This week’s post is a guest post is written by Eli Powell.
There, I said it.
I could have made more at McDonald’s or begging for change on the street. Needless to say, this is a problem.
This article contains 3 ways to increase your photography income. Using these steps, I’ve more than quadrupled my hourly earnings.
High expenses & under charging for my work led to a ridiculously low wage. Does this sound familiar? I know many of you have been (or are) in a similar position.
Thankfully, I have another source of income, so I can still eat! But this second job makes the disparity all the more apparent. Each hour I spent working on photography (and not at the other job), I was losing $20.
By the Numbers
Here’s the cold hard facts from my 2011 taxes:
Sales = $21,038
Vehicle related costs = $2,231
Equipment depreciation = $5,436
General business expenses = $10,367
Net pay = $3,004
Hours worked = about 800
Hourly rate = $3.75
After paying income tax, that number is even less!
Hourly rate, in this case, is net pay per hours worked, where net pay is the take home money after all expenses are paid but before paying income taxes.
There are three main ways to increase hourly rate: increase prices to clients, decrease overhead expenses, or decrease hours worked. Let’s look at these variables one at a time…
Sounds simple, but with a glut of other photographers out there, a price increase should be carefully considered.
I wanted to maintain my value proposition while getting paid more. So I reduced the hours of coverage in my standard offering, removed the second photographer, removed the engagement session, and increased the price. Effectively increasing my rate by about 50%, but the client only saw about half of it on the “sticker” price. Additionally, my average client investment increased. This is huge because my higher packages have only incrementally higher time and material costs.
Decrease overhead expenses
Overhead expenses are all those things you spend money on to be in business. This includes things like advertising, equipment purchases & rentals, prints & albums, contract labor, parking, office expenses, etc.
Last year my mentality was “make great things at (nearly) any cost”. The problem with this is that it’s unsustainable. I was renting lenses just for fun, hiring a great second photographer when I could handle it by myself, and ordering tons of sample products. This year I’m not doing any of that. Every dollar has a purpose. I estimate I’ve whittled down my overhead expenses by 35%.
Decrease hours worked
Everyone wants to work faster, but wanting isn’t enough. Pay attention to the time you spent working, and you may find some surprising time savers and time wasters. Try turning off the WiFi when you edit, break your work into manageable smaller tasks, and set reasonable deadlines for everything.
I’ve found success in speeding up my workflow by getting it right in-camera, being more selective in the images I deliver, having a custom camera profile as the starting point to my editing, & giving up a little perfection. Additionally, I’ve stopped doing “portfolio building” work for free. I estimate that these changes will reduce my hours by about 30%.
With wedding season in full effect, I won’t know the final results for a few more months. However, my preliminary estimates put my new hourly (take-home) wage in the $17-24 range: A livable wage that will allow me to continue pursuing my passion of photographing couples.
How about you?
What changes have you made to increase profits and become (or stay) sustainable? Hit us up in the comments with your tips, questions, or comments.
Eli Powell is a Boulder Wedding Photographer. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife & cat. When not behind a camera (or computer), he enjoys rock climbing, engineering, & teaching.
Image Credits: All images contributed by Eli Powell Photography