Why You Should Never Offer FREE Shoots.

You are just starting out, you need to build a portfolio so you can post it on social media or your website to show people you are in business and what you offer?

So you ask anyone and everyone if you can shoot them for free, right? 

Wrong!

This is one of the most asked questions I get and here is why you should NEVER give away free shoots (and what you can do INSTEAD to build your portfolio).

First thing- regarding pricing- Please do NOT price yourself low.
Just don't do it.
I understand that you are just starting out, and I understand that you are scared to post high prices, and I understand that you need to get people in front of your camera.
There are easier ways to do this, that don't require you to work for free, or basically free.
 
Keep reading.
 
I know all the excuses (because I have been there too!)
"no one will pay my prices"
"the photographer down the street is cheaper/better/more well known, etc"
etc.
ETC. !
 
All those excuses are bullshit, and they are coming from a place of fear.
 
You deserve to get paid for your time and expertise. Stop telling yourself you don't.
 
First thing you need to do is to figure out what you need to make per client to be profitable.
I have a simple and quick calculator for you to figure this out.  Click here to grab it.
 
Seriously- do it- putting your numbers in there is a real eye opener and hopefully it will make you STOP before you post crazy-low prices, or will make you CHANGE your crazy-low prices.
Like, RIGHT NOW!
 
Once you figure out that your prices are too low, re-do your pricing. Even if the numbers scare you- do it anyway.
 
Now that you have that figured out, or at least a better idea of what you want to make, LET'S GET PEOPLE IN FRONT OF YOUR CAMERA!
 
If you are wondering how to get people in, and how to build a portfolio to GET people in, that is when you offer your gift voucher.
 
The voucher could still be a low price, may even be FREE, but the client will see a VALUE in it, as opposed to a free shoot, which gives off the vibe that you are low value.
 
Pricing too low will also attract bargain hunters, which usually are not the best clients to deal with, and they make you work harder for not much money.
 

Here is the idea behind vouchers:

 
After doing the calculator, you realize that if you want to make $50K in TAKE HOME income (ie: net income), and you want to work 48 weeks per year (4 weeks off) with 3 clients per week, you need to make at least $868.06 per client- Let's call it $870 per client
(all this is figured out with the calculator, just by you plugging in a few of your goals- you can play around with the numbers as well, to see different results)
 
SO now you know you need to make $870 MIN per client to reach your goals. Yes, some clients will spend less, some will spend more, but your average should be in this range. Now when you do your pricing, and keeping it simple, this amount should be your most attractive package: there should be a package below, that costs a bit less, but is very unattractive, with low value, and a package that is above this price, that is still attractive, and would be great to sell, but you will be pushing people into your middle package (your sale goal), just by how you structure your packages.
I can go into more detail on pricing in another post.
 
"But, Tanya! I need to get people IN to sell these prices!"
 
Yes, you do, and I hear you.
 
This is where your vouchers come in.
 
Print up some vouchers (I like 5x7-not too big and not too small) and have a blank spot for you to fill out a dollar amount. The reason I don't recommend printing a fixed value on the vouchers, is because you may change what you offer as you go along- you may want to give more of a value (Ie: discount) to someone you really want to get in front of your camera- or you may want to give a bigger discount to someone that you want to shoot and use their images in your portfolio- so that can be part of your offer.
Using the sales goal above, you would fill out vouchers with the amount of, let's say, $800 to start.
 
So your voucher wording could look something like this:
"This voucher entitles the bearer XXXXXXname, to a photoshoot with Tanya Smith Portraits, plus $800 to use towards portraits. (total value of $995)"
You would fill out their name (because you talked to them and introduced yourself!) and the amount of $800.- I would also recommend an expiry date that you also fill out, maybe 8-10 months down the road.
The value of $995 comes from the $800 + the amount of your session fee, in this case $195. $800=$195=$995
 
Here is what one of my vouchers look like:
 (If you would like the .psd file so you can add your own words and photo, click here to download)
 
Now the client sees what your prices are and that she has received a really great deal! And you are technically not working for free. Your time, in this case, is worth almost $1000.
 
The client is welcome to come in and just use the voucher and get your middle package and nothing more (yes you did this shoot for zero dollars, but you need images and you want to get people in right?) But hopefully she buys a bigger package, uses her voucher towards it and pays the difference.
 
 
As you get more people in, you can lower the amount based on your needs, but this way you have established your prices, and put a value on your work instead of giving away FREE sessions, you are giving a gift with a dollar amount attached to it.
 
Does this make sense to you?  Drop a comment below if you have questions.
 
~t
 

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