After 12 years of running a photography business, Michigan-based photographer, Cindy Kotecki, was losing her love for photography.
She felt like she was working for free and it wasn’t worth it anymore.
Today, Cindy sat down with me to share what she did to fall back in love with her business and how she sold $15,000 of her photos in just four months after becoming a boutique photographer.
Welcome, Cindy Kotecki.
Tell everyone where you are located and about your family.
I am located in Portage, Michigan, right in the middle of Chicago and Detroit.
So we get all that nice lake effect snow.
I have three children, a husband of 21 years who is my high school sweetheart.
My oldest son just recently got married and my youngest daughter is going to be graduating and going to college this fall.
My middle son is an aspiring DJ.
We are a very busy family.
I don’t know what the non-busy age is, really.
What do you like to photograph?
I do a mix of a lot of things.
I do portfolio modeling shoots and I’m in the pageant industry.
My daughter’s a pageant queen, so that has brought me a ton of networking with lots of moms that want head shots and beauty work for their girls.
That also helped me with family portraits.
Seniors have been my specialty, and lots of modeling portfolios.
Tapping into a pageant network is so vast that you can gain so many new clients that way.
They may start off as a modeling client, but they want family portraits, too.
And that relationship can grow and grow for years.
Before going to a boutique business, what has your photography looked like?
Were you giving digitals to all these people?
Being that I do a variety of things, there’s different ways I do different clients, but with my traditional family portraits, I would charge them a session fee and then they would get five digitals.
When it came to the in person sales, I would show them a website gallery, and then they would just pick out their five digitals.
I would try to up-sell, but it never happened.
I would maybe make $300.
So has this been your career?
Were you out there just grinding?
I have been an official photographer since 2009.
Before that I worked in the healthcare field.
I really wanted to become an office practice manager, but my family really needed me more at home.
So I decided to get out of the corporate world, stay home and then proceed with my photography.
I started as a shoot and burn, and then started to dabble into the boutique method myself.
But I had a lot of holes in my boat and I didn’t know how to price myself.
I would serve my clients, but I wasn’t serving myself.
You’re going along, working hard and you’re raising your shoot and burn prices and you’re getting business.
And we always talk about “Julies”.
A “Julie” is that first right fit client that invests at least $1,000.
But then there’s also a “Bobbi”, like a partner that you partner with.
“Bobbi” brings you lots of clients.
And my first “Bobbi” had a kid’s clothing store and I remember thinking that people were buying these beautiful dresses and they needed a photo in it.
Did that same thing occur to you being a pageant mom?
Did you think digital files just don’t serve them?
Well, when it comes to “Bobbi’s” in the pageant world, that is such a competitive market.
Moms can be nasty and they have their specific photographer that they work with.
They will push another photographer out of the way, but I actually gained three Bobbi’s within this system.
And they have been a very good thing for me and I’ve actually gained some new clients from them.
And they have been very good with supporting my business in my model.
I love that.
So you jumped into Boutique Breakthrough.
What made you make that decision?
Did you feel like you were too different or what made you jump in there?
I was starting to lose the love for photography.
I felt like I was just working for free and not getting anywhere and was just starting to feel defeated.
I was just so excited to start something new.
I had so much head trash and didn’t feel valued.
I didn’t feel like I was helping my family at all and it was very depressing.
Especially having left a really good job.
You want to prioritize your family, but also you don’t want to give up that whole income.
And a lot of times I would always have an excuse not to jump in.
There was always an excuse.
So thankfully my husband is on board with me.
We’re a great team and he supported me through it.
I love it.
So are you all boutique now for all of your things other than commercial stuff?
Pageant is a little different, because I do a lot of stage work with that.
All my clients that come into the studio are boutique.
I transitioned from the day Boutique Breakthrough started, and that’s when I started my new pricing.
We jumped in full speed ahead and my first Julie was an $1,800 order.
It was so exciting.
And right there, that sparked everything for me.
Since then, I’ve gotten six Julies.
Oh my gosh.
That is amazing.
And did I hear you just had a $6,000 weekend?
I did have a $6,000 weekend just a couple weeks ago, actually.
My first Julie came back for their daughter’s first birthday.
And that order was $3,100.
And then on top of that I had two other orders.
One was $2,100 and the other one was $700.
It ended up being a $6,000 weekend.
It was amazing.
How happy are you right now?
I could just feel it.
But isn’t it just like a weight off your back to know that you really can do this?
It’s a huge weight off my back.
I know I can afford to pay for my studio and still provide for my family.
I’m serving my clients.
They know what they’re getting.
And it’s a continuous route relationship. It’s just such a nice feeling to not feel defeated anymore.
Since I started Boutique Breakthrough in October, I have made over $15,000 with my boutique clients.
I don’t think I made that in all of my years of being a photographer.
So to have that in just a few months, it’s such an accomplishment for myself.
That is fantastic.
Thank you for coming and sharing your story.
I know so many people are feeling the same way that you felt, but your story can help them believe that they really can do this, too.