How to deal when “Everyone wants a deal” {5 things to think about}


Q. “I want to make my photography business work, but everyone wants a deal”

A. One of the first things I learned about fighting fair when I got married was that we shouldn’t use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. In the same way, when you’re fighting with yourself over your business, you have to stop using words like ‘everyone’ and ‘no one’.

You say “everyone wants a deal”, right? My answer is this: have you met everyone?

You also may say “no one wants to pay”. I beg to differ. I have clients who pay perfectly fine.

So we’ve cleared that up, what now? You may need to first recognize that this is a problem with your methods, not the community around you, not your clients and not their friends.

Here are 5 things you may want to think about:

1.} Can you afford yourself? Often when I’m helping photographers with their pricing and sales, I’ll see them wince at different prices I mention. At this, I usually ask, “Are you pricing based on what you can afford” at which point they pretty much 100% of the time reluctantly reply “yes”. This is a huge mistake. To base the value of what you do on your own personal finances is going to land you in the poor house (or back in that job you hate). Custom photography is a luxury. Just because you aren’t currently in the place to afford luxuries doesn’t mean you need to market yourself to the people in your same economic position. If you don’t reach higher than your own wrung on the ladder, you will never go up. Your business will stagnate (at best) and implode in failure (at worst). Do you think the guy/gal who manages a Ferrari dealership can afford a Ferrari? No, but they still sell ’em to people who can.

2.} Where are those people? So where are those other people? You know, the ones who have more money than you? You need to find em. Where they shop, the brands they love, the way they decorate their homes. Those are going to be important clues to where and how you should be marketing your business. This may mean getting out of your own community, too. Don’t set up your studio around the corner if you don’t live in an area with the clients you’d like to attract. I know a photographer who travels 2 hours each way to get to her studio in a city where it can flourish.


3.} You decide how people treat you. If you act like “what, little ole me?” when people want to hire you, they won’t treat you like a star. YOU show people your value and they will behave accordingly. They may know your price, but price and value are two different things. The value comes later and only you can lead them to that conclusion. If you’re a shrinking violet without much confidence, you may not be cut out for bigger business. I don’t want to lie and say you can do this. Not all personalities are fit for the world of successful self employment. It’s a really hard road and it’s not for everyone. This isn’t to say that you can’t change, though. You may want to seek therapy or counseling to find out why you don’t believe in yourself and seek to change. And who knows – this business thing could be one of the things that’s a catalyst for that change.

4.} Saying no works wonders. Come across someone who wants a deal? Tell ’em you’re too busy. Or actually tell them that you’d love to do their wedding but your prices are set that way for a reason. You’ll be surprised – people come back to me after I say no and still want to book, but now I’ve shown them that I’m not clueless and I think they find security in that. It makes perfect sense that someone who is trained to value businesses with actual shops or offices wouldn’t completely value you the same. It may be helpful if you actually have a studio, but most of us are working out of our homes and cars. So it’s your job to make your potential clients feel secure that you’re every bit as serious a business person as the owner of the grocery store where they shop or the gym where they work out. Part of that is being clear that your prices are what they are for a reason. This post and this one are about saying no.

5.} What’s the worst that can happen? Lots of photographers are afraid to not take all the work that comes their way. They keep doing things they hate and, worse, they do it at prices that keep them poor. This post tells you about the point at which I finally decided to stop doing this. I literally trashed my best work. You need to start asking yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen’? If you say yes to jobs you hate, then you’ll…

  • Hate your job (I thought you started this business so you could get out of that job you hated?)
  • Just keep bringing more of that work your way
  • Give yourself a headache
  • Probably end up quitting.

If you don’t start sticking to your prices, you’ll…

  • Keep attracting people looking for a deal
  • Not be able to afford to keep working that way
  • Get in a personal rut because you keep devaluing yourself
  • Give yourself a headache
  • Probably end up quitting

So if you say no, you might not have the instant gratification of a few bucks in your pocket, but you’ll also lose out on the headache, the heartache and the eventual demise of your dream.

Lastly, I’ll remind you that you haven’t met “everyone”. It’s impossible to say that you can’t make it because “everyone wants a deal”. Shift your mind!


DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? You can have all our blog posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader. Just click here. It’s never been so easy to stay educated, informed, and inspired!
Elizabeth Halford

Elizabeth Halford


She blogs about photography and business with her unique plain English approach. Elizabeth has been-there-done-that with running a photography business that doesn’t profit a penny and loves teaching photographers how to get away from the starving artist model of running a creative business.
Elizabeth Halford
  • Jana Davila - Thank you! This is great!! 🙂

  • Eboni - Great way to start my day! I’ve personally seen a difference with my client intake once I decided to be more stern with pricing and turning away potential problem clients who want t deal. It’s been great for business and for me keeping my sanity! 🙂

  • Carolina - wow thanks for sharing this,. What do you think about this? I have been giving discounts on my old clients. Just because they always come to me again and again, and its a way of saying thank you for their business. but then I see my self where, I am not making any money :0( Any suggestions?

  • Leah O'Connell - So this is basically everything I’ve thought to myself but didn’t know how exactly to put into words to others who price shop for custom photography. Huge problem right now. Thanks for the boost!

  • Vernon - Great advice, Elizabeth. When approached by family or friends who are looking for a discount I often tell photographers to follow this advice:

    1) Set aside time for discounted or “free” shoots. Schedule one day per quarter that you can dedicate to doing family/friend portraits. That way you plan in advance for it, and you have it in your schedule. If that day fills up or people can’t be fit into that day, then they’ll have to wait until the next time. Commit to sticking to doing discounted work on just that day.

    2) Offer them payment plan that they can follow based on your full rates.

    3) Just say, “No!”. Here is a script, courtesy of Marie Forleo, that you can use to politely tell your friends or family NO: “I’m thrilled you want me to take your photos. Know that I’d never expect you to hire me just because of our relationship. Before we get started, make sure that I’m the person you really want to work with because I don’t offer a friends and family discount. If you want to move ahead, here are my rates and three available dates.”

    4) If you do decide to offer a discount, make it clear in advance that your special rate is “my gift to you.” and the offer is outside your normal rates.

Your email is never published or shared.