The title said photographers who charge by the hour are like vending machines of the photography world. There is everything wrong with that, and my quest is to help you earn more money.
I'm also aware this could be seen as insulting. To me, it's insulting to undersell your services and position yourself in a way that does not benefit your growth. Look below at some reasons I believe hourly photography rates can damage your business.
Why Is Charging by the Hour Bad for Your Photography Business?
What is your photography hourly rate? Trick question! Hourly rates are bad for business, but many photographers go into it because they're afraid to do anything else.
- Low Perceived Value: Charging by the hour helps diminish your perceived value with the perfect photography client. It means you're just hourly labor, not really an experience they can enjoy. You are replaceable. Photography is a luxury item, and people want to enjoy it. They'll probably pay top dollar for an enjoyable experience, like a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant.
Passport photos are mandatory and quick. They are not creative, and they are cheap. Wedding photography, headshots, baby portraits, etc.: all of those are luxury items. They should be experiential and something clients look forward to. Clients that pay a good rate want high quality and a great experience. They steer clear of the bargain-basement type of service. Charging hourly lowers the perceived value. They will assume you're a bargain product, and it will deter the type of clients who pay good rates.
- You're Pinned to a Corner: Once the client has your hourly rate, they'll start making other decisions that push your comfort levels. Imagine a client who says "I just need a couple shots, nothing serious. It'll be easy." Do you think that client will try to pay you for 30 minutes instead of and hour? They will! There is a better way to charge, which I discuss in the video.
- You Attract Bad Clients: Hourly rates invite undesirable clients. I'm not saying they're bad people. I am saying they are undesirable clients. They shop based on the price, not the service provider. These clients are loyal to the cheapest rate, and they will always be prioritizing that. When you want to raise your fees, they will likely shop elsewhere for the next cheap hourly photographer. While it attracts the undesirable clients, it also pushes away the people who will stay with you long-term.
- You're an Artist, Not a Vending Machine: A vending machine will get the job done, but it's not something you want to pay more than a few dollars for. When you do put the money in, there is a voice in the back of your head saying: "just wait for something better; don't do this." If you complete the purchase, it's often followed by remorse. It's not something you rave about or feel good about. In almost every situation, it's a decision people regret. They could have waited for a better option, even it was more expensive but better experience. They could have made a healthier meal at home or spent a bit more and dined somewhere healthy.
The photographer who charges by the hour can accidentally fall in the same category. You’ll be something that’s quick. You’ll be a decision from haste, not from a thoughtful decision. There’s no privilege in sitting for a photographer and looking at your watch. It’s hard to think of that as an artist-experience. It’s even harder to pay a big budget for something that’s hourly. When you act like a vending machine, you’ll be compensated like a vending machine.
Now that you've seen why I think hourly pricing is bad for your photography, check out the video that talks about a better way of charging, session fees. Furthermore, I'll also discuss the only time it's okay to charge by the hour. You are an artist that deserves fair compensation and a respectful rate. Your work is valuable, and acting like a vending machine will have you paid like a vending machine. You deserve better.