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List Your Prices (THE RIGHT WAY) (Calling All Photographers.) (Hedgehogs Welcome, Too.)

In: Marketing,

As an entrepreneur, sometimes you fall flat on your face.

Figuratively–and, apparently, literally–namely when you’re traveling in the South of Chile pretending to be in better shape than you actually are while attempting to jump over pathetically small streams that you really should be able to fucking clear, but somehow, don’t, and manage to fall flat on your face, ripping your pants, embedding annoyingly small rocks in your hands, and making a goddamn fool of yourself.

It happens.



Thank you, Kyle Hepp, for capturing this hilariously embarrassing moment.

Once I (barely) made it over the stream, Kyle did the smart thing, and simply threw off her shoes, rolled up her pants and crossed like a civilized human being.

As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, we’ve been traveling in the south of Chile. Kyle and her husband were suppose to leave days ago, but thanks to some unexpected volcanic ash hanging around in the air (?!?!), all of the flights back to Santiago, the capital, have been canceled. For days. 

So, we’ve been here in Puerto Montt, hanging out in our hotel lounge overlooking the ocean, working away on our Macbooks. We may or may not have ordered several bottles of champagne as well. (The lady knows which room to charge it to by memory, by now.)

Yesterday, once we had finished up some projects, Kyle started talking to me about her photography business–she’s an international wedding photographer, and one of the finest, if I do say so myself.-

A badass wedding shot

Her dilemma: She feels she might be losing business because many brides-to-be are claiming that she’s too expensive.

So we did some chatting, and some investigating, and some digging, and some champagne sipping, and in the end, my conclusion was this:  The reason isn’t necessarily because she’s too expensive.

The reason is because price is really the only thing that soon-to-be brides understand how to use as a point of comparison. And so that’s what they’re using to compare. And when that happens, Kyle loses. Because she is more expensive.

But…what isn’t immediately obvious is that she’s more expensive with good reason.

And it’s that good reason that needs to be more effectively communicated, in order to give brides a more meaningful point of comparision–one that they can clearly understand and one that will be an obvious benefit to them. 

When I said that to Kyle, her response was:

Yeah, but, doesn’t the quality of photos make it immediately obvious?

And my response back to her was:

Not necessarily, my peach.

Here’s why:

If I’m a bride looking for a photographer, I’m probably not a trained photographer (or I’d have shitloads of photographer friends and idols that I’d call on without so much as thinking twice.)

As such, I’m probably going to regard photographers as virtually the same: A photographer is a photographer is a photographer. Just like you might be inclined to feel like a zoo keeper is a zoo keeper.

Therefore, as soon as I land on her site, I’m going to go straight to the one menu that I see glaring at me–pricing/information. Because that’s information I care about at this point.

At this point, I don’t care about some blog.

I don’t care about Kyle (yet), I don’t care about raves, or the print of the month.

I might care about wedding photography enough to click, but I bet that before I click on that, I’m clicking on “pricing/information” first. Because I don’t want to get my hopes up. And if she’s not within my anticipated price range, I don’t want to even see the photos, because that will make me feel like a poor ass loser whose wedding is going to suck. And I don’t want to feel like a poor ass loser whose wedding is going to suck.

And when I do that, I see that, in terms of price, Kyle is pretty fucking expensive. And I’m like…shit. Movinngggggg onnnnnnnnn to the next photographer.

And that’s it.

She just lost me as a lead.

However…had I first understood why, exactly, Kyle is the best damn wedding photographer around, and then saw the pictures, and then fell in love with her and her style, and then envisioned myself in the photographs, and *then* was introduced to the price, well, then…I might be willing to do what it takes to have her as my wedding photographer regardless. Because realistically, my anticipated price range is just that: Anticipated. Not set in stone.

So there’s wiggle room. Most of the time, there’s wiggle room. And most of the time when people tell you they don’t have the money, they’re lying–they just don’t think it’s worth the money.

Your job is to show them that it is.

And once you do that, if you can make it a no brainer, you’ve got yourself a win.

Once Kyle makes it a no brainer, she’s got herself a bride. Because at that point, they don’t want just any photographer. They want *this* photographer. They want her.

And that’s the goal of any business owner–make it a no brainer for your prospects. However the hell you have to.

So what’s my point?

