Business + Marketing

Upselling Albums to Wedding Clients and Playing the Long Game

October 11, 2019

By Jai Long

© Free the Bird

Wedding photographer Jai Long set himself on a course that would let him charge a premium for wedding albums, but the beginning of this plan was pretty humbling.

When I started my wedding photography business back in 2013, I had a very clear idea of how I wanted it to fit in the world.

It’s good to start with a vision but know that it might not take off the way you imagine it, not until you’re willing to put in the hard work to build it from the start. As you may have heard before, there’s no such thing as a “get-rich-quick scheme,” and with a business in the creative industry, it’s definitely possible to generate a sizable income. But let’s be honest, there are easier ways to make money, and it’s also not the reason someone might start a business in the creative industry to begin with. How many starving artists do we have out there?

I wanted my brand to be irresistible, captivating and luxury, catering to the higher end of the market. But when you first start out, you are at the bottom of the pyramid with no street cred, a subpar portfolio and the type of clients that either don’t value photography or can’t afford the luxury of having a photographer. It’s not easy coming out of the gate as a luxury brand until you have some experience and you build the “desire” into your business.

[Six-Figure Wedding Photography: The 3 Building Blocks of Branding For Your Ideal Client]

I did this by offering a service that was better than the price tag: I gave the best experience I could on the budget I had and I always acted as if the clients were paying a premium price for my services, because I knew I would get my brand to that level if that’s where I started from.

My price when I first started out was $500 (that’s Australian dollars) for a full-day wedding, and I would upsell an album for $300. I would go to the ends of the earth to make sure every client was praising my services and spreading the word like wildfire.

The thing is though, I was selling albums for $300 and they cost me around $700 to manufacture, and that’s not even including all the emailing and designing I would do for each album. My photographer friends thought I was mad.

If you have a goal for the long term, you can play a longer game. I knew I had to offer the best albums I could because then I would show the albums off on social media and my website, and drive home the fact that all my clients were spending big money on albums and I was producing a finished product that was far better than what they had paid for. I also knew that I would be able to sell albums for $2,000+ in no time and that this was just the investment I was willing to make at the start to get the ball rolling.

I can tell you right now, it worked. We sell albums for $2,000+ and it really helps produce extra revenue for my business so that we can continue to provide that luxury service for years to come without getting overworked from taking on extra clients. It also means we can serve our clients with the very best and we make sure we have every upsell that my clients want, easy to purchase with no hassle. Upselling albums or anything else really creates extra value for your business.

Jai Long in his studio, looking through previous photo albums that he has created for clients.

Now, it didn’t happen overnight, of course, and it was a hard slog to lose money on each wedding. But I was willing to make the difference in extra jobs on the side or whatever it took to get my brand to where I wanted it.

Once I got a few albums through the door, shared them everywhere and created hype around them, I could finally raise my prices to cover costs and was able to sell them at a profit. The same went for my photography services. I was happy to make zero profit or even lose money in the first 12 months of business because I knew it would make life much easier down the track, when I positioned myself at a higher price point compared to my competition.

[Six-Figure Wedding Photography: Becoming a Money-Managing Master]

Just on a side note, it is much harder to compete at a lower price point because there are so many photographers fighting for work at that level. So at a higher price point, I have less competition and it is much easier for me to book work and serve my clients.

But let’s get back to upsells. If you’re not creating upsells for your clients, you’re not allowing your clients to go “shopping.” It’s like walking into a clothing store and only having one outfit you can buy with no accessories to add to the purchase. It’s simply boring for your clients and chances are, they will go elsewhere to find the services you don’t provide.

I get enquiries for wedding albums from other photographers’ clients almost every week. I even get bookings just because my clients say they wanted an album and the other photographers didn’t have what they wanted.

Now, I just want to say this: I know so many wedding photographers won’t sell albums because they don’t want to spend money on studio samples and things like that. But ask yourself these two questions:

Are you in it for the long haul?

Are you best serving your clients?

I am not saying albums are the only thing you can provide your clients, but it is much cheaper to sell an add-on to an existing client compared to acquiring a new one. 

Before you say that you don’t want to feel sales-y or you feel insecure about selling extra items, remember that your client came to you because they love you, your work and your brand. They trust you as a professional and they would love your recommendations and to know about the extra little things you offer. You are doing them an injustice by not selling them the products that you love and believe in.

Jai Long is the wedding photographer behind Free the Bird, based in Melbourne, Australia, and a Rangefinder 30 Rising Star of 2015. He hosts a podcast for photographers called Make Your Break.


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