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PSA: Stop Giving Your Time Away for Free



I’m going to stop giving my time away. Not just twenty minutes here or there, but hours and hours of my life I seem to give no real value to. I’m new to this school, I’ll admit it. Many days I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m tossing noodles (ideas) at the wall hoping they stick. Is that any real good reason to undervalue myself? If I sit and think of how many hours I’ve given away in the last year I could easily lose count the number is so high. Surely something else would enter my mind and I’d be distracted long before I got to that final number.

“Another session”? Another session my husband recently said to me. Insert a long face and a noise that resembles the noise of a sigh from an unhappy kiddo. Why have I been met with this type of reaction? I keep giving my time away. I’m embarrassed to admit it but it’s true. I’ve listened to hundreds of podcasts in the last year and I know the tools are out there. CODB calculators are available to me at no cost and yet I still couldn’t tell you what my CODB is as I write this (a real head in the sand moment). It’s not a hip new boy band I refer to, it’s the cost of doing business. I’ve been making up pricing numbers, really low ones at that when I have inquiries. I know better and you know better! I know better but I keep doing it. Why is it that we both wonder? I just need more practice I keep telling myself. THEN I’ll really start charging!! “How many free sessions are you going to do” my husband asked in another conversation? He wasn’t being even the slightest bit mean with these words. He just literally wanted to know, probably because he wanted to know if there was an end in sight.

Something he could plan for and look forward to as if it were an upcoming vacation. I’m well aware that these sessions I keep doing aren’t free. Not even close to free. There is a cost to my time and all these hours I sit feeling exhausted by texting, emailing, shooting, and editing. Oh, all the editing…. I finally hit my wall though, not long before I sat down to write this. I’d rather not do any session than do a free one. Now there’s value to be had however in a session that’s not just monetary. I recently gave myself the gift of a styled shoot with every detail just as I wanted it. I’ve been eyeing up, ok drooling over, Little Dreamers Tutus for so long. I rented one and found a model and I drove to the exact location I wanted and took the exact pictures I wanted. It felt so good to leave that session excited to have only this treasured collection to post on social media.

See I’ve done the work. I’m doing the work. Shannon Squires and Grace Pamela practically feel like family to me. Their voices are background noise filling up our living room so many evenings and nap times. I’m putting in the school hours, this is how I know I’m worth more than free. Don’t get lost on the free part though. It might not be free in the literal sense but when it’s so cheap you can’t fill your grocery cart full with the earnings you may want to reassess the situation. Here’s what happened in my case, though I swear I can’t be alone. I got angry, not just with the clients but with myself. Ever hear the song “Nobody To Blame But Me” by Chris Stapleton? It seems to be a fitting title. With my new found realization and humor of the situation, I’ve stopped this poor practice.

A few months ago I gave someone a low price. She passed on the session for what felt like pennies because it practically was. She was going to purchase her own camera and do her own photos instead. I tried to have a good and helpful spirit. I went so far as to help her pick out her camera and sent her off to make magic. She contacted me the other day. As it turns out she wants to move forward with shoot. Unfortunately for her, I found my worth in our time apart and my rate tripled. Ok, she replied with no real argument. I need half down to reserve your spot and the remaining half the day of the shoot. I’ll bring a check by tomorrow was her next response. Crazy I thought that she’d so easily agree to this with not so much as a balk. When she went off with her camera she learned about the value of what I can create for her. And when I stopped giving my time away, I started making money!!!


This article was featured in Summerana Magazine | November 2019 issue

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