How to price when shooting freelance
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Old 02-03-2010   #1
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how would you Charge people for photographs they want in different sizes ?,
How do you decide how much to charge per hour if a company wants to hire you?



How do you decide how much to charge per hour for taking pictures
if a company wants to hire you?


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Last edited by Ed Shapiro; 02-03-2010 at 10:21 PM.. Reason: Same question- If the OP wants a comprehensive answer it will work better with both posts are one.
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Old 02-03-2010   #2
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Default Re: How to price when shooting freelance

AH... Thanks for your posts

I have combined your questions so you will get a more comprehensive answers.

This is my response and I am sure there will be more.

Of all the complexities of professional photography (work by photographers who charge for the work or earn their living from photography) the question of pricing is probably the most difficult to answer. That is because there is no pat, universal, one size fits all or down pat answer. If you design a price schedule with no business plan and some market research, you will most likely end up doing work without profit and financial frustration.

Of course, what you CAN legitimately charge has allot to do with your experience and photographic abilities and the marketplace where you are operating but there are many other factors.

One basic rule is that you should not arbitrarily set prices based on the fees of other photographers because every photographer has his or her costs of doing business, different lifestyles and different clientèles with different buying and spending habits.

There are different methods of actually charging you customers such as hourly rates, sitting fees, package rates, and presenting a total price for the entire assignment including the required prints. That is the easy part- the hard part is figuring out the prices themselves based on your requirements, overhead expenses, and the amount of money you need to operate your business and your personal needs as to "take home pay". If you were asked to work as an employee in someone else's business you would want to know your salary. If you work for yourself, you also need to know what your "salary" will be. Your new business may not be able to pay you lots of money right away but you need to establish as structure so that you can eventually pay yourself for your work. I can write a book about this but I have limited space for that so I will give you a brief outline as to how to begin to crunch the numbers.

First add up all you household expenses and then all your fixed business expenses- EVERYTHING from grocery requirements, automotive expenses, insurances, equipment expenses, rents, telephone and Internet charges- I mean everything. The total figure is just the amount of money you will have to bring in just to cover your fixed costs. You have to eat, have shelter and have a place to conduct your business.

Next you need to figure out your costs of sales- this is the costs of materials, lab fees and supplies that you need for each job things such as frames, mounts, prints (at cost) , assistant's fees and all the items you turn over to the customer.

Then you need to projects how many assignments you will have to book per year and assign a part of your overhead to each job and the combine those costs with the cost of sales on each individual job. The fixed expenses has to include you salary. With theses projections and figures in hand you can begin to build your price list.

This may seem too complex if you are in a part time business but it is important to start with some kind of framework. So many photographers loose money because the don't actually realize that such things as equipment repairs and maintenance, bank fees, accounting costs, security services and so many other expenses can quietly add up and significantly reduce your profit potential or even put you out of business.

Lets say there is a photographer up the road who is content with living in a closet behind his studio, eating dog bisects and driving an old death trap of a car- you certainly don't want to adopt his price schedule. Another guy down the road is a very successful photographer who is putting 3 kids through college, has an opulent home, a top of the line car and carries on a high end lifestyle. You can't adopt his price schedule either unless you have his level of skill, popularity in the market place and his position in the community. Theses may be extremes but they go to illustrate some important lessons.

It boils down to doing your homework, the research and some introspection as to your abilities. Hard work! At the end of the day it's good to know when you pack you gear and go out on an assignment that you are fairly and commensurately compensated for your skills and efforts.

Ed
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Old 02-04-2010   #3
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As Ed says, you need to do your homework.

Who you are selling to affects your pricing more than anything. Joe who is laid off and has no idea when he will get back to work probably would not pay $10 for an 8x10 of his kids. A fortune 100 company will not feel $10,000 is expensive. So you have to select you market so you can make what you want over the year.

