The 5 Things that Transformed my Pet Photography Business & My Life

I remember very clearly this one day, about 2 years into my pet photography business. I had arrived super early at the studio – it was still dark outside and Olivia my Great Dane was pouting at me, annoyed that her morning walk had been reduced to a potty stop on the way to my crappy car.

olivia_1

[photo: Olivia’s perch in my old Golf]

The screen of my computer (I had a PC that I hated because I couldn’t afford an Apple) lit up the room with an eerie blue glow. I remember feeling exhausted, depleted and hopeless. Back then there were never enough hours in the day… There were never enough dollars in my bank account!

I felt so ‘done’ with the frantic pace and disappointing financial situation my approach to my pet photography business had created. My average sale was around $400-$600 (if I made one at all) and although I felt busy allllll the time (like 12, 14hr days) – I was also always sick with worry about how I was going to pay all my bills. Something had to give.

 

Fast forward…

About a year later I was skipping around my living room and happy-dancing like a freak because I had just closed my biggest sale ever. I will never forget the amount: $5450… and this was no fluke. After that, my sales averaged $2,000-$3000. My clients were amazing (most of them people I wanted to actually hang out and drink wine with) my photography was better than ever, and best of all, I worked 4-5 days a week (not 7!) and I had started to have a life outside of my business. My whole life changed. I was able to pay off debt, improve my credit, ditch the crap car and buy my beloved Element… No, the there was NO going back!

Sounds like make-believe, right? Well it wasn’t. This was my first six-figure year and it was probably the least hard I’d ever worked [keep in mind, this whole time I was also dedicating time + energy to Dog is Good, a lifestyle brand I had co-founded around the same time I started my photography biz!]

wall_art

[photo: My first big client, his dogs and his wall art]

What Changed?

Here are the crucial things that made this change happen:

  1. I took stock of everything I spent my valuable time on and said goodbye to several ego projects that I loved, but were not moving my business forward.
  2. I moved house. I sacrificed the cool urban location for the suburbs, but what I got in return was peace + quiet, a home-office and since I was no longer a ‘roommate’ – there was way less chaos in my life.
  3. I gave up my studio and rented a small sales space in a fancy shmancy office belonging to a high-end pet lifestyle company – I was able to hang my art/samples up everywhere [bonus for them] cut my monthly expenses in half and massively upgraded the aesthetics of my space. I prefer shooting on-location so this change also suited my work.
  4. I invested in my first ever mentor. It was Alicia Caine via her ‘Easy as Pie’ pricing guide [now retired] and I remember feeling like it was SO expensive (around $200) but I bit the bullet (I may have even had to split it onto two credit cards!) The biggest transformation was not that I learned a whole lot of new stuff (although she had some great strategies in there that I still use to this day!) It was that it gave me permission – basically kicked my butt into making the changes I KNEW I needed to make but had been resisting. Raising my fees, doing in-person sales, setting an expectation for my clients that they should actually have and keep images after their shoot! I borrowed her confidence and moved bravely forward into the terrifying unknown.
  5. I changed my value proposition + my prices. See #4.

I finally implemented the changes in my pricing right before my meeting with that $5450 client. I was scared to DEATH when I sent him the price list (after we’d already done the shoot – I changed it in the middle- he’d not yet seen what products would cost him) and you know what he said (after not responding for a week)…

“I think I will just take a few 5×7’s for now – it’s a crazy time and I’ll look over all this later”

Panic! Dismay!

But you know what? I did not accept that answer. I was pretty sure it was his busy schedule, not my pricing that was limiting him – because previously he had mentioned wanting to get a bunch of artwork for his walls before a party he was having… So I emailed him and I said something like:

“No problem – I am happy to help. Find an hour one evening this week and I will come by, walk you through the proofs, help you make your selections, and if you still want those images for your walls, I’ll get it all measured up for you”

You know what? He did. And I did. And without batting an eyelash he spent $5450 and wrote me a check then and there for the whole amount. I hauled ass and got those framed prints and canvases edited and ordered and then came by to help him hang them the day before his party (which, by the way, was like a week away!)

That experience did three things for me:

  1. It raised my expectation of what was possible. I made a $5k sale – so I knew it COULD happen and I could do it. {for a great description about how & why this works, check out this article on Working with Dog}
  2. It kept me from immediately ditching my terrifying new pricing – I was able to hang in there with the fear – which ultimately led to a steady string of great new clients who were thrilled with their images and spent 4-figures at their sales sessions.
  3. The influx of cash in my business allowed me to re-invest in some proper marketing to keep the clients coming.

The first one in this list is by far the most important… The roof had been blown off what I KNEW to be true and possible, which meant I was no longer limited by my own negative experiences and poverty mindset.

 

I want you to have this ah-ha moment too.

I want you to push yourself into places that are uncomfortable in order to grow. I want you to be willing to make BIG life changes, like moving house or your studio to reduce your costs and improve your lifestyle, or start over with your brand or business to reach a more passionate audience.

I want you to find a way to invest in a mentor, a guide, a program or a course that will help you BLOW THE ROOF off of what you think is possible for your business. Notice I said business… I don’t care about your photography – it’s almost irrelevant (harsh but true) – I want you to invest in your business and your mindset because that is the ONLY WAY to truly change and get from where you are right now, to where you want to be.

Below are some great options for you to consider – this is not an exhaustive list, but these are some resources I am familiar with that I can whole-heartedly recommend:

 

Pet Photography Business Courses:

bootcamp_coverPet Photography Profit Bootcamp [enrolling now]

This is my LIVE online course for pet photographers – the VIP version includes 1:1 consulting with me at a fraction of the price I charge elsewhere. The transformation I have seen pet photographers make over this 8-week course (and after) is the reason I keep it going. If you’re looking for big change, big magic, more clients or more clarity – definitely consider this course (and the private Facebook group that goes with it is ridiculously active and supportive).

ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO JOIN the Spring Session of Bootcamp

 


Pet Photography Business Workshops/ Retreats:

Barkelona [2017]

P4 / Luxe [2017]

Hair of the Dog Retreats [Ongoing]

 

Pet Photography Business Mentors:

Ilona Haus [lifestyle / commercial]

J.Nichole Smith [established pet photographers who need more clients / more profit]

Nicole Begley [just starting out / pet photographers making less than 50k]

Charlotte Reeves [Australia]

Margaret Bryant [studio]

 

Pet Photography Business Guides:

Introvert Pet Photographers Guide by Holly Montgomery [beautiful beasties get $50 off: bbeasties]

Mini-Sessions Guide by Nicole Begley

 

Not Pet Photography but ESSENTIAL:

Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp: One of the most common obstacles I find pet photographers [usually women] have when growing their business is their own limiting beliefs when it comes to money. Hands up if this you! * raises hand * The best, most comprehensive resource I have found for shifting these beliefs is Denise Duffield-Thomas’s Money Bootcamp. Watch some of her stuff and you’ll see why. Relevent. Practical. Actionable. I have read and re-read and worked my way through her book like 4 times! Highly recommend!!

 


 

Think you should be on this list? Email me with some reviews / testimonials from your Pet Photography Business Program and I’ll be happy to consider you for the list!

With an MA in Marketing from one of London’s top business schools and more than 10 years of experience as a pet photographer and director of dane + dane studios, a creative agency for pet brands, Nichole is one most experienced and trusted marketing experts in the pet industry.

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