Is shooting for free really worth it?
A good indicator if offering a free session to someone in exchange for ‘exposure’ will be worth it or not is asking yourself the question, “Would this person pay your full price if they weren’t getting the session for free?”
As photographers a couple common responses you might be familiar with to working for free are:
“This could be good for your portfolio.”
”In exchange you will receive exposure on my social media accounts.”
If you’re someone stuck at a certain ‘number’ or stuck in a network of (wonderful & amazing) people yet, who aren’t able to afford your pricing and you are searching for ways to find growth in your business, these types of situations can be very tempting and seem like they will boost your engagement and reach in the long run, BUT I have learned otherwise.
I was here. This was me for a long time. I bought into the thinking that by doing those things, I would get to where I wanted/needed to be. But, guess what? I never saw those positive results. So this past year I really sat down to take a look at what worked and what didn’t and how to truly value myself enough to be more intentional in ways I am choosing to help grow my business. Because that’s what it is, a business. If you want to be able to support your family and make a decent income, you need to be smart about those choices.
So, I’d love to share with you all what I found so that you yourself can be more strategic about when you are working for free and who you are doing it for. After all, time is so valuable and SO ARE YOU!!! You hear that? YOU are valuable friends.
So back to question I asked in the beginning of this post:
"Would this person pay your full price if they weren’t getting the session for free?”
Why ask this? Because the truth is, friends have friends with similar values. And exposure isn’t enough sometimes. It’s so much more than that. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. If the person you are working for free for isn’t going to be able to afford you, then are their friends really going to be able to? Maybe in some cases, but are you willing to gamble that? Are you willing to put in all that work for a ‘maybe’. Maybe something will come of this. I personally feel much more confident in doing a session for someone I KNOW would pay my pricing and also have friends who would as well.
My first year as an LLC my business coach (incredible business woman) and friend suggested I reach out to someone in the Twin Cities whom she had crossed paths with once at a networking event, and who had just had a baby. As nervous as I felt doing it, I reached out to her and within a few months was planning a special session for this person. The rest of that year, almost everyone that hired me found me through her! That’s pretty powerful. That’s all it took. Just ONE right person to share about me and I reached a network of people I so desperately needed to reach to help grow my business.
So friends, do YOU value yourself enough to find the people who will truly help you actually reach the clients you want to reach? Your time is worth a lot and so are you. I believe you will.