Today I'm giving you 5 reasons to raise your rates at the end of the year. Why? Because pricing for food photography is a hugely important topic not talked about enough. It can be so confusing to know what to charge for projects, and while we're not talking about how to set your rates in this post, it's important to know when to raise your rates-- and why.
Disclaimer: It's very common to not have "set rates" in the photography and blogging industries because each project is so different. One client might be asking for product photography while another might be asking for sponsored content on your social media. Obviously, pricing for these jobs is different.
When I refer to "raising your rates," I am referring to increasing the amount you charge for a project. For example, if you quoted a specific project at $500 this year, I want you to increase the amount you charge for the same type of work in the new year.
There are far more than just 5 reasons why you can (and should) raise your rates, but we'd be here all day if I included more than five. I hope this post gives you the encouragement and motivation you need to pull the trigger and charge more for your work, because I guarantee you are worth it!
First of all: You need to stop working for free
Hold up! Before we get into the top 5 reasons to raise your rates at the end of the year, I have to talk about the importance of not working for free. This topic is something I include in all of my photography blog posts because it is THAT IMPORTANT. If you follow me on Instagram, you know it's something I talk about often.
You have to stop working for free. If you've created content in exchange for free products or "exposure" that has been promised to you, I don't blame you or judge you. But I beg you to stop doing this. Why?
- Because your time, skills, equipment, and content is valuable.
- You deserve to be paid real money for content creation. Yes, you.
- You are being taken advantage of every time you accept unpaid partnerships.
- Brands are paying other creators-- why aren't you asking them to pay you?
I could list 99,203,490 more reasons but I'll step off my little soapbox and keep it short. I'm sure you've heard this speech before-- but I will never stop talking about it because every day I see creators working for free with hopes that paid work will come later... but it never will unless you start charging for your work TODAY!
Okay. Now let's get into the reasons why you should RAISE your rates, because hopefully you're already getting paid for your content.
Reason #1: Your Skills Have Improved
The first reason to raise your rates at the end of the year is pretty obvious, but it's so important. Your skills have improved! I don't have to prove it to you. Just pull up a photo you took last January and look at a photo you took this month. There's a difference, right?
Think about how many hours you've put into food photography this year. How many photoshoots have you done? How much time have you spent editing in Lightroom? How have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? What courses have you taken? Think about how you've grown this year.
If you've dedicated time to practicing food photography, it makes sense why your photos created this month are higher quality than what you created 11 months ago. But don't just think about how your images have improved.
How have YOU improved? What have you learned this year? Are you better at styling your scenes? Faster at getting work done? Better at communicating with clients? That all counts too. You're a stronger creative individual than you were last year. Don't discredit yourself. Not only are you creating stronger images, but you're providing more value to clients because of how you've improved yourself.
Reason #2: You've Invested in Equipment
It can be easy to forget that our equipment as photographers is a huge asset to our work, and we can't do our job without it. Investing in equipment is a completely valid reason for increasing your rates. And no, it's not selfish to charge our clients more because of our choice to buy new equipment. It's a business expense that contributes to our cost of doing business!
Let me ask you this... how many backdrops have you bought this year? What about new props, or those beautiful linens you added to your collection? Did your tripod break (like mine did), and you had to buy a new one?
Maybe you upgraded your camera from crop-sensor to full-frame. Did you buy that 100mm macro lens you've always wanted? Invest in artificial lighting? Consider your software too. Lightroom and Photoshop aren't free. Maybe you use Asana or a project management tool in your workflow. That costs money too.
Did you take a course this year? Invest in one-on-one coaching? Read some books? I think you get the point. It costs money for us to create content. Photography is a very expensive career to get into. We need to take our equipment into account when we consider our cost of doing business and determine how to quote projects.
The reason your clients are hiring you is because they don't have a camera (that they know how to use), and they certainly don't know how to take the beautiful images that you do. Remember that! Your rates need to reflect this.
Reason #3: It's Industry Standard
Newsflash! It's totally normal to raise your rates at the end of the year. I know many creators who do this every year, no matter what. I encourage you to do the same. Please don't feel like you're "the oddball" for deciding to increase your rates. Other photographers are doing it! I promise you! It's so normal.
Don't miss out on the opportunity to get paid more. If others are increasing their rates, then why shouldn't you? Get rid of any doubts. It's much harder to raise your rates in March, June, or September because it's harder to justify "randomly" increasing them in the middle of the year.
