The Wedding CEO: Photography Podcast

How Michaella Used Our Pricing Formula to Charge Luxury Prices

November 02, 2023 Alora Rachelle
The Wedding CEO: Photography Podcast
How Michaella Used Our Pricing Formula to Charge Luxury Prices
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready to push through the glass ceiling of pricing in your wedding photography business? 

Our episode today is a talk with Michaella, who shares her transformative journey from struggling to charge above $3K to dominating the mid-luxury market. She opened up about the pricing mindset shift that helped her value her time and work appropriately. 

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✨ My Favorite Things ✨

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Wedding CEO podcast, where we discuss all things marketing, sales and scaling so you can become the CEO of your life and business. I'm Elora Rochelle and I've been a wedding photographer for over a decade and now I'm sharing all of my secrets so you can stop sacrificing your time and make more money like a CEO. I'm so excited to have one of my first alumni from the Wedding CEO will be launched in 2022. Oh gee, and I'm so excited to have her back for like a third time. I think we talked about how you hit 100K, we talked about life after 100K, but now we're going to talk about what it has been like for you to position your work into the mid-luggery market, and I remember when it happened it like happened on accident, because once you figured out the profit pricing formula, you couldn't go back. You just kept raising your prices and then you're like I'm going to raise them again. I'm going to raise them again. So can you tell us what it looked like like, what your business looked like before? I don't even remember how much you charged when you came. What did you charge? Was it like 2K for everything?

Speaker 2:

I think it was between 2 and 3K. Yep, I wasn't over 3K at that point. When I started the CEO, I was definitely between 2 and 3K. I was not over that 3K mark yet. I could not push myself over that mark. I would not go over that mark. That, I think. In my brain I was like nope, you've hit it. That's as much as people will pay for you.

Speaker 1:

It's only a year ago, but do you think you can remember the mindset you had, why you thought that was such a validated price?

Speaker 2:

To be quite honest, the fact that that was a year ago is wild to me. It feels like a no A year ago. I think at that point I didn't value myself the way that I should. I also think one of the huge mindset shifts that I got after I joined the program was I started looking at my time as currency. So before I joined the program, I was choosing and planning my business before my personal life and before the things that I wanted and needed to do. After joining the program, there was a huge mindset shift for me. I went from planning my business first to planning my personal life first, working around that but also valuing my time more. I started to look at things as okay if I'm going to be missing X, y or Z, if I'm not going to be seeing my husband, if I'm not going to be seeing my dogs or my nieces or my nephews, I need to be compensated at a rate that feels good to me and that, I think, is fair to me, because my time is important, my time is valuable and missing time with people that I love is huge, absolutely huge. So I think that's one of the biggest mindset shifts that really pushed me toward okay, it's time for you to charge more.

Speaker 1:

And when you did it. I don't even know what you charge now because I know it's definitely surpassed 2K. So we teach about the custom proposal strategy, but you took it to the next level by doing out cart custom proposals. I'm curious to how you came up with that and how that has been serving you and raising your prices as well and positioning for luxury anyway.

Speaker 2:

