Real estate photographers: “My work isn’t good enough to charge more.”

In Build A Photography Business Show, Real estate photography pricing by Build A Photography Business

This is something I hear from a lot of real estate photographers when talking about their prices - "My work isn't good enough to charge more".

I think this is often a confidence issue rather than a photography issue, so I'd like to share how you can move the issue of what to charge for your photography from something that's predicated on things that are outside of your control, and instead make pricing something that you fully control.

Video transcript:

Real estate photographers: 
"My work isn't good enough to charge more."

I know a lot of real estate photographers and architectural photographers have a tough time with pricing. And I know some of you feel like you can't charge higher prices because you don't think you're good enough, so let's look at how you can move this pricing issue from something that's predicated on things that are outside of your control, and instead make pricing something that you fully control, and where price increases are on your terms.

A photographer I know was talking about their prices and they said this:

"I feel like my work isn't good enough to charge more".

Now I think there are two ways we can take a statement like that. One way is that this photographer has set their own standards that they want to meet in terms of the quality of their photography, and at the moment they feel like they fall short of that. And if that’s what they’re saying, and if they are right, then that’s a legitimate statement. As we’ll talk about in just a moment, image quality matters so you do need to be delivering really good work.

But the other way we can take that statement, and maybe this is the context for what that photographer was saying, and that is that they feel like other people don’t regard them as good enough yet, so what they are saying is that other people aren’t willing to pay more for their photos.

In other words, they’ll charge more when they assume other people think their work is good enough, or when other people think they’re a success, but until then, they’ll keep their prices low.

I think that’s what’s going on here, and that’s something I hear from a lot of photographers. They say they'll charge more when they’re successful, but they are framing success as something that is assigned to them from the outside, kind of like a prize, and because of that they’re always putting off their price increase because it's something that is externally based.

What I think they need to do is actually reframe success so that it becomes an internal issue, something that they define and control, not something that other people control. And that’s important because if you focus on something you can’t control, but it alone defines success for you, then you’ll feel like you’re always falling short of those expectations. It’s just not a good place to be.

So instead of allowing other people to say when you’re good enough and have control over that, what you might want to do is define success and being good enough in terms of your character and who you are as a person, rather than in whether or not a certain business chooses to hire you. So what we’re doing here is we’re focusing on the things you can control, and whether you ever work with all of these clients or not doesn’t really matter, because success is what you do and the kind of person you are.

This means that if you define who you want to be and the values that are important for you, and if you’re consistent with those values, then you’ve made it simply in walking this journey. You don’t need to worry about other people and what they think of you, because they no longer define whether you’re successful or not – you do.

What kind of person do you want to be?

So to start with you need to define who you want to be, and what you might do is get clear on what kind of person do you want to be? When are you the happiest and best version of you?

When you’re focused on that internal stuff then you’re not worried about whether other people say you’re good enough or not because whether or not you work with certain clients or earn a certain amount, that does not define your self-worth or your success. Rather, you become good enough when you’re being who you want to be, rather than being good enough only when other people hire you or say nice things about you or whatever.

For example, let’s say that the kind of photographer you want to be is one who is thorough and methodical. You like being careful, and you like doing things technically as well as you can. Success for you then, is when you are thorough, when you’re careful. That’s going to play out for you in terms of how you shoot a project for a client, but you are not defined by whether or not that client hires you. As long as you are being methodical with the way you work and the way you shoot, to the best of your ability, that’s success for you.

As a counter to that, if you were being paid really well, so on the outside it looks like you’re successful, but imagine that you weren’t being thorough and careful, so if you were racing through a home and making mistakes with your photography, then you might be financially successful doing a shoot like that but it wouldn’t complete you as a person. You’d come away feeling like it wasn’t a success at all, because it wasn’t consistent with who you want to be.

As another example, let’s say you like to have fun, so for you, success is having fun and enjoying life and enjoying your work. So for you, as long as you’re having fun, you’re happy and you're successful. That’s your goal, not whether or not clients hire you, because if a client hired you but it wasn’t a fun photo shoot, no matter what they paid you you wouldn’t feel like it was a success because it wouldn’t fulfill your goal of doing stuff that’s fun.

Okay, here’s another example … let’s say your goal is to be creative. As long as you’re a creative person, you’re happy with where things are at. So then that’s your goal – do all you can to be creative, and as long as that’s there, you’re successful and you’re good enough at what you do, because being creative is what defines you.