Raising rates at the end of the year makes sense, and your clients actually expect it.
Reason #4: Clients Expect It
Yes, I just said this. Your clients expect you to raise your rates. It's typically no surprise to them when you increase your rates at the end of the year because it's industry standard, like I talked about above. Especially when you're working with food brands, it's even more normal because they're used to other creators doing this.
It's also worth noting that food brands' budgets for content creation might change every year too, and they're currently setting aside a Q1 budget for photography and marketing, which you can provide for them! Besides, think about the price of everything else that might change in the new year. Does your favorite box of cereal cost 50 cents more? Movie theater tickets? Gasoline? What about a course you've been eyeing... is the price of that going up in 2022, too? Most likely.
My point is that it's totally normal for your prices to increase. So stop worrying about it and just do it! We'll talk more about how to raise your rates toward the end of the post, but if you offer an incentive to clients when you raise your rates, the conversation goes over pretty smoothly.
Reason #5: Because You Can
The last reason why you should raise your rates? Because you can. That's truly the only reason you need. You don't even have to justify why. I encourage you to have enough confidence in yourself, your work, and the value you provide to raise your rates every year, without question.
I know it can be scary. It's normal to have a little bit of doubt. I, too, have heard the voice in the back of my head asking, "Am I really good enough to charge this much?" But even if you have thoughts like that, you can't let them hold you back.
The doubtful voice in the back of your head shouldn't be the voice running your business. Let me tell you, as a fellow food photographer and friend of yours in the industry, you deserve to raise your rates. You CAN raise your rates, and you should raise your rates. Let's talk about how.
How To Raise Your Rates
The easiest way to raise your rates is to send your client(s) an email! Seriously, it can be quite simple. If you worked with clients earlier in the year, touch base with them in December, ideally before the Holidays (before everyone is out of office), but it's okay if you touch base in early January, too. Here's a basic guideline for crafting your email:
Express appreciation for your client
Whether you're reconnecting with a previous client or speaking with an existing, ongoing client, it's important to express gratitude for them at the end of the year. Tell them you loved working with them and point out something SPECIFIC that you loved about their project. This demonstrates that you truly do care about them, their brand, and the work you created for them. Don't fake it, and never send the same, generic email to everyone. Authenticity is important.
Tell them you'd love to work together again
The next step is to tell them that you'd love to work with them again next year. Retaining previous clients is much easier than finding and onboarding new clients. If you had a successful partnership with someone this year, they already know you're reliable and provide quality content. Don't sleep on the opportunity to retain these clients and work with them again, even if it's been months (or years) since you've worked together.
Expressing appreciation for them and then demonstrating interest in working on new projects keeps you in the front of their minds as they plan their content calendar and budget for the new year. Brands are planning their Q1 content in November and December, so it's the perfect time to reconnect and remind your clients that you can help them with content again next year.
Just remember-- don't talk too much about yourself. Focus on the value you can provide to your clients and their company. This is ultimately what they want to know.
Increase your rates & offer an incentive
After you provide a short expression of appreciation for your client and show interest in doing new projects for them, then you can talk about raising your rates. This doesn't have to be scary!
Think about the type of work you provided to this client previously and what you charged for that type of work. Tell them that you're increasing your rates in 2022 to "x amount" for those kinds of projects (or you can state an increased starting amount for projects), but then add an incentive. This is the KEY.
Offering them an incentive, like a discount off of your new rates, not only demonstrates that you value them as a previous client (making them feel "exclusive" for getting a discount, so to speak), but it also gives them more of a reason to book you for a new project.
Now, creator to creator, you want to make sure you're raising your rates high enough to account for the discount you're providing to your clients. For example, if don't want to work for less than $1,000 per project, don't offer a discounted rate at $850. Say your new rates are $1,250 but offer your client the discounted rate of $1,000. Does this make sense?
You want to make sure you're not working for less than you want to. This is the whole point of raising your rates, after all!
End with a call to action (CTA)
Lastly, your email needs to end with a call to action. Don't leave it open-ended and give them the impression that they can respond to you in two months-- or never at all. Create a sense of urgency for them to take action and hopefully book you for a new project.
A call to action is best phrased as a question. Here are some potential ideas for you to include at the end of your email. Tailor them to fit the client's needs!
- Do you have a specific product focus in January?
- Do you have 15 minutes to jump on a discovery call to go over your needs for next year?
