Identify Your Challenges
I started to create a catalog for my workshop, for my workshops, my Creative Life catalog because I figured people are still just learning about me, and people have been following me for three or four years, and the people that are just learning about me, what workshop should I do? And I started to write my experience with every workshop and I feel like every workshop has a very powerful connection to some part of what we do, but for me 28 days was the mecca, because it took me maybe 54 days I think to film 28 days, and there's 93 video downloads, and that's where the fear talk came from. And I found a common thread in all of the questions. All of the questions really came down to how do I get started? How do I harness it? Because everyone seems to be really scattered and all over the place, how do I start by harnessing it? And the third one was how do I market myself and get more bums on seats? And then the fourth one was how do I get over my fear? And value, so I felt like every one ...
of those questions came down to those four core issues, and those four core issues were really significant to everybody. So we're gonna go through that today. The one thing I hear over and over again, is it's too easy cause you're Sue Bryce. Even though I've stood here and cried and showed you my first studio and showed you my challenges, somehow everybody believes that it was just easy cause it was me. So I thought about that, and I thought I'm gonna ask people that are working through the 28 day model in their business to come up and talk about where they're at now, cause they're actually working it and doing it. I chose Amy and Dustin because they're married and a married couple working together is a really big part of the questions that we get. I chose Nikki cause she's start up glamour. I chose Mapoana because she start up solely glamour. So Amy Dustin and Nikki all shoot wedding as well, so we're gonna talk about how they cross glamour and wedding, and I chose Mapoana because she only shoots glamour and her whole business is glamour. Last night Mapoana went to hospital to have her gall bladder removed, she posted it on Facebook and Instagram, so I know it's not a secret, and she cannot join us today which breaks my heart and breaks hers too because she was one of my original students on my very first Creative Life two years ago. So this afternoon when we go out of asking a billion questions that are gonna center around all of those subjects, I'm gonna take you through my diagnostics, and how I really solidified my business plan to get where I am today, and I'm going to show you a slide. This is really where it's at for me. At the end of the day, I can break my entire career into these categories, and I look at these categories, and I break them down. This is what you need to do, you need to break your business and your personal self down to these 10 categories, and start focusing on one at a time, until you have nailed each one. And I'll give you the quick example of where I'm gonna go with this, this is how I rated my business in 2003, okay? This is how I rated every one of these. And I've been asking you to do this for two years. Tell me what your rating is. Because when you ask me to help you, and I say what's your problem, and you go I want more work, then I go to Marketing, and then I go to you balance yourself and self value, and it's really important to me that I ask you about how you manage money, how you attract money, and then it's really really important that I know what you business goals are so you can tell me what it is you exactly want. I asked for questions, and I got a lot of this: I've got this going on, I've got this going on, I've got this going on, I wanna be perfect, when do I launch this, how do I get a makeup artist, how do I pull it all together, how do I stay balanced? How do I manage myself? It's like, is there a question in there? Cause the questions seem to be, just help me. And so what I'm trying to do is compartmentalize your problems, and that's how I did it. I guess I'm also a very A-type personality. My brain works so fast sometimes that it just explodes, and I felt, I smell this burning smell, and I know it's my head, and I have to pull away from my business and run away for a while, because I can't cope, but when I put it into compartments, I can deal with it, and look there's a few zeroes on there. How did I deal with my balance and my family? Zero, I did not, I'm an A-type personality, workaholic, spent my first 10 years of my career single, and wishing I wasn't, not managing myself or my time. The other zero was money management. Zero money management, living week by week. 30 dollars in, 30 dollars out. I had a full maxed out credit card, I would pay the required hundred dollars a month and then go and spend that hundred dollars. It was full, it was full, it was full. 2003 saw me start my business. My Marketing was at a two, I'm not gonna say zero because I had some idea of putting myself out here I just could not do it. My sales were at a two, could not sell my work. The thought of reading my price list in front of someone gave me physical anxiety. Anxiety, like to a point where I just could not say it. My product and my pricing were a 10, why? Because I'd worked in the studio for 10 years so I just borrowed their price list. It was simple, I took a model that had already been working, I put my price list on it, and I said I'm gonna sell my work for this much. Didn't believe it was worth that. There's a big connection there. I give myself a 10 in Photoshop, because you know I rate myself in Photoshop, I spend 20 years working on retouching images, even before Photoshop. My brand and style was at a distinct five. Liked my folio, hated my website. 