Don’t be Afraid of the Numbers

Since I was 13 years old I’ve had a job. Initially, I started out working weekends cleaning vehicles for a company who sold plants, before doing other bits and pieces through school, including cleaning and labouring. Then I entered the world of IT after leaving school and rapidly worked my way up to where I am today – an IT Manager of the UK operation for a large firm. It is a job I thoroughly enjoy and I’m proud of where I am.

My passion though, is photography, which requires an almost completely different skill set!

During all these jobs and careers I’ve never had to once sell anything. I’ve never had to convince people that what I was offering was worth what I was charging, or show them how something was worth more. It’s just not been part of the skill set required for me to fulfill any of my roles. Of course in the last few years in particular I’ve spent a lot of time working with vendors & suppliers, asking for prices. But before setting up shop as a photographer I’d never been on the other side of the coin (excuse the pun).

I know that this is the same for many people who are turning their hand to photography, so today I want to talk about not being afraid to talk about money with clients.

Becoming comfortable talking about money

So, how is it then that after all these years of being cultured in internal roles and not having exposure to sales in jobs, I have arrived at a point where I’m perfectly happy to speak to a client about the price of their wedding photography, the cost of prints or how much the investment in an album will be? Well, I’ll tell you: it took time and practise and lots of talking into a mirror!

lace my palm with silver
lace my palm with silver

Hearing what people say, as opposed to listening

The reason I bring this up is purely because I met with a lovely couple today who’s wedding I’m shooting in late July. We got on wonderfully and they truly are kind people. When we got to talking about price and payment terms I was clear about the price and stated the payment terms as per my contract. The oddly common response though, is “So, what’s best for you?” (in terms of payment).

I used to read into this statement as “What are our options when it comes to paying you?” and so my answer to the initial question was never straight forward. Instead of telling them what actually worked best for me I’d instead provide them with lots of options for payment. I’d usually also then say that there was no pressure to pay now and tell them to relax about it.

1276313_10151660454421404_1366847374_o

You may think that this is fine, but all I was doing was telling them to not pay me there and then and putting up road blocks and complicating the path the payment.

It took me a long time to realise that when they asked “What are our options when it comes to paying you?” what they actually meant was exactly that! So, after some time I came to realise that if you skirt around the subject of payment, if you don’t answer the question in a straight forward manner and if you offer lots of alternatives – You’re not going to get what is actually best for you.

So, today my response was to say that the full balance as soon as possible is best for me. (What could be better than being paid in full and on time?!) Behold – They did a balance transfer immediately for the full balance.

Steve Saporito – The Studio Portrait Doctor

On this same subject, Steve Saporito was a guest on Episode 17 of the Ready Steady Pro Podcast (you can listen to the interview here). In the conversation Steve talks about a time where he sat in with one of his photographer clients who he was working with, whilst they interviewed a potential client: Steve went on to explain how the photographer in question was doing exactly as I was and not really giving the couple the chance to book or pay right there and then on the spot, even though from where Steve was sitting that was exactly what he was hearing the couple wanted to do: the photographer just needed to make the move and be straight.

SteveSaporito

So, my advice today is this:

  1. Listen to Episode 17 of the Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast with Steve Saporito
  2. Listen to what your client asks, instead of just hearing it and giving the answer you think they want, or the answer you’re comfortable with
  3. Don’t be afraid of the numbers.

Your clients know they’re going to have to spend money to book you. In the UK finances can be a taboo subject, but when someone has invited you to talk to them about shooting their wedding, or portrait or whatever – they like your work and they just want to know how much it’s going to cost.

If you’re looking for a window cleaner or a gardener and you ask for a price and they tell you not to worry about it at the moment, or that you can sort it out closer to the time – do you feel more relaxed, or more stressed? Are you going to just cancel the whole thing and go with someone else, or would you just go with it and hope it’s affordable

Tell them the price, and tell them straight.

Your Thoughts and Experiences

Does this sound like you? Are you afraid to talk about the price when meeting with clients, or, have you overcome a fear and are not confident when it comes to talking numbers? Drop your thoughts in a comment below or head on over to the Facebook community to join the discussion.

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