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Setting the bar too low?

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  #1  
Old 01-19-2002, 04:39 PM
Jim Conway's Avatar
Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Setting the bar too low?

Wow - I just stumbled in to this thread and was astonished at the levels of pricing!

With a son that is a partner in a law firm billing his time at nearly $400 an hour and a daughter in sales making over 120K a year, maybe I've been tricked into thinking my $85 hr. billing avg is practically giving my services away!

Leads me to wondering if most of you are doing outservice work for other studios or labs that are marking up your work or if you are working directly for your own clients???

I have a minimum charge of $129.50 for any type of retouching work (traditional or digital) plus the price of prints, negatives, etc with no complaints about pricing and (at the moment) a 54 order -$14,000+ work backlog. In case anyone is wondering, there is plenty of (the typical) competition in this area.

Reminds me of the old sales joke about the chicken farmer - guy is having trouble in the hen house with too little product and no amount of lectures or incentives seem to work - then he takes a trip to Australia - comes back with an Ostrich egg - takes it into the hen house and say's hey look guys I just want you to see how the others are doing this!

Any questions that I can answer here I'll be glad to provide details.

Jim Conway

Last edited by Jim Conway; 01-19-2002 at 04:48 PM.
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Old 01-19-2002, 04:58 PM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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That comes out to about 54 $260 jobs...what does $260 get one of your clients? Is that 54 clients?
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Old 01-19-2002, 06:13 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Jim,
It's good to hear about your success.
I do have a couple of questions.....
1. What sort of advertising to you do, if any?
2. Who is your "typical" client?
3. Location, location, location. Where are you situated within your area?
4. What brings you here?

Thanks,
Vikki

BTW: The cover photo on your website is extraordinary!!

Last edited by Vikki; 01-19-2002 at 06:18 PM.
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Old 01-19-2002, 06:39 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Last question first? I'm at the end of my career (age is catching up with me) and "taking the library with me" so to speak is not my style. If young people are turned off by the idea that there is no money in the business, millions of photos will self-destruct for no reason other than the lack of interest in the business.

In brief our sales system involves inquires from yellow pages (card size ads) ... the phone callers are ask a simple question for openers - "Are you lookling for museum quality work?" and the followup conversation will be according to their response.

We offer to send our "Inquiry packet" and generally send out 40 to 50 a month. The information content includes sheets on emergency handling, newspaper columns I've written, the how's and why's of our copies processes (we make 4x5 negs on everything with 200 yr + life exp. How a copy can be better than the original - things like that. In other words proof that we are pros. I use single sheets because we know that they will keep some of the literature with their photo collection.

Over 50% of the inquiries will order within six months. (most are in no rush to judgement here and some don't respond for several years!!)

Our typical clients are in the 50 and over age group, just ordinary people. I'm talking here about our bread and butter restoration work, not the "Conservator" or consulting part of the business. (that's a separate subject that belongs in other forums like Conservation online or the Photo History group))

to be continued ...
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Old 01-19-2002, 07:47 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Doug Nelson
That comes out to about 54 $260 jobs...what does $260 get one of your clients? Is that 54 clients?
I just looked - one client has 7 orders from an "inherited" collection in here now, the rest are all singles or negs for reorders so they go as low as $11.90 for a single 5x7 RC reprint to as high as $1,200. I think to answer your question though, we have a list of around 1,700 clients (built up over the years)that we still consider as "active" contacts.

For the $260? hard question to answer! Starts with my cleaning your original and making a 4x5 negative for $14.95. If we scan for retouching or printing it will be from that negative not the original (I can do a lot to eliminate any flaws with pre-copy work, cleaning, etc. plus contrast control in making the neg) BTW - That neg is a great selling point! Obviously, the human readable aspect and the idea that it will last for centuries are features that are powerful tools when it comes to separating us from the pack.

RC work prints are used for tradition retouching. Finished work copied again on to 4x5 film. If we go to computer for retouching (in whole or in part), we run the finished job back onto 4x5 (film recorder) for the customers so they will have a negative of the final for their archives - so all roads here lead to Rome - collection longevity of at least 150 years or more using time tested methods.

Retouching runs $85 an hour and up depending on the complexity. If I think I'm the only one in the world that would attempt to do it (chemical restorations fit in here) or the customer has had the work done elsewhere and didn't like the results, I price it up accordingly. I will give a firm estimate in advance and if I can't calculate it for some reason (testing needed), I add a small charge to the negative price for making a proof before a final price is set.

