There will be many hard to have conversations and decisions you will be faced with making as a business owner and this I have to say, is one that pulls the most strings at the heart! It’s not the first time that we’ve had someone ask us questions about this topic and so we felt it deserved its own blog post.
Email from a fellow entrepreneur:
Hi, when you first started your business how did you go about charging friends & family? I’m a graphic designer and have done stuff for free for friends & family in the past. They same to be repeat customers 😂. How do you go about charging them so it goes well? Now that I’m laid off from work I would love to get paid for the services I do. Did you ever have this issue as photographers?
Did we ever have this issue as photographers?! YES!!! Yes we did! It can get really sticky with friends and family. When we first started our journey as photographers we wanted to build our portfolio and honestly were just excited to shoot any and everything. In the beginning stages of getting in some practice and building our portfolio we did a number of free shoots. But the time came to when we had to decide how we were going to use photography. Were we going to keep an expensive hobby or were we going to actually plunge forward with growing a profitable business.
We knew that there was only one responsible and wise decision for our family. My mother is one of eleven and I am one of fifty plus cousins and we haven’t even gotten into second cousins which are really like first cousins. We knew that our goal wasn’t to be busy. Our goal was to be profitable. We wanted repeat customers not repeat freebies.
Now that we knew what our vision was for our photography journey, the next step would be to figure out how to enforce it. We needed to set rules that we could stick to. But there was something we needed to do before we could even create the rules.
The very first thing we needed to do was feel confident and guilt free into believing that we aren’t asking them anything unreasonable. Time doing stuff for free for others takes time away from us growing our business ! Time from marketing, and building relationships in our industry. And on a more personal level it was time we were taking away from our family. Our daughters. Time from each other! We also knew that we were giving them the same experience and service we were giving to our paying customers. Honestly at times even better. We were always worried that they’d feel that because we did it for free or that because they were family that we didn’t care as much. For this reason we found ourselves doing more than expected. It became mentally and emotionally exhausting. We are a professionals, and being related to us doesn’t give anyone the right to free lifetime sessions.
The instant we did that, the instant we had built our own affirmation and value we were ready to make rules. We’ve decided we only do things for free for our parents. I mean its the least we could do, especially our mommas who had to share their bodies with us for nine months and well lets not ignore the birthing process. The other were our siblings (Landon has three and I have two). That was our personal decision and yours may be different.
Aunties, uncles, cousins and friends they pay! Everyone else is free to choose to hire us based on our portfolio for our priced services that we are happy to email to them when they inquire.
But what if they ask in person?
Keep it professional from the very initial interaction. We’d respond with something like
“Sure omg yes we would love to, what’s your email. I’ll send you all the info, pricing how to get ready picking outfits the whole nine.”
I send them the email and then they can choose to move forward or not. The way I see it, I’d want them to want us to take their pictures because they love our work and see the value in what we do, not because they think they’re going to get a hook up because their auntie is my mommas cousin. We find that when someone is willing to pay for your time and service or product they do so because they see the value in it. They understand that this isn’t just a “hobby”. Sometimes people have a hard time taking creatives seriously in their craft. You know, like the starving musician. When they place value on something they also listen to advice. In our field for example, they will take recommendations for outfits, locations and timing of the session seriously. They trust you to guide them. That trust makes for a better experience for them.
What if they throw you a curveball and ask :
How much would you charge me 😉 ?
OH the how much would it cost me questions followed by the infamous wink! We are prepared to tell them
“ You know currently our schedule doesn’t allow us to do any freelance. If our price is out of your budget, we totally understand we’d be happy to send you some recommendations for some other photographers and you can inquire with them. I’m not sure what their pricing is but you can definitely check them out.”
I have prepared a list of photographers that I trust and am happy to send business to! At the end of the day we truly believe that people value more things that they pay for and know that they will have a better experience once they place a value on it and PAY it.
Give yourself permission to place a value on your time and service and stick to it. It’s hard and family knows how to pull at the heart but what’s helped us is trusting and knowing that we don’t expect anything in life for free and others shouldn’t either. Again the biggest challenge is us not letting our emotions be the leading factor in business decision making.
Now don’t get me wrong we aren’t cold and all about the money. We’ve chosen organizations that we are passionate about donate a lot of our time. But we find more reward in donating our services and time to people who don’t expect it. Have we shot a wedding for free yes! Like our bride who had to move her wedding up because her mom was in hospice and had weeks left to live. She didn’t ask for it. She didn’t expect it. But it didn’t change the fact that she could use an act of kindness, mercy and grace. Until this date it brings tears to our eyes to have been blessed with the responsibility of capturing these last intimate moments between our bride and her mom.
At the end of the day you must give yourself permission to place value on yourself , your time and your work. Give yourself permission to say NO. It’s the best thing you can do for your business and every aspect in your life. Its freeing to learn when to say no. Its taken our passion and turned it from a hobby to a full time profitable business. Everyday we wake up and think. Holy crap how blessed are we to be able to provide for our family doing what we love and teach others how to do the same!
Be kind but affirmative. Be humble but confident. Be intentional with your time. Doing so will help you come up with a plan to help you overcome this obstacle that will surely reappear throughout your life and maintain all those friendships and relationships intact and continue to grow a profitable business.