professional photographer

Episode 189: Owning the Role of CEO in Your Photography Business with Ashley Freehan

Owning the role of CEO in your photography business

Ashley Freehan is a multi-passionate entrepreneur. She is a business coach for photographers, a brand photographer, and podcaster. She is passionate about helping photographers confidently step into their role as CEO in their business so that they can increase their profits, while working less and without sacrificing their family or their sanity. She does this through her podcast and group coaching program called the Side Hustler to CEO.

Find Ashley Online

Transcript

Introduction 0:01
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 0:15
Hi, everybody. Today, I am here with Ashley Freehan. And she is kind of like me, like has multiple business interests, which I think I think I’m starting to realize that like, I can’t, even though we’re all told, just do this one thing. It’s a lot of fun to kind of like experiment with different things. So she is a business coach for mom photographers. She’s a brand photographer, she’s a podcaster. I’m seeing some similarities here. She’s a wife, and the one that impresses me the most is that she’s a homeschooling mom, having spent a year in pandemic life with children home, I have the utmost respect for all homeschooling parents. But she’s passionate about helping mom photographers to confidently step into the role thinking of themselves as the CEO in their business so that they can increase their profits while actually working less and not sacrificing that time with their family or sacrificing their sanity. So she helps through her podcast, she helps through group coaching her group coaching program, called the side hustler to CEO. And I am just really excited to have you because I think that again, there’s so many similarities between you and I. So Ashley, let’s first of all, welcome. Hello.

Ashley 1:28
Thank you for having me. This is so much finale.

Allie 1:31
Yes, it’s great to have you and let’s get into I always start for frequent listeners, they know I always start with their backstory. So I want to just hear kind of your quick backstory on how you got into the photography side. How you got into the coaching side, and kind of like branding, specifically getting it all pulling it all together to where you are now.

Ashley 1:50
Yes, absolutely. So welcome, listeners, I’m so glad to be here as Allie’s guest, I will start back towards I guess I’ll just start at the beginning. So my husband and I, we got married back in 2008. And I had an interesting experience with our wedding photographer. I kind of just felt like, they didn’t really get to know us on a personal level. And I didn’t feel like I had the best experience. Now the photos came out, okay, I love our wedding photos. But it was just the experience side that I really felt like I was lacking. And I was like, Oh my gosh, you can do this as a job. Like I didn’t really ever think of wedding photography as a job. But of course, you know, when you get married and you step into that whole world, you Your eyes are opened and so I sort of just dove right in of like, okay, how can I do this? So I started like most photographers, shooting anything and everything, anyone who would let me shoot them for free, you know, doing model calls, all the things to see really what I was interested in. So I probably was in that hobby stage, I would say so i We got married in 2008. But I didn’t really start photography until 2009. And so for probably the next three years, you know, it was just anything and everything. And then in 2012, I took my first big leap, I invested in my first workshop as a photographer, and things really started to change. And I decided I am going to do this seriously. I am going to do this as a business and I decided to niche down into wedding photography. So for 10 plus years, I’ve been a wedding photographer. And then just most recently, the past couple of years, I started transitioning into brand photography, and really fell in love with that. I decided to make this transition actually before I decided to homeschool. So we have not always homeschooled. My kids are seven and 10. So currently, they’re in second in fifth grade. And so this is our very first year homeschooling. You know, aside from the pandemic, where we were all forced to homeschool, that was a totally different experience. I just want to throw that out there for any moms who feel like they could never homeschool after that experience. It’s different. It’s really different. And as that as I transitioned into homeschool life, it definitely was hard. And we’re going to talk about that today of like, how to juggle both and how to really manage both, especially as they’re older, you know, you might be thinking, Oh, that’s gotta be such a breeze because they’re older. It’s not. So we’re gonna talk about that. But the coaching side actually happened really on accident. A couple of years ago, I felt really lonely as a mom and a business owner. And I just felt like I had so many friends that were moms, but they couldn’t relate to the business side. And I had so many friends that were business owners but they weren’t moms yet. And so they really didn’t understand that part. And I just felt lonely. I was like nobody really understands what it feels like to do both. And so God really laid it on my heart to actually see Start an in person Meetup group for mom business owners. And so just over the past few years, and with COVID happening, a lot of transition happens because my in person meetups couldn’t happen anymore. And then I really just decided, You know what, I love mom, business owners in general. But I really feel like I can provide so much knowledge, encouragement and support with the mom photographer. So that’s really when I started just niching down to speak specifically to them, because I know them inside and out. I am that person. And I just felt like I have so much knowledge to give. And so that’s how the side hustler to SEO program was born. And it’s just that’s kind of where I am today. That’s full circle how I got here.

Allie 5:47
And have you now transitioned out of weddings? Are you? Are you in photography? You’re purely focused on branding, right?

Ashley 5:52
Yes, absolutely. So I do take a few weddings here and there. But I have like specific specifications, I really want it to be, you know, like four hours or less. And it does have to be, you know, really close and local, I don’t really want to travel anymore. It’s just hard. You know, like when you transition, it’s hard to say no to that. Because, you know, weddings have just been so good to me for so many years. And I still love them. It’s not that I don’t love them. It’s just it became something that was super time consuming. And I just, I wanted more of that time freedom with my family on the weekends. And so that that’s kind of why I made that choice. Yeah,

Allie 6:30
it’s interesting, because I’m kind of I’m probably a few years behind you on that transition on that journey, moving from weddings, to branding. So I still have weddings this season. But I did cut them off at a certain point. And I found like taking them off my homepage, super boosted my branding by not having weddings, it just like made a huge difference for marketing branding. People saw me as a specialist. But I took them off my homepage. But there’s still like so much Google juice there that people find me anyway. So I’m learning to say no, it’s a it’s a process, which may, which may take us into some of these things we’ll talk about today. Okay, so with you doing all of these things, I’m very curious, because you are juggling a lot of balls. I wanted to ask you what a day in the life looks like. But that’s not even fair. So I thought I’d ask you what a week in the life looks like. And if you need to expand to a month because it’s too different. That’s fine. But I just want to kind of know, like, walk me through a little bit of what your life looks like, as you balance all of these different things that you do.

Ashley 7:27
Yes, absolutely. Such a good question. And I love to hear this from everyone, right? Because we all have a different way that we approach things, we all have different strategies that we use. So I love this question. So much. So day in the week definitely is more applicable. Because, you know, as much as I really preach and wish this was a possibility to make every day, similar every day, it just doesn’t work that way. Even like, you know, on a Monday, my Monday today will look very different than Monday next week, because that’s sort of my home still homeschooling style in general is I do want to be flexible, my work is very flexible. And so I do want to make sure that I leave room for fun, right leave room for things that we can kind of go on an adventure if we want to. And if I’m not feeling like working today, I can move my workday to a different day. But just to give you kind of an overview of what an ideal week looks like, we do school only three days a week, so Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and only in the mornings. And we have a very loose style of how we like to do things we do unit studies so we do school together a lot and we don’t do a lot we don’t do you know rigorous we’re not trying to recreate the school at home. So I love that aspect of it and then I leave my afternoons open for if we want to go do adventures or if I need some extra time to work I have that time available as well. Now Mondays are specifically set aside for work for me and my kids are home with me and so we just have a very different schedule they know that Mondays are my work day, we actually are going to be getting a membership to a trampoline park so that I can go work while they jump. And so I do have to do you know a lot of what you guys do to be creative with working while your kids are there and a lot of things that you know we might do that might look different than what you do is we do a lot of special time and this means one on one time with each kid so that they feel really taken care of before I’m about to go leave and you know go on a call like this right so there is some back stuff that I have to do in order to prepare for a long stretch of them being taken care of without me right there behind me alley can see they’re behind me in the living room area right now playing I don’t know what they’re doing. I hope they’re not getting into anything but you know this this might be a 30 to 45 minute interview. And they just know when mom gets on a call, I need to give her that time it but they do it willingly because I have given them the time that they need. So that’s one tip I can definitely give you if you’re working at home with kiddos is to just give them that time they need front load that connection with them before you were going to be, you know, Mia for a little bit. Um, so that was Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And then on Friday, they actually go to an enrichment program for homeschooled kiddos. So they’re gone. It’s it’s a public school, actually. And so they’re gone from 830 until 310 that day. So I actually try to push everything to Friday that I absolutely don’t want to do when they’re around, which is usually like recording my own podcast episodes, doing any type of like video filming, just all the things that are easier to get done when they’re not there. That goes on Friday. And then my Saturday and Sunday, as much as I would love to say I take the weekend off, because we homeschool and things are kind of crazy. And they never fit in the exact time block that I want. Even though I do do that, which we’ll talk about later, too. I do ask that my husband helps me out on the weekends. So I have a about two to three hour time block every week, where I go to either a coffee shop or a restaurant and grab chips and salsa while I work on the CEO portion of my business, which again, we’re going to talk about as well. But that’s really helpful for me. So again, I have to get really creative about how I get these time blocks in. But it’s really just about creating a plan and consistently sticking to that plan.

Allie 11:40
Okay, and you probably even started to touch on answers for some of my other questions. When you’re doing branding photography, since that has to happen in person. Are you doing those on Fridays? On the weekends when you typically scheduled those?

Ashley 11:51
Yes, I try to do that only on Fridays. So I will not even offer a Saturday unless a client specifically requests it because it might be you know, the day that they don’t work. And so they’re like, Hey, can we do a Saturday? Or, you know, I need you to come to my office and I don’t have clients on Saturdays. So something like that. I won’t offer it. But again, I will do it if they request it.

Allie 12:15
Yeah, because there’s a different energy to sitting in a coffee shop working versus the requirement of being on an at a session. And that’s what what I love about brand name is that it happens during the week. That’s my very favorite thing.

Ashley 12:28
Like daytime hours. So no more like yeah, two minute sessions giving up your evenings and your weekends. Those are, those are so precious.

Allie 12:36
Yeah, that’s a huge advantage in that world. Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about kind of owning the role of CEO in your business. So what does that mean to you to take on to kind of give yourself the title of CEO and your business to have that mindset?

Ashley 12:51
Yes. So this is actually a somewhat newer concept to me. So even though I have been in business for over a decade, I would say probably the last two to three years, I’ve really learned what it means to step into that role as CEO. And basically what that means is that, yes, you are the photographer in the business. And yes, you are, you know, all the other things, if you don’t have help yet as a solopreneur. But first and foremost, you are the CEO, and what that looks like is that you are in the driver’s seat, you are the one that is, you know, in, you know, thinking forward about your business, or you should be right. And I think how I sort of viewed it was, you know, I just do this on the side, you know, my husband, he has a full time job, and he brings in, you know what we need to cover bills, and like, my business is just fun money. So I never really saw myself as a legitimate business, until I started seeing myself through the lens of SEO. So SEO just basically means that you are taking your business seriously. It could be a side business, right? Maybe you’re giving part time hours to it, but it’s still a business. And I think when you own the fact that it’s a business, things begin to change, you start to make different decisions, you start to spend your time more critically, because you realize, especially when your time is limited as it is for me, you start to realize what’s the most important things to be working on as a CEO. And you’re sort of left feeling like, oh, you know, I don’t need to do all these other filler things that I thought I needed to do. So I think treating your business like a real business is step one, and really seeing your business as a way to increase profitability for your family. And I think a lot of people tend to just throw out a number. They’re like, Oh, I should be charging this for a session. And they really haven’t done any of the backend work to know like, Is that sustainable? How much am I actually taking home from that? And so that’s another thing that I think is really important that I help my students understand is that you need to be making sure that what you’re charging thing is actually going to fit into that bigger picture plan. And so that again, is another thing that a CEO would do is look at the bigger picture plan. So that you know, 20,000 foot view from above looking down, where do you want your business to go. Because if you’re always sort of just doing the bare minimum, and you’re always just sort of doing, you know, the things that are urgent, you’re not going to really see a whole lot of growth very quickly, it’s going to be a lot more of that slower growth. And you’re going to feel sort of like you’re in a hamster wheel of like, When am I ever going to see traction? And that’s why it’s because you don’t have the bigger picture, you know, in your top of mind. And so I think that’s really important. And then also just prioritizing time, I think this is what it comes down to is sure, you might be listening and saying like, yes, Ashley, I agree with all those things. Like I am the CEO, I know that I need to do this, but like, why can I do it. And a lot of it is just prioritizing the time. And as I mentioned my CEO time, it’s hard to get in, right? When you have the sessions that need to be edited, and you have, you know, the phone calls that you have to be on and there’s just it feels like there’s so many things you have to do. That’s kind of like the last thing on the list. When really, it should be the first thing on the list. And that should be the very first thing that you’re thinking about when you’re planning out your week is when am I going to have time to think about the bigger picture of my business, I need to be working on my business, not necessarily always in my business. And so we need to get out of the weeds out of the never ending feeling of always being hustling, trying to get things done. And really think about how can we plan this strategically, so that we do have more time. So we are more profitable, and we’re working less and have more time with our family. That’s what that’s what I’m here for.

Allie 16:50
So that’s the time you’re taking on Saturdays for as far as blocking your time because you have limited time Mondays, Fridays, and a little bit on Saturday. So Friday is when you’re like if you’re meeting people we’re doing sessions Saturday is that planning time and I think you said Monday was like, sometimes interviews, we’re recording this on Monday, and working in general. So you are dedicating a couple hours every week, just to the strategic vision is what it sounds like. Okay. And now with that one thing that I think a lot about as my own kind of version of thinking of my business as CEO is not just budgeting time and making a plan for the year thinking about like, how do I want to grow? Do I want to grow? It’s also it’s figuring out the budget. And so for me that’s, you know, first looking at my family’s budget and saying, How much do I want to bring in as the contributor of a dual income household? And then figuring out okay, like, based on that, what do I want to book I want to book more branding, how many sessions do I need to book? How am I going to go about doing that? How does the budgeting what does that look like for you, when you’re trying to figure out the balance between taking on the right number of sessions? Do you plan for how many sessions you want to book per year? Do you plan for what you want to spend per year? Just give me your view on that? Because I know it’s different for everybody?

Ashley 18:08
Yes, I love that you bring this question up. I think this is totally different for everyone. And I can speak to what I do right now. But so I own the purpose gathering, right, that is my LLC, kind of like parent company. And then I actually have three revenue streams that stem from the purpose gathering. So I do brand photography, I do coaching for mom, photographers, and then I also host in person workshops and teach people photography. So whether that be students like homeschooled kiddos, or adults, so I have three revenue streams, which again, is like having three different businesses. And I might be talking to some other, you know, multi passionate entrepreneurs out there too, who maybe have multiple revenue streams as well. And when you’re thinking about multiple revenue streams, you’re also thinking about, you know, marketing, sales, there’s a lot that goes into offering multiple things. And so, what I do is I like to think of okay, what is like my bare minimum, like that I want to contribute to my family. And really, my bare minimum is zero, I don’t really have to contribute anything to my family right now. There are things that I want to contribute and so instead of saying zero, because if you strive for zero, you’re not going to get very far. So I’ve tried to choose a bare minimum goal, that’s something like okay, what would I feel confident in contributing to my family? And so maybe that’s $1,000 a month, okay. So I start with my bare minimum goal, okay. If I could bring in $1,000 a month that would be great. Now what would my would be better goal, okay, so like, okay, my bare minimum is 1000 would be better would be 2500. Okay, cool. Then I’m going to think of my dream revenue like what would be the dream take home Boom. And so I actually have a free challenge where I walk moms through exactly what I’m sharing with you guys right now. And on average, most photographers take home half of their gross monthly income. So when I am walking through this, I am thinking, Okay, if I want to make $1,000 a month bare minimum, then my revenue has to be at least 2000 a month, right? So that’s where I start is I think about those three revenue goals. And I start with my bare minimum. So until I’m hitting that bare minimum, consecutively three to six months, you know, I’m not going to go on to the next one, right? There’s just no point in overextending yourself and going too far. So once I do that, then I start to think about, you know, how many sessions a month? Can I actually do? Or do I want to do right, we can all do more than we want to do. Right? So then I start talking,

Allie 20:57
and I’m glad I’m sorry, I’m glad you bring that up. Because I talked about this a lot on the podcast, but like, knowing what’s enough is just as important as knowing your minimum, because we could all like, get to a point where we’re just booking our lives away, and I’ve been there, and I’ve been like, just never let me do this again. So it’s good to have both views.

Ashley 21:15
Yeah. And I 100% agree with you, because I don’t feel like we’ll ever arrive at enough, you know, unless you learn to be content. And that’s just a whole nother podcast episode, right of contentment. And knowing that, you know, making all this money means nothing, if you are sacrificing family, if you hate your life, if you’re drowning, like the what is the point of that. And so just knowing what you want to make and how much you want to work is so important. And so that’s sort of where I go right now. So my, my number one like revenue stream that I want is my coaching. And then I want my photography, in person classes to be second. And actually my photography business, I love it. But I am so particular about who I book now, because it is more time consuming than I want to dedicate towards towards it right now because of my other revenue streams. And so I think about that, what’s the total income that I want for the year? And then I’m going to divide that by the number of sessions per year. And then I’m going to see like, does that match my session rate right now? And if it doesn’t, like, what do I need to adjust? And so I think that’s important too, when you’re thinking about like pricing your sessions, does what my session is priced at right now. Does that actually help me reach that goal? And if it doesn’t, then you need to stop everything you’re doing. Right? And try to figure out how can I charge more? Right? And, and focus on that, and that’s what I think, not stop everything you’re doing. But you know what I mean, stop, like all the extra things that you’re doing. And focus on that part right there. How can I be more competent as a photographer? How can I make sure that, you know, I’m streamlining my editing process so that it’s not taking me some of the students I talked to I’m like, it takes you how long to edit a session. Like you’re still in Photoshop? Why? Like, have you heard of photo mechanic? Have you heard of Lightroom? Some? Sometimes I think when you’re further along in your business, you forget what it was like to start. And so you have to kind of put yourself in those shoes of like, Okay, where did I start? Because I started in Photoshop too. And I didn’t know what any of those things were. And so I think it’s really important that you figure out what are what are what’s taking up the most time? And how can you streamline that so that you can be increasing profitability and working less?

Allie 23:41
Yeah, or if you’re offering retouching ever Photoshop, which a lot of branding photography does, and sometimes in weddings, charge for it, make it an extra fee. It’s not like you’re gonna like, I mean, you’re not going to make every photo, this perfectly photoshopped image without paying the price for it. So yeah, know your worth. That’s great. That’s good stuff. Um, okay. Is it okay, if I shift gears? I have a little little shift here. All right, I want to talk to you about this idea. You know, so we all talk about social media, obviously, that’s a part of life now in business. And you know, whether you’re excited about it or begrudgingly going on social media, we’re all a part of it. But let’s talk about how to actually network and engage with people and actually build relationships with people and why, why that matters. What that looks like in your world with your business.

Ashley 24:31
Yes, absolutely. And I talk about relationship marketing a lot. I don’t know. I know I didn’t coined that phrase, but I do use that a lot. And I think maybe people don’t understand necessarily what it means. But when I hear the word marketing, or I guess, what I used to think was, I just thought it was scary. And I just thought it was like, marketing is I mean, people have full degrees to be marketing experts and like, every big company has They’re on marketing, like, you know, weighing. And I’m just like, this is hard. And so I always went into this marketing idea of like, I’m just not good at marketing marketing is too hard, like, I’m not going to do marketing. But I think what really changed for me was when I viewed my perspective what marketing really is. So marketing really is just being visible, making sure that people know who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. That’s really simple, right? And so a lot of photographers will tell me, you know, my number one way that people hear about me is through other people. And I’m like, That’s awesome. Like, what are you doing to capitalize on all of those other people? And they’re like, I don’t know, I guess I’m just showing up on social media and hoping that those people who know about me keep referring me. And I’m like, Okay, that’s cool. And you can do that, right, you can show up. And it is important to show up and be consistent so that you stay top of mind. But I feel like a lot of photographers don’t take it a step further, to actually be engaging with those people who continue to refer you like how can you create a relationship with those people? How can you continue to nurture them? Even when you know, maybe they’ve never booked you before, I actually have one person that I can think of Top of Mind, who refers me over and over and over again. And she used me at the very beginning. And she hasn’t used me in 10 years, but she is my number one referral source? And what am I doing to like, continue that relationship with her? Like, how can I continue to show up and serve for her, even if she doesn’t need a photographer? And so I think it’s really important that we remember this engage strategy of just reaching out to people just asking how they’re doing, you know, it doesn’t even have to be like, How can I help you? Do you need photos today? It can just be like, Hey, I’ve been thinking about you. How is your family? What’s new in your world? Just that simple connection? I think so many people miss that. Right? It’s like, if you don’t post it on Instagram, then I’m not going to know about your family. But why can’t you just reach out and ask someone. So that’s very basic, simple, but some other strategies that I really love with relationship marketing is, anytime someone new follows me on Instagram, I will reach out to them and start a conversation with them. And just ask them about themselves. Like, how, you know, how did you hear about me? I would love to know how you got started with your business? Or I would love to know about your family. How many kids do you have, you know, and find commonalities with people and just be a human, right, don’t have any other hidden agenda of like, I’d love to take your photos, your family is really cute. I’m looking for you know, XYZ, like don’t even start there. Just start the conversation and get to know people. And I feel like that has been the most like beneficial part of my business is I really do seek to make relationships with people, even if I know they’re never going to book me. But you know, what happens like nine times out of 10 is they’ll end up referring me to someone who does need me. And so I think that’s what’s really important is just remembering to engage with people without an agenda.

Allie 28:24
That’s good. That actually reminds me I owe someone a thank you either card or outreach spark referring me that I just completely forgot to be like, Oh, my gosh, I just booked $3,800 in work because of you. Thank you. No, not not saying that. But like, just thanking them for thinking of me and sending me along. That’s, that’s really good advice. And those simple notes, I think you’re so right. And the fact that you take the time to do that when I know for a fact that very few people are doing that. So let’s talk about where people can find you. You have a podcast, you’re you’re on the internet and multiple places you have some resources to share. So let’s let’s share them. Let’s get them out there.

Ashley 29:03
Awesome. Thank you. So I am on Instagram, I’m active over there at the purpose gathering. and my website is the purpose gathering.com Super easy to find. I have a really easy search bar on my podcast. So if there’s a specific topic that you’re looking for, I talk a lot about motherhood, self care, business in general. So a lot of that you can just search if you’re looking for something specific. And then I do have that passion to profit challenge. I’d love to share with your listeners, that’s a totally free challenge that they can sign up for. I only launch it every quarter. So you might be on a waitlist depending on when you’re listening to this. The challenge is actually running right now. And so it’s just a really great way for you to kind of do a checklist of business audit of like, how am I doing? Where do I need to be focusing my efforts and yeah, that can be found at the purpose gathering.com/challenge So I’ll send you all these links to Ellie All right,

Allie 30:00
yeah. And I’ll have them in the show notes. I was like a good challenge. That’s why I like love new years because I love sitting down and evaluating everything. But I’m trying to do it more frequent. Obviously, we should do it more than just once a year. So I’m trying to be more frequent about it in my personal life in evaluating my personal budget. What do I actually what am I spending? What do I need to make? You know what now let’s look at business. So tying that all together for me is very fun. I don’t know it’s I don’t think it’s necessarily it might not be everybody’s favorite thing, but I really like it. So. Okay, well check out Ashley. All those places. Check the show notes for the links. And that does it for today. Ashley, thank you so much.

Ashley 30:41
Thank you, Allie. This was so fun.

Introduction 30:44
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo feel notes.com And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

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Episode 188: Money Management for Photographers with Erinn Bridgman

Money Management for Photographers with Erinn Bridgman

As a money management coach, Erinn Bridgman empowers entrepreneurs to design businesses that are not just ‘profitable’, but actually grow their personal wealth. Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, Erinn cut her chops by scaling her photography business to over six figures in under two years, affording her the capital to begin funding the real estate empire she and her husband now run. Erinn now supports business owners to not just ‘scale their business’ but to use it as a means for building personal wealth.