So back when I started photography, it was all the three tiered pricing, so highest package, nobody books, lowest package and ticest people to get your metal package. But I was so overwhelmed that I just did one package at one price because that's what I could keep track of, and it worked out well for that season. And then, moving into the next season, I tried the three tiered pricing package and I think it was like for me it was almost like like a comfort and I was like, okay, I have this lower package if people don't want to pay these higher package. So I think that's really why I moved to the three tiered system without realizing that that's not what works for me and that's not what works for my ideal client. So after I went through my first round in the wedding CEO and we really sat down and we nailed down like where do I want my business to go? Who is my ideal client, I realized that, like, my ideal client is me and I don't want to make all these decisions. I'm tired. I had just planned my wedding the year before and there were so many decisions to be made that I really sat down with myself in my business and was like, okay, I want to be more luxury. What says luxury? Less decisions to be made. I'm the expert, so I'm really telling them like this is what you're going to need on your wedding day, and I know it because I've done a ton and I think customization is really like what my people want. So I sat down and I created a one package system for my business and that is all I have. I do not have three packages anymore because I realized six hours was not enough for my people, so why am I even offering it when a year later, they're going to have to add on two more hours? So I think a lot of it also had to do with transparency, like I love being able to be like well, you can book at the six hour and then, if we need to add more on later, we can. But I just felt bad a year later being like surprise, you need four more hours. So cut that out completely. You didn't need the six hour. And then after that it really came down to reducing decision fatigue and making it feel like a customizable, bespoke luxury experience for them. So I have one eight hour package. It starts at eight hours. It has the things that I think every single one of my couples at the base needs after doing, however many weddings for, thank goodness, my ideal clients for the last hour of a long, because the wedding CEO also completely changed my clientele. So it starts at that and then after that everything is customizable for them and they can choose if they want extra hours of coverage, if they want another photographer. I know a lot of photographers are like we have to include a second photographer at eight hours or 10 hours. A lot of my couples don't want or need that, so why am I making them pay for it if it's not something that they want or need? Because I'm also again here for the transparency, like I'm not afraid to look at my couples and be like I can do this myself, you don't need a second person. But I'm also not afraid to look at them and be like you're getting ready in two different locations. We're going to need an extra human to be running around that morning because I can't do it all myself. So, yeah, it really came down to what's going to work for me in my business, but also what's going to work for my clients. What do they want, what are they looking for, and what they want is easy, customizable and that's it.

Speaker 1:

Wow, and I mean, you came up with that just after figuring out your dream client, which is yourself, which I feel like people overcomplicate, that they're always like oh yeah, oh, what's her name? How does she dress? And I'm just like just picture a richer version of you. 100. Oh my gosh.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that's the perfect way of thinking about that. I was like they're like me, but like up here like wealthy my wealthy version.

Speaker 1:

And then when you figure that out and you're like and I say all the time like, well, I don't like this and I don't want to do it, so why do I have to do it? I feel like everybody's like you have to do it this way, you have to do it this way and I like that. You took our pricing formula and, just like, made it your own and because of that you were able to double, triple. What did you do to your prices?

Speaker 2:

I have doubled on the way to tripling. Yeah, that's the thing. The minute I really sat down with myself and figured out what works for me and what my ideal client wants and needs, the confidence just like came through. And once the confidence comes through, the people are confident in you and they have no problem paying it. Like I have friends who come to me and they're like oh my gosh, don't you hate when clients X, y or Z, like ask to take something out of your package and you have to awkwardly tell them like the price doesn't change? Or don't you hate when couples come and like ask you for like a deal and I'm like that doesn't happen to me? I can confidently tell you that does not happen to me, because everything in my packages my clients need and I know that that's what they need and the way that I speak about my packages and my services and the experience that they're going to have with me, by the end of our phone call they're like done, sign me up, how do I pay you, please? Insane, that is insane and I love it. I love my people.

Speaker 1:

You know them so well. And I feel like this is such the first step because everyone's like, oh well, I just want to market, or I want to make 100k, and I'm like, well, you can't do that if you have no idea who you're talking to.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yep, and I think like that's a piece of sales where people get like lost, like we can market all day long, but if you can't make the sale without being salesy then you're done, the money's not going to come, and part of that is really part of it's like really like the confidence in the communication.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, oh, confidence hands down. I remember when you were like, so how do you like get them to get like the highest package? Or I was like, well, if they keep booking your middle package, you need to make your middle package or lower package. We need to shift it around. But you were just like, after a while, I think, you kept booking and you kept changing your three tiered packaging and you're like, yeah, I'm going to do something else. I was like can't wait to see it, whatever it is. Yeah, I mean, it takes a lot for people to master pricing a ton and I feel like that's like the first step to sales is like. I feel like for you, the breakthrough was just being confident in what you were offering, because you knew that's what you wanted and because you knew you wanted it. You knew they wanted it and you could sell it because you wanted to offer it. You know what I mean. You weren't just throwing something in there.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and like people can totally tell if you're not confident in what you're selling. And people can tell the way that I speak about my business and my services. And like my people, I think that it just comes across like how passionate I am about it and how confident I am in what I'm doing and what I'm giving to people. So I think the confidence is huge. I also think that it's huge so many people are scared of trial and error and I think a lot of people are scared of like failing, and I think originally that was another mindset of mine. I didn't want to raise my prices and have nobody book me. I was scared that nobody was going to book me, that I was going to fail in that. And then at the beginning of the program, my mindset when it came to failure and success completely changed. I redefined my definition of success and I also I don't think Failure is a thing. Failure doesn't exist. Failure is simply a learning experience and an opportunity to pivot and go in a different direction. So I think that now, if I want to raise my prices, it's more of an experiment. It's an experiment. It's data analysis. I'm really trying to just look at okay, what are the numbers coming in. What does this look like compared to my previous? Is it working? It's not working. Okay, now how can I shift versus oh, I raised my prices and nobody's booking me. I'm a failure. No, no, maybe we just need to tweak something else to make it work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that's like. That just shows the powerful transformation of a six-figure mindset. Like you, don't take it personal, it's a business. Let the business be a business. Oh my gosh, Do you know how many times we make it meeting something about us? Oh my gosh, people aren't booking me. Something's wrong with me. Oh my goodness, my personality. I'm like babe, do you know how to sell? Is your brand on point? Who are you talking to? What are you saying? Are you posting the?

Speaker 2:

math ain't mathin' the fundamentals. When you get down to it. And I think that when I get in my head and I start internalizing things and personalizing things, I take a step back and I'm like, okay, let's get to it. I sit down and like really figure out, like why is X, y or Z not working, instead of sitting here feeling down about myself and saying mean things to myself that I would never say to a friend. First of all, I would never look at my friend and be like your business is a failure, so why am I saying that to myself? So, yes, just I sit with my fundamentals of my business. I'm like all right, what can we tweak? What can we make better? Because I feel like that's something to. It's so easy to get set in your ways and think, okay, well, this worked for me last season, so it's going to work for me this season. Well, it's a new season, so some adjustments need to be made.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I like how, when we were talking earlier, you're just like 2024 is going to be way better. She's like I'm going to double my income. I'm like double the whole thing. We're getting crazy over here, I'm like that's. I'm not saying you can't do it, but that's a lot of money, girl, always the lock Totally. But I mean worst case scenario, you make 150 and you're like, yeah, I still made a lot of money.

Speaker 2:

That's the thing you set the goal a little bit higher, and then you reach a goal that you probably didn't originally think you'd reach anyway.

Speaker 1:

Yes, shoot for the moon and you'll land along among the stars or something like that. But I'm curious, because we were talking about pricing, but I'm curious to like what other biggest like lesson or takeaway you got from the program. Cause I know when you came in you were just, you were like finishing your rebrand. Like you were finishing your rebrand, you just changed it to the Richardson collective. And I know pricing, like you hit the ground running with pricing. But what was like the next thing that you were like, yeah, this was a game changer for my business. I know so much. I know mindset was a big one and she's obviously conquered.

Speaker 2:

I think money mindset was huge. I walk around to everybody. I'm like change your money mindset and it'll change your life. Allora changed mine. I think another huge thing was which kind of goes along with money mindset, but I stopped being afraid to invest in myself and my business because before, like, even joining the wedding CEO which obviously the pricing is completely different now for the wedding CEO, as it should be but that was a huge investment for me at the time and I got that investment back 10 fold. And then, after I invested in the wedding CEO, I invested in a mentorship and I flew across the country. I live in New York. I flew to California and did a mentorship in California completely changed my life, changed my client experience, just opened up my eyes to new things too. So, like doing the wedding CEO and that mentorship together just crazy craziness and then continued to invest, like in my education and myself. That was huge for me. My brand changed everything. That changed everything for me. I still have people messaging me on Instagram being like oh my gosh, your branding is great. Every time you post something I can tell it's yours, and I think people severely underestimate the brand consistency I'd preach that to you, your brand became an aesthetic because I was, like I said the same thing. Like Michaela, everything matches top to bottom and before that, I felt so lost and I think all just ties together, like my brand became cohesive, my brand became an extension of me, like a true extension of me, and I think that that just led to a crazy amount of confidence in my brand and in positioning myself into that mid-luxury market, because my name before was not, it did not scream luxury. My branding before did not scream luxury and now it's clean, it feels luxurious, it sounds luxurious and that just blew everything up. Oh, I keep all of these things together. I can't believe that that was me in 2022. Like a year ago I did it was the craziest things all at once and it just went wild. And now I still just fly in all over the country doing things.

