I really believe we all deserve to run a healthy business.
We all want to earn a living doing what we love, right?
As you probably know, there’s an ongoing debate over the best way to structure a photography business. Should you use in-person sales or stick with the shoot & share method (handing over all the digitals after a session)?
Well, I’ve got some good news: it doesn’t have to be black and white. It’s not just one way or the highway.
The truth is, tons of photographers have had success both ways. When we learn what’s worked for them, it gives us a new perspective on how to grow a sustainable business… which is what we’re all really after, right?
In this episode of Momentum, I had the chance to talk to Jamie Larson of The Snap Society. Jamie’s a world-class photographer, photography coach, and guru of in-person sales.
We dive into why (and how) to use in-person sales to serve your clients, how to transition your business model without losing clients, and how to do in-person sales without feeling pushy (which was one of my biggest hesitations in my photography career).
(Here are the highlights, but you can watch the full conversation below or listen to the episode on the Momentum podcast).
From Shoot & Share to In-Person Sales
Jamie Larson kicked off her photography career ten years ago in San Antonio out of necessity. With little kids at home, she didn’t want to go back to work full-time so she needed another option. Since she was passionate about photography and already had a camera and computer, she decided to give the photography business a try. How hard could it be, right?
Jamie quickly built a long client list — but wasn’t making much money! The whole reason for starting her business was to make good money without losing focus on being a mom. It didn’t take long to realize that running a photography business is more about the business than the shooting.
Over the next few years, Jamie shifted her pricing structure and the experience she offered her clients. Early on, she followed the “Shoot & Share” method, but realized giving clients all the digital images for a flat rate capped earning potential.
No matter how many pictures you take for a client or how great your images are, if you only deliver digital files, you’ll never make more than your flat rate.
That’s when she discovered in-person sales.
How to Make More Money in Less Time
Jamie needed more money without increasing her time commitment — which meant raising prices. But raising prices means raising the experience. As Jamie says, you can’t charge Nordstrom prices for a Walmart experience. You’ll get more people through the door with a Walmart mentality — but it’s more work for less money. With a Nordstrom mindset, you can do fewer shoots of a higher quality and make the same amount (or more!).
But people expect more when they pay more. If you want to charge premium prices, you need to offer a premium experience. For Jamie, that meant offering the in-person sales service.
In-Person Sales is Serving (not selling!)
Jamie HATES sales and resisted it like crazy… until she realized she was doing her clients a disservice by skipping it.
In-person sales allows clients to finish their photography experience instead of leaving with a USB drive of great pictures and no direction. Sure, you can still give your clients the digital files, but in-person sales helps clients see what they could have, where they could have it, and what it could look like.
Who encouraged Jamie to finally give into in-person sales? Her clients! They’d ask, “Would you mind coming over and telling me what I should order and where I should put it?” They walked her through what they needed and eased her into a new mentality. Ultimately, she decided to make in-person sales part of everyone’s experience.
Jamie offers so much more to her clients than just a quick session and some images. She offers a reveal event for each client that takes their experience to the next level … and she can set her prices to reflect the premium service.
In-person sales works remotely too. Just meet with clients via Zoom or Google Hangouts to complete the session. Not only does it meet the client’s needs, but it also provides closure for you. You took these images, you think they’re beautiful, and you get to share that excitement!
Meeting with the client lets you see their expressions and what images they love. Plus, if you have repeat clients, you’ll see what kinds of images they prefer for future sessions. It boosts referrals too! When clients get the experience of seeing your amazing images unveiled and leave with a plan of how those will complement their home, they can’t wait to tell their friends!
How To Change Your Pricing Without Losing Clients
When Jamie changed her business model, she fully expected to lose clients. But, surprisingly, she didn’t lose many. Why? Communication! First, she talked to the clients who had become her friends so she could explain it. Then, she sent out a transition letter to previous clients that explained the new model as a way for her to give them a better experience.
Plus, she gave them a free session to try out her new approach.
Jamie was also intentional about being transparent with her clients. She didn’t hide the new pricing structure or try to sneak in extra charges. She included a simple PDF that outlined the price details for her new packages. Surprise prices are awkward for everyone, so be up front. The more you can talk about what you offer, the better.
That’s why we’ve put so much time into building a pricing guide template in the new StickyAlbums and StickyFolios. It helps you clearly communicate your prices without drowning your clients in figures.
Pricing is marketing. Clients don’t need to know every size and price of each print — they need a simple version so they can budget accordingly. Plus, it opens the door to a future conversation about what they’d like to buy.
How To Get Over Being “Pushy”
There’s no way around it. Sales can feel pushy — even for someone as outgoing as Jamie!
Her advice: Don’t think of it as selling but as communicating. Your job is to give clients the information they need to make the best choice.
You’re not pushing a purchase on them but rather letting them know of the opportunity they have to buy an image that preserves a special time in their lives.
How To Start Charging Premium Pricing
Ready to start charging premium prices for your photography? Check out Jamie’s Profitography course that comes out twice a year. The next one drops in April!
But, before you do anything else, figure out your pricing structure. How are you going to charge premium pricing? How are you going to get people to buy into this? Check out Jamie’s free guide to learn The 5 Secrets to Charging Premium Pricing.
If you’re stuck in the cycle of too much work and not enough money, start looking for a solution. Yes, changing is hard and there are a million excuses why things won’t work — but there are also solutions. As Jamie so eloquently put it, choose solutions over excuses!
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