. In the second, it is the opposite.
This is what I call the “Get-Give Principle” at play.
The “Get-Give Principle” for a buying decision is as follows:
When what you’re getting is of greater value than what you’re giving, then it’s desirable (a great deal) for you.
When what you’re getting is of lower value than what you’re giving, then it’s undesirable (not worth it) for you.
Your clients will be using the “Get-Give Principle”, and so you must structure your photography business to follow it.
This simply means that you must be giving greater value than the prices you are charging. When you do, you are seen as desirable, or a good deal. Using our definition above, that means you're “cheap” because your price is low in relation to the value you're giving.
The reverse is true too, though. When you ask for more money than the value you’re giving, you are seen as undesirable, or expensive.
You see? Expensive and cheap are both just a relative term, where the price is constantly (often subconsciously) compared to the value to appropriately place it on the “Value vs Price Scale” below.
So, my opening statement is true. You should be “cheap” … relatively speaking. Your value should be greater than your price.
How you can build up your value as a photographer
Understanding this principle may be common sense to some, but it is a very important concept to be aware of, and you must make use of it intentionally. How can you increase the value that you are giving to our clients, then? I believe that there are 3 core areas of influence:
I’ve spoken about this before, in an article about how to guarantee customer loyalty, which you should read if you'd like to see another perspective on it.
Increasing the value of your product means many things, such as being a better photographer, offering higher-quality imagery and providing premium physical products to your clients.
Increasing the value of your service means improving turnaround time, offering a highly refined customer experience and continually delivering delight and surprise.
Increasing the value of your personality means learning to be the best version of yourself. The “self-help” shelves are jam-packed with great advice, and that’s certainly a great place to start. A few books I’ve personally found helpful and useful with regards to self-improvement are:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Likeability Factor by Tim Sanders
- Love is the Killer App also by Tim Sanders
- How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead (listen to her interview on the podcast here)
It's not enough to just understand your own value
Wait though … because simply increasing your value in these 3 areas isn’t enough by itself. You might know that your value is high, but you must communicate that to your clients. Your client has to believe it, and they must see your value, too. Because remember, it’s your client who is doing the price vs value comparison, so they need to personally assign a perceived value to what they’re receiving from you.
How can you communicate these benefits and value propositions? How can you effectively show to your client that you are of a high value? There are many ways, but first, it’s important to get entirely clear, yourself. In fact, it's mandatory.
Once you know and understand every detail as to why your value is high, only then will you be able to communicate that effectively to your clients.
So, to identify this, you must ask yourself:
- What do I bring uniquely to the table?
- What makes me different?
- Where in the categories of product, service and personality do I shine?
- Why should my client care about these benefits? What's in it for them?
Once you have taken time to establish your value proposition, then you can communicate that through samples, testimonials and stories to your clients.
Both the value and price side of the “Value vs Price Scale” are a series of building blocks, stacked on top of each other. Luckily, the price side doesn’t change, because you establish your prices to be fixed. This is good though, because it means that the price side is static, whereas the value side is dynamic, meaning that it can move up or down (hopefully the former). Therefore, we can use building-blocks to increase the value side of the equation to outweigh the price side.
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Redefining what “cheap” really means
I'm not advocating for you to be “cheap” in the negative way you might initially think. I'm advocating for you to be the cheapest photographer in the new way, as I've defined it above; deliver massively more value than the prices you are charging. Be a good deal for your clients. This is the sure path to increased bookings, increased conversion rate, and a successful, sustainable photography business.