How Do You Resist Pressure To Reduce Your Price

March 31st, 2016

WillWorkForFoodKeri and Rex both asked very similar questions recently. Keri said:

I have been a photographer for 8 years. The past month is when I started really pursuing real estate photography solely. I started with $100 a house but after travel, moving items, rearranging furniture, shooting, editing and posting… Roughly 4-5 hours later I feel like it is not enough. I raised prices depending on square footage no more than $175… Now I have some agents wanting to negotiate a lower price. How do I handle them without losing clients. Maybe workflow pointers would be helpful. I need help!

First of all, congratulations for realizing that you need to raise your prices and doing it!

Seth Godin, the famous marketing guru, has a general business quote about competing on price that I think applies to real estate photography:

If you build your business around being the lowest-cost provider, that’s all you’ve got. Everything you do has to be a race in that direction, because if you veer toward anything else (service, workforce, impact, design, etc.) then a competitor with a more single-minded focus will sell your commodity cheaper than you.

In real estate photography, there are people just getting in the business and doing it part time that have not based their price on the fact they are doing a full-time job. Once you establish a price that you can make a living at (sounds like you’ve done that) here are some ideas to compete without lowering your price:

  1. Create a handout that you give your clients that explain how to prepare for a shoot. Make it clear that you expect the property to be SHOOT READY when you arrive. You can’t burn up time helping them clean up or stage the property. This is the job of the listing agent and the homeowner.
  2. Don’t give in to pressure to lower your price. There will be agents that aren’t making much that will try and get you to lower your price. You don’t want these people as customers. Explain that this is your full-time job and your price is what it is so you can stay in business and support yourself.
  3. Study your competition so you can provide products and services that your competition doesn’t provide.
  4. Provide great customer service. Be easy to get communicate with. Be reliable. Be easy to work with. Deliver as fast as possible. If you screw up fix it. Offer a reward to agents that refer new customers to you.

You also need to keep raising your quality and speeding up your process but frequently the clients will notice your customer service more than your quality.

I’m sure others will have more ideas for Keri.

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27 Responses to “How Do You Resist Pressure To Reduce Your Price”

  • Here’s a start anyway!

    “Are you ready for your close up”

    Please prep your listing before the photographer gets to the job site!

    • All lights should be on including under cabinet lighting and over stove lighting in kitchens
    • All “clutter” should be hidden out of sight for the shoot including piles of mail and junk mail, newspapers, children’s toys (as best as possible) and shoes and clothing. Stuffed toys in kids bedrooms may look cute but are usually better left out of marketing photos
    • Move garbage cans out of sight into a garage or shed. (including the kitchen garbage can if its a standalone.)
    • Cars should be garaged or parked away from the house on the street if possible
    • Clean, white bath towels, facecloths and hand-towels are best in baths but please pick up any bath mats and put away.
    • Try to pare down kitchen items, Good looking stainless cappuccino machine? Great! Old soap in soap dishes and worn pots and pans… not so much. Try to tuck appliance wires out of sight….same with lamps.
    • Refrigerators should be cleared of any magnets and flyers. These can be put right back up again after the shoot if necessary.
    • Clear off coat racks except for maybe one or two neutral coats/hats/bags
    • New toilet rolls on all roll holders
    • Temporarily remove all “products” from bathrooms….toothpaste (and brushes) and shampoo and conditioner. We’re selling a beautiful house not Aveeda.
    • Bring fresh flowers with you. A bunch of white tulips should cost you about $5 at Trader Joe’s and will go a long way with your clients. These can be used in different rooms with different vases.
    • Wherever possible remove personal photographs, especially larger ones
    • Please contain dogs and cats, no matter how adorable, for a shoot…they only have to be in a basement or a crate for maybe an hour! Also…if theres a hamster cage or similar in a bedroom or anywhere in the house for that matter either cover it or move it to the basement or garage for that one hour!

    Anyone else care to chime in?

  • Not sure how this got into a home prep sheet discussion, but for sure a must. On the subject of pricing…set your pricing based on your location and competition and stick to it. I have never had a client question my pricing. When I raise prices I still don’t get questioned. As mentioned deliver your best quality and customer service and let those that want to negotiate go negotiate with someone else. One more thing to ask yourself…is your quality at the highest level, or is it in the mid range? I know markets are extremely different, but I also know nobody currently can touch the quality of marketing collateral I deliver in my area, so I’m happy with my pricing and don’t worry about it. My nearest competition is 20% below my price, but I reshoot their stuff constantly because of the variance in quality.

