Interview: 'Create a Collection' Pricing Strategy with Dan Frievalt

Should you offer packages or sell your products a la carte? Why not try this hybrid 'Create A Collection' approach that's helped Dan Frievalt sell up to $10,000 in products from a single high school portrait session!

Interview Transcript:

Chris Scott: Hey, it's Chris from Swift Galleries. I'm excited today to be talking to Dan Frievalt from Dan Frievalt Photography, and Seniors Unlocked. Sorry. Hold on. Let me go back. Dan Frievalt, Master Photographer and Craftsman, from Seniors Unlocked. Dan, thanks so much for doing this today. 

Dan Frievalt: You're welcome. Glad to be here, Chris. 

Chris Scott: I don't actually know, this is an actual question. Where are you? I don't even know, where am I talking to?

Dan Frievalt: Technically, my studio's in a small town called De Pere, Wisconsin, but technically I'm right across the road. The main city is Green Bay, Wisconsin, hope of the Green Bay Packers. You have to be a Packer fan if you live in this city. 

Chris Scott: I was just gonna ask that. Is that a requirement, like they'll take away your Green Bay card if you don't mention the Packers after saying "I live in Green Bay."

Dan Frievalt: They do, and the minute you're born, you're put on the Packer season ticket waiting list, because it's like 60 years to get tickets, so it's kind of a big deal. 

Chris Scott: Is it really? Is that actually true, like it's really hard to get season tickets?

Dan Frievalt: It is. They're passed down through the family, which I think is not very common in NFL, like they just kind of go back when someone passes away. No, they are in the will. 

Chris Scott: That's incredible. You guys don't screw around about your Packers. 

Dan Frievalt: Yeah. 

Chris Scott: That's good to know. Now I know that I will never be getting some season tickets to the Packers. 

Dan Frievalt: You won't. Our garbage cans are green and gold here. 

Chris Scott: Are they really? Oh my gosh. You guys, you might have a problem. 

Dan Frievalt: Yeah, we do. 

Chris Scott: We're in Broncos territory here, I'm in Colorado Springs, so we're in Broncos territory, but we don't take it that far. 

Dan Frievalt: It's crazy around here. When they lose, the Monday after, the whole city is depressed. 

Chris Scott: You guys just wear your sackcloth and like, rending of garments, gnashing of teeth. 

Dan Frievalt: Everyone's moping, yeah. But if you want to go shopping at the mall or at Costco, go during the Packer game, cause there's no one there. My wife usually goes during the Packer games, like I'm gonna go shopping. 

Chris Scott: That's awesome. We should just leave it at that. Okay, hey, thanks for this interview. We're done, and now we know. 

Dan Frievalt: Now you know. 

Chris Scott: What I wanted to talk with you about today is this concept of a Create A Collection. I've been poking around old blog posts on your site, and some of the products that you sell, about this idea of collections or packages versus a la carte, and then this hybrid in-between model of Create A Collection. We have people ask us about that through Swift Galleries, about hey, how does this kind of thing work, and I figured why not bring somebody in who actually knows what he's talking about with this stuff, so let's just bat around that. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to your Create A Collections and then we can just go from there?

Dan Frievalt: Yeah. Absolutely. I started out with packages, like with a lot of people start with, and I've been in photography now for 12 years, so selling digital files back then wasn't really a thing, first off. You sold prints. You did packages. There was a couple different things I've found with doing packages and doing proofs, is it kind of put a ceiling, or it definitely put a ceiling on how much you could sell. The other major problem is that people would kinda pick apart your packages, like oh, well I don't need these two 8x10s, but can you swap those out for a couple 5x7s, so they're customizing it anyways, and I'm probably like most photographers, and you're kinda like well, okay, I'll throw that in. I'll do this and that. All of the sudden they walk out the door and you realize, man, I just lost my butt on that

Chris Scott: I just gave away like $1000 worth of stuff. 

Dan Frievalt: Right, I figure out all my cost of goods and everything at the beginning of the year, and build that into their packages so I'm profitable, but when you're on the fly like that, I'm not really absolutely sure what everything cost. 

