Recorded: Welcome to The ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price and confidently sell their best work. Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years and she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, mini workshops and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do the rework.
Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends, and welcome back to The ReWork. That’s not just an intro to this episode. I really do think of you as my friends. Some of you are my friends that I know and love. Many of you I’ve never met, but your businesses, your families and your livelihood are in my mind and in my heart as I create every episode of The ReWork. In today’s episode, I want you to consider as your own personal ATJ pep talk, because we’re going to be talking about pricing your work in uncertain times.
Allison Tyler Jones: Pricing your work is difficult at the best of times, but when we feel like the world is going crazy around us it can be especially difficult. Today I’m going to talk to you about the four steps to pricing in uncertain times. We’re going to talk about checking in on your current mindset, some mind shifts that you might need to make about pricing. We’re going to make a plan, and then we’re going to make that plan happen.
Allison Tyler Jones: So let’s start with your mindset. Where are you at right now? I want to quote Henry David Thoreau. “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are.” That is so very true, that when we’re feeling down, scared, in scarcity or fear, we tend to feel like everybody is thinking that way. When we’re feeling generous and abundant, it’s easier to be more generous and abundant with others.
Allison Tyler Jones: But here we are in the middle of this crazy world, we’re coming out of a pandemic, but if you’re watching the news or looking at social media ever, you’re hearing about recession. You’re hearing about the stock market. You’re hearing about war, about pandemic, ongoing, monkeypox. We’re hearing about inflation. There’s all kinds of things going on in the world. I feel like the news media is Chicken Little running around screaming, “The sky is falling. The sky is falling,” and that contributes to an atmosphere of fear and scarcity.
Allison Tyler Jones: And so I want you to pause for a minute if you’re not driving and just take a deep breath. Did you do it? A really deep breath, maybe four deep breaths. I want you to just realize that you are here right now. You are here. You have survived a 100% of all the things that you’ve gone through in your life up to this point, you are here. I know that for me, I tend to spend so much time forecasting the future, what’s coming. I’m looking at sales figures and how we’re going to do the next marketing initiative, or what we’re doing for the busy season, or how we’re going to spoil our amazing clients that I sometimes forget to just be here, and especially when I’ve made big changes in my business.
Allison Tyler Jones: When I decided for example, to stop selling just unframed prints and send everything out framed and ready to hang, I found the inquiries that I was getting were a little more price sensitive because the prices were higher. I was converting less people because they had been used to being able to buy a few eight by tens, a few five by sevens. And here now I was doing a different type of business to where I wanted them to have the very best that I could create for them. Even though I knew how to talk about that, some people just didn’t want that and there were less conversions.
Allison Tyler Jones: I was getting comments like, “Oh wait, that’s more expensive than I thought.” Or, “Okay, hold on. Let me think about that.” And then as soon as somebody had a comment like that, I would have this whole internal dialogue about, “Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t do this. This is wrong. I got to go back to the other way, or I need to run a sale, or I need to discount, or fill in the negative, unhelpful, not moving your business forward type activity here.” So maybe you have felt that as well.
Allison Tyler Jones: Combine those two. We want to make positive change in our business. We want to give the most amazing service and most amazing product to our clients that we possibly can. But we’re also living in this crazy world where it seems like every day some new threat is coming along. How do we reconcile those two? I’m hearing a lot from our Mindshift members and our Membership Group that people are feeling like, “Well, what do we do about recession? Should we be reducing our pricing?” Which obviously if inflation is happening, which we know that it is, reducing your pricing is actually the way to go out of business.
Allison Tyler Jones: So what do we do? How are we going to fix this? Or how are we going to move forward? Number one, just checking in with our mindset and recognizing that yes, our ability, our creative talent is what we’re selling as a product. But the most vital asset we have in our business is our mental energy. Our ability to be creative, our ability to problem solve in a session with everything from lighting to how we deal with somebody’s two year old. And we can’t do that if we’re not resilient, if we’re not building ourselves up and feeling okay about life.
Allison Tyler Jones: Check in with yourself. Right now I want you to think about four to five things, and you can write these down, or you can just tick them off in your head. What is good about your life right now? Don’t think about something that’s coming like, “When I move into my new house, or when we move into this new studio, or whatever.” Right now, right this minute, what is good in your life? And that could be something as simple as the sun is shining, or the light in front of me just turned green, or you have the cutest grand baby in the world, which is not true because I have the cutest grand baby in the world, but you could have the second cutest grand baby in the world. But think about that. What is good in your life right now?
