If there's one phrase that can make an entire crowd of freelancers and small businesses cringe, it's; "doesn't cost an arm and a leg." And it does, regardless of field, practice or service. That phrase sends us all spiraling back to every time we've come across an "in search of" post on a yard sale site, every time we've been ghosted once a quote or pricing sheet has been sent over and every time we've been asked to work for exposure.
But why is this common phrase so wildly used and so wildly hated? In short, the saying basically means, "isn't expensive." But what deems something "expensive?" That is a completely subjective topic. For example, I am happy to shell out hundreds of dollars for pictures and prints, no problem. But the second I walk into a store and see a pair of jeans for $100 I'm going to politely decline when the sales person asks if I want a fitting room. But what's wrong with the jeans? For all I know they are the best darn jeans ever made that will fit me exactly right and I'll feel like a million bucks - who's to say I wouldn't love them if I tried them on? But what stops me is the price tag. And that's ok. We all have different budgets and levels of value we put on things. But what I'm not going to do is tell everyone how this store charges $323,090 (the going rate for an arm and a leg on the black market.) Especially when I know $100 isn't that expensive for a pair of jeans.
Being a small business owner, familiar with the pricing side of things, I have a better understanding of what goes into determining cost than the consumer. About the time Jones was born I decided that I wanted to be paid for my time instead of working for pennies and barely breaking even at the end of every year. I sat down and figured out what it was costing me to run my business every year and then added what I wanted to make hourly. That's how I got my prices. It's not some scheme to trick you out of your hard earned money, it's simply what it takes me to run my business and be profitable. I had to figure out what was worth it for me to be away from my family. So when I hear or read someone saying, "looking for a photographer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg." It stings - at first. When you first up your prices to what you're worth and see potential clients leave left and right, it cuts deep, until you realize that I'd rather not get paid and not get the job to spend time with my family than to run myself ragged and still not see my family.
But there has to be some common ground, right? Going back to my jeans analogy, am I just not going to ever wear jeans because that one store has them for $100? No, that's ridiculous.
Here's what you need to say:
"I'm looking for a photographer that fits in my budget of X"
"looking for a pair of jeans under x"
"What is the average cost to get something printed that is x and x size?"
See? All of the sudden your very vague and subjective approach of "not costing an arm and a leg" has changed to something that will fit your needs and your budget without offending every small business owner friend you have. Because what may seem like a cheap photoshoot cost for me may be edging on the line of "arm and a leg" to you. But by being clear and giving parameters to what you're looking for - or even asking what to expect, everybody walks away happy.
So, the next time you're crowd sourcing for a photographer, plumber, electrician, whatever, just remember that our prices our our prices so that we can stay in business. They may not fit within your budget, and that's ok. Find ways to reword what you're looking for. In doing so, you'll get a much better and tailored to your needs group of answers.