Or maybe your goal is to be helpful and to support other people. That’s you at your best, when you can help others. So you would not be happy if you were doing things that were unhelpful, so you would want to stay away from jobs like that, but when you are being helpful, then that’s a win for you. That makes you feel good, it completes you to some degree.

So imagine that all of these apply to you: let’s say you’re at your best and feeling good about things when you’re thorough and methodical, you’re having fun, you’re creative and you’re helping other people. If that’s you, then your objective is to deliver on that by being methodical, being fun, being creative and being helpful. These internal goals, whatever they are for you, need to define whether you are successful or not, not what other people say and not the volume of work that you get.

Now if that leads to a whole lot of work for you then that’s great, but that volume of work doesn’t define you because if you got a whole lot of work but you weren’t able to be the kind of person you want to be through that, then you’re not going to enjoy it, are you? That wouldn’t be successful you, even if it resulted in financial success.

So taking this back to what we spoke about at the start, and the photographer who said that they feel like their work isn’t good enough. Now, it sounds like that photographer is using external cues to make judgements about whether they are good enough or not. Whereas if they used these internal goals, whatever they are for them, then they could look at it and say:

“Ok, am I being methodical and really careful in what I do? Yeah, I am. Am I being fun and enjoying things? Yes, I am. Am I being creative? Am I being helpful, like genuinely helpful? Yes, I am.”

So if you’ve ticked all of those boxes, then how other people respond to your prices is something that’s out of your control and those things don’t really matter. What actually matters is whether or not you are being the kind of person that you want to be. Does that make sense?

The three questions to ask when setting your real estate photography prices

So working through this, let’s say you want to set a price for your photography, so I’ve got a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself.

The first step goes back to profitability and knowing your numbers, so the first question to ask yourself is:

“What do my numbers say is the minimum I need to charge for this in order to cover my expenses, be paid for my time and be profitable?”

To answer that question you need to know your numbers and what a photo shoot costs you, and that will give you a price that you need to set as a minimum value because even if you’re having a lot of fun, you still need to be running a viable business. You can’t be too cheap or you won’t have a business anymore.

Then the next question to ask is this: “Can I deliver enough value for my clients at that price?”

This means you need to be delivering work that you know is of a sufficiently high standard that it lines up with what you charge your clients. So if you’re going to charge $200 for a shoot, then you need to know that you bring at least $200 worth of value to your clients. If you’re going to charge $500, then make sure you bring at least $500 worth of value. So it’s just about aligning what you charge with the quality of your images and your customer service and everything you do for your clients.

So if you know you bring enough value for your clients, then the final question is this:

“Am I being the kind of person I want to be? If I want to be, say, creative, helpful and fun, then am I doing that or not?”

Now this is really important, because if you’re not being the kind of person that you want to be, then you’re not really being successful. Again, you might be financially successful, but you’re not being successful in a way that really matters for you.

So if we go back to the statement I shared at the start from that photographer who said: "I feel like my work isn't good enough to charge more".

So when that photographer is trying to work out what to do with their prices, first of all I think they need to know their numbers and make sure they’re charging enough. Secondly, they need to bring enough value to their clients. And finally, they need to make sure they can be the kind of person they want to be through their work.

Now, what’s important with all of this is that these three criteria are all under our control. We determine the numbers, we determine the value that we bring and we determine our behaviour.

So when we get to the question about pricing, whether or not a client accepts our price is ultimately out of our control, and we can be happy with what we’re doing because we know what we need to charge, we know we bring value, we know we’re being consistent with the kind of person that we want to be … so whether or not the client says yes or no is out of our control, and therefore it’s not something we ought to be concerned with. What we need to be looking at is what we are doing internally, and beyond that, whatever happens happens.

If you can focus on the stuff that you control, so things like your photography skills and your pricing and who you are, then the things you can’t control aren’t such an issue anymore.

How to raise your prices

So if you want to raise your prices, as long as you bring enough value and as long as you are being consistent with who you want to be, then go ahead and raise those prices. I don’t think you need to wait for other people to tell you when to do that, you don’t need to conform to their expectations, because what really matters and what brings you happiness and fulfillment, is what goes on in here (inside of you).

If you can be the best version of yourself then you’re going to be happy and really enjoy the work you do, and so the approval of other people won’t matter anymore. So instead of saying, "I feel like my work isn't good enough to charge more".

You might say:

“Who I am is good enough to charge this rate, because who I am is what really matters, nothing more.”

Need some help?

Now if anything I've spoken about here is a challenge for you, and if you'd like me to help you with pricing and staying focused on what really matters, feel free to send me a message, or drop a question or comment below this video.