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Discounts for family and friends? Shed the guilt and do this instead

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When you are starting your small business, the first people who hire you will be friends, family, friends of family, family of friends, and on and on. Our natural instinct is to give them a “friends and family discount” since we are so thankful that they believe in us and are supporting our new passion.

Does that sound familiar?

Your inner circle is an important way to get early jobs and they will give you all of the experience you need for working with ‘real’ clients.

For better or for worse, these people you love will also teach you what you need in your contract as well as what your non-negotiable boundaries will be going forward.

It can also be a source of painful learning when you don’t bother with contracts and setting expectations. They text and email at all hours of the night with yet another question or expectation of free work.

Friends and family think they are helping you out, but you feel like you aren’t respected or paid as a professional when you give discounts on your photography.

I’ve been there. It’s horrible.

So, what to do? How do you work for friends and family while also getting the respect that your other clients give you?

The answer is simple, actually.

Treat them like you treat your other clients!

what to price my photography

Now I charge full price. For everyone.

Years ago, I had college friends hire me for their out of town PRIME wedding date and I gave them my “old rates” since they were friends (they didn’t even know what my “new” rates were). I’ll tell ya right now, my old rates were too low, even for friends. I charged them $1850 for a full weekend wedding on the most popular wedding date of the year.

Not only did I get pissed when I found out her wedding dress cost $5,000, but it took over a year to get the last $800 out of the couple.

Both of us were left with an awkward feeling.

That’s when it all changed for me. No more friends and family deals. I fired my cousin as a ‘client’ too. It wasn’t worth my time and I wasn’t doing good work because her $50 for a nightmare family portrait session just wasn’t worth it anymore.

I’m here to save you years of headaches, miscommunication and low wages during your prime referral years.

Charge them full price, treat them like your other clients and everything will run super smoothly.

In this week’s Feisty Photographer Friday series on my YouTube channel, I outline a few ideas on how you can be very generous with friends or big spenders with your business and still earn a living as an entrepreneur.

Friends and Family Discounts:

Eventually, this source of close-proximity referrals does dry up and so it is important to capture as much income as possible while referrals are flowing. Trust me! After 15 years as a photographer, I don’t know if my friends and family even remember that I’m a photographer.

{cue the sad face}

The early years are actually the easiest years to find clients. Be sure they are all paying full price so you don’t burn out.

What I now do instead is that I gift GOOD friends and CLOSE family something a little extra after we are finished working together.

With wedding photography, maybe I’ll give them a canvas print, the digital files, or an Engagement Session. If we are close enough, I’ll give them all three.

The hardest part is drawing a line in the sand.

Who is considered family? What constitutes a close friend?

You’ll have to decide that for yourself, however, I’ll say that even my own sister decided to pay me for her newborn photos.

How are you going to build generosity into your pricing? Are you still working with friends and family? How’s that going for you? Chime in below and let me know.

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