Interviewing the NEWEST Professional Boudoir Photographer - The High Rollers Club

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Interviewing the NEWEST Professional Boudoir Photographer

Listen to podcast:

Adam Stuart sits down to speak to Jenn Bruno Smith from the High Rollers Club to talk about how started his boudoir business from scratch.

He breaks down how his very first sale was over $4,000.

https://www.axiomboudoir.com/

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Transcript:

Hey, guys. Jen Bruno Smith from the High Rollers Club. I am here with Adam Stewart of Axiom Boudoir in Richmond, Virginia. How’s it. Go ahead. How you doin? Nice to meet you. Really good to have you. Really good to have you. So you are just callin it over there. Your work is amazing.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I’m really thrilled to be here talking with you because it wasn’t so long ago that I saw all the people talking with you and I was wondering if I could ever be one of those people. And here I am. So it’s like, oh, it’s a bucket list item, I guess, that I’ve just checked with.

I said, well, I’m very happy to have you here. And you’re the you really just joined us not that long ago. Right. When did you join our chorus?

I think officially. Like December. January, officially. Right.

Yes. So you really only been with us for maybe, what, like six months or so?

Six, five or six months. Those months, of course, included like the three months of shutdown and so much. Right. When I was getting my groove on and really kind of catching my eye, catching the flow of things that we kind of had to go into a holding pattern. So it’s been six months, but really like it feels like three. But, yes, relatively relatively short time.

Right. So tell me about what you were doing before the crisis. What was your job? What did you do?

Yeah. So I’m probably the newest professional photographer in the entire mastermind group of members, to my knowledge, anyway. There’s another thing. Yeah. It’s really great. And so, you know, I’ve I’ve been a hobbyist photographer for a long time, but I was previously actually an academic. I was pursuing a peace deal and I was teaching university college courses. And so I was not in the industry at all. And it was a classic sort of like passion becomes a side hustle. Then side also becomes a main hustle. And I never dreamed that it would happen this fast. So imagine that I would have to dabble for a long time. But, yeah, I mean, it’s it’s no stretch to say that it’s this course has helped me to expedite that process, like, tremendously going from like not even though knowing like how to run a business or like even how to charge for my photography. Like that was such a foreign concept. Like tigresses art. Like to charge people for. And now like I’m super comfortable and all of my procedures are in place and it’s almost kind of like. Like, mind boggling to think about how fast that’s happening now.

Yeah. When we were doing our pre interview and I had asked you this question, you said that you were doing APHC and sociology. I was afraid. They say you didn’t know why. That’s creepy.

Yeah. I had no business. And, you know, when I first saw the program, you know, all these people I’ve been in, they’ve been beating a photographer eight, 10 years. You know, maybe I’ve done weddings, a dozen families, sort of newborns, that type of thing. And they were thinking about getting into boudoir or they wanted to up their up their game with you two are there are still a lot of obviously, you know, the sex of photography genres in the mastermind itself, not everybody’s boudoir. But for me, it was just kind of like. How do I, like, sell a photo to somebody right now? That was on such a different level from everybody else. And so it was a really it was a really big leap, I think, for me to jump in the deep in the way that I have. But I guess it just goes to show that it’s very possible to go from like a zero point where you’re just thinking about like, hey, maybe this aside also, how do I make as a main hustle? It’s definitely a really great decision on my part.

Yeah. I mean, that’s so impressive to think that you didn’t have a business at all before you started with us. And right now. So let’s I guess let’s talk first about because you are starting from zero. What are the things that helped you really jumpstart your business? What are the things you learned that really took off for you?

I think there’s there’s that I’ve thought about this a lot as sort of a twofold sort of explanation. And the first one is that it’s given me what I think old cliche agents think about like a discipline or is the foundation of freedom or something like that. It’s kind of the paradox, right. Like many constraints to have freedom. And I mean, you guys have seen that like in a TED talk or like a mean an inspirational medium somewhere. But like when we saw this man, that was the man. But what is done is it’s given me kind of like the guidelines to sort of allow me to do it my way. Right. And so I think the prospecting stuff has been really, really incredible for me to utilize and kind of like my own personality, the kind of things that I excel at. The way the ways that I have sort of already connect with people to reach new clients and to build kind of social proof and build a rapport with people online or digital. Some people have never met. Right. But they feel comfortable calling me as if they are as if I’m an old friends. And that part has been really great. And then finding yourself really getting really, really quickly, like over in over your head to suddenly you have all these people who want to shoot with you and are like, oh, God, what do I do now?

It’s a great problem.

Yeah. And, you know, and I don’t. But the great news is that I don’t have to sort of make it up as I go. There are all of these systems sort of ready to be sort of taken up, you know, whether it’s the actual shooting process itself. Certainly the sales stuff I don’t have to think of as great. Right. Like, I just do my art, you know, like do my artistic process. And then I just sort of just did what you told me to do for the in-person sales. And it was like too easy. And then next thing you know, I walk away my first sale of my four to four thousand dollar package. So this is your very first.

Let’s go back to that, because that’s crazy. Your very first sale as a boudoir photographer was for a thousand dollars.

A little over four thousand dollars. I absorbed the print credit. You know, the wall art, the way that you the way that you teach us. So it was forty two forty three hundred, which like, you know, I’m embarrassed to say this building being like a college instructor, like it was like let’s say it was more than a month’s salary. So grad student instructors don’t get the criminally underpaid. So it was eye openers and my first sale to sort of eclipse what I had previously been making in a month. But that’s a common experience of a lot of people actually who joined the mastermind.

Yeah, I mean, I think the average now for a lot of our students is between three to four hours. And it seems like those symptoms set, which is amazing because that’s you know, that’s a full time that’s a month’s salary for most people. So to be making that and I so myself average is forty one eighty four and I should like 18 to 17 a month. So once you really get your systems going like. The money is awesome.

Yeah, yeah. And the benefit is is like I just kind of been able to take things on as I’m able. Right. And so for me, like a big thing, I’m thinking through it right now. Is it. OK. So how can I ramp up my numbers? How can I ramp up? You know, I’m not going to shoot more than eight in a month. For right now because so I can sort of take on what I’m ready to handle. Wow. Really. And that’s a big part of sort of learning as you go. A lot of people look at some of the people who are having the most success in this program, and they think to themselves, like, my God, like they’re doing a Web site, they’re doing ads and Schiller Facebook group, they’ve got all of their you know, all of the widgets in the the who is it’s in the whatsits that unberth are teaching see all set up. And you’re like, I could never do that. And it’s a draft. Right? You take it’s it’s sort of a I mean, you certainly should follow the program the way that it’s outlined to the best of your ability. But the benefit is, well, adults, what world smart people. And we all have individual situations and you can sort of pick and find the pieces that you need for that moment and then work towards in the grand scheme, like then then bringing it all together. And for some people, they can do that in three months because they’re mutants or because they’ve been at it for 10 years. And other people like me. It’s it’s going to be like realistically, it’s going to be like at least two years, maybe more before, like, I feel like I’ve fully implemented all of these systems, which is really exciting because, like, I’m already having a lot of success now.

I think to what starts to happen is like as you get busier, as you have more success, you might find your own way of doing things and just be able to use the ways we teach to augment, like what you are learning to do on your own. So. I’m still really impressed that you took this from leg zero and you tell me about your bookings. Like literally you started with nothing, you started with zero bookings. So what’s your schedule like now? How often are you shooting? How far are you down?

So right now things are a little bit crazy because I have about two dozen people that I had booked prior to Koven who have not actually gotten money on the counter just yet. I actually don’t shoot from a studio right now and I’m not convinced that I ever will. We will see. Maybe you can twist my arm about that later. Right now I shoot primarily from air beebees and in clients homes, and I’m actually having a great deal of success with that. Yeah, that’s another way that I can go from zero to where I’m at now because I have very little overhead. You know, my clients, my clients, you know, texture are BMB. That helps me kind of like on with it helps me with follow through. They are being beaten and show up. Yeah, absolutely. There’s a sort of like added value added aspect to that as well. It also differentiates me from other people who do have studios who have been, you know, established in the city for a long time. And, you know, one way is not better or worse. It’s just different. Yeah, that’s that’s sort of. So, you know, I guess what I would be vice a gift to sort of total beginners in this position is sort of find, you know, what what you’re doing and then figure out sort of like if you know how that makes you different and then use that as a marketing pitch.

Absolutely. I guess it just shot my brains out when I started. I did probably like 10, 12 test shoots. Yeah. You know, test shoots with people who just want to do this thing and write you some photos and. And that turned into page bookings. I was really using the prospect model on Facebook and Instagram that Umberto’s you teach and and, you know, now I’m at the point my goal is through Instagram and tick tock. Now what we should talk about, because you’re killing an addict. I mean, it might be like a lofty goal, but I think that I could probably fill out the remainder of twenty twenty without actually having to drop a dime on an ad within a day. Ray, it’s nice to know that the ads are there. Right in the systems are going to be there for for, you know, learning and Facebook and Google ads. But like, you know, if I can get to the point where I’m using that, like, underpriced attention as like Gary V likes to say like that, then better. Right.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, yes. So that’s crazy. Ground zero bookings to at least like twenty four. Right. That you need to get on your calendar to get shooting. And lots of stuff on your plate Mark. So what is the best piece, the biggest piece of advice you would have for people that are thinking about doing the mastermind. But you know, of course it’s an investment, so they’re not quite sure what is what’s the biggest piece that makes you.

We just talked about Gary Greevey and so got a curveball for him because he’s a genius. And, you know, he likes to say you jump in and put some skin in the game right off the bat because I mean, that’s not unique insight to and but it’s something he teaches a lot. And I think that’s something that, you know, course can facilitate and be real about after this course on a credit card. And I think we as business owners do that a lot, whether you’re taking out a business loan, whether you’re using a business line of credit, whether you’re doing this or that, like I mean, it’s important to people be smart about the stuff and they’re not encouraging irresponsible decisions. But like, sometimes you really do need to sort of, you know, pass my language really quickly, but like, write a check. Your ass can’t cash in that particular in that moment. Yeah. You know, that like you’re going to have to rise to the occasion or to in order to make good on that on that bet. Right. And so I think I mean more even equally as much as like the material in the course itself. It was the act of taking that leap, of doing the course that sort of pushed me and motivated me to to kind of think about like, OK, I did this thing right now. It’s like it’s it’s sink or swim. Yeah. Unfortunately, there are so many there are enough resources in the group to stay afloat and then some.

So it’s a nice combination. Yeah, that’s a good piece of advice. And I’m talking to new students, our prospective students. I always tell them, like, what’s easier to get into a cold for? Like, whatever you dip your hair in and like you start walking it or whenever you just jump. And it’s so much easier to get acclimated to the water whenever you just jump in and you just go for it. And people that do that have more success. I found rather than people that are like, you know, I think you’re going to go into a little bit and I’m going to like chill out and go back to this house. So definitely, like, when you jump in like that, you I. Usually it’s easier to have more success quickly. But you also have the unique, you know, situation that you’re a male in boudoir, which, you know, how is your experience been as that? Because I have a lot of men that I’ll talk to me like I can’t do it. I’m a male. Like, I can’t stupid. Why? I’m not really successful. Actually, you can. So what advice do you have for specifically men that are thinking about getting into boudoir?

I think that it’s just like any other decision that you make. People ask me this all the time, clients ask me, I get Sankari calls a lot to get other photographers talk to me about this stuff. And it’s just like any other decision that you would make. I think, like, you know, you you need to know sort of what the job demands and easier to find a way to leverage your strengths, right? Yeah. And that’s going to look different for everybody. You know me. I don’t know. I’m a goofball. Like, I’m actually quite I’m being quite reserved right now on camera for some reason. I think I’m I think you’re making me nervous to end with this. Well, there’s five guys that I could die. I was like I say, you know what? I’m when I’m shooting, like my I take on a sort of alter ego, it’s kind of like like gay gay best. So it’s like a lot of. Yes. You know, I’m like gassing them up on the biggest cheerleader. I’m here. You know, it’s accepting. I’m open. I’m just gonna, you know, push, push, push and accentuate all the good things and just be their biggest cheerleader in that process. And that’s me. Right. Like, that’s that’s my personality. I wouldn’t suggest somebody who doesn’t have that in them to do that as a man. Tell me about some of my favorite male photographers. They bring other things to the table. They might bring a like of really like empowering, cool, confident energy to their photo shoot something about a couple people by name. And that I know very well. And I read Maya a lot. And yeah, that’s not what I do. That’s not my energy. That’s their energy. And it works. Then when I can imagine having a shoot with a photographer like that. And I believe that she would reach out of her like that. Like once I was going on this. They did.

Is it like now are you thinking. Yeah. Yeah. Margo Yeah. Yeah. Marcus shot.

And that’s actually so Marko’s me as Amy’s so talented and that is exactly how it’s like he gives very good direction, very specific direction. Super chill I thought was like nothing of getting naked in front of them is like, all right, here you go. I’ll do it because it was just like so comfortable and so professional. And I think that’s sometimes I think. And then I so funny story, actually. So my goat was not part of my chorus before before he shot me and I did my ordering payment because I hired him. I love his like every year I hire another photographer that I really love their work. And after my plane and after I paid, I was like, you know, Marka, you and me double that if you were in my class. I’ve eaten like two thousand dollars. And lately, you know, I would have paid you about forty five hundred if you would have me as my investor menu. Marko’s work is definitely worth forty. I’ve only got guys that have male to talk, you know, I know he’s a bee thing. He’s incredible. And so I told him I was like, you are so talented. What are you doing right now? It’s hard. He’s amazing anyway. He joins. Yeah.

So I. Yeah, I did. Yeah. But I did want to call him out by name but there are others who would like have I totally just said sorry Abbado. It’s fine. Marconi’s. That’s what it was. It’s a big guy. Gracious. He’s amazing. Yeah. He’s been federal and a very good educator too actually.

He’s a very good teacher now.

Yeah. I mean see like again and seek out the seek out the best in their business. I came to the best in the business realm and seek out other people to stay on the shoulders of giants. I’ve learned a lot from them too. But so it’s Marko’s energy is very different from. But but no one’s not better. One’s not worse. It’s just different. So, you know, what I would just say is like, know thyself. Yeah. I’m going to be a male. If you’re going to be at work for any reason, for anything that you’re doing, like whatever. Like if you’re wondering, Reinicke, for breakfast that day, you should probably know thyself fried and food allergies or whatever people say about it, Metaphore said. But the point is, like really like know yourself and think about the particular strengths that you do and don’t bring to the table and don’t try to be somebody or something that you’re not. And I think authenticity is the most important thing when it comes to building trust and building a really client, which is so much more important as a male. And also to if you’re a male photographer, get your ass on social media where they have to see you. They have to act with you. Go, Leive, do the things that you teach in your course with respect to social media and Facebook groups and all the rest of it, because they’ll feel like you’re just an old friend. And when it comes time to strip down, to take your clothes off for the session or to book the session, there’s just already that social proof that at that level of trust and respect after.

Now, you’re totally right. You definitely people have to always teach this and people have to know you like your interests, you in order to hire you. And so by doing the lives, like you said, and I feel like a lot of people are very anxious about saving lives. And I mean, I do them all the time. Every time I do them, I always feel a super awkward and white people like see, I actually think that. Like that awkward this because they feel like, you know, you’re more relatable and. But definitely like you head on, I mean, like authentic and genuine is super important. And it’s I think even more important when you’re a man that especially the women that you’re shooting trust zero sound. Yeah. What are your plans moving forward? Like, do you have any like. What are your goals since you’re just usually I would ask people like where were you at last year? Like what are your goals for next year? But like, no, you were not doing this last year. So what are your goals like for, you know, next year? This time, whenever we do another podcast, let’s hear. What are your goals for next year? Where do you want to be?

I think that there’s no way that I won’t hit six figures in my first twelve months. The professional photographer. That’s really exciting. That’s a myth. It’s. Yeah, sort of pinch myself to think about that at home. You know, I’m looking forward to really my goals just fully implement all of the systems. And the program was what really what I love. And I said this software, I’ll say it again, you know, it’s like what I love about the mastermind is that you and Alberto, like, never stop adding value. I mean that. And I’m like I’m not just like, you know, gassin you up because I want to bike or whatever. And I know a lot of people. Look, I used I used to I used to watch these before I joined. Then I was like, how much is she paying that experience?

I could never understand. She’s done it work.

There was a daring enough to give me. It was all day. Right. And that’s it. That is important. Right. People have to know you trust you like you’d like to say it. So it worked for me. So here we are. Yeah. Like, I think like the course, like never stops in a way. Like it can feel overwhelming if you if you let it ride. But don’t let it. Right. Like understand that it’s there for you when you need it. Right. And and push yourself and don’t allow yourself to have analysis paralysis. Like Umberto says a lot with a lot of things. And I’m not. I mean, look, I, I hope that I’m like I’m not putting myself on some pedestal. Like, I’m perfect and I’ve got it all figured out, like there’s so much I’m behind on. And I think everyone in the course will be very honest about that. I’ve so much to learn. But my goals. Yeah, I think I think getting my systems up and running, being fully booked and then just sort of tweaking things as I go. Little by little. I think that’s that’s my goal. Yes. I yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know that I’ll ever. A lot of people who start shooting in hotels and you’re beebees and on location, like sort of have a long term goal of doing the studio thing. Yeah, really having a physical location. Well, within my grip in the next six to 12 months. But that’s just something this will be decided later down the road.

