Photography lies at an uncomfortable intersection of art and business.
You were drawn to the art, but in order to keep doing it….you have to run a business. Kind of deflating, isn’t it? Even dyed-in-the-wool bookworm nerds like me grow faint at the sheer number of things you have to study and learn to become a good businessperson. And even then, books can only get you so far – you have to have the guts to get out there. Market. Create. Grow. Sell. Stand up to clients. Stare fear in the eyes and eat those doubts for breakfast.
In this crazy maze of an industry, the importance of investing in good education cannot be over-highlighted, over-emphasized, or over-exclamation-pointed.
Yes, you can muddle through and figure out many things for yourself – we must all do that to some degree. But in some areas, trial and error is extremely expensive. The cost of a bad price list is more than just time – it’s hours away from your family as you struggle to make up the difference with more clients. The cost of a sloppy client experience can be a mediocre or even a ruined reputation. The cost of not having a business plan? All of the above, plus the frustration of constantly wondering where you’re going and if you’ll ever get there.
I stumbled upon the products of Served Up Fresh early in my business journey. I downloaded all the free samples and instantly fell in love with Alicia’s signature teaching style – part cheerleader, part drill sergeant, part therapist, part girlfriend-over-lunch. Eventually, I scraped my pennies together to buy the Easy as Pie Pricing Guide, and after that I didn’t have to scrape nearly as many pennies. Lux Undercover (a collaboration with Brand Camp) helped me breathe life and delight into my clients’ experiences. And Happy Place gave me a clear understanding of how to mold my business to my strengths and hammer out the details of how to get this show on the road.
These products have been so influential in my business that frequent P4P readers know that I rarely shut up about them. So imagine how excited I am to announce that Served Up Fresh is having a 48-hour half-price sale from March 30th – 31st. In honor of the mega sale, I offer this mega review to give just a taste of how these three e-books fit together and help me in my own business. Perhaps it will help someone else who has had their eye on these fabulous products. Here we go:
Easy As Pie:
You know those books on your shelf that you take down and re-read every once in awhile? Not because you forgot the stories (you know them by heart), but because you just need to hear them again?
Meet your new old standby – Easy as Pie. If PDFs wore out, my copy would be dog-eared, scribbled-upon, and flecked with hot chocolate. There is a lot of cotton candy in the world of photography education (tasty, consumable, fades easily from memory), but Easy As Pie is Thanksgiving Dinner. Meant to be savored, remembered, and re-savored every year. It reminds me why I’m in business. It reminds me to take my business seriously. It grabs me by the scruff of my neck and straight-up calls me out when I’m tempted to fall back into old, non-profitable habits. I talk about it constantly on this blog, and I’m not going to stop. Because:
Every photographer needs a profitable pricing list and the courage to stand behind it.
Without both of those things, you’re setting yourself for exhaustion, overwork, and worst of all – that sinking feeling of watching your passion slip through your fingers. I believe that if Easy As Pie were required reading for all photographers, the profession of photography would be more well-respected by the general population. We would all stop trying to desperately run around pleasing everyone, giving away our skills and investments, and hemorrhaging money at every turn. We would start acting like business owners who have something valuable to offer.
Easy as Pie takes your arm and walks you down pricing lane, dispelling your fears and dismissing bad habits along the way. By the end of this pleasant stroll you have a complete, solid, profitable price list. You know what you need to do. You know your cost of goods. You know how to feed your business and yourself. And with this knowledge comes the gut realization that you cannot give that client that oh-so-innocent 30% discount they want, because you’d actually be taking a 45% cut in pay. Yowch. Stand down, discount-seeker!
When you understand the structure of your pricing in and out, it becomes easier to charge what your time is worth.
My highest sale before purchasing Easy as Pie was $500. My first sale after implementing my new price list was over $4,000. But that latter number was more than just a “wahoo, cha-ching!” moment. It represented a tectonic shift in who I was as a business person. I had no trace of guilt about my prices, no temptation to run and hide when I presented galleries with a four-digit price tags. I knew how the numbers were created and I stood behind them, period. That confidence and knowledge came from reading and re-reading Easy As Pie. I wish I had bought it sooner.
Here’s the thing about implementing that fabulous pricing, though: If you’re going to expect people to pay you non-Walmart prices, you’d better make darn sure you’re offering a non-Walmart experience to go along with it. You cannot simply get people in the door and then turn them loose upon dizzying aisles of options with no one to guide them through. If you do, you can bet they’re going to carp and snipe and ask for discounts, because they’re going to have to work almost as much as you do to make it through the experience.
But here’s the problem: Most photographers find it hard enough just to get through the whole process themselves while juggling kiddos, third jobs, and electric bills. When the heck are you going to have time to create a “client experience”? Can’t I just have some fancy packaging and call it good?
Lux Undercover walks you through how luxury brands build amazing experiences – and then shows you right quick how you can apply these principles to your photography business. They see beyond the fluffy trimmings and illustrate exactly what makes up the spirit of a luxury experience. It’s not about window dressing, it’s about an entirely-applicable philosophy for fabulous client care. There are concrete suggestions for businesses at every level – whether you’re established or just starting out. My own business has changed substantially from when I first bought Lux, and I love that I can still go back and find new ideas. Don’t worry, they’re not going to try and tell you that you need to be offering gold-plated toothbrushes emblazoned with your logo, or shovel your clients’ sidwalks, or even do anything out of budget. Budget is irrelevant. It’s about how to show you care – and how to make your clients never forget the time they spent with you.
(Psst….and it’s a delightful read, too. Like eating a cream puff while perched on a window seat on a sunny day. Yes, I relate everything to food.)
So I once went to the library all eager-like to check out some books on writing a business plan. Pretty soon, my eyes were glazed as doughnuts. P&L statements? Inventory? Market projections? What in the what?
Let’s cut to the chase: Business books are important. Business books can teach you a ton. Business books kind of suck to actually read, and are often hard to apply to photography. Which is why no one reads them, which is why photographers kinda hate ‘the business side’ and waste endless afternoons wandering through forums and the blogosphere instead. (Do people still say ‘blogosphere’?)
Happy Place sits you down, makes you a cup of tea, and guides you through creating a photography-specific business plan. And in true Served-Up-Fresh fashion, you’re so distracted by the magic of the writing that you hardly notice you’re doing real work. (It’s true. In fact, Happy Place features both elves AND very helpful snowmen.) But don’t be fooled by its non-business-bookish exterior – these are serious topics, the neglect of which could have you wandering aimlessly through the internet forever, confused about where to go and what to do.
Happy Place tackles toxic beliefs, confronts your fears, and walks you through creating a successful business plan for your success. No more copying your neighbor in the hopes that they’re doing it right (in fact, my fave chapter in Happy Place illustrates how that neighbor may be earning more but profiting less than you. True story). By the end you have a clear vision of where you’re trying to go, a map to get there, and a personal compass (behold, the business plan!!) that will lead you back when you’re getting off course.
So much of how my business is run today can be traced back to the happy combination of Easy as Pie, Lux Undercover, and Happy Place. They keep me sane as I run an art-based service business. They’re highly recommended, permanent fixtures on my e-bookshelf. If you have questions, feel free to fire away in the comments.
By the way, if you use the links in this post when you go to purchase any of these products, a portion of the proceeds goes to support Psychology for Photographers. If you’d rather not do that, no worries, just head over to served-up-fresh.com straightaway. I purchased all of these products with my own money and reviewed them long before I started this blog, so I feel comfortable extolling their virtues here as well.