My business is about 90 percent dealing with individuals, and about 10 percent working with brands. I just moved into a new live/work studio and, to help break it in, I decided to hold a "Pay What You Can" sale and the results made me change my entire business model.
For the first week of the sale, I limited myself to one shoot per day to try and keep things under control, however, all of the slots filled up extremely quickly and I decided to open up an extra seven slots for the last week. Asking people to pay what they want for a photo shoot leaves a lot of doors open to abuse and being taken advantage of, so I was sure to keep my bases covered with some fine print.
Keeping Myself Protected
In order to make sure I didn't take a headshot and suddenly see it on a realtors billboard, or take a photo of a model and see it in a campaign I had a clause in my original Facebook post that images could not be used for commercial purposes. That said, I photograph a lot of people that are a part of the LGBTQI2S+ community, including drag queens/kings/gender performers, so I added a clause that gig posters received a pass since a lot of these people might get 50 or 100 dollars a show — so charging them licensing isn't in my best interest as a business. Making it seem like a favor to them also helped them push the sale even more.
I am including the actual post I made, in case you decide to do something similar for your own business working with individuals.
PAY WHAT YOU CAN PORTRAITS!!!! (Value: 250CAD)
Moving is expensive. Terrifyingly so. I am moving to a brand new live/work studio this month so, in order to cover costs, I am doing an experiment. A Pay What You Can sale!
Are you super broke and need a headshot for your acting Resume? I got you covered! Don't worry about it!
Are you super duper mega rich but also stingy? That's fine too! From 0 to 10,000 dollars you can pay what you can for a session with me!
How is it going to work?
I will be giving away SIXTEEN spots, from July 15th to 31st, one a day, to break in my brand spanking new studio and help cover some of the costs it took for me to move in there.
If you want a spot - SHARE THIS POST with your friends and message me here or email me at David@fulde.ca to reserve your session!
THE FINE PRINT:
NOTE: Images may NOT be used for commercial purposes.
If you would like the photos shot on film you must pay 40/roll (1/setup) to cover Film/Dev/Scan costs.
Sessions are up to an hour long OR Three setups, whichever comes first/we discuss.
I will send you proofs and you can choose three photos, and I will choose three photos. If you would like more than six, it will be 20$/photo for retouching etc.
Photos will be shot in the Sherborne/Queens Quay area
Makeup Artist NOT included - but is available at an extra cost
Tl;Dr: Portraits for whatever you want to pay. 1/day for fifteen days. Share this post and email me David@Fulde.ca to set up a slot.
As you can see, within the post I tried to keep everything as succinct as possible — explaining the whole process (and the "why" of it) as plainly as possible. I also included a small sentence that sums up the whole post. One of the rules for the promotion is that if someone wants to take advantage, they absolutely must share the post. This is to try and force the post to get more eyeballs and, by my calculations, it worked.
Facebook loves images — so I was sure to put together a simple, easy to share, image with some of my work so I could entice potential clients.
When it came to advertising, I did a few things, along with making the photo above, I spent about 75 dollars (Canadian) on advertising. Out of the sixteen or so people that came through my studio, a grand total of one person had seen the sponsored post. That said, spending a few dollars on Facebook advertising does seem to tell the almighty algorithm to give it more attention than a regular post so I don't see it as a lost cause. Most of the people that took advantage of this sale found it from people sharing the post (as required by the rules) so apparently something did well!
In the two weeks that I ran this promotion, I found that my Facebook page got more likes, my Instagram got more followers but, who cares about that? The real benefit, and reason, is money. I was expecting one or two people to pay me nothing, but that didn't happen. Quite the opposite. Every single person paid me something. The lowest someone paid me was $45 while the highest I was paid (including extra photos) ended up being almost ten times that at $400. Most people did what they could, averaging a bit more than $100 dollars per person, which isn't bad for an hour on set, and an hour in post for the selected images.
While this isn't buckets and buckets of cash, it's a decent chunk of change.
When all is said and done, I calculated that I earned about $75/hour on average. When I account for time editing, time shooting, and the average amount that people were able to pay it's a totally fine wage. I have decided to continue this "promotion" moving forward with a few changes.
The new ads promoting the Pay What You Can services — featuring images from the promotion
First of all, headshots take very little time and creative energy, and thanks to the Peter Hurley Perfecting the Headshot tutorial, my skills have improved a lot. Due to the lack of creative energy it takes, instead of one or two a day I am setting aside Sundays as headshot days. Pumping through them, up to eight in a day, and using the same lighting setup. Now, if I was solely doing headshots for my entire life, I think I might lose my mind. So I am also continuing with more creative portraits on Wednesdays and Fridays. There's no real reason for these days other than the fact that it just felt right. I have limited the number of slots on these day to just two, as more creative portraits take up a lot of creative energy, and take more time to set up, so I don't want to burn out. By restricting the times and dates I am available, it means that if someone is in a rush, and the slots are full, they can pay the full rate and it also allows me to move forward with my normal freelancing gigs for companies and agencies.
I've also had more than one person find out about this promotion and approach me for things that were outside of the scope, offering to pay for more for commercial use. I've also gotten lots of eyeballs on my work and it's helped build new connections within the advertising industry.