What my photo shoot taught me about pricing (it's not what you think!)
This week I had an AMAZING photo shoot that's been several months in the making. I knew when I landed in Nashville, starting over would take up a good portion of my first year here. I also knew that I had projects that still needed to move forward: I've been sitting on Creative Freedom for a while now, and The Damn Whippersnappers have promised to visit this summer for a recording session. So with a new book and new music in the works, of COURSE I needed to get the website redone.
A perfect storm for new pictures!
Only, I didn't know anyone in this town, so I had no idea how long I'd have to wait, how much it would cost, or anything. Luckily, my best friend, Google helped me out. I met Emily, a wardrobe stylist from Effortlesstyle here in Nashville. She came over, looked at my closet and said "let's just start from scratch, okay?"
While I know how to clean up, I've never been at the bleeding edge of style, and I told her that. My closet is full of black, black, and more black - with a splash of solid color here and there. So I gave her a budget and she went to work. A week or so later, we met for the fitting. There was really only one piece I couldn't bring myself to like. Everything else was wonderful - and a lot of it I wouldn't have picked for myself. Like this floral top. When I first looked at it, all the voices in my head took a swing at me:
"Oh, you're too big to wear white!"
"That floral print is just going to draw all kinds of attention that you don't want."
I swallowed hard when she showed it too me. I knew Emily could sense my reluctance. "Just try it on." she politely insisted.
I did. We found a keeper.
I had just raised my threshold of belief around what was possible for my wardrobe. Emily's a professional that's been doing this for years. Despite that, it was hard to trust her at first because I didn't know her. I didn't believe she could style a plus-sized momma like me.
Luckily, she made it easy to like her, and her ensemble choices were on point, so trust came quickly.
Which was good, because the hair and makeup artist I had originally asked to do the shoot booked herself another appointment and was unable to make our shoot date. It wasn't her fault. I was trying to coordinate all the details myself, and things didn't come together. Frantic, I asked Emily if she had any suggestions.
"Oh, yes!" she said. "I've got my GIRLS!"
Panic turned to relief, but I had no idea how much I'd be paying for TWO people instead of one.
I swallowed hard again, and just trusted the process.
I arrive at Emily's house on the day of the shoot for hair and makeup. Mind you, two total strangers are about to have their way with my head. The ONLY thing keeping me from not showing up is the commitment I made to my photographer, Ashley.
That, and I trusted Emily. She hadn't steered me wrong yet, so I figured she wasn't going to start now.
I knock on the door, walk in, and I'm greeted by two of the sunniest, most enthusiastic women I've ever met. Both hard-working artists, both incredibly talented. Both eager to make magic happen.
Why did I ever doubt Emily?
Within minutes they are both working on me: Angela at the front, Genia at the back. We're chatting, really connecting, and they're making it easy for me to trust them. But...
I don't even know how much time has gone by, I can't see a mirror, and I'm still too nervous to eat any of the snacks Emily's put out for us. I did manage to down a glass of water, because I kept telling myself "it's gonna be hot outside, you don't want to die of heat stroke!"
Still, I think I managed to keep my self-doubt to myself as we talked about building a business doing what you love, something I'm pretty passionate about. My fear was, hopefully, masked by my enthusiasm for profitable creative businesses.
When they finished, I snapped a quick photo of my glam team and off we went to meet Ashley at Cumberland Park. When I got in my car, I had all I could do to keep from crying. I looked GOOD! Like, I almost didn't recognize myself. I had a vision of what I wanted for the shoot, and even hired Duane "The Hair Fairy" Edlao to cut my hair before I met these ladies to make sure that it would do what we wanted it to do. But to see it actually come to life?
We headed off toward Nissan Stadium to meet Ashley for the shoot. This is the first time we've met in person, and she looks happy, so I'm feeling more relaxed at this point. She's got some ideas about how to get in all the wardrobe changes and make the most of our time together.
The first few pictures felt awkward to me - because my inner critic was having her way.
"Who do you think you are? You're no super model."
There was a couple sitting at a picnic table across the way. They both stopped and looked up as my entourage pulled up with all our gear. I joked about being famous, but inside I was a self-conscious mess.
Despite these women all being super talented professionals, my inner critic was having her way with me. I told Ashley to "just shoot everything" because I knew that candid moments would probably end up making the most "natural" shots, plus we'd get some behind-the-scenes shots, too, which would be great for me to share with my clients in A-club. In truth, I was just hoping that, if she shot everything, there might be something that I could use.
