How many times have you received an inquiry from a potential client that, in the first message, includes something along the lines of, “What are your prices?” or, “Can you please send your rate sheet?” When this happens, do you typically reply with a PDF that outlines your entire pricing structure, or perhaps refer them to a page on your website? Pye Jirsa cautions against this practice, and with good reason.
When a potential client reaches out, you have a precious and limited window of time to demonstrate the value that you will bring to the experience. When we lead with pricing, we indicate to the client that pricing should be the primary factor in their decision in selecting a photographer, at which point they completely ignore the value that justifies the price. By doing so, we become derelict in our responsibility to serve as highly-skilled consultants who will match the right products and services to each client based on their needs (some of which they might not yet even realize).
Our value comes not just from our ability to take and deliver photographs, but also from our ability to manage the logistical and other aspects of the project. Something as simple as knowing to ask the right questions can make all the difference in conducting a successful photo shoot. Pye’s approach echoes my sentiments from a previous article, reminding us that we are salespeople first. Without our intervention, clients will often be unaware of what they need in order to get the results they want. Expecting a client to pore over the line items in your rate sheet and determine their own needs is a bit like asking someone to assemble a Rube Goldberg machine purchased from IKEA with missing instructions.
Pye mentions two exceptions where it might make sense to send a rate sheet up-front: when you are so busy that you are barely able to keep up with existing business, or when you are unable to set up a meeting. I would, respectfully, at least somewhat disagree on both points. If you are so busy that you can’t even effectively manage relationships with potential new clients, it’s probably time to look at increasing your prices in order to be able to sustainably provide consistent value to your current clients. Being available for them as projects need to be photographed is not only part of the experience you want to deliver; it also carries an inherent value that would justify reasonable price adjustments. By contrast, if a client is unable or unwilling to commit to a ten-minute phone appointment to answer a few questions, chances are they are not your target client in the first place, and it may simply not be a good fit for you to work with them. That said, as Pye notes, conversion rates tend to drop when you send a price list upfront, so if you’re sensing someone may not be a good fit to work with, particularly if the price is their first priority, perhaps sending your rate sheet can be a polite way to save everyone some time and coach them toward alternatives more suitable to their expectations.
How do you handle requests for your price list when first communicating with a potential client? Drop a comment below.