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Stephanie Watts, a wedding photographers turned boudoir photographer, sits down with Humberto Garcia to discuss how she made 2019 her first profitable year in business, how she collected almost $20,000 in April 2020 without shooting a single session, and why she’s still going to have a record breaking year despite the pandemic.
If you’re a portrait or wedding photographer and want to see how Stephanie brings in leads on autopilot every single day, you can’t miss this episode.
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You haven’t shot all of last month. How did last month and in revenue?
Almost 20000 thousand. So right at nineteen thousand dollars.
Today is a very special interview. I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time. I’m here with Stephanie Watts, who is out of Iowa. She’s extremely talented. We’ll be sharing with you her Web site. And she’s here with me now. How are you, Stephanie?
How are you?
It’s May 8th and things are starting to reopen. We’re talking a little bit before this. And you were telling me you are in one of the only counties that’s not open yet. Yep.
But it’s OK, right, because from what I know so far that you’ve been booking during this entire time I’ve been looking and I had a handful of ordering sessions, I was able to do virtually LA. Yeah, I really have taken this time to revamp some things I’ve needed to, but because I’m I’m so booked that I didn’t have much time and kind of redoing the studio a little bit.
Coming up with some new ideas. I’ve taken the time and my team is taking the time to really hustle.
And if you don’t mind sharing. That’s actually why I like it. Prompted me to reach out to you again. You haven’t shot all of last month. How did last month end in revenue? Almost twenty thousand suns, right. At nineteen thousand dollars. That is amazing. And by the way, compared to two years ago or a year and a half ago, is that about as hot? I mean, this mild pandemic, you made it the same or more? Oh, more. That is amazing. And we’re we’re gonna get into that. But before we even do, like, I’d love to find out more about you and kind of shared the audience, like, you know, who exactly you are and how you actually got to this place. We’re like a bad pandemic month. Let’s 20 grand. And of course, your bigger months. Yet, you know, you’re open months are much bigger. And so what did you do before this?
So I I’ll start kind of in high school, I graduated high school early and join the Air Force and I was in the Air Force for a few years and I had my daughter. I got out of the military. I was a stay at home mom. I dabbled in a few things that not not a lot of people know. I, I kind of was pushed into selling Mary Kay when I was 21. I had sold pampered chef. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I never really found the right place for me. I was a sales consultant at a weight loss center in Arizona when I live there. And then I moved to Japan as part of the Air Force and lived there for four years. And I fell in love with photography because I became a master diver there and I had a camera in my hand every time I went under the water. So I came back to Iowa in 2011 with my daughter, and about six months later, I bought my first camera. It was not a pro camera, but I bought my first camera and I was I told myself I was going to own a photography business.
So it’s mcowen like diving. Is that something you did? That’s like a hobby. Is that part of the military? Like, how do you get into that?
Just a hobby. I mean, something to do. Stay at home. Mom, it was really difficult to find work as a dependent. And I was out of the military at the time and not in a great relationship. So I needed something of my own and it changed my life.
Yeah, it’s hard having really with the military. I know a lot of people. I know what I did 10 years, the military as well. And I got divorced while I was in and I found that, yeah, when when the spouse or when the couple that don’t have like their own hobbies or they don’t have like, their own things going on, it makes the relationship, like, really dependent on each other.
Yeah. You’re making a face. All I know is that. How long ago did you get out? I got out. Well, my daughter, I got out my separation date was the day before I was due with my daughter. Oh, no. It was almost 17 years ago or no, 17 years ago.
So how did. By the way, this is me being curious. Like, how did that work? Did you still give birth like Naval Hot Air Force Hospital?
No, no, no. They didn’t have in Arizona. They didn’t have a hospital for emergencies and stuff like that. So I just I had my daughter to some medical center. I was just off base.
I know that transition pretty big. I know I went through that and I was by the biggest thing. It was almost like jumping off a cliff and thinking you have a little bit of a parachute. So tell me about that. Like you got out. You know, you’re picking up diving photography and like, what did you get out to do?
I got out to be a stay at home mom. So my ex-husband got orders to Turkey and he wasn’t able to take us unless I got out. And then I got out and he was able to turn down those orders. Wow. So you guys then go to Turkey to stay in Arizona? Yeah. So I was stuck at home and about one haloes about a year and a half I. I am not a stay at home mom with a young child. I got out of the military in the same week, had my first daughter and I was 20 years old. And it was traumatic. That’s the word. Now, I’m. I love being a mom, but I was in an awful relationship and I was thousands of miles away from my family. And it was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
And I want your daughters to see. She graduated, right?
She. Well, no, they’re still out of school, technically till the end of May. But she took a pass on all her high school classes and she has to finish her college class, which is super easy online, and then she’ll be gone. But then she heads to Drake University in August. That’s so cool. Bailey, did you guys ever come down to Miami to visit you did, right? No. No. Is it in Miami trying to get to and from Roatan? Oh, I meant for the University of Miami. I thought she was like, no, no. She considered it. I just tried to. You’ve never been to Miami. Let’s just be realistic. Yeah. OK. So tell me.
So you’re having your daughter your daughter’s beautiful now and she’s graduating. So congratulations. Going to take. And how did you how did the business of photography happen and where did you start with that? It wasn’t boudoir, was it?
I wanted to be a new born photographer. And I bought all the newborn things. I bought the newborn posing dolls and the props and the backdrops and the heaters and all of that. And I photographed about three.
