If you must do Mini Sessions- Here is how to run them to make a profit

Uncategorized Dec 16, 2019


If you couldn't tell from the title, I am not a fan of offering mini sessions.  

We all know the story of the photographer who is offering themed mini sessions for $50-$100 including a crazy high amount of digitals.  Don't be that photographer. You will run yourself ragged and make NO money

I get that the idea is to do a high volume at a lower amount, but you need to remember that you are one person and the successful photographers that run a high volume studio have several photographers on staff with a totally different business plan than what you and I have running your studio as the solo photographer.

Ok?

If you are going to do them, do them right. 

Remember, we are striving to shoot less and make more money- mini sessions are the exact opposite- you will work a LOT and probably make less.

But as you know, I always have a, however.  And this episode is no different.  

I am not a fan of mini sessions, HOWEVER, you can find a place to fit them into your yearly plan if you want to or if this is a way for you to fill up a day every month or every quarter.

Structured properly, you can make really great money on a well organized and planned mini session.

So let’s get into it, shall we?

 

The 4 tips I want to give you around running a profitable mini sessions are:

  1. Price properly
  2. Make it less work
  3. Upsell
  4. Organize and plan

 

I used to have mini sessions for headshots and beauty portraits and I have made $5000, $7000, then $8300 on the 3 separate ones that I ran.

I haven’t run one in a long time, only because I am pretty booked up with my current clients and my education part of my business… plus I am currently working on my course for photographers so my time is limited.  I will say it is more work to organize and run, especially on shoot day, but it’s a great way to make a good chunk of money if your calendar is a bit slow.

What is a mini session? Essentially you just book yourself back to back over one or 2 days at a lower rate than normal.  Simple right?

This brings us to tip number 1: Price properly

Yes, you will have a price lower than your regular price, but I still want you to make your average sale in that mini session day.  If not more

When you know what you want your average price per client to be, this is a super-easy way to figure out how much to charge for your mini sessions.  They need to at least total what you regular average sales goal is.

If you don't already know what you want (or need) to make per client,  which is your target average sale, then head over to my show notes to grab my super simple calculator which will figure out what that number is for you.  That calculator will also give you a great way to figure out your pricing in general, as well as help you plan your shoot dates and target income for the year, so make sure you grab yourself a copy.  It’s really simple- I promise

SO back to pricing these mini sessions.  Lets say, to keep it simple, you do your numbers in the calculator, and you figure out your goal for each REGULAR client is an average sale of $2000.  

For your mini sessions, you want to make AT LEAST that amount in a day.  And let's say you want to schedule 5 mini sessions in one day- yes, 5. I know you may think you can do more… and maybe you can, but I want you to spend at least 1 hour with your clients, so 5 is plenty… remember you have to eat that day, and probably pee, so let’s stick with 5 per day.  Run them 2 days in a row if you want, but for this example, we are going with 5 clients in one day, and you want to make at least $2000 in that one day.

2000 divided by 5 is 400 dollars per person.  That is what you will charge. You can make is $395 or $390 but keep it close to your target of 400 dollars per client.

You will offer your session for $395, which includes a 45-minute session -I would offer 2 outfits in that time- more variety which will provide more image choices…(and selections hopefully !) and 15 minutes to select images right afterward to choose you 2 included images.  They will have the opportunity to purchase additional images at $90each (or whatever you want to price yours at.. You can say additional images at $70 each, or $60 each, or you can even do a buy 2 get one free deal) Just don’t go too low and take away your value as a luxury photographer.  I would not go any lower than $75 for each additional image. 

So now you shot 5 people in one day, and you made your average sale already -they pay your booking price of $395 upfront when they secure their time slot- AND you will have probably made more if people buy more images.  

 Hopefully, this is making sense to you.

 

Now on to point number 2.  Make it less work.

What I mean by that is to make it less work for you compared to a regular full priced shoot.  

The mini session day will be more work for sure, but your regular session is priced higher because you are giving more value,  My full priced clients will meet with me 3 times, first for an in person consult, then the shoot for a full day with hair and make up, then another appointment for their in person ordering session. 

For the minis you are only meeting them that day.  You will have a detailed phone call with them before they book though.

The way to make this profitable is to offer digitals only, and by doing their image selection right after their shoot, right on the spot.  While the normal experience with me includes an in-person consultation, as well as an in-person sales session- a mini session eliminates those 2 appointments right off the bat.

I also normally show fully finished and edited images at their in-person ordering session, so the mini they are deciding what they want to buy that same day, which allows me to only spend time editing the images that they purchased.

The reduced price is reflected in the time I am saving.

They also get less time in front of my camera.  A full session with me is 2 hours plus full use of my studio wardrobe, For simplicity, the mini session is 45 minutes of shooting plus 15 minutes to choose their images- total 1 hour.  They can be in hair and makeup before the shoot, but that is scheduled in addition to the hour shooting and selecting their images.

 As a side note, you can offer them hair and makeup in addition to the $395 session for an add on the price of xxx amount… I would have it at least cover what your hair and makeup artist charges you, but they should be giving you a discounted price since they are doing more than one client in a day. Also, I would highly recommend having 2 artists to make it go faster- I like to have one for makeup and another artist doing hair.   

