I genuinely believe that everyone has the power to change their circumstances. Money can be a HUGE game changer when it comes to making change. So often we feel stuck based on lack of resources and well, money!
When I was in my 20’s I worked at a restaurant. I started as a server and then quickly worked my way up through the ranks to become a manager. The hours sucked, I was usually there until the wee hours of the morning and the pay was meh, but the company kept while there was fabulous. I met so many wonderful people working there and we had some great times both at work and hanging out after. I actually met my husband while working there so I guess a few good things came out of that job!
I already had my little side hustle photography business going, but it was still part time and quite honestly the idea of leaving a steady job with relatively reliable income to go out entirely on my own was terrifying. I look back on this now and KNOW how incredible it feels to have actually created my own space in the work world, created my own income and even generate income for people who work for me – but at the time all I could see was fear.
After a couple of years I had managed to get myself down to just 1 or 2 shifts serving, keeping my foot in the door just in case I failed. Just in case the business tanked. Just in case… There were a million reasons and excuses in my head. I had given up managing, but I also knew that I could pick it back up if I changed my mind. The thing is that by keeping my foot in the door, I was playing to safe. There wasn’t enough urgency to get out there and get uncomfortable, do the things I needed to do to get the business REALLY rolling.
Then April 8th, 2010 rolled around. I was out at the farm, riding my horse. My little sister happened to be with me, and she got a voicemail. Come home. Dad is in the hospital. Our parents had divorced but my Aunt called and let my Mom know so that we could go to him.
Our Dad was this awesome, laid back guy with a fabulous sense of humor. He had almost died due to his heart condition not once, but a few times while we were growing up, so while we were worried that he was in the hospital I wouldn’t say we were OVERLY phased. We called home and my Mom relayed the message that he had had a heart attack, but was stable and we should come home, grab a shower and then head over to see him. So we did.
We walked into the house – my sister went to the upstairs shower and I headed to mine in the basement apartment. No sooner had my feet hit the landing at the bottom of the stairs did I hear a heart wrenching wail. In that instant I knew. He was gone. My Mom had just told my sister. While we were racing home to get showered and clean clothes (the smell of horses is not something most people want in their hospital room) our Dad had taken his final breath.
If you have never lost a parent, or a super close loved one you may not know this, but it is sort of like the world stops spinning for a few days. No one did anything. It was sunny and beautiful out, and that just felt wrong. Our Mom made muffins. She set up our old Nintendo game from when we were kids and invited our cousins over. We played videos games, and ate muffins just like when we were 10. It was honestly the only thing TO do. None of us could actually function beyond that.
As the fog started to life I realized that my 1 shift at the restaurant that week was on the same day as my Father’s funeral. I went in. I spoke to the manager. He responded that he couldn’t cover it. I would need to find someone to work the shift myself.
The fear vanished. I quit. I walked out and never looked back. In that moment I realized that no matter what happened I needed to make this side hustle work. I needed to make sure that I had control over my own life, my own schedule and I was not ever going to be in a position to be treated this way again. For the record… that manager was generally a great guy. I have zero clue what he was thinking that day.
Prior to this major life altering event I had been stuck. I was too scared. Too comfortable. Too complacent. Don’t be in that place. Don’t get stuck. You CAN make the big shifts, you can make changes and take charge of your own life.
Some of you may be in that place now. Maybe you have your side hustle and your nice safe 9-5. Or maybe you have a dream of a side hustle but haven’t gotten brave enough to do it. Maybe you have even taken the leap and now you are panicking because oh my goodness the family needs to eat and there isn’t enough cash coming in quite yet! Get brave. Make the moves. Get uncomfortable.
I’m not saying be crazy and quit with no plan, but put a plan in place! Come up with a realistic plan that has end dates. Give yourself a time line to quit your job, or start your side hustle, or take that marketing course to level up your business. Make moves!
Obviously losing my Dad was a horrible thing to go through. I still miss him terribly. I still wish he was here to see how it all turned out and that his train wreck of a daughter actually turned out great. But I AM thankful that I got that final push to get out of my comfort zone and make my business work. I am even grateful that my normally nice manager was lacking empathy that day and made a really lousy judgement call, causing me to leave. In the end it was to my benefit. I make more than 4x what I did in that job, working a lot less and enjoying the work a lot more.
So. Where do you start?
Today I am going to cover 5 quick mind shifts that you can apply to get your clients raving about you and get the cash coming in. For me, my business is photography so if you are a photographer too – bonus, this should be super easy to put into practice. If you aren’t a photographer don’t worry, it’s all still applicable you might just need to switch things up a bit. If you bake cakes being the world’s best baby snuggler probably won’t help you – but changing that to making the world’s most delicious fondant might.
#1 Get brave. Stop believing all of the silly things your brain tries to tell you. Our brain wants us to stay safe. That also means staying stuck. I cannot tell you how many times in life my brain has tried to tell me to sit down, be quiet and get a real J O B. The bright side is that it does get easier as you practice. I often recognize now when my brain is trying to keep me safe instead of successful and I tell IT to sit down and be quiet.
Being successful means sometimes you have to be uncomfortable. I deal with anxiety. When I was younger I couldn’t even bring myself to walk up to a cashier to pay for a chocolate bar. So when I started this business, calling clients was AGONY. It was horrible. I was a sweaty, stuttering, nervous mess. I couldn’t just not call them back though – that was just as bad. So I had to learn to be uncomfortable. Now it’s not so bad. If I have to call a client who I know is upset or disappointed then that is still pretty stressful – I don’t like having uncomfortable conversations. It is also just part of doing business… so whatever your hang ups are you are going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to make this work. AND YOU CAN DO THIS.
Don’t allow your brain to convince you that your market is oversaturated or that there’s already someone doing that, so how could you be successful. That’s crap. There are 7 billion people in the world and they all haven’t different needs, desires, learning styles and personalities. You just need to carve out your own place in that oversaturated market. I mean come on, I am literally competing against HUNDEDS of other baby photographers in my area, and I’m not struggling to make ends meet or find clients. There are lots of babies to go around!
This is literally a job that anyone can do. When I started out there weren’t a ton of people doing it. Baby or family photography yes, but posing newborns in cute little positions while they slept? Not so much. This meant that there weren’t a ton of people to learn from. Now? Anyone can go grab a camera, hire a mentor, take a newborn posing class (If you are going to do this PLEASE take a class, the safety aspect is so huge when you are handling these tiny humans) and boom they have a business. Does this mean that there is lots of competition? Absolutely. Does it mean that there isn’t space for you? NO. So be brave, and get started. Figure out what you want to do and go for it. Stop feeding yourself excuses of why you aren’t getting clients and look at yourself and your business honestly.
This brings us to #2 – BE YOURSELF
I know, you’ve heard it a million times since you were a kid. Just be yourself… but seriously. Do it.
You actually want to attract AND repel people. If you are anything like me and you are a born people pleaser then this is going to be a tough one to get over. I get it. I want everyone to like me. But the thing is that they aren’t going to. There are billions of people in this world and in order for ALL of them to like me I can’t be anything. I’m a huge fan of the environment and feel that it is a top priority to protect it. Some people will love me for that. Others are going to favour building the economy over the environment. In order for me to be liked by absolutely everyone I would have to be completely neutral on every topic, and guess what, not only is that completely impossible and impractical, it STILL WOULDN’T WORK. So you need to decide who you are, put that person out there and then let people decide for themselves if they are your people or not.
Now in my business, politics and polarizing subjects often don’t come up. It’s rare that I come across a client that I just can’t work with or doesn’t want to work with my based on personality or beliefs. The newborn photography world is pretty fluffy and happy and you can easily stick to happy topics. I will say though, that once I started being less “stuff professional” with my clients and showing them more and more of my personality I started getting WAY more repeat business, and way more referrals. Letting them see who you are lets them love you, which creates a very loyal client base who will sing your praises to their family and friends.
I’m not saying don’t be professional. You aren’t going to start dropping balls, missing deadlines, or showing up dressed inappropriately for the event (lucky me, yoga pants and a t-shirt with a Mom bun are totally apropos for photographing babies) but you can stop being stuffy, and use Hey so and so I’m so glad to hear from you instead of starting your emails with “to whom it may concern”.
The biggest thing that will help you stand out from the crowd is being yourself. There is no other you in the world. No one else can offer what you offer when you infuse your own personality into the experience.
While we are on the topic of clients and building relationships let’s move on to #3.
YOU NEED TO WOW THEM. You cannot under deliver. You NEED to under promise and over deliver. Don’t tell them that you will have their pictures ready in a week when it really takes two because you think they won’t book you otherwise. Don’t claim to have a ton of experience posing newborns if that isn’t the case. Don’t tell them how amazing you are with babies if you have very little experience and the only baby you’ve ever played with was your sister’s best friend’s kid once at a picnic. There are better ways to get clients than lying or misleading them and it won’t go well for anyone involved if you do.
Be honest with your clients, set expectations and don’t let them down. Be quick to respond to their emails or calls. I know this can be super difficult in the busy world we live in, especially if you have little one’s at home, but it is important. Typically when someone is looking to hire for a service they contact more than one person. If you are late to the party then chances are you aren’t getting that booking. Now, if you have done an AMAZING job completely and fully serving one of their friends, who then raved about you, then it might buy you a little time, but you still need to stay on it – because that friend who raved about you? Yeah they set the bar high.
Make sure that you are completely outlining what they should expect, if it is relevant send them a guide on how to prepare. I have actually created a little freebie for you on this one – if you go to www.annyamiller.com/e2 you can download the guide that I send to all of my newborn clients to help them prepare. If you are a newborn photographer too then you can totally copy this and switch it up to fit your business (don’t forget to change the wording so it reflects your own process shows YOUR personality). If you have another business it can act as a great guide on setting expectations and how to communicate to them what to expect from the experience, product or service.
Remember, things that seem obvious to you may not be obvious to your clients. I have seen so many photographers ranting on the internet that their client showed up with a well-rested, wide awake baby for their newborn session, not realizing or remembering that we are actually looking for a sleepy, cozy baby to pose at that stage. This is NOT THEIR FAULT. You as the business owner need to make sure that all of the information is provided. Chances are that they have never done this before, so everything that seems super obvious to you will not be obvious to them.
We also need to remember to be patient and grateful to our clients. #4 is to check your EGO. Get rid of it. Be thankful to each and every client who hires you because guess what, this person is helping you feed your family. It is easy to get stuck in the monotony of the less desirable parts of your job and feel like everything you do is a favor to your clients, but it isn’t. They are doing YOU the favour.
Be patient with them. Be kind to them. Remember that they may have had a really bad day, or maybe they are complaining because their expectations weren’t properly set. As humans we have a tendency to want to point fingers or shift the blame to someone else. It is uncomfortable to wear that blame ourselves. But it will get you nowhere doing that when it comes to running a business. They are here for the product or experience. It is your job to properly screen, prepare and then deliver in a way that pleases your client. Can you please everyone? No. Should you be a door mat? No. Can you come pretty close if you have the right procedures in place and you educate the client beforehand? Yep.
We need to remember that while having a set style or reputation is important, the client’s feelings are also valid. This comes up a lot in the photography world in the form of props and differing tastes. Every newborn photographer can probably tell you about a time when a parent brought in something that they wanted to incorporate into their session that the photographer thought was hideous. Some photographer will flat out tell them no, that it doesn’t fit their style. To some degree, that makes sense – attract and repel, right? But can you imagine being the hormonal, over tired Mama who brought in the crocheted bunny ears that her dearly departed Mama made, and then being told that it “doesn’t fit the photographers vision” so it won’t be incorporated? Maybe you wouldn’t have said no if you knew the meaning behind it, but maybe she couldn’t bring herself to tell you. At the end of the day those pictures are going on HER walls, not yours. My take is that you please the client first and foremost. Take the pictures and then if it doesn’t fit your style and vision don’t share them on social media or your website. Every image doesn’t have to please YOU, but it does need to please the client.
Yes, we like to think that they hired us based on our portfolio and vision, and maybe they did but then again maybe you were just the photographer that popped up on google, or the closest to them and they don’t realize that there are massive differences from one photographer to another because quite frankly a good picture is a good picture in their mind and they don’t LIVE in this world.
So check your EGO. It’s not all about you, and yes that sucks to hear, but at the end of the day if you put the focus on pleasing the client you will end up with a more successful business, happier clients and less stress. By the way, if you are worried about having the right images for your portfolio – you are approaching this wrong. It is not the client’s responsibility to worry about padding your portfolio. If you need to, go find models and then you can control the session and the outcome from start to finish.
And finally, we come to #5 which is learn to clone yourself. Now obviously this isn’t ACTUALLY something you can do, however you can do the next best thing which is to give up a bit (or a lot) of the control and let people help you.
There is NO way that I could take on the number of clients that I do, and deliver their images as fast as I do without help. I would literally never be able to eat or sleep. I have wonderful women who do almost all of my editing for me. I have worked with them to make sure that it fits my style, and it genuinely looks like I did the edits – but 99% of the time, it was the work of one of my wonderful retouchers.
For everyone out there who is cringing right now and thinking there is NO WAY I can give up control over my business, it’s my baby! I get you. I see you. I hear you. But guess what? Once I got my head around this little thing, my income doubled. In less than a year.
My clients are happier. They generally have their images within a week or two tops. Lately, they have been seeing their galleries and selecting images within days of the photo shoot. I don’t have to edit everything anymore, so I have WAY more time freed up to convert, cull and create the galleries.
I have heard many photographers argue this, saying that if you turn it around that fast the client won’t see the value, they will think it is quick and easy so they shouldn’t pay good money for it. Maybe… but we also live in an instant gratification world. We have everything at our finger tips in an instant. Order food on your phone and it’s there – you don’t even need to get out of your pajamas. Order from amazon and it’s there the next day (in some places it could be within hours). This is what we have grown accustomed to. This is what we are used to. This is what our CLIENTS are used to, and trust me when you say it will be two weeks to preview the gallery and they get it within 3 days – I don’t think they are going to be mad that it didn’t take you as long to do it, or that you didn’t spend as many hours, I think they are just delighted to see gorgeous images of their perfect little baby.
This goes for any business. Find someone that can do the work. It doesn’t have to be EXACTLY the way you would have done it, or be 100% as good as it would have been if you did it yourself. Even if you can find someone that can do it at 70% that would be AMAZING. At the end of the day it will get done. And that is far better than having a to do list that you can’t get through and not being able to free up your time to focus on the other things in your life and business.
So if you are looking to do a quick clean up in your
business focus on you first…
Get Brave. Be Yourself. Wow Your Clients. Check Your Ego. Clone Yourself.
Start here. Make sure that all of this is properly aligned. Get an honest friend or a life coach to weigh in if you aren’t sure you can honestly evaluate yourself and your business in these areas. But get it done so that when you get the ads rolling, the SEO going and all of that other awesome stuff that will drive traffic your way – you are ready for it.
Next episode I will be going into WHY it is so important to carve time out for yourself, and HOW to do it in the crazy world that we live in. See you then!
Get the Freebie – www.annyamiller.com/e2