I want to welcome all of my photographer friends back from Go Boutique Live with a special recap show. In case you weren’t at the event, Go Boutique Live was three days of intense, insane inspiration and growth. It’s really hard to boil down 400 slides in three days of breakthroughs into a short podcast, so I asked the 1200 photographers who are there to help. So here we go from my community and me, to you.
I’m a huge believer in personal growth. Inside of me, there’s always been a burning desire to create my own event like many of the business people that I looked up to, and I wanted to bring an affordable experience to boutique photographers in our industry. At Go Boutique Live, I created three days jam packed of content that didn’t have conflicting business models, or speakers giving conflicting advice, or who aren’t making money. After the event, we reached out to the community and compiled the five biggest takeaways that were mentioned over and over as having given people some really big aha moments in their business.
1. Serve Hard and Sell Easy
First, it’s a concept we say in our community a lot: serve hard and sell easy. I hate feeling like a pushy sales person. When I first started my business, I was afraid to serve my clients,because I thought, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to be pushy or salesy.” But then people weren’t ordering anything. They were saying, “Sarah, I love it, but I’ll get back to you.” It got me into this chase mode and that’s when you start to feel really pushy and sales-y. I realized one day when I sat down and I thought, “I’m going to create a system that would serve my best friend in the whole world.” Even if she wasn’t paying me, how could I help her make a decision to get the artwork that she wants? And that’s where I came up with this system that serves hard and sells easy.
The system has five steps. We went through this in detail at the event, but I want to share the basics of these steps with you. The first step is to get really clear with the client on what makes me different, why they should come to my photography business, and how much it can create this beautiful artwork for their home. This is something you explain to clients over the first phone call. I go through the digital file policy, pricing, and literally everything else because there should never be doubts or questions about what we do. You don’t have to hide what you do. You don’t have to be sneaky or tricky. Nobody wants that done to them. So cover that on the first phone call.
Step two is the meeting with the client before the session. That’s where we do the needs analysis. To step three, shooting what we planned to be able to help them. We call it shooting to sell. Because I sat with them and did the needs analysis so that the shooting part is super easy. I don’t have to go to the park and shoot three million images to get what they want. I know exactly what they want because we talked about it. Step four is the in-person sales presentation, when I sit with them in person and I hold their hand and help them select what they want for their walls. This is serving them at such a high level. Then the last appointment is when I help them with framing or any extra things that they wanted, like graduation announcements for their high school senior or holiday cards or things like that.
I know that some of you might be stuck in the shoot and burn model… you feel like you’re way over-serving by giving digital files. And oftentimes, you’re working really hard. You’re doing what you think is going the extra mile. But if you don’t have a system that helps your client make their selection and order artwork for their home, which is why they should be coming to you, it isn’t serving either of you. So if you’re serving hard and the sales aren’t happening easy, something’s broken in your system. So that was a the big “AHA!” for a lot of students: serve hard, sell easy.
2. You Can Do Hard Things
Number two, you can do hard things. We gave everybody a window cling for them to put on their bathroom mirror to remind themselves that they can do hard things. It’s funny how hard things usually aren’t even that hard. They’re often hard to learn, but not that hard to do. We beat ourselves up and we get so much fear built up in head trash that we build them up to
be these big things.
If you think about it, you are already doing some things in your life that are hard. Learning a new skill and going all in on your business might be hard, but you’re already doing some really hard things, living paycheck to paycheck in a scarcity mindset, working multiple jobs that you hate. To me, that is hard. So if I were you, I would recommend grabbing a post-it note right now that you can see every single day, and write on it, “I can do hard things.” Remind your subconscious that you can do hard things and post it where you’ll see it every day. Keep working hard to build your photography business so it can fund the lifestyle that you want.
3. Why Every Photographer Needs a Parachute
This is a deep one, so I hope you’re listening really carefully. Parachutes are good. I think we can all agree that parachutes are good. If you’re jumping out of a plane and you want to have this fun experience, you want to make sure that the parachute’s going to open, correct?
Look, I am big into analogies and metaphors because I think they really help us learn. I taught everyone at Go Boutique Live about the parachutes that we use in my photography business. Because if you don’t make sure you’re addressing all of your client concerns and you just think, “Oh, I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not going to ask any hard questions. I’m not going to make sure that everything’s okay.” And then you go into the presentation, hoping that when your client jumps out of the plane and looks at these beautiful images, it’s smooth sailing all the way down in that that parachute opens. They order their images. They pay you and everybody’s happy.
We want them to land safely and place their order. When you pull that string for this enjoyable process, are they going to be able to decide, or are they going to freak out and start yelling at you or panic or, “I thought I got all the digital files.” Because while you explained it, maybe they weren’t listening or somehow they missed it. That’s on us, that’s not on them. It is our job to make sure that the parachute is packed properly and that it’s going to open and we are serving them at the highest level.
I’ve had that happen. This is why I created my system because many, many, many, many years ago, probably gosh, 17 or 18 years ago, I had it happen. It was not a great feeling. You think everything is going great, and then you start talking about price, and for some reason, in my case, it was a mom who had just had a baby and I met with her six months prior when she was newly pregnant. And she didn’t remember anything we talked about, which I was crystal clear on it, but she was emotional. She had just had a baby and she started crying on me. And it was my fault.
I learned in my system that we don’t meet with clients six months before their session because they won’t remember. And it is a terrible feeling to have someone there not knowing what it is that you’re offering or not being excited to order. They should be excited to order. So what we did is we created little parachutes that we throw out along the way to make sure they’re opening.