They can also double as organizers to greet people as they come in and keep the line moving while you are occupied shooting.

As a luxury portrait photographer, clients know that a session with me will be expensive so if there is ever a mini session offered, they know its a super deal and will hop on it.

Yes, It will cost them more than the “usual” mini sessions, but remember you are a luxury photographer.  

Also remember that if you charge less, you could be doing a super busy FULL day of back to back shooting for less than what you have figured that you want to make per client… and what is the point of that?  Remember you don't want to work harder and make less money. 

That is where I want you to be.  I want you to be priced in the luxury market so your clients know what a deal these mini sessions are.  

You can structure your mini sessions so you can offer these on a regular basis, once a quarter or even once per month.

When people inquire and you have your consultation (either on the phone or in person) and they decide that the price is too high or they only need a few images (especially in the case of headshots and branding) You can offer the next date you have available for mini sessions. Explain to them you do offer a mini session for $395 which includes 2 digital images...if that works better for you, my upcoming dates for that is X and Y.

Of course you will not offer these on any other days because the whole point is you are having these on the same day, back to back.  If those dates don't work for them, you can put them on the waiting list when you announce new dates. You do NOT charge this amount on separate days.  The whole point is to make these profitable and you can only do that by offering them on the same day. This is 100% NOT a regular pricing for you. It’s ONLY available of the days you set

You will also find these sessions are good to offer to post clients who just want a couple of updated images.  Or to give new clients a taste of what you offer and your experience, so they book a full shoot down the road.

 

OK- now that we have that covered we come to our 3rd tip.  Tip number 3 is to upsell

This is a pretty simple one… you want to make sure you get a variety of shots for the client… which is why I suggest them bringing 2 outfits… so they have a hard time choosing just 2 images when you are showing them 20-30 great images.  

Make sure to have a variety of poses: sitting, standing, leaning. Full body, half body, tighter crop, and portrait.  A variety of poses, expressions, and crops will give you a good amount for them to choose from and make it hard for them to get rid of images.  

Give them a good incentive to add a few photos to their purchase.  At this point, they have already paid the $395 for the session fee so the old “money spent is money forgotten” helps, and your pricing for the extra images should entice them to add a few more good shots while they are choosing.

 

And tip number 4.  Organize and plan.

This may be one of the most important points to have your mini session run smoothly.  Planning makes all the difference. Make sure your clients know that they will have exactly 15 minutes to choose their images and this is the only time they will have to choose… no other ordering session is available, or images will be sent online to review without an additional charge.  Let them also know that there are other clients right behind them that have booked their time slot so you will stay on time.

Also, make sure they arrive on time, and if they are late it will cut into their shooting time (not their ordering time (I tell them if they are more than 15 minutes late they will be moved to the end of the day or to another mini session day)

Have someone there to help you organize your clients… if you are paying an assistant make sure to work that into your pricing as well…

Give clients the opportunity to add hair and makeup OR hair OR makeup, and have specific time slots available for people who want that service… or make it simple and give it to everyone and adjust your session price accordingly.  If you have a dude he can pay the lower price and put him as the first client of the day.

Automate your scheduling… you don't want to waste time going back and forth with dates… use a free service like calendly or acuity to get a link for them to use to book whatever time slots are available, and give them 24 hours to pay in full or their time slot is released.

Make sure you schedule in time for hair and makeup and time for the image reveal… if it makes you feel better to put a buffer of 5-10 minutes in between each client… that they don't know about.

Make sure you schedule in time for you and your hair and makeup artists and assistant if you are using one to eat lunch. 

Take the time to plan before you release this and make this available and it will run smoothly.

 

So to recap- the 3 tips are #1  Price properly. Make sure you figure out your average sale and use my free calculator to make this easy

#2 make it less work.  Make it less work than your normal session.  Not separate appoints, same-day ordering, digital-only, and only editing purchased images

#3 figure out your price to upsell images and make sure clients are aware of this when they book… ie: “2 digital edited images are included with the option to purchase more at your ordering session the same day”

And tip #4 plan and organize.  This step is important to make sure your day does not go off the rails.  You don't want clients inconvenienced if other clients are late… and you need to be on time as well.  Make sure you set a timer while you are shooting, and give yourself a 5-10 minute warning to make sure you get the shots you wanted.  

Also, I didn't mention, but this is a big part of the organizing...Plan out what images you want to get with each client... and have the sets ready to go… this is also where an assistant is super helpful on this day

Final thoughts:

Your mini-session does not need to be anything like what others are offering, in fact, I don't want you to even worry about what price others are doing… you don't want to be doing this for so much less money than you are giving up a day to be booked with a full paying client to do this session unless you are going to make at least what you would make with a regular client… hopefully more because it is a long day.

Also want to mention, I have never done one for boudoir, personally because I think boudoir needs to be the full experience and I would need to have a way to keep the images private at their same-day reveal… and the way my studio is set up, others who are waiting or in hair and makeup would see the images I am showing my client for selection. I also never show a boudoir client her images unedited.  Never. And I am not sure I ever would… but I know other boudoir photographers who are very successful with same day revels for boudoir, so …..I will say with a bit more thought it COULD MAYBE work for the boudoir.

 ~t

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