I wanted to write something about pricing for a while now…
At first I thought against it, because money is such a taboo topic. Then I read something today and it popped up in my mind again. So here I am writing a bit about pricing, because it should not be a taboo topic.
Pricing for a creative business and ultimately myself and MY creations (because I AM my business), was and still is, somewhat of a headache. It’s because I have to put a monetary value on something that comes from the heart, something that comes from inspiration and something that comes naturally if I’m in the flow. So putting a price on something so personal is not always easy.
But money is energy and that’s something I learned along the way. Without it, there is no energy and ultimately no energy to create. I learned this from having my own business but also from friends, acquaintances and other entrepreneurs I admire.
This is what I mean by the energy analogy.
Everything in life is a balance. For everything you put out there, there is something equal coming back for you. If you put positivity and good intentions out there, you’ll get all of that back. The same goes for the other side though.
If I put energy, creativity and my heart and soul into something creative, like a photo session for example, there should be an energy exchange equal to what I put out there, coming back for me.
Why? So I can create again, so I can eat, so I can live in my house and keep on running my business and enjoy what I do.
The best way for this energy exchange to happen is to put a monetary value on my work, because it’s the way most of us equal the balance of getting stuff.
There are of course other ways to equal this balance too, like a service exchange, and of course sometimes you also gift people with something and don’t expect anything in return.
But this post is not about that.
How did I start?
For every photo session I do, I use all my skills and expertise that I acquired over the years.
I taught myself everything I know, I even studied the physics of how a camera works, because I wanted to know that too. I started with photography in 2008, and for 4 years I just did it as a hobby.
But I had a dream to have my own business one day and that dream started to look like it might be as a photographer.
From 2012 onwards (and still) I learned all about how to do photo sessions, work with people, read people, work with kids, how to tell a photo story with still photos, how to use and read light, and how to do that creatively.
I did courses, I took photos every day learning new things, I taught myself about editing and editing programs. I sat behind my computer for hours during weekends and nights (at the time I had a full time job) and learned everything possible about photography and how to built a solid portfolio.
I built my own website, because I’m picky and full of nonsense and wants to know how stuff work, so I just knew I had to do it myself otherwise I’ll never be satisfied. So I also learned everything possible about building a website.
If you want to have a laugh, have a look at how my photography looked like when I started, here.
Then in 2014 when I started my company Ilze Louw Photography, I realised I now had to learn everything about running a business because taking great photos or being creative is nothing if you don’t have business skills. I then also appointed an accountant to run the money side of things.
So why do I charge the rates that I have?
I soon realised I had more money going out of the business than in, and my accountant also told me so…
For some time I did photo sessions for a little bit of money in exchange, and although I enjoyed doing them, my energy to keep on creating soon ran out.
I drove around doing photo sessions without charging properly for traveling. I sat behind my computer for hours editing each session to perfection because it’s part of my creative process, but didn’t think to have an hourly rate part of my package price like all other businesses do. I’m not going to go into numbers explaining all the other business holes where money disappear into like insurance and upgrades.
To run a successful photography business took a lot of my time. But it also took my expertise, my creativity, my resources, my heart and soul and the energy exchange I got in return was not balancing it out.
So I burned out.
It was a natural thing that occurred because of the imbalance. And for me, it was necessary to learn it the hard way.
I realised that I had to charge my worth.
For every business owner, that is different. That is why it’s so great that there’s a photographer out there for everyone and for every price range. If you can charge whatever you do, run a successful business and make a living from it, then you’re on the right path. If not, have a hard look at the imbalance you’re creating.
I know I’m not for everyone, and I’m totally okay with that.
But what I’m not okay with is having to fail as a business owner because of not charging properly to keep the energy exchange in balance.