Resources:

Transcript

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Allie 0:00
Hello, welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast episode 188. Before we get into the episode today, a quick reminder, if you are looking for guidance and help on your workflows on your systems with client communication, at photo field notes.com/shop, you’ll find my client prep guides plus simple product sale system. This is just one big package, it’s all included. So you have your customer customer cannot talk customizable client guides that are designed in Canva, you have one for just general photo sessions, one for maternity and newborn sessions, and one for weddings, those are all included. So you can pick and choose what you want. There’s also a product guide that shows products, and all of these, they’re going to prep your clients, they’re going to show them how to style photos into their homes. And it comes with specific images that you can in Photoshop, pop your own images into these mock ups of products. And you can use those on social media and use those of course in the guides. So check that out at photo field notes.com/shop

Intro 0:59
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business, and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 1:13
Hi everybody, this is Allie Siarto, and I’m talking with Erinn Bridgman today. So let me give you a little bit of background on Erin, so you know who she is. She’s a money management coach. And she is Empowering Entrepreneurs to design businesses that aren’t just profitable, that actually connect to their personal wealth, grow their personal wealth as well. So we’re going to talk about that connection. And so Erin she was born with this entrepreneurial spirit always had it in her. And she caught her own chops in business running her own business as a photographer, so very relevant, which gave her the money to start investing in real estate. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about how that ties together. And she’s just been so passionate about supporting women as they uncover their own potential and earning power. So she supports business owners to not just scale up their businesses, but to also use that as a means for building personal wealth. Aaron Hello, welcome.

Erinn 2:05
Yay, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Ali.

Allie 2:09
Well, anybody who listens to the podcast knows that I always like to, I love storytelling. And so I don’t expect anyone’s singular path to be like a copy and paste template for anybody else. But I love hearing stories because we all have the like, simply because we all have such different stories. So why don’t you start me out with just like a quick backstory on how you got into photography, and how you kind of transform this into what it is now.

Erinn 2:36
Amazing. I love hearing people’s stories. So thanks for asking. Okay, so I was a photographer, I started in 2012. And kind of what led me into photography, I was always interested in being behind the camera and like the art of it, and I have like that creative nature in me. But it’s expensive. It can be expensive to get into. And so I kind of and I remember a friend giving me this magazine book thing on how to work a camera on manual. I’m like, Okay, this is like really, really kinda like nerdy and techie. I don’t think I could do this. And then I was like, We graduated college. My husband and I were just recently married. Both of us have entrepreneurial roots, just like in our blood. And he started his first like, little business when he was eight. I had been doing little things as kids and then I actually paid for college being a door to door bookseller, which is fun stories there. But well, that sounds like a nightmare. I think that is for sure. The hardest form of sales, literally cold calling, knocking on people’s doors. And I learned a lot about myself a lot about mindset, problem solving, and a lot about sales. And so we were able to afford our first camera using our graduation money, and quickly, I love people. I love love. We were just married. So it quickly evolved into a business. We were in that season where all of our friends and our acquaintances were getting married. And so I was just polish and I was just like, let me photograph your wedding. And that evolved into growing within the first couple of years growing into a six figure brand. We settled in Indianapolis, I was working an hour north of the city. So we did a lot of grinding and commuting to bridal shows an engagement session sales meetings and but yeah, so I just absolutely love the art of photography. But even more than that, I love the business side, which is I feel like often reverse as I work with and coach photographers and creatives. And so yeah, that is kind of we were photographers and started a video portion so Brent would do the videography at the weddings, I would do photography and We did that for about seven years. And as we were doing that we were also getting our master’s degrees and had full time jobs. And a huge part of that was, we had a lot of student debt, and we weren’t making a ton of money in our early careers. So we’re like, well, we can solve this, we have the ability to make money. And so photography was the first way we did that. And as I kind of left my career in higher education, I was sort of fighting the StrengthsFinder, I was doing a lot of development work with women. And so it naturally led me into coaching, doing business coaching. That was five years ago. And that is my heartbeat that is like my sole work, empowering women around money, helping them scale their businesses and their own personal competence. And in the meantime, we were living in a college town working in higher ed and we bought our first rental property, which I’m sure we’ll talk about a bit in 2014, and have been scaling our real estate company since then. But that’s a little bit of my journey, a little about my story. And I know before we got online, we were talking but I love that you’re from Michigan, your Michigan girl, I’m from Indiana, and we spend our summers up in northern Michigan and diversity, my favorite place on Earth. So

Allie 6:14
I know sometimes I don’t want people to know about Traverse City. I’m like, don’t tell it’s

Erinn 6:18
I know. I know. I mean, if you look at like, um, Brian, I have been together for 12 years. So like what the city looked like 12 years ago now. It’s like insane.

Allie 6:28
I was telling Erinn, we were talking just like we’re going to talk a little bit about real estate. But I was telling her that like 10 years ago, there was a condo for sale for less than $200,000 in downtown Traverse City. And we looked at it but didn’t get it. And now I mean, we weren’t even probably close at the time we bought our home then like, let’s be real, we didn’t have the money for it. But now I’m like, I wish that we would have bought this place because it’s easily I mean, they are selling for like a million dollars for one or two bedroom now downtown in Traverse City. So it’s a great place. It is a wonderful, it is truly one of my favorite places in the whole world. So we’ll get into the real estate.

Erinn 7:09
I know I love it.

Allie

Okay, let’s talk first we’re going to start with just kind of like business and money. And then we’re going to kind of touch on real estate later because I actually I, we started in but my whole my total side tangent. My parents entire investment strategy has been real estate. And so my dad started out like one of eight family with no money, he paid his own way through even high school, he went to private high school paid his way through everything. When we were kids, you know, they paid off, they bought our house and like built it bit by bit. We were like, the floors weren’t carpeted for a while, all this stuff because he’s putting every penny into real estate investing to where now they’ve just done phenomenally well with that and been such an inspiration. So it’s an area that interests me, but I’m gonna talk. There’s just so much there. And I think it is still fun to talk about because you can be one thing, but you can have the investment is a whole other area when you’re looking at wealth building and retirement and cashflow. So let’s back up before we get there. And let’s just talk about the financial challenges that tend to keep photographers from building wealth.

Erinn 8:19
Yeah, well, like I said, in my story, I’m, that’s my roots in entrepreneurship is photography. And so I naturally attract a lot of photographers, in my coaching business, and a lot of just creatives in general. And so, generally speaking, I really coach from two perspectives. And so I want to kind of talk about both of those. I really, we talk about all the mindset part with thinking because our thinking leads to action. And so there are certain icy common mindset blocks that I think creative struggle with. And then there’s the whole management piece of money. So in my program in my intensive, we really we’ve both of those together, because I believe that’s how we create sustainable change with money. So let’s start with mindset a bit, I think, some common things that I see. And of course, everyone’s story is different. And so I encourage your listeners to tap into maybe these examples, but then think about their own money journey, their own their own things that are maybe blocking them. And then we can do the deeper work around rewiring our thinking and bringing ourselves more into abundance and away from fear. But a few things I think. One is I hear a lot of times creative saying I’m just not good at numbers. I just like numbers are really hard. I’ve just don’t know how to do it. Math, spreadsheets, numbers. And you know, nobody is born. Knowing that nobody is born knowing numbers. is, and many times, photographers, graphic designers, we fall into these careers because we love the art, we and then they find out, Oh, we can make money and then it evolves into from hobby to business. And so right with right there, it means it’s become about numbers. And so this is a skill that can be attained. It doesn’t have to be a trait you are born with. And so I really challenge if you are thinking as you’re listening, that’s to me, I’m just not a numbers person. Stop labeling yourself that way, because you’re continuing to tell your subconscious that and that’s just an excuse, and start to realize, okay, like, maybe this isn’t my natural way. I’m wired, but it’s something I can learn. And so I think that’s a common kind of belief. I think too many times because of that evolution of we love what we’re doing. And it’s like this hobby, and it’s almost like, How can I? How can I even charge people for this work, we have this sort of worthiness conversation that we have to really dive into around money, because for some reason, maybe we have this belief that it has to be really hard to make money, we have to feel like we’re grinding to make money, we have to exchange time for dollars. And as you’re scaling in the industry, and growing your business, which I know your podcast is all about helping photographers grow their business, you know, you have to go beyond this kind of Congress, this this thinking and say like, Okay, I’m worthy of charging, even though I love it, and maybe like, what’s that story, you’re saying about money? Oh, it has to be hard, you can’t enjoy it, you know, or it has to be like really hard in order for me to have the energy of money in my life. And so I love for people to step into this place of worthiness and like flow with money. So those are two of the common like, mindset, sort of things. There’s more, but that I see. So hopefully that answers that. And we can jump into management too, if you want. But

Allie 12:10
Yeah, I do think that that I think a lot of people do struggle with, you know, like revenue versus profitability versus personal wealth. So if you want to talk a little bit about the difference, and how we can use our businesses like tie that, that for some reason, the default has become revenue for a lot of people that that’s like, not the most important in my head. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on tying that all the way back to personal wealth.

Erinn 12:36
Yes. Well, I love that you said that. Thank you for saying that. For some reason, it’s become so much about revenue. And that’s what I see a lot in our industry and education coaching. online space is a lot of advertising around programs, or coaching or whatever is about like, let’s double your revenue, let’s get you to be that six figure entrepreneur like, and I’m not trying to fix that, like it’s part of what I do. Part of it is about revenue. But more important than revenue is of course, profitability. And more than more important than profitability is salary within your companies. And so this is how I teach that, yep, we have to get all of your money numbers dialed in as far as your business. And I would love to talk a little bit more about what that looks like, and what photographers really need to be thinking about beyond p&l sheets. But you know, who cares? If you’re a six figure entrepreneur, if you pay yourself crap, and you’re barely getting by, and money is like a source of anxiety and tension, that’s not really allowing your business to impact your personal wealth in the way that is possible. And so when I work with people, it’s really important that we have your, your finances organized in your business, so that we can and crease your salary. And many times I see for sure, and even that word salary might be like, Well, I don’t even have a salary. I mean, you know, oh, many times I see photographers don’t pay themselves consistently. They don’t have a consistent salary that they can count on. They sort of get by in their personal life and they draw out of their business, when it’s absolutely necessary for them. And right, they’re like, What are we telling ourselves, we’re saying, like, I pay myself last, you know, like, business is more important. My personal right? We’re like giving ourselves all these subconscious messages, which is not helpful. But then also we’re really not setting ourselves up to feel and to pursue a wealthy life. And I believe that wealthy women will change the world because of the way that we show up the way that we have to be trained. swarmed in the process of becoming wealthy way that we generously impact the world. There’s so many reasons. And so starting with really understanding, how do I pay myself consistently? Then how do I raise that? How do I bonus myself out? All those types of things, and I really teach, you cannot just be the CFO of your business. And those things have to do with your being your business CFO being able to pay yourself salary up at give the bonuses, but you need to be the CFO of your personal life. And that means understanding your current lifestyle, how much does that cost? How much does it cost you to live on a month to month basis, not just your fixed budgeted expenses, but also your, your short term, so planning for Christmas planning for trips, you know, not being like, Oh, crap, I’m going somewhere next, next month, and I haven’t thought about I haven’t saved for a wealthy woman is prepared and she’s, you know, doing those things. And, and then really, really knowing your financial goals beyond your current lifestyle. And so I teach five different categories around that. And how do we like strategically take your business and have it not only impact your personal life now, but have it work towards those bigger financial goals?

Allie 16:23
I think that’s good. And I for the first time, maybe ever this last year, I actually did a spreadsheet where I like, broke down, I used to use Personal Capital and men, and it would break down my personal expenses. But I finally just did like a spreadsheet to break it down. And it’s all to say, spoiler, you’re always spending more than you think. I maybe that’s not true for everybody. But I was like, Oh, I’m very reasonable. Like I haven’t, I haven’t left the state and ages. I haven’t gone on a real vacation in two years. I’m not spending that much. But then I was like, oh, except I was putting tons of money into renovating the house in the meantime, or, you know, using. So I think that you’re right, that kind of the CFO of your own life, where you’re looking at what is my budget, what am I spending, and I don’t necessarily budget down to the penny in that way. But I think that being aware of every single month, what what I’m investing what I’m bringing in and like balancing that out, even just making a simple bar chart to compare the two and looking at net worth and looking at future goals. is all there important. So let’s talk about if you’re a single business owner, you’re not necessarily you know, let me also be clear, there are a lot of messages in the world that we need to grow, grow, grow scale, scale scale. And I ran a business like that, in my 20s, where we were all about growing, we were all about hiring and bringing on people. And I found that to be quite a burden, actually, to have to have the responsibility of other employees. I just wanted more flexibility in my life. And so for those who maybe don’t want to scale endlessly, who want to make sound, you know, make enough to pay their bills invest and build a future for themselves. How can they still make those sound financial decisions without hiring away everything?

Erinn 18:19
Wow, I love that question. I love that you’re bringing it up, because I just went through this my own process with this where, you know, you look at the industry and you’re like what’s the way all the Guru’s teach you the scale, because I had this, okay, I’ve made it to this level, and I’m ready to like make it to the next. And I went through a process of kind of abandoning my intuition and just going off for it. And you know, running the Facebook ads and spending 10s of 1000s of dollars on funnels and ads and strategists and all this and growing a team that was like, I had a coaching team coaching underneath me. So all of a sudden, like I don’t even get to do what I love anymore. I have coaches coaching my people. And I don’t even why I don’t like that. And so just my own personal story has been really like allowing yourself to find alignment. And following your intuition. I talk about something called the entrepreneur sweet spot. And it’s made up of four things. And we create this filter for decision making in business based on these four things. Because as entrepreneurs, we have a different take on life, you have a different take on business, we don’t go to work and be told by our boss what to do, or we make our own standards. And so the entrepreneur sweet spot is the blend of when these four things are working in sync and they’re working in alignment. And that is that we money so we feel really aligned with our money we will go with the energy, like how much we’re manifesting into our life, our pricing all that. But it’s not just money. It’s you know, we feel really good about the impact that we’re making on the world. So out sat, like, we feel like, Hey, we are putting the mark on the world with, with our company that we want. Passion, that we feel like when we wake up in the morning, our to do list, what we have ahead of us is lining us up. And then lifestyle if we feel like, you know, if if flexibility is a huge part of it, or, you know, being available for the kids, and all of that. And so I love to just say all of those things need to be making sense for you. And in a really good spot, in order for I believe you to be living your best entrepreneurial life. And that looks different for every person, you know. And so as your listeners that may be thinking through that, maybe think about each of those categories. And Mike, what I what am I am I fully there, where do I want to work and, you know, as a money coach, of course, that is, money is one that I focus a lot on, but not to the abandonment of the others, you know, and so I just wanted to kind of introduce that concept. And then say, everyone, yeah, everyone’s journey is going to be different. If you want to grow your, your net worth, if you want to grow in investments, you have to have money overflow, you can’t just you can’t, whatever you make spend, then you have nothing left to put towards savings to put towards investing. And so, you know, I would say that, for me and my philosophy, not not a philosophy of hustle culture or grind culture. But how can you find a flow and align that with money that feels really good, whether it’s your pricing structure and raising your rates, or raising who you work with, or making sure you outsource the things that are much lower dollar amounts to outsource that you’re in your spot of genius. So that you have an overflow of money coming into your personal life that you can use towards investing towards lifestyle improvements towards generosity, savings and debt payoff. Those are the five areas that I look at, when we are looking at financial goals for women to move up in their wealth.

Allie 22:22
And you kind of talk about this idea that traditional financial advice is kind of actually leading people toward like this idea of scarcity. Can you explain what you mean by that, and what you think how we how we should look at it differently beyond the traditional financial advice that we see.

Erinn 22:40
Yeah. So there’s fans out there that you know, follow different leaders different advice. And some of it I agree with, it’s all but I don’t. And I always say particularly, I’m speaking to the audience of entrepreneurs. So right away, my message is different than if I was speaking to somebody who wasn’t an entrepreneur. And I know that your listeners are those people. And so I want to remember remind you, that you are a unicorn, you are this magical being who’s decided that you’re ballsy enough and competent enough to say, I can take something of myself a skill, my knowledge, my creation, if you make physical products, and I can take it to the market. And I can say, like, ask for money in exchange for that. And that takes a certain type of woman, it takes a certain type of confidence and belief. And also you have an opportunity in the marketplace to make more money to you aren’t stuck to a specific salary. You can do strategic thing. Strategic and headspace mindset things to generate, generate more money into your world. And so I talk about how I really want to this conversation to be expanded into like, this isn’t just about individual listeners here, who are like thinking about themselves. It certainly starts with that. But this is a movement for women beyond just the individual. If you look at society, and you look at even the past 100 years, you know, less than 100 years ago, a woman could open a bank account without a man and less than 100 years. You cannot open a credit card without a man signing on that as well. I mean, it’s crazy to me. And so I like to really put this idea of like as women entrepreneurs, we are on the front lines of making change and this movement and all that to kind of say while we need to be aware of For our money, and we budget to have an awareness of our patterns or habits and awareness of truly what does it cost us to live? I like to make sure that the energy is not focused on how do I save $5 a month and get rid of this subscription? And how do I trim this down and trim that down? Yeah, we should do those things we should be, you know, but that’s not the most productive energy for an entrepreneur, we got to be responsible, we got to know that stuff, do that stuff. But I’d like to say let’s put more energy, more heart towards manifesting more, because that’s our magic as entrepreneurs, I would rather you take, let’s say, there’s a certain amount of energy that it takes, both in strategy and in your nature of your nurturing of your mindset, to like, be disciplined to save money to, to, you know, pinch pennies, all of that. And let’s say we can take that same amount of energy, and put it towards believing bigger things about money, believing in abundance, moving out of, you know, fear into a space of belief, and possibility, we take that much time that we’re taking the, you know, pinch all the pennies, and we’re like, doing it to make more money and raise our rates and show up confidently, I think that you’re we’re gonna have a lot more impact that way, as entrepreneurs. And so that’s our magic. That’s an obviously it’s not one without the other, there’s like, you know, a combo, but we aren’t like, I guess we aren’t tied to a salary, let’s put a lot more thought and energy towards manifesting more.

Allie 26:46
Yeah, and I think it’s a balance, I’ll be, I’ll be honest, on my end, I was recently reading a book by an author who’s kind of I think, like rising in the entrepreneur space, and I disagreed with, like, everything she had to say, because she was all about, you know, outsource. I was gonna call it anyone who’s read the book, outsource your laundry, budget yourself, it was like a month to month mindset. And so that a wealth building mindset, it was all about, like live that take that fancy vacation will be at that fancy wardrobe, it was like taking it too far. And so I do think it’s a balance, like, yes, we can, we don’t necessarily need to exhaust ourselves where we have nothing left in the like, in the cup in the pot, because we put all of our energy into that. But I also think that like we can be responsible with our personal lives. And by reducing our copying, by being just generally responsible with our once a month expenses, it takes away a lot of stress that allows us to do some experimentation in our business that may or may not make money. And that’s how you find some of those really amazing ideas. So I think that it’s a very tricky balance, but we have to, we have to kind of open up both sides. Like that’s not necessarily permission to become an adult. I just watched inventive Anna, like go on, like a 60 grand vacation, or like something that’s absolutely ridiculous.

Erinn 28:08
And to be clear, that’s not what I’m saying. Like I’m saying, you have to be able to do both, but I think our tendency, and what is out in the educational space around finances as a lot more about like scrubbing down saving, focusing on that space, and I’d like to push the push the story a little bit and say, okay, yes, I mean, that’s I every woman that I work with, creates a personal budget, they do 30 days of tracking their spending, like we’re doing those things, but also we’re making sure we’re putting a lot of energy towards stretching our mindset and like doing an abundance challenge manifestation challenge, creating projections in our company, looking at the possibility and not just the penny pinching part of things.

Allie 28:57
Yes, definitely. The balance it sounds like is what you’re a proponent for. And I think that that’s good, just making sure we we sit within that nice sweet spot within the balance right?

Erinn 29:07
And everybody has right and everybody everyone who’s listening you should be able to you know that it’s it’s scary if we have like a one size fits all sort of money coaching or money, you know, every one is at a different space in their money journey in their money goals in you know, certain people I’m gonna say, Yeah, take the vacation, like do that, you know, and Sam, and then Sam, he was like, Well, the first thing we have to do is pay down debt and create savings, you know, and so, there is a certain framework and rhythm that you know, different people are at different places that and thus the money coaching would would differ per person. Yeah,

Allie 29:52
I see. And I know also like between the lines, a lot of people follow Dave Ramsey in the past I used to like we fully paid off all debt we pay Get off our house. And then I was like, well, dang, I should have used that money to invest in real estate more when prices were lower. No, I mean, I love having no no debt and no mortgage. But now that we’re getting into real estate investing, I’m like, it’s getting expensive. So that segues me just quickly, let’s just talk about real estate. Now I know at the base level, it doesn’t seem like this is relevant to photographer. However, as photographers, we do need to think about our future. And part of that is when we hopefully have this of an abundance of money, we want to be investing that. And so there are different places to invest it. For me personally, we invest in like mostly just index funds and real estate. And so I would love to hear your thoughts on for somebody. Like, I know this is a whole world and probably impossible, but just maybe tell me a little bit about your own journey getting into real estate and your own thoughts around how that’s worked for you.

Erinn 30:55
Yeah. So funny. You talked about Dave Ramsey. So my husband and I did Financial Peace University before we got married. We were like drinking the Kool Aid. And then we were like, what I think that deeper, like our philosophies definitely break down. And that goes into sort of, I think it’s different when you’re entrepreneur, Dave Ramsey is speaking to not the entrepreneur audience necessarily.

Allie 31:26
Yeah, he is the one size fits all. And he’s probably not very good for people who are in a lot of debt. But I think you’re right, it breaks down when you get into some lost opportunities once you’re able to once you’re beyond that level.

Erinn 31:40
And that’s exactly why I needed to say that because of what Brett and I chose to do. Um, yeah, so we had saved up money because of photography, because like I said, our salaries were pretty low at the time. And so, being what I just said, Yeah, we made we had budget, and I remember us having going to the Cheesecake Factory and splitting a meal. And that was our like splurge and we would bring our budget sheets, and we would talk about our budget. So we were conscious about our spending, but we were more conscious about how do we make more. And so that’s where we were able to, you know, expand our lifestyle through photography. And we saved up $18,000 And I made the cow. And at that time, that was a lot of money for us how $18,000 Like, you know, and we had close to $100,000 in student debt, because, I mean, Brett was partway through pursuing his PhD I was we both got her master’s degree. So higher ed is expensive. And so we were faced with this reality of we could take $18,000 And we could pay off one of our student loans. Or we could take $18,000. And we could buy an investment property that would eventually pay off all of our student loans. And I had to press it against my resistance, my mindset of, I’m an accumulator, that’s one of mine. I’m also a maverick maverick in the sacred money archetypes. That is weird balance of like wanting to take risk and go be crazy. And also like feel the money and just kind of keep it nice and pretty in my bank account. And you know, Brad’s been spending a lot of time educating himself in real estate. And so I said, this is kind of a fun story. I said, Okay. One night, as you’re going to bed, I said, Brian, if this is really like a passion of yours, you really believe in it. Like, I’m on board. Like, I have that nature in me like, right, like, I want to take risks. I want to be financially smart. Let’s go for it. This was in 2014. And so I’m not kidding you. The next morning, I roll over, he’s not in bed, he calls me he’s on his bike. And he’s like, What are you doing? He’s like, I am driving around the town. I’m finding us our investment property, like Oh, my God, you know, crazy man. And, you know, funny story is by about a week after that we had pended, our first investment property, and we did some really strategic things and some things very much kind of out of luck, which if you want to go into the can, but that investment property that took the $18,000 to create the downpayment and the repairs and renovations we did. Turned out to make us over $100,000 and pay off our debt. And so my story is when it comes to investing, and kind of my philosophy right now is is we see dollars as little soldiers and we want them to go to work for us. We don’t want them to just sit in the bank account instead. So our methodology has been real estate, we are just starting to get more into the marketplace a little bit just to diversify. But for the most part, we’re going to put our money in real estate because of the annualized rate of return that we see happening within our company within our empire. And so I want to say that even though now, you know, we own our CO own almost 40 doors, our company is on track to purchase 180 homes this year. And that might feel like so crazy are so big, but it started with saving money in our photography, business, and having $18,000 To buy every first rental property, and making a lot of freaking mistakes along the way, and learning a lot. And that has been what has evolved us into this space. And so I want to just be so approachable in my story so that people can see themselves and see like, Okay, well, what’s possible for me.

Allie 36:06
And also, to be clear, you got really lucky on time and getting started. As we talked about Traverse City. So what about people now who are looking at the real estate market? And they’re like, Oh, this is so crazy, you do still think it’s a good time to get in?