2003, my business goals I'm gonna go two. I had an idea of where I wanted to go, but no concept of it. As I go through, I rated myself again in 2007. By 2007 we had gotten up to nearly $900,000 in turnover. That was five years, four years. Four years of working through every one of these sections, I was still falling down in balance, zero. Zero, after four and a half years, I was excelling definitely in product, and Photoshop still, my business goals, my sales and my shooting were at a 10. And at a 10 meaning, not by a world standard, but by a client standard, okay? Again we're not competing against each other to be the better photographers, we're competing against the client to produce a product that is sellable, viable, marketable, and easy to produce, alright? But I was still suffering in my service and production, and I was still at an all time zero, and I'm gonna talk more about how I got all the others up to a 10. I rated my business last night. I sat down and I looked at my business now. There's a lot of 10's on there. I definitely, it has taken me 11 years, so when people say how long? How long, how long? Well I've been doing this for 25 in August, so 10 years of working my business model, I feel very very closely that I am almost across the board. I still suffer in two areas, my brand and my style is still sitting at an eight, because I want it to be better. Even now, I want it to be better. I wanna shoot better, I want my website to look better, I want to be better, I want to improve myself. I don't think that will ever change. Everything else is working within my business model. Service and production, I still struggle with this. After 25 years, I still struggle producing work at a good time for my clients. I still drop the ball, I still fail, I still fail at turnarounds, I still have 21 folios to print this week, where I could've done three a week over the last month, but I got so busy, I push it, I push it, I push it, I push it, now there's 23 people that wanna pick up their work, and I have to get it done by Friday. Is this familiar? Still happening to me. Ah but Sue Bryce can afford an assistant that can do all that. No, I must produce this work. I must have control over it. Still an issue, and don't think for one minute that those issues won't impact my business. As soon as I piss one person off, I'm in big trouble. She will not recommend me to another client, she will go and write that on Facebook. Come on, Sue. And this is where I constantly, if I was my boss, stand there and say, not good enough. Not good service. And it makes me go like this, and then I think, I suck, I can't work today, I just have to take the day off and go vintage shopping and go to the movies. (laughing) Sound familiar? Alright, don't give yourself too much of a hard time, cause we're all human. What we need to do is identify where we're strong and identify where we're weak. I will answer any question that comes at me today, personal question, I don't care if they're hard questions, they've just gotta get past Kenna. (laughing) Kenna will take bribes. You can ask me any question you want and I'll answer it honestly, I'm not afraid of bad questions, I'm not afraid of hard hitting questions, bring it on. I still struggle really with those two things, but everything else in terms of running my business is good. So I'm going to, can't bring out Mapoana, I'm gonna come back to this this afternoon. I'm gonna bring up Nikki Clossa who shoots weddings and is start up glamour. I'm going to bring out Amy and Dustin, husband and wife team, they shoot weddings and they are also starting up in glamour. I've known Nikki for nearly two years. I met her on my second ever Creative Life workshop. She's Jill's best friend, and then ended up working with me in Seattle, so I've watched her start her business. I feel like people will go oh it's so easy for Nikki because she worked for Sue. Don't get me wrong, I didn't employ Nikki to mentor her, I employed Nikki to work for me, so she's been working for me, not for herself, getting mentored by me. Everything Nikki's done, she's done herself. That's why she's here today. Also, same with Amy and Dustin. I really respect both of them. I met them three years ago, and they came to one of my workshops, but I met them because they employed me as a photographer, and this is something that I think a lot of start up photographers that wanna be better don't understand. The people that work for me were not chosen by me. They, sorry, they didn't get a free ride. Never has Amy Nikki or Dustin ever asked me for anything for free, and I feel like this is a really significant thing. I do free workshops on Creative Life, and yes you buy them, they're free to watch. I wouldn't give that away if I felt that I shouldn't. I give so much of my time to educate on my blog and on Creative Life, and I love that, but when I'm not here, I'm running a business, and on an average day for me, I get 10 to 100 questions per day, to help, and I cannot help 100 people a day. I cannot, cause I run a business. So one of the hardest things I think is that people think, they send me a whole list of questions I don't answer them, and then they get upset at me that I cannot answer their questions, that's why these Facebook groups exist, so that we can do ongoing work together. The smartest photographers I've met work with people that they wanna work with, but they offer something to me, and if the exchange is that they learn from me, or they see my business model or they work within my business model, that's up to what they're gonna take away from it, okay? So I'm gonna bring them up, cause I want questions to them, because they're not Sue Bryce, they're all starting out, and they're gonna give you a very honest account of where they're struggling, how much money they're making, how much money they're building up to, what they want their averages to be, and I think you'll be quite blown away, so you guys come up here and sit with me. (applause) Yay. Alright, now, we're gonna answer as many questions as we can today. I want you to ask Nikki questions knowing that Nikki is start up glamour. Nikki you opened your little studio in October?
