7 Tips for Setting Profitable Dog Sport Photography Pricing

A screenshot of my Barking Dog Images dog sport photography event price list

Dog sport photographers – did you set your pricing based off of what another photographer was charging?

I did when I first started!

I would also guess that you don’t know exactly many hours you spent working on your last dog sport event photos and what you earned per hour.

I see this all the time. Maybe you’re just starting out in dog sport photography as a hobby or side hustle, so earning profitable wages isn’t at the forefront of your mind. Maybe you are scared to even charge for your work.

But, when so many aren’t taking the dog sport photography industry seriously, it perpetuates those low prices.

You might make excuses like “it didn’t take me that long to shoot each dog” or “I was there anyway with my dog so I shouldn’t be charging that much.” Then at the same time, I see people posting in Facebook groups saying things like, “does anyone actually make a full-time salary off of this?” (it’s me, hi, I do!)

I think it’s something that people just don’t really know how to calculate. They just let the market guide them rather than actually having a reasoning for their dog sport photography pricing.

The problem with looking at other businesses’ dog sport photography pricing is that their numbers and value are different than your numbers and the value you are providing (that is… if the other photographer even knows their numbers!)

I also think that we have been trained to have a negative mindset about money. You might think of profits or money as “icky” or “wrong” instead of wanting to earn well-deserved wages for your work. In reality, money does not have emotional value – it is a tool that gets exchanged in daily life to provide for our needs, and all work should be fairly paid. (Stay tuned for some content on money mindset in the future).

Here are 7 tips for setting yourself up to be profitable with your dog sport event photography business this year, whether you shoot agility, dock diving, FastCAT, dog disc or frisbee, scent work, barn hunt… any dog sport you can dream of!

If you are just starting out, also check out my Guide to Starting your Dog Sport Photography Business!

1. Understand your Cost of Doing Business (CODB)

An important factor to consider when setting your dog sport photography pricing is understanding your cost of doing business.

Let’s break this down into two components – fixed costs and variable costs.

Fixed costs are recurring expenses that are not influenced by the number of dog events you attend or images you shoot. These include business licenses, website hosting, business insurance, editing software subscriptions, new gear, and your salary (see #2).

Variable costs, on the other hand, are incurred per event or per photo session. These include travel expenses, equipment rental, costs related to prints or physical products, and additional services like extra editing.

Action steps:

  • List all fixed costs associated with running your dog sport photography business.
  • Break down variable costs per event, including equipment rentals, travel fees, second shooters, and other event-specific expenses.
  • Check out this CODB calculator to help you visualize your numbers.

2. Include your Salary in your Dog Sport Photography Pricing

Paying oneself often takes a back seat in the world of dog sport event photography, but why? Photographers deserve to be paid for their working hours just like any other industry.

Low revenues and the unsustainable “spray and pray” model quickly leads to burnout and closing down your photography business.

There are SO many dog sport photographers who I see charging ridiculously low rates, spending way too much time, and frustrating their clients, only to shut their business down after one or two years.

Let’s end that and build your dog sport photography pricing to be a part of a sustainable business model. Your goal salary should be included in your fixed costs. Do this before moving on so that you are accurately setting prices based on paying yourself.

Action steps:

  • Determine the salary you aim to achieve for this year.
  • Add that salary into your fixed costs for your business.
  • Acknowledge that paying yourself is an investing in the longevity and sustainability of your photography business.

3. Calculate your Available Hours and Time Spent on Each Event

Understanding your available working hours, accounting for breaks and time off, and calculating the time spent on each event are essential steps in achieving a realistic and attainable schedule.

You cannot expect to work every single weekend of the year, even if you COULD book 52 events. At some point, you will get sick or need a break.

You also need to account for the time you want to spend working on your business (e.g., overhead time) each week that is not related to any event.

In order to do this calculation, you also need to know exactly how long it takes for you to complete the photography for a dog sport event from start (e.g., contacting the event and marketing) to finish (e.g., posting all photos and completing all orders).

If you don’t know that number – I recommend you start tracking your time NOW!

Try a Google Chrome attachment like Toggl to see what is really happening in your day to day work hours.

Action Steps:

  • Define the number of hours you want to work per week and the weeks you plan to work in a year.
  • Calculate the time required for each event, considering pre-event preparations, shooting hours, and post-event work. Use a tool like Toggl if you don’t know.
  • Determine the number of events you can realistically undertake in a year based on available hours (don’t forget to subtract overhead time).

4. Determine your Event Sales Goal and Per Person Sales Goal

Now that you know exactly how many events you are going to take on this year, based on how many hours you have available to work, you can calculate what you need to earn per event to cover your CODB (including your salary).

I call this your Event Sales Goal.

You can also decide what the average sale per person should be at your shows, depending on how many attendees the dog sport events you cover typically have.

I call this your Per Person Sales Goal or just Sales Goal.

