Christmas Parties - Should I? Or Shouldn't I?

20, November, 2014

I am often asked about Christmas Parties and do I do them? I have done many in the past, some with from as little as 80 guests attending, to over 2000. And my answer nowadays is nearly always a categorical NO I don't. But why?

Well, Christmas parties are a funny thing. We all think, WOW 500+ people at a party, we'll make a killing!! That is also what I thought until my first Christmas season. As an example one night we had 2000+ guests at a party and took £1750! The following night we had the same number of guests in and we took.........£135. 

So why did this happen? It is what I call the Wives, Husbands and Partners Syndrome (WHAPS). These 3 groups of people are crucial to the success of an event. OK, it's not he only thing, location, product, luck and various other things also count, but without the WHAPs, you are really onto a loser, even if you are in a prime location. The problem with many Christmas Parties is that the company will not pay for WHAPs to attend, they will only pay for employees. Therefore, you are looking to sell to drunken work colleagues, who, lets be honest, aren't going be buying swathes of prints, to adorn their house, of themselves and their workmates. The most likely scenario is that they will want a group shot, and one print for the office. If they want anymore they will scan it back at the office and hand it round. In my example above, Party number 1 was one company, and they had their WHAPs with them. Party 2 was 2000 people made up from various companies, who not only didn't know each other so as to brandish their pictures around to, but very few had WHAPs with them. This had a double whammy effect on us. Firstly sales were poor without the WHAPs in attendance, but because they were all from different companies, no one was displaying our wares to their friends and encouraging them to "go on, go and have yours done!"

There are actually several types of Christmas Party to consider if you are looking to do them. I have listed them in no particular order, and labeled with risk factor, out of 10, with the higher the number being the higher the risk (in my opinion) to make a reasonable profit. Beware, it is possible to make a loss at Christmas parties. There are other factors which include numbers attending, but please don't think that large numbers always equates to high profit.

All of these are in my opinion, so does not make it right or wrong. It is just a rule of thumb I use when deciding if I want to do a Christmas party or not. In all honesty it is nearly always no, unless someone is prepared to pay some money up front.
Christmas Parties
  • Type 1 ... Pre-paid - 0/10 
  • Type 2 ... Print and Sell Corporate (partners, wives and husbands invited) no commission to pay. 5/10
  • Type 3 ... Print and Sell Corporate (Just employees) 8/10
  • Type 4 ... Print and sell at large party with mixed companies attending (Commission to Event Organiser) 9/10
  • Type 5 ... Print and sell at large party, with soul company (partners, wives or husbands attending. (Commission to Event Organiser) 6/10
  • Type 6 ... Print and sell at large party with soul company (No partners, wives or husbands attending. (Commission to Event Organiser) 9/10
  • Type 7 ... Print and sell at large party with company attending with partners, husbands and wives (Commission to Event Organiser and 3rd party photographer) 7/10
  • Type 8 ... Print and Sell Print and sell at large party with soul company attending without partners, wives and husbands (Commission to Event Organiser and 3rd Party Photographer) 9.5/10
  • Type 9 ... Part paid and part voucher (Print and sell included)  7/10
  • Type 10 ... Don't do Christmas parties and find other profitable Christmas photography projects 0/10

All of these will have varying profitabilities, and it is up to the photographer as to which he/she thinks will yield a greater return. Assuming you can make a profit and not a loss, which is entirely feasible.

As an example lets assume you make on average £400 per night over 10 nights during the run up to Christmas. That's £4000 for 10 nights. Looks good on paper doesn't it? Until you take into account, that unless the venue is on your doorstep, you may have to incur 
  • 10 x travel costs
  • 10 x wages (possibly more on some nights if you have 2 print staff)
  • Income Tax
  • VAT
  • Possible commission to the Event Organiser
  • Bags
  • Media
  • Props (if that's your bag!)
  • * Struts mounts
  • * USB Drives
  • * Promotional cards

* This is assuming that you aren't having to buy these from elsewhere, as this will really eat into your profits.. See below

It may be that you have been approached by a 3rd party photographer that has gained the contract to cover the season, but is looking to get someone else to do the job for him. I have heard of costs incurred here could include
  • You have to purchase their company clothing for yourself and your staff
  • You might have to buy the mounts from the photographer often at 5-7 times the price you can buy them yourself
  • Digital USB drives will most likely cost you up to twice what you can get them yourself
  • A percentage commission of your takings over a set limit will also certainly be applied

This isn't going to leave much change out of your £4000 Christmas money.

Think hard about taking on Christmas parties. Choose wisely, and it could be a very happy Christmas!


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