Erinn 36:20
Oh, yeah. I mean, right, we can always see that we can always look at the missed opportunity. But Brett and I say we’ve never bought in a down market. So you might be thinking, oh, so nice. You started then. But we didn’t get to start in a down market. We’ve always, you know, 2008 2008 2009 those times, like, if we bought our first one in 2014. And now you’re looking at the marketplace, right? People are thinking how the heck do you even buy a home right now with, you know, appraisal Gap coverage, and people going so high above list and all of that. And certainly there are those challenges. But I mean, our company shoots to purchase 12 to 15 homes a month. And in the past 45 days, we have printed 48 homes in Indianapolis. And so you need to know, like, you know, obviously, there’s a lot of education before you just jump in. And there’s lots of different ways to make money in real estate. You don’t have to necessarily do our approach, there’s turnkeys, there’s dye, you know, you can flip, you can just be a hard money lender that lends out money to people like us who go and use it, you know, there’s lots of different ways to make money. And in real estate, and you know, we coach different, my husband and I part of what we do is coach people in real estate. And so like we have a couple who’s in California, they’re not going to purchase their home in California, they’re going to be out of state investors. And so you need to find the spaces that are more approachable to the market. And Indianapolis is a very hot city for that. And if people are really interested in learning more about real estate, I would highly encourage them to go to bigger pockets. And that’s a great resource, as well as our YouTube channel where we talk a lot about real estate investing and just making it a little bit more approachable.

Allie 38:12
So you must have a team now helping to manage those houses. And then do you have outside investors also helping to invest to grow?

Erinn 38:18
We mostly do not use outside investors. It’s a we have a 5050 partnership in the company. And we work to basically fund the entire thing at this point. It wasn’t like that, always. But that’s where we’re at now. And yes, you have a whole team. But I’ll just say, a year ago, it’s well, it’s marked one, our first hire, full time hire was February of last year. And we now have five people that work for us full time five or six, five. So we’ve grown a lot in just the past year. But I mean, you don’t have to create this empire either. You don’t have to be like semi insane, like Brett and I, you know you can do a house at a time you can do. There’s lots of different approaches to how to do it. But I think it’s just the philosophy of getting outside of exchanging time for money and getting into this idea that our money can work for us. And how do we start where are opportunities where do we need to be educated? How do we what habits and thinking do we need to have in order to work towards that and you know, we none of us have 401 K’s as entrepreneurs we are in charge of our future and our retirement and all that and so I love for people as they’re getting into the you know, heartbeat of their careers and really seeing their business take off to keep this in their mind and be active towards this right away.

Allie 39:56
Nice. Okay, just for fun. I want to hear your Worst tenant story ever.

Erinn 40:03
Worst tenant story

Allie 40:05
Because I have what I can share. You want me to share mine?

Erinn 40:09
Yeah, go ahead.

Allie 40:10
Okay, this wasn’t me, my whole family invests in real estate. So a couple weeks ago, my sister and her husband had a house that they, they the original tenant passed away and other family members moved into the house and basically, like, squatted in it for a year. And when they finally got them out, and they just left, it basically was a $10,000 turnover, and they left their cat. And so I ended up having to go get the cat and keep it in my office for a few days while we checked it made sure it didn’t have fleas, make sure it was healthy, ultimately, luckily found somebody to adopt this cat. But I said to my sister, because we have one rental property. And I was like this really puts things into perspective. I’m like, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know if you can prevent it, the crazy things happening. But you have to know that it’s not completely passive. It’s definitely not.

Erinn 40:59
Yeah, we have we’re grateful for we have our business partner also owns a property management company. And so he his company, nurses, most of our properties. And then my sister also works for us full time. And part of her role is to do property management. So we don’t have a ton of that right now, like on our plate. But I think the fun this is like just a fun story. I mean, this is this is really bad tenant situation, but not in the way you’re maybe thinking that. So we were in California. And you see I’m like not being passive, always fully passive. At this point, we were the ones running the property, you know, at the beginning. And like, we’re supposed to be going to Joshua Tree with some friends. My husband is like not home yet. And I’m like, where are you, Brett? Like, we need to get going, you know? And he’s like, really bad news today are really bad. I’m like, What are you talking about? And he’s like, you’re not even gonna believe it there. I was like, what is it? Like, our house is on fire. Like, what? That is really bad news. That is okay, I wasn’t expecting that. And so we had the front house and the back house was like, a garage with a one bedroom apartment on top of it. And then we took like $6,000 and created into being a whole house, it was like three bedroom, two bath. And luckily, you know, we were smart enough to pull two separate insurance policies, which is part of the being lucky. And that investment making us even more than we thought. But turns out those tenants had allowed somebody else which is college rental, to come join them and live there for a little bit, which is illegal, you can’t do that. And while they were out to class, that Tao who was staying with them smelled something. And she’s the one who actually called the fire department, everything like that. They had this weird futon. And also they were super evasive. They obviously they didn’t want it to be put on them because then their insurance but then our insurance is gonna figure out how it all happen. And it turns out they had this weird futon that had like an outlet in the futon that you could like plug in your accessories. And it caught the whole frickin house on fire.

Allie 43:36
What a nightmare. Oh my gosh. You know, honestly, the stories I could tell just from like my dad and my sister sitting around telling these insane stories. It’s it scared me off a little bit. Although I do still absolutely see, I think that this is a really great place to be. Also it’s funny because we’re also in a college town every year, the doors would be the college since would take the doors off the handles and use them as beer pong tables and southern always be like, the rings around the doors, or they just like would never clean or if a light bulb burned out. They just wouldn’t replace it. So just to be like, this bathroom with no windows is completely dark. And they do like, oh yeah, we replaced the light. So there are lots of like, you need it. You need a little sense of humor going into this but I think it’s a huge opportunity.

Erinn 44:24
And it’s a huge opportunity that comes along with some stories that like feel like you’re making them up.

Allie 44:31
Truly, so truly. Okay, um, so tell me then you have resources for listeners today. So when they find those resources,

Erinn 44:41
Yeah, so most active place if you want to just like follow me chat, send me a DM is on Instagram. Erinn_Bridgman, but I have I just created I think this is really helpful resource. I just created a wealthy woman checklist and it really helped to organize and think through how to be the CFO of your business, what are the things you really need to be thinking about? How to be the CFO of your life, and then the CFO of your mind. And so that’s it also that the checklist comes with different I have I created like video trainings to go with it. It’s like, amazing, it’s totally free. So I guess we can link that in the show notes as well. I would love for people to grab that.

Allie 45:24
You’ll see all of that in the show notes. If you can’t remember, just click the links or go to photo field notes.com. And you’ll find everything you need. So Eric, thanks for sharing these stories. I like to get outside the box a little bit and kind of think about it’s not just about the business. It’s about the life, the whole design of your life. And so as a photographer, we need to be thinking about the future and income, you know, income flow, cash flow, and sometimes that’s more than just taking photos.

Erinn 45:50
Absolutely.

Allie 45:52
Thanks for listening, check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

Episode 186: Is the IPS Photography Model Manipulative?

Is the IPS (in person sales) photography model manipulative?

I try to show different viewpoints on this podcast, and for the past few weeks, I’ve been really digging in to understand why I left the in person sales model and why it never felt quite right to me. After discovering the podcast Duped: The Dark Side of Online Marketing with Michelle Mazur and Maggie Patterson, I realized that in person sales has potential to be emotionally manipulative toward clients. Buckle up as I dig into my research and share stories to back up these points. I’m also sharing a better way to offer clients the full service, including opportunities to get art into their homes, without manipulation and hard sells.

Resources

Transcript

Automatically generated through otter.ai

Hello, and welcome to the photo fields podcast. This is a solo episode, which I used to do all the time, it’s been a really long time. And I feel like I’m really overdue to just sit down and talk into the microphone and express my own views. Okay, so in the past, in this podcast, I have tried to show different viewpoints. And sometimes I’ve interviewed guests with completely opposite viewpoints to show you that there’s really no single way to do something or anything. So if you look back one example is my series with Jonathan Canlas. On refusing to specialize, he talks about how he will not specialize as a photographer, that’s Episode 30, if you want to find it at photo field, calm. And then I interviewed Alicia Cane, and she talked about why specializing matters as a photographer and why that’s an important part of your business. And that’s episode number 33.

In this case, they had opposite viewpoints. Neither one is right or wrong. It’s all about what works for you and your business. And today, I’m going to talk about a topic that’s maybe a little bit of an oppositional topic in the world of photography, and it might ruffle a few feathers. So we’ll see how this goes. Because usually, I do think I’m, I’m trying to like, not ruffle feathers on this podcast. So I’ve had guests on in the past to talk about how in person sales as a photographer is a really great way to grow your income. And I’ve talked on this podcast about how I personally used in person sales. And then I transitioned away from in person sales, where now I’m giving digital files with my sessions. And then I’m doing virtual online product sales after the fact.

So, okay, so I was a student bear with me here, I was painting our bathroom. We were doing this like little renovation side note, we got like a $25,000 quote, just to do our shower, which I thought was crazy. And so we did this, like mini renovation for like $1,500, where we just glazed our old shower, and we were like, Great, let’s save that money. We’re very much on the path of “Coast FI,” which is putting enough money into investments that we can then make less in the future and laugh that money coast into having enough at retirement to retire comfortably. So I digress. That’s all about like being frugal. But as I was painting, painting the bathroom, I was listening to podcast and my phone was just kind of serving up whatever podcasts were in my library, and ended up giving me an episode of Tyler J. McCall’s Online Business Show. And the episode was called the dark side of business with Maggie Patterson. It’s a two part series, I’ve actually only had a chance to listen to the first part. But Maggie and Tyler talked about how business owners can actually cause harm unintentionally or intentionally, to people to through manipulative, manipulative marketing tactics.

And then Maggie really got me thinking and I ended up checking out her podcast. It’s, it’s called duped the dark side of online business, and it’s with Michelle maser, I think is how you pronounced it. Michelle maser. And I just loved this podcast, I’ve been devouring this podcast, because everything they say, speaks to me and really makes me consider how we as photographers, might actually be, again, intentionally or unintentionally using these manipulative tactics in our own businesses, especially things like high pressure sales and emotional manipulation to get our sales.

And I realized, oh, my gosh, this is why ultimately moved away from in person sales, because there’s nothing inherently wrong with serving our clients through in person sales, like the general concept is good. But in many cases, photographers are actually creating this high pressure sales environment that doesn’t always actually serve our clients. So we tell ourselves that we’re serving them to the highest level that we’re holding their hand through the process. But if you ask most clients, they’d rather not be forced into the high pressure sales situation and then have to make all of these emotional decisions on the spot in front of you. So a few quick stories, just to kind of like illustrate my my thought process around this.

Okay. So I personally have probably told the story before of a client when I was doing in person sales, I would do it with weddings, and I think it was only offering it even just to those who wanted it at the time as I was like experimenting with in person sales. And I had a client who ended up buying a high priced item and I think a few other prints. It was somewhere I can’t remember the exact price somewhere between 1002 $1,000 Was their total. And we spent a couple hours together. I was happy at the end of it that it worked out that way. And then the next day I was going on vacation, and I was I was sitting on the plane I got a message from them and they said, you know, we realize that we made a mistake and we can afford these products? And can we please please cancel this order. And I was, you know, I was annoyed because I had spent a lot of time with them. But I also kind of realized, like, they felt pressured into this sale, they were put on the spot, it was an emotional decision. And ultimately, they regretted the decision. And so I did refund them, and we didn’t force them into anything that they couldn’t afford.

Side note on this, the FTC has something that’s called the cooling off rule, I think that’s what it’s called. And it gives customers three days to cancel certain sales that are made at your home. I’m not saying necessarily the in person sales in your home, a line with this rule, but it’s something that you should look into one example, in my world was somebody came to our house to sell gutter guards, and they legally had to disclose to us that we have three days to change our mind, it was a high ticket item, there was some kind of like manipulation going with the way that they were making me make a decision on the spot, we had to make the decision that day. And we did want the product and we did under buying the product. But we kind of walked away feeling just like a little a little icky about the whole process because it was so high pressure, even though we were happy with the product. In the end, we just didn’t like the sales process.

Okay, one more story. Another story. Just this last weekend, my girls are in dance. And so they had their dance photos taken. And I figured that, you know, what do I want to do with these photos that I’m going to purchase of them in their dance costumes, I figured I’ll share the the photos online on social media, I’ll send them to Jeff, my husband, Jeff’s Nana has a digital frame that she keeps in the kitchen. And she loves to see photos of her grandchildren and great grandchildren pop up on this digital frame. So I wanted digital images for that purpose. So we could like automatically have them pop up and surprise her with that and have her be able to see those. I figured I might want to put them into a year end family album where we put all of our other favorite photos from the year.

So what did I really want in this case? I wanted the digital files. And that’s not just because I’m a photographer, I can print my own images. It’s because I had another vision for these photos. And I was willing to pay the appropriate price for the digital files. I’m also kind of a minimalist, so I just don’t want to buy what I don’t need, I want to only by I should say I’m an attempted minimalist, I only want to buy what I need. I don’t like clutter. I like to be very intentional about like not having waste. But the only package that was offered that actually came with or even offered me the ability to add on digital files also came with a bunch of other prints that I really didn’t need or want. And so I ended up buying this package. And I got what I wanted, but I also got a lot of stuff I didn’t want. And so I was like great, I have what I want, but I kind of feel a little about the package because I had to buy stuff I didn’t want.

So I know that packages drive clients to buy what we want them to buy. And we tell ourselves that we’re serving them in that way. But it doesn’t mean that the package is actually serving them in the best way possible. It might just have stuff they don’t actually need in there. And they might not love that. They’re not going to tell you that but they’re just maybe not gonna love that.

Okay, so let’s talk about some of the high pressure sales tactic tactics that might end up working to get the sale, but might unintentionally be using psychological pressure on our clients. So first, I did a ton of research research trying to kind of put my my thoughts into words for this. So I looked at the definition of hard sell on Investopedia and I’ll have the link to that in the show notes. Okay, here’s the definition. A hard sell is designed to get a customer to purchase a good or service in the short term rather than evaluate their options and potentially decide to wait on the purchase. It’s considered a high pressure aggressive technique that has fallen out of favor according to some sales experts. A hard sale is a sales strategy that is direct and pushy. It is designed to get a consumer to purchase a good or service immediately without time to contemplate. hard sell tactics have a negative connotation and are considered unscrupulous a hard sell stands in contrast to a soft sell that is gentle and low pressure. It is considered a counterproductive sales tax it tactic as it typically results in negative feelings and a small chance of repeat business.

All right. So let’s look at a few specific tactics that are common with in person sales. And this is based I mean this is going to change I’m not saying that everyone doing in person sales uses these tactics. This is based very specifically on the trainings that I purchased as online courses and what I was told to do as an in person sales person to maximize my Income. Okay, so false scarcity and extreme urgency. So the sale is only one night, you have to make the decision during that ordering session. And then the customer, oftentimes they won’t have, they’re told that they won’t have another chance to see the images ever again, unless they buy them. And so like, they’re like, Hey, can I just sleep on it? Or can I show this to my grandma? Can I show this to somebody else? A lot of these photographers are like, Nope, you have to make your decision tonight. This is it, this is your ordering session, come prepared to make all decisions.

So I’m not against pricing with a deadline to incentive eight to like incentivize customers to make a decision. Because I do know that left to their own devices. It’s true that a lot of customers will just put off ever making a decision. But I don’t love the tactic, where customers are literally never going to get to see those photos again, or they’re told that they’ll never see those photos again, if they don’t wear them that day, that just puts like undue pressure on them.

The other thing is exhausting our clients. So in person sales meetings can be really physically and emotionally draining for our clients because they have to sit down and they have to make all the decisions at once. Sometimes you put a deadline, like the meeting is only gonna be an hour, you have to make these decisions really quickly. So by the time they make the purchase decision, they’re mentally exhausted. So going back to my client who canceled the sale, they were mentally exhausted, they just ended up buying this thing and they ended up regretting it.

One example of this kind of giving credit where credit’s due coming from the duped podcast, they mentioned Tony Robbins does this a lot in his conferences where he just like wears people down emotionally with these really long days. And then he does the sell once they’re exhausted, so kind of like exhausting our clients into the sale. Okay, now I want to go into again from like doing my digging into what people are saying about in person sales into hard sale, just all my research kind of preparing for this episode, I found a quote on an in person sales Facebook page that someone posted, where they posted an email that they received from a client, where the client basically said, I want to change my order from our meeting, I’m bad at making decisions on the spot, which basically illustrates that some clients feel like they’re being put on the spot in these situations where they’re meeting you face to face and they’re forced to make a decision in a limited amount of time.

And again, packages are forcing those clients often to buy products that they don’t necessarily want they don’t necessarily need. And I think my belief is that if you truly want to serve your clients to the fullest, I think it’s totally cool to offer packages where they can get some savings if they buy it like all together. But please still offer ala carte products because I really think it’s it’s just serving your if you’re truly trying to serve your client to the best of your ability to offer them the ability to buy things ala carte so they don’t have to buy stuff they don’t want in order to get what they do want. That’s how I feel.

Okay, I found a quote on a blog post about in person sales and the quote said something like I knew that I still wanted to offer Digital’s because everyone wants them I just wasn’t going to make them easily accessible at a low price point, digitals are my cow and from that cow I get milk cheese yogurt my products—and I just thought this sounded so ick that you’re using these, digitals that you know people want as a carrot to get them to buy the other things like it just to me, I feel like just charge what you need to charge include your digitals or like include some number of digitals then let them upgrade get more digitals if they want to let them buy their products separately if they want to I just don’t like this idea that you’re like my digitals or the cow or I get my milk like I’m gonna milk my clients for all they’re worth because they’re going to buy all this other stuff they may or may not want in order to get what they truly want. So I didn’t love that.

So the same photographer ended up sharing that her average revenue per session went up. I think she said it was somewhere around $800. That’s total revenue before costs of products sold. I will be fully open that I don’t know what years this was published. I know with inflation, this could be all very different now but she shared at the end that actually her bookings have been much slower. She’s having a hard time booking as an in person sales photographer, which is probably because people don’t want this. They don’t want to be milked for all they’re worth. They want to get what they want to get like they want to just be straightforward and buy things that they want.

So another in person in person sales person in a forum expressed frustration that her clients only wanted digital files because they had found a print product that they really loved that the photographer didn’t offer. So there you know, we know there are a lot of great print products out there. Some clients just want to buy Why would they want to buy and this person was offended by this, that they only want to digital files? Well, again, if you’re trying to serve your client, and your client ultimately knows they love this other product, your best way to serve that client is to is to sell your digitals at a price that makes sense for you, and let them go.

Again, I sell a ton of products, but I also have clients who have products that they purchase themselves, I’m okay with that, as long as I’m guiding them, earning what I need to make, and my client is happy at the end of the day, and you know, likely to come back.

So another, another photographer in the same forum mentioned that it’s either like a flood or a fire had ruined old prints that they had like old family prints. And from that, she saw that there’s extreme value in digital files for clients. So all of these people who are like, oh, never give away, the digital files never even offered the digital files. I just think that’s wrong, I think that we need to have that digital backup for this exact purpose. Like there are so many reasons that our clients deserve to have those digital files, the ability to have at least like their top picks of the digital the digital files. Okay?

This leads me to my other considerations. People who sell courses on how to do in person sales, are often going to talk about sales averages and how your sales average per session is going to be higher. And that is often true. But I did a search online to look at a few in person sales courses and blog posts and just people talking about it. And a few people that were trying to tout in person sales, were touting it saying because this is a level that you’re getting a higher level of sale, because people are only going to spend this much maybe like one time in their whole life or one to three times in their whole life.

So that means that maybe this is a really good route for someone like a newborn photographer, because that is a rare event to have a newborn. But if you’re a family photographer, and you’re looking to have that reoccurring revenue every single year with returning clients, returning families, you know, you might not be getting those people coming back year after year, because that high price point and forcing them into products is going to limit them from coming back every year. Or they just don’t have space in their home to do like these big wall galleries every single year. So consider your genre and really think about like, is this a fit for what you’re doing? Okay, so a lot of people who talk about in person sales talk about how you’re going to make more per session, but that doesn’t necessarily actually translate into making more per hour.

So in a poll of in person sales photographers, when they were asked what they need, to the most help with, what do they need the most help with in their business, the number one thing that they needed the most help with was finding new clients, they were my assumption is they were struggling to find clients who were willing to work with them on that model. And when they were asked what their biggest fear was in business, they said things like not finding enough clients or raising prices and lose in losing clients.

So I do think a lot of in person salespeople might be struggling to get those returning clients year after year. I also saw a lot of comments about people making the switch. And they said, so far, no one has booked me yet. That’s ever since I made this switch. So I just want you to think about like, you see these glorified stories of in person sales, but you still have to market yourself. So that’s my next topic. Marketing. Just because you switch to in person sales does not mean that your marketing is magically going to attract those high end clients overnight, you are going to still have to get out there and put in the work to find those people. And I find that my time spent bringing in new leads with with what I’m spending, I’d rather sell them those packages that include the digitals so that I’m at least like giving them some number of digital files and some base number per session. Because as in person sales, photographers will tell you, you’re going to have some low sessions, they kind of try to like brush over that. But you do have those sessions where people don’t buy anything, or they buy like one print and you’re just like, wow, that was a lot of time that I just put into that. And they really don’t highlight that that’s a part of the story.

So I prefer to get my bare minimum, which includes some of the digitals or all of the digitals in the package when they book and then offer products separately later without forcing them into any packages that they don’t want. And yes, I’m saying that for me, I’d rather have a business model with higher volume, a little bit higher volume, and a little bit less hands on service. But caveat is I still feel like I’m fully serving my clients because I’m doing things like sending them these in depth guides that are sent automatically as a part of my workflow and the the guides are guiding them through the planning process. Session my favorite hair and makeup artists using the website Style and Select to help pick outfits giving other outfit ideas and just general styling outfit styling advice. A

nd I’m also offering them a ton of guidance on product styling, how to style those products into their home, showing what those products will look like in a styled way with like really great guidance, kind of a magazine style guide online. And then I’m also showing them what their images will look like to scale on their own walls if they want that service. So I’m doing it in a soft sell way, it’s not pushy, and they’re still being fully served. And they’re still often buying products. So I feel like they’re really getting served to the fullest in this case.

Okay. Next, let’s look at the numbers. Let’s look at the math. When I did in person sales, I would guess that I was making a range between like $600 per session and $1,200 per session. So that’s with inflation that was in like 2014 or so. So keep that in mind. But let’s just say for simplicity that a person is doing in person sales, and they’re averaging $1,500 per session. And let’s say that a third of that is going toward the cost of goods sold. So they’re making after they buy the products, they’re making $1,000 per session. And then let’s say for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume that they do not have a studio, that they’re doing all their sales in home, there’s no monthly rent that they have to cover.

So they’re making $1,000 on the session. And let’s say they’re spending five hours on that session, because they’re very full service hands on, they do a pre consults to prep their client to set expectations they do their session, they do their editing, they have their ordering session, retouching ordering, packaging, and then getting the product into the hands of the customer and then possibly in some cases even hang those frames on the wall.

So let’s assume that this takes about two evenings. One is the evening of the session and one is for the ordering session. And this could be different. If you have a studio and you’re doing your sessions in the studio, or you’re doing the back to back, you know, that could change. But let’s just say you’re spending five hours $1,000, you’re making about $200 per hour, which is a good rate, you know, we think we would all be happy with $200 per hour. But let’s look at the less hands on and less pushy model. So I usually stack my sessions into the same evening. So let’s say I do two sessions, and I make $1,150 on those two sessions.

On those two sessions, in total, I’m spending four and a half hours, which includes setting up the contract, setting up the automated workflow to send out the prep guides, prep them for the session, shooting the session editing, putting together wall designs if they want them and then setting up the photos to go to the clients. So $1,150 divided by 4.5 hours equals $255 per hour, on one evening of work. So we had $200 per hour on in person sales $255 per hour as a digital only photographer Digital Plus products later photographer. Now obviously this is going to be different for everybody.

My point here is obviously still charge what you need to charge to be profitable, even if you’re giving away digital files. But my other point is, you know, a lot of times in person sales, photographers will tout it as the only way to do it the only way to be profitable. And that’s not necessarily the case. Also, this $255 per hour is before I offer any printed products. So a lot of people who sell trainings courses on in person sales act like it’s very black and white, you either offer full service in person sales, or you’re shoot and burn and you’re not serving your clients.