Chris Scott: Yeah, they leave, and you're like, what just happened? I don't know about you, but my reason normally is like, that's math, and I really don't want to have to do math in front of a client. Then they're gonna see why I'm a photographer. 

Dan Frievalt: Exactly. 

Chris Scott: Oh, you're an artist because math. Got it. 

Dan Frievalt: Creative, analytical, they're two different sides of the brain that creatives aren't too good at. 

Chris Scott: So we just default to, yeah we'll throw that in. Cool. 

Dan Frievalt: I can be analytical if I'm focused on it, like probably most people, like I'm gonna sit down, spring of the year, I'm gonna crunch numbers and okay, now I'm done with it. I can bear through it for a day and then I'm done with it. I don't want to touch it again for another year. 

Chris Scott: Right, yeah. Exactly, but yeah, you're sitting in the sales meeting and the last thing you want to do is, uh, carry the two, hold on, let me go grab my TI-82. I gotta go plug all this stuff in. Man, I wish I paid attention in algebra and all of that. I think that was the big pain point for us. We did the same thing with our seniors. We did collections or packages, and then we ended up going very quickly through this idea of Create A Collection. I sucked at it. I don't think I explained it well, but we ended up going to a la carte for that reason. That's why I'm really interested in digging in. What does your Create A Collection look like now, and how do you make that work?

Dan Frievalt: Great question, because a lot of people want to do the a la carte because it just seems easier, and it is, somewhat. So I came up with a hybrid system, doing the Create A Collection and a la carte, which is a little bit different. This Create A Collection, Create A Package, has been around. I didn't invent it, but I feel like I really refined it to a point where it's working so smoothly. I suck at sales. I think a lot of photographers and creatives do. I hate asking for money. You know, here's my work, please buy it. Oh I'll throw a little extra stuff in. So coming up with a system has allowed me to, it just sells itself. It goes through the process. The process with me, there used to be two ways to order. I just refined it last year, and now there's three ways to order, which makes it a little bit more complicated to explain, but really when I'm in the sales room, people get it. 

Chris Scott: It just makes sense. 

Dan Frievalt: People in general always tend to go towards the way of saving money, even if they have a lot of money. There's two types of people I've found, is that people will kind of go to what makes sense to save money, and then there are certain people who just want the high end of everything. 

Chris Scott: Whatever the best thing you have. 

Dan Frievalt: Whatever the best thing is, because it's luxury, they want it. Again, if I can refer back to my small town of Green Bay, yes, we have a national football team, but it's only 100,000 people. 

Chris Scott: Oh wow, okay. 

Dan Frievalt: It's kinda surprised people. It's only 100,000. Our biggest building is a parking garage, which I think is seven stories high. It surpassed the building that used to be six stories I think. We're a farming community, and I never thought those high-end people existed in this area, but through meeting other people and doing conferences and workshops and learning from other people, they push me too and said yeah, there are those people out there. So I put some of those luxury items in and yes, they sell. 

So, kinda went off on a tangent, but coming back to the different ways to order. They can do a la carte. That's one method. The Create A Collection is the other method, and then the all-inclusive is the new method. So they have those three options when they come in. Now, the a la carte is the most expensive way to order. You can pick whatever you want, but it's more expensive. It's usually like 35 percent above the Create A Collection prices. So right there, people say, okay, it's more expensive if I go this route. And I let them know that, that's the most expensive way. 

The other way you can do, you can create your own collection, and I explain that just like I explained it to you. Packages didn't work. They don't work for your family. Your family's gonna be different than the next family. You just pick one item from these four different sections, and you get the discounted pricing that's already built in. I'll even say, look at the 8x10 price on the Create A Collection. That's $100. Look at it at the a la carte, it's 130. They're not doing math either. They can just look at the two sales pieces and see the difference. The four different sections are an album, which again I never thought I could sell a album, but I sell a album with every client now. A wall portrait, gift prints which are 8x10s, 5x7s, or 4x6s, and wallets. Now, I shoot 99 percent high school seniors, so wallets are still a thing for me in the Midwest. That's good, we're kinda behind on some times. I know other areas are kinda getting away from wallets, but I've combated that with different things, like all your wallet poses you get an app with. It kinda forces them to still by a wallet pose so that they can get the app, cause the parents want the wallets, the seniors want the app. Parents kinda want the app too, so I'm kinda making them play by my rules a little bit. 

