2024 is quickly approaching. And with a new year, once again it is time to talk about how photographers must raise their rates every single year.
The last several years have seen record inflation and increases in the cost of living overall around the world. From the cost of milk and eggs to camera gear, just about everything except maybe big screen TVs has gone up in price.
It's as important as ever to emphasize the importance of making sure your fees and rates as a photographer increase along with inflation and the cost of living. Evaluating and raises in your rates should be done every single year.
This year we launched the Photography Rates sheet. If you're lost on what to charge for music or sports photography, we have dedicated spreadsheets for these specialities that can give insight into what real market rates are for specific jobs.
US INFLATION RATES
In the last 3 years, we've seen historic rates of inflation worldwide. Normally, inflation rates hover around 2% Over the last 3 years, we've seen inflation rates average 5.93% for a cumulative 18.88% increase.
Beyond inflation itself, the consumer price index for goods across the board have averaged higher. While we're seeing a decline in the trend of the CPI, the fact remains that prices are higher than ever, not lower.
KEEPING THE SAME RATE YEAR OVER YEAR REDUCES YOUR VALUE
In recent years, the cost of various essentials, including gas, food, and utilities, has consistently risen. Consequently, it's reasonable for you to consider adjusting your rates for the services you provide to your clients.
In essence, failing to raise your rates in line with inflation means a decrease in your purchasing power. As the prices of necessities such as gas, milk, and the materials you use for your work continue to climb, it's essential to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Anything less quite literally means less value for your work as a creative.
YOUR CLIENTS ARE RAISING THEIR RATES
Just as consumer goods are increase, so are services. You can bet that the prices charged by your clients — whether they're musicians, agencies, art buyers, managers, etc — are increasing to keep their own profit margins up.
This year, publishers and streaming services have reached a settlement to increase streaming royalty rates to 15.35%. This is after already winning an increase from 10.5% to 15.1% for the 2018-2022 period. While this increase is not due solely to inflation, it's not independent from the fact that value has to track with the times.
It's not personal — it's just business. Your best clients should understand. And those who don't — they are not budgeting accordingly in a way that truly respects the value of photographers in relation to global economics.
INCREASING YOUR VALUE YEAR OVER YEAR
Beyond cost of living adjustments, another important reason to increase your rates every year is for your own professional growth. As creatives, we are not static — we are constantly learning, adapting and bettering ourselves in small but important ways.
Wherever you are in your career, you are gaining experience in your craft. This comes in the form of faster workflows, better technique, and more. All of these small but important and incremental changes add value to your customers.
And that value to your customers can and should be expressed as increased rates.
GIVING YOURSELF A RAISE
With conventional 9-5 jobs, you should expect not only cost of living adjustments, but also pay increases that reflect your experience and abilities as tied to promotions, title changes and professional growth.
As photographers, we have only ourselves to advocate for ourselves in most instances. No one else will be fighting to give you a raise. You must be the one to demand it for yourself.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU RAISE YOUR RATES?
A 2-3% raise year over year is generally accepted as appropriate for cost of living increases for many corporate employers. Again, this is in a typical 9-5 office world that many photographers don't occupy.
Personally, going into 2024, I would recommend at least a 3.2% increase. Why 3.2%? If you're based in the United States, this is the rate the US Social Security Administration is raising benefits from 2023 going into 2024.
Almost every year since its inception, social security payments have been adjusted to ensure that the purchasing power of these benefits tracks with inflation. Note, this is simply keeping the same purchasing power — it does not account for your professional growth or advancement.
So at the minimum, I'd still recommend at least a 3.2% increase to your rates as you head into 2024. This is assuming you raised your rates last year.