Alright, so that's nearly, and Nikki was working part time for me, and part time building up her folio. Nikki shoots how many weddings a year?
Between 10 and 15.
Okay, and you're keeping it at that, aren't you? You're not gonna go up, you're locked?
No if anything I'm gonna go down.
What's your ideal shoots per week? How many portrait shoots per week?
My goal is 12 per month, so three per week.
That's a lot.
Mmhm, right now I'm at about five per month.
Okay and what is your average sale?
Okay and when did you get, how long did it take you from October to get to 1564?
Three months maybe? Well I've kind of gone up and down in my average depending.
I wanna talk about that. You're gonna go from five to 12 shoots a month. Your current average is 15. Has it been higher than 15?
At one point it was 18, 1820, and then it came back down.
Okay, so basically Nikki is doing what I've taught. She's monitoring her average monthly, and basically that means that every month she adds up how many shoots she did and works out her new average, and currently her average has dropped back to 15 from 18 which means something changed. So whenever people drop their average back I know something has changed. So I instantly wanna know what's changed. And we're gonna confront that, because I know what changed, what changed is that Nikki stopped working part time for me, and then her average dropped. Now why would her average change when she had a part time job, and then go down a little when she went out on her own? And there's a belief in there that she can't do it on her own, cause I've seen all of my photographers do it. All my photographers that have worked full time for me were on averages of $3,000. My two photographers in New Zealand went out on their own, and their averages dropped straightaway to $1,000. Now when they were earning money for me in my studio, their value was higher, and when they went out for themselves, it dropped down, what does that tell you? Alright, so we'll talk about that, cause there's so many questions you can ask Nikki, where she's starting and we're gonna talk about, what's your biggest challenge right now?
Consistently having clients come in.
So it all comes to Marketing.
Marketing, alright. You guys have been in business, how many? Five years this year?
Five years, mmhm.
Five years this year, did you make a profit in the first four years?
Year two we made a profit.
Yeah and you were solely shooting weddings and starting three years ago when I met you you'd introduced boudoir, and it was boudoir because when I met you, glamour wasn't really a thing again, and you had pretty much advertised yourself as starting to do boudoir. How many weddings did you do in the first year?
And what was your average sale in your first year?
And how many weddings did you do in your second year?
And what was your average sale?
Good this is such a logical, such a perfect, I watch this all the time. Third year?
Okay, fourth year?
Okay, fifth year?
This year we have 42 weddings, average sale is sitting at $4638.
