Price lists can be dangerous, but they can also be interesting. How do you know if you should reveal your hand and display one on your website?
Why you need to know your prices
If you make a living from your photography, you need to come up with some kind of pricing model. Yes, you can just guess, but it’s best to establish a pricing system based on your business and your target market. It’s definitely better to know that you’ll cover all your costs and earn enough from your work than to just hang out and hope for the best. So whether you choose to display your prices or not, you need to know what you’re charging and why.
Make your own calculations
Copying what other photographers are doing might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re just starting out and want to test the waters. But this approach assumes that they are working profitably, which may not be the case! It also assumes that their costs and revenue requirements are the same as yours. Again, this could easily be wrong. By all means, use other people’s prices as market insight. However, don’t use this as an excuse not to do your own research.
To run a profitable business, you need to know that you are charging enough. You also need to be aware of the market around you so you can adjust your prices based on how you position yourself in the market. You shouldn’t be the cheapest if you’re targeting high-end customers. Likewise, if you offer a budget service, you should not be the most expensive in the market. So you should have a price list for your own benefit at least. But should it be exposed?
If others post their prices, don’t I need to?
Just because other photographers choose to post their prices on their websites doesn’t mean you have to too. Creating a brand means differentiating yourself from others. So don’t be afraid to be different. Choose whether or not to publish a price list based on what you think is best for your business and the evidence you gather from experimenting with it. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of having your price list publicly available.
Why display your prices
You aim to be the cheapest
If you’re happy with a business model that deliberately competes on price, you’ll probably want to show it off. It is important for companies to highlight what differentiates them. So if you’re trying to be the cheapest, you’ll probably want your numbers front and center.
Saves you time and money
It might be cheaper for you to display your prices, because then you’ll spend less time interacting with queries. Writing emails to respond to a lot of inquiries can be time-consuming and cost your business money. Eliminating unnecessary communications can help streamline the process.
Easier for customers to choose
Customers might be able to decide more quickly if you are a suitable supplier for them. Once they know the costs, people can decide if they can afford you. Displaying your price list can be a way to make buying decisions quicker and easier.
Some people think it’s more transparent to show prices. Customers might feel safer thinking that everyone is billed the same because the numbers are displayed. Some may have had a bad custom pricing experience where they felt overcharged. Setting everything out clearly can help some customers connect more easily, because they don’t feel like they have to work hard to get what they want, and everyone can come and buy on the same footing. Not having a price tag can suggest a degree of exclusivity that some may find snobbish or simply don’t relate to.
Why not display a price list
When you have fluctuating costs from your suppliers, you may find it necessary to have relatively fluid pricing yourself. If you don’t display them, you’ll have less maintenance to do on your website and other marketing materials because you won’t need to update everything if your prices need to change.
If you offer a wide range of services, your price list can start to get quite long and complicated. The last thing you want to do is discourage people by making it hard for them to understand what they’re getting or by making it difficult to find every item they need. This can work well if you’re selling physical items, but for a service-based business (like most photographers are) it’s not necessarily the best approach. You may be able to choose a halfway house by posting indicative prices. But if there are too many permutations, it may be best to do custom estimates and quotes.
You are looking for a more exclusive clientele
If your business model caters to people with larger budgets, you may not want to put price lists on your site. Customers who spend more often have special needs or wants that you tailor to them. In some high-end retail settings, it’s said that if you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it. Hiding your prices can hint at more personalized premium service, provided the rest of your branding points in that direction as well.
You want customers to prioritize value
One of the dangers of having price lists on your site is that people can make a quick comparison with another company and assume you’re offering the same thing. If one photographer says he does a day of wedding photography for $2,000 and another says he does a day for $4,000, you might think as a client that you can just go for the less expensive as they do the same for the money. That may not be the case at all. There can actually be a huge difference between what you would get from the two providers.
Not going straight into the price means you have the opportunity to explain to the customer all the value they will get from you. Once someone understands the true value of your services, you may find that some are very happy to pay the premium.
As a commercial photographer, I’ve often found that people don’t know exactly what they want when they first come. The process of interacting with me helps them define their brief and achieve a more suitable result.
Encouraging contact with potential customers allows you to start building a relationship with them. If they just come to your website, take a look at the price list, then leave, it gives you no return. It doesn’t allow you to build a relationship with them that might persuade them to work with you. People are more likely to contact you because they like your work and the way you meet them, rather than because of the cost.
Keeping your price list hidden prevents others from doing quick and easy research to find out more about their competitors. Like it or not, your competitors will research your business. They will want to know what you offer and how much you charge for it. The question is, how much do you want to make it easy for them? Do the benefits of displaying costs outweigh the potential drawbacks?
Would custom pricing work for you?
There is no one size fits all for this sort of thing. Selling landscape prints can lend itself to a simple price list based on size and print medium. Product photography can range from pack shots to advertising images, from simple low-level retouching to complex Photoshop work, and more. Bespoke pricing is often more effective when the service can be tailored to the customer’s needs and budget.
What is the answer?
So should you have a price list on your website? Whichever way you decide, make sure there’s a good reason for it. If that doesn’t seem to work, try something different and compare the results. I do not display prices on my commercial photography website, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. It’s your business and your brand, so do what works for you.