Eye on Business | Do You Have a Fee Charging Phobia?

Do you have a fee charging phobia? Are you hesitant to charge clients for their sessions and orders? Do you dread taking money from clients? Well, have a seat on my green crushed-velvet, antique settee over here at JP Ball Photography and let me, “Dr.” Jodee Ball, analyze why you may be suffering from this phobia.’

Let’s set the scene. A senior and his/her family come into your studio to order their pictures. You feel pretty darn sure that you showed them your pricing guide and that they understood the level of investment they would be making before you had the session. You are certain that you collected their session fee before the session. Fairly certain you collected the fee, at least. You start to reason with yourself. It’s a busy time of year. Senior season! Who could blame you for forgetting some small details, right?

The clients are happily awaiting to the see the gallery you have created. You show the clients all of the wonderful images in the gallery. They gush. Mom sniffles. Then, the questions start. “So how much is…” You show them the prices once again (at least you think “again”). Dad gives Mom a disapproving glance. Mom starts to squirm while glaring right back at Dad. The senior checks out of the ordering process and onto Twitter. It’s an uncomfortable moment.

What do you do? You start to sweat a little. You realize they had no idea what type of investment they would be making. You suddenly feel guilty for asking for their payment and charging them your prices. You don’t want them to be mad at you, after all. Should you offer some things for a discount or even free? Oh, how uncomfortable.

Is this you? It’s been me. And it’s been me way too often!

It’s time to take the fear out of charging clients. You are a business, after all. So, WHY are you feeling this way? Here might be a few possible reasons you are suffering from a charging phobia.

1) Lack of confidence:

This is the probably the key reason you are suffering from a charging phobia. How many times have you silently wondered, “Is my work worth $X?”

Clients invest in you, the person and the photographer. They invest in the time you give, the quality you provide, your creativity, your unique products and most importantly, your art. Their investment far exceeds the price of the paper on which you print their images.

There is a fine line between being confident and being conceited. And you should walk that line. You shouldn’t allow your clients to see that you lack confidence in your work. They will adopt the theory that you aren’t worth what you charge. But, in contrast, you shouldn’t present yourself as a photographer, industry super-star, extraordinaire. Humility is a quality that is endearing to others. Let them know you aren’t perfect. You are always learning new techniques to better your art. You are open to their ideas and suggestions on how you can improve your

Take a good look at yourself. Are you charging clients based on your work and the value of your art? Ask others in the industry to look at your pricing structure and be open to their honesty. Try to see yourself as others do,  especially your clients!

2) Lack of organization:

Have you ever shied away from telling a client he/she owed a session fee or payment on their order because you couldn’t remember? Yikes. I have. It’s incredibly embarrassing. And I know I’ve lost money over the years because of it.

Develop a system. Here’s an example.

a. A potential client emails you asking for information. Attach the information on the email and include your contract. I
use Machform online contracts. They are easy to use and extremely versatile. One of the items that clients must
have checked is that ALL responsible financial parties have seen the pricing guide.
b. Once you get the contract, print it and file it in a folder labeled with the client’s name.

c. Collect the session fee at whatever point you have stated in the contract. Create a SESSION (separate from the order) invoice, print and
file in the folder. Make sure the date and payment information is recorded on the invoice.

d. Use the folder to make client notes about location, ideas, and any conversations pertinent to the session.

e. While shooting the session, talk about your products and pricing structure. Refer them to the one you sent
upon scheduling (this is reference #2 to pricing). Be excited about what you offer clients!

f. Once you schedule the ordering session, send a reminder two days out with the pricing guide attached again
(reference #3 to pricing).

If you follow a system like this or your own effective system, you should not have any surprises during an
ordering session. If one arises among your clients, you can confidently charge according to your guide without an

3) Not minding your own business:

That sounds pretty mean, I know, but hear me out. We tend to think that other people think just like we do. I’m a thrift shopper. I cut coupons. I get just as excited as you do when I get a 30% off coupon to Kohl’s. I watch what I spend. We follow a budget.

That must mean that everyone else is out there looking for a deal, right? Wrong.

I once had the opportunity to shadow an excellent photographer and business owner. Her words have stuck with me over the years.

“It’s not your business what other people choose to spend their money on.” At first, that took me back a few steps. I care about others, after all. But she’s right. If your clients know your prices before they sign their contract, they are saying that they are ready to invest in you and your work. They may sacrifice a few things to do so even. And if they do, it’s just not your business.

Let’s sum this up over coffee. Starbucks coffee is wonderful, but I realize that I’m paying extra for the brand, the quaintness of the coffee shop and the customer service. Starbucks baristas don’t feel bad if I wince at paying $5 for a cup of coffee. And why should they? I made the choice to buy it. It’s worth it to me. I value my Starbucks coffee. Sure, my husband gives me a dirty look every once and a while when he sees it in my hand, but that’s my his problem, not Starbucks.

On the other side of town is McDonalds. Their coffee is okay. The atmosphere isn’t great. The service is not consistent. I get what I need and get out the door. Nothing to brag about, but it’s cheap and it’s fast (usually).

What type of photography studio do you wish to run? Do you want to be a Starbucks or McDonalds in the photography industry?

I choose Starbucks. Venti, please, black eyed. And personalized with my name on the cup. Handed to me by a sweet barista with a smile.