So Dustin said to me the other day, he's like, we have applied your business model and we've learned so much from you, and I did not know what my average sale was until I met you, and now I keep a spreadsheet. Until you keep a spreadsheet of what you're earning, you're not in business. It's just basic business practice. How much do you cost, how much do you charge, what is your cost of business? How much does it cost to run it? How much are you making, and what do you now change? Because it's about units. We're not looking at, I did a $4,000 sale this week. We are looking at, I did 18 shoots with an average sale of $4,000, that is a smart business. It takes you away from the good girl, bad girl, good boy, bad boy, I failed, I had a no-sale. About three years ago, I did a big promotion where I gave everybody a $100 free makeover and $100 towards portraits. That meant you could get the smallest photographs on my price list for $89. I booked 36 shoots at this event and I had an average sale of $1500, which was good. Then, I did pay to be there. Then two of the girls came in and gave me their voucher, and they paid $89 and they walked out with a 7x10 each. So I spent an entire day with a makeup artist, on a photoshoot, for $198, which is what I paid my makeup artist. So I could not get past this in myself. I was just like, I failed, they didn't buy anything. They were never going to buy anything but one photograph. And in fact, when I think about the language that they were talking about, they were never going to. So I could look at that as a complete waste, or I could look at the 36 shoots I booked, the fact that they dropped my average down to $1500, it would've been higher if they'd both spent, I can also look at the fact that one of those girls had a super special look, and I ended up using her folio on my marketing, every single week for two years. So did I lose anything that day? No, but how many photographers on a weekly basis are writing I did a no-sale, she didn't buy anything, I didn't get anything, and it seems to me that we're all focused on what we don't, what we didn't get instead of what we did. Alright, then you started to shoot boudoir glamour, and your average is lower.
Okay, how much lower?
Okay, so Nikki's average was around 800, and Nikki's wedding average is around $4,000, so I sat Nikki down and we had a conversation and it went like this, how come you charge $4, for a wedding and $800 for a glamour shoot? What was your answer?
I don't know.
Well you said things like, but I'm new at this.
Because it's a wedding, and people will spend more on a wedding, I had every excuse. I was charging two to 300 when I first started in my family room, I mean I shot in a little corner of my family room, two to $300.
So the really, the only person that was stopping her was her, right?
Okay so I was like how could you possibly have a $4,000 average for a wedding, and a $ average for a portrait shoot? Yeah, like how is that possible?
I think I justify it because we're usually there for a longer time, and deliver more pictures.
Okay and secondly, I'll tell you why. Because at a wedding you both work and you both process, but in your portrait shoots, you do it. You're the creative one, you're the business one.
Yeah, he knows the numbers.
I do the sales.
So that means, you don't believe in your work. And you're a beautiful photographer.
I need to work on that.
Okay so how can a business run, coexist when these two are working together, she hides behind him, and when she's working on her own, her value goes down. Am I making this clear enough? The only person who doesn't value your work is you. I did it for years. Years and years and years and years and years. How can a single person offer two different services and one be significantly lower, until they decide they're worth more? How is that possible? You are doing this, okay? You are doing this. Now there's a million questions coming out. Kenna, you can interrupt whenever you like, you can ask these guys as many questions as you want. You can ask me as many questions as you want. But let's get started in terms of, like, hit me with some big questions, what's the first thing that's kinda coming up?
Alright, well... (group laughing) where to start, Sue Bryce, where to start? Well I think this is a big one for a lot of folks online. HappyBugPhoto and Cindy, how do you build a photography business while you have another full time job and kids?
Don't, you build a folio. You are, really, you are under no ability to start a business while you have a full time job. What you need to do is start to transition. If I was working as an accountant, or if I was serving ice cream during the week because I couldn't make it as a photographer, I would still spend every waking moment that my children weren't awake, or that I could building up my folio. I would shoot for free if I had to, in order to get good enough to make it my job, and I would find a way to transition. And it's gonna be one of the hardest things with kids. Now this is something I get asked all the time on my blog, the question was how do I, I can't even get a babysitter. Don't try so hard to launch a business when you have a small baby, you have their whole life to be a photographer, so what I really am asking you, is why are you trying so hard to make it when you have kids? Come on, kids take five years out. Once they're at school, you get a daytime, maybe three days a week, where you can start to focus, but how would you expect to do that, and why are you busting a gut, and then saying that you're failing at it, saying I just wanna make it, but I have kids, it's like stop, breathe. You have your whole life to be a photographer. Practice your craft, stop. Really, you need to back off on yourself, and stop telling me that you're just not making it work. It's not gonna happen for you right now. Unless you have a partner that's not working, and he's gonna support your children, or she's gonna support your children, vice versa, guys as well, while you can build your career, not gonna happen. What was your question?
My question is a follow up with that and ask, how do you know you're ready? How do you know your folio is full enough to then start?