And I was like, this isn’t going to happen. I was kind of stagnant for a while. I started picking up second shooting gigs for weddings. And then I thought, oh, working with adults who can listen to you and understand what you’re saying. That’s the game changer. So I became a wedding photographer and I was a full time wedding photographer. Actually, I had a full time job until two thousand fifteen.
And because I was too afraid of going out on my own and being able to make it and pay my bills. And I did not turn a profit until last year as a photographer.
So 2015. And then what prompted you to leave and what genre? So you were shooting weddings at the time?
Yeah, I was miserable. I would come home crying from this job. I said I will. And I vowed to never work for anyone else again.
Ok. So tell me about that, because a lot of people think like, hey, if you leave a job, it means that, you know, we’re making a lot of money. Laughing So 2015, if you’re doing weddings now. How is.
I don’t remember how many weddings I photographed in 2015. I just knew that if I was coming home and this miserable at a full time job and it paid me well, I mean, paid me. I mean, 30, 40 thousand dollars. Which is great. In my area.
But if I was that miserable, then I had to work for myself. I had to be miserable working for myself versus miserable working for someone else. I actually what was my goal at the time was to go back to school full time. And I still had the G.I. Bill. And so I went I started at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2015. And about a month and a half later, my now husband got super sick and almost passed away and was in the hospital.
And I slept with him for like 10 weeks in the hospital, in the uncomfortable recliner chair or in the day bed that was in the ICU like crazy, crazy stuff. And then I was able to get all that like five or 10 percent of my tuition back from the university because I couldn’t leave his side. And that was actually once I started going to the University of Iowa for business, I thought, why am I here? I just it didn’t feel right. Again, I, I had my two year degree. So I have an associate’s degree and in not in photography. And I would just question myself every single day. Why am I doing this? Because just because the military is paying me to go to school every month like this is just crazy. And so that I feel like was also a huge quitting my job and dropping out, dropping out of college for a reason. But I feel like those were the signs that I needed to go full force ahead.
Yeah, I’ve I’ve had that roadblock of, like, going to get an MBA. I have I have a really good friend who was my roommate, and I lived with him for like maybe four or five years are both in special operations. And we both got out almost to the exact same time and he went like full out. He was going to North Eastern, an amazing school setting, electrical engineering. And when we talk now, his entire goal when he left was basically like make as much money as possible. And he added in his head, like, you have to be a professional. You have to be a lawyer. An engineer has to be a doctor. And when I got out and he was like, you’re not gonna go to school, what are you going to do? It’s like I’m trying to photography thing. And we talked about a year ago, so we both been out for almost three to four years. Maybe he’s been out for like three and a half. I’ve been out for four. And he told me, he said, you know, the thing that’s crazy is I know that I’m not taking any risk. And it’s making me really relaxed.
I get this B.H., I get paid to go to school. I don’t have to have another job. And it’s just very complacent. He’s like, and you over there like you left, no one thought you were gonna make it. Everyone just questions like, how are you going to make money? Everyone thought you were stupid for leaving. And now you basically left it just with your own experience, like and like having basically not having a safety net have actually done way more than most of. He’s talking about like me and like the group of peers I got out. Like that. Almost all of us combined. He’s like, it’s just so crazy. And he’s like, I feel guilty just taking all this money and just using it and not really feeling like a pressure of, like, you know, that I’m accomplishing. Which, of course, in time he will. But I have always said that was like an interesting thing, that, like, when things are easy and things are complacent or you’re just kind of following the path, there’s a lot of photographers always asked, like, should I go to business school or photography school? And your suggestion would be.
I. It’s actually kind of difficult. I can’t say this to my daughter’s awake, but it’s actually kind of difficult to send my daughter to a four year college. But the difference between her and me and you is I work in the military. That was my college. And she has to do something after high school. She actually just started a business. She is in custom tie dye and bleach dye hoodies and sweatpants. I have a couple of them on my office floor here. So she’s trying to make money because she doesn’t have a job this summer. That’s cool. She’s a lifeguard in the pools closed for the summer. So. But what’s interesting with what you said was that people don’t believe and I I truly think that this applies to photographers themselves. People truly don’t believe that they can make money doing photography. Unemployed people look at me and I have discussions with other business owners and we talk about, you know, the revenue and the things, you know, our sales. Things like that. And every single time they are mind blown that we make as much money as we can. Well, we can make this much money.
Yeah, I will save even a couple of years ago, I did. I didn’t know that there was this many people doing it at this level, you know, especially depending on what your peer group is. Right. Like, if you’re only back then, I was only talking to photographers in North Carolina in one area and there was like one or two big shots, you know, and you’re and you kind of look at them and you’re like, well, they’ve been in it for 30 years. That’s why or when I moved down to Miami, like whatever group I was in, like, you just kind of have that as the idea. But once you start kind of surrounding yourselves or surrounding yourself around other people and you start seeing, I’m like, wow, they’re doing much different than me. They just have slightly different habits and slightly different systems. And it doesn’t take, you know, a decade to put into place, which you kind of brought up. Right. Like, Hey, 2015, you aren’t profitable. And you were saying that last year was your only your first profitable year.
So walk me through that, you’re doing weddings. What even brought you into a boudoir?
