Are mini sessions KILLING your business? I’m sure many of you just read that title and thought “Oh no she didn’t just go there!” LOL Yep, we’re going there! But in a positive way! And then I’m sure the other half of y’all thought “but wait, hasn’t she done them before too?” Yes I have! And I continue to do them with my own personal spin on it…but I don’t advertise them as minis! I’m talking today about mini sessions that I call painfully discounted. Because it literally pains me when I see photographers busting their rumps for a little bit of pocket change & are left wondering why things aren’t working.
Mini sessions are often described as shorter, discounted sessions that are offered by photographers throughout the year. The most common time to offer them is during a holiday when a parent might not need that many images of their child dressed up for Valentine’s or Easter or Christmas. They just need a few good ones & they’re good to go! Another most common time they’re offered is when someone new is starting out & they’re trying to build a client base. And, real talk, a third even more common reason they’re offered is because the person needs a bill paid or wants a new lense & think it’s an easy way to make some quick cash.
Minis are anything but quick & easy! They’re time consuming & physically/mentally draining! Let’s do a quick breakdown! When I see posts online from photographers boasting how they started at 8am and finished at 6pm & shot at least 30 families & had a successful day, my brain & body is exhausted for them just READING that! I want to drink a glass of wine for them! Heck, maybe even take a shot of whiskey instead! LOL
If that person charged, let’s say an average of $50 a session, they made $1500 for 10 hours of GRUELING work! And they still have to go home, cull, edit & deliver those images to those 30 families! Not to mention pay taxes out of that money, pay for a location rental fee if any AND pay for any of the props/furniture bought for the sessions. So that quick $1500 slowly starts to dwindle into nothing. And then they get stuck in the rat race of doing this over & over & over trying to grow their client base because they’re NOT booking clients on the regular who will pay their full prices. We haven’t even mentioned the stress that goes into finding a location & worrying about weather! That’s a whole other post in itself!
So if you’re trying to use mini sessions to grow your business I’ve got 3 quick reasons why they might be KILLING your business.
- The set ups involved to do a theme costs you money. If you’re outdoors, parents come anticipating a set up similiar to a studio setup. So you go crazy buying all kinds of props, decor, furniture. Items you may never use again or be able to resell. If you’re just starting out, you might not have those kinds of funds to allot for this. And if you’re charging $50–75 for a session, then you more than likely didn’t make much of a profit when you were done.
TAKEAWAY LESSON: Stop & think before you go prop crazy & into debt!
- Discounts attract people who love a good deal & nothing more. Which means it’s highly unlikely they’ll come back to you & pay full price for a regular session. If you’re wondering why you’re not finding your ideal clients or why no one books a regular session it may be because you offer minis too often (or too cheap) & that’s what people wait for. You may get one family that will come back as a regular out of every 20 families you shoot during a mini day.
TAKEAWAY LESSON: Always think about your ideal client & who you’re trying to attract as repeat clients!
- You can’t give clients your personal, one on one attention during a mini session. You’re pressed for time & when their slot is finished it’s time for the next family. So you can’t spend time chatting with them when they’re done. If they’re a new client & you’ve never worked with them before (or if they’ve never had pictures done before), it might leave them feeling pretty crummy afterwards leaving them thinking “Were we not good enough? Did he/she like us? Was our family horrible? I bet the pictures are so bad.” Since they wouldn’t realize they’re not getting the full client experience like they would when booking a regular session.
TAKEAWAY LESSON: Clients pay you not only for your talent, but for your personal time & attention. You can’t give that to them when people are being shuttled in and out like cattle every 10–15 minutes in an hour.
Now, do I think minis can’t ever be profitable?! Not at all! They can be extremely profitable when planned accordingly. I think it’s much wiser & makes more sense to already have an established client base before offering them. You’re current clients are your ideal clients & already know & pay what you charge for a full session. So it’s like an added bonus/special treat for them when they’re able to get a smaller session once a year!
And when you do that you’re then able to charge half of what a regular session would cost. So if you charge $400 for a session, clients could expect to pay $175–200 for a mini session. So using from the example above…you would only have to offer 9 mini sessions at $175 to make the around the same amount(actually a little more) another photographer makes shooting THIRTY mini sessions at $50 per session. And since the majority of your clients will be the ones booking those, they have already worked with you one on one & know you personally. Therefore, they won’t take offense when you can’t stop & chat with them after their session.
So if you’re just starting out or you’ve found yourself stuck in the rat race I highly encourage you to STOP, sit down & write things out on paper. Look at it in black & white & see how you can make a true profit before you look at a calendar 3 days before Easter & think “OMG I need money, let me throw out a mini day & see if anyone books!” You’ll thank yourself later in the long run!
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