Sarah Petty: I know a lot of you feel like you’ve tried so many things in your photography business. Maybe you started out doing free sessions to build your portfolio, and then maybe you got the confidence to charge a little bit and things changed. You realize that photography makes you happy, but is it worth it for the little bit that you’re making and the amount of time you’re pouring into it?
I’m excited for you to meet Tabitha Henderson. She’s a Mobile, Alabama photographer who was working two part-time jobs as she tried to build up her photography business. For years, the money wasn’t there until she worked with my team and I to make the change to boutique. Now she’s had four clients pay her $23,000 in total, and she’s been freed from the day job grind.
Tabitha, share a little bit about your backstory.
Tabitha Henderson: I live in Lower Alabama and have been married for three years. We don’t have any kids yet, but we do have two dogs. I knew after high school that this is what I wanted to do because I wanted to be a mom and a wife, and I wanted to have a business that I could fit around having children and making my own hours. I wanted to be home, but still working for myself, so that was always the end goal. I just didn’t know how to achieve that.
Sarah Petty: Where did that dream come from? Were your parents entrepreneurial or were they the opposite?
Tabitha Henderson: It was definitely my mom. She raised us alone for most of our life after my dad passed, and I saw how we went from having her around all the time to her having to work full time to support us. I wanted to be like her, strong and able to still help my family, but also being able to be there for everyone like she was in my younger years. Once I got married, I knew I didn’t want to work all day and miss my husband like I have been for the past two years. We worked opposite schedules and almost never saw each other.
My husband pushed me to pursue photography. It was a little hobby to start with. He encouraged me to quit my second job and start pursuing photography, but I had no clue where to start if I’m being honest. I was just photographing friends for free half the time, trying to build a portfolio.
Sarah Petty: Where were you getting information and getting the ideas?
Tabitha Henderson: There’s all sorts of information out there, but it’s all scattered. I would sit for hours looking up YouTube videos, other podcasts, just trying to duct tape a business together from 30 different people who were all doing different things. It didn’t work at all. I got a couple digital clients, but I was barely charging $50.
Sarah Petty: What was the vision? Was it always thinking it was a digital file model that you had to be in?
Tabitha Henderson: Absolutely. I had never even thought about printing my own work. I always assumed everyone wants digital files, especially in a social media age. Eventually I worked up to charging $150 and I think I made a total of $1,000 for the whole year. I would go months waiting for an inquiry to book a session and that obviously doesn’t work.
Sarah Petty: I see a lot of people staying busy working, telling themselves, “I’m working on my business.” At that time, is that what you were telling yourself?
Tabitha Henderson: Yes. I would spend entire months putting together my website and email automations so that if someone did come, I would know exactly what I wanted to say. But I wasn’t actually getting any clients, but I was busy all the time and still working the part-time job.
Sarah Petty: How can we be so busy and not have any clients and money coming in? I’ve been in that place too. So you came across our training where I’m teaching boutique and I’m showing you this new way. What opened up for you when you first heard that?
Tabitha Henderson: My initial thought was that it’s scary. But I kept listening and it started to make sense. From an art standpoint, it was obvious how much sense it made. And having the opportunity to actually deliver my clients printed artwork and seeing it hung in their home is amazing.
Sarah Petty: What was the resistance coming at you?
Tabitha Henderson: My first thought was that I’m too young. Or I have only been photographing for a couple of years and I’m still learning some of the settings on my camera. There’s no way anybody is going to want printed artwork of someone who’s still learning. And then the money. I didn’t know if I could ask somebody for that much money.
Sarah Petty: So what changed your mind? You went in and did our course called Boutique Breakthrough, and you had to make a significant investment to get into that program. How did you justify that?
Tabitha Henderson: Again, it goes back to my amazing husband. We sat down and talked about it. I knew this program would help me save time because all the information would be in one place. But mainly if I didn’t do something, nothing was going to change. If I kept trying to do what I was doing, I knew that I wasn’t getting results.
Sarah Petty: So you jumped in and you had to change your prices. and then you learned how to talk to people. We teach you that before we teach you marketing, because if you generate leads and you don’t know how to talk to people, what good is it? When you learned that and you learned the seven B’s of the first phone conversation, was that hard for you?
Tabitha Henderson: That was very hard for me. I have a lot of anxiety and I’m normally a people person, but being on the phone when I can’t see the person, that just gives me so much anxiety. But I wanted to trust the process. I knew I had to do this, and again, it made sense in my head. Obviously, you’re going to generate more leads if you’re actually talking to them instead of just emailing back and forth. I got through it and I had a lot of support from classmates in the program and practicing calls with me before I got on with a client, and that was super helpful.
Sarah Petty: I know you’ve gotten clients in different ways. Were some through the network and some through the activities we taught?
Tabitha Henderson: I got a couple through networking. Honestly, networking with my husband’s coworkers, and that was where I got my first Julie, $1k or more client order. I’ve done several marketing tactics that you’ve taught me, and that’s how I’ve gotten the past several.
Sarah Petty: So you got this client and did this first session. And then you had to do the sales presentation. What was your mindset going into that?
Tabitha Henderson: I was terrified if I’m being completely honest, but as the sales appointment kept going, they knew what they wanted and so I showed them what we had talked about before and they loved all of it. They got several pieces and the number kept going up because they loved everything. And they didn’t freak out about the price. When I showed it to them, they decided on a payment plan, so they paid the deposit and we went on our way! I went from charging $150 to having my first Julie that was over 3,000.
Sarah Petty: So here’s a girl who was feeling pretty stoked that she went from $50 to $150 and then realized that there’s a better way. You followed a system and got a multi thousand dollar order. Talk a little more about the conversation when they walked away that you were having in your mind. What were you saying to yourself?
Tabitha Henderson: Honestly, I kept saying, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, did they actually just do that?” And then after thinking about it more, and I’m like, they loved all of it, and I was like, okay, I can do this again. If I’ve done it once, I can do this again.
Sarah Petty: Didn’t you feel worthy and so good as a photographer?
Tabitha Henderson: Yes, absolutely. When I delivered their artwork, they were just gushing over it and how much they loved it.
Sarah Petty: That is amazing. You’ve had several more Julies since then. How have you changed with each Julie?
Tabitha Henderson: Mostly my confidence has just grown with each client. I realize my own value and worth. The best part has been afterwards getting to deliver the artwork to the families and just seeing them so excited about it.
Sarah Petty: That is so beautiful. And contrast that with how you felt putting up an online gallery. You put your heart and soul into it, and then you get no love back is how I look at it. Would you ever go back to doing that again?
Tabitha Henderson: No, absolutely not. Not worth it.
Sarah Petty: I love that. And share the most recent, exciting news about your job.
Tabitha Henderson: Last month, I officially quit my part-time job, and I am now a full-time boutique photographer.
Sarah Petty: You’re living your dream of making your own schedule, being able to do what you want so that one day you can have those kiddos that you want and grow the family and not have to go to a job. How are you feeling about yourself right now?
Tabitha Henderson: I’m so excited and I have so much more time to spend with my family and to do things with my pets. Now I get to decorate a home and just be the housewife that I also wanted to be while still running my own business.
Sarah Petty: Tabitha, I can’t wait to see what amazing things you do next, and I’m cheering for you and wish you the best. Thank you for being here and sharing your story. I know you’ve inspired so many people.