Top 8 invoicing Tips for Photographers

Photography is an amazing profession. If one can immerse in the true art of capturing great moments of people and natural elements; photography could become a passionate, life-long obsession for any individual out there.

The photography industry consists of companies and individuals that offer a wide range of photographic services, including still photography, wedding photography, commercial photography and portrait photography. According to a recent market research conducted by IBISWorld, US’s photography industry alone generates a revenue of nearly $10 billion while providing employment for more than 200,000 individuals through more than 180,000 businesses.

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However, many photographers show a lack of interest in maintaining proper financial records of their projects — especially invoicing clients. Photography is such a demanding profession that you need to be in the right place at the right time. Many photographers on the job would care about achieving the perfect result of the assigned wedding or the product shoot, rather than worrying about creating an invoicing and billing your customer.

Those who are involved in the photography industry know that putting details in an invoice is not as pleasing as receiving a full payment for a project they have completed. However, if you provide a neat, detailed invoice, it will create a positive image of you as an organized photographer, in the mind of the client. That will also increase your chances of being hired again by the same client for a new project, as well as getting recommended for your professionalism.

Invoicing is an art that all photographers should master, for the simple reason that it can have a major impact on the success of your business as well as your profit margin. In this article, we delve into 8 important tips a photographer should follow when invoicing a client.

The workflow of a photographer

Before we get into the details, let us first list down how a photographer generally prepares for a certain project. It might be a wedding pre-shoot, a star-studded wedding or a product portfolio shoot: whatever the circumstances are, a well-defined photography workflow will make sure that you stay focused, capture the greatest stills and provide an exceptional service to your client, even in the thickest of things.

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Pre-booking

  • Upon receiving an inquiry from a potential client, respond to it by providing relevant information — this can be a printed brochure or a soft copy (preferably a PDF) that can be emailed to your client which describes the process of booking, range of services provided, style of work alongside the type of investment he or she needs to put.
  • At the same time, suggest the client to book a meeting – Use an online scheduling tool such as Google Calendar or Acuity Scheduling to make it much more convenient.
  • Fix a date to meet the client – This needs to be done as soon as possible because the same client might be inquiring for the same time slot from another photographer. Do not delay this otherwise, it might be a chance gone begging!

    Initial Meeting

  • Prepare for the meeting – a clean workspace with some tasty snacks for the client will be create a good impression of you
  • Get to know your client by asking questions – a comprehensive chat with the client will give you an idea about their expectations and how they want you to conduct their wedding or product shoot
  • Show what photography projects you have done over the years to your client
  • Discuss the pricing – tell what is included in the photography package and your work process
  • Provide them a copy of the contract – always encourage your client to read the contract carefully before signing it. Along with the contract, you can provide an estimate as well. A tool like Hiveage will let you create an estimate and get their approval online with ease.
  • A little thank-you email after the meeting – Follow-up with an email, tell them how much you enjoyed the conversation

    Booking process

  • Signing of the contract – This can be done in person or online. Make sure you collect your deposit as well.
  • Add the details of the client – add them into your database and update your calendar

    Before the shoot

  • Schedule a date for the shoot, as well as for viewing outputs of the shoot and ordering them
  • Discuss ideas – This can be done in person or using a questionnaire (hard or soft copy)
  • Select a proper location for the shoot – Make sure you get all prior approvals for selected locations before the photoshoot
  • Confirm time and location with the client
  • Prepare your camera gear and other equipment
  • Complete the photo shoot

    After the shoot

  • Send a thank you email once again
  • Share content in social media platforms (with the client’s consent) – Use a popular social platform like Facebook or a more photo sharing-centric service like 500px or Instagram, to share some of the best moments captured.
  • Sort photos and edit them
  • Pre-design the products – This will help clients get an understanding of how their products will look
  • Confirm time and date for a viewing and ordering session.
  • Let clients see the photos – A super-important step in the viewing and ordering session. Let them pick what they really like and make it a great experience for them.
  • Send a comprehensive email – this contains details about the order and a realistic timeline of the completion
  • Submit your order to the photo lab
  • Pick up the final product from the lab and package it nicely
  • Let the client know the exact date that you are going to hand over their product
  • Deliver the final product to your client

Billing methods used in the photography industry

There are three widely-used billing methods in the photography industry.

1. Time Plus Cost Method

Here, you bill your client based on the time it took you to complete the project and you also add all the direct costs incurred during the project. Some examples for direct costs are: hiring of equipment (which are not owned by you), managing subcontracts such as hiring make-up artists, colourists, models, travel expenses, and costs incurred for parking and hotel accommodation.

As a common practice, photographers charge a markup fee on top of direct costs. This is done to cover the time and effort it takes to organize services and other goods that are a direct cost to your business, and also to pay for accounting costs. If you emailed a retoucher and that entire process took you 10 minutes, the markup fee on top of the retoucher’s total cost should cover those 10 minutes.

Typically, photographers charge a 15% to 30% markup but experts in the industry recommend that photographers should use an average markup rate which would cover the entire time and effort you put for all the direct costs of a project.

2. Lump Sum Method

When you decide a single price on a specific task or a set of tasks, you call it a lump sum. This price can include direct costs of a photographer as well.

What photographers need to understand here is that they don’t have to bill an entire project for one gigantic lump sum price. In an invoice, itemize your work properly and allocate individual lump sum payments to each task.

Remember this titbit also: if you invoice a client using the lump sum method and suddenly the scope of work varies from the original plan, you can charge the extra work with the help of time plus cost method. These extra charges will come in handy if you have quoted a high hourly rate.

