In my last post about how to price food photography photo shoots, we covered all the different types of clients there can be. You can see why we needed to cover all that in order to explain why there is no standard pricing here.
Now we need to talk about pricing your jobs so that you are not losing money, but actually making money.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney or an accountant. I am not giving you legal advice. I am simply suggesting ways for you to run your business. You should always check with your attorney and accountant with anything related to your business.
So many of you are NOT charging enough for your photo shoots, and if you carry on like this, you will fail very quickly and not really understand why.
The other problem with not charging enough is that YOU are watering down our food photography industry! Even if you don’t care how much money you make, you should care that you are making it difficult for the rest of us to actually make a living. Please read my post called, “Stop Shooting For Free!”.
What are all your expenses – I mean ALL OF THEM?
It is extremely important for you to figure out all your costs – both for you personally, and for the business because to put it simply, if you don’t have all your costs covered, your business will fail, fast.
For the personal expenses, add in everything, your food, average personal spending per month – all of it. You need to know this. Include your personal credit cards and what you pay each month for those. Do you have college loan payments? Put that down too.
Example Personal Expenses:
- Rent or mortgage
- HOA payment if you are in a condo
- Car payment
- Insurance payments – car, life, personal umbrella (protects from lawsuits)
- Health insurance (depending on how your business is set up, this could be a business expense)
- Home insurance or renter’s insurance
- Cable TV/Internet/Phone
- All utilities
- Food costs for the month (remember that latte you have EVERY day?)
- Entertainment costs/personal spending for the month (be totally honest here!)
- Home repairs/maintenance (take the average for the year, divide by 12)
- Car repairs (take average for the year, divide by 12)
- CC payments – not business debt
- Student loans
I actually have a spreadsheet for this. I list of all my personal monthly expenses and list of all my business monthly expenses, then add them together.
Here is a simples spread sheet using Excel to add up all your expenses. I call this the Expense Tracker. There are formulas to add it all up for you. Just edit what I listed to add your expenses.
Download the Expense Tracker here: ExpenseTracker
Seriously, if you haven’t done this yet, you need to asap. I now have so many monthly payment plans for software for my business; gmail accounts, for my email service provider, the list goes on. It’s shocking when you start adding all of this up. Also, include payments on any business debt or credit cards for the business (you are keeping these separate from personal expenses, right?).
Those expenses that you pay quarterly, or yearly. Do the math on the monthly equivalent, and put that in there too.
You need to advertise and do self-promotions, so figure out your yearly budget for that, and add that in the monthly bucket as well.
You will always need to be buying more equipment, so add this into your monthly budget.
Example Business Expenses:
- Studio rent
- Health insurance (if your business is set up this way)
- Google Apps Fees for all email accounts
- Cable/Internet/Phone for studio
- Utilities for studio
- Monthly subscription plans
- Web software monthly plan
- Business insurance
- Business CC
- Self promotion advertising
- Equipment purchase
You get the idea – you have to list everything in here. If you are just starting out, do the best you can to estimate this.
The personal total is your cost of living, and will hugely vary depending on where you live, and how much mortgage or rent you are paying. Can you see why we can’t have standard rates in photography? Just based on where you live, and have your business can hugely affect your cost of living, and your business overhead costs.
How Many Jobs Do You Need To Cover Your Overhead?
Now that you have done the math on your cost of living and your business overhead, look at your grand total each month. Bet you had no idea it was that much, or going to be that much if you are just starting your business.
Now we need to figure out how many jobs you think you can get every month. Many of the photography formulas I’ve seen are based on you working 40 hours a week.
Here’s the reality – I don’t know ANY freelance photographer that is working 40 hours a week. It’s just not possible.
The reality is, you will do several jobs a month, and the goal is to get those jobs to cover all of your costs, AND have some extra money left over.
Let’s pretend your total costs per month for everything, personal and business are $5000.
If you’ve been charging $250, or $500 all in (meaning that is the total the client pays), for a photo shoot – you would have to do 20 jobs a month at $250 each or 10 jobs a month at $500 each – just to be at zero before you make any extra money.
Do you think you can get 20 jobs a month? How about 10? Do you know how much hustling, and how much advertising you have to do to get 20 food jobs a month?
I have been shooting for 25 years – I have never had 20 jobs in a month. The most I’ve ever had has probably been 5. Granted I’m doing bigger jobs where I’m shooting one day jobs all the way up to jobs that are a week long. But you see what I’m saying.
How Much Total Time Does It Take To Do Your Jobs?
Here is the other thing that most of you don’t add into your jobs. The TOTAL time it takes to do a job.
So let’s say you shot at a restaurant for two hours and only charged them $250. Let’s break that down.
- Prep for the shoot – all the time talking to the client to help them create a shot list working on the estimate for them to sign – 1 hour
- Prepping gear and loading up car, driving to restaurant – 1 hour
- 2 hour shoot
- drive home take out gear – 1 hour
- edit images and upload to dropbox for client to download – if you are new, this will take you some time, but let’s just say 1 hour. If you shot a lot of images, this goes up to 2 hours.
We are at 6 hours of your time – That would be $41.66 an hour for the $250 shoot.
If there are 4 weeks in a month, at that hourly rate, you will be working 30 hours a week to cover your overhead.
My goal is to get paid more to work less, not the other way around! At this rate, there will be a maximum amount you can do, which means you just capped what you can make. That’s not good either.
When you are starting out doing small client direct jobs, at the bare minimum, what would be more realistic is to charge at least $750 for your fee for that two hour restaurant shoot – limit the amount of shots to say 6-8 food shots, if they want more, they pay more. Then you only need to get 6-7 jobs per month to cover your overhead.
That is still a lot of jobs to get every month, so I’m hoping that you get the idea here. You need to be realistic with the amount of jobs you can get, and be realistic about what you should be charging for your jobs.
If you are saying, “The restaurants I shoot for will never pay that!” Guess what, you’re shooting for the wrong restaurants my friend, and you will not last long with that limiting belief.
What that really means is that you don’t think your photography is actually worth that price. Please see my post about shooting for free.
OK, so we’ve covered your costs and we’ve covered your time to do the jobs. Now you can see why it is not possible to have a standard rate sheet for every job – the pricing completely depends on what’s involved with each project and what you need to make to cover your costs.
In my next post about pricing we will go over how to price a small job.
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