No, not photographic competition, REAL competition, you know, other photographers?

I read blogs.  I read websites.  I read forums.  I even read Facebook….. sometimes.  I hear the griping, the moaning, the whining.  It’s nearly unbearable.  I hear how this one lost a customer over price or that one did, or how low priced this phtographer is or that one.  I hear the words, “true professional” thrown around a lot too.

Here’s what I hear:  Entitlement

On both sides.

I hate to break it to you folks, but this is the United States.  Anyone can own a business and price their services however they see fit, so long as they don’t break any laws.  While you might think another is too high, or too low, the reality is, they might think the opposite of you!  And guess what?  It’s ok to think that, but keep it to yourself since neither of you are wrong.

We have a little thing in this country called Capitalism.

     Definition of CAPITALISM   

: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

It means the customers drive our industry, and all industries.  It means the people decide where to spend their money.  It means the companies can either please the people or go out of business.  It also means that you have as much right to charge YOUR price as that guy down the street who you think is undercharging. 
It also brings responsibility.  We, as business owners are responsible to educate ourselves and the general public about WHY our service is better if we don’t wish to compete on price.  Not the other way around.  You can’t blame a consumer for seeking a good price, it’s built into our economic mindset.  We’ve been trained to seek out the best price.  As Americans we also believe we are entitled to the best quality and service, along with the best price, but that’s a longer story. 
Here’s where it gets tricky.  Those words, “True Professional”.  You see, in Florida, and in Tampa, where I live and work, all you need to be a “True Professional”, is a business license and a sales tax certificate.  Experience, talent, creativity, ethics, morals, personality, and charisma are optional.  According to the rules of capitalism, with those two items, you can conduct legal business, selling your products and services at whatever price you choose.  Heck, you can give it away if you really wanted to.  Etchical?  ehh…. Practical?  Not a chance.  But…. you have the RIGHT to do it.  When we begin to tell someone they “can’t do that” or “shouldn’t charge so little” or “so much”, we are headed down a slippery slope.  Every time a rule stops someone from doing something, it stops all of us.  Make enough rules, and we all lose because we can’t function as businesses.  Make enough rules, and we lose the idea behind Capitalism.
What do I suggest?
Glad you asked.
Be better.  Take the high road.  There will ALWAYS be businesses out there doing things we deem as “wrong”, but unless they are breaking the law, not much we can do.  It’s like swimming up a waterfall, you might get there, but you’ll take a heck of a beating on the way.  Yeah, I know, the American Way is to take on “The Man” as one little person and win.  But…. what would you really win if the Government were allowed to tell us how we should price our services?  I’d rather the freedom, thank you very much.
Now…..Next time you lose a customer based on price, take a good look at the situation.  Did they come in your door dreaming of being able to afford you, knowing full well they can’t?  Do they truly not know the difference between good photography and bad?  (more common than we care to admit)  Did you NOT educate them properly about what sets YOU apart?  Or…..Do you possibly charge too much for what you have to offer?  Tough questions, but…. learn the answers and maybe next time you either won’t be wasting time on a client that can in no way hire you or….. you gain a new client.  It’s a win-win situation.
In summation, don’t blame everyone, don’t criticize, simply look at yourself, and be better than them that you think are wrong.  The people will decide.