Studio owners, like Ed, usually can tie down their costs exactly. Freelancers can not. For each hour a freelancer can bill he has and hour of selling, and an hour of running the business he has to pay, so a useful rule of thumb is that you need to charge 3x your expected earnings for each hour of work. That is if you expect to earn $30/hr you have to bill at $90/hour.

One thing most new freelancers leave out of their cost is a wage to themselves. Your wage is separate from your profits. Think of it this way, if you are sick you will have to pay someone to cover your jobs for you if you do not have a wage figured in there you are going to lose your behind.

Also what state you are operating in affects how you bill your time. When I was a freelance I was in a state that did not tax services, so I billed time + expenses, expensing everything except my time. If I worked at a price per photo i would have been selling a product and had to deal with sales taxes. In the state I am now they tax services so there is no advantage one way or another.

A freelancer can work from a fairly simple business plan, but one who does not have a business plan, and know what his break even point is, is a fool.

Beyond money, a freelancer needs very good networking skills. A studio owner can to a large extent depend on walk in trade. A freelancer can not. You have to keep visiting potential new clients, and keep in touch with your old clients. Believe me, if you do not keep in touch pretty soon they will be former clients hiring someone else.

Freelancing can be a great way to make a living, but most who try it soon go back to their day job (There is a lot less stress knowing you are going to get a check every Friday).
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Old 02-04-2010   #4
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Default Re: How to price when shooting freelance

Being a "freelance" photographer is not a special category- it simply means that your are self employed, wither part-time or full time. In the eyes of the government, all your income is taxable, as per income tax laws and all your charges are subject to your collecting and remitting applicable sales taxes. In the United States and Canada, there are different regulations imposed by federal, state and provincial governments as to what income level a business has to register and start paying, collecting and remitting the aforementioned taxes. As an example; here in Ontario the Goods and Services (Federal) Sales Tax does not kick in until you gross $30,000, however, the Ontario Provincial Sales Tax starts from day one. You need to check with your local and national governments to find out what is applicable in your jurisdiction.

Again, a freelance business is subject to the same laws as an established studio in a business premises. Income tax is applicable to all gainful employment earnings whether you are holding down a job or working for yourself. This is why a good business plan is required if you intend to do even a limited amount of work as a freelancer.

Earning additional money without a careful degree of bookkeeping and accounting can lead to disaster. This can place you in a higher tax bracket to a point where you are better off not working part-time at all and just doing your day job. That can easily happen if you don't keep careful recored of you costs of doing business and your costs of sales. Theses expenses are deductible form the income from your freelance work and thereby placing you in a tax bracket that is true indication of you financial condition as far as the government is concerned. You must record all purchases for you business and file all receipts and invoices.

Your business plan and your bookkeeping has all the information you need to monitor you business for the purposes of your control and the purposes of taxation. You need to be able to observe trends before the become issues. In the beginning, you need to make many adjustments to your price schedule as you gain experience in controlling your business.

Taxes can be a pain but you need to register yourself or you company and follow the laws. You need to put aside money for tax remittances in a separate bank account because sales tax collected is NOT your money, it is funds held in trust. If you don't remit on time, the fines are outrageously steep. If you don't register, the consequences can be very serious. Some folks think that they can get away with not registering, after all, who is gonna investigate some poor guy shooting in his basement. They don't investigate poor guys in their basements unless there are certain "signals" in their tax returns. The do, however, audit big rich dealers and labs. They oftentimes pick up on regular clients buying pro equipment,services and supplies.

I don't agree with this practice but sometimes established studio owners report "garage operators" because the don't like them cutting into their trade with lower prices. If you are properly registered and up to date with all your taxes, you have nothing to worry about if an auditor or tax inspector shows up at your door.

Since this is a public forum and other people are reading this besides the OP, I offer this advice as the proper way to start a business- even a small one. By starting off with a simple but workable plan you can allways augment your plan to accommodate the growth of you enterprise. You don't want to be hit with a ton of bricks if you, all of a sudden, have to pay retroactive sales or income taxes that you did not know about or did not rightfully collect it from you customers.