  • I’m on Seth’s daily email from “Seth Godin’s Blog on marketing, tribes and respect.” His (simplified) followup to Competing on Price: “If you’re competing on price, you’ll spend most of your time counting pennies.”

  • I am open to lowering my price. All the agent needs to do is book 2 or more jobs to be photographed on the same day, in the same area. They can also get a lower price (a commission) by referring other customers, especially at the same property. I give them those options in a way to be friendly yet convey that those are the only ways to get a lower price.

    The approach I really hate is when I’m promised all sorts of future work if I will accept a lower payment on “this” job. I’ve never had any of those ever pan out and don’t know anybody that has.

    If you provide good service to agents that understand that it helps their bottom line, the ones that don’t see the benefits may not be worth pursuing.

    Work with your clients so you are presented with homes ready for photos. Discuss with them in advance what they want you to do if you feel that a home isn’t ready. Some may want you to go ahead anyway and others may want to reschedule. If you wait until you are at a job and the place is a mess, you may not be able to get a hold of the agent and be stuck.

    To make any money, you can only spend a certain amount of time on site. There are times when a little staging will help quite a lot. Even a quick wipe to get a streak on an oven window taken care of is ok. Making beds and clearing counters is going way too far for a standard fee. I might even charge extra or reschedule if there is waiting time while somebody else does the cleaning.

  • I charge what is considered fair, and for some clients who helped me get started, I ‘grandfather’ them in at a lower price. They are aware of it, and don’t discuss pricing with other agents as it is ‘custom per job’. Occasionally, I will have one try to talk me down to meet “Company/chain X’s” pricing but more often tell me I am too low for what I provide. Knowing that, I welcome the lowball run-n-gunner and the chain “preferred provider”. Most agents don’t realize that those preferred providers paid a fee to their brokerage to obtain that designation which has to be made up somehow, usually the anticipated quantity coupled with underpaying and overworking the photographer. One brokerage in my area actually provides it free for all listing as a benefit for their agents. I actually welcome it as I have had agents use the free option and reshoot the home I shot. The way I discovered that is the agent complaining about a photo, wanting corrections, and I have to tactfully point that I didn’t take it. It only solidifies them as my client for future listings, and they spread the word within the agency.

  • Here is my 10 cents, see I already raised the price!
    To be clear you have to look at your business as a whole not just a price per shoot. Look at your time. Require the AGENT or the HOME OWNER to prep the property as Alan suggested. That is a requirement before I’ll even take on any agent they must agree to this. Those that have found some unexpected benefits. Their homes look better in photographs as well as in showings! Once they get into that habit it becomes second nature and they tell the client this photographer is very good but he is very picky we have to do these things or he won’t shoot the property. It works! The agent doesn’t look like the bad guy and you look like the real pro who doesn’t want to bother with cleaning up messes just producing million dollar images. Do this and you save time. Time is money. Time is always money. You must reduce your time.

    Second look at what you do for free and make it an add on. For example I have worked out a way to very quickly and effectively replace dull skies and burnt lawns in between 1 to 3 minutes per image. I do 5 images for $25. I can shoot on rainy and overcast days and still produce great images. Benefit is I can shoot more homes and not worry about cancelations. Agent can list the home faster and you have more flexibility in scheduling. On top of that you make $60 and hour or more for those edits that you might have given for free.

    Another way is to keep your quality up without increasing your time on site or in PP. Look at your work flow and do everything you can to reduce your time even if there might be a small decrease in quality. As long as it’s higher than the other person you are good. It’s just not worth the extra half hour in post processing to add some slight quality that might not be noticed.

    Makes sure you become a marketing business partner not just a provider of a commodity. Once you are a business partner you can charge 20% more than the next guy and they agent will stay. I’ve been in various businesses for a long time and clients don’t move for under 20% savings.

  • I have never paid a fee to any office or real estate group to be on their list of preferred providers. Some have standards and apparently my work is among the lowest quality they will accept for the listings they market.

    I have never been asked to lower my price, most of my regular clients never speak of the cost, just express disappointment when I cannot fit them into my schedule in a timely fashion. In fact, when I raised my prices (trying to weed out some of the lower end work) I actually gained more and better clients.

