Raising your rates as a photographer should be a regular event throughout your career, particularly if you're just starting to charge for your services. While you may raise rates at intervals of a year or more, doing so should be a calculated occurrence.
While raising your rates can feel like a risk for fear of alienating your current customers, here's my advice on four ideal times to raise your rates as a photographer. We've covered why you need to raise your photography rates, now let's cover when to do it.
When you get every job you bid on
If you win every job you bid on, it may be time to consider raising your rates. The rationale for this is that if you're getting only approvals on bids without much pushback, you're probably leaving money on the table. It may be a little, or it may be a considerable amount below market value. You will never know unless you push the limits.
For me personally, I expect to get at least some pushback on fee and to negotiate with potential clients. It tells me I'm at least pushing the client's budget, but also that it's an opportunity to educate the client on the value I can bring as photographer if anything might be unclear.
I like to make an estimate make everyone involved a little nervous. Me, wondering if they'll accept. The client, wondering if they can afford me.
Ultimately, you will never know your worth as a photographer unless you test the bounds of what someone will pay you. This is especially true for photographers just starting out, who I would encourage to regularly adjust their rates based on the experience that is quickly gained in your first months and years as a photographer.
When it's the Start of the Year
Generally, I will raise my rates at the beginning of the year. I've increased my rates from 5-20% from the previous year at various points in my career.
In some years, at 5%, it's simply to adjust for cost of living increases. In other years, I've given myself a 10-20% raise in the new year to reflect my increased experience, new capabilities, added value, and the high quality of my work.
At the very start of my career when I was tentative about pricing (read: not confident enough to charge what I was worth), I corrected my pricing by doubling it from one job to the next.
When raising your rates for existing customers, you can simply notify them of the change. A notification of the change is a nice courtesy, and you can leave it at that if you like, or explain it an increase in the cost of your business.
When You're Too Busy and Underpaid or Short on Time
If you're constantly busy with shoots or jobs but not making the profit you want as a photographer or without the free time you want, this is a clear sign you should increase your rates.
If you could double your rates and shoot half as a many jobs, your value and time have just increased. Not only that, but I suspect that the clients willing to pay more would actually be the less needy, higher quality clients that you want more of.
While increasing your rates as a photographer may mean that you do lose some business, the time you gain may be invaluable. This shift in business allows you to focus on cultivating higher value clients and the work you want to do more of. In addition, you're eliminating the lowest paying jobs from the clients who value you the least. Win-win.
Now is a great time to raise your rates as a creative. Perhaps not mid-year for recurring clients, but certainly for the very next photography job. New clients are the ideal time to test an increased rate — for them, it's not a new or higher rate, it's simply the rate. For all they know, it's what you've always charged and what they have to consider for the quality of work you bring to a job.