Don’t Pay Me for My Time and Talent

Author Recent Posts Nicole BegleyNicole Begley, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She created Hair of the Dog in 2012 to empower pet photographers to turn their dreams into reality by helping them improve their craft and grow their pet photography business.Nicole has authored a book “Pet and Equine […]

Written By Nicole Begley

On September 13, 2018

If you’ve looked at any number of photographer’s investment pages I bet you’ve seen the term “time and talent” on many occasions.  I’m not going to mince words here….I hate that phrase.  


A. Your “time and talent” is worth a heck of a lot more than a few hundred bucks.  

B. “Time and talent” does nothing to build value for your service or desire for your product. We want to get our potential clients excited about an experience…not telling them they need to pay us for our time and talent!  

Now, what’s the purpose of the session fee?  It’s to ensure that your client is truly interested in the experience, ensures that they show up, and goes towards our cost of doing business.  

From our client’s perspective, with a regular session fee they get nothing.  Of course, we understand that this fee goes towards our cost of doing business….but our client doesn’t, and I don’t think that it leaves a good impression if we try to explain this to them. 

Let me ask you this….do you think that removing the session fee would remove a conscious or even sub-conscious objection that potential clients have when doing business with you?  Do you think that it would take away some of the risk of ‘what if I don’t like any of the images?’.

I’ve conducted a little experiment this year and I’ve really liked it.  I got rid of my session fee! 

I still FIRMLY believe that an exchange of cold hard cash needs to happen before any session is held…otherwise you risk doing a bunch of work for someone that wasn’t really serious about purchasing anything.  Why can’t that cold hard cash that’s exchanged be applied to something?  Why can’t it be a Reservation Retainer that becomes a product credit after the session?  

I chose to make my reservation retainer $500 because that is my bare minimum sale where I’m not LOSING money to photograph the session.  You can make it whatever you like.  It’s only $50 for my Artisan Session (like a mini-session – more on that next week.)

That Reservation Retainer becomes a product credit for both sessions!  Clients have loved this and I have seen an increase in conversions.  Why?  I believe it’s because my clients feel like all of the money that they are spending is going to go to something tangible that they get to keep.  

Now the KEY to this strategy is that you need to make sure that your products are priced CORRECTLY.  Remember, PPA recommends that your Cost of Goods Sold is no more than 25%, so items should roughly be marked up 4x.  Do you need some help with determining how to price your work? Grab our free training below.

Looking for some more pricing training?  Forget what every other pet photographer is charging -- the best thing you can do for your business is set your prices based on YOUR business and YOUR goals. It’s time to stop following the pack and let your rates lead you to a sustainable business!

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The #1 thing you need to know BEFORE setting your prices
  • My simple formula to set up your pricing structure for success 
  • How to increase your prices without losing customers

Oh, and did I mention this is a free training?  Grab it below.

Nicole Begley

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  1. Erin

    I love this idea…may have to do some restructuring for 2019….

  2. Phil

    I have been thinking about doing something like this for a while now. The problem is that I always have difficulty pricing my products

    • Nicole

      Check out some of the pricing posts on this blog Phil…or you can also check out The Business of Pet Photography – we dive DEEPLY into pricing in the course and it includes office hours for direct feedback.

  3. Troy Durrance

    Great article! I’ve also been doing this (experimenting) and have had moderate success as well!!

    • Nicole

      I’ve really enjoyed it!

  4. Kathy Davis

    I’ve been interested in doing in person sales for a while now. But yesterday, a photographer friend , whom I consider a mentor, informed me of the extra taxes I’d have to pay for all that work I do for IPS. She said the state of California nails is. So if I’m someone who isn’t doing this full time, she recommended against doing too many product offerings. Your thoughts, Nicole

    • Nicole

      Hi Kathy – yes, you will need to pay more taxes….because you are making more money! I know how insane CA taxes are but should still come out ahead. I would rather the state take 10% of 100,000 that I may make than playing safe and keeping my taxes at 5% but only making 10,000. Numbers just for illustration. Very rarely do you end up in a tax situation in which you make more money and net LESS than if you made less money.

  5. Erin Waggoner

    I love this idea! My current session fee is $250 and I tire of explaining “why nothing comes with it…”

  6. Cat Race

    Interesting concept! I hope you share with us if it works.


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