And that is not the case, I get product sales all the time, even though I give away the digital files and my packages. And that’s because I still serve my clients again through the product styling guide, offering products that they want offering them that wall design idea for inspiration so that they are still getting that in a way that’s not pushy.
So let’s say that I sell like an extra $100 in drops shift prints for each session. After the cost of goods, I’m making about $270 per hour for my work, I get that extra evening back I’m only spending one evening so that actually evening I can either book more sessions or I can just like hang out with my family or my friends. Disclaimer to be totally open and honest here.

In my own experience, I’ve had product sales range anywhere from $0 and that’s okay cuz I’m pricing to where if they don’t buy products, it’s alright with me all the way up to $6,000 per client. And I could tell that $6,000 is like woohoo, let’s let’s be like that’s the best but I will be totally honest. That was a wedding client who bought multiple for the family, and $6,000 sales are not normal. So we’re going to kind of get more into that in just a minute.

But now I can easily bring in more clients per month because the clients will return to me year after year, versus those big ticket in person sales clients who don’t want to spend this amount every single year. And again, don’t have the wall space to support the annual photo sessions. And I know in person sales, people will hate to hear this. But I want to serve the families who put together their own family photo albums every year, I want them to be able to include my photos in the larger album that they’re designing, using, like whatever they want, because that’s what I do with my family. And why would I stop them from having the same thing. But I’m charging appropriately. And honestly, I’m offering that service. Like I’m saying, if you want me to design you an album that includes all your family photos from the year, I will do that this is something I offer. And this is something that I’ve done, but I want them to have that choice.

So since a ton of clients are returning to me every single year, because they’re getting exactly what they want, I end up saving time on marketing, because I don’t have to chase down new clients every year. And as people return marketing gets easier every single year, they’re referring me they’re coming back, I grow my client list every single year. So finally, I think it’s important that we all understand selection bias because it’s used all the time in online courses.

And this is also talked about in Duped. So just definitely go listen to that podcast, it’s very good. Okay, when we’re looking at online courses, let’s say about in person sales, we see sales pages that highlight people who are making these huge sales. And we’re looking at the selection of the best of the best, we’re not looking at the average, we’re not looking at everyone. We’re constantly fed only the success stories. And so we think based on what we see, our brains are like, Oh, everyone is a runaway success after taking this course or everyone’s just like making these huge sales every single time as an in person sales photographer, every single person who’s ever switched in person sales has like changed their lives forever.

And as an example, I could take the story of my $6,000 online product sale. And even though that was like the best of the best for me, I could create a sales page and I could easily share that story about that sale. And I could manipulate it to sound like this is these are like typical results that you’re going to get. But is that ethical? I don’t think it is.

So think about that. Anytime that you look at a course where you’re seeing these like raving results, just remember that that’s this is selection bias, you’re seeing the best of the best. And you should talk to more people about what the results look like and really just in general, talk to their photographers, what’s working for them and
get that full picture. Okay, so with all of this, I am going to talk to you a little bit about how I do my own sales without in person sales. And I’m going to share the resource that I have for you if you’re interested in taking this approach.

And full disclosure, what I’ve put together for you is a paid resource because it’s like a whole package of every single thing done for you. So you can just pick and choose and develop it yourself. Or you can take what I’ve done and use it. So I have talked about how I automate as much as I can. And I stack my sessions. So a mini session is 30 minutes long. If you book a mini session, you do not choose your photo location, that’s going to be dictated by the location that’s chosen for the longer session in a same evening, I’m going to tell you where it’s going to be. And you can assume it’s going to be somewhere pretty because generally, I’m not going to pick an ugly location. So you have to be okay with that.

And since I photograph a lot of college graduating seniors now, I set a timeframe like during the busiest time where I’m only offering photo sessions on Michigan State’s campus. So if you book a session during that time frame, like that couple of weeks in the spring, you’re only going to book on campus, and then I’m going to stack those up because that season gets really wild. Side note on that. That’s another reason why I offer digital files because graduating seniors really want digital files, they want to put that stuff on Instagram, and they want to share it with their friends and I’m okay with that.

Okay, so I set up 17 hats, and I use 17 hats. You can use whatever tool you want. And 17 Hats automatically on my website displays all of my available session dates. I go in, I look at the sunset for every single day, like in my slow season, and I set session times for each day specifically. So the beginning of each season, I set up all of those times. My clients can come to my website, see my availability, they can book automatically. And then when they book it kicks off a workflow depending on what kind of session they’ve booked.

So I have guides that for each kind of session that will walk them through how to prep for the session, how to choose a session vibe, what to wear, who I recommend for hair and makeup, how to style photos into your home using the products that I offer. I also send them a short questionnaire so I can get to know them a little bit going into the session, I can figure out if they have any areas of concern, like some people are like, please don’t ever photograph my profile, I hate it. If they have kids, they might have kids who respond well to certain things.

And then I bring a few products to the session so that they can see those products in person. So they just come a few minutes early, or at the end, it just pulled them out, show them a few quick products. So they can, like see them, touch them, feel them. And then after the session, when I deliver the photos through an online gallery, they have the option to purchase those products. So they’ve now seen those products in the style guide designed into a home so they know what to do with them. And then they’ve seen those photos, or they’ve seen those products at the session. It’s not high pressure. But they’re still getting this great guidance.

And I feel like I’m serving them really well. There’s like, yeah, there’s no high pressure where I’m hovering over them. And I’m like, Whoa, you’re running out of time, make your decision. So because I’m giving them the agency to decide on their own what they want in their homes, without forcing them into bloated packages, they end up I think, really happy. And again, I’ve said this so many times, but I’m charging accordingly. So I’m happy whether or not they buy products.

But those products sales are a bonus for me. Okay, so I’ve revamped all of these guides that I use the redesigned, and they’re available in my shop at photo fieldnotes.com/shop, you’re going to look for the product called Client prep guides, plus simple product sales system. And I’m going to tell you quickly what’s included here, you’re going to get client prep guides for a general photo session maternity or newborn photo session, it’s kind of like one guide, and wedding prep guide. The session guides include details around choosing your session style, what to wear, hair and makeup. And then the wedding guide includes details around planning family photo groupings ahead of time. All of the prep guides include a styling section with tips around how to style photos into your home—featuring my curated list of popular products.

I also include a product guide so you can share product pricing

All of these guides are Canva templates, so they’re completely customizable and easy to share with clients through an online link

I also include 12 customizable product mock-up images where you can insert your own photos into products like an album and frames—and you can use these both in the guides and also on your website and in social media to get your client excited about products. 

I’m including a 23 page PDF that walks through my online sales system, including”

How to prep your clients to expect products
– How to price your products (plus access to a Google Spreadsheet pricing guide)
– How to create value for your prints
– How to set up your Canva guides
– How to set up your digital tools
– Product sale Checklist
– A little Bonus: How to gather email addresses from wedding guests at the wedding so they have the option to buy products too
– Product fulfillment (how to get products into clients’ hands quickly)

 I’m including my email templates from booking through product delivery to really set you up with an easy workflow for all clients. And these are split into wedding emails and photo session emails, so you can choose what you need.

Episode 185: Advancing Your Photography Skills with Marc Silber

Advancing your photography skills with Marc Silber - a photo of Marc on an orange background with a blue shirt

Marc Silber is a photographer, a three-time best-selling author, film-maker, and the producer of the popular YouTube series Advancing Your Photography. Today’s he’s sharing his photography journey, from going to school with Annie Leibovitz to guiding other photographers on their own journeys.

Resources:

Transcript

Allie 0:01
Hello, and welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, I have a quick little update for you. I’m going to talk more about this in the future. But just to let you know, I have a new guide and system for you. That’s for sale at photo field notes.com/shop. And this is the system the updated system that I use to prep my clients for their photo sessions. So I have guides created in Canva, that can easily be updated and shared for general photo sessions maternity and newborn photo session prep, wedding prep, and then also a product guide to show your products and your prices. And then with that, it also comes with a PDF guide. It’s a 23 page PDF guide called the simple product sales system. And that’s everything from how to prep your clients to expect products, to how to set up all the tools to easily run your sales. So my philosophy for years has been that I do give away digital files, I price myself for profitability, giving away digital files, you can also do this in a tiered system where you give away some number of digital files. And then I offer prints to my clients in addition, and even though they’re getting their digital files, they are very, very often buying prints. Because I have shown them the quality, I’ve guided them I’ve shown you know I’ve set them apart. And so this walks you through that. It also comes with my email template guide, which is giving you the exact emails that I use from the time that people book through the delivery of products. So it’s not just about selling products. It’s actually like the whole workflow all in one. But there’s a ton there. But I’ve tried to make this a little bit more simple because I was finding that in some of the courses I was doing if the videos were really long, I wasn’t finishing them. So instead of videos, I just made it a PDF, really simple step by step directions. And, and then customizable guides 12 customizable mock up images where you can put your own images into like an album, wall art, all of these fun things so that you can show your clients what your photos look like in these products without having to purchase a million different samples. So again, that’s at photo field notes.com/products Go check it out. I’ll talk a little bit more about my philosophy in the future. But that’s where to start. Alright, that’s it for now. Let’s get into the episode.

Introduction 2:20
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 2:33
Hello, everyone, this is Allie Siarto. And today I’m talking with Marc Silber, who is a three time best selling author, a photographer, a filmmaker, and the producer of the popular YouTube series advancing your photography. And in that show, he’s interviewed scores of some of the biggest names in photography, which is really fun. I like the multiple things that you’ve done mark in that way. So a little bit more about Mark he learned. He actually started out learning darkroom skills and the basics of photography at the legendary Peninsula school in Menlo Park, California, in the 60s and moved on to hone his skills to professional standards at the famed San Francisco Art Institute. I used to dream of going to the Art Institute. I want to hear a little bit about that. And beyond that, so mark moved into teaching photography and workshops all over the country. He became renowned as an engaging and helpful speaker and coach, as his greatest story comes from helping others. All right, Mark, I want to hear all about this. I want to hear about your background in photography. I want to hear a little bit about the Art Institute your thoughts on like education and photography today. I know that’s a lot more but let’s, let’s start with your story.

Marc 3:39
Okay, well, thanks for having me, Ali. My story starts when I was about 12 years old. What happened was I you know, like a lot of kids at the time, I was taking photographs with probably a brownie, mainly a Kodak Brownie that really dates me. That was the iPhone of the day. Everybody had one. But you know, I’d send my rolls of film off to usually just, there was a local camera store, you drop them off, or maybe even a drugstore. And you know, you’d wait very excitedly and they’d come back and they were tiny little muddy prints. Very disappointing. And one day, I was in the seventh grade and my teacher said, Would you like to see I’m a photographer. Would you like to see how the darkroom works? And I said, Yeah, that sounds cool. So, you know, we went to his house and his wife cooked us dinner and then after dinner, we went into his darkroom and developed a roll of film. Now the film, you know, developing the film itself was kind of interesting, but it wasn’t until we cut it up and put it in the enlarger. And all of a sudden the magic of the darkroom unfolded for me it was like a revelation because I could control the process. Up to that point. I was at the mercy of these labs that ran it through their machine and everything came out really, you know, uninteresting. All of a sudden I could see the potential. And that’s when I became a photographer in the seventh grade. And I embraced it wholeheartedly. There was a darkroom in the school, you know, somebody who has to make an interesting documentary that you know, is like, covered with cobwebs, because nobody had been using it and I, and I went in there and cleaned it out. And I just embraced it. And then I ended up building my own darkroom in my mom’s laundry room, you know, which worked really great.

Allie 5:39
Fun side note, on the laundry room, when we bought our house, our house was built in the 70s. And when we bought our house, and we went down to the electrical, our now laundry room was labeled a dark room. So we were like, Oh, that’s a fun history, the laundry room is dark room.

Marc 5:53
Well, it works well, because you have a big sink there, and usually not a lot of windows. So anyway, then, you know, at that point, I was just full on as a photographer, and really did pretty well as a team. And it was, you know, I had some, I have a lot of interesting stories about that. And I’ve written about them in my books. Probably the most interesting one is I was a senior in high school. And I was really getting antsy with, with what was going on. I hated being in the classroom, I had gone to a really great school in New England for my junior year. And I came back to California for my senior year. And it was basically a rehash of everything I’d already covered. So I was it’s a dangerous thing to have a bored teenager, and I was ready to drop out of school and take my camera and travel around and do something interesting. And of course, that didn’t happen. But what I discovered was that I had almost enough credits to graduate I needed one more social study class. And I cooked up this thing, which was kind of interesting. I, there was a kind of a mini mini Peace Corps project in the remote region of Mexico. And I pitched it to the principal of the high school and I pitched it to my parents. And to my surprise, they both said, yes. So I went there with a roll of flax with dozens of rolls of film and worked on this project, came back with these amazing photographs to this day, some of my best work. And that was pretty remarkable. I went to school in Vermont for a while then I came back to California, and I did go to the San Francisco Art Institute. Annie Liebowitz was there at the same time. She was older, though. Did you know her? I didn’t at the time. I met her later, you know, at the time was kind of funny. I was pretty introverted and shy. And I think most people were unfortunately. And you know, there were some things I learned in art school. But I have to say most of it. I was self taught. And then fast

Allie 8:09
forward. Yeah. Wait, well, let’s pause there. Because that’s really interesting. Because I’d love to know your your thoughts today. And you know what education looks like? Obviously, at the time, that probably there were a lot more barriers to entry to get into photography, you couldn’t just go on and enroll in this class or read this book or do well, there were books, but there’s just so many more resources today. And so I’m curious to hear if you were that teenager, again, just starting out? Would you go to art school? Or how would you? How would you pursue that today?

Marc 8:44
I’ve thought about that a lot. First of all, I really believe that that what you need to learn is the technology in school, the art part of it, frankly, just comes from your own study your own, you know, understanding of composition. But the part that really I could have filled in which wasn’t being taught. Were the technicalities of lighting of it. You know, at that point, I mean, I already knew my way around a darkroom, but I’m sure I could have learned more things. And especially now it’d be incredible to learn, you know, digital photography inside and out and Photoshop inside and out. But mainly things like lighting and working with a bigger environment of photography, rather than just kind of on my own, which is what I ended up doing. But I think there are I think there are opportunities. The other big thing about art school and this is probably the biggest thing that I got out of it, which is what I do now is critiquing and learning. You know that you had to have a project that you followed me We all picked a project for the year and followed it you know Very doggedly through to the end, which is really important. It’s an important part of photography rather than just taking one off photographs, making a cohesive story, which is what I did when I went to Mexico. So I was already familiar with that. Yeah, well, I

Allie 10:16
think I think about I only took one art class only what took one art class. In college, I studied advertising and digital media. So technically one actual in the Art College of Arts one class and it was a drawing class, it was a summer class. And I think this is interesting from your perspective, where you’re like, you know, you’re focused on a project because I learned photography through a nonprofit, local community organization, where it was like an accelerated version, we had weekly, twice a week classes once in the classroom, once in the lab with the critiques. So we learned really quickly, like the technical side, and we did critiques and we learned about composition. But we weren’t necessarily like diving in on a project, it was very quick turnaround. But that art class on drying, I remember drawing a praying mantis. I don’t know why that was what I was drawing. For some reason. I don’t know if it was a side, I cannot remember. But I remember thinking I was done with this project and be like, here’s my praying mantis to the instructor. And she was like, good start, keep going. And I was like, Oh, I think that the key to art is just to keep going, like you take this project, and you keep going with it. And you don’t just call it die. Oh,

Marc 11:25
true. At the Yeah, you know, I have a weekly class. In fact, I just got through working with these guys. And we meet together, I’ve given them a number of different, you know, stories and things to work on, and that sort of thing. But really, they pick their own story, and we’re carrying it out originally was going to be a one month project, but they all want to keep going which I agree is a good idea. And that’s really what makes you into photographer is if you have to tell a story. Because otherwise, you know, you could you could go okay, here’s a landscape. And here’s the sunset. And here’s a portrait. But when you put it all together, it really elevates your photography. I’m a big believer in that I think there’s

Allie 12:10
just so many cool, you also see these opportunities to like, take a project really far, both from your own creative learning side. And also, if you can come up with the right project, the press that you can get for it as another having also worked in PR. Get for it, I started a project in early 2020, called Euro stuff. And the idea was we were trying to cut down on our waste. And so I was photographing every item that came into our house, which very quickly became overwhelming. And I ended up stopping the project. Because once I got worried about when in the early days of COVID when we’re like wiping everything down, and I was like I can’t do this, I can’t like wipe everything down. And

Marc 12:48
there’s just a piece of mail or whatever that.

Allie 12:52
I mean, now if I’d actually carried through, it would have been an amazing project. But I just think you can come up with that really cool perspective or life project. Yeah, that has a story behind it. There’s really cool press. So anyway, Mark, I keep interrupting keep going.

Marc 13:06
No, no worries. Okay, so the rest of my backstory, I went off in a completely different career path, and became a management consultant had a really great consulting company in Silicon Valley. But I was hungry, I never really fulfilled my goals as a photographer and 2004, I ended up selling the practice to my partners and said, Okay, guys, I’m leaving, I’m gonna go relaunch my career as a photographer, and I did. But by then, of course, it was the, you know, the digital age and I had to really catch up, I had to relearn everything. And, you know, that’s fairly daunting. You know, back back then, you know, Photoshop wasn’t the most friendly, user friendly application, there was no Lightroom it was, you know, it was a pretty kind of, in terms of the way things are now fairly crude here of the digital age. You know, the, the cameras weren’t perfect yet. They were getting there, but they weren’t. They weren’t great. They were big and bulky and whatnot. But I, I launched into it. And I taught myself digital photography, and said, Okay, I’m going to become a pro, I’m going to make my living doing this. And I did. And then in 2008, I said, Okay, I want to teach. And the best way I know to teach now, I was doing a lot of workshops, but I said, you know, if I get on a video, and make a video, people can watch me all around the world. And that’s what I’ve been doing since then I have this channel called advancing your photography, and I teach photography, and I’ve written three books about it, and I have classes I’m pretty immersed in this world of photography.

Allie 14:49
Let let’s now get into that because as someone who’s teaching that in that way, and you know, getting feedback from people, you see some of the common questions some of the common myths misconceptions coming in about learning photography. So what can you tell me a few of those? What are some of those common misconceptions that people come in thinking that might kind of be a little misguided miss? You know, they’re, they’re coming in thinking the wrong thing.

Marc 15:17
Yeah, this is from I did a survey recently of some really great photographers. One is Ed Kashi, multi award winning photographer, you know, he shot for National Geographic, just an amazing photographer, that practically every big name publication you can think of. And I asked Dad, Hey, Ed, what are some of the common misconceptions of photography? And he said, The biggest one is the false belief that it’s easy to do. Now. That sounds like why is that a misconception? Edie? You know, isn’t it good to think that it’s easy to do? Well, here’s the thing, it sets the person up on kind of a wrong expectation. Like, if you picked up a violin, you knew you would know you’re not going to play beautiful music the first day, and the first time you run the bow across this thing. But yet, I think we feel like with iPhones and smartphones, it’s so easy to, you know, hold the camera and press the shutter that you can become a photographer overnight. And that is a misconception because it’s just as much of a challenge to learn to become a great photographer, it is as it is to learn the piano or, you know, guitar or learn to be a great chef or whatever. This instant, instant newness, which I call fast food, you know, photography is deceiving, because yes, maybe you can press the shutter and there’s a beautiful sunset. But what about a meaningful photograph? So he labeled that as the first misconception, and I have to agree with him. It takes some work, you know, like anything, that’s great that you’re going to do a good job at, it takes some work. And if you’re prepared to do the work, great. If you think it’s going to happen in a split second, you may not, you may not get to where you need to go. Because as you said in the in the darkroom days, the barriers to entry were pretty high. So you had to be pretty dedicated just to get in the door.

Allie 17:23
Let’s let’s talk about let’s talk about that idea. Because I think a lot of people listening are probably have, at some point seeing some conversation or had a thought you see it on a Facebook page, where people say, Ah, there’s so many new photographers coming in. And they have, they just got a camera for Christmas. And they put up a Facebook page, and they don’t even have a legal business. And I mean, we all see it. So what would you say to those photographers who are feeling that kind of frustration that so many people are jumping into the market?

Marc 17:54
Yeah, I mean, here’s the thing. Everybody has their has the potential of having a unique voice. They don’t always develop it. Because sometimes this could be another misconception. You get, like what does get a lot of likes as a guiding principle. You know, we’re looking at social media. That’s a big change from how I learned photography. We looked, I looked at books. And one of the first books I looked at was Henri Cartier Bresson, amazing photographer, street photographer, I looked at Ansel Adams, I looked at Edward Weston, I look at some of these great photographers, as my model, the concept of likes, and you know, how big you were on Instagram obviously didn’t exist. So they were only known by their work, you know, I mean, which is what you should be known by. And I think that that’s an important thing. And I still feel that’s really important to to look at not just those photographers, but look at classical artists to see what they did. You know, you can look at Rembrandt, you can look at a Vermeer and see how they lit their subject and how they frame their subject. There’s a lot to be learned there. But it does take a careful examination of that work, and then turn it into your own version. Like you’re not trying to copy these other artists, but you can get inspiration from it. And that I believe, is a really important process in learning. But again, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a split second thing, it takes some time to really develop your voice. So I will say to those people that you just mentioned, hang in there, develop your voice, don’t pay attention. Don’t even be sidetracked by all the Who cares how many millions of photographers there are in the market? You know, when the Beatles launched their career and how many other pop groups were there? You know, how many others how many singer songwriters were there? I mean, there’s many more now but they did it right.

Allie 19:58
And I should I didn’t even ask you for listeners, what type of photography is your favorite like when you jumped in in 2004? What were you focused on at the time?

Marc 20:08
Probably you see, for me my I have two genres that I really kind of gravitate towards. One is what I call environmental portraits where you’re, you know, you’re photographing somebody in, in their environment, not a not a headshot or in a studio, but in their environment, and landscape. So those are the two types of photography that I most kind of, for me, I resonate with. And so that’s what I was looking at, you know, is looking at the, the old, my old favorites, but I was also looking at a lot of newer photographers at that time, like Chase, Jarvis and Joe McNally. And a lot of other people I ended up interviewing later on, became, you know, really prominent to me, because I could see what they were doing with digital photography.

Allie 20:58
So if you were to describe, kind of finding your style, let’s go with environmental portraits, for example. Yeah, because I think more listeners probably fall into the portrait side. So if you were to describe finding your style in that, which you kind of did you like you look at the others, but you also find your own voice. And within that, you know, describe what it looks like, what is your style, or what is your approach that makes you unique?

Marc 21:22
You know, I really tried, I see communication as a really huge factor in photography. And a camera is nothing more than a communication device that records what you see in front of you. You know, there’s a lot of ways we can communicate, we can communicate through our voice, we can write, we can draw, we can take photographs, we can make films. And so for me, it’s an extension of me my ability to communicate. So what I try to do when I’m photographing people, is first of all have a rapport with them. One of the reasons I used to really like shooting with the role of flex, if you’re, for those who aren’t familiar with it is it has two lenses. And one lens is just used for focusing and composition. And the other is actually what’s used to expose the film. It’s kind of interesting. I mean, they don’t make them anymore, it’s a little more complicated than we need. But, you know, it was kind of cool. But what was neat about it is you look down into the screen where you’re focusing. Now what that allowed for is not is not having a barrier right in front of your face, like when you hold up a big DSLR to your face. It’s kind of like this big forboding piece of machinery right in front of you and your eyes. Well, we communicate a lot with our eyes, when you look at somebody and you’re talking to them, and you can see them and they can see you something happens. So that’s something I really try to do in my portraiture, I try to have that report so that it’s an extension of that. Now, does that mean the person always has to be looking right into the camera? Or looking at me? No, not at all. In fact, sometimes I want to moodiness that isn’t just a friendly smile or whatever. Because I’m trying to see something, you know, maybe there’s a different part of them, that I’m trying to capture an emotion, let’s say, and I’ll even guide them and I’ll say, hey, look, I want to see that. What was that moody? Look, you just gave me what? You know, bring this evening, bring that back. I am an active photographer. I’m not talking about street photography or documentary photography where you don’t interfere with your subject. I’m talking about photographing, again, somebody out in an environment so I tried to get very involved with my subject. And I’m either trying to get them ideally to forget about the camera, because the camera tense you know, people tend to tense up and show you something artificial rather than who they really are. And that’s what I’m aiming at getting them past that so it’s kind of like them and me and there’s just happens to be a camera and that’s considered an important

Allie 24:20
Yeah, that’s also a good reminder. I think a lot of photographers try to move too quickly and they try to get quantity over quality. And I think the number one tip if I were to give anyone a tip would be to slow down because totally slow down really good point. It’s everything from not just like, like the zoom with your feet idea like actually back up. The longer portrait lens instead of just going like let’s go 24 millimeters like right in your face. But also building building that connection, I think is it takes time. So don’t take your time. Just communicate is

Marc 24:56
you know it’s funny how much timing is a part of photography, if you think about it, timing, I mean, really, when you get down to what does it take, you know, as far as what’s imagery, you know, its composition, its lighting and its timing. Sometimes you have to go really fast. I mean, there are those moments, right? Especially in things like sports and action where, where the actions could just disappear if you’re not on top of it. But the other side of that coin is what you’re saying, Yes, take your time. In fact, here’s a tip. Do not enter the scene, and immediately pull out your camera and start photographing, talk to the person, look around, see what’s going on. You know, my son work in a, he still works for this startup. And Annie Leibovitz came in to photograph the startup. And he said, it was interesting that she just walked around, didn’t even have a camera with her for the first half hour, she just went around and looked at where everybody worked, and what the scene looked like, and what they look like, and she was gathering kind of mental notes. And you can only do that if you are paying attention. And because that’s the other thing, slow down. Pay attention. And look, really, really look. That’s Those are, those are crucial ingredients. Yeah,

Allie 26:21
I think important. Yeah. And that constant communication, because if you’re, if you’re slowing down, what you’re not communicating what you’re doing, then people are like, what’s this weird person doing?

