(To photographers and service providers in general)
A very controversial subject in the service industry is the VALUE. How much is your work worth? It is a question that almost everybody asks with difficulties to find an answer.
The difficulty in placing value on a service is because of the fact of it being something intangible (difficult to measure, to touch) and because it is consumed as it is produced, unlike products that are tangible, material, measurable, “testable” and are produced before consumption. When it consumed along with its implementation is more difficult to know whether or not it was worth what it was asked.
The value, contrary to what everyone thinks, is assigned by the client to the service provider. In an example such as the photography, the client tells the artist (photographer) if they are or not worth what they ask for. Exactly, I’m saying that who gives greater or lesser value to the work of a photographer is the ALMIGHTY client.
If I want to charge $ 10,000 and the customer does not pay, it’s a sign that I’m not worth it or that I haven’t been able to show the customer yet that it is worth paying that much money for my work. A classic example is the the employees asking for a raise. If I ask for a raise to my boss and I have no other suggestion for a higher salary, it is a sign that I’m earning what I’m worth. There is no one who wants to pay me, then it is better that I am happy with what I get for it is the only offer I got. It hurts but it’s the honest truth.
Now if I want a pay rise or prove to my customer that I am worth what I ask, what do I need? Some answers I’ve found throughout my career and here I would like to share them with you. They are:
1. To worth more I must first believe in my worth. So to worth more is also a matter of self-esteem. The customer feels in the air when the photographer has troubles valuing him or herself. If I do not value myself, no one will, is it not true? Now very carefully, excess of value becomes arrogance at a glance and will surely take you away from the prospect client. I always try to value myself keeping humble and grounded.
2. What do I do differently that deserves bigger value? The rarer I am or the more thing I do (things that others don’t do) the greater the number of people who want to hire me. If more people are willing to hire me it is a sign that I can charge more. Some will give up to pay me and possibly others won’t. Macroeconomic law of supply and demand. So I must get set for making things different from my competitors and so shine through the crowd. If my work follows market rules, it will have to cost the same amount charged by the market, agree?
3. The value also depends on the group to which I communicate. People from different social levels, or belonging to different groups have different desires, different lifestyles and consumption patterns completely distinct. A jiu-jitsu athlete paid $10 on an açaí (Brazilian fruit from which is made a frozen pulp consumed as a supplement) and probably does not consume alcohol, while an executive might pay $200 for a bottle of wine and do not want to consume an açaí which is caloric and açaí and will increase his overweight which is an enemy due his stressful daily routine. Those are distinct arguments. Totally different human beings. One may appreciate the pleasure while the other appreciates health. Each head a sentence, as my father says.
Who do I want it to be my client? What is my target audience? Where do they go and live? What are their habits? Which brands they consume? What mall do they visit? How do they dress? Who are the competitors that serve these groups today? There are several questions that lead me to some conclusions. After identifying the group to which I want to work is easier to speak its language and create a bond between the group and my brand and my services.
Now carefully. I will only’ be hired if an individual or group find in me something in common! To go deeper, I always wonder: What do I believe? What does the group I want to serve believes? If there is something in common between the two answers, it becomes easier to work towards this target audience because I am respecting that in which I believe. If there isn’t something in common, it is difficult. I’ll have to pretend to be something I’m not to attend this public. I’ll be trying to sell something I do not agree with and no seller can sell something for a long time in which they do not believe themselves. At a moment the roof may cave in and I will no longer sustain a situation solely based on money. Who makes it on because of the money does not give the best of themselves and to be in the market spotlight you need to give your best and some more. In fact, you must give much, much more.
4. Once I know who I want to communicate with and what language this group speaks it is time to define what are my strengths and communicate them. Most people think that a good photograph, by itself, already attracts good customers! Wrong. It may attract by itself, but it will probably take long. It is possible that I spend a lifetime without being discovered. Therefore it is necessary to list my strengths and communicate to my clients and say what I of do good and different.
5. I do not sell photography, but experience. The experience of having me as a wedding photographer. And the customer will help me if they enjoy this experience. Simply pointing me out to friends. Word of mouth marketing is still the best way to sell and be valued. To provide an experience  of high added value is to be different; and treat the customer well from the first contact, e-mail, phone call or in person, through delivery of the final product. Good experiences are unforgettable and add much value to my work. Now bad experiences precede the catastrophe. Good marketing starts with good experiences, while bad experiences only serve to evade the professional’s value.
A good example of everything that I just talked about, happened to me a few days ago. I believe I am worth what charge (item 1); in my workshops I provide some differential, since in five days, in a wedding photography step-by-step, I convey what I do and have done to get where I am without hiding anything at all (item 2); I communicate with a well-defined and very specific public, composed of people who primarily like my work and value it and that moreover want to give an UPGRADE in their careers, and they possess the resources to invest in it. Not just anyone can pay the amount requested, so the workshop was made for only 15 people and has an exclusivity quality (item 3), I presented these differentials to my students and prospective students, because they have a weight in their decision making. What will this workshop bring to them in terms of benefits? (item 4), the workshop is sold as 5 days with me, it means it is sold as an experience and only those who are there will enjoy it. Once the experience is positive, these people tell friends that it was positive and the workshop begins to sell by itself. This has worked in all my workshops which I have ministered since 2008 and I practically no longer need to advertise them. (item 5).
Given all that I can only charge this amount for workshops that I minister or charge what I do when photographing weddings, if there is anyone who pays for it. It’s like math and the rule is clear. If there are no people interested, for some reason or lack of reason, no one pays and for being hired I will then have to lower my rates and charge less.
I’ll take the first option, increasingly value my work, charging increasingly without forgetting to add benefits and provide unique experiences for my clients. This has been my motto and to me this is the simple art of valuing yourself. It is an art, believe me!
Finally, every time a prospective client tells me I’m expensive, I do not get angry or upset. I just stop to think of the possibilities that lead the client to think of me as an expensive professional. They are:
A. I could not prove to them, yet, that yes, I am worth what I’ve asked for. Probably because of difficulties in communicating my values, differentiated services and benefits. They do not know yet why I’m different from others and therefore why I charge more. In this case it is worth it counter arguing and show them these reasons that may be obvious to me and are not to them. It is also worth it to review my communication strategy to see if these benefits need to be better presented.
B. I really do not present any value to them, I do not do what they are searching or I do not answer their wishes. In this case, if they are not part of my target, that’s not a problem. I seek a different type of customer. They are not clients for me. Case closed.
C. They know I’m worth it, but they are attempting to get a little price. This is common. Successful people are usually good buyers and try to pay less for your work because they earn more by charging more, but also by paying less. The equation works both ways. The more resources your target has, the better they will know how to negotiate.
D. I am still not worth what I’m asking. In this case, it is time to return to work and find ways to make it worth more. Time to be more rare.
I hope I helped with the humble article above. After all, everyone has the customer they deserve, and there is no use in putting the blame on others as my neighbor, competitor, or market or low humidity in the air. There is only one responsible for my value… ME!
Good morning everyone!!
(Cartoon: Vereda)
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