Instead of waiting until the very end and assuming, and hoping that the client understood every single part of our process, we’re checking in all along the way. For example, after our clients come for their in-person consultation, we might text them and say, “Hey, today was so fun! Send me a quick photo of your walls where your new artwork will go. I want to present images to you with this artwork in the place, so that you can see how it looks on your walls.” It’s a little check-in just to make sure that they were listening to me because that’s what we do, we create wall portraits. And this is where we see, does the parachute open?
If they send the photo and they say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. I loved meeting with you. This is going to be amazing.” The parachute opened. If their reply is, “Oh, gosh, no, no, no, no. I don’t want anything for my walls. I just want digital files.” Then that’s a case of a smaller parachute not opening. And you need to pick up the phone and you need to talk to the client, because somehow they missed that part of what makes you different is that you are creating beautiful artwork for their home, not Hi-Res digital files. Yes, our clients all get a digital file of everything they purchase for social media, but what we’re in business to do and what my passion is, is to create artwork for people. And so if I’ve missed that or they’ve missed that, I take responsibility on myself. That little parachute didn’t open, I need to call them and talk to them about it.
Now in a perfect world, they should be thrilled when I text them that, because in my system I’ve covered the digital file policy on the first phone call and during the consultation. So either we weren’t clear or they weren’t hearing us or listening in the way that they needed to be listening. Again, our fault. I’m not blaming it on the client or playing the shame and blame game. If they don’t understand the process and all of the details of our business, because our business is very different, that is on us.
4. In Order to Sell Big, You Have to Show Big
This is a core, basic fundamental that I think a lot of people forget: we must show big to sell big. We have to show big to sell big. You can’t communicate the amazing power of a large dynamic piece of artwork to someone by just describing it. It’s something they have to see. This is what makes that serving process not pushy when you’re persuading your clients to do fewer bigger pieces of art. Because when they see the power of a large image, you can educate them that it’s a cool, unexpected way to decorate And you show them how much great of an impact one large image has than what I call “knickknack-patty-whack”.
I know when my kids were babies, I did all the little five by sevens. I had all these little knickknack patty whack frames sitting around in my house. And when my kids became toddlers, all of a sudden these became weapons. And when cleaning became a much bigger deal, I didn’t want to dust around them anymore. You’re not going to get a lot of referrals from five by sevens. The knickknack patty whack does not build your business. So I highly encourage my clients not to do a bunch of that.
The lab I use and I’ve loved for 15 years is White House Custom Color. They were so kind to send us a bunch of samples to show, so we were able to show a large metal, acrylic, and a product series. And I’ll remind everybody, you only need to start with one. That is boutique, so keep it simple. Of course, your quality needs to be excellent, so if you don’t have a lab that thrills you (a pro lab is no, Sam’s Club or Walgreen’s), I would definitely check them out at White House Custom Color, they’re WHCC.com.
5. Turn Your Excuses into Motivation
Make your reason for not going all-in with your business the reason you must do it. If you’re saying, “I’m out of time. I’m so busy. I just don’t have the time to learn how to grow my business.” Isn’t that the reason you need a business so that it gives you money so that you don’t have to work the three jobs that you’re working? Or maybe you have the golden handcuff job. The one that pays you that money, so you’re just latched to it like handcuffs. You can’t leave it.
I had a student who was working another job that she just didn’t think she could get out of. But then COVID happened, and she lost her other job. But, because she had invested 18 months with us learning and growing her business while she was working full time, she never missed a beat. When it happened, she was like, “This is such a blessing.”
Now she is full-time doing what she loves as a photographer. She was one of our 100K Yay award winners at Go Boutique Live. So she got a trophy. She got to be celebrated. And all of that happened during a pandemic. So whatever reason you’re telling yourself that you can’t go all-in on your business, I want you to think about it because that’s the reason that you NEED to go all-in on your business. If you’re broke, if you’re in debt, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck in a scarcity mindset and barely making ends meet or in a downward spiral, your business is what can get you out of that place. I hope that challenges your head trash when you’re telling yourself you can’t do this, or it’s not your time. Yes, it is.
Life After Go Boutique Live
I saw that photographers moved mountains to clear their life for three days so that they could do more, make more and be more. I want you to know, I appreciate you so much, and I’m so proud of the community we have built, based on people lifting as climb. And to wrap up on day three, everyone received a gorgeous intention bracelet. It was a little bracelet that you unscrewed in the middle and inside, there was a little piece of paper where we set intentions.
We wrote it down and keep it in front of us. So here’s an exercise for you. Get out your journal, write the decision you’re making today to keep your business moving forward. And then read that daily, so you can refocus your
year to fully commit to yourself and to boutique. Because the answer to you making more money, putting your family first and being able to have a career that has meaning and impact is all at the hands of your boutique photography business. And remember, whatever reason you’ve told yourself that you can’t go all in on your business is actually the reason you need your business more than ever. Keep going.
Probably one of the most fragile phrases of going boutique is that tender spot where you’re fired up about the possibilities, but you don’t have a ton of income coming in yet because you haven’t gotten your first thousand dollar client. The person we call your Julie.
Going boutique really turns your business upside down in a good way with new systems, for selling, for marketing and for pricing, and it can really be heart pumping and nerve-wracking.
Well, one of the ways I’ve made the transition easier for photographers is my 30 day fast track course, Boutique Breakthrough, where we scrub through your prices, your photography, your brand, and your selling system to make you fully boutique. We only open this course up a few times a year to a small group of photographers because my team and I literally hold your hand through the transition. The new class will be starting soon, so if you’re interested in learning more, go to boutiquebreakthrough.com for a free training to see if Boutique Breakthrough is right for you.