Over in the Tea with Jainé Facebook group, I received a question about what to do when a potential client starts to negotiate about your prices while you are already in a meeting. Ummmm, can we say awkward? This person had two potential couples start to haggle with her at the very end of their meetings and she was beginning to feel discouraged. She wanted to know if I had any tips to help avoid this from happening again. Boy, do I! This is such a great topic that I recently posted my thoughts over on my Instagram IGTV channel and wanted to follow up with a more in-depth blog post. Here are my top three tips how to avoid awkward client negotiations about your photography prices.
No. 1 - Make Your Wedding Packages SIMPLE - I think the biggest "A-HA" moment for myself was when I started to reflect on what my couples were booking vs. what I was offering. When I first started out, I had several collections with all sorts of options that frankly, were VERY confusing. Every couple wanted something different and I was tired of making "custom collections" so I decided to update my wedding packages to what my couples really wanted and go from there. I created three collections and I made my base collection the minimum I needed to do my job of capturing a wedding from start to finish. This way, there would be no more negotiations about what to "take out" because there was literally nothing to take out. For myself, my base collection will always include 8 hours of photography, a second photographer and the digital files. Once I decided that this was the right formula for me, I built my next two collections on top of this base collection so when someone asks to take out the engagement session or remove the albums, I refer them back to the base collection. I will not remove anything items or services from the base collection because it's the minimum I need to do my job. I wouldn't take a job that wanted me to do less (unless it was a small wedding or elopement which would have separate pricing all together - see my note below).
So, how do you do this for yourself? I would figure out what is the minimum you need to cover your weddings or events and start from there. It won't be the same as mine but knowing what your base collection is will stop clients haggling over your services because if they can only add-on, they won't be able to take anything away.
Also, I would recommend having a different collections for the different types of weddings and events you photograph. If you specialize in small weddings and elopements, having different pricing for those types of events will alleviate the frustration of creating smaller collections from your full wedding day services every time someone inquires. If you are a destination wedding photographer, having separate collections for your destination and local weddings is a great way to minimize any type of price negations as well. Only send your potential client the pricing information for their type of event.
No. 2 - Share Your Prices In Advance - I cannot stress this enough but no one, I mean, NO ONE wants to be surprised especially when it comes to talking about money. They want to know in advance how much your services cost (if not start at) and you should tell them well in advance to ever meeting them in person. As I mentioned in my blog post about Ghosting, one of the biggest reason people ghost you is because they have complete sticker shock. I strongly suggest listing your starting price on your website contact and investment pages. When I first reply to new inquries, I always reiterate my "starting rate" and I ALWAYS send my pricing guide before each phone call.
What should you do? I would create your own process where you will send clients your full collection guide prior to any phone call or meeting so they have time to read and review it. They'll be able to see your wedding packages, prices and be able to ask any questions specifically related to your prices during your meeting or phone call. No more awkward conversations about "asking for a discount" or "what can we do to lower the cost" when you are already in a meeting. Phew!
No. 3 - Get Comfortable With The Word "No" - I know, no one likes to be the bad guy and say "No" to a potential client but to be a successful business person, you have to learn to say the word "No" and for the right reasons. However, with that said, I do have a twist on the way you say "No" without really having to say it. When someone asks for something that I'm not comfortable doing or I don't want to "swap out" to lower the price, I always suggest something else that could possibly be a better solution and benefit both of us. How you ask? Let me explain...
Let's say someone is asking for a discount on an album and I already know that don't offer discounts on albums. How would I answer them? I would say is "Unfortunately, I don't offer discounts on my albums but if you choose to add and album to your collection, I would love to gift you additional spreads as my way of saying Thank You". I'm saying "No" but in a positive way and offering something of value to my client vs. taking money away from my profits. Offering your client something of value such as additional hours of coverage, more pages in their album, an engagement session, etc... is inherently more valuable to them then lowering your prices for your services.
Being able to confidently explain and defend your pricing will lead to less haggling and negotiations during your client phone calls and meetings. I truly believe streamlining your pricing structure for your photography services, being up front with your prices and able to politely (but firmly) say "No" is the best way to avoid awkward negotiations and book the perfect couples just for you.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had an awkward conversation about your prices with a potential client? What did you do? I hope these tips were helpful and I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.