Dear Jenna: Should I Offer Discounts?

December 11, 2016



Let’s face it, we’ve all gotten that email that asks us if we offer holiday/off-season/Sunday/dog’s birthday discounts. As a girl who loves shopping clearance racks, I get it, I love me a good sale (every once in awhile I’ll do one… in fact, only ONCE a year) but always being asked to discount your prices can be disheartening and devaluing as a creative. We already struggle with putting a price on our art, how the heck are we going to make any money if we don’t charge profitable prices?

I first would like to preface this and say that I am mostly directing this article to artists who offer a service. I’d love to back up to when I first started my career as a wedding photographer. I was fresh out of business school, had zero experience in the photography industry, and was juggling a 50+ hour a week corporate job and this new dream of mine. Deep down, I felt like a fraud. I wasn’t sure if anyone would pay me a dollar, let alone thousands of dollars to photograph them, but I never questioned the worth of my time.

“Deep down I felt like a fraud, I wasn’t sure anyone would pay me.”

“Attached are the wedding collections for the upcoming year. I want you to know that I am extremely flexible and will do whatever I need to do to fit your needs and your budget, so these by no means are rigid! Fire away an options or ideas that you may have and I am certain we can make something work!”

I literally said this in my first two years of business – I was basically telling people, “I have prices, but I’m not totally sure I am worth them, so I am inviting you to negotiate with me.” Wait? What? Yes, that is word for word what I was sending to my clients when I first started. Whew, that makes me want to throw up a little. So when, why, and how did I stop offering discounts? Let me walk you through the lessons I had to learn in order to stick to my guns. Your value doesn’t decrease because someone’s inability to see your worth. It isn’t our job to convince people we are worth it or worthy of their investment. Everyone will have budgets and priorities, that is up to them, ours are up to us. How we handle situations like this can craft the way that we are creating the life we dreamed of when we leapt into photography!

1.) Giving a lesser experience:

When I got exceptionally busy (with my negotiable prices) I realized that clients I had been offering a discount to made me feel less valued. I wasn’t as excited to work with them, my gut felt wrong, and I didn’t strive as hard to deliver the best experience possible because their discount made me feel like they didn’t really value what I had to offer.

SOLUTION: By not offering discounts, I give every single client exceptional service. I value them, they value me, and they chose me to get the full experience (not just half of it.)

2.) Understanding your worth:

When I finally broke down my hourly rate, I understood what my time was worth. In discounting my prices, I was barely making more than the fry boy at McDonalds (on a good day.) If I wanted to have a profitable business that would allow me to leave my corporate job and support our family, I had to make sure that every job I was taking was profitable and aligned with our financial goals.

SOLUTION: I ran all of my figures through my Profitable Pricing Guide (you can grab this too for free!) and broke down what my hourly shooting rate is and what my non-shooting work rate should be. It helped me have a formula to offer clients and helped me stick to my prices. When you know what you’re worth, you stop discounting!

3.) Moving towards your bigger goals:

When I realized that our jobs are “real” jobs, it made me look at how I run my business in a new light. I wouldn’t go to the dentist and ask her to discount my filling or go eat at a restaurant and ask them to give me a discount on my meal, so I needed to look at my business in a new light and stick to the prices I set that would help me reach my income goals.

SOLUTION: I crafted a response to the “discount” email question that helps outline my prices, give options of more budget friendly options (for people who I wasn’t a perfect fit for) and also explained that every client that books me gets a full experience and if I discount, I can’t offer the experience I strive to offer. Here’s the best part? People respect that! I am not for everyone, I know that and understand that! Sticking to my guns didn’t make people angry, I got respect (and I was more than willing to help them find the perfect photographer for them and their budget!)

When you say “yes” to jobs that might not be the best fit for your business, you’re actually saying “no” to everything else – like the clients willing to pay you what you’re worth, time away with your friends and family, even time to just dream again. No doesn’t have to be negative, it can be gentle and intentional! In not offering discounts, I claimed back my value. I knew that I was worth every single penny and when I found the clients who could afford to pay me for my services, I would go to the ends of the earth to give them the best experience ever.

Does this mean I am not willing to work with my clients? Absolutely not, I am willing to make things happen if they are set on working with me – but not at the expense of my time and skill. Discounts aren’t a bad thing, but as an entrepreneur, they can really affect the way you feel about your worth, your work, and how your clients value what you have to offer. Don’t price yourself emotionally, price yourself based on your income goals, your skill level, and the amount of time you want to spend working (and make sure you’re making more than the fry guy at the fast food joint!) In getting paid my rates, it allows me to bless others in big ways from donating my services, time, money to hiring other dreamers and paying them to do what they love. When you say “yes” to the right jobs, you can say “yes” to the bigger dreams on your heart. Your time, your skill, and YOU are worth it.

Still not sure? Grab my FREE Profitable Pricing Guide Freebie.



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  1. Yara Miora says:

    I am saving this post and will be re-reading this a couple of times for sure! Definitely needed to “hear” this. Thank you for sharing Jenna!


  2. Megan says:

    Yes, this exactly! I finally just took the plunge, quit my 9-5 and am now a full-time photographer! (cue happy dance) Never thought I’d be able to say those words. Do you have any advice on how one can build their clientele to live up to a new full-time title?

  3. love reading your take on this, as my other business owner friends and I are alsways discussing this….i have a business that offers an experience but i often have events/”tupperware parties” and often give a discount for incentive. what is your thoughts on this? i run a womens custom bespoke clothing business… people purchase item (jacket) and then i visit them and we design garment together and have fitting.
    would love your thoughts–so you think event discounts are ok but only at events and then not via email or website?

  4. This is such an encouraging post to me! I just started charging people for photos and at times I feel like a huge fraud!! This was just what I needed to hear and I am going to check out that pricing guide!!

  5. Spurgeon says:

    This is cool and super useful! However, I was trying to download the Profitable Pricing Guide, and it took me to the About Page cheat sheet. Is the Pricing Guide still available? Thanks so much!

  6. Mélissa says:

    I get what you’re saying but I’m a photographer (basically just starting my own business) in a developing country where the pool of clients with means to pay is smaller and where the competition seems greater (people with cameras that is)… In Haiti, sticking to your price doesn’t get your respect; in fact, it’s basically the opposite sometimes… What do I do? How do I establish myself (because giving discounts does exactly what it did to you) without loosing little amount of clients I do get?

    a desparate island gyal 😉

  7. Sokkha Va says:

    I love you Jenna. This post came into my inbox at the perfect time. I am getting inquiries from clients who want to hire me as a destination photographer but only want to pay for either my traveling expenses or collection prices…I felt defeated. But you reminded me of my worth and that I should say yes to my ideal clients!

  8. Thanks for this post! I have been working as a food photographer for 3 years now since leaving my full time job, and my first 2 years I did the same thing as you — I was always cutting my rates so I could accept every job that came my way. I got to the point where I was way too busy — and like you, I realized I wasn’t putting my heart into the work that wasn’t paying a full rate. I would think “they are getting such a good rate, I don’t have to redo this even though I’m not in love with it.” And I found I wasn’t as proud of my work as I wanted to be. Since I “fired” those clients, I have more time/energy to build the business I really want to run, and am so much happier.



Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life).  One of my favorite places to be is here, sharing what I'm learning with you. I'm glad you're here!



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