Geez, I've earned 16 badges for posting my issues with TT! Imagine if they'd think for a minute to reward me with financial praise for having been hired 300 times or for having 125 5-star reviews! I even managed to earn two badges today! Shaking head...
Those are pretty awesome results. Great job!
Are you making net money after all expenses incurred to acquire and complete the jobs?
Thank you. Yes, because I'm a legit photographer offering real, quality, tangible products. Anyone doing shoot-n-burn will probably not be able to sustain the TT fees because they're making no money, offering a ton of images on a disk for a cheap fee. My standard session fee is $295 or $395 but I have to charge $150-$195 to compete with the lowball pricing of the illegal, off-the-books, shoot-n-burn amatuers. So, they just get the fee the initially put out and then walk away from the job. For me, I produce hi level quality and upsell on prints, books, albums, wall art, etc. Their session comes with some images, but they virtually always spend more than the initial price. If they only spent the initial amount, I couldn't sustain it because the first $150 of ever session goes right to overhead (which the amatuers don't have). So, my ROI is actaully extremely good, but the changes this year cut into my profits by $9000 because of the cuts I had to make to compete on price to win the jobs.
That is great that you can still make it with the TT system. We can not in our area due to personal choice and the high number of low cost photographers competing. We have been shooting for 20 years and a couple of thousand shoots. We have evolved into a studio specialization in the past 5 years. We offer two packages now $200 & $300. Each includes the shoot with 2 photographers (different gear for perspective), a set number of images, and prints in a photo album. The "uberization" of our industry and lowering of the cost of quality gear has brought the pricing down to these rates as you have also mentioned. Formerly our shoots were $500 and $1000. We cut a lot of frills, types of shoots, overhead, etc and fixed in on the pricing/service blend required to do more volume and make a smaller profit per shoot. The TT cost increases would now exceed our net profits so we have to be on the sidelines and watch their evolution back to reality? It looks like their model is now more to service the start ups and entry level entrepreneurs that have no self marketing or customer base. Fomerly they seemed to appreciate the longer term businesses for the quality provided to the customer. I feel they will eventually have to return to that position although the revolving door for Pros may be very profitable for them? It has certainly deterorated their value to us for marketing. We were a Top Pro and now have not booked a single session through them in 2 years. I liked the quoting process several years back but we stay so busy that I do not want to wholesale bid on everything because we can easily get into an overload situation and then our quality drops. We have found our niche and have downsized our operation from a headcount of 12 to now only 3. It works for us. We too offer quality for a competitive price. That has always been a good formula to stay booked.
The TT model depersonalizes the booking. We acheive a 90% hit ratio on quotes that convert to orders with our own direct marketing but a very, very, low percetage with the TT quoting model.
I do think Thumbtack has a good opportunity to be a great service to the Pros & Customers "if" they keep the eye on the ball and realize the full business cycle is important and should be fulfilled by quality Pros for a good long term strategy.
I am not sure we will ever return to working to build that partnership just because of our positioning. We are only interested in relationships where we can depend on consisitancy. We are simpy too busy to try to keep up with and understand the constant radical changes to their business model.
It is good you have found how you can use the TT system to benefit your business bottom line. And you are obviously a business others can learn from. Keep up the good work. Thanks for your response.
We're all competing on TT with the other 14 locals. So I slashed my session price from $295 and $395 to $150 or $195 and sure, that's a $150 loss per session. However, the Universe happened to prep me for this. In January, I decided to increase my prices. So, although I'm losing the sitting fees, I am managing to make up a lot of that in image sales later, above and beyond the loss. I was just examiming my numbers today to see where I am on target for the year. I had been down $9000 from last year from sitting fee losses. I actually had a 3 month explosion of sales and managed to make significant progress to recoup the loss and put myself on track to equal this year, what I did last year. Very disappointing still, though, because each year I've done $10k - $20k more than the previous year, so that means no growth this year. That's better than a loss, but I've got 2 months left to kick butt and try to push the #s higher!