3. Upset Limit

Using this method, a photographer can bill a client based on time plus cost method, but up to a predefined lump sum limit. For example, if a photographer charges $200 per hour and the upset limit being set for a maximum five hours, he can only charge $1000 even if it takes him good seven hours to complete the shoot.

Top 8 tips for better photography invoicing
photographer-invoice

All these details lead to one important question: what are the top invoicing tips for photographers? We have 8 important steps that every photographer should follow when it comes to invoicing your client:

1. Make sure you include all relevant information

No photographer likes when their payments get delayed. The main reason for this to happen is sending incomplete data to your client. When you include wrong details in the invoice, clients will get confused. This might result in your invoice being rejected by the client.

Make sure that you include all the necessary details in an invoice. A detailed invoice will prevent disagreements between you and your client, and make them feel like their money is well spent.

2. Use a standard invoice template

A proper invoice template will streamline your invoices and most importantly, give a professional look to it. If you are finding it difficult to come up with a proper template, simply check out our Free Invoice Generator: this free tool has all the important elements clearly marked with detailed explanations, and you can easily generate an elegant PDF that will be emailed to you right away.

3. Opt for an online invoicing service

An online invoicing software for photographers will provides you the level of efficiency you need to generate invoices and keep track of all your financial information. It reduces your cost, saves time, and helps you to be well-organized. Hiveage is a great platform for photographers, as it will let you send invoices and estimates, accept online payments, and get detailed reports from a single easy-to-use platform.

4. Keep it professional

As a photographer, you get to know your clients really well. You were responsible for understanding precisely what they wanted; you were the one who asked the right questions and listened carefully to their answers. Through this process you probably got to know each other beyond the scope of a pure business relationship.

However, that does not mean that you are asking a friend to give you money when you send an invoice. Invoicing is strictly business. You are doing nothing more than requesting payment for services rendered and personalizing this in any way is bad for business. Even if you are in a position to know that your client has exceeded his or her budget, you can’t let it affect when you invoice them the amount requested, or when you send a follow-up reminder.

5. Act Promptly

After a project has been completed (or before you start any work, depending on the way you run your business), do not delay sending the invoice. Get it done immediately. A delayed invoice is only going to delay your payment. It will also give out the image that you’re unorganized and your clients may try to take advantage of that.

6. Create An Agreement

You don’t have to be in the business world for long to realize that some clients are rather lax about paying their invoices, and still others will disappear without paying at all. As frustrating as it is, it is simply part of the reality of doing business.

But there is one thing you can do to help yourself: get it in writing. Prior to accepting the job, give the potential client a letter of agreement that clearly states your terms. There should be nothing ambiguous or hard to understand about your expectations for payment, and the client should sign off on it before you begin the job.

7. Track all your Expenses

Tracking expenses is regarded as a pivotal step in business record keeping. From the cheeseburger you ate to the cab ride you took to meet your client, it is super important to keep track of these expenses. At the end of the day, it will reflect upon the growth of your business and assist you to build financial statements and prepare tax returns.

As a photographer, you should establish a system for organizing receipts and other important records right from the beginning. This could be done using an old school FiloFax. If you want to be more modern and systematic, use an invoicing tool like Hiveage which allows you to track all your expenses with much ease.

8. Know your taxes

You may find taxes to be very confusing but getting correct information and recording them is as important as selecting proper gear for your next photoshoot.

In the US, there are three main types of taxes — Federal Income Tax, State Income Tax and State Sales Tax. Federal Income Tax and State Income Tax are on your income. However, the State Income Tax is only required in some states. It is your responsibility to do your own withholdings and claim annually, although it’s suggested to pay estimated taxes quarterly to avoid the stress of a large bill at tax time.

According to The Modern Tog, Sales Tax collections are required in some states on session fees and mandatory in all states for products sold. This tax should be added to your prices for your clients to pay. Even if you have no clients for a taxable period, you must file a sales tax return and input zero or you can be charged a fee. Depending on the area your business resides, local sales taxes may need to be collected in addition. Additional tax information can be found in this article. If you’re not in the US, consult with your accountant to see if there are similar taxes to be collected in your country.

This article here will also help you in understanding the importance of a tax audit for photographers and different tax laws.

Conclusion

Photography demands time, consistency and unwavering commitment. This could result in both professional and freelance photographers missing out on properly invoicing their clients. Many would consider that it is just another document with some numbers but the reality is that invoicing has a major impact on the success of your business as well as your profit margin.

Invoices help you to get paid on time, track your earnings and project professionalism. To master invoicing, photographers should:

  1. Prepare detailed invoices with all relevant information
  2. Use a proper invoice template
  3. Get the assistance of an online billing software for photographers
  4. Maintain professionalism
  5. Speed up the invoicing process up after completing a project
  6. Clearly spell out your terms in an agreement
  7. Track all your expenses
  8. Get to know about taxes

Do you invoice your clients? Do you have any other tips which will make invoicing a pleasant experience for photographers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Special Note

Hiveage reached several photography experts based out of California to pick their brains out and complete this article. We take this moment to thank Anna Johnson of Blessed Wedding Photography, De’Andre and Kristina from Dee and Kris Photography and Rob Andrew of Rob Andrew Photography for the feedback they have given amidst their busy schedules.

And a very special thank you to Udi Tirosh, Editor and Chief Photography Hacker of the renowned photography blog DIY Photography, for sharing pro tips about photography.