How to Charge for Your Photography
Next in our series of starting an equine photography business is to figure out what we need to charge for our beautiful pictures and oh yeah our time. Yes, you should get paid for your time as well as your products. Many new photographers want to know what others are charging and base their fees on those numbers. While it is great to know what the competition is charging, it does nothing for sustaining your own business. Your costs may not be the same as mine, and I know my costs are not the same as others in my industry. We each have our own CODB and we need to know what that is. So today we are going to get into another portion of our business, (sorry no shooting yet….we will get there, I promise), we are going to be figuring out our cost of doing business or CODB. You only thought that doing a business plan was scary, this work is going to show you what you need to make in order to make a living. I know when I fist did all of this, my eyes must have glazed over and looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. We are going to try to make this as non scary and painless as we can.
CODB – what is it and why do you care? Your cost of doing business is the result of an equation. (Yep we are doing math here, so hang on!) The equation is not that bad.
Non-reimbursable expenses (A), plus your desired salary (B), equals your total annual costs (C). Simple!
First, how much do you want to make a year this is what you want to make as take home pay. (as if you were receiving a paycheck from an employer, and get to take home and spend how you want) $50,000 a year? 75,000 a year? more? Don’t sell yourself short, but also don’t think you will make as much as Bill Gates in your first year.
The addition of your non-reimbursable expenses, these are the costs associated with keeping the lights on and the doors open. Rent, computers, phones, internet, insurance, gear, office supplies, etc., fall into this category. Beware this is going to be a fairly large number for some of you. Grab a blank sheet of paper and lets make a list of what our non-reimbursable costs are: office/studio
phone (cell and/or landline)
photo equipment (cameras, lenses, memory cards, etc.)
equipment service and repairs (let’s hope not…)
vehicle expense (double check with your tax advisor on what you can include in this one if you are using a personal vehicle for work)
office supplies and furniture
postage and shipping
professional development (workshops, etc.)
advertising & promotion
subscriptions and dues
insurance (business and equipment)
legal and accounting services
taxes and licenses (business and self employment)
office assistant (I wish…)
utilities (other than you phone since we listed that earlier)
travel and entertainment
Your list may not have all of these, or it may have other things not listed here. The important thing is to include all that you can think of that you will spend to run your business for the year. Some of these thing will take a bit of figuring out, but again put in the time and work, so your outcome will be a realistic number to work from.
Lets try an example:
A= desired salary $75,000/year
B= total expenses $75,000/year
$75,000 + $75,000 = $150,000 per year expenses. So our CODB is $150,00 per year. This is what you will need to make annually just to keep your business going and does not include any savings for your company.
Yep that is a BIG number.
So let’s break it down into some bite size pieces.
You can break it down by month, or week, or by session or horse show. Let’s do it weekly to see what that looks like. So out of 52 weeks in a year, how many will do you want to work? Be sure to include time you want off for vacations, being sick, time for workshops etc. One month off should give you ample time so lets use 48 weeks as our magic number.
So $150,000 codb, divided by our 48 weeks of work time
$150,000 / 48 = $3125
This means that in order to make your $150,00 per year codb, you need to bring in $3,128 each week. For equine photographers this can be made by shooting ranch/portrait sessions or horse shows or a combination of the two (there are other ways, such as commercial, but we will keep it to just these two ways for simplicity).
Lets use ranch/portrait sessions for our example. Lets say we can do 3 ranch sessions a week (remember we need to include email time with the customer, phone time, editing time, travel time etc.). This means we need to make $1,012 per session each week. This is where our next topic of cost of goods sold or COGS will come in, as this $1,012 per session is just to pay you, and cover your expenses, it does not cover any products for your clients.
Lets see what shooting horse shows looks like. Lets say you shoot three horse shows a month that are each 4 days long, this means you are shooting 144 horse show days a year (this does not include edit time, travel time etc….these are just the days you spend shooting, adding these thing will put you about 250 days a year.) In order to determine what we need to make each day shooting it will look like this:
$150,o00 / 144 days of actual horse shows = 1,042 per horse show day.
Again this only covers what it will take to pay you and your expenses and does not cover the cost of products that your customers may purchase. So when you are shooting horse shows on spec work (a topic we will cover later on) it can be very daunting, since sales are not guaranteed.
Our next stop will be figuring out our COGS, so stay tuned!