Allison Tyler Jones: I want you this next week to think about carefully, carefully protecting your mindset. I want you to carefully choose your input, your news sources, social media, and not just that, but also are there negative people that are bringing you down? Whether that’s on Facebook or in real life, but start thinking about the things that are sapping your energy, negative people, negative places, and how you can effectively avoid those things. I want you to think about that, five good things that are happening right now, and then how you’re going to be selective.
Allison Tyler Jones: In the next week, just pay very, very close attention to when you’re interacting with somebody, or you’re listening to something, or you’re scrolling by something to check in with yourself and think, “How is this making me feel right now? Is this depleting my energy? Is this making me feel more negative or more scarce, like there’s more scarcity in the world, or is this filling me up and making me feel more abundant and making me feel more creative and more happy.” Okay, so number one, mindset. Check in with yourself. What’s good right now and over the next week, pay close attention to what you’re allowing into your mind.
Allison Tyler Jones: Next we’re going to look at exploring some mind shifts that we might need to make. I want you to think about where are you focusing right now? Are you focusing on things that you can control or are you focusing on things that you can’t control? And so that is really common during uncertain times to think about all the things that are out of our control. And that’s where the fear comes from. We’re thinking about all of these global situations that are going on, things that we actually have no control over. We can’t control whether there’s a war. We can’t control whether there’s a recession. We can’t control inflation. There’s so many things that we cannot control. And if we focus on those things, then we feel more fear.
Allison Tyler Jones: But if we shorten our lens length, go more micro and think about what is right in front of us, what can we actually control? I know at least for me, I do better when I think of the things that I can control. If I am taking care to protect my mental energy and the sources of positive or negative things that are coming into my mind, I can control what I do about those inputs. I can control whether I decide to get scared and go backwards, or whether I want to proceed forwards.
Allison Tyler Jones: By going backwards, I mean, by discounting or going back to old pricing, or going back to old methods that I know have not served my clients or my business well. I know that when I choose to focus on creating the most amazing experience and the absolute best product available for my client, that gives me a feeling of abundance and a feeling of prosperity. It makes me way less likely to advertise on pricing. I really am not talking about pricing. I’m really talking about the value of what it is that I’m creating and that gets my clients excited when we talk about, “Here’s what we can create for your playroom or here’s what we can create for your family room.” It brings the focus back to solving their problems and creating something amazing for their house and less about making it about me and what I’m afraid that they will or won’t buy.
Allison Tyler Jones: I’ve also realized that the lower your prices, the more you resent your clients, because you’re not taking enough care of them. You’re not charging enough to be able to take the best possible care of them. Business success equals good repeat clients and a profit margin that can sustain your business. I have found in my own business that no matter when I did it, that figuring out the correct price and charging that price raises the bar for me. It wakes me up. So when I’m charging appropriate prices, I am incredibly aware that my clients are in essence voting for me. They’re bringing their value and exchanging it with my value.
Allison Tyler Jones: And so if I’m charging what I’m supposed to be charging instead of feeling like, “Look, they only paid 20 bucks for this eight by 10. What do they expect? I’m not going to spend an hour retouching it.” Instead, I’m thinking, “They paid X number of dollars for this piece of art that’s going in their home. I am going to make sure that it’s perfection.” And so I’m bringing my very best ability to their session as well as to the final product as it’s printed, and delivered, and installed in their home.
Allison Tyler Jones: And then on top of that, giving them an amazing experience, handling their kids, helping them figure out what to wear. Wrapping it all up in an amazing experience that’s memorable for them. And that every time they look at that image, they’re not only glad that they had kids and that they love their family, but they’re also remembering what an amazing experience it was to deal with us. Those are all things that are very much within my control.
Allison Tyler Jones: And when I focus on creating that amazing experience and creating that beautiful work, that is something that gets me excited and makes me less fearful. It also grows the quality of my clientele because as I provide a better and better service, my clients talk about it to their friends and attracts other people like them. Loyal and long-term repeat clients are the lifeblood of my business, and them talking about me to their friends and referring me to others like them has built a profitable sustainable business for me and for my family.