Chris Scott: When you say those are your four sections, your four categories, if they go with Create A Collection, are they required to choose something from every category?

Quick Wins for a print-selling website

Fill your calendar with clients who want your photos in their homes.

Apply these 5-minute tweaks to your website to:
Attract clients who want more than the digital files
Use social media to encourage print sales
Get current clients excited for printed products
Finally do "show it to sell it" the RIGHT way
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Dan Frievalt: They are. At least one item from all four categories. So sometimes photographers will say, well you're forcing them to do that. I'm like, no, they can do the a la carte. 

Chris Scott: Yep, exactly. 

Dan Frievalt: They're just gonna pay more. Usually if they're gonna get three out of the four, sometimes even two out of the four, I let them know I can work it both ways and say you know what, you're basically getting this for free. Now something to keep in mind is you don't price yourself to be profitable at your a la carte. You price it to be profitable at your Create A Collection. Then you bump those prices up, so that's what's important so that, and I'm fine if they do a la carte, because I'm just making more profit. They're ordering less product, I'm making more profit. I still come out, either way, I come out in the end. 

Chris Scott: And the client walks away with exactly what they want. If they're happy with that, then all right, great, everybody wins. 

Dan Frievalt: Exactly. That's the question I get a lot, well I don't want to force people, so I'm just gonna do a la carte. But the thing you'll find is you'll make more money with the Create A Collection, because they will do those four items. The other good thing is in each one of those sections, I have different tiers. I have three different albums, so different levels. So it's easier to kind of upgrade. Same thing with the wallets. I have little different incentives. It's better to purchase more. You only get those incentives in the Create A Collection too. First you're getting them to do all four, then they can see other little savings along the way, and it's not pushy, I just say, you know if you do a three pose, a 32 count wallet, you save $50. Okay. I might as well do a three pose. 

Chris Scott: So you're using, gosh, this is fascinating. You have a lot of different things working together here. You're using your a la carte really just as an anchoring device to show how much they're going to be saving if they do Create A Collection, and then as they progress through their Create A Collection, you're using additional discounts or add-ons to push them up in their Create A Collections. 

Dan Frievalt: Exactly. 

Chris Scott: Am I right? You were saying you have these tiers within each of those four groupings where you say, yeah, this is kinda the lower tier album, or you can do this one or you can do this one, so you've got incentives built into that to then push them, I'm saying down, further up to the nicer albums, because then maybe you get the app or something like that, or you get a discount for that. You are an evil genius, sir! Maybe not evil, maybe not evil. I don't know. We did just meet. Mwahaha. 

Dan Frievalt: It's the same old theory of like when I shot weddings. One of the first things I learned was if you had three collections, most people are gonna go in the middle collection. The easiest way to add more to your average is to boost that top, or put another collection in, and people are gonna, but you're always gonna get ... you put this, it's called the whopper. You put the whopper out there, you don't expect anyone ever to buy it, it just makes these other ones look better. But guess what, those elite clients I was talking about before, they're gonna come in and say, I want that, cause no one else wants it. 

Chris Scott: I have to have that. 

Dan Frievalt: It's like, what? So that's what I've done. I've kinda broken it into several little pieces, so the a la carte is that. And then the albums have..., and then the wallets have that and every section has that, so the majority of people are gonna go in the middle, and all those middle products are my most profitable products. That's where I want everyone to kind of fall. 

Chris Scott: That's fantastic. That falls in line really well with some of the stuff that we teach about pricing, which is kind of that package pricing structure, where you say, your top package, nobody's ever gonna buy this. They go down to this bottom package and they're like, yeah, it's cheap but it doesn't have anything that I really want in it. And then you kind of work them up between these two other packages on this, yeah this has everything I want except for that one carrot on the stick is what we call it. So then they end up at that next one, that's the one that we have our best cost of sale on, all of that, so you're doing that same idea, but four times. 

