Saturday, December 07, 2013

Keys to Good Rates for Photography

The Citadel Summerall Guards
Summerall Guards as a Visual Example

My step son went to The Citadel in Charleston, SC. We were very proud of him making the very elite Summerall Guards rifle team. Here is a description from The Citadel:
The Summerall Guards, a silent precision drill platoon from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, demonstrate The Citadel ideals of honor, integrity, loyalty, leadership, self-discipline and patriotism.
Consisting of 61 members, the Summerall Guards are first-class (senior) cadets who go through a rigorous physical training and initiation process and are chosen for their physical stamina and drill proficiency.
Membership is considered a high honor at the military college. 
The precision of the team is awesome and if just one person is slightly different then the unit looks bad.

Actually this understanding of the standards makes it difficult for parents to find their son or daughter.

Rear Guide helps to lead the movements.
The leaders stand out at The Citadel. They have mastered the role all must play, but then have something special that separates them for leadership. 

We enjoyed watching the Front Guide and Rear Guide for the Summeral Guards. You see them what appears to be a solo dance, but the two of them are acting just like drum majors helping the unit keep time and in step.

The same type of standards exist in photography. When you are not up to par you stand out from the crowd as one making the mistakes. When you master the standards you may be the ones that are leading the field.

How to Charge the Best Rates

It really comes down to how well you know your client. The better you know them the chances are you have a good idea of what they really can afford. Today it is very difficult to obtain this information because vendors realize they are often a commodity and they cannot afford to level the playing field.

Your work must be at a pretty high caliber to compete, but today you can be pretty awesome and still be competing with many other vendors. Like the Summerall Guards are a group of elite students at The Citadel, there are still 61 one of them. In that group their are leaders. 

Anytime you get a job based on your price, it is almost impossible to ever raise that rate. You also may get a job based on some pretty awesome work, but if the job you do for them doesn't come up to the same standard as what your promotional material displayed, then you not only will loose future work they will talk about you not in a good way. This will hurt your reputation for other clients.

The Summerall Guard not only will let down themselves by someone being out of step, they let down the whole school. It is the consistency of the performance that has fans staying during half time to see them perform.

The second thing that you want to address is the over all experience with you. This includes your personality, your service and those things that are hard to put into words, but impact the client. Either you disappointed, came in as professional or you exceeded expectations. When you exceed expectations they they desire to have that experience again.

The third thing that will help you is your ability to be strategic. This is where you are thinking ahead of the client and able to anticipate their needs. You become like a Steve Jobs. People don't even know they need a tablet, but Steve Jobs saw how this could improve their lives.

If you can deliver on being strategic and if you do it often enough then you too will have people lined up at your door every time you come out with something new like Apple.

As you can see having pretty pictures will not really cut it today without some business acumen. 

You must know your market, your clients, and your clients needs in order to command high rates or even good rates today. If you know this content as well as you understand photography you will have a confidence that customers respond to as treating you as the expert their to help them.

The cadets at The Citadel learn to stand out for the right reasons. The top cadets are not the ones with the brass shined just perfect and spit shined shoes. They are well groomed, but when you encounter the leaders it is how they carry themselves that really what separates them from the others.

Can you look to your left and right and know you are in line with the profession? Do you know how to stand out that has your peers admiring you? 

Remember the Summerall Guard is 61 cadets of the 2,250 cadets at The Citadel. They are only 2.7% of the student body. I would say that among professional photographers the 2.7% are the ones getting the good rates.

Nelson Lalli, my step son, is in the middle with his other friends from the Summeral Guards. On the left is Matt Spyzinsky and on the right is James Harrell

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