You can invest in a computer based accounting program or do the books the old fashioned way by recording all sales transactions, payments, debts and monies that you are owed by clients. Above all, a visit to your accountant is money well spent. He or she can help you set up the books, advise you on tax matters and help you create you business plan.

Good luck- Ed
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Old 02-04-2010   #5
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You are right about that, Ed. Anyone starting a business of any kind should talk to a good attorney and a very good accountant.
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Old 04-14-2012   #6
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Thanks so much Ed
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Old 04-14-2012   #7
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Default Re: How to price when shooting freelance

Most start up small businesses fail because they are under capitalized. A good business plan can get you bank loans when necessary. If you don't know how to make a business plan then either learn or hire a professional business manager to advise you, or even prepare a business plan for you.

When you are first stating a company you aren't well know and it takes time to get your product known and to bring in customers.

Expect to lose money the first year.

If you survive the first year and start to develop a good reputation in a good market you should break even the second year.

It is usually the third year before a good small business starts to make money.

The best advice I can give anyone starting a small company, such as a photography business, is learn all you can about how to start and run a small business. Check local community colleges for courses or at least buy some books and study them.

Amazon.com: idiot's guide to small business

Becoming well know is important so learn how to do this. Network as much as possible. Offer free images to well know locals in exchange for being able to use these as window displays, in your portfolio, and on your web page. Ask local restaurants, the library, beauty shops, etc. to show some of your images. Many places will trade this for you doing some free images for them - all part of your advertising expenses.

Internet social media is more and more important - get yourself a web page and post on twitter, Google+, etc.
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Old 04-15-2012   #8
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Default Re: How to price when shooting freelance

I didnt read all this.. but this helped me with my portraits and wedding/event. I do have a studio so my costs are a bit different than someone who free-lances without a studio, you dont have commercial space to account for..

Photographer’s Pricing Guide Dallas Wedding Photographer Stacy Reeves | Vintage Modern Wedding Photography
http://www.barrymrobinson.com/pricing_how_why.pdf


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Originally Posted by Sailor Blue View Post

Becoming well know is important so learn how to do this. Network as much as possible. Offer free images to well know locals in exchange for being able to use these as window displays, in your portfolio, and on your web page. Ask local restaurants, the library, beauty shops, etc. to show some of your images. Many places will trade this for you doing some free images for them - all part of your advertising expenses.

Internet social media is more and more important - get yourself a web page and post on twitter, Google+, etc.

Be selective on trading for ads as 9 out of 10 times its not worth the trade. Do some homework before you decide to trade and who with. I learned the hard way. And certainly dont buy into "exposure" or "credit"..

+1000 on social networking, Google+ is rapidly rising. Ride whatever social networking site is hot, ride the train while it lasts. Flickr is also a good way to keep images in the top search results, sites with lots of traffic are good to use to help your SEO to be found.

Network, network, network and SEO, SEO, SEO..
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Old 04-15-2012   #9
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SEO? Haven't seen that abbreviation before. What does it stand for?
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Old 04-15-2012   #10
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Default Re: How to price when shooting freelance

Search Engine Optimization.

It means you need to make sure you can be found easily by search engines when someone wants a photographer, by properly designing your online presence.

See how my signature doesn't just say "my website" but actually has a specific title? That's an example of SEO, and I want those words associated with my website. When this site (photocamel) is indexed by search engines, that tiny bit of non-spammy info will give my site a much better punch for people searching than if I had just put "my website". Alone it doesn't make much difference but when you are consistent and link words to sites like that, over time you will get a much higher presence by web crawlers and search engines. Over a couple years, I've gone from page 40 (barely indexed) to page 3 (indexed heavily on certain competitive keywords), and my site is still moving up on different searches. I'm page 1 on a few common phrases, but I'm going for competing with the big dogs in NM.

Learning about SEO is just as important to avoid wasting your time, bandwidth, or annoying people. You might check google's webmaster faq. https://support.google.com/webmaster...answer=1050724


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