B&W prints start at $17.50 for 8x10 RC (no guarantee of life expectency on RC but we do selenium tone them) twice that price for long life fiber base ...and we do photo oil colorings, paintings - any type of recreation the customer wants - even tintypes or Dags - so prints can run quite high. The best single order to date was over $11,500 for four heavy oils. Disaster recovery jobs (if covered by insurance) can involve sheets of orders to separate them into like classifications for working so I use a master order for those. None in process at the moment.

I'm just starting to offer digital color prints, conversions of collections to DVD's and other computer related products and have no idea if we will have any market for it or not. Stay tuned - If I can learn a fraction of what most of you already know, it may add to my income but so far, my "digital" additions are proving to be expensive lessons in how to try to make pigmented inks go though printers designed for dyes!

Jim Conway
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Old 01-19-2002, 08:12 PM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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Jim,

It sounds as though you have a very interesting business. Better watch out! We'll be out to pick your brain! I checked out your web site too. Very professional.

Ed
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Old 01-19-2002, 09:21 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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If there is anything I can suggest that might help someone here double their income, I'm ok with that.

The web site being very limited is designed with the same purpose in mind as a yellow page ad - one job only, to bring in inquiries.

I see many sites that post prices and page after page of photos - an approach I feel can work against you. Your prospects can't relate to the photos, only your skill level (sell the sizzle not the steak) and, more often than not, if you give them that chance, they will make a decision to call or not to call you based on price without even bothering to explore the details.

Jim Conway
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Old 01-19-2002, 09:40 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Jim,
Thanks for the information.
Since I feel that my site fits the profile you just mentioned, I have a couple more questions.
Quote:
Your prospects can't relate to the photos, only your skill level (sell the sizzle not the steak)
What do you mean by that?
(Although, I agree that I may have gone overboard on the number of examples on my site.)
I see your point about posting prices, but I find it irritating when places don't list prices. I'm on the fence on this one.
Vikki
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Old 01-19-2002, 10:29 PM
Jill Jill is offline
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Question

Hello Jim,
I am curious...Does your company do mainly traditional darkroom work? Are you using Photoshop to do your restoration?

If you scroll around this site I am sure you can find out all sorts of information on using pigmented ink, this is a great site for those questions, believe me...I ask them all!

Last edited by Jill; 01-19-2002 at 11:20 PM.
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  #10  
Old 01-20-2002, 03:19 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Selling the sizzle

Elmer Wheeler, the greatest salesman of the last century coined the expression and it became a staple in marketing and management. The "sizzle" idea is to present the benefits ... I show you an open door and invite you in - I do not make you walk around the outside of the house and give you a floor plan that you have to learn before I invite you in! Most people do not care to get deeply involved in your business - so don't explain it ...just give them the benefits. You can explain the "how" later when the are receptive to you and want to hear it.

We clean the customers originals at no extra charge - a simple thing to say on the phone. I don't explain how - or that I'm an expert in such things - just tell them we do it. They say "great" and seldom ask for an explanation but if they do, (because So and So studio parroted the oxymoron that they do copy work but don't touch the original) we explain it like this - "Like a window pane that hasn't been cleaned in a century, there is a layer of grime on most old photos that have been on display from the coal or oil furnaces, smokers, gas lights and other atmospheric pollutants. It needs to be removed - and the only other option is to copy it dirt and all!" "Have you ever heard of an Art Conservator that doesn't clean paintings or a Paper Conservator that can't clean papers?" Then comes the proof - we show them the filthy cotton balls when we deliver the work. (more sizzle - see what we did for you!)

Some of you may want to take a course in chemistry and learn more about photo materials to sell with this particular "sizzle". That would take about half the time that it did to become proficient with Photo Shop. Is it necessary? If you are handling old photos as a professional I think it is - but that's a different subject - I used it here to illustrate a sales point, nothing else.

There are many other things you can do that require no extra effort - for example we deliver our orders in white custom printed boxes. (Nordstrom's type thinking here) There is an inch of foam top and bottom to protect the photos and on the top next to our logo a 3" gold seal sticker - "Guaranteed to meet ANSI processing standards for archival processing" A "warning" is also printed on the box stating it is reusable for shipping but not suitable for photo storage. Inserts include a return label -more literature and reprints on things like "How to care for your negatives" - "How to protect your photos in your Will" and other single sheets.

If people want extra boxes to mail photos to relatives we give them whatever they need. You can guess - our orders come in from all over the country from the best source possible - recommendations from our clients to their contacts. We made life a little easier for them by giving them a box and are rewarded a hundred times over -.that's the value in "selling the sizzle".
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