    I have lowered my price due to circumstances within my control – a couple times I got ahead of myself and missed an important shot so I discounted the shoot price significantly (and went back to get the shot later) for the inconvenience, and another time I had an issue that precluded my ability to get the photos to my clients for longer than 24 hours, so I provided a discount as an apology.

    If one were to ask me, I would consider the source. Some agents are just getting started, so they have a low cash flow and perhaps a family they are trying to feed. Sometimes I will get three or four properties in a day for the same agent, maybe in the same building so I would not be adverse to a package deal. Some of my agents are so successful in what they do that I would be totally insulted if they asked me to discount my work.

    I really think my prices are totally fair for what I provide. There are several RE photographers here in the St. Louis area, we are all busy and competitive on price, so the main issue is finding a photographer who is good and has time when an agent needs them.

  • I agree with most of the comments above. I have a hand full of clients who keep me busy, either pay in advance (I mean keep a pad of cash in my account that I work off over time) or are really fast payers. I appreciate their honesty and reliability, so I do more for the price and when they need a deal for the occasional lower end property, I give them an “economy” job package based on a faster shoot and fewer shots to process but all at my usual quality. This builds loyalty. I find on some jobs I put in more work and on others I do less, so it all works out in the wash. But these are long term clients.

    For new clients, I expect payment up front and charge my full fees with no exceptions and stick to my package prices that apply to the job. Once I have confidence in them and they in me, then I do more and build the loyalty. But always quality must prevail. There is no point in shooting faster and providing less for a lesser price and cutting your quality in the process since you will then be thought of as being cheap and not very good.

    As my old dad used to say “if a job is worth doing, its worth doing well.” If a client does not understand and appreciate this, then they are probably not a client you want to have.

  • 1. Please quit moving items & rearranging furniture.
    2. Please decrease your time from 5 hours. Aim for 4 hours, then 3 hours.
    3. Please do not let agents negotiate a lower price. Simply inform the “negotiating agent” that you charge all of your clients the same rate, which everyone values and respects.

    For good clients, bend your rules as needed, they deserve it and always appreciate it.

  • I wanted to slow down, so I raised my rates. And business just increased.

  • How many finished images are you supplying the agent with? I was in the same boat where I was taking 3.5-4 hours per property (start to finish) and after adjusting the work flow a bit (mainly getting out of PS and using LR instead) I’ve cut that down to about 2. There’s still room for improvement but after almost 50% time saving adjustments I can be happy with this for a while. I can also agree to with most posters above and say to never adjust your pricing. You’re only hurting yourself and these are NOT the people that you want to build relationships with.

  • If the goal is to not reduce your price, then the absolute last thing you want to do is focus on faster-faster-faster and oh-don’t-worry-about-quality. The bottom of the pricing tier is utterly dominated by the run-and-gun “I’m faster & cheaper than the other guy” shooters who are doing 4, 5, and 6 houses a day. Competing in that arena means constantly lowering the bar in terms of both photography, and fees.
    You cannot be Fast, Good, and Cheap. And I’ll go one step further and say that once you eliminate “Cheap” as an option, you can’t even be both of the other things – you have to choose one of them. This is not street photography, not sports photography….Great interiors work is not made quickly.

  • Ask them to reduce their commision. Loyalty is not for barter.

  • In response to @Anthony’s comment on not sure how we got onto a home prep sheet discussion, I was merely responding to Item 1. “Create a handout that you give your clients that explain how to prepare for a shoot.” I am a Realtor and my wife and I sell +- $10M a year but I also manage to get in 3-4 shoots a week during Spring and Fall markets for other associates that can’t find what they want/need elsewhere (I shot three other agents listings today alone…a conflict of sorts but bills have to be paid!) I guess the issue of “home prep” was front and foremost on my mind when I wrote my “two cents” above because yesterday I drove an hour to a shoot in Westchester (and then an hour back of course) and then spent two hours at the location (normally about an hour-hour and a half) because NOTHING was ready. The agent rolled up minutes after i got there and the homeowner hadn’t done much to prep either. In a situation like that I am torn; I want my photographs to look top notch and know that they simply won’t unless I get at least some of the items on the list I put together accomplished. Of course no photographer should be burdened with staging let alone clean up work…thats not what you get paid for at all BUT …the photographs you shoot are your advertisement for future business and so I do, invariably, find myself at least dictating what should be done if not getting into it myself. I charge a flat fee of $200 with very few exceptions and that is non negotiable. I have explained to one or two agents who commented on price that far beyond the 1 1/2 hours I may spend at the location…there are at least another 2 hours at my Mac in Photomatix and then Lightroom. They get it, especially when the homes they are marketing get those all important “hits” and showings. $200 is a drop in the bucket for an agent selling a home at between $500K-$5M and it helps them show their clients that they are actually earning a commission. Also, what’s their option? Let THEM go invest in a 5Diii and a couple of thousand dollar lenses and then learn how to actually use that equipment …let alone learn how to process in Photomatix without making images look ridiculous…I’m sure we’ve all seen how that can turn out.