As soon as you can sell your work, you are ready to start selling your work. When are you ready to go into business? Took me 10 years, 12 years. No it didn't, 1992, 14 years. I wasn't ready. You saw that right? 2003, zero money. Me and money? We were just not friends, yeah. So how was I ever gonna run a business? When are you ready? Only you can answer that. Somebody said to me one day, how dare you empower people, cause then they're just gonna go out and start a business, and they're gonna fail. And I was like, well I did. And I said somebody empowered me, so, you are ready when you can live and breathe this, and it's what you want more than anything in the world. Save money, sell what you have to sell, make sacrifices, if this is really what you want, make sacrifices, but this is not an easy ride. I've never met a business person that says this is such an easy ride, ever in my life. Most business people I know, most entrepreneurs I know? Overworked, unbalanced, and doing their best to stay alive. But you know they have that spark of creativity that they wanna just keep going.
Next question, Mandy A, can you again, let's go back and define glamour versus boudoir?
I don't shoot bums. Boudoir is about details, it's about legs and lingerie, glamour is more fashion based. I don't like the word boudoir, I offend a lot of boudoir photographers when I say it, and I don't really care. I've photographed women for 25 years, I've never had a woman ask me to photograph her bum. I love boudoir as a genre, but it markets to 8% of the female population of the world, whereas I market to 100% of the population of the world, or well, 50% because half of them are women. I feel like there is a distinction, and mostly, my distinction is contemporary portrait. A lot of the questions that came up were, I don't advertise families, but I'm getting a lot of requests for families, to shoot families in my studio, this is something I'm going to challenge Nikki on today, she's not doing any families, she's not shooting them, she's doing mother and daughter. That was one of my biggest revenue streams, is the fact that I'd shoot mothers and daughters and families, add on the boys at the end. I've been teaching that in all of my workshops. 28 days covers that, how to add on families, how to market to the family plus demographic. You don't have to show it on your website, but you can shoot anything you want, and this is the irony. I don't shoot newborns, but people ask me if I will. I don't shoot families, but people ask me if I will. I don't shoot weddings, but people ask me if they will cause they like my glamour work. So I advertise the work I want to get, and I take whatever else I can get, and do you take it, yes you do, it's work.
Alright, I have a question for Nikki. This is from Martine Duquette. Did you build your portfolio with paying or non-paying customers?
At the beginning, it was free. I would shoot friends, neighbors, family, anybody who would let me, in my family room, in a tiny little corner, with my V Flex, and my little light bubble, and then slowly it just started building up, where I just started charging.
How about you guys, Amy?
I think what, we did like three or something?
Two free weddings.
Well for weddings, for glamour yeah we did like three free to begin with, just to have something to show people, and it was all are brides that we brought in for free shoots.
What do you recommend, Sue Bryce?
Yeah, do what you have to do. Do what you have to do to get work up. A lot of the questions that came in yesterday were, how do I not look new at this? Glamour photography's only just relaunched in the last two years, you're gonna look new at this. People are like, what is this? They, it's contemporary portraiture, and I'm loving every minute of it. Do I have to tell you how long I've been a photographer? No, I bank on the fact that I've been a photographer for over half my life, I can because I can say that. But if I didn't say it, you'd still like my folio, right?
Alright we have another scenario, from Pictures of You Photography, and by the way, you guys are here in the front row, feel free to raise your hand, and ask questions either of Sue, or our guests as well. Pictures of You Photography, I just opened a small portrait studio, and I cannot, all caps, get my first client in the door. Shoot and burn photographers are plentiful here, and they, in all caps, do get the business. Horrible results but lots of business. How do you propose, Sue, high end photographers get past this and get clients? And we hear this, this is probably the first thing we hear, over and over and over.
All I heard there was, other people other people other people other people not me. And then you called yourself high end. Well if you're not getting any work, you're not high end. You've told me that you're better than everybody else in the community, but then you told me everybody else is getting more work than you. So you get a big rap on the knuckles, because all I heard was poor me, poor me, poor me, poor me, and I'm getting nothing, which means you're spending most of your time looking at who's getting something and you're not. You must break that cycle, I have been there, it is hard, stop saying it is everybody else, and start taking responsibility for what you're not doing, because I am telling you right now, you are doing that. That is the school of hard knocks, and that is something that we, okay these people are my friends. Dustin also runs a side business doing web design, he's my web architect. So these people I speak to on a regular basis, they know that I'm a hard ass, they know that when it comes to, they do. Dustin said when he met me, he was scared of me.
I'm not scared of anybody, and she, I couldn't talk around her, just intimidating presence all over it.
I do think that's so cute, but anyway, but the truth is when Nikki hits me with a question, Nikki's a really strong Taurus, she's bull headed. If I say to Nikki, no you need to do this, Nikki's first response is no. She'll go no, that's not how it's gonna, no. She'll go no, and then she goes like, no. And then she goes away and comes back in the morning and she goes ugh, you're so right. But I know Nikki's first response to everything is no, no no. Now my go to with friends, my go to with business mentoring, my go to with anybody is, why are you doing that? And if you honestly look back at me and say, okay I've got a question for all of you out there. How do I get bums on seats? I just wanna regularly get bums on seats. I wanna regularly get bums on seats. Show me your marketing plan. Crickets. Show me your marketing plan. Show me your marketing plan. I wanna regularly get bums on seats. Show me your marketing plan. How many Creative Lifes have I done, where I've shown you 20 steps to market your business? You're not doing it. Or this one, I got this one. I'm putting out vouchers, nobody's biting. They say a voucher, by mail, has a 0.1, 0.01 rate on comeback, so you would have to put out 1,000 vouchers to get one shoot. And you've maybe put out 80 vouchers and got one shoot, and you go it's not working, not working. It's not working. That's not true. Okay a portrait studio, a winning studio, you do your ECO, you do the best folio, you advertise on all the good blogs, you try to get on all the good blogs, and all the good wedding magazines. You build up your search engine, because when you're getting married, the first thing you search for is wedding photographer, or you ask your best friend, who shot your wedding, I love their images, and you get a lot of recommendations. Portrait photographers, opposite. We call them. I've worked in a portrait studio since I was 18 year old. We used to phone market for the first 10 years, and yet the weddings were the only calls we were receiving. So we would phone people to come in for a portrait, and then we would accept calls for wedding days. So when people say I'm not getting any work, I go, you do realize something right? You have to market this business weekly. Imagine it's like a big heavy cog, and then you slowly get past that little hill and then it starts going boom, and then you just slowly build it. The second you drop the ball, it slows down again, and you have to start. Big question on my blog, how do I, I started my business, I got eight shoots in 6 months, my highest sale was $4,000, I was doing so good, the money has run out, I was so busy shooting, I've done no marketing, now I can't my pay my bills, I'm shutting the door. Classic mistake, right? Spending all your time being the creative flouncy one that's taking all the photos and doing the Photoshop, not looking at the money, not looking at the marketing, not looking at ongoing sustainable business. Happened to me, first two years. I would make a big ton of money, and then I'd have $80,000 in the bank, and I would go wow, I've made it, and then I would look at my diary, no work for three months. Nothing, nothing, and I'd be like, (gasp) what do I do? You market your business, and unfortunately, the hardest thing that you'll do, is find a balance of shooting, marketing, selling, Photoshop. Shooting, marketing, selling, Photoshop. Rejuvenating yourself, staying active, staying excited, staying creative, cause they're all gonna go out the window as soon as you're overworked. Am I making portrait photography really really really unappealing right now? (laughing) I am. Do you know something, I've got a saying. Do you know what really really thrills me? Is how excited she gets, and how excited they get about shooting. It's like, I can almost be jaded now, after all this time, I'm like, maybe I just don't get as excited as I should. But when I watch them, so Nikki's husband wrote me a Christmas card, and it said my wife now wakes up in the morning and tells me she loves her job. And he goes, you changed my wife. And I was like no no, she changed. But the thing is, is when he wrote that, I started crying, I was like, imagine, she used to count down to holidays, for her job, and now she just skips to work, I was like, and they do that, they don't sit there going, so and so down the road's getting this and getting that. Also good question for Dustin and Amy, they used to share a studio with another photographer, and now they've gone out on their own, but they did what they had to do to get in to a studio. They shared a space, they made it work, so that's good questions.