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Money, Money, Money: How to Have the Chat That No One Loves

Is there anything worse than talking about money? (Okay, war and all that sort of thing aside, of course…!) First, you go through the agonising and uncomfortable process of actually setting your prices, and then you’ve got to talk about them to your clients, too. Just like horses, they can smell fear – and when they do, they start haggling.

A fear of talking about money with clients tends to stem from one of two things – and sometimes a little of each. Either you’re generally insecure about your financial situation, and any acknowledgment of it makes you feel a bit sick, or you’re insecure about your work, and worried that someone might turn around and tell you that it’s not worth what you’ve priced it at.

Well, for one thing, if you meet someone who says that, consider it a blessed relief. Do you really want a client who’s a bully?! Absolutely not. You can weed these guys out from the get-go by making sure your prices are transparent. Make it really easy for a visitor to your website or social media to find out how much a shoot will cost them. Then, they can move on if their budget doesn’t match up.

In the interest of transparency, we also like to provide a product price list in the welcome pack that new clients receive. That helps us all to avoid sticker shock when the viewing rolls around.

Being confident enough to discuss the prices you charge comes from being confident in why you’re charging those prices. That means you need to put the time into your pricelist – no arbitrary numbers allowed. Instead, work out what your time is worth, what your outgoings are, how many shoots you plan to do per month, and the amount of money you need to be bringing in. With all that information, you can start to tailor a price list that makes sense for you.

With a price list that’s firmly rooted in reality, you’ll find it much easier to stand your ground when someone tries to push you around. This isn’t to say that you should never make deals – but it needs to be your own decision, and it should be because you can see a potential long-term benefit, like repeat custom, or access to a wide network of new clients.

Part of the reason it feels so excruciatingly awkward to chat about finances is because it’s so at odds with British mannerisms – you simply don’t do that in polite society, right? Well, bollocks to polite society – you’re providing a service, and your client wants to pay for it – it’s as simple as that. The best way to get rid of awkwardness? Keep a smile on your face and, as they say in showbiz, fake it ‘til you make it.

Try this. Pour yourself a glass of wine and stick on some girlpower anthems (yes, Bridget Jones, you can have your Chaka Khan!). If you’re confident your pricelist is as it ought to be, you’re going to move on to justifying why that is. First, I want you to make a list of all the reasons why someone should, and will, hire you. What’s unique to you? What experience have you got? What makes you great to be around?

Next, write down all the ways you go above and beyond for your clients. Do you always buy the nicest biscuits for your viewings? Do you offer styling advice on shoot days? Have you always got a packet of Polos in your pocket? Does your shoot come with a beautiful print?

Finally, jot down your successes. You might just be starting out, and that’s fine – just making the leap into this industry is a huge success. Hitting an Instagram milestone or getting a ‘like’ from a big name is, too. Booking your first client is major. Having a client cry upon seeing their photos definitely counts, and if they book again or recommend you to their friends? BIG wow! Success can be defined in so many ways – so jot down the big wins and the little ones.

All done? Fab. Now you’ve got an awful lot of justification for why your prices are what they are. Someday, you’ll put them up again – and you’ll be able to look back on these lists to boost your confidence then. And you know what? We reckon you’ll be able to add a few things to them, too.