  • Some “clients” hire photographers only because “they’re supposed to…” The images have no value to them, thus they do not want to pay much or at all. = BAD

    Others hire photographers because they understand the value of good imagery and are willing to pay for it. = Good

    So….constantly improve your quality and charge accordingly. Seek clients that actually value your work. They’re out there, and they’re usually the most successful ones.

  • Giving in to requests to lower your rate rarely ends well for either party. They feel entitled to extras/allowances because they’re “coming up” to your pricing tier, and you feel like you’re doing them a favor. That disconnect of expectations is a far greater problem than the issue of price. The best advice I’ve ever gotten on the subject is this: The people who want cheap things will never appreciate you or your work. That has proven true 100% of the time for me.

    Several agents have asked me to lower my price, usually for two reasons: 1) they “want” to hire me, but So-and-So is cheaper, or 2) they only need a certain amount of photos and “it’ll just take [insert ridiculously low time estimate here].” If it’s the former, their request means that they do not see the value or advantage in hiring you over that competitor (see paragraph above about people who just want cheap things). If the latter, I have in the past agreed to a custom quote, provided the terms are explicitly indicated, but decided to just offer an “express” package that fits those requests and is a standard price with standard terms (and also reflects a reasonable amount of time involved).

  • @Brett Clements… I can assure you that’s a battle we fight 9/10 times. Everyone wants “a deal”. You get what you pay for.

  • Being an artist for my entire career; interior artist, decorative painter…we somehow always seem to be the most expendable in regards to payment.
    When in that situation, I resorted to asking if the plumber, electrician, drywaller…barters or negotiates their prices…
    Usually nips that in the bud

  • I suggest you ask some hard questions about your photography and your business practices. Better yet, take one of your good brokers to coffee and ask them to be candid. Ask yourself about the value of your service to brokers. What is the Quality of your photography? Is it attracting your brokers quality buyers? Are you professionally dressed when you go to a project… Yes I said PROJECT! If you are doing shoots. get a gun. professional photographer have projects. Do you carry a pair of clean sandals when you photograph the interiors? Do you wear a name badge? Are you 5 minutes early to ALL your projects? Do you have a professional website displays your work that your prospects can see? Do you actively approach brokers and offices every day? Are your clients at the top of the production ladder the middle or the bottom? If they are not at the top. I suggest you get a list of all the top million dollar producers in your area and concentrate on them. Remember the 80 – 20 Rule it is still true – 80% of the production is accomplished by 20% of the brokers.
    If you are doing all of these things, then look at the way convey the value of your work to your prospects. Understand that yes, this is sales. Most of the top brokers understand the value. Our images are like the ice cream for Eskimos… believe me after spending a cold dark winter eating their typical Eskimo winter diet some vanilla or chocolate ice cream would be a delight… but only if they understand the benefit of the ice cream – its TASTE. Often times, when people do not present the benefits of their product, they get hammered on price. Have you written a benefit presentation? Thought about why a broker should be begging you to photograph his homes? Larry has some great material to help you here. Do you own his books? Studied Scott’s book and videos? Here is a simple way that I have made my service very valuable to my broker clients.
    In my market and probably yours too, there is lots of competition to get listings, so I have instructed my brokers to use me as there advantage – When they are meeting with the potential listing prospect they say something like this, “Sir, I want to make sure that you know that we are prepared to help you sell your home for the most amount of money in the shortest period of time. I have a professional photographer on my team that will start us off right by coming over and photographing your home so we can attract good quality buyers.” and then they hand them one of Larry’s “Preparing your Home for a Photoshoot” checklist. I carry them with me to all the broker meetings I attend. Believe me, brokers appreciate it. I tell them to include it in all their potential listing packets. That way the listing client is prepared in advance of the importance of the presentation of their home.
    These are all Basic Things that you should be doing every day. The most important Basic, though is your images- If YOUR IMAGES ARE NOT THE HIGHEST QUALITY THEN ALL IS FOR NAUGHT! And of course, there’s Action! If you have a great appearance, do great work, present it illustrating that the Brokers will get more high quality showings. go find new brokers that will value as an important part of their team. They are out there. Don’t worry about brokers like this. They do not have the correct frame of mind that will make themselves successful and will be wasting your time in the long run. I didn’t mean to write a book, I hope it helps. Good Luck!