Marc 26:31
I got up a sleeve. You have to be very transparent. You really do. And, you know, and, and, again, you have to make people feel comfortable. Because if they’re uncomfortable, there’s just not going to be a good look. There’s no, you know, unless you were purposely trying to make somebody look nervous, I suppose you could

Allie 26:54
write probably not not probably the most popular approach to make people. Alright, so Mark, are there any other misconceptions that you see caught, like common misconceptions that you see?

Marc 27:07
Here’s a yeah, here’s one that I hear. And I really liked to debunk it. And so I don’t know who started this, but it’s that you need to shoot in manual mode, you know that you’re not a real photographer, unless you shoot in manual mode or something like that, which I think is a crock of, you know what, and it’s not just me, every pro that I know. And I brought this up a few weeks ago with Scott Kelby where I was on his show, and it was like, Oh, we all hear that. But who’s, who’s pushing this? Because the pros that I know, basically, most of them shoot in aperture priority, right? Why wouldn’t you utilize your camera to help you out and that there are times I have to move to manual, there are those moments but 98% of the time, I don’t need to and it just gets in the way because the more equipment and the more diddling you have to do with your camera, the less you’re able to really pay attention to your subject, or you could even be distracted, and something amazing happens. So I hear that a lot. And I just want to say to those people who are struggling with this and trying to learn, okay, don’t worry about it. Listen, it isn’t it isn’t a prerequisite it’s some sort of some false impression. Because again, every pro I know and I pretty much asked them all they do not shoot in manual mode. It’s not the Holy Grail.

Allie 28:41
That’s when I when I took my first class we completely focused on aperture until we got into Flash and then I think we moved a little bit more into manual but my gosh, honestly for the first like probably few years shooting weddings, I don’t think I even like really understood manual. It was actually

Marc 29:00
a wedding especially you have to be ready you know you have to be moving fast at a wedding right? And anyway, I bring that up because I’ve seen that I’ve seen tutorials and I’m like why are we focusing on this there’s so many more important things to learn. And this is the I guess leads to the next misconception, which is that somehow gear and cameras are going to make you a great photographer. Not true gear in cameras or gear in cameras any more than a fully decked out kitchen. Let’s say every imaginable you know utensil and you have the best stove and you have the best of this and that all of a sudden out of that is going to spring really great food. You know, you could take a great chef and put them on a camp stove and they’d make a great meal because they understand what cooking is about. And the same thing is true with photography. I mean, you could hand a old one any old camera practically an iPhone or anything Adding to a skilled photographer and they’re gonna make good photographs with it. But by the same token, you can hand them hand the most amazing camera in the world to somebody who doesn’t understand what composition is all about doesn’t understand. Lighting doesn’t understand how to make your subject work with you. And they’re not going to have great photographs. And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people decked out with the most amazing fact too much equipment, they’re like, they’re they’re actually weighing themselves down with too many cameras and too many long lenses and this and that, they need to be more nimble, and fluid. And yeah,

Allie 30:40
I wish I could remember there was a, like a YouTube, maybe like a little series on YouTube or somewhere where it was like, they would give different photographers who were well known or successful photographers, they would just give them like these really cheap, awful cameras, and set them out to make really great photos. And then they show how they did it. And it was really fun to see how they still they took this like, really, really like, like play toy camera, and they still made out of it. So what do you what do you think? Rather than focusing on that, rather than focusing on the gear, what do you think photographers should be focusing on?

Marc 31:21
Well, in so in my book, advancing your photography, I talk about that there’s five stages of photography. And maybe I should just run through those because gear is only one of them. There’s five stages. The first one is you have to have your visual, your ability to visualize an image. You know, ideally, you kind of see the image before you even press the shutter, but you should have some vision of what you want to photograph. And that comes from studying classical art, studying other photography, getting ideas yourself. And research is really important. Like if you’re going to an environment you’ve never been in, it’s a good idea to research it what what is, you know, what’s it going to look like? If I’m going to shoot sports? For instance? How can I get up close and personal at the sporting event, or if I’m shooting architecture, what are these buildings look like? What would be unique angle, that’s part of your vision. So getting your vision in the second stage of this is your equipment, you do need to know your equipment. And you especially need to know what your camera will do with light every cameras a little different. And you can’t assume that what you see is what the camera sees at all, camera sees very differently than our own eyes. So you have to know that the third stage of the process is processing your images, we have to do that, you know, and I mentioned like, my you know, coming of age as a photographer came when I went into the darkroom, well, the same thing is true with a digital darkroom, you got to know how to carry your vision out so you can see it, maybe you want to a really great black and white. But it’s not just a matter of D saturating, there’s a lot of controls that have to go into making a really good black and white image. So you need you know, your processing. And then the final stage is sharing it getting your work out to the world, there’s a lot of ways to do that. Besides social media, I use social media like everybody else, but it’s just a very minor way to get your work out to the world. And one of the best ways is making prints, hanging them on the wall, put them in books, you know, get get your prints out there. So to answer your question, need to know all five of those stages and keep them in balance. It’s sort of like living a holistic life, you don’t want to be just doing one thing, you know, you might love reading, but you don’t want to spend your whole life reading, you have to get outdoors to you know, you have to balance these things out. Learning composition, to me is like one of the best investments you can make. Because there are what I find is many in this kind of one of those misconceptions that many photographers get stuck with maybe four or five compositional techniques, and that’s as far as they ever go. And it’s kind of like having a five word vocabulary. What kind of sentence Are you going to be able to make, you know, but if you had a, I found 83 compositional tools, we have 83 tools in your toolkit and you could pull them out and use them and also combine them. So it really combines to hundreds or 1000s. You can be really fluid and you can really express yourself well as a photographer. So that’s more important than just getting stuck on gear for sure.

Allie 34:47
Yeah. And then last question, and then we’ll get into sharing all the resources because obviously there’s more than we can get into everything here. One One thing that you said people ask a lot about is finding a mentor And what do you tell them in terms of where they can find that mentor?

Marc 35:05
Yeah, well, I try to provide that for people. I mean, that’s one of what I consider one of my main roles is, and I have a YouTube channel that where we do live YouTubes, where I can give feedback on that sort of thing. But if you want to find a mentor, I would look in your own community, I would look for a photographer that you resonate with, and you might even volunteer, you might even go say, Hey, I’d like to intern with you on a limited basis or whatever. I’ve had people intern with me full time to get experience and they go away, and they get amazing jobs afterwards. So, you know, that’s one possibility. I think, finding a my early mentors were not pro photographers. They were my uncle was a really avid enthusiast. I had another teacher who was an avid enthusiast so you find people who know more than you. And that can give you good advice. So just beware of the gearheads because you don’t want to spend all your time there are people who really get so stuck on that, that they never really go out and take photographs. So I’d be aware of that. And look at their work if if their work seems like something that you would be proud of. That’s probably a good person to work with.

Allie 36:25
Sounds good. Okay. So Mark, where can people find your books, your information? Where can they go next? Your

Marc 36:32
video best? Yeah, the best place to buy my books is advancing your photography.com. And you can actually get my book on a special we have a special price for that you actually cover the postage and handling we give you the book. So advancing your photography.com and you can get my other books there as well. My YouTube channel if you remember my name is spelled ma R Si. Si, l. B E or if you remember that you can find me anywhere so you can find me on youtube Mark silver. You can find me on Instagram Mark Silber, you can find me on Facebook, Mark Silva. My main website is Silber studios.com. Just remember it’s a B Silva studios.com. And that’s how you can find me. I’m pretty findable. If you just put, you know, just Google my name. You’ll you’ll see where I am.

Allie 37:27
Yeah, and I’ll make it even easier because all of these key links will be in the show notes so everybody can check their Mark, thank you for sharing your story and sharing your tips.

Marc 37:38
My pleasure. Thank you, Ali.

Outro 37:41
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave your review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 184: How to Automate Onboarding Workflows with Charlotte Isaac

How to automate client onboarding workflows as a photographer

Charlotte Isaac is a Business Operations Consultant who gave up her role as a corporate ops manager inside of a creative agency so that she could serve small business owners who love their people just as much as she does hers. Through her signature program, Ease Seekers Society, and her DIY Dubsado shop, Charlotte helps overwhelmed and overworked entrepreneurs build customized solutions so they can serve their clients better, automate busywork, and feel confident in their business.

Resources

Transcript

Introduction 0:01
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business, and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 0:15
Hey, everybody, this is Allie Siarto. And my guest today is starlet Issac who’s a business operations consultant. And she gave up her role as a corporate ops manager in she was in a creative agency, which said that she wanted to serve small business owners who love their people just as much as she does really like serve those clients. So now Charlotte helps those overwhelmed overworked entrepreneurs build customized solutions so that they can serve their clients that are automate that busy work. I’m a huge fan of automation, and just feel competent in their businesses. So welcome, Charlotte, thank you for being here.

Charlotte 0:48
Thank you so much, Ali, I’m excited to chat to you.

Allie 0:52
Give me a little bit more about this background of this business this like corporate ops manager position that you were in, and then how you decided to make this pivot into working with small businesses doing it yourself?

Charlotte 1:05
Yeah, of course, it’s got a bit of a roundabout journey, like I think we all have, we do a few loops, some circles before we get to ultimately where we are. But like you said, I was working in creative agencies, I was leading the operations team, but by all means, I had a really fun job, I was pretty lucky. But I got to the point where I wanted a lot more freedom and flexibility. And I wanted to have more time at home and, and really just to be able to be in control of where I was going and how I was spending my time. So I left my corporate gig, and I got to keep working with creative people to help make their businesses better, which is what really, really excites me. So I didn’t start by helping people with their systems. But I gradually helped a couple of people, I started to become known as that person, people would tell their friends, their friends would tell their friends. And, you know, just like that, I became the person that people call the dubsado. Queen, which I find both very humbling. And I’m very embarrassed to say that at the same time,

Allie 2:00
yeah, but that’s so often how it works with business. So were you doing that on the side and then kind of slowly built up into, you’re able to do it full time as your own business.

Charlotte 2:08
So I left straightaway, I have found that I’m not great at doing kind of being in two camps, I prefer to focus entirely on one thing, so it might be a little bit stupid, I left my corporate gig and thought, You know what, if I do this, and I have no clients, there’s gonna be a fire under my butt, I’m gonna figure out how to make it work.

Allie 2:25
It’s brave, I am not that brave. And I was always the one running multiple businesses at the same time, or doing multiple things at the same time until I could get it to work. So I commend you on your bravery sounds like it’s gone well. So let’s get into the topic today, which is really largely focused on like automation, but also using those processes using those workflows to just create a better client experience. So it’s not just about getting your life back. And kind of almost, I always call it like my personal assistant, that’s not a real person. But it’s also about creating a better client experience. So you talk a lot about using automation to onboard new clients, if someone is completely new to this world, and if you are, I’m so glad you’re here, because this is going to change your life. Where do you recommend that they even get started?

Charlotte 3:17
Yeah, I think sometimes it starts before the system. So like you said, automation is only great if it saves us time. And it makes the experience better for our clients as well, too. Otherwise, it’s never going to feel good. And it’s not really going to do its job. So if we take a step back from systems, which the people that don’t like tech are probably like, thank goodness. So take a step back. And we want to get really, really intentional about what your client process looks like. So we want to start to dig into how you do things now what maybe feels hard. The things that make you want to pull your hair out every time it happens with a client, what you want to do better, maybe there’s some things you’ve thought about starting for a while. And we really want to drill into all of those things and make sure that before we even start looking at any tools, we’re really, really intentional about how you work with your clients.

Allie 4:03
Okay. And then you also talk about like the framework for a great client experience. So I assume that that’s kind of part of it that once you’ve evaluated what, what you want that experience to be like, or what’s working or what questions, or for me, it was always like, every time that someone did something that I was like, Oh, I don’t want them to do that in the future, it would go into like a guide that would automatically get sent out to them, or would go into something that would help create that process make that process more clear whenever anybody had a question. So how do you like what is this framework is that basically it’s just figuring out the pain points, and then like, getting out a piece of paper and writing down. This is how I’m going to make it like, do you like sketch it out like a wireframe? Or how do you go about creating that framework?

Charlotte 4:50
Yeah, so exactly like you said, it starts with what you’re already doing right now. And you can slowly grow it and change it as there’s things that you find that frustrate you about your clients and things that don’t fit So smooth process is definitely the first big step into creating a great client experience. And that’s where we often start. And then we want to look at it with a few other layers as well, too. So making sure we have great communication, some people find that really, really easy, others don’t. I think as photographers, you will have a little bit harder to communicate really well with your clients, because you’re off it shoots, you’re not always in front of your computer, you’re juggling a lot more clients than say a web designer would that maybe only has a couple clients a month. So making sure that when we’re looking at that process, there’s lots of little steps built in that make it easy for you to communicate well with your clients. So that’s the first kind of layer, we want to put over that. The second one is making sure that there’s room to deliver on time. So making sure that you don’t take on too many clients and making sure that you’ve got enough time set aside. So things like editing, and you can always, you know, get back to people in the timeframe that you say. And then the fourth one, I think that makes a great client experience is your personality, I think a lot of people will work, you know, move mountains to work with the photographer that they want to I know I set my wedding date based on the photographer, which, you know, I’m happy to admit that my family thought I was a little bit nuts, but I had a person in mind, and I was willing to do it. And I think sometimes when we’re thinking about our client process, we forget how much our clients can love us and how much it’s okay to be ourselves. So we want to put that in there, too.

Allie 6:25
I also, you don’t, you haven’t mentioned this in any of you know, our prior communications. I don’t know your thoughts on this. But with that personality, and in the idea of automation, I have found that including videos has been really useful. So in my automated process, they automatically get like access to videos that I’ve pre recorded that answer some of the frequently asked questions or even in like, I’m moving away from weddings myself now. But when they would fill out the contact form, or when Yeah, when they fill out the contact form, it would automatically take them to a page where I would like before just giving them the pricing, I would walk them through the experience. So is that something you’ve had experience with too? I mean, I guess it’s silly to say do you recommend it? Like I think yeah. Okay, so it’s Yeah, so I really do. Yeah, have you worked with any clients who have done other creative things like that, that are kind of a little bit outside of the box to help take, like, the things that we find ourselves saying often or just to kind of like creatively connect with clients?

Charlotte 7:29
Definitely. So videos, I think a great a lot of people like, Oh, I’m scared to do video, I’m gonna have to make myself look presentable in front of my camera, I’m gonna have to say this concisely. If you can make yourself get on video and do it, I think clients really, really appreciate it. And it means that they’re getting the experience of working with you without you having to be behind a computer. And that’s kind of the goal of Systemising. And automating some of this so that it all happens while you’re out shooting, or you’re on your couch watching Netflix after a long day. So videos are great. If you feel less comfortable with video or you feel like it maybe for the information, clients would absorb it really well. The other thing that I often recommend to people is some kind of services guide or magazine that sent people before they’ve even thought about working with you. So you mentioned you send yours out when they’ve already inquired that the same time I think is brilliant. You know, send them stuff that talks about your process and why you’re the best person and, you know, show some of your beautiful portfolio in there and get them really, really excited so that by the time they hop on, you know, if you do a zoom call with them before you work with them, whatever that looks like, you know, they’re already sold. They’re excited. They understand how you work and not going to be pushy, and try and change your process.

Allie 8:39
Yeah, I think that kind of brings me back to when we booked our wedding photographer, or really any photographer that we’ve ever booked that specific their wedding photographer, she actually like didn’t even reveal her prices until after we met which is interesting because I had come across her at a networking event and I just really liked her. So I was similar to you. I was like willing to lend my that around her. And she didn’t share until much later. But by then I’d already gone through like here’s the experience here with the album’s like, like, here’s just like the, like, free of the money conversation. You were having that. So I can see, like a magazine or something. And that’s why the video walks through the experience first, if you can kind of really get them excited about that process, instead of just being you know, price shoppers. You can you can really, I like when you can come into that meeting already feeling like they know you in that way. And I think that that’s, it’s just so helpful because then in the meeting, you can get right on into what matters instead of having to repeat yourself and say again, and again, all of these things. So when they’re doing kind of like a magazine style, is that going out? Is it an email? Is it like a PDF? What kinds of formats are you seeing people using for that?

Charlotte 9:53
Yeah, it could be a PDF. It could be a hidden page on your website. It really doesn’t matter whichever feels good. I find PDFs off even feel a little bit more special sometimes. But again, whatever you’re comfortable with, I think that if you build something into your process, a lot of people are going to take notice if they are someone who felt like they had to press up, maybe they really loved you. But like, you know, they’re shooting with their family, or it’s a brand photography, and you know, their business brain is telling them that they need to press up, you’re going to stand out against other people by doing anything. So really, if it’s a series of videos, if it’s a PDF, it’s a web page, I think like you said, these things do help people feel really comfortable about the decision. And they’ve almost decided before they talk to you so that when you have a call with them, or you meet them in person, it can be a conversation about what the sheet would look like, rather than, you know, selling yourself and justifying your prices and telling them the same things over and over again.

Allie 10:47
Yeah, so they’re already excited. Okay, so once you get them excited through the magazine, or the video, or the email series, or whatever it is that you use in an automated way, so that you’re not sitting there retyping Hello, this is like a you can take the time to put the personality into it, and do it once and really make it great. Once we get that how, how do you recommend kind of like making that simple transition into if it’s the kind of service where you need to have a meeting, to sell which giving my own context, most of mine do like I was previously, hopefully, folks are mostly focused on weddings. Now, as I’m doing branding work, I really need to have that meeting. So I have my own ideas, of course about this, though, I want to hear yours before I mentioned, what do you feel is the next natural next step to get them into that meeting.

Charlotte 11:37
If we talk about services, like you mentioned, like branding, or weddings, or some kind of service that you really don’t want to talk to them first. I think having an online scheduler that goes out at the same time, as you know, whether it’s this magazine we talked about or a web page or video, that feels really good. You could also put a step in and make sure you’re checking your availability first if you had to, but like we’ve talked about people will move mountains to work with you if they’re excited about it. So definitely an online scheduler I think is the next step. I know you use online scheduling ally. So

Allie 12:08
yes, that’s Oh, yeah, it’s like the best $5 a month I could. Amazing, I don’t know how we ever coped without it, I don’t ever want to email someone, again, like just 2pm on Thursday work for you. So definitely having an online scheduler in place to set the meeting with them to chat with them is really great. And then the next step is having really great templates and everything for things like proposals and contracts. If you use a piece of software like dubsado, you can make it really, really on brand and beautiful and keep kind of dragging them through that same dragging is a little bit extreme, walking them through that beautiful experience and, and keep them excited about working with you. Yeah, and I would imagine, you know, in all those cases, yeah, bringing imagery into that overall experience. And I’ve noticed that, you know, again, going back to weddings, I’m kind of like stepping away from weddings, but still have that page. And I’ve almost made it like less appealing. But in general, I want every step to show some combination of me. So that there because part of the product is me, images of me or video of me, even though it feels so weird at first to do that I’m trying really hard to like insert myself into those steps and my work so that they see that along the way, as well. So yes, I’m a huge fan. I use Calendly to book my meetings. And in the case of weddings, I just say, go ahead and book it. And if I’m not available on your date, then I’ll reply and let you know. But we’re or give you an associate photographer information give you that option. So I’ve had some more sometimes I’m just like, oh, sorry. Can’t do it. Okay, so now what about though you said in the case of mine, where I want to guide them to a meeting, but there are cases where we don’t necessarily need to have a meeting or for some photographers, some might need a meeting for everything. And again, I have my own opinion on this, but I want to hear yours first. So let’s say you don’t necessarily think a meeting is necessary. Maybe you’re selling mini sessions or something you just want to like hook them all up without meeting with every single person. In that case, what’s your vision for that kind of booking process?

Charlotte 14:20
I think what you do on your website is basically spot on. So having a scheduler embedded that people can choose a time that works for them, they can pay for their session. I haven’t booked one of those with you. I’m in Australia, so unfortunately I can’t I’m assuming that after they book and pay, they get some sort of welcome and they get some information from you. I think with that kind of service making it as easy as possible for people to book in so that if they’re you know, sitting on the couch and they’re like hang on I should really do this right now. You want to be able to let them absolutely fly through that process and then you also want to follow up with something that makes them feel really good about that decision. And not like they just handed over their credit card to some stranger on The internet.

Allie 15:00
Yeah. And I will say I just kind of switched to that process last year. So for context, because I don’t expect you all to have to go to my website and figure this out what we’re talking about. Before last year, I used to just have a contact form. So if somebody wanted to book, like just a regular, let’s say, family session, or I do a lot of college seniors, just different types of outdoor sessions, I would, they’d have to contact me. And then they would get an automated response. But then we’d have to like, go back and forth and get the contract signed and pick a date and all this. So what I realized was I use 17 hats, I assume it’s very similar to dubsado. So I went through my system. And I looked at the time, the sunsets for like everyday that I want to be shooting. And I scheduled in literally manually every single session, because you can like block it to be like to have this repeat, but the sunsets at a different time every day. So I looked up every single date, I just spent a couple hours one day, putting in every session that I wanted to offer. And then I just made it public on my website. And so I made it where I could also stack them. So like if you do a full session, that’s an hour, you get to pick the location, if you do a mini session, I call a mini session, it’s actually 30 minutes, it’s not that many. But you get a little less, you don’t get to pick the location, I get to pick the location, which really means that full session gets to pick the location. And so I just put those up there. And they’re available the book, kind of going off the idea that like if I was booking a luxury service, like going to a salon or booking a massage, I really just prefer to be able to see the availability, look at my calendar and know the pricing and book it. So all the sales have to happen up front, a little different. But yeah, just like today, I’m sitting here working on some editing and someone books, almost five or $600, little session. So that’s easy for me. And then literally everything’s automated, so they get all the prep information, and all I have to do is click to sign the contract, and then they get the invoice, the prep information, the follow up the reminder, absolutely everything. So I have found that by switching to that system where I make everything accessible to my clients, my bookings went up. And so I think when you remove that barrier for that kind of session, it allows me to book more. And so I do give away digital files, and I do I don’t do in person sales, I have this whole process for virtual sales where I booked you know, where I sell more products later. That’s a whole other conversation. But basically, by automating it, and then also stalking it, I can make more per hour giving away digital files charging accordingly. And just having it all kind of like run itself. So that’s me taking over and then go into the process in the long winded way of saying that, so, okay, let’s get back. So um, if we are, let’s say the bigger purchase, though, like the branding, the wedding, the in person sales kind of thing. How can we, maybe we’ve kind of already covered this, but like, how can we really help save time taking them from? Well, actually, no, because I want to talk about getting paid. So how can we save time between having them say, Yes, I’m interested. And then like getting that invoice paid?

