57: Unpopular Opinion About Selling Digital Files

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Can you run a successful photography business without offering any products or prints? Today’s episode is the second in a four-part series on my unpopular opinions about commonly-held beliefs in the wedding photography business. I’m sharing two considerations to make when deciding on your offers, and why it is perfectly okay to only offer digital files. 

The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight

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This episode is brought to you by Root to Rise, a mastermind and retreat for female photographers where personal development meets business growth. During the four-month experience, students have weekly calls focused on goals, boundaries, money, and marketing.  The program also includes incredible guest teachers, a private Facebook community, and weekly Voxer hours with individualized guidance and mentorship. Sign up today to join the waitlist. 

Review the Show Notes:

The second unpopular opinion (1:09)

What season of life are you in? (1:55)

Consider your price (3:41)

Offering all-inclusive services (6:50)

Episode Links:

The Aligned Photographer

Root to Rise Waitlist

Round Table Membership

Business Blueprint Freebie

Sustainability Freebie

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Review the Transcript:

Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gephardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business motherhood and life. myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

Welcome back to the shoot it straight podcast friend. This episode is the second in a four part series about unpopular opinions. And wow, this is a juicy one. In case you missed last week’s episode, I unpacked unpopular opinion number one, and that is that your success as a photographer is defined by the number of sessions on your calendar. It was a great episode, and you definitely want to go back and listen to it. All right, let’s jump into today’s episode. The second unpopular opinion that I want to unpack is that it is 100%. Okay, if you decide to run your business by being all inclusive, and only offering digital files. All right, I’m sure that somebody out there, let out an audible gasp. And I totally expect to get some feedback on this one. But before you come at me, let me explain. Yes, selling prints and products is wonderful.

I love to see photographers getting physical things into the hands of their clients to enjoy off of their screens. But it isn’t the only way to do business. And it isn’t the only way to be profitable. When you’re building your business and deciding what your offerings will look like. There are two big things that people don’t always consider. The first is what season of life they are in. If you listen to last week’s podcast episode, you know that I think this plays a big role in your business. Being honest about what you’re capable of doing well, and doing over time is important. Just because your competitors offer certain products or packages or upgrades or services doesn’t mean that you have to or even should do the same. Because you may be in a totally different season of life. And you may have a completely different support system than they do. If you are a busy homeschooling mom with a newborn at home, your capacity to sell and serve is vastly different than that of a single woman who does photography full time, she might have the ability to do in person sales. While you can barely keep your head on straight, do not try and run the same business that she does without support. If you can hire a full time studio manager to do the selling for you great. Or if you can set up a system for online selling with a VA that places product orders for you. Great. But if you’re running this business alone, you probably don’t have the time or bandwidth for in person sales in your season of life. And that is okay. Your season is constantly changing and your business can and should change with it. If you really want to get into in person sales in the future, you’ll be able to just be honest about where you are right now and what is sustainable right now. And figure out how to run a profitable business with ease in your current space. And if that means being all inclusive and selling all your digital files at one single price point than that is 100%. Okay, the second thing that you need to consider when building your business and offerings is price. I know that seems really obvious, but hear me out. Being all inclusive often gets this bad rap as being a quote unquote shoot and burn photographer.

That term was first coined in the early 2000s When photographers started popping up all over the place with the explosion of the DSLR. All of a sudden, taking beautiful and professional grade photos became easier. It was easier than when film was the only option. Before the DSLR you had to know film. And while the technical aspects of photography are the same exposure, aperture and ISO, film is a bit trickier if you know you know. But with the DSLR everyone started popping up and opening photography businesses and with that lots of people were winging it in business. They didn’t have websites. They were a completely word of mouth business. They only took cash, and they were the total definition of a side hustle. And it was super uncommon to quote unquote, be in business and charge like 50 bucks for a session. Yes, it was and still is ridiculous. And yes, I am guilty of doing the same thing when I first started my business almost 13 years ago, but that’s another story for another time. My point is that this term quote, shoot and burn stemmed from those types of businesses, and the ones who were not legit businesses, the ones charging less for 100, less than $100 for a photo session and every image the ones who didn’t pay taxes, or have business bank accounts, or even care if they would be in business for the long run.

Today’s episode is brought to you by route to rise a four month mastermind and retreat for female photographers. That is where personal development meets business growth. During the four month experience, students have weekly calls focusing on a variety of topics that both better their lives and their businesses. Think topics like goals, boundaries, money and marketing, and many many others. The program also includes incredible guest teachers, a private Facebook community and weekly Voxer hours, where you get individualized guidance and mentoring from me on topics that matter to you and your business. One of the best parts of the experience is definitely the three day in person retreat. Consider this the most fun girls weekend ever. We eat well do yoga, photograph three sessions, work through portfolio reviews, take headshots and build deep friendships, I can tell you that the women who have gone through this program have had some absolutely incredible transformations reached massive goals and changed the trajectory of their businesses. If you want to get on the waitlist to be notified when enrollment opens again soon, you can head over to the link in the show notes and get on that list. And now back to the episode.

And for some reason, this negative term has still stuck with people who offer all inclusive services despite what they charge. And this is where I want to push back. If you are in a season of life, where your kids or your personal health or your full time job or anything causes you to need to run as simple a business as possible. Offering all inclusive packages is 100%. Okay, as long as you are profitable. And that’s what I want to make sure that you hear as long as you are profitable. That means that you have to run your expenses. You need to know your cost of doing business, you need to budget for taxes and investments and new equipment and childcare. And most importantly, you need to include your own salary as an expense so that it is covered. This means that you are taking a consistent paycheck regularly. Let me pause here and say that if this is something you struggle with, if you struggle with your numbers, or profitability, or even the money mindset around charging higher rates than I would love to help you, I have an online course the aligned photographer that includes a module called aligned pricing. And it dives into figuring out your rates to be profitable and take a paycheck.

And if you’re struggling with the mindset piece, this is something that we actually spend an entire month on inside my mastermind group to rise, I’m going to include the links to both of those in the show notes in case you’re interested in want more information. Okay, so back to what I was saying. If you know your expenses, and you have a salary, and you have all these numbers calculated, then you’re most likely charging hundreds and hundreds or even 1000s of dollars per photo session. And if that’s you, you’re charging 900 or 1200, or $1,600 for a family session, or you’re charging 2000 5000 10,000 or more for a wedding, then hear me when I say this, you can totally offer your services at an all inclusive rate and be competent and be successful. Of course, you can make more money by adding on prints and products and upgrades if and when you want to do that. But don’t do that at the at the expense of your season of life. If you can’t handle the complication or the stress of those things right now, then do not worry about it. I said this in the last episode and I will say it again you do you consider your season of life, what you can and want to manage and consider your profit and your paycheck. If you’re doing both of those things, and charging five or six figures for an all inclusive photography business, and that makes the most sense for you. Then go for it and ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. Yes, you are still a real photographer. Yes, you are a professional. Yes, you can thrive with all inclusive offerings. Yes, running a simple business with limited offerings can work really well for you. And yes, you can ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. Alrighty, my friend. That’s it for today. Join me next week as we unpack unpopular opinion number three.

Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhart photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.


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