As small business owners we often take a lot of time and energy away from our families to work. It is hard for me because I have two small children under 2 who I stay at home with. Sadly, I keep finding myself so busy that they are often babysat by the TV, or may feel I am ignoring them as I edit images or do various other tasks at the computer. I am making my children feel my work is more important than they are, and I am making pennies for it.
Winter is the slow season in Utah for photographers because it is cold and everything is covered in snow. Some people enjoy snow pictures…. but they’re not for everyone. Since I was holed up in my house, I decided to invest in more photography and business education. One of the biggest things I learned was how important it is to charge what you are worth.
As a photographer, we are industry professionals and should be making more than minimum wage, right? When I first set my prices, I did it very scientifically. I looked at what people around me were charging and used their prices. This winter I finally looked at my finances… I will give you a small taste of what they looked like (kind of embarrassing…)
This fall I charged $100 for an hour long family shoot and would deliver 25+ edited images. After taking these business and marketing courses, I realized I never actually took the time to figure out my business costs and what I was earning. So, I did the math.
Of my $100 fee, 30% automatically goes to taxes, that’s $30 (math is easy when the number is 100!). I pay a 10% tithe to my church from anything I make, so that’s another $10. Right out of the gate, I only take $60 away from my session fee. But that’s not all, then you have business expenses (business fees, gas, equipment, etc) and I take half of what is left, aka 30% or $30. Then I have $30 left to pay myself. But hey, $30 isn’t bad for an hour, right? Well, a photographer is not done with their work after the shoot is complete, in fact it has just begun. Even before that, I have done 30 mins-1 hour of communicating with the customer, research, travel, etc.
With the session over, I have already done 2+ hours of work. Now I have to upload the images, cull the images (pick out the best for editing), and edit the images. This can take anywhere from 3-6+ hours depending on the type of appointment. Exporting the images at multiple sizes (web, high res, water-mark) and then uploading or burning the images for client delivery takes another hour. Then there are various other tasks such as posting sneak peaks on social media, blogging, etc for an additional 1-2 hours. So, we’re up to 8-12 hours for a typical, hour long portrait session. If you divide $30 into 8, well, that’s a sad wage. As much as I love photography, I was really missing that time with my children and I felt that being away from them was worth more than $4 an hour.
Some small businesses may not take that many hours to deliver a finished product. But no matter what you do, I want you to be sure it is worth your time and talent! Time is something we never get back, so we need to use it wisely. Look into how much your business costs are, how much time you are really spending working on your business, and then, how much you want to make to make it worth your time.
Make sure you do business legally. Otherwise, it drags down others in your industry. It is a lot cheaper (as I said before, at least 30% of what I make I have to put away for taxes and fees!) not to have a registered business. But if you are selling any kind of product and plan to make even a small profit on it, you should be a legal business and pay taxes among other registration fees. There is also business insurance. It may not be as essential for some businesses, but for photography it is a must to protect you, your equipment, and your clients!
Running a small business is no small feat, and takes a lot of time, energy, and money! Go through and add up your business costs (Everything! Product, time, travel, licensing fees, etc. You shouldn't have to pay for any part of your business out of your pocket. That's why you're selling your products/service), time spent, and desired profit and make sure your pricing matches what you want and deserve!