Charlotte 18:20
We almost want to take some of the same principles of everything you just talked about for the mini session. So yes, we want to meet with them. And yes, we want to give them our personal attention. But then we want to create a little process that happens afterwards that, you know, they can receive via email, they can sit down if we use wedding as the example because that’s kind of the easy one, they can decide maybe which package works best for them. And they can check it out if you like I’m air quoting for anyone listening. But they can check out straight away. So in dubsado, and one of the reasons I really liked upside, I think 17 Hats does something similar, correct me if I’m wrong ally, but you can have a proposal that is tied together with a contract and an invoice does 17 hats do that as well? Yes, it does. Yeah. Beautiful. So I really like to take advantage of that if you’re using a software that offers it amazing, definitely do it. So we can set it up so that you’ve got this beautiful proposal that you choose a package, they flick to the next page, they sign that your agreement or your terms and conditions or whatever it is, last couple of years that have taught us that’s pretty important. So get that sign of that using a separate software. And then they can be taken to your invoice and you know, maybe it’s a 50% deposit, 25% deposit, whatever it is, we want to make sure that that invoice is there as soon as they decide to work with you. And the reason we love that, obviously we all want to get paid quicker. But the thing that’s nice for the client is we’re not making them decide to work with you more than once. So they’ve chosen their package, they’re ready to move forward and they just do it on all in one go rather than the next day receiving an invoice in that email and it’s like oh, hang on. Oh, that’s like, you know, that’s a bit expensive. Do we really want to do this am I splurging here So bringing it all into one little nice package is great for your clients as well as you. Yeah, funny,

Allie 20:06
I actually don’t take advantage of that feature. But it is something that I’m aware of when with all the work, they have different names like the workflows and the Yeah, the quotes versus proposals, but same concepts, and definitely I can see where that would be really useful. What about in clients you’ve worked with or and your recommendations, just like throughout the whole process. So once they’ve booked, let’s say, there, it’s going to be a little while before the wedding, for example, or like maintaining a relationship, I mean, these tools like dubsado, and, and 17 hats, like their client relationship management tools. So how do we take advantage of those to maintain that relationship, either while we’re waiting, or maybe after?

Charlotte 20:50
I think if we go back to the very first thing we spoke about is being really intentional about the process, I would start to think about the things that you need them to do over the long timeframe of getting ready for their wedding, or whether it’s maybe just a couple of months before their brand, shoot, whatever it is, think about the things that we really need them to work on, and then deciding the right time to drip it out. So maybe as soon as they have said yes to working with you get a lovely welcome email, it might remind them of the checkpoints that you’ll get in touch with them. So maybe three months before the wedding, we start to talk about timeline or something like that might be earlier, it might be later. But whatever it is, we want to make sure that they have a really beautiful welcome. And they kind of know what to expect when they’ll hear from you. If you use a software that has a client portal, you can get them pre loaded up with a bunch of things that they’re going to need to use in the future. The other thing that I really like is dripping in any extra little resources that you might have. So if you find that all of your clients ask you for referrals for makeup artists, and hair, and you know, venues and all of that kind of stuff, load that all up somewhere else, you could just drop it as a PDF in the welcome email, if using the client portal, it could be there. But trying to think about the things that all of your clients ask you, again and again and again, and put that in place somewhere throughout the process.

Allie 22:05
Yeah, and I also like the idea, I’m just thinking of this, of like, just scheduling out even like a little reminder of those things. Because even though I tell clients like I’m going to send out your questionnaire a month before, and your final invoice a month before, and I don’t really you know, you don’t need to worry about anything until then. But I will get the occasional like, hey, it’s just been a long time. Is there anything I need to worry about? And I’m like, No, but if you want to, we can talk about it. So maybe that’s not a bad idea to just schedule in that check in even like an automated just, hey, just a reminder that you’re good to go to store, like the tips that could just be like, here are some tips. I still don’t need this from you. But just a way of making them know you haven’t forgotten about them. Even though sometimes, like I’ll schedule, I’ll schedule that questionnaire. And then I don’t I can forget because I just have to wait for them to then reply because it’s it’s going out automatically like that. Well share with me then where people can find you where they can find more information about your services. And even if you want to share, like what your services are so that people know exactly what you’re helping them to do. Yeah, of course.

Charlotte 23:17
So there’s a bunch of resources on my website, specifically around dubsado. And I have a free mini course called Seven Steps to automation that will help you decide if dubsado is the right platform, or if there’s something else and what you can do to streamline your process and the kinds of things that you might be able to automate. So Sialidase iq.com/photo field notes if you want to grab that in terms of how I can help. In addition to all the resources I have that I also have a bunch of templates, I have a program called ECE kids society, where we get together with a bunch of creative business artists over six weeks, we’ll set up dubsado together and then of course, I also help people set up dubsado.

Allie 23:54
Nice. Okay, and one more question for your Charlotte as I’m thinking this through. One thing that I kind of struggled with, that I just haven’t dug into does dubsado make it easy to take your clients and export them into some kind of email system where you can then just like have all your clients from this set subset and email them, oh, my sessions are live for the year except for example,

Charlotte 24:19
integrates with Zapier, which you could use to do that. So whether you use like MailChimp, flow desk, anything like that you could zap them from dubsado Maybe when they signed their contract or like they finished their session or delivered their photos, like you could choose a time to pop them in so that you can keep nurturing them. So very good question. Okay.

Allie 24:35
Yeah, I haven’t looked into that I know of that tool, but I haven’t looked into it much. But that is my one big gaping hole that I don’t do well with is taking them from client to then putting them on my email list so that I can remind them of future opportunities.

Charlotte 24:50
Yeah, and I mean, you can check in with them long term as well, too. I think the cool thing about photographers is people do need to work with you again and again. Like if you do more of like a wedding photography and you also offer lifestyle shoots or newborn shoots, obviously, there’s a reason to get in touch with them as their family grows, branch shoots, we all need to redo them again and again. So definitely, I think keeping in touch with your clients long term and nurturing them is both a great way of getting repeat clients and also getting referrals because they keep remembering you and seeing your free face and remembering how wonderful you

Allie 25:22
are. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, when I saw it, I mean, I did it manually, which I don’t necessarily recommend. But I did put together my email list from last year with clients and email them out just to like, let them know what’s new. But and you know, of course, I heard back from them just personal responses to which was great. But yeah, I think automating that would be wonderful. All right. Well, yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. So everyone, check out Charlotte. You can find them all of her information in the show notes or photo field notes.com. Go check out that free resource. Check out what she’s got going on. She’s got a lot of good stuff for you. So Charlotte, thank you for sharing and giving me something to check out. I’m gonna have to go look at Zapier again.

Charlotte 26:04
Thank you so much, Allie. It was fun to chat.

Outro 26:07
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave your review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 183: LinkedIn Marketing for Photographers with Jeff Brown

LinkedIn Marketing for photographers with Jeff Brown, the photo field notes podcast

Jeff started his career as a Military Photographer in the British Royal Navy but after nearly 10 years service he decided to leave the armed forced to set up his own photography company.

Eighteen months later he had a successful six-figure turnover wedding photography company and a commercial photography company, then going on to open a separate school photography business with sixty nursery schools on their books and a Boudoir Makeover company turning over 1,000 boudoir shoots per year.

He now mentors photographers in over 20 countries worldwide, helping them develop their brand to become the “Go-To Photographer” in their niche and achieve the success they deserve. Jeff has written a No1 best-selling book on LinkedIn for Photographers (The Photographers Missing Link-edIn) and also runs regular LinkedIn Lives as a platform influencer with 30k photographer followers.

He’s written for several photography magazine and associations and is also a marketing ambassador for The British Photography Awards, The Female Photographers Association and the UK and US Brand Ambassador for The Shutter Studio App, as well as a regular guest on photography podcasts around the world giving free help and advice to fellow photographers.

Resources

Resources:

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Transcript

Allie 0:00
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast. Before we get into the episode today, just a quick reminder, if you haven’t already taken advantage, I have a coupon code to access my photo editing workflow walkthrough video, where I just show you the basics of my photo editing a little behind the scenes video, it’s normally $35. But through February 28, it is free if you use the coupon code edit free at checkout. So go check that out. And that’s it. Let’s get into the episode.

Introduction 0:30
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 0:44
Hello, everyone, this is Allie Siarto And today I’m talking with Jeff Brown. And he started a successful photography business along with photography school with 60 nursery schools. He also mentors photographers in more than 20 countries worldwide. And he’s helping them to develop their brands to become the go to photographer in their niche niche. He’s also on top of that written a number one best selling book on LinkedIn for photographers called the photographer’s missing LinkedIn. And he runs regular LinkedIn lives, which I’m sure are very handy. He’s written for several photography magazines and associations. And he’s a marketing ambassador for the British photography Awards, the female Photographers Association and the UK and US brand ambassador for the shutter Studio app. So many awesome things. Welcome, Jeff.

Jeff 1:27
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be on.

Allie 1:29
It’s awesome to have you. Okay, let’s start with your story. I know you have kind of a really, really interesting career path that led you to all these things. So let’s hear kind of the overview of your career story.

Jeff 1:42
So I initially started out with photography as just a hobby. And then when I got into my mid to late 20s, I joined the Royal Navy. And then I was in the Royal Navy for three years as an engineer. Because being a photographer in the military in the UK, you have to be it’s called what’s called sidewards entry. So you have to join in another trade and then apply to be a photographer. So after three years, applied to be a photographer, passed all the exams and became a Royal Navy photographer, and then went on to work for the intelligence services for two years as a intelligence image analysis because photography and looking at imagery, were very connected, you know, so the light to people who are from a photography background to work in that particular sector. So I did nine years coming up to 10 year service in the military.

Allie 2:34
And what does that I don’t know if you can tell us all the details of that, well, what does that look like? What kinds of things were you doing with them?

Jeff 2:41
All sorts of stuff. So everything from we did macro photography, you know, defective aircraft, then we did PR photography, lots of PR photography, events, parades, criminal injuries, when Marines decided to go and beat people up in the local town after a few drinks we move to the criminal injuries. Funnily enough, one of my my first ever job I had on my own after after training, so during the six months training to be a military photographer, then I shadowed another photographer for eight weeks and after eight weeks, the boss turned around and said, right Jeff, you deem you have a good enough standard to go out on your own. And this is typically the Navy would like to cling in at the deep end he says so this weekend, you’ll be Prince Philip’s photographer and that was my first ever job was was a royal job and I had a Shadow Prince Phillip at the commando memorial in Scotland for the remembrance parade

Allie 3:40
while they did throw you right in so what was that? Like? Were you confident or were you kind of like

Jeff 3:47
I was quite terrified to be honest at the very beginning. And I did actually and you know when you make a big mistake and never ever ever do it again and I did actually shoot probably about 15 minutes of the parade without actually having to film and my camera cleaner my lenses double check and everything I was so nervous then he arrived at forgot a load of film and it was only after I must have taken about 40 shots. I thought hang on a minute. This kind of

Allie 4:16
did anybody did anybody notice that you didn’t have a portion covered? Or did you have enough that it was fine.

Jeff 4:22
I had enough that I managed to blog my way out with the boss and didn’t admit to it but I never ever made that mistake again. What a

Allie 4:29
day to make that mistake. That’s crazy. Okay, where did it go from there? Go from there.

Jeff 4:35
So yeah, so So then after working with the intelligence services, Arizona, a different base and a lot of people who are coming into the into my office, one intelligence stuff done they want the photographs of the dogs and the daughter was getting married and stuff like that. And I started to realize there’s a good potential here to actually make some money and and do something you know, and when eventually when my own Business so, so I set up a business who along with another military photographer who was working for the intelligence sector at the time, and he was based in the same area of the UK as me. And after about a year, we decided that I would come out first because at the time, I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, and my business partner was sure it was more of a risk for him to leave. So I left first. And when you leave the military, in, in the UK get seven and a half 1000 pounds to spend on further training to become a civilian again. So instead of spending my money on photography courses, I spent it on marketing for a photography business. And the first ever course I did was a American guy, Charles Lewis did his photography, marketing course. And I absolutely loved it, I got really addicted to the marketing side of things. And then when my business partner left, six months later, he didn’t, he wasn’t interested in the marketing side of the business side of it. So he given me his seven and a half 1000 pounds, I spent 15,000 on courses and went off and did them. And that’s what allowed us to take the business from basically a new starter to a six figure business and then create another four businesses in a very short space of time. And to be honest, I felt a bit of a cheat really, because there was other photographers out there who’d been going 1520 years with much more experience, much better photographers than us. But it was the marketing and the branding and the understanding about the business element that catapulted us forward.

Allie 6:30
You’re not the first person to say that I’ve asked others, you know, if you could study marketing, or photography, and you could only choose one. Most people say all people say study marketing, that’s what’s going to make your business successful in the end. So it’s easy, not easy, but you know, you can learn the photography, and be a good photographer. But if you can’t market the business, then it’s not going to help you. So what about from there, the school working with schools and then going on to mentor others?

Jeff 6:58
Yeah, so So initially, I had quite a few friends leave the military who were military photographers, as well. So they would ask you, they were asking for advice. And then I also got asked to do a few talks at local schools about setting up photography businesses. And I loved it, I got addicted to it. And I thought, you know, in because that became my passion, too, because I saw lots of other photographers who weren’t doing as well as us, but really should be. But it was all down to the brand and the market. And so I decided that that was something I wanted to do. And then in 2015, I had a bit of a sort of a twist in my life. So I decided stupidly to buy a food pub, a little country food pub, in, in in County Durham, so in the north northeast of England. And the idea was this food pub was also going to be a wedding venue for us as well. So we do the weddings, hold the weddings there and do the wedding photography. And within 12 months had lost over 160,000 pounds that I’d invested in the pub ran up another 60,000 pounds worth of debt and everything that could possibly go wrong with that business did go wrong, it was it was a nightmare. And I ended up getting divorced as well at the same time over in the shelter, period. So I left the pub and I ran away to the to the countryside, still had the photography businesses, but I split them up. My ex business partner, he took the the nursery school and school photography, business and the commercial photography business. I just kept the wedding side and then started the photography, training and mentoring business up, which was the best move I ever made, you know so so from going from a huge loss where I suffered a lot of depression, I had tried to take my own life at the time I’ve gone through a really dark time within my you know, in my life and then turned it around to now having a business where I work with people in over 20 countries worldwide admit the flexibility so amazing. I absolutely love what I do. I’m really passionate about it. And I still do a few weddings I’ve got I think we’ve got about four or five weddings this year. I’ve got a couple next year. I’m not really I’m just doing them because I enjoy doing them not because I have to and I’ve done over 750 weddings so I think it’s about time

Allie 9:15
Yeah, what do you think it is that got you through that dark time and kind of kept you going or what advice do you have for others who are going through a lot of us are going through a really difficult time right now just because of the world that we live in right now. With COVID and everything happening so do you have any thoughts just like words or in hindsight to share with people who are kind of feeling that right now.

Jeff 9:37
You know, it was one of the stupidest things I ever did because I did feel totally trapped. I felt I couldn’t get out of it. I had a you know pub with it in stuff and did. I felt trapped. I couldn’t get out the lease of the pervy either. And every day it was just everyday it was more money that was getting lost more money and all that money wasn’t borrowed money. That was the money knew that I had made someone in five very successful photography businesses. So I just saw that vanishing before me eyes every single week. And one night I stupidly decided to when the bar was closed is drink myself into a stupid and try and drive my car for a bridge, which fortunately for me, I was too drunk to actually managed to do it, but I managed to smash the car up. And the next morning I woke up and at the time, my daughter who was then living with, you know, the living with my ex wife was seven year old and that was the first thing I thought of and I thought, Jeff, you absolute fool, you know, how would Araya cope without a dad in a life. So then I decided on it, you know, I needed help. And one of the biggest things I tend to funnily enough, my mom is a Samaritan, and she was director of the Samaritans and in the Northeast of England, but I didn’t go to her I went to audiobooks. And I would say Amazon audiobooks pretty much changed my, my life, really, it was all about reading books on positivity and listening to books and positivity. And because when you’re in that state, your mind wanders, I found it much easier to listen to books than actually read them. And I could consume a lot more. So I go through books, maybe three times over plan that one and a half times speed. So it’s getting through the quick, and, and then, you know, realizing that you’re not alone, you know, even the most successful people have been there and been in a very similar situation. And if you start making small steps now, you know, in three months time, six months time, your life can be in a completely different direction.

Allie 11:32
Yeah, that gets me as having a seven year old myself, that really gets me. And I feel that too with books, I feel like that’s been a huge way for me to stay positive. I’ve been in both directions, audiobooks that are just like really fun novels just to get out of this dark time. And then also these books that are really just like nonfiction storytelling and uplifting and positivity, I’m in that same place in a lot of ways, you know, staying positive with those things. So that I think that’s good. Is there any specific books that you recommend that you really loved?

Jeff 12:05
Oh, god, there’s, there’s quite a few. I mean, for photographers, there’s a guy. I don’t know if he’s very well, I think he’s quite well known in the US, actually, a guy called Craig Beck. And he called he did a book called unstoppable how to have an unstoppable life. And another one is atomic habits. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that one. That’s, I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t read it. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a really good one. But I mean, I’m talking about 250 on my playlist.

Allie 12:36
Nice. Yeah, I’m gonna I love also just being able to go on the library and, you know, see what’s there and look for recommendation. So put those in there too, on the notes. All right, let’s get into our main topic of the day, which is LinkedIn, which I think is underutilized by a lot of photographers. And maybe that’s why it’s such an opportunity. So what can you tell us about how photographers, can you use LinkedIn to find clients or build a community,

Jeff 13:03
but one of the really important things to think about with with LinkedIn is it’s massively underused by photographers. So currently, I’ll just give you some stats, there’s around about 750 million LinkedIn users on the planet. And, you know, the US, UK, and India are the three biggest users. Now, the LinkedIn, the people on LinkedIn are higher wage earners. So the average wage earning on LinkedIn is about 85 to $90,000. So these aren’t freebie hunters, these aren’t the people who just want Groupon deals and stuff enough. And these are people who have money in you know, unavailable income to spend out of the hole 750 million LinkedIn profiles, only 30 million of those profiles are what you call fully optimized, so that the showing up regularly in the searches, and out of the whole 750 million only 1% of the platform, a creating regular content. So out the whole platform only 1%. So I have clients on board my program that I work with, and after three months, literally three months of just posting to LinkedIn, they’ve got a fully optimized profile, they recommend that they go to photographer in their niche because other photographers aren’t doing it. And it’s not just business to business, because you know, people who own businesses have daughters who are getting married have wives and children that they want to get photographs of they have pets that they want to have photographs, I’ve sort of it’s a fantastic opportunity to be hitting your ideal client and getting out there to your ideal client.

Allie 14:37
Do you think you have to approach it differently than some of the other platforms? Like how when you go to create content or connect on LinkedIn? How do we start and what kinds of content should we be producing that’s going to help us be seen by these people? Well,

Jeff 14:52
one of the big things I say to everybody is, when you go on to LinkedIn is to create a LinkedIn niche. So to niches elftown to be a particular type of photographer, and with with it with a niche, and each can be driven by your passion, or sometimes driven, driven by a geographical area. So I live in a place called Northumberland, in the UK, which is the most leastly, dense, densely populated county in the whole of England. So there’s hardly anybody here. So I’d be no good being a headshot photographer. But what I could do is maybe be a photographer for either hospitality, and tourism, because it’s quite big on tourism, or maybe agriculture and farming. So that would work really well, or weddings, because there’s a lot of people come up here to get married. So specialize to a particular niche. Because if you try and appeal to everybody, you become special to no one. So it’s really essential that you, you narrow yourself down if you think you say you want to franchise of five Marriott or Hilton Hotels, and you are looking on LinkedIn for somebody to come in and do photographs of your hotels for your website and for your brochures. Who would you are their employee? Would it be a specialist hospitality and food photographer, or a photographer who does babies weddings, commercial, pets, you know, so and what also another thing to think about is, is people buy for different reasons. So when people buy for weddings, boudoir, and portraits, it’s an emotional purchase. When people buy for headshots for commercial photography, for personal branding, which is huge on LinkedIn, that is a solution based process. So you know, if you if you sell into the guy who owns the hotel, who owns a restaurant, you don’t try and sell him the the images, you sell them the end results, you sell them that you’re gonna get bums on seats every night in the in the restaurant, because people are seeing these images online. And that’s been an old car, we’re gonna go here, the food looks amazing, it’s gonna get more online bookings for sell the end result is a try and sell the photographs.

Allie 16:56
So do you think so for example, I have now doing branding photography, which tends to be like personal branding photography. And to me my head immediately goes to that’s what I would focus on in LinkedIn, even though I do other things. And so do you think that people should have a whole separate brand that does this specific thing and a specific website brand, etc. Experience? Or do you think they should just pick that thing to focus in on on LinkedIn, and it’s okay, if they have the other things, once you get to the website, as long as you’re directing them to that one thing?

Jeff 17:28
Well, funnily enough, when you think about LinkedIn itself, people on LinkedIn like to do business within LinkedIn. So it’s a very, very close sort of platform. So when people come to your LinkedIn profile, that you know, they can go into, they can view your past posts, you can view everything you put on for the past year, or however long you’ve been on the you can also set up what’s called a LinkedIn company page, and connect that to your profile. I’ve got five LinkedIn company pages for the different types of businesses that I run, and then the ambassadorships that I have. And that’s all those are all connected to my, my, my profile. So people can get more information about me from my LinkedIn company page on my LinkedIn profile, and they can go to any by going to any website, it’s because you’ve got to remember website is just a snapshot in time, isn’t it, it’s only, it’s probably relevant to when it was created. And then it probably hasn’t been updated, where you can get a lot more about a person’s personality and what sort of person they are, and reviews and everything like that from your profile. Now, when I look at my link, my website stacks and I go to websites, and look at their website stats, even though LinkedIn is one of my biggest generators of business for mentor. And with photographers, less than 1% of the people who visit my website have come through LinkedIn, because they just people on LinkedIn, just stay on LinkedIn. You know, they probably get them on a call, and that’ll be about it. So if you’ve got a profile, it’s fully optimized, not fully optimized for LinkedIn, but fully optimized for your clients. So it says everything the client needs to know it’s all about them, it’s not about you, then they don’t need to go and look at another website. So when I work with photographers, I said, Look, forget about the website, don’t build a personal branding website yet. Until you’ve got that you know, you don’t want to be spending the the $1,000 on a website or whatever. LinkedIn is free, get your profile up there, get your message out there, make your profile towards your clients, stop posting, start connecting, when you’ve got about a dozen or so jobs under your belt and you’ve got some money in the bank, then go down the road of getting that website if that if that’s if you want it, you know, but it’s not a necessity.

Allie 19:43
That is very interesting and very encouraging to that we can kind of experiment with having these very specific areas of focus without having to invest all this money in a whole separate website. So that’s awesome when it comes to actually creating content on LinkedIn, what kind of content do you tend to create?

Jeff 20:03
So LinkedIn, that that, again, is a huge thing with people on LinkedIn, like, you know, I said at the very beginning, less than 1% of people post content. And you know, I’ll speak to photography, especially when I get somebody who’s just new and come on board the program. And a lot of, as I say, a lot of people who come on my program off on LinkedIn, you know, they’ll message me and say, Jeff, I’ve been watching your stuff. I’ve been seeing your posts, I’ve been reading your content for the past six months, but I might get like a little message into my inbox and say, Jeff, I’m really interested in joining your program. So then I look at the person who sent me that message, and I think, hang on a minute. I’ve never heard of that person before. They’ve never interacted with any of my content. They’ve never commented. I just can’t remember seeing them. So I’ll say, Yeah, let’s regroup a call. And then when it comes to have a call, I get this over and over again. And I say are, you know, you message me through LinkedIn, I have been watching you for about six months. But I’ve never commented because I’m frightened to use the platform. Photographers are terrified to use the platform, not not post, let alone, let alone just come in to you know, because they feel that everybody on there is so professional, you’re going to be judged by whatever you put out. Where actually, it’s the complete opposite. If ever, there was a more forgiving platform and social media, and a pleasant place to be. It’s LinkedIn, it’s not like you don’t get the haters, like you do on like Facebook and stuff. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s so refreshing. And and people love to hear good stories, the love inspirational stories, the love sharing, you know, imagery of like local views, you know, local scenes that, like tips and hacks that we’re going to improve the business. And I think one of the biggest things I can say to people on LinkedIn is be yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Because the one thing about LinkedIn with posting content, I’ve built a reputation. And I’ve got over 30,000 30,000 followers on LinkedIn, who are photographers, and they’re, you know, they’re watching me, they’re watching the content I put out there. Now imagine, if you put something out there now suddenly says, Oh, hey, that’s a lot of crap. I’d you know, I disagree with that. People are reading the comments that I’m putting there. So that just makes me look really unprofessional, you know, I could lose that entire brand that I’ve built up. So even if I have, and it’s only ever happened on two or three occasions where somebody has made a, quite a nasty remark on a comment that I’ll post that I put out there, I’ll just message I’ll just post underneath it. No problem. That’s, you know, that’s your entitlement. You know, we all have our own opinions. Unfortunately, I don’t agree with you on this one, but I wish you all the best. And then literally, within about 15 minutes, I’ve had another three or four photographers slagging this guy off and taking them down. But I’m not going to ruin my brand, for the sake of somebody else. But that is very, very, remember, I’ve got 30,000 followers, you know, so. So it’s, it’s very, it’s happened to me maybe two or three times in the past four years. It’s it is such a forgiving platform. So I tend to post I can see that, yeah, of course, tips, advice, inspirational stuff, and then it comes back to the old thing, you know, people buy from people who they know, they’re like, and they trust. So you have to go down a journey. So to be known, you have to put your name out there, you have to get out there, you know, because your credibility on LinkedIn is how visible you are. See, if you’re gonna just kind of sit back in the sidelines and do nothing you’re never going to be seen. And it’s the people that go to photographers are the ones who shout and put their stuff out there and try and help each other and, and make that step and do that post. And so, you get known and then to be liked, is you have to post in a way that is genuine and human and not like a robot, you know, and not coming salesy. Because when when you put in stuff when human people buy from people they like so if you can get that relationship going people start to like you and then they will trust you if you don’t try and sell to them. I probably hardly ever put a sales post out on LinkedIn. And then I’ll say to people you know, if you want a free advice call, give me a shout. We’ll jump on a 30 minute free advice call I’ll send you a brochure about my program and if you’re interested then say Jeff, tell me Well, if you’re not go in take the full 330 minutes free advice you know, and it’s it’s happening and people love that because it’s a genuine thing and so that that is it. That’s the thing is to get out there and start putting content out.

