Why Offering FREE sessions is better than CHEAP sessions

So let me set the scene: You’ve been working your butt off for months, learning, practicing, perfecting everything you can to become the best photographer you can be, you sit down and take a long look at your photos, and decide, “Yes I think I’m ready to put myself out there and start charging.” So you go and create this awesome price list that you think it more than fair, and is going to help you gain some income and maybe one day you can quit your job and be a full-time photographer. You post up these prices.. weeks later… crickets…  So now what do you do? Oh, I know! You lower your prices, You offer CHEAP mini sessions, discounts, anything else you can think of to get the attention of a potential client, but still… Nothing… What is going on?

Let me just say This is exactly where I’ve been.

So today I’ve learned something that I never actually considered before. When I’m trying to build my portfolio and get more faces to use to market my work, I will offer a mini session or a discount, or something along those lines. A lot of the times when photographers do this, it will bring in people who are now willing to pay your cheaper prices. This tells me that the client doesn’t actually value my work, but loves my prices.

Once you get what you need for your portfolio, you go back to or start charging higher prices, and these same clients no longer want to use you for their photography needs. Sure now you have a nice portfolio, but you don’t have any business. This may make some of you cringe, but hear me out. Offering FREE sessions is actually better than charging cheap prices. Here’s why.

#1. Value

By charging cheap prices for your hard work, the value of your work goes out the window in the mind of the client. They are just looking for the cheapest deal instead of the best quality. And they don’t know the difference really between a great photo and okay photo. They see that you are a photographer that is charging a cheap price for their work and so that takes away from the value of your work. By offering free sessions your client will still think, at first, that the value of your work is not the best but now you have an opportunity to blow them and everyone else away by how amazing your photos come out.

#2. You have full control.

If you charge a client even an amazing deal on your work, they are STILL paying something, so in their mind, they are in complete control.You have to do the shoot the way they want it, in the location they want it, and usually when they want it. However, when you are offering a free shoot or a trade for services type of thing, YOU are in control. This is YOUR project, YOU pick the person, YOU pick the time, place, style, and you get it done exactly how you want it. I highly recommend taking some time to really sit down and think about the image you want to create and reach out to the people that can help you make that happen, and offer to photograph them in exchange for some photos. This makes you look like the professional you are and shows that you know what you want and you’re going for it.

#3. Your prices stay the same.

Instead of lowering your prices and offering cheap sessions to gain clients, your prices stay the same and this turns into a personal project more than a desperate attempt to gain a few clients that probably won’t stick around anyway, once the prices go up.

#4. Opportunity to “Wow”

By offering someone a free session in exchange for services, you are opening up a ton of opportunities to really show people what you’re capable of. They are going to think that, at first you are just an average photographer who isn’t that great and then the photos are going to come back and they are going to be amazed.

Also,the person is going to be grateful that they have this opportunity to be photographed for free. Then, once they see how amazing your photos are, they are going to rave about you to all their friends AND call you next year when their baby is born, or their daughter is getting married, or they just need family photos. They will actually be willing to pay your prices for the opportunity to work with you again. They are going to remember the experience they had with you and how great it was and they are going to call YOU because of your hard work and amazing photos and NOT because of your cheap prices.

#5. More photos for your portfolio

By offering the FREE sessions, tons more people will be willing to help out, and you will have people to actually choose from, instead of taking whatever you can get. A lot of the times, you offer your portrait packages for an extremely cheap price, you will not hear from anyone, but as soon as you say you’re looking for models for a project you want to do, people will be lined up.

#6 Opportunites.

Doing model calls, and free sessions also provide you with opportunities to meet people, who may know someone, that knows someone that may be in need of your services. You just never know when that one person is going to come into your life and just open a ton of doors for you that, would have never been opened if you hadn’t been willing to put yourself out there.

 

I’d like to try an experiment. Over the past few weeks, I have been posting up a mini session for half the price of my normal session. I haven’t gotten one single client out of that deal. I’ve posted it up everywhere, I’ve told everyone about it, I’ve even created a coupon code on my facebook page, Nothing. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a model call and offer my services for the opportunity to photograph people that I want. I will get back to you guys in a few weeks on how it plays out, and if anyone offers to do it.
Some of you may be screaming at me right now saying “ YOU SHOULD NEVER WORK FOR FREE!!!”  But, honestly how are you ever going to get anyone to take you seriously when you walk up to them and say you’re a photographer but have nothing to show them that proves you’re actually a photographer. You spend all this time learning and practicing and spending money on equipment, and you can’t get your investment back because you aren’t willing to work a little for free to gain those opportunities.

Keep checking back, as I report on what’s going on with the experiment, and please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Do you agree? Why or why not?

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