Action Steps:

  • Multiple each of your variable costs by the number of events you aim to cover. Add together your fixed costs and variable costs.
  • Divide the total by the number of events you plan to cover. This is your Event Sales Goal.
  • Divide the Event Sales Goal by the typical number of purchasers you have at your events. This is your Per Person Sales Goal.

5. Collect and Analyze Past Event Sales Data

Now that you’ve established the foundational aspects of understanding your cost of doing business and setting your goals for your dog sport photography pricing, it’s time to delve into the wealth of information hidden in your past event sales data.

I use Airtable but you can use any spreadsheet or organizational tool to categorize your sales data and track key metrics like whether each handler has signed up for email notifications, has viewed the album, has created a favorites list, and most importantly – if and what they purchased.

Action Steps:

  • Learn what percentage of handlers buy photos from you at each event, and if there are any trends you can discover related to the sport, environment, time of year, venue, etc.
  • Examine the average sale per person, revenue, and cost of goods sold for each event.
  • Identify patterns in what packages or products are popular among your customers in your current dog sport photography pricing.

5. Make your Goal Sale Easy to Buy

Understanding your goal sale for each event and each customer is the cornerstone of effective dog sport photography pricing.

Earlier, we calculated your Per Personal Sales Goal. On your price sheet, I call this your Anchor Price.

Now that you know your anchor price, you might need to help your client get to that goal by understanding their mindset and a little bit of psychology. Your anchor price should be the most enticing item on your price list, and typically is somewhere in the “middle” of your offerings (our brains love the middle!).

For example, if handlers at your dog agility events typically buy seven images from you, offer tiered pricing or packages to encourage them to increase their purchase to of ten images, which in this example would be hitting your goal anchor price. Our brains are always looking for a deal!

But beware – keep dog sport photography pricing options simple to avoid decision paralysis, which might lead to abandoned carts and no sales.

Action Steps:

  • Examine your pricing structure from the shoes of your customer. What are you encouraging them to buy? Is it your Anchor Price?
  • Make sure that you don’t have too many options that creates decision paralysis, and the dog sport photography pricing structure should make “sense”.
  • Have a friend or family member take a look at your dog sport photography pricing list and give you feedback and what they would be most prone to purchase.

6. More Work = Higher Price

As a dog sport event photographer, even if you are mostly selling digitals, your dog sport photography pricing should reflect the time and effort invested in each image.

Take a look at each of the items on your dog sport photography pricing list and determine the hours and cost (if it is a physical product) that you invest from start to finish to get that product to the customer.

Using your Cost of Doing Business you calculated above, you should be able to accurately price the items in a way to keep them profitable for you. If you can’t, ditch them from the list!

I’m looking at you, dog sport event photographers who do hours of retouching for no extra cost!

Action Steps:

  • Examine your dog sport photography pricing list to make sure the hours spent on editing and additional retouching are included.
  • Factor in the cost of goods sold for physical products, including design time and client back and forth.
  • Remove items from your price list that are not profitable.

7. Experiment and Collect Data

The world of dog sport photography pricing is dynamic, and what works for one event, one photographer, one region, or one dog sport might need adjustments for another.

The beauty of owning our own businesses is that we can change as often as we like (just try not to confuse repeat customers!).

I encourage you to experiment with different dog sport photography pricing strategies and collect data to refine your approach, and please share with me when you hit something that works!

Action Steps:

  • Conduct A/B tests by varying dog sport photography pricing structures or incentives between similar events.
  • Collect and analyze data from each event to understand the impact of pricing changes on sales and revenue.
  • Never stop collecting data, and re-evaluate yourdog sport photography pricing and CODB at least once per year.

Pricing is an Art… Just Like your Photography

In conclusion, mastering the art of setting profitable event prices as a dog sport event photographer involves a understanding of a few things.

First, you should know your Cost of Doing Business (CODB) and incorporating your salary into your dog sport photography pricing. This foundation is crucial for establishing realistic and attainable financial goals for each event.

Then, we explored the importance of calculating available hours and time spent on each event. Next, we discussed the necessity of collecting and analyzing past event sales data. Tools like Airtable can be useful for organizing information, tracking key metrics, and identifying patterns that unveil client preferences.

Next, we discussed how to shape your pricing to reach your goal sales. Implementing tiered pricing, packages, and incentives simplifies the purchasing process for clients while strategically encouraging them to increase their spend, ultimately contributing to your overall profitability.

We discussed the importance of valuing your time and expertise. Whether it’s editing images or paying for physical products, your dog sport photography pricing should reflect the effort invested and the value provided to clients.

Finally, we emphasized the need to experiment and collect data continuously. The world of dog sport photography pricing is dynamic, and what works for one event or sport may require adjustments for another. By conducting A/B tests and analyzing data you can refine your pricing strategies to maximize sales and revenue.

Happy pricing! If you want more information on this topic, check out the Fetching Profits episode:

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