Allie 24:37
I can see a lot of potential for the branding side because let’s say I’m let’s say that I choose personal branding or just small business branding as my topic that I want to focus on on LinkedIn, which seems relevant. And then I happen to know quite a lot about branding because I’ve branded my own business and studied things like that. So I have a lot of advice to offer in how to use those images and How you know how you can improve your brand. So I feel like I’m seeing a lot of chances to create content around that bigger picture, but then really focusing on like designing your session. Is there also I know you do these lives LinkedIn lives, do you think that that’s been a big part of creating your presence on LinkedIn?

Jeff 25:20
Definitely. Because LinkedIn live, again, is that there’s hardly anybody got LinkedIn live, you know, because if if people aren’t going to have the frame to even post and comment, certainly not going to do alive, you know, but LinkedIn live gets you out there and it creates more personality, you know, you can answer people’s questions, and you can get in front of your audience a lot easier. And one thing that I was going to say when you’re talking about branding, and I would say probably, probably about 60% of the photographers I work with all over the world now are into the branding and personal branding, because it’s coming. Huge thing. I mean, even the hashtag on LinkedIn, personal branding has over 10 and a half million followers. But I’ve started the photographers, I worked with 10 to start like micro niche in personal branding. So funny. I was talking to a photographer this morning, Mr. Dunham, who has been on program that for a month now and is passionate about food. She’s a foodie, she loves to cook, she’s created her brand. And she’s called herself the foodies photographer. So she creates personal branding images for people within the food and hospitality industry. So it’s people who she’s doing pictures of the artisan Baker, the chocolates here, the organic farmer with these with the sausages that he’s made and stuff, because these people are part of their produce and their brand. It’s the people behind the produce, that make it special. It’s not made any huge factory, you know, so they are their own brand. I’ve got another guy Gwen Jones, based in Wales. And he’s a personal he’s a headshot photographer and his personal branding and headshots for people in the financial services and banking industry. He has a background in financial services, banking, so he understands that industry really well. He’s tailored himself down to that industry, and he knows that industry has money to spend, you know, that is the industry where they’re not going to be, you know, trying to knock them down a few 100 pounds on a shoot. And then I have another lady and Thomas who’s doing exceptionally well in personal branding, but hers is more for creative, like coaches, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, because she understands that those people are the type of people who value their own personal brand, because they are their brand, you know, so they understand the value behind the imagery, because if they look good, their programs and their courses and their services look good and sell better. So she’s so if you can make your niche even better, you know, because you’re going to stand out as the photographer who helps you know, the artisan Baker, sell more bread and then create a huge Facebook following, you know, so

Allie 28:03
yeah, it would be a natural Yeah. Like, of course you would hire that person if you are that. What about geography? Are they in big cities that makes that easier? Are they traveling to clients? How do they make that part work? Do you know?

Jeff 28:16
Well, geography wise, obviously. Well, funnily enough, Leigh Gwynn, He’s based in Wales, and most of his clients are in London in the city. So it’s a two and a half hour three hour train journey for for GWEN But he’d book ahead in a bouquet where he’s maybe doing 40 or 50 people that day for that particular bank. So it’s well worth it. And Thomas she’s she’s based outside London, she’s about an hour and a half outside of London. But she’s now working with people all over the world because she does the virtual shoots as well and she’s got last week she had a company in Amsterdam want firstly, headshots do and and she actually had, she’s got a company in Washington DC, that 160 Headshots done, but it’s a tech company. So what they want is everybody photographed at their home. But in a funny sort of way, which is basically tell us something about some for yourself that nobody else in the company knew so. So that the ethos behind this company is they want to say that it’s it’s the people that making the company, not the company that makes the people. So you know, you might have the guy standing there with his motorbike helmet and he’s standing next to his motorbike another guy with his apron on his Penny’s mixing board because he loves to bake on a weekend, you know, or, or the woman with three dogs. And I want to engage you on because she likes to grow up when and whether so each one tells her story about that one individual person.

Allie 29:44
That’s clever. Okay, let’s get really quickly into this whole idea of virtual photoshoots. Because I know it’s been kind of controversial, and I want to hear how this is working, especially for these people who you’ve worked with. How is that? Like, what is that? How is that working?

Jeff 29:58
So I’m a Brand Ambassador, I got approached by shutter app, which is a tech company that started short wrap up in in Germany. It’s a red chested company in Germany. And they wanted like an alternative to the first time or the zoom type photo shoot virtual photo shoot. So this app shutter app, we just go to the shutter app on Google shuttler dot app. It’s a free app at the moment, so you can download it. And you can take photographs of your client using their mobile phone camera, or actually a digital SLR camera, anywhere in the world. And funnily enough, I had a shoot done last week by a photographer in London. And the images are fantastic. And I’ve got a Huawei P 30. Pro, which has a 50 megapixel camera. And the short wrap allows you on the premium version to take photographs in raw. So the guy who was doing my photographs was like, Jeff, the images I’m bringing out like 14 megapixel, cameras, the quality is there, he can, he can zoom in and zoom out, he can adjust the exposure, the white balance they are so and before the shoot, it was great for me to see it from the other side as well. And be a client on the end of it in isolation can, from my point of view, client wise, I didn’t have to travel, I was doing it in my own home. So I just held the phone up, I showed Richard my living room, then we went through into the kitchen and the office, then went outside to the garden on the patio assured him from the pantry. He was like, Yeah, I’ve already got four or five ideas what we’re going to do, and then he would pause me you know, so I just put my phone on the selfie stick, but what a lot of people do is put their phone, you know, like in the UK, we’ll call them trainers. And I think you call them sneakers in the US. Imagine you’ve got your shoe, you put the shoe the phone in the heel of the shoe bit and it stands up and then you can just you can tilt it forward backwards, move the shoe about you could put it on the table. And then Richard Richard would just be like, move this way. But you have turned yourself that way. Take the you know and you hear the foot was getting taken. And it’s brilliant. And then halfway through I was like which you can just go and change me share it and I’d run upstairs get a new shirt on come down the the ability to use something like this, first of all to have clients anywhere in the world, like you know, Scott, that job in Amsterdam, she gets that job in Washington, DC, you know, and but they’re using a photographer in the UK, so allows you to work with anybody in the world, it’s quite exciting. Obviously, the the income side of thing is a little bit less because people don’t charge as much for virtual photo shoots as they do for an in person. But it’s a fraction of the time. You know, the we did yeah, locations in my house, and it was probably 2530 minutes altogether.

Allie 32:49
That is interesting. Well, what about art is on a phone? So is it just whoever’s phone they just install the app? Or does she like send some kind of special gear in the mail or how does that part of it work?

Jeff 33:00
What happens is, so say for instance, you’re the model, I would tell you to go online with your phone to the App Store, download shutter app to your phone, then you’ve got the you’ve got a shorter app on your phone, the photographer would then send you like a connection to request you would have then a one time passcode generated ID that you would then give to the photographer, he puts that in and that URL then gives access to the all the features on your on your phone. So you can like work on your camera phone and so on here’s he could switch between wide angle lens standard lens, because who are we have three different lenses, you know, and then as soon as he hangs up as soon as you you terminate that session, it’s just the same as you know, putting the receiver down on the Skype or zoom that it you can’t go back in and look at your pictures and access here, you texts and emails and stuff you know that’s finished. If you want to have another shoot with that photographer, then you have to generate a new unique ID passcode. Now the images that that photographer takes are not captured on your phone, they are captured on the photographer’s portal. So the photographer when he does that click and takes the picture doesn’t store to your phone, it stores to his photographers portal. And then he can then like today I got my photographs back, he will then give me a link to go on to my photographs after the been edited.

Allie 34:27
So you can edit it, okay? And that makes sense. Because you think about the cost to go into let’s say in that case with every employee to go to every home and set it up and photograph them would be really time consuming if you had to actually travel to everyone’s home, not to mention it’s across the world. And to be able to do it that way. It’s kind of a really fun, creative way. But you have to be the kind of photographer who knows how to direct somebody because you have to you’re basically making them feel comfortable and making them with even another element which may be more comfortable for some less for others to be able to, you know, make sure that you know how to make clients feel comfortable. But what a creative idea. So that’s the shutter Studio app.

Jeff 35:09
Yeah, shutter apps, I’ve interviewed quite a few photographers who have used it because I want to be, you know, being an ambassador for the company, I want to, I want to get their feedback and get the information out, because I was I agreed to the ambassadorship, because I could see the value, we could bring photographers to their business to make more money, because that’s what you know, that’s the whole thing. I’m about helping photographers make more money. And I think and who uses it quite a lot, put it in a really good context is, you know, if you, you’ve got to be good with your voice, you’ve got to be good at directing people. And you’ve got to remember that, you know, it’s the opposite way around. So if you say, move left, you mean, yeah, you gotta move. And you’ve also got to think on your feet as well, you know, so you might suddenly be like, Okay, I’m in their living room. Now, what can I see, move this move that. And also, you in non controlled lighting situations, you know, so if the clouds come out, if you’ve got a big window in the house, then all of a sudden, it’s it. Thing is that a lot of mobile phones that have very good, they’re very good for dealing with massive changes in the ambient light. So as to add this as well, effectively. It’s, it’s a bit like being a wedding photographer, because your wedding photographer, you know, you, you have to think on your feet, you have to deal with all sorts of lighting conditions. Sometimes, you know, things don’t go according to plan, and you have to switch quickly and go right? Well, by doing the show over here, you know, so I think, and also good at controlling people and directing them. So if your wedding photographer, have you got experience in that you’re probably going to be good at doing a virtual shoot.

Allie 36:42
So interesting. Okay, so I’ll put that link in the show notes, too. And then Jeff, where can people find all these different resources about you like your mentoring or LinkedIn guidance, etc? Where, where can they find you online?

Jeff 36:54
If they just head over to LinkedIn and type in the photographer’s mentor on LinkedIn? They can find me there and definitely send me a connection request. I will. I’ll connect with all your listeners. If they have any questions. Don’t be afraid to just drop me a message. Say, Jeff, I listened to the podcast, can you give me a bit of advice on this? And I always say advice is free, you know, more than happy to hack into a couple of voice clips back through LinkedIn messaging, just to explain something if you’re stuck on something. My website is the photographer’s mentor.com. And it’s got my prices and more information about my mentoring services in there. And if you want a brochure, drop me a message and I can send you a brochure out as well.

Allie 37:34
Good deal. All right. Well, I’ll go connect with you right now.

Outro 37:39
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 182: Social Media Marketing Without the Overwhelm with Andréa Jones

Episode 182: Social Media Marketing Without the Overwhelm with Andréa Jones

Andréa Jones has built an online business committed to empowering businesses to utilize the power of social media in a positive and impactful way, without being overwhelmed and drained by it.

Resources

Transcript

Allie 0:00
Hey everyone, before we get into the episode today, I have an extra special freebie for you today. In my shop photo field notes.com/shop. I have a video called photo editing workflow walkthrough video. So I walk through my editing workflow, how I get my images to look how they look. And that’s normally on sale for $35. But I’m making it free through the end of February 2022 with the coupon code, edit free, so you can at checkout, put in the coupon code, edit free, and get that 100% free through the end of February 2022. All right, let’s get into the episode today.

Introduction 0:36
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 0:50
Hi, everyone, this is Allie Siarto. And today I’m talking with Andrea Jones, who has built an online business committed to empowering businesses to utilize the power of social media in a positive and impactful way. And that’s without being overwhelmed and drained by it because I think we all have had that experience of just being like, oh, social media. I know I talk a lot about that I’m here. She has seven years of experience. And she hosts the acclaimed podcast savvy social podcast leads a team providing done for you service inside of her marketing agency that was named a top digital marketing agency in 2021. And she serves over 100 students in her membership savvy social school. Andrea, welcome to the podcast.

Andréa 1:30
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Allie 1:33
And as we go, I apologize to everyone. You can maybe hear my cat in the background. Really loud right now. But let’s jump in. I always like to start with the backstory. So let me hear about your kind of journey, getting into social media and then providing the service and then also teaching on the side.

Andréa 1:51
Yeah, so I actually like social media and was fairly new to the internet world. I started my blog in 2004 definitely was not cool back then. And I graduated with a degree in English literature, I got into hospitality and but on this side, I was managing social media for my parents, who are both entrepreneurs, and for my friends who are artists and singers and that sort of thing. And while I was running my blog and my YouTube channel, I met my husband. And so we lived in separate countries at the time. And we actually did me on YouTube. Funny enough, but we lived in separate countries. So when I

Allie 2:40
That’s so crazy. Okay, just go into that for a quick second. Because that’s so interesting. Yeah, so we

Andréa 2:47
while we were doing an interview, just like you and I are doing together. And then we just kept talking after that. But we were both kind of like networking and collecting, connecting with other YouTubers at the time, because that’s what you do. That’s how you grow your channel, right. And so it kind of happened a bit organically. But social media is like in my life now. But with that move, so with moving to Canada, I had to tend to think about what I wanted to do. And that’s really what I launched the business. I started freelancing, doing all of the things and then landed on social media. Because I liked it, I found it to be a really nice mix of what I learned in school and university. And it was repeatable. So I was doing other things like writing product descriptions, and writing blog posts. And those are kind of like, if they need it one time kind of thing where social media is ongoing, it never stops. And so the good thing about that, as my clients always needed me. So that’s kind of how I built the agency. And things kind of grew from there.

Allie 3:58
Okay, so now let’s get into kind of some strategies that photographers can take and use in their worlds. First, let’s talk about posting strategy. I think that’s, you know, I think the ongoing nature of social media, which is what makes it so great for you as a business owner, because it’s it’s this like retainer, ongoing work is also what tends to make it so overwhelming for small business owners who don’t necessarily have a team doing this for them. So what is your advice to the those people when they’re sitting down to say, like, Oh, my God, what am I going to post? What am I gonna share here? What are you Where should they start?

Andréa 4:33
Yeah, and you know, I think part of this feeling of needing to post all the time comes from this world of being an influencer and being a content creator. So we see a lot of people posting these beautiful, perfectly styled versions of themselves. And then as business owners, we try to compete with that. So I want you to kind of separate yourself from like thinking about this as a con content creation strategy and refocusing in on this as a business owner strategy. So you’re not posting just to get likes and comments and views and all of that. That’s what content creators want. As business owners, we actually want business at the end of the day, we want people to take action. And so when you’re approaching your strategy, I want you to think about it that way. Typically, for a lot of my business owners, we’re giving ourselves a time limit instead of a content limit. So I think it’s very easy to go, I need to post, you know, four or five times a week. And for some of us, that takes hours of time that we do not have. So what I instead suggest doing is focusing on a time limit. So typically, I recommend one hour a week, that’s a that’s a significant amount of time, but enough that we can commit to especially commit to long term, right, not just like going into big bursts, and then going, I’m never doing that again. So within that one hour a week, you want to focus in on the two different types of content, we’ve got the type of content that people will convert on, so they see your beautiful work, they’re like, I want to hire that person. So those posts, your goal is to get someone to say yes, please, I want that. And so that’s what you craft that post around. And then you have the type of content that people want to engage with, they want to like it, they want to share it, especially or save it for later. So when you create that content, just keep that in mind, this isn’t the goal of this post isn’t to have someone sign up and become a client, the goal is how can they like it and share it with their friends. And so when you sit down to write those types of content pieces, it really makes it a lot clearer as a business owner, where we should be spending most of our time and how we should be approaching content creation. And then from there, we can start measuring the success of those posts. So some of the posts where we’re saying hire us people probably aren’t going to like and comment and engage because that wasn’t the point. So you want to look at different analytics, like profile views, website clicks, those sorts of things. Whereas the other type of posts to see if they’re successful, you look at things like likes and comments and shares.

Allie 7:14
How do you find the balance between the two? Because obviously, if you post too much of that, like, okay, just hire me or call to action come work with me. People might be like, Okay, this is just an ad, I don’t want to like just see ads, I want to see the more fun stuff. So what do you think, do you think? Have you found a good balance for how often to do each type?

Andréa 7:31
Yeah, so for a lot of us, we do want to switch back and forth. But even then, it depends depends on your audience and how they react. One of my clients, for example, we tested out all of these different engagement posts, we spent about a year trying to boost engagement, but honestly, when we were promoting their products, that got the most attention on their account. So and that’s a bit of an anomaly. But sometimes that happens, outside of that typically one in every five posts is directly promoting something. So maybe one of your posts is a little bit more educational. Maybe another post is a little bit of a behind the scenes, maybe another post is a question. Maybe another post is talking about your local community and uplifting the things that are happening around you. And then that fifth post is, you know, hey, here’s how you can hire me. Um, so usually one in every five is typical. But definitely look at your own stats, because it really depends on your own audience and how they react to your content.

Allie 8:36
I find my brain immediately going to Instagram as I’m picturing this, just because that’s where I put a lot of my stuff. But now I personally now use Planoly. And I finally upgraded to the pro version so that I could just auto post auto post Auto Post, the first comment, auto, post it to Facebook, etc. And so I do in that case, just share content automatically to Facebook from Instagram is like the same thing in both places. But then I also have some content that I’ll separately share on Facebook that kind of like fits better in that format, like longer form videos, slideshows and things like that. How do you approach that when you’re looking at different platforms? And I know, obviously, not everyone should be on every platform, or we might lose our minds. Like we need to focus on probably the ones that we like and can excel at. But do you tend to do that, like show the same thing in each place to catch different people? Do you tweak it a little bit for each platform? What’s your advice?

Andréa 9:31
Yes, and I love Planoly too, by the way, I think it’s a really great tool for that, especially if you’re visual, which I know a lot of y’all are. So when you think about posting to multiple platforms, I agree in that one platform is probably your main platform. It’s your main focus. You’re spending 80% of your time there, but maybe the other 20% You are kind of cross posting to some of these other platforms and I love that when you look at the bigger brands like Starbucks is one of my favorite ones go Look at their latest Instagram, and then their latest Facebook posts. They’re the same. So even these large companies that we all admire are doing the same strategy. Some people do like to post different different things to different platforms. And there are exceptions to this, especially depending on the type of content. But for most of us, we want as many people to see that content as possible. And that’s really the best way to get the most value out of that work you put into creating that content piece.

Allie 10:32
What about as we’re building this community, and I’m learning more and more in my own world, you know, I have talked a lot about Instagram and my own feelings and some on this podcast some days, I’m like, I hate it. Some days. I’m like, Yeah, okay, it’s fine. I’ve never been like, it’s my favorite. However, in the last maybe month, this this season of my business, I tend to photograph a lot of college seniors, it’s become a huge trend in the area. I mean, I assume it’s become a trend everywhere. But maybe it’s just here, where college seniors get professional photos, like similar to how seniors used to get high school seniors get used to get photos. And so they want some cap and gown photos, they want some photos without the cap and gown, they some often want photos with their roommates with their friends with their significant other. And so this is a huge like, this is like I’m booked every night doing this. And I found that when I shared on Instagram, and then I asked my client, you know, to tag me when she shared or when they shared on Instagram. I started getting a ton of DMS and booking through DMS. And so I realized oh, okay, like Instagram actually really does matter for some things. And I and it actually became fun for the first not for the first time. But like it became really fun seeing that like true engagement and messaging and booking that way. So when it comes to approaching that, you know, now I kind of look at it as it’s a little bit of the social and the community and a little bit of the search engine where people search hashtags, and they find it and finding that balance. But that’s my like long winded way of getting into the context of my question. When you are building this community or going on social? Do you have advice for turning these people who are either engaging with you or finding you through hashtags search or whatever search and actually turning them into clients? What’s your best advice for kind of making that conversion?

Andréa 12:20
Yes, absolutely. And your example of this with the college senior photos is perfect, because it’s a combination of the right offer at the right time to the right people. Okay, so you know, the right offer, especially with something that’s timely is so important, especially if you if there’s a sense of urgency to it. So you know, book this now, because you want to, you know, basically save this moment forever, through photography. So you can describe how people are feeling through words on Instagram. So that can help with the conversion, you want to have the right time as well. So posting about graduation photos in September, may not hit as well as it does in April, right. So think about the timing of the different offers that you have. And you can kind of adjust your content calendar for that. The last part of that the right people, people do find you through hashtags through search. But you nailed one of the best things about social media, which is having other people talk about your work. So as much as we can kind of pat ourselves on the back and go, I’m awesome. Hire me, it is so much more valuable when other people do it. So it’s that simple shift of asking your clients to tag you can make a world of difference that you can also be proactive about this as well. There are oftentimes a lot of community groups on Instagram. So if you are I’m going to make this up. If you’re in Charles Charleston, for instance, there’s probably like, best of Charleston page or something like that, where you can reach out to them and see if they’ll feature your work. But also just networking and participating in the community. Oftentimes we look at our followers and go, I want all of these people to hire me. But what if instead of saying I want all of these people to hire me use instead that I want all these people to share this with someone they now think about how many more people you can impact that way. And so when you’re kind of approaching your work and thinking about how to connect with the right people, get out there, start engaging and networking with people send some DMs yourself, but also start crafting that content and people want to share that they want to tag that they want to kind of DM it to their friend or whatever the case may be.

Allie 14:41
Yeah, kind of looping back on that two interesting things experiences from the last few weeks. One was that in my previously in my print release that I give to my clients, it says it has a little note that says you don’t have to tag me you have you have personal use to these images. But I would love for you to tag me. I wrote that in the print release which they probably never looked at. And so for the first time, I was like, why am I not just putting this in the communication to the client directly in the email when they get it? And so I always ask for review in every email when I send it over. And this time I just said, it goes a really long way. If you just tag me and she the one of the it was a roommate, six roommates, at least one of them did. And immediately I booked I mean, I probably booked $2,000. And work within like two days from that. Another similar in the community side was somebody posted, hey, we’re looking for a photographer to take senior photos of my daughter, Michigan, say senior photos. And I, a lot of times, I don’t post those things, because there’s already 20 comments, and I’m like, you know, who’s gonna care? Well, I had just blogged this session. So I had these really nice photos curated, put together in a blog. And so I just said, Here’s my most recent session from campus, like it goes exactly what you’re looking for. And that thread then became a whole sub thread of like, 10 more comments. And a woman contacted me and was like, I’m not even a senior, but I want to get my college friends together this fall and take photos, because I’m so inspired. So you never do know, like, it’s interesting. I think it’s also great if you kind of have those examples, like have that blog post and have that really relevant example to share. Instead of just like throwing your name in the hat. In those cases, you can actually point to something relevant. So I’m like becoming a convert a little more each day, on the season, and how busy I am. Um, what about if you’re like completely starting from scratch and building a new business online? Where would you recommend people start, so they don’t get too overwhelmed?

