I Let My Clients Pay What They Wanted and the Results Amazed Me

I Let My Clients Pay What They Wanted and the Results Amazed Me

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. 

The Post

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! 
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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. 

The Advertising image I used to promote the sale

The Advertising image I used to promote the sale

Marketing Myself

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!

The Results

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. 

Moving Forward

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. 

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107 Comments

Curtis Noir's picture

I really enjoyed this article!

user-128252's picture

I seriously thought that people can either be male or female. This is how we were created. Not sure what you mean by photographing kings and queens and LGBTWERCZIUAFSVBEYMSBSCZJ+?

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

1. Learn the meaning of "acceptance"
2. Don't post if you make a fool of you, because of lack of understanding.
3. Here's your fish, troll!

Duane Klipping's picture

One could also reverse this back the other way too. How about forcing your beliefs on others who do not share you own? That shows your lack of acceptance that others beliefs or opinions belong to them but many call them names like haters or worse. Too many liberal thinkers react in that fashion. Let's see you go into some other countries and try this...

Just saying. Could care less what consenting people do myself but so sick of PC one sidedness. Acceptance should travel both directions but does not seem to work that way any more. Tolerance is another meaning people need to look up but is is much easier to act like children and resort to name calling isn't it.

I have to question the reason people have to identify their gender preferances to others anyway. Like it was in this article, part of the agenda I guess.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

lol, what to expect of a 'right-winger'. You are not even close to understand, what acceptance mean. Your post made it clear.

It's his freedom of speech to make this statement, but he (or probably you?) has to live with the reactions he's provoking. Also it's my freedom of speech to state my opinion.

Just to make it clear. I accept his opinion, but I think he is just a troll. Like so many here on fstoppers....

Intolerance shall not be tolerated.

It's not an error. It's the only tnot to end up giving voice to shitbags like the troll.

Karl Popper.

Ed Sanford's picture

Amen.... well spoken

Motti Bembaron's picture

Although I agree with you (that we are originally created male or female. at least FOR 99.999% of the population, It's a simple fact of life). You started a conversation that should not be part of this article or comments.

We all know HOW people just can't help it, they are so eager to show their 'tolerance' and 'intolerance'.

It's a shame.

The only reason he mentioned it is because he thought it would be limiting for those who could use their portrait as a poster for their performance.

Other than that, it is a very interesting article describing a very interesting experiment that, hopefully, yields, more business, and interest beyond the immediate bookings.

Great article. I live in a Montreal suburb and would seriously consider doing something similar.

John Dawson's picture

Diversity and acceptance only flow one way. Be diverse and accept what they tell you is acceptable.

No one is forcing you to be LGBTQ or anything else. Trying to pretend people don't exist because you don't like them, for whatever reason, and then getting mad at people who don't pretend, is trying to force your beliefs on others.

Stating you "accept his opinion" doesn't really mean anything, having addressed him in a condescending way. It's a difficult line to walk and we all stray.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

Oh, I was consending, wasn't I? How's he in your opinion?

"I walk the line".....

I thought about that but he was ridiculing, by feigning ignorance, the idea and not the individual. That's why I said it's a difficult line to walk.

Love that song but only once in a while. A little bit goes a long way! ;-)

p.s. I really like your portfolio!

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

Don't get me wrong. If he is rediculing or trolling, that is the same problem. That topic is difficult. I have a friend that is struggling with the Identity. It's not that simple as many people think. Sometimes it ends in depression or worse. Yes I'm a little picky on that topic... Sorry.

Oh no. I completely understand and it's difficult to defend those I love, and unequivocally demonstrate that love, while not necessarily defending their choices. It's broken my heart on multiple occasions. :-(

Nice portfolio!
While I agree with your comment, there's no point in pissing in the wind. Don't ask how I know! ;-)

user-128252's picture

I know what you mean:-) I do not have to prove that the Sun is the Sun or the Earth is the Earth. There is only male and female. As simple as that. The world has gone mad completely, but I am not forcing anyone to accept the normality:-) People do what they want. One thing I do not understand is if someone goes to promote LGBTABXUWKDXMSHDNXMEOC+ everywhere, why I cannot come and say that I do not agree and do not want to see it or my children to see it?