Dan Frievalt: Multiplying it, yes. 

Chris Scott: That's fantastic. 

Dan Frievalt: The weird psychology of it is, once people put those things in their cart, it's really hard for them to take it out, and even when you get all the way at the end, if they get a little nervous, a) it's hard for them to take it out. b) if they take it out, then I say, well remember, then we go back to the a la carte if you don't have the four. And you're end up gonna be investing more. And they're like, oh yeah, okay, I remember. I do it too, everyone gets a little nervous. Oh, am I spending too much on this? And then when someone reassures you, oh you are, you're saving money. And they're like, okay. 

Chris Scott: It's a sale, you have to buy it. I think the thing that's interesting there is that it still puts you in a position to actually be the good guy, to be able to say, yeah, you can definitely do that. I did want to remind you, though, that if you do that, then you're ... I mean, your saving the day for them at that point. You're saying oh yeah, you can take that stuff out, but this is saving you money. And they're like oh, okay, hey thanks, Dan. You know what I mean? That's not sales. That's like hey, I'm looking out for you. 

Dan Frievalt: Yeah, and that's another thing. I was petrified to do in person sales, cause I always did proofs, and I didn't want to deal with sitting in there for hours, and people making decisions and me feeling like I'm pressuring them into stuff. This has really alleviated all of that. Now I feel like I'm doing a disservice. They have me. I'm the only one here. I answer the phone. I take their photos. I retouch them. Well I outsource, just for pimples and stuff, but I do my own effects, my composites, I do all the highly artistic stuff. And then I sit down at the end, and now I'm just gonna push them off on someone else? There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't like just giving them proofs or doing something online, and not helping them through the process. 

People love that, cause they're like, okay, you're gonna help me, right? And I'm like yeah, we're gonna go through and we're gonna show you everything, and help you and show you sizes, show it on your wall as you know, that it's very powerful. It sells itself, because people don't know what 8x10. I say it's like the size of this iPad. Really? Cause I have all my display things. I don't call it my sales room, I call it my viewing room, which I guess it sounds like a funeral now that I say that... that's what I call it, cause I have the big TV in there, and I have samples on the wall, so they'll point at a 20x24 and say, is that like 11x14? I'm like, no. 

Chris Scott: People cannot visualize this stuff, yeah. 

Dan Frievalt: And why would we expect them to? They don't deal with it. Sometimes I look and I'm like, what is that again? I don't know what size it is. 

Chris Scott: So I need to say this. I did not feed him any of this. You're saying so many of the things that I say in our webinars and the stuff that I teach, that in person sales is more a service process than it is a sales process. It's you saying, I am here because I do this for a living. I'm here to help you figure this stuff out. This idea of shooting and burning seems convenient, and yes, it's convenient, but sometimes we confuse it with what service really is, because really what you're saying in that case is like, hey, here are your files. Good luck figuring out what to do with all of this stuff. Kind of along the same lines of what you're talking about with sizes, we talk about that all the time. People just can't visualize this stuff. It's just so hard to know that yeah, there's your 8x10 on the wall, and it's tiny. It looks like a postage stamp on a large wall. 

I want to get back to this Create A Collection though, and this is the last thing I'll bug you about on this. I'm curious, it feels like there has to be a decent amount of expectation setting done up front. When you get a new client in the door, do they know, are you telling them about this on your website, do they already know about this process because their friends have all gone through you at this point? Let's come at it from this direction. If I'm a photographer who wants to switch to this, how do I start educating my clients on this, or is that even the most important thing to do? How do I make that switch?

Dan Frievalt: Great question, because when I made that switch, I had started over in the photography industry completely, so I said you know, now's the time for me to make the switch, cause I'm gonna have all new clients, they're not gonna know any better. Not any better, but they're not gonna know the old system. What I've found is I had a lot of repeat clients who did track me down and come to me. They didn't have a problem at all with it. In fact, they loved it, because I was helping them through the process, and that's when I started to realize that they were saying oh, this is so nice that you're helping me, cause in the past I didn't feel that way, and it's like wow, and here I was afraid to do it. 