- Would updated recipe photography provide value to (brand) in 2022?
Really, the point of the call to action is to give them something to respond to. Ending with "hope to hear from you soon" or "let me know what you think" doesn't really warrant a quick response, does it?
Asking them a specific, targeted question about their company or their need for content encourages them to answer the question and respond more quickly.
If you want to be brave, you can even provide an "expiry" on the discount you provide, letting them know that the discounted rate is only valid if they book you for a project by the end of January, or whatever timeline feels comfortable for you.
What if the client doesn't accept the new rate?
As I said, I know that raising your rates can be scary, especially if you don't want to lose a client or if you struggle with recognizing the value you bring as a creator. But if you've read this far, gone through the effort of setting new rates, and have emailed your clients, it means you're committed to working for the pay you deserve. Let's have a round of applause for that!
Ultimately, you should be charging an amount that gets you excited for the project, not one that barely gets you out of bed in the morning. If you're creating content for pennies in return (i.e: $100-200 per project), I argue that those jobs aren't worth your time, and raising your rates will only help you. If a client chooses not to rebook you at your new rate, it gives you the opportunity to focus on the clients that WILL pay your new rate and more.
A lost client provides an abundance of new opportunities
You have to realize that when you let go of the low-paying jobs, you open yourself up to an abundance of new possibilities that you can't even imagine. You can work less jobs for more money and put effort into a few higher-paying clients rather than running yourself into the ground doing dozens of low-paying jobs for clients who don't truly value your work.
Real talk: In my first year of food photography, I made the most money from doing recipe photoshoots for other bloggers, but got completely burnt out in the process. I was doing a crazy amount of photoshoots per week for relatively low pay. Quickly, I realized that this type of work was unsustainable and no longer worth my time. I raised my rates at the end of the year, and some clients could not meet me at my new rate.
And guess what? I was relieved. I no longer had to spend hours of my day doing elaborate recipe shoots and instead could focus on commercial work for food brands, which I loved even more, and which paid over 3 TIMES the amount per shoot.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't work for other bloggers or do recipe photography. The greatest thing is that you have the freedom to choose for yourself! But I want you to really think about something. Ask yourself: What type of work do I want to do? What type of clients do I want to have? How much money do I want to make? How many projects do I want to do?
Seriously, think about it, and remember that if you lose some clients in the process of raising your rates, you are well on your way to making more money. It seems backward, but it's true.
I guarantee you that there are hundreds of people who will pay you thousands (yes, thousands), of dollars for one photography project. So don't settle! If you're feeling burnt out from low-paying jobs or are unsatisfied with low-paying clients, RAISE THOSE RATES.
And remember, you can always negotiate
All of that said, you can always negotiate. If you absolutely love working with a certain client and get true satisfaction from their projects, it's okay to negotiate with them if they can't meet you at your new rate.
HOWEVER. Don't reduce your rate for the same amount of deliverables. Instead, reduce the deliverables with the cost. This establishes that you aren't going to willy-nilly move your rates around just because the client said so. You can work for less money if you choose, but make sure you reduce the amount of content they are getting in return. There has to be a tradeoff.
This reinforces your value and demonstrates your confidence in yourself and your work, too. Remember, don't settle if you don't want to. You hold that power and you can say no when a project is not fulfilling to you.
Whew, I knew that was a lot of info all at once. Let's recap. Here are the top 5 reasons to raise your rates at the end of the year:
- Your skills have improved
- You've invested in equipment
- It's industry standard
- Your clients expect it
- Because you can
Remember these reasons!! And let's recap on how to email your client(s) and tell them you're raising your rates:
- Express appreciation for your client
- Tell them you'd love to work together again
- Increase your rates & offer an incentive
- End with a call to action
Finally, remember that if a client doesn't accept your new rate, it's okay. You can find different clients that WILL pay your rates, and you can always negotiate if necessary.
If I leave you with one piece of advice, it's this. Remember that your work is worth lots of money, and you deserve to ask for lots of money. Now go make it happen!
More Food Photography Resources
If you enjoyed this post, I would be so grateful to hear your thoughts in a comment below. If you can't tell, I absolutely love talking about food photography and have a passion for encouraging others to understand the value they provide as a creator.
I'm happy to continue this conversation over on Instagram and answer any questions you have. I also offer one-on-one coaching for food photographers and food bloggers if you need someone to walk alongside you as you navigate conversations like these.
For more food photography resources, check out these posts: