wedding photographer

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.



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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, 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 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.



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 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 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 And if you loved this episode, leave your review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by

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.



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 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 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 And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by

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:


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 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.

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 And if you loved this episode, leave us a review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by

Episode 128: How to Sell More Products in Your Photo Business Without In Person Sales

how to sell more products in your photography business without in person sales

Today’s show is a special episode—this is essentially the audio version of the Facebook Live webinar that I’m putting on with Design Aglow to walk through my four step process for selling more products to my clients without using in person sales. Listen in for quick tips, or jump over to the Facebook Live recording to see me, see the visuals, and leave questions.

Want the full step-by-step directions to set up your virtual sale and the customizable style guide to share with your clients?

Get the Course: Virtual Product Sales for Wedding Photographers

At the end of the course, you will:

  • Have a gorgeous and professionally designed Style Guide Magazine to mail or email to clients before the wedding to prep them for the photography experience, get them inspired to buy wedding products and build excitement for the virtual ordering session after the wedding.
  • Be equipped with the proper sales process, tools and email templates to start selling more wedding products online after each wedding without committing extra evenings and weekends to client meetings.

virtual product sales

The course includes:

  • Style Guide Magazine Template: The Style Guide Magazine walks clients through preparation for their wedding or portrait photography and inspires them with ideas to style best-selling keepsake products into their homes; it also preps them for the virtual ordering session after the wedding or portrait session.
    • 28 pages of layered & editable Photoshop files designed to be printed as a mini-magazine to be mailed to clients or shared online. Magazines are designed to be printed as 5.375×8.25” MagCloud Saddle Stitched Pamphlets and to fit into an A9 envelope.
    • Insert your own images into the magazine with our pre-sized product mockups with smart objects.
    • Customizable product mockups [(18 in the Wedding version ($180 value), 16 in the Portrait version ($160 value)], along with stock product images to use on your website or in social media (15 in the Wedding version and 14 in the Portrait version).
    • All layouts, embellishments, text, colors, and design elements are completely customizable.
  • Virtual Product Sales Course:
    • PDF document outlining the full virtual sales process from beginning to end.
    • Prewritten email templates with professional verbiage.

What about portrait photographers?

A lot of you asked for a separate Style Guide Magazine template for portrait sessions, so you now also have the option to get the Portrait Style Guide Magazine that I’ve been using in my business for years – with a spruce up from the amazing designers at Design Aglow (click on “Options” to see this option). Here’s what it includes:

  • 28 pages of layered & editable Photoshop files designed to be printed as a mini-magazine to be mailed to clients or shared digitally. Magazines are designed to be printed as 5.375×8.25” MagCloud Saddle Stitched Pamphlets and to fit into an A9 envelope (these are easy to mail with a two ounce stamp – add in A9 stationary for a personalized thank you note).
  • Tips to prepare your portrait clients for a successful session, including what to wear, how to approach hair and makeup, and other helpful tips for a successful session.
  • Expectation setting to prepare your clients to purchase products after the session, whether in person or virtually (professionally written text is included for both options).
  • Home styling tips to inspire your clients to integrate print products into their own homes based on a curated list of best selling products.
  • 16 customizable mockups to insert your own images (a $160 value in itself – you’re free to use these on your website, in social media, or in other marketing).
  • 14 additional product stock images to use on your website, in social media, or in other marketing.
  • All layouts, embellishments, text, colors, and design elements are completely customizable.

This whole system has been a game changer for me over the past few years, and I’m excited to finally share it with you.

And if you act fact, you’ll get $50 off the full course.

Jump on over to check out the details.

I’m so excited to be a part of big changes for your new year.

Episode 55: Overcoming Jealousy as Photographer

Photographer and Photo Educator, Allie Siarto, sits at home in front of framed printsFeelings of jealousy, comparison and inadequacy sometimes come with the job description as photographers and creative entrepreneurs. Today, I’m discussing those nagging feelings that no one wants to talk about and how you can overcome them in your own business and everyday life.

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