Speaker 1:

And I remember you talking about it too, like you're like, yeah, I was telling my husband like I need to do this, and back then it was a four month program, so it was like you were literally betting on yourself. I don't make my investment back in four months, like what am I gonna do? But I remember we tore up your website tagline because your copywriter, like we cleaned up your messaging and it's not bad to hire a copywriter but your copywriter doesn't know your dream client as well as you do, and so we just changed the language. We added things that was more relevant to you and what you wanted. You wanted to pivot out of like a certain style, but like clean it up, like a cleaner, modern version, and I feel like you just started attracting them like left and right, like Yep, couple of tweaks, triple your prices.

Speaker 2:

NBD no big deal, it was fine. It's fine. Yeah, I it's so funny to Mastered your mindset when we did that. Like at the beginning of 2022, end of 2021, boho was still like all the rage and I loved certain aspects of that. I loved the warmth, I loved how inviting it felt, like part of it felt like me, because I'm a very multifaceted human, like I'm half-vigilant, I don't even know, I'm like, oh, I'm all over the place. But I loved aspects of Boho, but I knew that it wasn't what I wanted. And it was such a fun journey because I joined in January and then my rebrand I didn't launch until May and thank goodness I was simultaneously going through the wedding CEO while doing my rebrand, because if I wasn't, I would have wasted a lot of money, because the program really made me sit down and figure out who am I well, who's my ideal client? All of those things before I really jumped into like a huge investment, like a rebrand. But it was such a fun journey to go from and to be okay with how multifaceted I am and take all of those pieces and parts of things that I love. I love fashion, but I also love the feeling of Boho colors. But I also need clients who are super laid back and chill, but they also like nice things and wanna have a really aesthetically pleasing wedding day and being okay with I can put all those things together Like that's okay. There's humans out there who are like me and who think that way and who want those things and that was so fun to kind of discover, like I'm gonna create my own little way of being in this world of photography and like that's okay. I've never been more authentic and true to myself and my business has never been more true to me before that.

Speaker 1:

I love that because I remember and I remember like we were talking about this, because you're like I do, but I don't like Boho, and I was like, well, what do you like about it? And we just broke down. You're just like, oh well, I guess I just like the colors. I'm like that's all and that's not Boho, babe, Like we could just have a bit of a. You would not have Boho, Like you just like wore a ho.

Speaker 2:

I straight up thought I wanted to like climb mountains with people. I was convinced, like I like hiking, I like the outdoors, I go camping, I don't have a problem going to the bathroom in the woods, it is what it is. But I also, on a wedding day, discovered I have no desire to go on a four mile hike to the top of a mountain with my gear. It's not for me. It's not for me and I had to be okay with that because for so long I thought that that's what I had to do or wanted to do and I was like I gave myself permission to go in a different direction and it was wonderful.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Well, I think too, and maybe you thought this too we were like this is too unique, Like this unique style that I'm coming up with. Like what, if nobody? But I'm like well, you exist and there's gotta be people who are just settling for someone else because they really want your style.

Speaker 2:

Yes, Yep, and that was true with my editing too. So many people, a lot of my mentees, come to me and they're like how did you find like your style, your editing style? And I always look at them and I'm like it was kind of an accident. I made stuff up, I wasted money on a lot of presets that I didn't need. And then I think really again, like nailing down my editing, I did it simultaneously, nailed down my style along with my brand, and they just mashed. And when that happened, I was like I found it. I literally looked at my husband and I said I think I've done it, I think I found my style. And he literally looked at me and he goes thank goodness, because he had been listening to me for years Just be like I don't like this. Oh, I want my pictures to be more like this. Oh, I don't want to do this. And I think part of it was when I stopped trying to imitate and I just started to do what I liked. That was huge. But it was also during the rebrand when I was like how do I want my business to make people feel, how do I want to make a lot of my business comes from? How do I want to make others feel? So? How do I want to make others feel through my experience with me. How do I want to make others feel through my branding? How do I want to make others feel through my photographs? And a lot of that came down to warmth, inviting, happy, all of those things.

