AdAge has an interesting commentary on how the rising gas prices are/will affect agencies and, by extension, their vendors…yous guys, as my aunt would say.
Speaking of gas prices, now would be a good time to re-evaluate your CODB and, possibly, raise your prices overall. Or, and this may be preferable as a first tactic, to raise the prices you charge for mileage. Forget about what AAA or (eek!) the IRS says about mileage rates, you need to do your own math. Don’t forget to add in things like insurance, etc., to cover you full costs of operating your vehicle. It’s probably a lot higher than you realize.
Now, if you want to avoid charging your clients mileage, especially for locals, you can do that and it may make for helping you appear more helpful and accommodating (all good); but you must cover those costs somewhere so that will mean burying those costs in your fees someplace. Don’t ignore those costs–they are a significant part of your cost of doing business and if you don’t recoup them, you’ll go out of business eventually. Think of it like a tire with a slow leak.
Someone recently posted on one of the photog forums a question about running ads on his site. I advise against that for your main sites. It just looks cheesy and desperate which pulls down your perceived value in potential clients’ minds. Sure, you can make some $$, but the trade-off isn’t worth it. However, if you have a blog, ads there are better tolerated. I’m not saying you should go out and sell space, but if you really want to, keep it limited to your blog.
This is a question I’ve been struggling with myself, as I approach the start of law school. I could use the passive income, as my active income will take a major hit during the school year (and every bit helps, of course), but it does squeeb me a bit to think of having ads on my materials. It’s like a tacit endorsement, and I’m too much of a control freak to feel comfy with that.
Still, in these difficult economic times, diversifying income streams is something smart to consider. What new products or services could you offer? Maybe working a co-op arrangement with some of your colleagues would be good–so that you each get a piece of any pie that comes in while offering a more diverse set of skills to your clients: Come to our studio and get the product and the people shot by a team of talented photographers, backed up by a great in-house post-production specialist…or something. Consider doing some consumer work, if you don’t already, or selling framed prints of your work to your corporate clients. Don’t rule anything out until you’ve given it some real thought.
Now is the time to get creative with your marketing as well. As they say, it is cheaper and easier to keep the clients you have rather than winning new ones, so why not offer something special to some of your favorite “regulars” like a phrequent photo (get it?) card–shoot 3 images and get the 4th for 50% off. Like in coffee shops–you stamp or hole-punch the card. Sound goofy? Of course–but that’s part of the concept–make it fun and goofy! Maybe make it more like frequent flyer points, with a point for each dollar spent and “prizes” for reaching different levels–make ‘em good like an iPod (engraved with your logo!!) at $10K or something; or, especially if the client can’t take gifts, make an equivalent donation to a food bank or other politically neutral charity.
The point is, in shaky economic times, it’s smart to look at the basics (like mileage costs) to make sure you aren’t “leaking” money, but don’t get so conservative that you forget to reach out there and try stuff. When everyone else is pulling back, reaching out can be just the thing to separate you from the herd.