  • I’ve raised my rates 3 times in the last 14 months with no impact on the amount of business. In fact I think more agents are using my services. My goal is not to negotiate prices or give volume discounts. I have a price list, I give it to agents who ask, then the ball is in their court. I’ve heard from several new clients who were stalking me on Facebook and ended up hiring me, so they knew the quality of my work and the price.

  • Part of this discussion needs to involve a discussion of Confidence and the ability to just say No.

    Confidence underscores this entire discussion. You’ve decided to focus on this segment presumably because you believe you’re good at it (Great!). You’ve determined your value. Now, you need to stick by it. Without confidence you’ll get rolled time and again. Feel good about what you do and stick with it. After a while it becomes natural and you stop losing sleep over it.

    No. Just be able to say No. It’s part of the Confidence thing. There’s always someone who will want it for cheaper no matter how low your price. You’ve set your price for a reason. Know what you’re worth, what you want, and simply say No if pushed in a direction you want. There -is-, after all, such a thing as bad business. Generally I rarely actually say ‘No.’ I simply do not say, Yes, until/unless we’ve both agreed one way or the other.

    3 years ago, struggling to get this business moving, I ‘knew’ these things from past business experience, but it really was hard. You _need_ the money, you need the references, you want to build a portfolio, maybe even question the viability of the whole thing. Shoot by shoot, it got easier:).

  • To go along with Scott- In any transaction there is the speed of the service, the quality of the product, and a very competitive price — Pick 2.

  • Every business competes on one of three things… quality, convenience and price. You cannot successfully compete on more than one of these things.

    For me when someone asks for a discount, I counter with something like this… “If I were you, I’d go with the cheaper guy, if price is the most important factor for you. But I’ve got to ask you, why do you suppose clients keep coming back to me over and over again paying more than double what the cheaper guy is charging?” It forces them to choose between price and quality as the deciding factor.

  • I personally know that my price is low enough as it is. I could and wouldn’t lower it. I’d definitely look to give perks to realtors (and anyone) that refer me for more work though. I haven’t had much luck with any really gorgeous homes other than shooting for an architecture firm and a modern residence they designed. Even with a low price at the moment, I’d still treat every home as if it’s a million dollar home and give it the necessary time shooting and processing.

    I recall trying to get work a number of years ago and my price was probably too high for realtors to bite. As business increases, I would plan to increase price as I would be more in demand. But that will take time and gauge everything shoot by shoot.

    I am still amazed that people are shooting 3-6 listings in a single day. My goodness this sounds like magical marketing or a crazy amazing referral engine. This is what I’d love to hear more about. Is there a post on this somewhere that I might have missed? I’ll dig for sure.

    Great comments in here.

  • I swear this site is like candy! Always great comments and input.

    For my part, I changed my biz model last year to only market myself as a RE photog and prior to that I was (sadly) happy to be one of the cheapest. Problem was I had NO core biz model to lead myself by and I just hurt myself by it.

    Since changing, I’m happy to say that business is way up and so are my prices. I’ve doubled both and more are calling and telling me they’ve been looking for a RE photog, not a photog that also does RE.

    I’ve had good success woth most brokerages without giving them an incentive other than that I’m available to them.

    Some (mostly) obvious advice, slow down when you shoot and pay attention. And don’t expect it all to happen overnight, or even within a market season. It might, but if you expect to go from the obscure photog to in demand quickly you’ll only be disappointed. Get out, meet people, knock on doors and build the awareness that you exist.

    It doesn’t matter who you know, it matters who knows you!

  • I’m trying to get my head around package prices for photos and floor plans. Does anyone have any tips in setting package prices, without pricing yourself too cheap?

  • I’m always open to requests to reduce my price. I simply offer to reduce the number of photos taken and delivered. Easy.

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