Another reason not to give a discount

I’ve written lots about the ways in which we photographers can catch ourselves devaluing our brand. And I wrote this post about discounts and stopping a trend you’ve already set. But allow me to give you yet another reason not to say yes when asked for a discount:

When you say yes to a discount, you are sending the message to your client that they are in charge

So now you may be asking “yea, but I thought they are in charge. The customer is always right. Right?!” I’m not talking about you becoming a photography dictator. But psychologically, it’s a slippery slope to agree to devalue your products or services, even if it’s just by a few bucks.

We humans are always checking to see where we stand. One of the ways we might do this is to try a financial negotiation. When you say yes to a negotiation over your prices, what you’re saying is “you’re alpha” and it’s very difficult, or impossible, to regain control of your own business. Money is the most important part of your business relationship. And it can be the most difficult if you’re not secure in your prices. On top of that, it’s also one of the first things that comes up when establishing a relationship with your client. When you put them in charge, they won’t really know what to do next because it’s your business, not theirs. It’s a recipe for disaster in my opinion.

If you say yes, before you know it, you may not have any say in the location, style, wardrobe of your session and unfortunately, they will also expect a discount during the after-sales process because you’ve set that precedence from the get-go. And any word of mouth that comes from their business will also expect to get the deals their friend got.

When you say no, you set the expectation that you know your business inside and out. Again, this will have a subconscious effect. The effect will be that your clients will feel secure to know that you’re going to treat them well because you’re not a fly-by-night show and suddenly, money will no longer be such a big deal afterall.

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  • Bethany Mills

    Since I’m just starting out, I have a hard time keeping myself from offering discounts as a way to bring in more clients. Thank you for this post and reminder why it’s a bad idea.

  • Elizabeth

    While I rarely offer discounts for the same reasons you state, I do sometimes offer a partial refund when a client is dissatisfied (even when I disagree with their logic), just to keep them from spreading a negative review of my brand. What’s your advice in this kind of situation?

  • Lexliu Photos

    This is a very valuable article Elizabeth, thank you! What you say is so true, once you give a discount to someone, they will expect it on prints and their referrals will expect it too.

  • elizabethhalford

    That’s a fantastic question. I think I’ll blog about this next actuall thank you so much for asking it.

    In short, yes I do whatever I need in order to make unhappy people happy. However, I identified the areas where I was leaving myself vulnerable and open to unhappy clients and now that those doors are closed, I never EVER get disgruntled people. These areas are things like maintaining expectations all the way through our relationship on both money AND the look of their images. Another area is in person viewing whereby they’re seeing the images as they’re meant to be seen. No one comes back with complaints like “they’re all washed our” or “why are the photos so dark?” because I’m not allowing them to see them for the first time on their screen which may not be suitable. There are other ways, though, so I’ll get a blog post up about that soon.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for the reminder. Quick question, I have just moved into formal premises for my photography and I am working on promoting the Studio Pet Portrait side of my work. I am now worried about the vouchers I am about to print. I am offering a limited amount of time to redeem a certain about of money off of the usual session price. Should I not be doing this? What would be a better solution?

  • Amanda

    I always struggle with the pricing debate.. Some people say ‘don’t charge under xxx$ or you’re undervaluing the business’ but where I come from people are working class and can NOT afford the 250$+ session fees that most charge. I worked in a studio for years that tried to lure clients in with super cheap packages (obviously attracting clients who don’t have a lot of money to spend) and then wayyyy over charging them for anything above and beyond that. It was always disappointing watching customers walk away because they couldn’t afford it. I don’t have a studio (yet) and therefore less overhead so I inform my clients that while I charge this fee by the hour currently, it will change once I get a studio. I only offer discounts in the form of giveaways during special events and therefore have never had a disappointed customer. I do have a couple family members that think I should always be taking pictures of their kids while were on vacation.. still working on that one.. but I think if you are completely up front people understand.