Commercial Photography and Billing Insights and Questions

Started Nov 29, 2006 | Discussions thread
Jeff Behm Veteran Member • Posts: 3,306
Re: Commercial Photography and Billing Insights and Questions

Wow! We're living parallel lives in OK. and PA.! And apologies for the length.

I had the same conundrum a year ago and it was my brother, who owns an industrial manufacturing company that resolved the issue for me. He said it's customary in industry, which may help your client digest the increases. They have increases to their customers, too, and recognize it's just part of business. If they're smart, they'll appreciate that it ensures your longevity.

When I decided I had to raise my rates but was concerned about blowing away a couple of loyal clients, he suggested that I package certain services that would have been additional charges into the new rates, thereby raising them higher than what I was anticipating. BUT...

Certain tasks like stripping, parallax straightening or highlight control of chrome or white products could be credited on the invoice to the loyal clients, thereby returning them to near their original rates, only slightly higher. They feel good about the savings their loyalty provides, I show a higher gross sales making the bank happy, and the discounts are not taxable income.

Everything is on the invoice, too. $XXX for photography (includes blah, blah, blah extra service) followed by a line of credit for certain of those same services. That way, when they ask you can say whatever suits you, but "for your loyalty" never hurts.

The newer customers are pleased that they get certain of these services included in the rates, making you look like a very comprehensive full service operation. They need have no knowledge of discounts to other clients. And as I said, I don't discount so deeply that there's no increase, even to the loyal clients.

There's nothing wrong with rate tiers either. There are different ways of doing this. One is by establishing an average per month you want/expect them to spend, and after they pass that amount in a month the rate goes down (only on the $$ over the base amount, not back to the beginning of the month). You can have more than two levels, too. after $XXXX, they get Y%, after $XXXX+Z they get YY%. Whatever works for you.

Another way to approach the original question is to do whatever increase you wish to make, then add the services as a separate line of charge and finally a third line of discount for loyalty. Again whatever works for you.

As my brother and his business manager told me though, never cut your main rates per se. Discounting the services is the best way to maintain percieved value of your amin service - photography - while discounting the ancillary services to help the client.

Getting to your difficult client, since you're increasing rates anyway, now is the time to find a way in which you are comfortable handling their issues. For some clients I have what my office mgr. knows is an aggravation factor. This is reserved for clients who come in and wrestle me for control of my operation, usually being far more demanding of my time, materials, staff and attention than the job legitimately requires. Some of these people pay as much as 40% more than others, and it's always earned, just not readily billable.

Another thing I might do with the client requiring multiple imagery is go to a strict accounting of everything and request a representative of the client be present for all shoots to approve the proofs. Even if these are lo-res digital printouts, just have them sign, date and time (!!!) them in the margins. Those are yours to keep in their file. If they want duplicates, charge for theirs. You now have a signed affadavit of the time spent and for which you'll bill. Then do the retouching on all as usual at the new rates you've established and discount them as you desire.

If they're concerned that this will cost too much (maybe because they now have someone tied up at your studio that wasn't before) offer them a money saving suggestion. You'll shoot without the representative, but in the absence of a rep, all interpretations by the photographer are deemed correct.

We actually have that paragraph in our commercial contract. "The studio strongly encourages the client provide a representative who is thoroughly conversant with the reuirements of the shoot and is authorized to sign their approval of the images as the shoot progrresses. In the absence of such a representative, the photographer's interpretation will be deemed correct."

Just a few ideas we've used. Maybe something will click for you and you'll find your own variation that works for you.
Good luck

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