Should I Charge More for Sessions During Busy Times?

Should I Charge More for Sessions During Busy Times?

PIN - Should I Charge More for Sessions During Busy Times?Are the sessions you offer ready for prime time? The television networks run their most popular shows in the prime time evening hours between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. This isn’t by accident, they know exactly when they have the most viewers. When do you have the most potential clients?

A Popularity Contest

TV networks are very interested in ratings so they can prove to potential advertisers they have a huge audience to sell the product to. The more popular the show the more money the networks can charge. Just look at last year’s Super Bowl when 30-second commercial spots were going for up to $5 million!

When are your “prime times”?

At our studio we break our prime time spots into three different categories:

  1. Weekends. This is a time when most working families are off and available.
  2. Evenings. A majority of people work within the usual business hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  3. Holidays. These include the big ones, Christmas, Thanksgiving and other national holidays like Memorial and Labor days.

Why should I charge more?

Before I answer that, let’s make a list of other businesses and industries that commonly have “prime time” pricing we take for granted.

  1. Airlines. It costs more to fly during the holidays than it does in the middle of the summer. Why? Higher demand means higher ticket prices.
  2. Movie theaters. A matinee is always cheaper than a show in the evening.
  3. Hotels. Beachfront hotels always cost more in July than January.
  4. Restaurants. The dinner menu is always more expensive than the lunch menu.

The reason you should charge more is the same reason other businesses do: supply and demand. These are the most popular times, and therefore, they’re more valuable.

An interesting question

One question I get when I mention this is something along the lines of, “Isn’t this going to make it more difficult for clients to book?” and my answer is no. Most clients won’t even realize that the evening session costs more than a morning session unless they inquire about both. If they do, they can decide accordingly. However, I find that the evening beach sessions have nicer light and make for more beautiful images.

Pro Tip: We always want to move the conversation away from simply cost and prices to the experience and the artwork we can create for them. Keep them engaged on an emotional level by discussing how perfect the sunset is and how happy they’ll feel with their portraits.

What’s your time worth?

Like most people I prefer to work regular hours and have my evenings to myself, and that’s why I charge a bit more for an evening session. The same goes for major holidays. My family has a tradition of decorating the house for Christmas on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I enjoy having that day with my family to relax after that big Thanksgiving meal, but if a client has a family in for the holiday and they want to book a session, I will work, but it will be at the holiday rate.

Many times when offered the Friday at the higher rate or the Saturday at a lower rate, they choose the Saturday if it’s possible to have everyone there. It works for them, and I still get to enjoy my Friday family day.

Another approach

Now, with certain sessions like the evening beach session there’s no way to do these at any other time or place. But with studio sessions you can do those any time as long as the subjects are available. So how can we entice potential clients to do a studio session at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday instead of 10 a.m. on a (prime-time) Saturday?

Offer them an incentive! That’s why we have our Midweek Special.

Tuesday through Thursday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. for the younger kids, babies or newborns, we offer clients a studio session at a discounted rate in comparison to our usual studio rate.

This works for the client and us. It gives them a price break and also lets us book sessions at a time when most people aren’t available, that’s the reason it’s aimed at younger children who aren’t yet in school.

Exceptions to the Rule

Sometimes we flip the prime time idea on its head and instead offer a special built around a particular holiday. This won’t be the major holidays of Thanksgiving or Christmas but something like Labor Day. This is a good holiday because it’s the official end of summer and kids are getting ready to go back to school or leave for college, and that provides one last opportunity for potential clients to get that family portrait session they’ve put off.

Instead of premium pricing you can offer a special rate on “mini” sessions. Every year, we offer our Portraits in the Park sessions on the Labor Day weekend. (We usually don’t work on the actual Monday that we observe Labor Day unless we have a rainout on one of the scheduled days.) These are 30-minute sessions, and we usually price them between $49 to $69.

Let’s Recap

  1. Holidays, weekends and evenings are the in-demand times, and pricing reflects that.
  2. Use specials to fill the quieter times (midweek) or to entice clients who have a day off for a long holiday weekend.

Review Your Lineup

Take a look at your schedule and answer the following questions:

  1. Are you using prime time pricing or are all your sessions one price?
  2. What days and times do most of your sessions take place? Is it in prime time slots?
  3. Are you happy with the hours and days that you do most of your sessions?
  4. Can prime time pricing increase your revenue?
  5. Can prime time pricing encourage clients to book the hours you prefer to work?
  6. Are you offering specials during the non-peak hours?

Answer these questions and then decide how you can use some of these ideas to improve your cash flow and free time.