David J. Fulde's picture

Because that's like saying you don't want your children to see non-white people. Being a part of the queer community is not something most people choose. It's who they are.

user-128252's picture

Sorry, but I disagree. Gender and sexuality is a very different topic. Family is a union of one man and one woman. That is all. This is how God created it. And He is above all.

Matt Williams's picture

So, Alex, let me ask you. Since God created people that way, I guess that means gay people choose to be gay, yes? Can you see yourself choosing to be gay? Because for something to be a choice, you have to be capable of seeing yourself make that choice.

Furthermore, MANY PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD, OR BELIEVE IN YOUR GOD.

You don't get to push your crap on other people. I don't care if you're religious, but you have no right to push that onto others. That is literally what this country (the U.S.) was founded on. Religion (Christian religion) has become so invasive into every aspect of our cultural and it is terrifying. Lawmakers are making decisions that affect everyone based on their own religious views. People like you are being bigots because you can't mind your own business and keep your mouth shut.

Lord help your children. I hope they realize someday how repugnant your views are.

John Dawson's picture

Many people also believe that everything came from nothing with no uncaused cause. Many people also believe that the Earth is flat.

Matt Williams's picture

If you're referring to the big bang, there is scientific evidence to support that. Please point me to the SCIENTIFIC evidence of God.

It is also a scientific FACT that the Earth is not flat. You can choose to believe whatever the hell you want (like you do), it doesn't mean you're right.

Facts are not up for debate, they are a right or wrong scenario. You cannot compare that to something that literally is NOT a fact, and requires FAITH to believe in. I do not have that faith, so leave me the hell out of it.

John Dawson's picture

Matt - God is supernatural (beyond nature), so how can one use natural science to provide evidence of that which is beyond nature? That's like asking why a metal detector can't detect plastic.

Dave Dundas's picture

False premise. Nothing that cannot be scientifically explained exists within the boundaries of our universe. Cosmologists estimate that we only understand about 12% of that universe, but so far, that constant remains true. You also have to prove God exists to even start looking into that claim. I think you'll fail in that endeavour.

John Dawson's picture

To what "Lord" do you refer? Aren't you pushing your "crap" on others?

"... for something to be a choice, you have to be capable of seeing yourself make that choice."

I keep coming back to that statement. It's easy for me to not be homosexual because I have no tendency to be so. In fact, I have little inclination to do the things forbidden in the Bible but I can assure you, while I can see myself not doing those few things, I've never been able to become the man I imagine myself to be and resist them. :-(

The difference then, for me, is I regret my failings and hate some of the things I do. It's not so much that I have a problem with homosexuals or the things they do, myself being guilty of worse, as I don't understand embracing and lauding those actions. But while I don't understand it, I try to leave it to God to worry about the actions of others.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comment. Umm.. that's not necessarily an endorsement of *everything* you've written. ;-)

Matt Williams's picture

But that is the thing: you "have no tendency to be so." That means it is not a choice. Having a "tendency" to do something means you are naturally inclined to do that thing, you are not doing it by choice. You can *resist* it - as many homosexuals do, often early in their life because of the bigotry and problems that come with being openly gay - but that "tendency" or "inclination" is still naturally part of you, not there by choice.

And there isn't a "lauding" of those actions in the sense that you mean it. There may be a celebration of it within their own community (gay pride, for example), but that is a direct result of the hundreds of years of oppression, being denied rights, being murdered, etc etc. When people can finally feel safe being openly gay, that IS a cause for celebration. But no one is lauding those actions above anything else - they are simply embracing the equality (though we still aren't there yet, not by a long shot, but it's progressing).

Perhaps I wasn't clear but I was agreeing with your first paragraph. Regarding the second paragraph, everyone is different and, while I'm sure a lot of folks celebrate it in the way you mean, I'm equally sure a lot of folks celebrate it in the way I was referring to. As for equality, I'm not sure what the goal is. If it's legal equality, I think we're pretty much there. If it means being treated equally, nobody is treated equally. As you may have read, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." ;-)

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