When you’re self-employed, knowing what to charge clients and how to negotiate rates is crucial to your success. Jason King from Spooning Australia (pictured above) shares what’s worked for his food photography and social media business.
I’m a Sydney-based self-employed content creator for the food sector. My business, Spooning Australia, manages socials, takes great pictures and more recently, creates TikTok videos. Basically, we get your food and venue seen on socials. We also eat a hell of a lot.
I started my business back in 2018 and have produced content for more than 200 venues around Australia. From my experience, here are the golden rules I’ve learned about pricing yourself effectively so you get paid what you’re worth.
Watch video: Jason King’s tips on pricing yourself properly.
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Rule #1: When starting out, go low – but not too low
You’re starting out as any self-employed business – so what do you charge? Everyone needs new clients so you go low to get as many as possible and to get your name out there. I had a friend who was getting into the business as a creative and had no idea what to charge so looked at everyone else’s rates, and added five per cent to the highest and then went with it. He ended up being one of the best in his field because he had the confidence to go with it. Most of us are not that confident and are still finding our feet, so we need to set rates that are enough to pay the rent and then we need to provide great content.
When I was starting out, I was charging $300 for a two-hour shoot. And I thought $150 an hour was stellar pricing – until some food photographers that I knew called to tell them I was outpricing them. And then I realised that $300 also included up to two hours travel time and three hours editing time. So then $300/7 is about $43 an hour – not sustainable to run a business on so I ended up doing seven shoots a week – a huge drain on energy levels and hours. But it got my name out there and 90 per cent of my business comes from word of mouth. I now charge nearly triple that.
Rule #2: Get confident and increase your pricing gradually
As you get more experienced and your confidence builds, besides the fact you are nearly burning out, you gradually start increasing pricing. My first time I increased the rate to $500 for a two-hour shoot, I kept repeat customers on $300 and some still get that rate as you can’t say no to loyalty and they are the ones that spread your word of mouth.
Eventually you become so tired and have the attitude of Linda Evangelista (supermodel from the ’90s) – “I don’t get out of bed for less than $10k.” While I do not earn anything near Linda your pricing reflects what you think you are worth. If less people hire you don’t worry as you are earning more and always be loyal to those that are loyal to you.
Rule #3: Negotiate the right deal for the right amount of time and effort
It is always a juggle. Sometimes your dream client comes knocking on your door. If Luke Nguyen or Matt Moran wants a photoshoot, you drop the price to show your support to bring more recognition, but if you are required to hire lighting or extra items you don’t want to be out of pocket.
My best suggestion on this is do not commit to a price at the meeting. You will always go low when a business owner is trying to bring the price down face to face. If I am having a meeting with a client, I will get everything they need and say I will email them a quote when I have had the chance to look over everything. And always go slightly higher – the client can always reject and then you can lessen what you offer for the lesser price. Give yourself leeway room on pricing.
Rule #4: If you’re giving a discount, the client needs to lose something
My suggestion is to never discount. Always take something off to get the price down – let them know your prices are not up for discount.
I shoot for restaurants and explain that when dining, do patrons ever negotiate the price? My rates are designed with my business and various costs in mind. I am quite strict on this after being taken advantage of a few times, and this is something you will learn.
As tough as you will find it to ask, it’s best to take payment in advance wherever you can. Or alternatively, I have a few websites I can upload content to, so the client can see low-resolution content and gets the high-resolution versions once payment has been submitted. Regardless of how nice people are, there are too many people who will take advantage and your content is what they want! Know it.
Thanks for reading! Find out more about Spooning Australia right here.
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This article is brought to you by Flying Solo in partnership with Hnry.
Feature image credit: Jason King