I think a lot of photographers, even if you've done proofs or online stuff, hey here's the new format. You can test it with a few people and you realize that it'll work well, but I feel like if you just start the new year and like, here's the new format, and you just have to own it like I did. I was scared inside, I was trembling inside but I owned it on the outside and said you know, this is gonna be so great. I'm gonna show you this stuff on the TV. We're gonna be able to put things side by side. You know when you have the proof book or you have the online view and you can't see these things, you can't compare them, you can't show sizes. I'm like, this is just technology that has evolved. This is a great way I want to take care of you. We've spent all this time, and that's what was killing me. I do a three-hour session, hair and makeup, we shoot all these cool things, create all these new things, and people would come in and order a couple prints, and I'm like what's wrong with this system. That's what I love about the album. You get 30 images in your album. 

Chris Scott: Yep. And I think the thing there that I think is a stumbling block for photographers, this idea that they came in and then they just ordered, or they didn't even come in, I put it online and they just ordered a few prints. That's not what they want. This idea that they come into my studio and now they buy a lot more, I think on its face, people think oh that means I have to be this high-pressure salesperson and it's actually the exact opposite, that they're not getting the things they actually want when you put it out there. It's this, I can't remember now, I think we talked about this live or we talked about it beforehand. It's the math thing, it's like path of least resistance. When they're sitting there in their boxer shorts in front of their computer, they're just gonna pick whatever the easiest thing is. I'm gonna get this one, I'm gonna get this one, and they're not fulfilled either. They don't feel good about that either. 

Dan Frievalt: No. No. Think about how busy everyone is nowadays. Even the schedule people, I look at their schedules and like, I was never that busy when I was in high school. They're running here, running there, they have all these activities, and even if you send a proof book home, or if they go online, the odds that they get together and spend an hour and actually pick stuff, it's almost impossible, and so that's why people would be like, well how do you get them to come in, I'm like, it's easy. I let them know, we're gonna spend an hour. Just give me an hour, and guess what. And Mom loves it, cause she wants to make it happen. Just get your daughter in here, we're gonna make it easy for you. You're gonna realize. 

Even the people who are like, I can't make a decision in an hour, I'm like, you know what, I hear that a lot, but what I've found is because I'm walking you through the process, you and your daughter are here, when's the last time you and your daughter got together and picked something out? And they're like, you're right. We're gonna get you here, we're gonna be efficient, we're gonna go through everything. It's not gonna be high pressure, and we'll step you through the process and you're in and out in an hour, two hours. Sometimes people take longer, but they don't feel like it. It's like, wow, I've been here for two hours? It's like, yeah, that's fine, we're working through it. And they love it, and you can just feel, even the people who thought they couldn't make a decision, they're like, ah, I'm all done, when can we get them? Then they're all excited. 

Chris Scott: It's funny. I literally said the exact words that just came out of your face during a Facebook Live about overcoming objections to in-person sales and one of these big objections is I don't have the time for that. For us, whenever I hear that, I'm like, oh great, this is great, this is my foot in the door, because guess what, I'm doing this for you, because this actually takes less time because you are busy. You're exactly why I do this, because it's easier. You're gonna set aside this time, and then when you're done, you're done. All you have to do is answer some questions and I'm gonna walk you through this, and then you're good to go. And the I'll come over and install it. Everybody's happy. I love this. I love this. I have so many other things I want to talk to you about, so I'm gonna probably just rope you into another interview or maybe a webinar at some point, cause I also want to hear about this, you said the new thing that you're doing now, which is like, you get it all, all-inclusive, is that what you call it? 

Dan Frievalt: All-inclusive, yeah. 

Chris Scott: The all-inclusive thing, but unfortunately I have to jump on another call, and it's killing me because I'm like, this is awesome. So where can people who are watching this right now, where can they go to learn more about this, learn more about your process? 

