To help get ready for Photo Week 2015 (starting Friday!) we’ve been highlighting some of our favorite instructors who are part of the event.
We’re been sharing with you, everything from their tips and advice on how to make it in the photography business, how to frame perfect shots within their domains, how to create your unique style, and much more.
Today, I got to chat with Hannah Marie, a first-time CreativeLive instructor and professional photographer with an incredible business she’s built from the ground up.
Hannah is an international wedding photographer from Waterloo, ON. She’s won several awards for her high quality wedding photography, and has had her work featured in Shutter Magazine, the authority on wedding photography around the world.
Here’s our interview with Hannah.
Q. When did you feel like you really made it as a photographer?
Hannah: “In my seventh year of business, I made some changes in my company that allowed me to be more authentic to who I am and really embrace the way I work, rather than making business decisions based on what others were doing.”
“This involved delivering a higher level of service and a significant raise in my prices, so naturally I was a little apprehensive regarding how my long-term clients would feel about the changes. I knew some would choose to find a new photographer and hoped that a few would love the higher end experience.”
“I knew I had made it when a client who has been with me from the beginning exclaimed, ‘it is so wonderful to see how far you’ve come!’ The family’s portrait order came to $3400, when previously they paid less than $200 for 40 digitals. The value I had added was beyond worth it for them and confirmed to me that my real clients are the ones who genuinely love my work, and value me as an artist.”
Q. I love the way you talk about Customer Service being on par with Portrait Quality in terms of raising your prices. Can you tell me how you first implemented this?
Hannah: “Absolutely! You can be an incredible photographer, but if you are lacking in customer service on any level you simply cannot charge the same prices the higher end pros are commanding, even if you’re producing the same level of photography.”
“A lot of creatives, myself included, get pulled into the industry through their art and love of creating. It can take a few years for you to really develop an authentic flow to the business. Until that point, there are often insecurities surrounding the business side that keep prices lower, and it really is true what they say… that you get what you pay for.”
“Around the time when I should have been raising my prices I didn’t feel I could because I found myself in a season of loss, which resulted in a combination of slow response times and longer than expected wait times for the delivery of the final images. In a matter of 11 months, I lost three family members and three friends.”
“I was overwhelmed and grieving while trying to run a business. I had trouble knowing how much of my personal life to share with my clients, so I mainly kept everything private. That was my mistake. Finding myself in a constant state of grief and shock throughout the year with each death, my post-production fell behind quite a bit (this is before the days of outsourcing) and it was an incredibly daunting task to even thing of getting caught up.”
“I now follow a very simple rule: If my personal life is going to interfere my business in any way, I inform my clients immediately and maintain clear communication throughout to ensure they feel well take care of.”
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Hannah: “Start by starting. We have a tendency to set goals and believe we can’t really start to pursue them until everything is perfectly in place. You’ve created a list of things you need to do/obtain before you can really reach your goal, but if you look at what you do have, you’ll see you can take the first steps and start today anyway.”
“If you want to make the jump into providing products for your clients, but you aren’t ready because you don’t have any studio samples and you don’t have a pretty pamphlet that outlines all the pricing or an app to help them see what the artwork will look like on their walls, and you don’t… the list goes on. Just start by starting with what you DO have and make it happen until you can implement it as perfectly as you envision it. In reality, your clients likely don’t know what the process should look like anyway, so just start by starting.”
For more of Hannah’s advice on growing your photography business & charging what you deserve for your services, join us for the free live broadcast of Photo Week 2015 starting tomorrow.