I mean, I’m like, you know, for years now shooting Guidewire full time and I’m still in my living room, so, you know, and it’s comfortable. There’s zero overhead. There is something to be said for keeping things simple. And if what you’re doing right now is keeping it simple and you’re taking home a lot more money, then I almost feel like the studio is almost like I’m kind of a status symbol. I feel like for a lot of photographers, like they do it to make themselves feel legitimate. But yeah, but it’s not really necessary. Like, I just read a post in another group earlier today where, like the girl, the photographer was like, I’m walking people through my house and they have to walk in my basement. And I feel like they’re not going to feel like it’s a real shoot. And I would just say my like, do you like my living room is full of kids toys like. But when they get their images that they’re gorgeous and they know what I’m capable of producing. And so I think that people hire you for your brand and your aesthetic in your work and that the location that it took place in is as important as we think it is, I guess.

Yeah. Yeah, I think I’d be like it’s really important to remember that. Like to be a leader. Yeah. As a business owner and particularly here you are, you have to be a leader with your client and and understand that like they don’t know what’s supposed to happen or what’s not supposed to happen. And that was one of the ends. You know, when I had my first zoom IBS during quarantine, you know, those like I kept having sort of remind myself like, oh, no, this isn’t going to go according to plan. And I’m like, all right. They don’t know what the plan is or not. The plan is whatever it is that I do. Right.

So I’ve actually done more Zoom IPS than that in person right now because eventuation that I’ve only been. Yeah. And I’m going out again. Like to me it feels amazing because like you know they can’t lay eyes on samples, they can’t touch things, feel things. You can have an in-person interaction in the same sort of way. You’re sort of fumbling between window. Right. Because, you know, it’s not as it’s not as smooth on on zoom. Right. But yeah. So I’m really excited about getting back to in-person stuff.

I mean, sales too. Yeah. I’m on Zoom for the I mean that until it’s safe again. Right. Like home and most of my clients I just shot my first session today and back then March 17 and I think most of my clients will be very understanding that I will have to be over soon. Yeah.

Anyway, so what I was one of the challenges I’m having and it’s like, you know, is getting those clients to to rebook after Cauvin. So I think you’ve had a lot more success than then. But I have some people, the mastermind group, talking about how we’re having some challenges, getting people who were previously super excited about their chutes to kind of come, you know, come back on right on side and and rebook.

So so I know I don’t know if I mentioned this on the thread, but moving forward, any time somebody changes the date are reschedules, you have to get them back on another date within twenty four hours. And that, you know, that way, even if you have to move in again, like the client I shot today, I previously moved our sessions four times before because of it. And yet Sock’s it’s kind of it’s not confusing. It’s more work for me or for Nikki, my studio manager, but they’re assigned to date. They have a date. They need to know that, like they’re coming in for their some. There’s accountability to that, you know. Right.

So I’m you I mean, that’s that’s the Berlind thing about the Masters. You don’t have to wonder. Right. Like, we’re all having the same problems right now and our own sorts of ways. And we sort of all discover sort of by accident on the Facebook group that we were all having trouble getting people re rescheduled to, had previously paid the decision later. And that’s that’s the benefit of it. Everyone’s kind of all in this together, regardless of whether you made a quarter quarter mil last year or whether you’re like me and you didn’t know how to charge a client for photos. So amazing. That’s amazing. Go ahead. I previously o my future big goal I think is probably hiring an assistant engineer assistant. Your brilliant assistant, Nikki. Yeah. So that’s one that I left out. But the. We just talked about, like, I don’t have to worry about that when the time comes. Other people in the group and like you yourself, who who already have gone down that road and helped me with hiring the right person and writing the job description and the interview process. Right. Kind of doing that together all the time. So, yeah, I guess I just don’t have to worry about what comes next, because I know that there’s going to be like a ridiculous amount of help every step of the way. That’s too easy, isn’t it? That’s great.

That’s awesome. It’s been so nice talking to you. I’m so grateful that you took the time to chat. We’re really proud of your success. You’ve really been killing it. And I can’t wait to continue to follow you to see how you’re doing and watch your growth. You’ve been doing great. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Yeah, of course. I think so. If you guys if you our listeners, if they want to follow you or follow your work where you’re on Instagram and tick tock, what are those latents?

I’m at Axium Boudoir on Instagram and Tick-Tock as well. And you can find me at Axium Boudoir dot com. And we haven’t we can talk about tick tock, tick tock, tick, tick tock. You better get on there.

You got to get on tick. Happening. Right. It is. It is the place to be. So it sounds great. Well, thank you so much for your time. And if you guys have any questions, you can definitely find us in the Facebook group. Make sure you subscribe to our podcast. Make sure you press the follow button on YouTube and we’ll see you guys next time. Thanks.

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