Zack- how do you determine the value (and price) of your talent? I've calculated my costs, know what my time is worth and know what it takes to feed my family, but I still have people telling me I should charge "waaaaay more" for my talent, even though I don't feel like I'm good enough.
That’s not a question I can answer for you.
Case in point - Terry Richardson.
Terry is one of the most provocative and hotly discussed photographers in our industry. He’s either regarded as a king or a farce. People love him or hate him. People say he’s worth it or he’s not. People say he’s a hack or an artist. Some think he’s a creep others say he’s amazing. He is polarizing.
Think whatever you want to about him… he’s a legend. An institution. A character. An in demand sought out photographer.
I don’t know what his day rates look like but I’m pretty sure they aren’t cheap. The perception is he’s pretty expensive to book for a shoot. Let’s just say that if I shot on camera flash of people in front of a white wall there is no way in hell I’d command the rates that he gets. Is his talent in photography or in building a perception of who he is?
So, that’s on one end of the spectrum. The other side of the spectrum is some amazing photographer with crazy talent who works at a gas station for $8 an hour and none of us have ever heard about them and they have no idea how great they are or what they could do in the world of photography.
Many of us fall in the middle of the spectrum. We know our costs and try to make a profit on all of the investment of time and resources we put into this. Cover the costs and have a little extra on the side to cover the slow times. I’d say the majority of photographers fall in this area of the industry. Some do better with profit. Some just cover expenses to keep living and have done that for years.
To ask for more you have to be confident in what you do or you have to be faced with some situation where you HAVE to make more money. Some folks are confident people and they feel their work is of the level that should be valued more than other people. They charge more. Some people just can’t ever find confidence in their work and they just get by.
Now then. The less confident person here might actually be more talented as a photographer. They just can’t ask for more though because they don’t value what they do. The confident photographer values what they do and has the type of personality that can ask for that extra money…. and get it.
I can’t tell you where you are in your situation. I can tell you that if you start charging “waaaaaay more” then you will have to find a new level of clients who can pay that “waaaaay more”. As you raise prices your phone will ring less. Typically. You ready for that? You ready to swim in those deeper waters?
You already know this. I bet money you already know this. And knowing this can feed the fear of moving forward to your pricing structure. You have gotten used to the price point and you are comfortable asking for that price. To go higher means to leave that comfort zone and get deeper in over your head and compete with stronger photographers. Knowing this keeps you where you are. You’re not good enough. You’re not talented enough. You’re not valuable enough. You’re not worthy.
Now. Here’s the hard part.
Maybe you’re not valuable enough. I don’t know. I don’t know your work. Your prices. Etc. So don’t think I’m personally saying this to you. There’s no way for me to know… but maybe you can’t handle the deeper waters and your gut is right in telling you to stay out of them. I am NOT going to go all Tony Robbins on your ass and tell you that you are worth it and to go for it and dream big dreams and all that.
You might be worth it. Maybe.
Yesterday Daniel Mora shared a Jalopnik video with me on Twitter. The video is about a guy who runs a company selling custom parts and such for Mustangs. There are some awesome nuggets of wisdom in this video about a car guy.
Like at 9:57
"To hell with the market. Do whatever you do good. And if you do something good and it’s worth attention, it’ll bring it. And if it’s not, well, you’re ass is out."
I’m going to use that quote in half of my answers for awhile now. :)
I think the only thing I can tell you is to keep doing what you are doing. Keep going in the direction you are going. You know your numbers. People around you are responding to your work. Keep going and grow a little. Keep going and grow a little more. Keep going and one day you’ll wake up and you might just have the confidence in your work to price it in accordance with your talent. I bet you anything that what you will find yourself pricing at that point is NOT your talent but your experience. That’s what I’ve found.
I ask for more because of my experience. I know how quickly a shoot can go bad. I know that you can throw me in turbulent waters and I’ll get out of there alive and with a picture. I’ve done it enough. I know for a fact I’ll bust my ass for a client and pull something out of nothing for them. Maybe I’m not the most talented photographer around but I’m hard working and I’m experienced. I can be trusted. That trust and that experience has a value. I’ll also bet you that I’m not charging as much as I should.
But I keep going and grow a little. I keep going and grow a little.
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