A website shouldn’t be just a website. A website should be a carefully and thoughtfully designed interactive sales piece that *works* for you by guiding your prospects through the steps that you want them to take first, second, third, and so on.

Most people don’t think about the steps they want people to take. They just slap up what they think are the necessary menu options, and then sit around twiddling their thumbs.

And here’s the thing: If you don’t know what exact steps you want people to take, you can’t use your website to encourage those people to take those steps.

So instead, they do shit backwards, like visit your pricing and information first.

It’d be like a realtor who shoves a piece of paper in your face with the price of a million dollar home, without showing you the home first…and still hoping for a sale.

But, I still have to include pricing information, right?

Yeah, you should. Those shady bastards that get all secretive about their fees and make you guess are just that: shady bastards. They probably have unsightly chin hair, too.

You should never make a prospect guess or do the work–again, make it a no brainer. Studies show that when there’s no price listed, the majority of people click away, assuming that if they aren’t showing the prices, then they’re mad expensive. And you don’t want that, either.

So in Kyle’s case, I’d do three things:

  1. Develop a landing page for her site that has a badass introduction paragraph speaking right to her ideal bride–something that will make that bride say Yeah baby, giddyup, I love this girl and I haven’t even seen her photos yet. Alternatively, she could add a body of text above her blog that accomplishes the same thing. Something that attracts attention.
  2. Encourage new visitors to view Kyle Hepp’s most popular hits (or something to that effect) by including a big, bold link right below the paragraph, so new visitors feel like she’s talking right to them, and as a result, they do what she says. Then she’s guiding them to view her pictures first, before they jump to price. Curiosity killed the cat. If I’m a pink-haired clown, and I land on a website that happens to have a link that says, “If you’re a pink haired clown, click here,” I’m not going to be able to resist. Human nature. You better believe I’m clicking on that first.
  3. On the actual pricing/information page itself, I’d consider including more compelling copy and/or photographs as an introduction..and saying whatever it is that I think will help them fall in love with me (and make it a no brainer), and then include the pricing info at the bottom. Or better yet, include pricing info as a link to a pdf document so they can’t just scroll down the page and see the price without paying attention to what you want them to. Cachaow! *cracks whip*


If you just got to the end and didn’t read the middle, SUCK IT UP and scroll your ass back up.

If you did read the middle, thank you.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, but still like me anyway, high five.

I promise not to attempt to jump over any more streams.

Unless there’s a hot guy on the other side, in which case, all bets are off.

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124 thoughts on "List Your Prices (THE RIGHT WAY) (Calling All Photographers.) (Hedgehogs Welcome, Too.)"

  1. Alriiiight lookie at me being 10 months late to comment on the post but WHATEVA i just happened to be procrastinating and read it. Here’s my dilemma. As a designer, I’ve put “prices start at” for various packages before (and was considering doing it for my redesign which should be launching this week.) The big fatty problem I’ve run into with that is that sometimes, especially for web work, is that the packages don’t spell out super specifics like “5 page website” or “3 logo revisions” but by the time I DO tell clients that once they’ve inquired about hiring me, they’ve already got that certain number stuck in their head. It’s like the “prices start at” phrase disappears and it’s only the $XXX that they remember, if that makes sense.

    Other than feeling like an asshole and reminding them “hey, that’s just the starting point, your price point is going to be a lot higher because of x,y,z,” is there really any other way to do it? ESPECIALLY in the design field, I feel like so.damn.many (aka most) designers, unless they’re on etsy, are secretive about their prices. Like… 8 or 9 times out of 10, they don’t list their prices, so it’s hard to even price competitively! /rant

    Thoughts on not being a secretive/shady jerk versus a jerk down the line? (Who also apparently sends crazypants emails, haha.)

  2. Greceln says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m just starting out as a portrait photographer and I am still trying to wrap my head around how to price properly. Three days later, I’m still comparing prices and I have no idea what to do. Price too high and no one will want to hire me. Price too low and people will wonder about my skills, I probably won’t survive as an entrepreneur and I’ll be screwing with everyone else who are also in the business of photography.

  3. Greceln says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m just starting out as a portrait photographer and I am still trying to wrap my head around how to price properly. Three days later, I’m still comparing prices and I have no idea what to do. Price too high and no one will want to hire me. Price too low and people will wonder about my skills, I probably won’t survive as an entrepreneur and I’ll be screwing with everyone else who are also in the business of photography.

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