Good thing Emily was listening, because she took some great candids, too. Like the shot of Angela, above, touching up my face, or this one, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
When I saw the first photo, I knew I was in good hands and I could relax. That's when we had REAL fun!
We joked, got silly, and just enjoyed being together - creatives whose only agenda was to create. Make magic happen. That was all we had to do, and when we could really let loose and trust each other, poof! The magic was there naturally.
The rest of the hour-long shoot went by fast, and it really felt like we were a team - working together to tell a compelling visual story. I look forward to seeing the proofs that Ashley took. Here's a sneak peek from the back of Ashley's camera...
This photo shoot was a massive investment in the future of my company, and it would be easy to just stop there...
...But that would be the least important part of the story.
MOST importantly, this was an investment in ME.
As the pictures started appearing, people on Facebook started asking me what the shoot was for. It was easy to say "new book, new album, new website," but that wasn't entirely true. It was also a "new me" of sorts.
In the past, I would have tried to DIY as much as possible and keep everything on the cheap - not to be efficient or save money (though those are the excuses I would have used), but because of my own self-worth.
I put at least ten times the money into this shoot than any other shoot I've ever done. I'm not saying that to brag. I still feel strange about it, to be honest. I tell you this because there was a time in my life where I didn't believe I was WORTHY of investing "that kind of money" in me or my dreams.
Some days, I still struggle with my worthiness.
My early photo shoots were courtesy of my kid, or good friends who were skilled with a camera. I actually hired a photographer and hair/makeup artist for my last shoot because I wanted to get some specific shots for the album. I was leery then about spending "that kind of money" on a project that had no guarantee of completion, let alone success. But I was so happy with the results that I used those pictures all over the interwebs for a couple of years.
This time, I had a team of three incredible women who had my back the entire time (four, counting my photographer!). They probably had no idea of the "who do you think you are?" trash talk my inner critic was laying on me. At least, I hope they didn't. I am thrilled that they made it SO easy for me to just be ME in front of the camera.
But what's that got to do with pricing? Plenty.
The next day, I was talking with one of my coaches about my book, online course, and live event all built around the foundation of Creative Freedom. One of the last things she said to me was about the pricing for my upcoming event. I've been in a holding pattern for WEEEEEEKS because I haven't been able to decide how to price it or how and when to offer the online version. I told her I feel confident that I could easily charge twice the price because I believe it'll bring a solid 5-10x return on investment, but I was keeping the intro rate low because I wanted to fill the program (totally an ego thing, by the way).
When she looked at my pricing and asked about my motivations, she reminded me that sometimes, when we offer discounts and low-ball our pricing, it doesn't actually empower our clients, because we're modeling a behavior that comes from a place of scarcity instead of abundance. She then asked me "what if, by lowering your prices, you're denying your clients from having the same experience you just had at your photo shoot?"
If you've got a healthy relationship with money, this probably doesn't apply to you, but if you struggle with naming a price that feels right to you because your inner critic is asking "who will pay that?" - this could be helpful.
The answer to the "who will pay that?" question isn't found in the circle of people you've been begging to buy from you. The answer is found in the faces of the people who light up when you enter the room and say "where have you been all my life!?!?"
Sadly, most of us build our careers around the former and not the latter.
This is one of the reasons I encourage my clients to develop a $25,000 offer... not because anyone will ever buy it (though it does happen), but because it gets you thinking differently, so that when you offer something for $2k or $5k, you'll feel more confident around the real value you bring to your work.
What could happen (for you and your potential clients) if you just created and asked for the price you want without all the baggage attached?
Because it doesn't matter what price you pick, there will always be someone that can't or won't pay it. But there are also probably a few people who will.
Owning your dreams, without selling your soul. Finding yourself and building a life and business that works for who you really are and what really matters to you. Making good money doing what you LOVE (and all the ladies from my shoot love what they do). THAT is what Creative Freedom is about, and I can't wait to share more of this new evolution with you.
Oh, and tickets for the virtual workshop and online event will be on sale soon. If you're not already on my list, get there to be one of the first to know about it!
by Cassandra Paquin [Editor's note: This is Day 19 of the Be Your Own Guru series. Cassandra is not just a seasoned business owner, she's also my Sister in-law. Her tasty hand made granola has been on my Christmas wish list every year that I've been married! In the series, we've already talked about when it […]
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