Allison Tyler Jones: I want you to think about your best clients. What is it that they need? What is it that they’re struggling with? You know for sure, because we’ve all lived through the pandemic and we’re all living in this crazy world together, our clients are experiencing everything that we have experienced. Plus, they’re also experiencing really bad service. They’re experiencing shortages, they’re experiencing delays. They’re experiencing all kinds of excuses from service providers in their life. They’ve had crappy experiences in restaurants and all kinds of places as have we.
Allison Tyler Jones: No matter how much money they have to spend, it’s been pretty rough out there. So don’t concentrate on what your clients can or can’t afford. Can you instead concentrate on giving them what they need and what they want. We can be a bright shining light in this crazy world that we’re living in by just taking control of our business and making our little corner of the world run smoothly, keeping our promises, creating an amazing experience for our clients that they have not been able to get for a very long time, regardless of how much money they have to spend.
Allison Tyler Jones: Let’s make a plan. Make this plan based on your best clients not on what everyone else is doing. Make the plan focusing on where is your client at? What does she need right now? I can tell you that 99% of our clients are women that call, mothers for portrait photography. Where is she at? Well this summer, maybe she was able to travel for the first time in a couple of years. That’s been great, but also stressful. She probably needs a vacation to recover from her vacation. She’s trying to get her kids back into school right now. She’s also somewhere in the back of her mind knows that she needs updated photos for Christmas, for gifts, for holiday cards, whatever. So what does she need right now and how can you best help her?
Allison Tyler Jones: Again, instead of focusing on, “How can I make this cheaper for somebody? How can I save my clients money?” They’re not asking you for that. What our best clients really need is they need for us to take control and let them know, “Hey, we’re here for you. We’ve got it figured out. We’ll help you figure out what clothing to wear. We’re going to help you figure out what it is that we need to shoot for, where it’s going to go in your house, how your holiday cards are going to look, we’re going to handle it beginning to end.” That’s focusing on the value that we bring.
Allison Tyler Jones: I also want you to think about, if you could not talk about price at all, ever, not in social media, not in a phone call, not in an email that you were sending out to a client, if you couldn’t talk about price at all, in your next marketing initiative you were never allowed to mention discount price or anything like that. Then what would you talk about if you couldn’t talk about price? Or “If you book a session in August, you’re going to get 50 free holiday cards,” because that’s talking about price. If you couldn’t talk about price, what would you talk about?
Allison Tyler Jones: That is a freeing exercise because it forces you to realize that the value in what we do is not just price, it’s not whether it’s cheap or expensive. It’s all the things that go into whatever it is that we do. I want to talk about how responsive we are, how we can make everything happen for them. I want to sell the solution of what it is that I am creating. I’m solving the problem of what they’re going to do with that huge space above that ginormous fireplace that they just built in their new house and it’s weird shaped and what are they going to do with it?
Allison Tyler Jones: Or I’m going to help them figure out how to anchor the space above their sectional in their playroom, by creating some amazing piece of art of their kids doing snow angels and candy. I’m going to help them figure out where this image is going to hang in their house. So in a way we’re kind of providing a design service. I’m going to help them freeze time by capturing their children at this stage in their life. But at the bottom of all of this, I’m letting them know, our clients know that, in an uncertain world, they can count on us. That we are going to be here. We’ve been here up until now and we’re going to be here. And we are one of the few service providers in their life that are going to keep our promises. We’re going to do what we say we’re going to do, when we say we’re going to do it.
Allison Tyler Jones: That is something that is so valuable right now. You can’t really even put a price on that. If you’ve been in any kind of a remodel project, any kind of a construction project, if you’ve eaten out at a restaurant, it’s been rough out there lately. The labor problems are real. And so just for an example, in our studio, what we have decided this year, because last year was so crazy with the card printing and all of the production we were having to reprint canvases three and four times. Our holiday cards were coming in not printed correctly, damaged with weird little blips on them or whatever, just because so many of our vendors are having labor problems.
Allison Tyler Jones: We decided this year to take control. And we just started calling our clients very early, March, April. We’ve just been calling them throughout the year and letting them know that, “Hey, we’re going to get you booked early. We want to book everybody before the middle of October this year, because there are so many problems with the labor situation and the supplies that last year we had a couple of clients that almost didn’t get their cards and we just don’t want you have to have that kind of stress.”