Speaker 1:

They all came together at the same time, but the crazy thing is, all those pieces were just branding alone. We hadn't even dove into marketing. That's just one module of the program mindset too. But one thing I like to talk about constantly is I want you to build a brand so unique that you're incomparable, so you can charge high ticket. And do you know anybody who has your exact same style, editing style clientele? Maybe that's why you can keep raising your prices? They can't even compare you to anyone else. So this is uniquely what she's offering her clients. We have to pay if we want to work with her. This is what we have to pay, and they're willing to.

Speaker 2:

Again, I think, us sitting down and talking about what makes you different from other people. What makes you different? Because we talk about the saturation in the market and how we can all sit there and be like, oh, the market's too saturated I could never, whatever, sure. But really sitting down and being like, how am I different? And that really stemmed from I stopped watching other people, I stopped what other people were doing, especially in the area that I live, there are a lot of us in a very small area Buffalo is not a huge city but I stopped looking at what everybody else was doing and I started doing what I wanted to do and not caring. And that, I think, was another huge game changer for me. And it really did help me sit down and be like okay, what is my magic, what's my superpower? How do I serve others in ways that somebody else doesn't or somebody else can't? And again, that just translated into the confidence and the communication and the sales and all those things. Yeah, wow, it's crazy to talk about it out loud because I don't just walk around every day talking about this transformation and how everything transpired and how all of these pieces were. They happened separately but we're all woven together throughout the entire journey of change.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, these are the keys of building a business in general. It's not even just photography. These will literally solidify everything that you ever do. If you decide to pivot out of weddings and do something else, you know it's going to start with mindset, then it's going to be branding, then it's going to be your pricing and it's like it's all like this is literally your business roadmap to success. It's not just a course.

Speaker 2:

That's where I'm at right now, trying to now pivot into education or passive forms of income. I have to take a step. I have to remind myself okay, you need to take a step back. Who is your ideal client? Now? You're not speaking same people that you have been speaking to for the last hour or many years in wedding photography. So if I want to teach photographers, who's my ideal client in that area? If I'm selling education online, who's my ideal client in that area? Who am I speaking to? And that's so funny that you say I was just thinking about it like last week. I was like, okay, I'm going to hit the ground running before 2024. In 2024, I want to launch my first course, I want to launch my first digital product. I want to do all of these things and I was like you need to reel it in and you need to start from the beginning, the foundation of all of it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and you did it before. It's like I can do it again. I think that's why you're like I'm going to double my income. I already made 100K.

Speaker 2:

I never thought that I could sit here and say like, oh, I own like a six figure business. I'm sorry, what If you said that to even like 2021 me, 2021 me, would have been like you're crazy. You're literally crazy, you're wild. Just go to your job and get your bi-weekly paycheck and move on with your life. And now I literally said the other day to someone I'm like oh yeah. They were like oh, like, what's your goal? And I was like you know what? I think someday I want to own like a seven figure business. And they were like okay. And I was like, yeah, I think that's where we're headed, you know, we're just going to go for it. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the 13% of business owners that hit 100K. That's wild. It's very small number. I love that. For me, honestly, that needs to be the new merch, just like I'm the 13%, because I already shipped out the 100K merch.

Speaker 2:

but oh my gosh and I talked about when that came in the mail and I squealed and I put it on immediately. I literally wear it like every day.

Speaker 1:

Oh my gosh, I'm going to live in it.

Speaker 2:

I'm telling you right now, it's just in the wash currently, so I couldn't put it on for today's call.

Speaker 1:

Oh, because like and the sleeve it says you got this, because I'm always saying that like you got this, I had this, yeah, you need to see that until the other day and I was like I love it even more now.

Speaker 2:

I already loved it so much. How could I love it anymore? Oh my gosh.