I was one of the I met for I was a photographer. That was a serial photography retreat. A tender. It’s a it’s a write off. I got to travel. I got to meet people. And in general, I feel like the photography community here isn’t as tight knit as I wished it would be. So I had to branch out and find my community in other places, which has. I am now best my best friend, who at the time lived in Utah when I met her and I was in her hometown on the other side of Iowa and were like very close and we support each other. I met her through a photography retreat, but Boudoir came out of.
I went to Paris with my best friend. We weren’t best friends at the time, but my good friend and a few other people, we photographed our friends and our parks flat boudoir, because my best friend is a good to our photographer. And she kind of showed me the ropes and she did the whole like Iowa girl elbow and said you could totally shoot boudoir. And I was like, no. Those May in 2015. So she kind of planted the seed. I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t know what I was doing. I am very much, as, you know, a control freak.
You say that was made to them. When? Fifteen 2015. OK. OK. I. In 2016, I attempted to find a place to photograph a couple boudoir sessions. I paid for hair and makeup. I found women who they’re not models but, you know, models. And I played around. Hated it. I didn’t hate like the. I hated my photos at the end of the day. And so still no boudoir. Not ready for it. Don’t feel comfortable with it. And then we moved into this house. July of two thousand sixteen. And the basement sat unused for six months. And I went down there one day and, you know, awful carpet, popcorn ceilings. Just the most hideous color on the wall. Oak trim. It was just awful. And I looked around and I called my best friend and I said, would it be stupid if I changed my basement into a boudoir studio? And she goes, Hell, no, go for it. And literally the next day I had a contractor come out. Take a look. Give me an estimate of how much it would cost. And I wrote him a check for the amount drained my entire business account because, again, I was not making a profit. He charged me like twenty six hundred dollars for the paint popcorn removal, ripping the carpet out. New trim, all of that stuff. And that’s all I had my business account. I was left with one hundred bucks and I, I just was like, OK, I have a boudoir studio now. I bought a bed, but some other things.
And primarily up until this point, you are mainly shooting weddings for business like were you still shooting but were where were you shooting that if you are shooting.
No. My husband and I kind of wrestled with. Is it kind of weird that people are going to be coming to our house to photograph boudoir? But that quickly we our minds were changed pretty quickly because I feel like that’s an asset as they’re showing up to my home. They know where I live. They know it’s a safe place, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s interesting because a lot of people almost go into that story of like, well, if it’s my home, there are going to be scared. It’s creepy. And I find that most photographers that do this and they have a positive outlook. Like, they never have that experience. This is one of those spirits people have, like, beforehand. And we actually recently did a poll where we asked, I think in the masterminded something like don’t quote me, but like fifty five percent of people did not have studios. I took that quiz. Yeah. Yeah, I know most and a lot of people anthropoid. And that’s when they say, hey, you know, I don’t have a studio, I do this. They don’t realize there’s there’s people, you know, photographing out of hotels, air beebees, their fairplay, their bedroom. Yeah.
When my daughter goes to college, I’m tempted to use her bedroom as another setup.
And I mean, that’s the agenda she has, like what you have like a main setup and then she has, you know, like another bedroom or two that she used and. And I can actually, even now of the results of that poll, which I should have. But I’m really sad that it is not completely done. But the trend tends to be that a lot of people are starting to get like negative feelings towards possibly getting a studio. So, like, their minds are changing, especially after Cauvin. It’s like, hey, if I’m paying two thousand three thousand hours and at any time it can be shut down, I can’t work. At least if you have your house like you get the utility of it. You know, you can still practice. I don’t know. You don’t have to pay for it. Right. You get more living space. But if you’re paying them a commercial space, you kind of step with it again. Who would have never guessed this would happen?
I went and looked at a commercial studio space last year and the rent was going to be two thousand eight hundred fifty dollars a month. And I laughed at the guy.
Was it going to be huge? I imagined I was going be gigantic.
It was eighteen hundred square feet and it was downtown Iowa City. But the problem with that is you wouldn’t be able to find parking. The parking is awful. The college kids, like downtown, is just all college kids. And I was like, you’re out of your mind. I would never pay that much money for a studio. Yeah.
So 2016, you’re doing that.
So, like, what took you so long to get to the point where last year I was sick and tired of not making money. And I was sick and tired of just picking up any photography job that I could get. I was I would see a wedding posted in a Facebook group as a referral. And I would be like my heart beating fast, trying to like, please pick me, please pick me. And I would cry if I didn’t book a wedding. It was pathetic. Like four days three. I remember once I didn’t book a wedding and I cried for three days.
By the way. So you’re fed up. What happened? How did we mean you? Even me? How did that even happen? I remember I remember me and you speaking on the phone with me on the phone because I was driving to drop something off or something.
You added me on Facebook and then reached out and just started chatting with me.
I remember the conversation because I reminded you yesterday that we were talking about it and you’re kind of asked me, like, what do you get? What you do? How do you do it? I was like giving you examples and stuff. And you legitimately said you were like, I was in the Air Force, I will kill you. If this is not work. I’m going to be spending money with you. But I will come to Miami and murder.
You better go through that.
And I was like, OK, it’ll it’ll work.
And by the way, I’m going to show this to anyone watching this live. The reason I was so confident is because when I saw your work, I was just like, this is easy. Like, you’re in a great location. Doesn’t have to be you know, most people think they have to be in a major city. You’re in an amazing location in Iowa. You have amazing work. I know that people are attracted to this. I want to I tell people all the time that all the ads we ever run or marketing, the light and airy, for some reason they up they’re just they just do better not telling people to change. But like, when I see this, I see a home run. Like, it’s so fun to market.
And I do.
I just had I talked to Ashley, who is one of my assistants yesterday, and she did a phone console where the woman asked if I would change to a dark and moody styles or. And I said, now there are plenty of photographers around here who are dark and moody. So go hire them now.
I mean, I think that says a lot. That says a lot to the confidence that they see that you’re so proficient in this. That they wouldn’t go seek out the dark and moody that they would just ask you to convert, you know. Well, thank you. But by the way, this is built on for any geeks on this. This is built on. Show it WordPress. Oh, nice. All right. It is where Chris it’s word Chris with clothings. Yep. And by the way, we basically took what you had existing and we made a few changes. You know, we went till long form landing page for people that follow us anytime they see our work. They kind of thing, you know, a little bit longer and not so scattered. What’s changed? Like, you know, since since you actually because there’s been a big transformation right before 2020. How much did you spend on marketing?
Two thousand dollars a year, a year.
I think you’re breaking my heart and reminding me about these bad things I did.
And I guess I guess I guess like, what’s the what’s the reason you gave yourself for, like, why? Because I work people. Oh, they’re always told, like, all you got to spend money and make money are like, hey. Marketing. Right. But then people, they always act the opposite of that. So like I always think, well, there has to be a story to why, you know, if you have such a great product, because there’s anyone looking at the screen. They know if this gets into the eyes of people like this is going to sell. So, like, what held it back from you not wanting or not spending more?
One hundred percent ignorance and not knowing how to do it. Which is why I hired you 100 percent. It’s off my plate now. You built the funnels that needed to be built. You set everything up the way it should have been set up. You explained it to me and my team the way it needed to be explained for us to run it. And I didn’t know how to do that. And I didn’t have the time to do it, because before I hired you in two thousand and eighteen, I shot one hundred and twenty one boudoir sessions. Holy smokes. I was over like I was drowning. I hate the word busy. I think business bullshit. But I was I was drowning. I had no life and. I heard you about this time last year, maybe March or April. And I shot the same amount of sessions last year, but my sales and my sales average went up and then this year. I’m going to. I’m still going to shoot the same.
And by the way, you’re like going to the next level because now you’re bringing in a little bit more help. So tell me about that. You were shoot your. You were shooting the same student, the same. But sales price went up. Our sales average went up. And then how does that like how does that work with your free time?
Are you just being more organized or I mean, you probably aren’t organized, so especially recently when I when we went to spring break. My assistant actually had just kind of been doing certain things like emailing and calling people who were already on our list, who had already reached out to. And I was spending every single afternoon on multiple consultations. And I operate my business in a strange way. But it works really well for me. And I require people to do a phone consultation with us. We do not fundraising. And that’s not because we’re not.
Honest or something? I’ve been told several times like that just makes people think that you’re, like, crooked or something like, OK, well, I know I’m not. But we don’t some pricing. We want to get women on the phone so that we know their story because that’s why we’re doing this. I’m not doing this for the money. I’m doing this to change with the floods. And so last year, I knew I was way too busy. I hired my first assistant.
And then Ashley came on the end of last year and now she just took over consultations and March. And she’s still she’s looking like she’s looking well.
Yeah. I mean, so all of the last because we’ve been shut down. I don’t know, getting close to eight weeks. So seven weeks. How has Bucky been during this time. Same. Same. It has even dropped.
No, I think that the phone calls are less. But I believe. And you know, I mean, I expect a little bit of change. We have the phone. We have less phone calls. But. It’s definitely I think it’s not as consistent as it was, but I mean, one week she book 10 sessions and that’s like her goal, her personal goal. And I did not get Rhythm’s goal. Her personal goal is to book 20 sessions about.
Yeah, I mean, that’s awesome.
Ok. So for anyone looking at this, obviously, you know, we Natalie, do we do the Web site. You know, and this is everything we do in the mass mind as well. Right. There’s automation’s behind there. People get on your e-mail list, they get text and they join your Facebook group. But we also run Facebook and Google ads. So before that, how did you how did you get clients? Because now it’s a little bit different right now. Every everyday you just get dinged and, you know, the ads are running automatically. You have your group to nurture. How are you getting clients before?
I have a really large VIP group that’s like over 12000 people. Wow. So I was consistently getting inquiries and stuff through there. And then Facebook business messenger, mainly just word of mouth.
And you were growing that with like group grows, you know, campaigns like that.
Which you can’t really do anymore.
Yeah. Yeah. You definitely got in early because that VIP group is definitely money. OK. So back then you spent about two thousand and you may eat like you would just give away maybe some items to grow the group. What about now? I mean, so what’s the difference in your day to day compared to like a year and a half ago?
I’m not doing all of it. Try to outsource as much as humanly possible. The only thing that I do now is respond to clients, emails, photographs, sessions, edit sessions. I’m still editing and ordering product.
What do you think it will take for you to get to me to edit your sections?
Are you absolutely, Willy, but the person just has to be as good as me.
By the way. Quick question. As far as the sales average, what do you think caused the sales average to go up? I mean, I know we worked on pricing. We changed all that, but.
You have to believe that you can do it. I mean, I think there’s a huge. I truly believe that photographers don’t want to increase their prices and they’re scared. But what what are you going? What are you going to lose, you know? Yeah. Would you rather I mean, this is another example.
Would you rather photograph 40 sessions or 40 weddings, let’s say? You know, I’m always super impressed by people who photograph 40 weddings here. But how much are you charging for those weddings?
If it’s like twenty five hundred dollars, by the time you do thousand yen, why are you doing that to yourself? Wouldn’t you rather photograph like fifteen weddings for like ten thousand dollars apiece.
Yeah, and you know what’s funny is I always I always hear just kind of the objection. Whenever anyone talks about raising prices or doing imprison sales, they always say, well, I just don’t have time for that. I don’t have this. And then we’ll normally go through like a question where I’m just like, OK, well, how many sessions take you to make? Three thousand hours? Well, you know, I have the shoe, you know, I don’t know. They’ll say something if they’re charging. Three hundred. Obviously, it’s ten, ten women. OK. So you have to do hair makeup with 10 women have to come back and forth. You have to do all this correspondence. But if you just talk to one person on the phone, had one photo shoot and had one ordering appointment instead of 10 times all of that, minus that worrying sessions, and they’re just like, well, you know, how am I going to have watched my kids? And I’m like, you have to do that for the ten women anyways. So I feel like a lot of times, you know, it’s almost like is that the story we’re telling ourselves? Just so we can avoid that. Just so we don’t have to ask for that much money.
Excuses are like Abels. Everybody’s got one. Seriously, stop with the excuses. Yeah, if you’re if you’re speaking to someone who is making that kind of money and they’re telling you you need to raise your prices, there should be no excuse. I was even asked by a videographer friend of mine. Well, did you ever raise your prices and then have to lower them again? And the answer was no, never. My sales my sales average before I hired Gee was like eight hundred dollars a client. And what did I fight back? What do you think it is this year so far? Twenty six hundred. It’s almost four times. I mean I think last year because I didn’t hire you and didn’t get my pricing implemented till like July. It was eleven hundred dollars and it more than doubled that this year.
Yeah. And by the way, I think there’s still probably room to grow there too, right?
Ok. So with that price increase, let’s just say things continue as they are and we start to reopen. Like where do you think this year is going to end?
Well, I knew my daughter was graduating this year. So I would like to do the back story because I’m not ready to give up weddings. But I knew that my daughter was graduating this year and I accepted way less weddings. Hold on a second here. It’s going to die. That’s important. I accepted way less weddings this year. And my goal this year is to my goal this year was to make two hundred thousand dollars just in boudoir. And I have had zero wedding income so far this year, and I’m pretty much at a hundred thousand dollars already.
Holy smokes. So you’re going to blow that out of the water? Yes. And I think this is like the final steak in weddings anyway. It’s like whatever just happened out, like for at least for you maybe.
I’m really, really. And I talked to another business owner in the wedding who was in the wedding industry and then sold her business. And she is so thankful. It just stinks because the weddings I did booked for this year, they were impacted by it. And I was supposed to go to St. Lucia in a couple weeks and now not so, but only a couple of my weddings had to reschedule or change their plans. So that’s good. But all of the other people like the wedding florists and the wedding planners, I can’t even imagine.
Yeah. So what’s the next step for you in boudoir if you turn the corner? You leave weddings behind, like what’s the next step for you? Is it another photographer? Is it.
Now, I I’m actually really, really happy. I think this is the first time I’ve been actually content in my business for a while. I think there’s always room for improvement. So I’m going to keep hustling and. Maybe find someone who can edit for me.
I guess I’ll ask what’s the thing that, you know, you should do, but you’re waiting right now? Dad, I know I should do, but I’m avoiding oh.
What’s on the edge that your dislike of procrastinate on? I don’t want to do that.
Nothing really. Honestly, just this quarantine stuff, as we revamped our prep guide, we created a wardrobe guide. We streamlined our communication for after sessions because I knew I was kind of lacking after people came in for their session. And I got a really, really cool thing for my studio that nobody else has. No one else has. And you don’t have to give your supersecret eye wall. But it’s pretty awesome. Just got that kind of figured out. But.
Really? I am.
I’m not much of a procrastinator. I kind of hit. I’m like full force ahead. Just let’s get this done and over with a big you figured that out once we started last year. Yeah, nothing really.
So what about when everything reopens? I have a plan for that. Do you have even a time horizon? I know you’re in one of the few counties that is a little bit slower.
We will find out early next week whether or not we can open and start shooting May 16th. I don’t shoot on the weekends. I just shoot during the week. So I’m just praying that we can because all my April sessions got pushed May and now may I have to push to June. And I was like twenty six sessions for May.
And now to be like.
Close to 60 sessions after Jan, June 1st between June and July.
And you didn’t have a lot of cancellations from the sessions that you have mostly reschedules.
I have one person who’s didn’t even respond to us. So I just was like, OK. And then another person who owned a really great business in this area, and she I told her, she said that she would have to cancel and because she has to pay her employees during this time. And I just said, I have your session for whenever you’re able to ease it. So and she was thankful for that. But no, nobody’s really canceled.
And did you preemptively, like, reschedule them or do you, like, wait for people to come to you? Like, how did you handle as a business owner?
I just told them that I would be communicating with them as we got information. And I think. The problem is, is that our governor is not doing a good job of keeping us informed. And she’ll just kind of put information out here sporadically and like we’re expecting something and then she doesn’t tell us something. And right now, I would already be shooting, to be honest with you. But my hair and makeup isn’t legally, legally allowed to be working. And so you just weigh in on that. Just waiting. I’ve had a couple of people reach out like, hey, dude, have you heard anything? I’m like, no, I’m so sorry. We’re at the beck and call of the governor and letting us know early next week whether we can open them up.
I know. I’m so sorry. It’s I.
I think I think it’s kind of like been a bonus. Is anyone. I get a lot of clients who want this as a wedding present. And because of what’s going on, most of us don’t even need them now for a while because they’ve had to reschedule in some way.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think everyone’s been impacted. I do think that, you know, whatever. However people were doing before. It’s just going to exacerbate the differences. So if you were at the top of the market and you had those habits, I feel like you are going to continue to just create that lead. Right. Because you’ve been working on everything. Know you haven’t. Shipping’s down. You’ve been improving, adding things to assets, you know, maybe changed my wording there. And then, you know, other people that might have been 2017, Stephanie, are like, well, marketing sucks. You know, I have to reduce my expenses. I have to maybe lower prices now because everyone’s losing money and then they’re just gonna force their trajectory down. And when this whole thing started between me and Jen, we just kept saying, we know that we’re going to be shut down. So but that’s limited by the government and we can’t change that. But we do have control of when we reopen. So everything we do now has to be towards that reopening time, right? No. Walk me through that. Other than just the passive things that you’ve been improving, like. It’s like it sounds like you’ve been aggressive getting people on the phone, like booking, like going back to old lady. Like, tell me that stance that you had where you were like, I need to be ready for reopen.
I think that there should be no wasted time. I guess I don’t know if that’s a lame answer or not, but don’t waste your time. I mean, of course, there are days like today. It’s beautiful outside. My daughter’s awake. She’s actually was in call and getting paid. She is doing training for lifeguarding. And I’m going to spend time with her. And of course, there are times to push away and do these things that you want to do because you’re not working as much. But if you go back into this and there’s any aspect of your business that isn’t like top notch, it isn’t the way you want it to be that’s on you. Now, I’m not one of those like, oh, let’s see how productive we can be during quarantine. Right. Like, I have eaten my fair share of carbs and drank my fair share of wine and done my fair share of sleeping in with no alarm. But at the end of the day, like, you have to put yourself in your client’s shoes and figure out what they need and make sure that you come out of this looking like. You just polished like a full turd, but that’s awful. Well, just like you are like literally glowing, sort of how ready you are to get back to work.
Yeah, I saw a tweet that made me feel really guilty. It was like, you know, that thing that you’ve been procrastinating and said you would do and you had time. If you haven’t started yet. You’re never going to do it. And I just thought to myself. I told myself I would write a book one day. And I even wrote like maybe like 10 pages of it. And I didn’t get jump on it. And now I feel guilty. Guilty tweet.
Don’t let me make you feel guilty.
It was a it was a pretty good one, but I kind of carried that forward. You know, I picked up on other things. And even here, you know, and within the high rollers, you know, we’re lucky that we have you to share what you’re doing. You know, share our experiences and, like, keep everybody moving forward. I even presented you with a campaign and you were just like, we’re doing so well that I don’t need that. You know, it was you know, it was doing sessions without the retainer fee for the business. And, of course, I could be you’re booking at the rate you are, which we even had a conversation where it was like, you know, do we get more leads or do we just go book more people? And by way, I’ll ask of all the people that have been booked. Do you feel like a lot of them have been brand new inquiries, or has it been a result of, like, you emailing group and like really nurturing them, like going back to New Enquiry’s brand new.
Brand new. Wow.
So have you even concentrated a lot of the time on on old inquiries?
Oh, yeah. We still have our. Well, actually still has the setup. And she. Oh, wait. She has a bucket for the Mike book. Check back. And she is nurturing them. One hundred percent. Yeah. What I find, though, is that with the automation, they asked him to be added to the VIP group. And then after they’re in the VIP group a while, they, they come back and they say, hey, I’m ready. They’ll see a photo. And I posted my VIP group three times a day and they’ll see a photo and they will just be like, that’s it. I’m ready to book.
Yeah, I I think that’s one thing a lot of you will miss Crunchie when they run ads is like someone will say, OK, I know how to run these ads. I saw I have an example. And they’ll run ads. They’ll spend like 30 bucks and they’ll be like, dang. I didn’t book anyone. And they just stopped. And to me, that’s the equivalent of, like, going to like getting on the treadmill or peloton for one time and be like, I’m not 10 pounds lighter. What? I quit.
There’s actually an ad out there right now that’s like kind of in competition with one of my ads. And in the description of the ad, it says boudoir photography that won’t break the bank. I’m just like, OK. Not a competition anymore. I mean, no offense to that person, but that is the last thing you need to be putting on an app. Yeah, I was.
I was hacking my mom for those that are regular listeners to my wife now. Oh, I know. So we got married and we got married in Vegas. We’re gonna get married this spring anyways. But we’re buying a house. I mean, like we should be married before you buy the house. You know, like for you.
Yeah. So I’ve been engaged for anyone listening. It’s like, what the heck? I signed up and then we went to Vegas for w PBI and high rollers when they we had a meet up and then during the cocktail hour literally we were just like, hey, who wants to fill up a bunch of cars and you’ll get married at the Las Vegas sign. So you get married by Elvis like literally at the Vegas sign. Oh cool. Our wedding plans obviously got destroyed by this whole pandemic thing. So, yeah, we’ll do that one later. But right now in seminary also, I invited. Yeah. You I in on my own.
You kidding? Wait. What was she telling me before I lost her crap? Well, we had the tape. Oh, great. Thank you. Don’t break the bank. Oh, yeah. We were talking about that.
We were talking about how, like before all this happened, we were spending a lot of money on going out to eat. We were spending a lot of money on the weekends and like now or not. And like now that things like reopening, like we’re looking for fun things for ourselves. So, like, now we’re starting to build the habit of like, let’s look for a vacation thing for the summer. Hey, look, I’m going to go look for a motorcycle later this weekend. Let’s go look at this. And I feel like a lot of people. Of course, people are being hurt and, you know, different areas being disproportionately affected. But there’s still a lot of people that have a lot of savings that their industry is actually doing really well during. That’s right. Like, if you were selling any sort of hand sanitizer, obviously, you know, protective gear or cleaning services like you’re still and big like work mode, you know, even even stores that sell essential supplies. So if you treat everyone like, you know, like you think, hey, for me, I’m super effective, I have to take it down. There’s still a good percentage of the population that’s still making hands over. Fix this money right now and that’s going to be ready to spend. You know, people to have savings are going to be ready spend when everything turns back on.
Well, I think it’s important to to know that this is a great time, too. Well, we talked about pricing, but this is a great time to evaluate how much you charge, because if you put it last, not shooting for a month. Like, that’s a huge issue. That’s not just like that’s that’s. That’s a fundamental issue for you personally and your business. Where as like if you’re charging a decent amount, which I feel I am right now, I could not work for like probably six months, maybe a year if I really. And I’m still paying my assistance. I’m still paying my blogger. You know, charging an accurate pricing is more is definitely you need to take care of yourself. You need to have those things in place like retirement and stuff like that. And if you can’t even afford the bare minimum, you’re either living outside your means, not charging enough. You know, there I know somebody who bought a ginormous house last year based on a few years of good sales and bought a really nice car and now carries the nicest purses that somebody can buy. And she told me she might have to file for bankruptcy. Yeah, I mean, it’s no joke. I feel awful for people who go through that, but this is not just a time to get you and your business really sound and strong and really think about what’s important and charging. I mean, charging so you can live your life. If this happens again, which there I mean, I don’t watch the news, I refuse, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that they’re saying that this could come back again in the cold or whatever. But if you’re not prepared the second time, maybe you shouldn’t be in business. That’s how I feel.
Yeah. Yeah. I and I will also caveat, like, I know that pricing seems like it’s super hard to overcome. But like I always tell people, any time anyone hires Ostergren, the high rollers, I’m always like, you’re like a 30 minute top 30 minutes away from changing your prices. It’s not that hard. I know a lot of times there’s more to it. It’s not just that piece of paper. It’s believing it. But like for you. What made you get past that? Because I know it’s easy for me to do, but I had just change these numbers, put it like this, and then just say it like this. But like what kept you from not hitting the highest goals before doubt?
I was afraid. I would rather be working. This sounds awful, but I’d rather be working than not working. And I was afraid that if I raise my prices and I didn’t look as many sessions, I would go crazy. Also not I mean, hiring you. And then discussing pricing, being part of the high rollers club. It gives you permission. I feel like some people have some like money blocks and guilt associated with pricing, and it gives you the permission to change your prices. And knowing that other people have done it. So you’re not the only one who’s going to increase their prices. You’re not the only boudoir photographer who’s going to charge five, six thousand dollars for a session. And so being a part of that community is what helps. Just telling yourself, I mean, you’ve given me a couple pieces of advice, like don’t be so emotional. Like you have control over your emotions. I needed to hear it, you know. But we’re also kind of military where we’re military. So we kind of have that rough and tumble sort of banter. But it’s true. You need to, you know, hold yourself accountable. And you kind of need to be a little bit stronger than you already are. Yeah.
I think one thing me and Jen always kind of have in the back of our heads is like the only thing we care about is doing. We don’t care about the reason you don’t want to. We don’t care what you’re we I mean, we want to care, but we know that it doesn’t help, really. Like, we just want action. And what I find is like this is. I’m not saying I treat adults like children, but like I treat my daughter like I treat adults. And the sense that like if she just goes and does something, I don’t care how she feels about it. You know, jumping off something or going to do a hard task when she comes back. Almost every single time. Even if she was scared, didn’t want it. She’s always like it wasn’t so bad. And it’s the same thing for the photographers. If it was, I just take the templates or take the structure or watch the training or just go do it, because he’ll go into the Facebook group and say, well, Stephanie just went for made hundreds of this. Eleven hundred to this. And they’re like, OK, well why don’t I just do that? And then they’ll of course they’ll messaged each other. Right. So people on message each other and say, okay, I know that this works, but I need to know that it works for you specific. You have nothing to do with me. We barely know each other. I need to know that you get it. So that gives me permission. Yep. And I always find that so funny that in hindsight, it’s always like I knew to do that a year ago, but I just didn’t know. I asked a random person, the Facebook group, for permission, basically.
Well, I think what’s important as well is when you do get to a point. I do feel like my pricing has room for improvement and I am working on that. But when you get to a point where you’re charging a decent amount, you will love what you do even more. And now it’s not for the money. My goal isn’t to be like, oh, you know, maybe it should be. Maybe that’s why I need to work on as what my higher standards or my goals. But you just wake up and feel better about what you’re doing, because I can tell you, as someone who a few years ago was waking up and dreading and having no clue on how to do what I do now. It’s an awful feeling. I feel like I’m just like in a hamster wheel, like something’s got to give. And so I think that’s why when I met you and we talked and I did have like a half a bottle of wine. I remember that you may not be taking advantage of me. Oh, and I didn’t remember half our conversation. I just remember leaving the conversation knowing that I’m heading in a good direction. I knew that I needed to take the leap. And I knew, you know, it’s it’s not cheap. I hate the word cheap. I hate the word inexpensive because it’s all relative. But it’s an investment that you need to make. So in two thousand. 18 just from adding boudoir. My sales were one hundred sixty six thousand and two thousand nineteen. There are two hundred and fifty thousand. And so I had one hundred thousand dollar increase. And what was it? Thirty six thousand dollars of it was advertising. So then technically I had like a sixty thousand dollar increase in sales, which is awesome. But to be. To be working and looking at a consistent rate with a team. And, you know, paying for the advertising and the your company to to take over that part of things that I knew nothing about. And it would really take me years to figure out. And perfects. That’s priceless.
Yeah. By the way, I will say that, you know, like that percentage is getting close to 10 percent. So if you just increase the sales average just a little bit. There’s a lot of people there like all the numbers, like marketing should be 10 percent or whatever. Yeah. And we’d be getting close to that. Right. Origin’s shooting a couple more sessions, which, of course, I don’t want to die from shooting too much because that’s what you’re shooting like two and a half, three women every single month. Every single week. Sorry.
I mean, my goal, my minimum goal is seven clients a month, and we have been consistently booking fifteen a month. Holy smokes.
So that’s. For a week ish.
Yeah, yeah, so this. I mean, this year, obviously, without this happening, would’ve been way bigger than last year. Oh, I’m going to have a couple of awesome months. It’s still gonna be way bigger. Yeah. It’s just delayed a little bit. Oh, you’re on it. Because over the year it’s still going to average out. Right. When the months are just gonna be right.
Well, and just from having consistent inquiries and being more comfortable in the the pricing and increasing that just a little bit. Now, increasing pricing shouldn’t take away value either. But we talked about this and you did a life where it was eight thousand in February for our sales last year. And this year it was forty thousand.
And by the way, for people in February and January are normally like the opposite. They’re like Super Dad dates back to last month, basically.
And I knew this as a wedding photographer. And I live in Iowa. We have winter. If you’ve ever heard of day, I don’t happen to like like seventy three outside. Well, and I knew that, you know, November, December, January, February, March. Those are like. Much less active. But I go into it, you know. I actually did book sessions in December of last year, but the year before last. I did not book any sessions in the summer. I did not shoot boudoir. And I think I’m going to try to do that again this year just to give myself a little bit of a break. But I lost my train of thought. I oh, I went into it knowing that that’s like a dead part of the year. And by October, I had my boudoir marathon for January. Completely sold out like within a few hours of launching it. And I had like 12 sessions in January that didn’t have to do it. I had 16 sessions in January. So our goal, like I say, like I want a minimum of seven, which that’s just crazy that I even say that, but in my spreadsheet I have a spreadsheet of everyone who’s booked, whether we can share their images, the data, their session, the data, their ordering session, et cetera. It’s a whole thing listed out and. Our goal is 15 months and then we’ve surpassed that. It’s fine if it’s not that busy of a month or if we need to catch some people because the corona virus. But that way, I know that I’m on par to reach my goal. But hopefully by July, I would assume I’m gonna reach my goal for this year and then try to annihilate it.
Yeah, that’s awesome. So any parting words like if we had any resources or if you had a book podcast, maybe you want to recommend outside of everything we’ve talked about something that’s helped you just a little extra, maybe a little extra temporary and get in touch on that. You would leave. For anyone listening.
I would say definitely be part of the high rollers club. Hire a marketing team you trust. I do recommend Humberto and his team. And you have to believe in yourself. I did read a book that I absolutely love. And it doesn’t really have anything to do with photography. You might have actually heard of it before. It’s by David Goggins. Have you heard of him? Yeah, I have. Can’t hurt me.
Now, I know he’s a very famous writer, very popular.
I listen to his audible book and it is awesome. So I recommend that you got to have a little bit of a taste for swearing and stuff because he has prior military like military, military. But it’s a really motivational and kind of helps you cut out the nonsense, like if you’re if you’re coming up with excuses. You need to kind of sit down and re-evaluate and try to figure out how to stop coming up with excuses.
And by the way, just a disclaimer I’m putting at the end. If you guys want more info on the high rollers, I’m going to leave a link at the bottom of this video or the audio. And I am personally not taking any more private clients like Stephanie. Oh, crap. Sorry. In order to qualify anyways and anyone we do work with, we do get availability comes from the high rollers of anyways. So we want people that are already part of our kind of our mindset, already part of the community drinking the Kool-Aid and like in the community instead of working like one on one to build all that when we already have that. So close the disclaimer.
All right. High Rollers Club. Thank you so much, Stephanie. Thank you. I think I may stop recording.