Another thing I did this year was add a line of high end albums. I was doing books and glorified books as albums, but now I'm doing a premium album line. They're gorgeous. I made a sample album of my work with about 50 pages, and it's bound in Italian leather with silver page guilding and it weighs a few pounds! LOL! It's really impressive, and I put in on the couch for every selection appointment, so they have to pick it up and move it, and feel its weight! LOL! It starts a conversation! LOL! I've sold several of them this year, ranging from $2000 - $3500 each. And no, they're not just for weddings because not a single one of them was from a wedding job! LOL!
I also have cardboard cutouts of standard print sizing: 11x14, 16x20, 24x30. The 11x14 stands pretty short in front of them. This year, I took the 8x10 and shoved it behind the stack so it doesn't even show. I've now sold many more of the other sizes. I sold several 24x30s, which I'd pretty much not sold at all before.
I'm surprised you're saying it's been 2 years since you stopped bidding. This year is where the huge damage came in with pitting us against 14 others on every bid, where it used to be a max of five, but often there were only 1 or 2 others. Sometimes I'd be the only bidder! You're right though.... it was two years ago that they initially doubled the price from where it had been. That didn't hurt me and my biz grew despite it.
That's great that you have other sources of leads, since you can't get this to work here. For me, at least, I've got a home studio, so that keeps my overhead lower, but I still need to cover $150 per session in overhead. So, unless they buy extra, I'm at a break even on cost, but still out 20-25 hours of start-to-finish labor that I don't get to earn. I've definitely got to grow my biz bigger to cover my cost of living. Mine is only 4 yrs old. It's time for me to start thriving instead of just surviving!
Are you direct marketing to your own database, or to an outside market? What do find the most success with?
Nice talking to you!
We traveled nationally for about five years with named entertainers. We shot about 500 shows. Prior to that we shot automobile racing for another 5 years again with extensive travel and comparable number of races. We still shoot a fair amount of high visibility events such as a recent 1000 police officer luncheon with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as guest speaker, etc. Being in the business this long and shooting these types of prestigeous events allows us to stay busy without marketing very much anymore. We shot model photography in and around our named entertainers. So really ours is word of mouth referrals as our best marketing. We could not get this positioning nor could anyone else, today, as we started and pioneered the digital camera technology in the 1997 time frame. We used a 12 man crew and shot major events and built client websites from the events. There were only a handful of photographers in the digital sphere at that time placing us in high demand. A couple of other bleeding edge technologies where we were blessed to be involved was shooting into bright stage lighting while shooting the entertainers and we were one of the first companies to shoot and build panoramic tours for residential and commercial real estate applications. We shot several hundred pano tours early on as a dispatch photography firm. For the past five years we have focused on our in studio vertical and have shot about 600 or so boudoir shoots. Word of mouth is critical for this vertical and has allowed us to be busy and selective with our clientele. That is why we evaluated each TT bid and it's value to us. When it became no longer attractive we stopped and did not really miss it. We do still watch it and will try TT again if and when they get their act together and make it advantageous for us again. In the interim we will forfeit the bid opportunities to those trying to build their business. Great talking with you too.
Very cool! Nicely done. Yes, I can easily see why you don't need TT and how you can get business elsewhere without it. That's very fortunate for you. Thanks for sharing!
I agree that all of us had to create some strategies here. But, what I am noticing more and more is that pros that are contacted aren,t even responding.
That will run potential clients off. Whether we like it or not, when a client makes a request other than availability (why else would you quote) you have to respond. You are overcharged already, nothing new lost for a response. We can complain all day about rates, but worse is the lack of pro response to the client. TT is wrong for high rates, but as pros we can't compound the problem with lack of response!
TT has a present for you, a rate increase. TT is like the ebay of jobs. you have to lower your prices because the next guy/gal is selling what you are for cheaper, well it may even be of lesser quality than what you are selling, but they are bringing your prices down. There is no real distinction between quality on TT. My suggestion is to make a nice website and promote it, and try Angie's List .
You're right about all of that except the quality part. My quality stands head and shoulders above my "competition" on TT. And yes, I've had to slash my rates 50-75% to compete with this inane 15 quotes system, but I didn't slash the quality. I raised my prices on the other end to make up the difference, and I added a line of gorgous premium albums.