Personally I love the business side of wedding photography. I’m utterly fascinated by how it has shifted and changed and over the years. I’ve seen it as a challenge to keep morphing my business so I can stay current and busy. Like most businesses, mine goes in peaks and troughs and when I find myself in one of those dreaded troughs, I have a good hard look at what I’m offering, how I’m presenting myself and what my competition is doing.
First up, I had this fantastic sparkly website designed and built for me by the incredible Melissa Love over at The Design Space. I could not love it more and I believe that it makes me look slick, creative and friendly. Which is exactly what my brief was to Melissa, in fact I actually think she made me look better than I really am!
Working with a really great designer is an incredible experience and Melissa pushes you to figure out what you are trying to say in your brand and on your site. Now when I actually thought about this, I realised that I had always had websites designed from my point of view. So they pushed forward information that I wanted to get across like where I cover, how I work, how my packages worked.. you know the kind of thing, right?
And it never dawned on me to approach it from the opposite side of that.. where the client is approaching the site from. Yes they are looking for a wedding photographer but more than that, they have concerns about photography and how it is going to work for them, they have mostly never been involved in planning a wedding before, they don’t know how it works and they have anxiety about how they look in images. So I flipped it and totally had this in mind across the whole site design. If you look at it, you will see that they very first bit of text on there addresses the fact that I’m aware of these concerns and I set out to reassure them and get them into a conversation with me. Melissa came up with the idea for a ‘Whole Story‘ page that would be like a chat through the process of working with me.
I’m so happy with the results and it’s been a hit with potential clients. Enquiries were up and generally they started with “We love your website”.. so Yay! But too often that was where the conversation ended and I had to be honest with myself and face up to the fact that something was going wrong with the pricing info bit.
Now I’m not super expensive, I’d say I was bang in the middle of the current market and I’ve always had flexible pricing that was based on quoting for individual jobs. So a 180 guest wedding on a Saturday in August would be one price whereas a 50 guest wedding at a Town Hall and pub on a Friday would be another. But still bookings were too slow, so time for another think. What if I tried the same approach to pricing and start with what the client wants? However, the truth is couples don’t usually know what they want. They just want to have photos, so it’s us photographers that set the precedents for what they get. And generally we do that with ourselves in mind. You love covering prep? You allow two hours for it in your package, you love getting down with the guests on the dance floor? You include unlimited evening coverage. You hate engagement shoots? You charge extra for them, you are experimenting with fusion? You throw a 5 minute film in for free. Get what I mean? It’s actually all about you and what you like or don’t like.
So how do you flip it without overcomplicating things? Put yourself in the couple’s shoes and now think about how pulling together all the different services for a wedding involves asking for multiple price lists and then deciding on your best options. Planning the day of your dreams soon stops feeling like fun and starts to feel like a chore. If you can make it really easy and straight forward for them they will thank you for it.
The more I thought about it, the more a basic hourly rate actually makes utter sense. After all most service industries do this already so why do we make it so complicated by throwing different packages at people? Setting the rate wasn’t tough, I just looked at all my existing packages and figured out what the average hourly rate was. If I’m booked for less than six hours it’s a digital only deal; six hours or more and I start to add in that stuff that I like to do like an engagement shoot and at eight hours or more I add in a second shooter and a photo book. This is pretty much what I was offering before but the decision is back with the client and based around their needs.Those big August weddings want at least 9-10 hours and Friday afternoon elopements just want two hours.
Two years ago now, I decided to try it like this for six weeks to see if bookings went up and what the reactions would be from couples. I’m happy to say, it was a big hit and I still work on an hourly rate today. My conversion rate has improved dramatically and people have said that they like how simple it all is.
Of course, I understand that this might not work for everyone, there are lots of photographers who now offer unlimited coverage or you might be worried that you’d be booking out key summer dates to people who only want a few hours. Well you can always say you are not available or have a minimum amount of hours that you are prepared to do. In reality though what I find is that the earlier people book, the more hours that they want. The more laid back last minute bookings often want less hours and I love that I end up with a variety. You are totally in control of the bookings that you take.
Having used this method now for a couple of years, I’ll add that another advantage is that it’s super easy to up-sell. Remember back at the initial planning stages, many clients are unsure of what they’ll need or how their final timeline will look. So I often book them in for say 6 hours and end up with them adding in another couple of hours when we get to the final meeting. It also makes it really easy for me to underpromise and overdeliver, I always stay later than my due to finish time and I get to look like a big hero. But if they are running ridiculously overtime, I can also opt to leave or see if they’d like to add more time.
Have you been trying the hourly rate or do you think you have a better solution? I’d love to hear your views on this, for or against. You can see my 2019 brochure over on my site if you want to see how I word it all.