Speaker 1:

I can't wait to have you in my mastermind for educators. I'm working on it this winter and I'm only launching it to the 100K alumni. It's going to be insane. I'm so excited. Oh my god. I'm going to give you my whole business.

Speaker 2:

I'm so excited Me in person. It's going to be wild. I feel like I've known you for like 80 years. It's only been a year, but, kayla, I know.

Speaker 1:

It's insane. I honestly I always forget because when I'm like talking about this program like guys, only a year old, it's a baby. This is a baby Like yeah, we're talking off.

Speaker 2:

I think about how amazing you are and, like all the things, no, we've accomplished in the last year. Don't do it.

Speaker 1:

Stop. I mean I Want to teach you guys what I was able to do. I was able to walk away from a half a million dollar business and step into another six-figure business and Keep every weekend, raise two children, run a household and, technically, education is another business. So I was running two businesses. Yeah, I mean you can do it. Let me be proof. I do have some dark circles under my eyes, but that might just have been from staring at the computer for over a decade, but I'm teaching everyone in 12 months what took me literally 12 years, like I just did my last wedding in September. I'm done. Yeah, all the years it's all yours. You and you did in 12 months, like it's proven. It's crazy, oh, so crazy. I'm so thankful, honestly, that you took a chance on my four-month baby program that is now like a group program. We're about to open the doors again on November 14th and it's just gonna be incredible. I can't wait to welcome all the new students and change their lives, because everybody wants to be in the 13% like come on.

Speaker 2:

I can't wait to watch all of those people just kill it.

Speaker 1:

So the Kayla I mean you've done everything. What do you have to say to somebody that is thinking about joining or maybe even last year, you charging 2k, investing 2k, four month program that that you had no idea what it was gonna do?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's so funny because I feel like I say the same thing every time but Just take the leap of faith. Just take the leap of faith, trust yourself, do the thing and do it scared, because if you wait for it to be the right time, if you wait for it to be the perfect time, if you wait for your business to be in a certain Stage, you're never gonna move forward. You have to do it, and you have to do it scared, and you have to do it. Well, it's not perfect, because I was that person. I was that wait around for everything to be perfect person and the minute I made this investment, in the minute I joined the program, I Started doing things that I never would have dreamt of pushing myself to do. Between you and all of my classmates in the program encouraging, supporting, pushing a little bit here and there I Just, leaps and bounds, moved forward in my business, in my personal life. It just changed so many things. So if you are sitting on the edge of making the investment and Jumping and making them, taking the leap, just just do it, because it's going to be worth it every single time. Yeah that was incredible.

Speaker 1:

That was a motivational speech right there. I would have watched that live. Oh, so well spoken. Thank you so much, mikaela, for hopping on and just sharing with us your journey, what it's looked like in a full year of the program, and it's insane. It's insane. We're going on two years in January and already so much has happened.

Speaker 2:

I'm so glad I'll still be there. We'll be celebrating there for the next 50 years.

Speaker 1:

The band is like you can't get rid of me.

Speaker 2:

You're stuck with me forever.

Speaker 1:

I can't wait. I can't wait. Wait, don't go yet. If you loved today's episode, I would love if you took five seconds to leave a rating and a five-star review. If you do, send me a DM so I can give you a virtual hug and, of course, a shout out. Now, if you're ready to grow your photography business, I invite you to join the waitlist for the wedding CEO. The wedding CEO is my signature program for wedding photographers who are ready to scale their way to a hundred K. You're finally ready to work less, make more and live your dream life. If you've seen my Instagram, then you know we have students making five bigger months, launching their dream brands, doubling their prices, taking vacations and more, which are lifetime skills that you can take with you, even if you decide to leave the industry. Join the waitlist for when we open the doors on November 14th, to the waitlist only, and You're gonna get an exclusive advanced private training on how to scale to a hundred K, booking less than 20 weddings a year and, trust me, you don't want to miss this link in the show notes. I'll see you inside.

Work in the Luxury Market Positioning
Confidence and Mindset in Business
Investing in Branding and Business Growth
Building a Successful Business Transformation
Motivational Speech on Scaling Photography Business