Dan Frievalt: Sure, they can go to, and I have some blog posts up there and there's also a store you click. That's gonna take you to, and then you can see, it's called Pricing for a Profit, and I sell the templates so you can just drag and drop your images in. You can even use my images if you want, cause it's not for marketing. I'm okay with that. Put your pricing in. I have my pricing in there if you want to use it as a guide. I share my pricing so you have an idea what it looks like, and I have the videos that go into this in much more detail to help you. Sales scripts and what to say if someone says this, here's what I'd say and helps you through all the possible pain points that you might have with it, so a lot of people will look at, say oh it's templates. I'm like, the templates are gold cause it's all put together for you, but really the videos are gold, cause it goes into detail and how to sell it, what to say, how to work it through the process, and how to price your things based on cost of goods and your overhead and things like that. It's pretty in depth. 

Chris Scott: And to put that in perspective for people, and this is me cheating cause I read one of those blog posts right before this call, again, you said that you were from basically a farming community, even though everybody thinks it's a giant city, it's basically a farming community, so all those people who are saying this won't work in my market, and you took when you were doing packages, your max sale was like 2000, right, because that was your highest package? 

Dan Frievalt: Well, not really, it was actually less than that. My max was probably about 1500 to 2000, yeah. 

Chris Scott: But then when you switched to your Create A Collection, I don't want to say the number, I want you to say the number, cause I saw it and I was like oh my gosh, that's insane. What was that sale that you...

Dan Frievalt: This year it's like 3800 is what my average was this year, yeah. And that's the beauty of this too, as I said right in the beginning is there's no ceiling, so I've had orders of $10,000, which when I say that, blows my mind. When people are ordering it, again I'm sweating, like are you sure you want all that? 

Chris Scott: Yeah, you're like waiting for them to leave and then as soon as they, okay, thanks, yeah, thank you so much. 

Dan Frievalt: This is so much fun. Exactly. And when you think of it in that perspective, let's say I made packages. A, I would never have a package above $5,000, like who's gonna do 5000? 

Chris Scott: Right, and at that point you have no idea if the stuff that you're putting in the package is actually the stuff that they're gonna want. 

Dan Frievalt: They're gonna want, yeah. So here they're picking. They're picking multiple wall portraits. They're picking a top-end album. They're adding gift prints and wallets and tons and tons of stuff. Going back to what you said, my average with proofs was $1,000, and then the Create A Collection when I started that, it instantly boosted my average to $2,000, like overnight. Just making that change. Two changes I made. In-person sales, and the Create A Collection. Evolving it now through the years, yeah, this year was $3,800, which is just unbelievable. 

Chris Scott: And that's high school seniors in a farming community. 

Dan Frievalt: Farming community, yes, which is why I don't do weddings anymore, cause I can't get $3,800 for a 12-hour wedding plus you know all the back-end work that goes into that. This is a three-hour session. And I have the weekends with my wife, yeah. 

Chris Scott: No-brainer at that point. Awesome. 

Dan Frievalt: I always get long-winded but it comes up one more point is when people are somewhat afraid to go from shoot and burn to this, what I tell them is, yes, you're gonna lose some clients. But the clients you gain, you're gonna work less and make more. Shooting and running all over, you don't have time with your families, you're doing weekend sessions and running all over for people. Once you establish this, which can be established overnight, you're gonna lose some clients but you're gonna make so much more that you can do less, and you'll get your freedom back. 

Chris Scott: And they're gonna be thrilled with it. I think that's the other thing that people just don't realize, it's like, okay, you're gonna work less, you're gonna make more money, and your clients are gonna be thrilled and they're gonna tell more people about you, because you're finally doing something that stands out. You're doing something that is worth raving about. All right. This is why I want to talk to you some more. We just have so many things that we can talk about. So let's do this again sometime soon. If you're watching this, head over to and you can check out his blog posts, you can check out the stuff that is in his store, and just buy it all. I don't actually even make any money if you buy his stuff. Just buy it all and just do it. Hey, Dan, thank you so much for doing this, truly appreciate it. 

Dan Frievalt: I appreciate having it, it's been fun. Thanks Chris. 

Chris Scott: All right, take care. 

Dan Frievalt: All right, yep. Bye.