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The Importance of Knowing Your Worth

I believe that every young person, especially every young woman, should know their worth.  Self doubt tells us that we’re not good enough, we’re not worth the time, or the money, or the respect, or the opportunity.  Self doubt causes us to sell ourselves short and keeps us from demanding what we deserve. Today, I want to share the story of what happened when I finally acknowledged my worth, through the lens of my photography business (pun intended).

My photography business came to fruition at the beginning of my senior year of high school.  I knew I was good at taking portraits, I knew how to use professional editing software, and I knew a lot of my friends were planning on getting their senior pictures taken.  Plus, I could use a little extra cash. Because I was just an amateur, I ruled out the idea of charging a lot of money for a photo shoot. My prices and conditions were:

  • $20 for the first hour and $10 per hour after that (in the photography world, my prices were dirt cheap)  

  • No set time limit

  • Each client would receive at least 50 edited photos

Image Credit: Maddie Hall

This is what the first 4 months of my business looked like:

Clients took advantage of me.

I constantly felt disrespected.  Some clients would ask me for more pictures after I had already sent them more than 50, some would show up with an extra person and ask to split the price of the shoot, some took weeks or even months to pay me, some would show up extremely late.  I was letting it happen and I wouldn’t put my foot down because I wanted to be a people pleaser. In the back of my mind, I didn’t deserve the respect of a “professional” because I didn’t hold myself to that standard.

I didn’t make much money.

At the beginning, I thought I would be raking it in, especially since I had another part-time job during the week; however, I found the amount of money I made from photo shoots to be insignificant.  To put it into context, I would spend maybe 6 hours taking and editing pictures, and would be paid $20-$30 for the whole thing. That’s less than minimum wage in my state, but I didn’t think that I was worth more than what people paid me.  On top of that, a few of my close friends paid me nothing at all to take their senior pictures — because I didn’t charge them anything.  I truly thought it was wrong to take my close friends’ money, even though many were willing to pay and I put a lot of effort into my work.

I lost my passion

It didn’t take long for me to dread doing photos hoots.  It felt like a chore that I had to do 4 times per week rather than a fun hobby or side job.  I had forgotten what I even liked about photography anymore because my work didn’t feel worth it to me.  The funny thing is, I had every capability to hold myself to a higher standard and charge more money, but I wouldn’t because I didn’t think I was worth it.

The turnaround:

My art teachers at the time were some of my biggest supporters and mentors in this small-business endeavor.  Every day they encouraged me to raise my prices. They thought I was selling myself short, but my own self-doubt told me that I wasn’t good enough to charge more.  I’m thankful for my teachers’ persistence because they eventually got through to me. I don’t know exactly what flipped the switch in my head, but I’m glad I decided to finally acknowledge my worth.

I came out with new prices and conditions in January of my senior year:

  • $150 for 1 hour and up to 30 edited photos

  • $200 for 2 hours and up to 50 edited photos

  • 2 hour time limit

  • The client must credit me if he or she chooses to post my photos on social media

Image Credit: Maddie Hall

This is what happened after I began charging more for photo shoots:

I felt more respected.  

Clients respected my time limit, stopped asking for more than what they paid for, valued my compositional opinions, I was credited on social media, the list goes on.  This is because people take you seriously when you present yourself as a person with high value. My clients saw me as more “professional” because my prices were more in line with the professionals in my town, (although I was still significantly cheaper).

The quality of my work improved.

Being paid more money motivated me to put more effort into my work.  It made those last few tedious edits worth it, and I honestly grew as a photographer during this time.  I also stopped overbooking myself, so I had more time to focus on one photo shoot at a time.

I made more money.

A lot more money, because I finally asked for what I deserved.  Business didn’t slow down and my prices more than quadrupled. Friends stopped asking me for freebies and some people even paid me more than I charged.  One of the most important lessons I learned, and I’ll keep this with me forever, is that true friends are willing to support your business (or art or service or whatever) rather than expecting some type of discount or freebee.  With that said, this might not had been the case had I not defined my worth and stuck to it.

I actually enjoyed what I was doing.

Rediscovering my love for photography was a direct result of me defining my worth.  Photo shoots no longer felt like a favor or a chore. Every photo shoot was worth all the work, and that motivation sparked creativity and determination that wasn’t there when I was selling myself short.


Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.  If you don’t, people will take advantage of you.  You have every capability to define your worth, and it’s more than likely that people will respect you if you are confident in that.  

Image Credit: Maddie Hall

Sophomore at the University of Kansas
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