Allison Tyler Jones: So, “We, because we’re not going to be one of those people that are using labor problems and these uncertainties in the world as an excuse for why we’re not providing you the best service possible, we are actually getting out ahead of it and we are going to book you early.” I cannot tell you our clients so appreciate that. Every single person that we called and talked to was like, “Oh my gosh, yes, that was so bad last year.” Yes, everywhere you go to eat, it’s part or anything that they’ve been doing in their own life, they’re having their own struggles with that. Everybody is aware that this is a problem. And so to have a service provider call and tell you, “Hey, this is what’s going on and this is how we’re going to fix it,” before any problems even happen. Can you imagine how that helps your brand and how great that can be?
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So number one, we’re headed into number four. Number one, we’re going to look at our mindset right now. Where are we at? We’re here, we’ve survived everything. What’s good now? How are we over the next week going to pay attention to how we are protecting our mental asset?
Allison Tyler Jones: Two, we are going to make the mind shift of realizing that we need to focus on what we actually can control. We are going to take control of the things that we can, and we’re going to communicate that to our clients. We are going to make a plan for our own clients in our own little corner of the world. We’re going to get out ahead of the things that could possibly be hard and wrong in our client’s world. We are going to figure out how to solve these problems for them before they happen so that they know that we’re in their corner and we’re helping them take control of the things that are frustrating for them.
Allison Tyler Jones: We’re not thinking about discounting. We’re not thinking about how we can make it more affordable and cheaper. We’re thinking about how can we make this better and so amazing for our clients that the value becomes obvious? “Well, of course that’s why she’s charging what she’s charging. Because look at all the things that she does for us.”
Allison Tyler Jones: Step number four is to make it happen. Take the time before the busy season comes on full bore and get your pricing updated. Check with your vendors. We’ve had two 30% increases in frame molding over the last year and a half. That is going to cut into your profit margin. You need to make sure that you’re checking your pricing even if you’re spot checking it and make sure that you are pricing profitably. And then once you get that figured out and you know what those numbers are, then don’t look back, don’t overthink it. Don’t get into the fear and scarcity.
Allison Tyler Jones: Flip straight around and go into the mode of, “How can we make it worth it? How can we make it exactly what our clients have always dreamed of or what they didn’t even know was possible? How can we make the experience, and the work, and everything beginning to end, the best that it possibly can be?”
Allison Tyler Jones: One thing I know for sure is that our clients take their cues from us. If we’re positive, we’re happy, we’re excited, we can’t wait to show them what it is that we do and how great that it can be for them, then they are going to take their cue from us. They will also take the cue if we’re fearful, if we’re negative, if we’re down, we can’t hide that. It comes through in our expression, how we talk on the phone, our posture, everything. Take a minute and make this happen.
Allison Tyler Jones: If you have to listen to this again, I want you to check in with your mindset, figure out where you’re at, make the mind shift of taking control of what you can, focusing more short-term. What can we control in our own corner of the world? And then make that plan to spoil your clients and make the experience the best that it possibly can be. Take responsibility and don’t use what’s going on in the world as an excuse. Flip that around and actually show your clients that they can count on you. And when we do that, they will say to themselves, they will say it to you and they will say it to their friends that, “Yep, she was expensive, but it was absolutely 100% worth it.”
Allison Tyler Jones: I know how hard you work. I know how much you pour yourself into every session. I know that as Kim Wiley says, “That every portrait you create is a piece of your soul and that’s hanging on the walls of your client’s home in your town. I know how much you put into this.” Make it worth it, but charge what it’s worth.
Allison Tyler Jones: Thus endeth the ATJ pep talk. Go out and do it. I know you can. Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you being here? I know that you have so many demands on your time and so many demands on your attention, you could be watching Netflix, you could be listening to a True-Crime Podcast, but you’ve spent time here at the ReWork learning to make your portrait business better. That really means a lot to me.
Allison Tyler Jones: If there’s somebody that you feel like could benefit from this episode, that you could help them and help us spread the word, and helping other portrait photographers build better businesses, please go to where you’re listening to this episode and hit that share button and share it with them.
Allison Tyler Jones: If you have time and can give us a review, you don’t even understand how much that means to a little tiny podcast like ours to see those reviews and see how we’re helping. And if you have another minute and can send me a DM and let us know what you would like to hear in the future, what you really enjoyed hearing about, maybe things that weren’t that great, how we can do better. We always want to do better, and we always want to support the portrait photography industry and helping you build the best businesses ever. Thanks again so much for being here.
Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at dotherework.com and on Instagram at do.the.rework.