Andréa 16:43
Yes, and you know, Instagram is one of the most popular platforms right now. Because it’s very easy to post, especially since you already have the photography to support it, right? It’s very easy to connect as well, when you’re looking at something like Facebook, especially starting a Facebook page, you can’t really connect with other people. Whereas on Instagram pages, personal profiles are all kind of considered the same thing. So you can connect. Um, so where I recommend starting is Instagram and start building out your portfolio on there, showcase the variety of your work. And if you haven’t done anything professional yet, grab a friend, you know, take take stock of the world around you, I think there’s so much power in that. Because I know for my personal experience in choosing a photographer, it’s all about someone who I connect with their their aesthetic, essentially. So you want to showcase that. And then start building connections. Start showing up and commenting this comment example you gave is such a great example of how so many people actually read the comments, right. So even though people may not be connecting with your profile, maybe go to a local restaurant, or go to a local schools page and see how you can contribute to the community. This isn’t about promoting yourself. It’s about showing up and contributing. And it plays into natural curiosity. So what happens is when you leave a thoughtful comment, someone goes, Oh, I wonder who that is. And they click over to your profile, and they’ll see all of your beautiful work. So it’s really playing into that curiosity. I suggest spending about 1520 minutes a day on this. And it’s really is a muscle that you’re working here. This isn’t about going in on a Saturday and spending the whole day trying to do this strategy, you’ll get tired, and you’ll delete Instagram off your phone and never want to look at it again. So this is about long term lasting habits. And you’ll continue to see your own community grow and your own business grow from the strategies.

Allie 18:44
Yeah, good advice. What about LinkedIn? I feel like in the photography world, it’s looked over a lot, but there seems to be a lot of potential there. So what can you tell us about LinkedIn?

Andréa 18:55
Yes, and especially if you’re a photographer, who does like event photography, or something like that. LinkedIn search engine is one of the best when it comes to social media. So you can look for all of the people who maybe go to a specific school or university or the people who work there, you can look for people who plan specific events. So for instance, if you work really well, with event planners and your wedding photographer, start connecting with wedding event planners, they see how you can be in their Rolodex, you know. So with LinkedIn, it’s a great platform for finding those strategic collaboration partners who can really make or break your business. One of my friends who’s a photographer does this really well, or she did. She’s booked now. But she does local, pre pandemic local, like sporting event photography. And so she got really booked up just from connecting to the directors and leaders in these kinds of sporting event groups. And so I easily could see this happening On LinkedIn finding kind of an angle, reaching out connecting with someone and seeing how you can support them, and be of service and kind of use that platform. It’s not as pretty as Instagram. So you can still showcase your work. But it’s not like in that aesthetic as much I can easily see though, if you had kind of like the blog post overview of your work, how that could work really well on a platform like LinkedIn.

Allie 20:29
I think LinkedIn, I did a sales training many years ago when I ran a whole separate business, like how to connect with people, through people and through your groups and things like that. So it wasn’t necessarily like a cold contact, you’re finding them through a group. But do you think in her case, or in kind of the way you’re envisioning that, do you think it’s okay to just reach out to someone and send them a cold message and say, Hey, I do this? Or how can I support you? Or do you think that you have to be a little bit more like strategic about it in finding a similar connection to connect to you or finding a similar group to join? How do you think you should go about doing that?

Andréa 21:05
Yeah, I’m all about the warm the warm connection. So I think, you know, reaching out cold can work sometimes. But I think of this a little bit like dating. Like, if you just bumped into someone at a Starbucks and said, Will you go on a date with me tomorrow, they’d probably be like, I don’t know, you. I don’t know, maybe, maybe it’ll work for some people, it will. But for a lot of us, we kind of need to know them a little bit first, maybe we exchanged numbers first and talk first kind of thing, right. And so the same thing goes for LinkedIn, if you can find a way to connect with them. First, warm up the conversation first, and then ask even better. And, you know, when I’m thinking about these groups, even as you get into a group and get to know someone, and then you reach out, you want to make sure that it’s mutual. So if you’re just reaching out saying hire me, most people, I mean, we all get those messages, right? In our DMS, we’re like, delete, I don’t know who this is. Or I feel like they’re just trying to sell me something, right. But if you actually reach out with intention and say, Hey, I see a need here, I’d like to talk about how we can both come to an agreement to solve it, or we can work together on something. And so it’s got to be mutual, but I love finding connection points with people. So they’re one of my favorite ways to do this is look for the people who went to my school, I went to Georgia State University. So if I’m looking in one of those groups, I’m gonna say, Okay, did anyone here go to Georgia State because at least I can start a conversation that way? Or maybe you know, the same person or maybe you know, a friend. And if you do maybe reach out to that friend first and say, Hey, I saw you’re connected to this person, would you mind introducing me? And so that, yes, it will take longer, but it will be so much more rewarding at the at the end of the day. Otherwise, you could end up in that pile of deleted messages from all of the spamming people who are just trying to ask for something, you know?

Allie 22:56
Yeah. Okay, that’s very similar to how this actually was Maria Bayer, if anyone wants to do a search for Maria Bayer, I’ve interviewed her in the past, she was the one who gave me very similar advice and kind of, I hired her to train me on sales, because I was like, way back when I was like, I don’t know anything about sales. I’m so. Okay, last thing, let’s go into that. Let’s say you’re doing one hour a week, and let’s talk about how to spend that hour because I think, and then you also said, like, you know, maybe 20 minutes a day just connecting, but how if we’re spending an hour, are we creating content? How can we best utilize that time so that we’re not just like, whoopsie? I spent the whole time on Facebook, and I didn’t do anything. How should we focus that?

Andréa 23:39
Yes. And you know, I think the hardest part of this, especially for people in the photography world is the writing piece, right? Like, we love the photo piece. That part’s easy. But then when it comes to writing the caption, we go, what do we say with this photo? I just want to post it be done with it, right? So you want to prepare yourself a little bit. So even thinking about this recent campaign you did for the graduation photos, if you give yourself that theme of the season. So this is what I’m going to talk about for now, that can cut out some of the deciding what do I post right now. And then you want to think about the feelings that go along with the photos. So I think sometimes when we sit to write a caption, we’re like, Okay, this is what I did. Maybe this is the location, hire me. But think about the feeling and the intent behind why would someone need these photos and you can actually do a brainstorming session maybe once or twice a year to kind of, like get these feelings out from your clients and even have people do surveys with their clients to see, you know, why do you pick these photos? Now, a lot of the feelings behind these choices are things like I want to save this moment forever. I want to look back on this moment with fond memories. And I want to share these with my friends and family. And so if you think about this feelings behind why someone would hire you in the first place. That’s what goes in your posts. So when you sit down to write, then it’s easy. You pick a photo, you pick a feeling, and that’s what you focus on for that post in that hour. And it does feel like the first couple times you do it, it’s gonna feel challenging. And it’s because you’re literally trying a new skill, just like any skill, if you decided to, like right now, I somehow thought I could do some roller skating. And I’m very bad. I’m like a little baby giraffe, I know, I’ll get better.

Allie 25:34
So I’m so

Andréa 25:36
I’m like, I have these visions in my head of like, doing some crazy tricks and things will get. But now I’m focused on like, putting one skate in front of the other. And that’s what it’s gonna feel like when you sit down to do this, you’re at the putting one skate baby giraffe section, just like me. So keep practicing, and you will get better at it. And I think that’s part of what, especially as adults where we get stuck, because we don’t want to learn something new. But in business, you’re learning new things all the time, this is just one of those skills that you do need to learn.

Allie 26:08
One thing that really helped me with the writing piece was I’ve talked about this in the past two, but Kyndra halls, book stories that stick so incorporating storytelling into it. And then with that, I have a recent interview, if everyone wants to check out Michelle Knight, she talks about creating a story bank and creating just like any story that you have that you could kind of pop in there with your with your writing, like creating stories, because those are more engaging. So those are also really kind of good complements to what you’re sharing here where you can also take that feeling and turn it into a story. And that really helps to heighten the level of just interest makes it more engaging with you there. So Andrea, where can people find more from you all of your your podcasts, your resources, everything? Go ahead and share those?

Andréa 26:53
Yes. So the best place to start, I actually have a free course that kind of walks through outlining a strategy that works for you. Is that online drag.com/free. And it’s kind of like a sample of my perspective on social media. Because I don’t believe business owners should be content creators like like posting a million times a day. And so I take kind of a different approach there. But obviously the podcast you can find it anywhere you listen to podcast, it’s called the savvy social podcast, and my favorite platforms Instagram. So I’m at online drag that’s online, Dr. EA on Instagram. I love voice messages too. So send me a voice message. Tell me what you learned from this podcast episode. I’d love to hear from you.

Allie 27:38
Because they’re great. I’ve also just recently started using voice messages and also really like them. So alright, check those out in the show notes. If you have any questions, feel free to message Andrea, feel free to message me. And thanks for being here, everybody. And Andrea, thank you for being here.

Andréa 27:53
Thank you so much for having me.

Outro 27:55
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 181: Create Work Life Balance by Delegating with Holly Smith

Create work life balance by delegating with Holly Smith - a photo of Holly working on a laptop on her bed

As creatives, it can be really hard to let go of part of our work. Today, Holly Smith, a virtual assistant, is sharing her advice for where to let go so you can get your life back or focus on the work you really want to do.

Holly is the founder of The Genie VA, a small team of virtual assistants offering extensive administrative support to small wedding & elopement photographers across the US. She is a wedding & events coordinator turned virtual assistant, and now aims to help as many photographers as she can with behind-the-scenes, time-consuming tasks that will help them focus on their passion, spend less time in front of their computer, and allow them to grow their business.

Learn more about Holly:

Transcript

Introduction 0:01
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 0:14
Hello, everybody, this is Allie Siarto And my guest today is Holly Smith. And she’s the founder of GBA, which is a small team of virtual assistants and they offer extensive administrative support to small wedding and elopement photographers all across the US, which is interesting, because you’re not in the US, we’ll have to tell me how you fell into that. She is also a wedding and Events Coordinator turned virtual assistant and now aims to help as many photographers as she can with behind the scenes, time consuming tasks that will help them focus on their passion so that they can spend less time in front of their computer and allow them to spend that time growing their businesses. All right, Holly, I want to hear this like give me the lowdown on on how you ended up being a virtual assistant, especially for like, specifically these small wedding and elopement photographers in the US.

Holly 1:04
Yeah, definitely. So really, I, I started as a wedding and events coordinator in England. So I’m based in Manchester in the UK, recently moved here, actually. So it wasn’t a very small town, doing weddings at a venue. And basically, I worked with several different vendors. And I always admired photographers, because I saw the work that they produced and the pictures and I just thought if I was ever to get married, that that was what I wanted from my day to look back on those pictures, and photos, admired photographers a lot. And the only bad thing about my job was that I was tied to one place, I was tied to one company that I could only kind of help that particular area. That isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be able to work with more people, I wanted to help as many people as I could and just spread my wings a little bit. And that’s how I got into this resistance. So when the pandemic hit, I found ways to work online, I took lots of courses, and learn how to become a VA. I started generally offering to wedding professionals. And then I started working with a small wedding and elopement photographer in California. And she just absolutely blew me away with her work. And I saw the need for virtual assistants in the photography market. And I just completely switched up and thought these are the people I want to work with. And I ended up working with us people because I in the UK, it’s not as common virtual assistants and independent contractors aren’t as common. So it naturally just kind of went went that way.

Allie 2:57
Interesting. Okay, start by telling me when you started working with this first photographer, this small wedding and elopement photographer, what did this photographer have you doing when you first got started?

Holly 3:09
Yeah, sure. So to start with, we we had a lot of communication. So always with, with new clients, we have a lot of communication and onboarding and video, little mini video tutorials so that I could see exactly how she likes things done, you know, she would record over it, speaking over it to explain why she does things, I started learning more and more about her business, I would draft out email responses for her, I’d work on her CRM platform. So a lot of her workflow tasks were automated. But you’d have to kind of go in and approve the automation before it actually happened. So I would go in and check everything was okay, personalize a bit of the automated emails, and then send off and basically check that off for her. I would transfer information from questionnaires onto Google documents. So on the day of, you know, wedding, she would have a Google Doc with all of all of the information for her to refer to and I transferred all of the questionnaire information onto this Google Doc for her. I gotta

Allie 4:20
say that, that is one of those tasks that I’m always like, Oh, I have to do this. I have to take the questionnaire and put it into my final format on there. Okay, a lot of directions to go in from there. And one is you talked about, you’re going into the system, and you’re kind of I wanted to ask you about the balance between we have a lot of automation opportunities as photographers, but obviously, we can’t automate everything. And so I’d love you to talk about that balance. But I’d also love to know as you’re talking about sending emails, are you sending them as Polly or are you sending them as that person or is it that person you’re working for? Or is it a mix? depending on who you’re working with,

Holly 5:02
it’s definitely a mix with fun working with, I try to some people I’m very. So there’s one client in particular, we have a very similar way of talking. And when I first reached out to her, she actually said that was one of the first thing she noticed that my email demeanor was exactly the same as her. So for her, I draft out, you know, in response as her, I don’t send them so she can go in and fill in any bits of information that she needs to. And other clients, I sign off as me. So she did a newsletter to let her know that she started working with an assistant to help her to increase the speed of responses, you know, because people email with like, frequently asked questions that you don’t need to respond to, every single time. And if they’re frequently asked, then you can easily give them to an assistant to respond to. So yeah, we sent out an email newsletter to introduce me and tell people a bit about me. And now people have kind of built a relationship with me as well. And it’s really nice, actually. Yeah.

Allie 6:17
Okay, nice. And so I like that you’re drafting it and helping, but then she can still check it and make sure it’s still you know, is the final like, it sounds like her in that case. And then tell me a little bit about when you are so having never worked with a virtual assistant before. When you are doing these emails responding to people. And I know, this was probably a mix and you have your own email. Do you have your own email? That would be like Holly at whatever photographer name?

Holly 6:47
I haven’t actually had anyone that wanted to do that. Yes. I just signed off as my name at the end. Some people I know will want to do that. And other clients. I’ve got the art photographers have set that up for me, and have it Holly at, you know their company name. So it really it all depends on the client, I would say.

Allie 7:11
Okay, so for some are you actually going into their email and, and using their email? How do people feel about that? Because email feels like our, to me, it feels like this, like private, it’s like letting someone into your underwear drawer. Maybe for me, just because I have so many emails. And it’s embarrassing how messy my email is. I’m like, oh, you know, don’t look at I haven’t folded my clothes, you know, I haven’t cleaned up my room. It’s so messy. So how to talk to me about that, like how people feel about that, and what that looks like from your ends.

Holly 7:46
Obviously, no one’s ever said anything to me about being nervous, inviting me into their emails, I think a lot of it is actually the relationship you have with your VA. So like a conversation that we have to start with and kind of building that trust from the get go. Some people just aren’t quite willing to have you go in there and trust you understand that it’s your job and that you’re used to it. And honestly, I love a messy inbox. I love to find a way to get it back under control. A lot of people are subscribed to things that they don’t need to be subscribed to anymore. I never unsubscribe from things without asking. But sometimes when I do ask that I’m like, oh my god, I can’t even remember when I signed up to that. And it’s just a case of getting back the balance of emails that need to be in the inbox and emails that really don’t. And honestly, if if anyone was nervous about allowing someone into your inbox, I definitely recommend setting up a, you know, additional Google account and changing, you know, send inquiries to this email address or, you know, forward things on that you want us to have attention on. But that does increase the workload for you. Because obviously, you’re then having to read all of them and forward them. And so I think it just depends on each person. Well,

Allie 9:15
you make a good point that if it’s embarrassing, because it’s messy, then that’s the whole point, right? That you’re going to go in there and make it more manageable. So that’s actually a really good, that’s a really good point. Let’s talk about the financial commitment, because I find in my case, like I do delegate with like some outsourcing on editing, when I need to, and in general, you know, and I’m really all about automation, but for some reason, I tend to be really cheap and like frugal with things like this, even though I know that they would be helpful to me. So what do you say to people like that who are afraid of the financial commitment to something like delegating Whatever it is that they need to delegate in their business.

Holly 10:04
Yeah, well, firstly is very normal. I’m the exact same, it took me a very long time to outsource. So for example, I struggle a lot with my social media, it’s not something that comes naturally to me. And it took me so long to outsource it. But again, because I was worried about the financial commitment, and I thought I can do this myself, God stop being so lazy, like, just do it. And actually, it wasn’t about me being lazy. It was the minute I started doing it. It made me miserable. Actually, my time was wasted. I spent like 45 minutes creating an Instagram graphic for one post. This is This is madness. What am I doing. And I that’s that was the snapping point for me that made me outsource. Because it was that realization that just because I can do it myself. I hated it. It wasn’t the best use of my time. And it can actually make you more money by working with the VA, because you then have more time to work on other things that are going to generate you more money. So you could take on more clients, for example, because you’ve got more time you’ve got someone responding to inquiries quicker. So you know how brides are, they want answers immediately. And if you’re taking two to three business days to respond to an inquiry, they’ve probably booked someone else. So working with a VA and having someone in your inbox and managing it can actually help you book more clients, and then get a good return on investment. As well as having peace of mind and more time with your family. And generally just feeling more kind of in control of your business and not having to do things you hate as well.

Allie 11:55
You worked on a retainer where you just are paid a certain amount every single month.

Holly 12:00
Yes, yeah. Okay, so that the thing with that is, every VA is different here. So just to state that we work on kind of a 30 day notice period, so you pay on a retainer that’s upfront, so you pay for the month in advance. And then we ask for 30 days notice if you want to terminate the agreement. So it’s not like a six months commitment. Some people do ask for three months signing fee. Others do month by month. So if you want to test the waters as a way of doing that, but I would always say to just be completely honest on a call and say, Look, I am nervous about this. I’m not sure how this is going to work. And just be upfront about it. That’s always just advisory, I would say.

Allie 12:49
Okay, that’s good. Yeah, to be able to, to have a predictable amount, basically for each month. All right. So when it comes to, let’s say, getting started, I guess we kind of talked about like, email might be a really good place to get started. Do you feel like that’s it? Like have someone dip into email? And that’s is that do you feel like that’s the biggest pain point that most people have that you work with?

Holly 13:15
I think other than editing? Yeah.

Allie 13:17
Yeah, that’s true.

Holly 13:19
A lot of people Yeah, talking about editing. But I know that that’s part of the, you know, the art that so I kind of I’ve always been interested in it, but I definitely think it’s quite personal to the photographer. But yes, email seems to be the second biggest pain point. But it’s also something that might make people nervous, and might be the biggest thing that might be Oh, I don’t, I’m not really sure I want someone responding to my emails. So there are other things that you can outsource. So one of the things we offer is blogging, and, you know, website updates, and following up with clients to get testimonials to add to your website, at your social media platforms, because there’s all these other things as well, you know, marketing and SEO for your website trying to draw more people in. So I think blogging is a lot less nerve wracking to outsource because it doesn’t get published, nothing gets sent, nothing gets published until you’ve kind of looked at it. But again, you can say the same for emails, nothing will get sent without your permission and without you looking at it. So I think it really is just individual preference there.

Allie 14:35
Thanks. Okay. Yeah, so those are some some good ideas. I have this whole list that I just made of all the blog posts. I want to write that I haven’t, you know, sessions that I haven’t blogged and then pinned in like months and months because my plate was full. So that makes a lot of sense. If we’re interested in something like this, what do you think like, what kinds of questions should we be asking to make sure that we are finding the right fit for us when we’re looking like where do we even start for finding the right person to do this for us? Yeah, definitely.

Holly 15:09
So that’s a really good question. Because I think it’s important, very important. I’ve been to my clients for a year. And you know, we’ve got a great relationship. And ideally, you want to start with someone who’s going to be there for the long run, who you kind of have a lot of communication within that first month, get to know each other, get to know each other’s business, and it just is smooth sailing from there. So things to check, I would always say is, are they completing the tasks that you’ve asked them to do to the standard, the same standard that you’re expecting? Are they using their initiative? Are they maybe going the extra mile? You know, just being a being your personal cheerleader, which we always like to be? And are they responsive as well, you definitely don’t want to be working with someone who’s not getting back to you in a timely manner and that you don’t trust. That’s a big one. Because it’s your business. And if suddenly they start ghosting you for a couple of days, it’s it’s just not really the one I think communication is key. And I think it’s always very important to have a call beforehand, before signing anything, before talking to anyone further, always jump on a call and meet them and chat to them. Just see what kind of person they are really. And I think as well, it does depend on the relationship you want to have. Because some people want a strictly professional relationship where they just hand over tasks, please do this. Yes. Done. Okay. Thanks. Others. One, a friendship one. You know, a team member, he’s kind of just with them. So it does it all depends on the type.

Allie 16:57
And the ramp up period, do you find that most people will like get started when things are a little bit slower? And then they can take the time? Because you talked about like the video that one person made for you to train you on on specific things? Do most people do that? Where they’ll ramp you up for like a month in a slower time? Or I’m thinking like reality? Is it when they’re already getting crushed? And they’re like, help me just coming in?

Holly 17:23
I would say both, I’ve had both. The first way you mentioned that, I think is definitely the way to go. It doesn’t seem like the sensible way to go. Because you think oh, surely I would hire someone when I’m really busy. But actually, I think especially with button season, that’s kind of predictable. You can see when your bookings are you can see when you’re going to be much more pressed for time, it’s a much better idea to onboard someone, when you’ve got the time to really talk to them. And create those little mini training videos, you know, I had a Google drive full of two to three minute videos of tasks. And the good thing about those is, the client can do them whenever they have the time and pre record them. And the VA can watch them as many times over. So it minimizes the risk of repeat questions, minimizes the risk of mistakes, and just makes it easier for everyone. And means that also, you you get into a groove much quicker, I always find that the first month is ironing out creases, because you’ve just met this person, they’re getting used to your business. And that’s natural, it’s normal with any job if you hired an employee would be the exact same. But after that, it just becomes seamless. And that’s how you want it to be.

Allie 18:55
Yeah, I think that is good advice to get started with any kind of outsourcing when things are less crazy. So that you have time to ramp up because I think that I’ve talked to my sister also runs a business and we’ve talked about you get into us a place where you almost you just feel too busy to hire someone because there is that onboarding that training process. And if you’re so busy, you don’t even have time to do that. Then it’s just even more overwhelmed trying to balance everything. So I think it’s it’s harder to think, okay, like I live in Michigan, the US and I have a definite slower time of the year, like half the year slower half the year is crazy. And so it would be harder for me to be like yeah, now’s the time when I’m just you know, sitting around with plenty of time to figure everything out for myself, but I think it does make sense. So I I appreciate all your tips. Where can people find out more about you and your business?

Holly 19:52
Yeah, so I’ve got my main website, which is the genie va.com And then the same as the exact same tag on Instagram and Facebook as well. I hang out a lot on Instagram. So that’s probably where, where you can find me and my email address as well. It’s just hello at the genie. va.com

Allie 20:14
Very good. Okay, so check out the show notes for those links so that you can get more information. And Holly, thank you for sharing just all of your great advice here today.

Holly 20:23
Thanks for having me.

Outro 20:25
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 178: How to Create Evergreen Funnels to Get Consistent Photography Leads with Kate Kordsmeier

How to Create Evergreen Funnels to Get Consistent Photography Leads with Kate Kordsmeier

Today I’m talking with Kate Kordsmeier about how to set up evergreen funnels to drive consistent leads to your photography business.

Kate Kordsmeier is a writer, educator, and creative entrepreneur. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two kids, and three fur babies. She was a full-time journalist for nearly ten years and was featured in several high-profile magazines. After being diagnosed with PCOS and leaky gut syndrome, she started a holistic wellness blog, Root + Revel, which became incredibly successful.

After turning her blog into a six-figure business, she created my course The Six-Figure Blog Academy, where she teaches students how to monetize their blogs using the exact step-by-step method she did for her. She also has a podcast, Success With Soul, where she dives deeper into how she work from a place of rest, not hustle.

Resources:

Episode 175: Up Your Profits in the New Year with Rachael Boer

A photo of Rachael Boer with the title Up Your Profits in the New Year with Rachael Boer, episode 17 of the Photo Field Notes Podcast for photographers

Today I’m talking with Rachael Boer about how in person sales can boost your profits and how to connect with those clients. We’re also chatting about free and low-cost marketing ideas for your photography business.

Rachael Boer is a portrait photographer based in Memphis, TN with 12 years of experience in the portrait business. She’s a Certified Professional Photographer and holds a Photographic Craftsman degree from the PPA. In addition, Rachael runs IPS Mastermind, a business education platform that helps photographers run their businesses more confidently and profitably.

Use the coupon code halfoff to save 50% on your first month of Revive on IPS Mastermind

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