Dan Frievalt – A Photographer Podcast Interview

Listen to this episode

Another awesome podcast from SYNC! Matt interviews Dan Frievalt, of Frievalt Photography. He photographs 40 seniors a year these days to make sure he and his clients are getting to do what they want. Listen in to hear how Dan found his sweet spot in terms of session fees, average order, and number of clients. He sat down and really hashed out who he really wanted to work with, down to what movies they like and what athletic endeavors they’re into. Dan is so excited about how many new people are coming into the industry and that it pushes and challenges him. Matt and Dan talk about changing hair/makeup trends and how hs seniors are experts themselves now from YouTube. Don’t miss what Dan recommends you should and shouldn’t spend 1k on. The best advice Dan ever received is “believe in yourself”. Know your client hired you, for you. Your client believes in you. Dan gives great advice about what to do with your “no’s” so make sure you listen til the very end!

Internet Resource:

Movies/Netflix for creativity

Seniors Unlocked FB page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SeniorsUnlocked/)

Dan does webinars to help people just starting like people did for him

PPA state organizations

Books:

Audible

Blinkist

The Purple Cow – Seth Godin (https://amzn.to/2HXekrI)

Contact Info:

http://www.frievaltphotography.com/home

@danfrievalt

Read Full Transcript

Transcription was done by Temi.com which means it’s an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.

00:01 Hello, this is Dan free vault and you are listening to the podcast from nothing to profit.

00:06 Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kayak. We’re each week they talk to photographers about what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster.

00:23 Hey everybody. So Man Hoagland here, I’m recording another podcast while I’m here at sync and I’m with Dan unfree vault here. And this’ll be a fun podcast cause I was just looking at his website. Dan and I don’t know each other well. I mean we’ve ran in circles and been at sink a couple of times with each other, but I wouldn’t say, you know, we’ve had a lot of beers together. So all this’ll be as informative for me as it is for the audience, which will be really cool. So, um, thanks so much for being, being on here.

00:48 Absolutely. Thanks for having me. We should be cracking beers and we probably should.

00:52 So this, so let me tell you what I do know about you and then you’re going to tell me the real story of what I should know about you. So I know you’re in Wisconsin and I know that you used to be a graphic designer and now you do a lot of senior work and it seems like you kind of blend that graphic design and senior element together.

01:11 Is that say absolutely. Yeah. You hit the nail on the head. I was a graphic designer for 12 years and you know, always did photography but never felt like the visions in my head kind of matched what I could do on film. So then when digital started to get more up and rolling, I already had known Photoshop. It just kind of was a perfect timeframe me to merge the two and take the leap.

01:35 So when you were doing like Photoshop work and to graphic design world, where are you doing stuff on photos or was it more like like layouts for magazines and stuff like that?

01:44 Yeah, that’s a good question. It was, it was completely different. I actually, I called myself a graphic artist, which is like a cool name, right. But really is a, I took a lot of other people’s work and got it ready for printing and it was an offset printing, which is what are cool things like magazines and stuff. Yeah. It where I’m in the Midwest, it was a lot of like a, it’s called flexographic printing, which was like carton design labels for Ketchup and paper plates and things like that. So what was really cool as I knew the tools of Photoshop, but then when I, but I didn’t really work on that many fatigue photographs. Right. So it’s cool to see how Photoshop can be used and like the cm, why k world and then the photography world, it’s two completely different worlds in one software.

02:33 Yeah, it is pretty amazing. And it’s really interesting because you talked to some people and they work, they work in InDesign and different things like that. But it seems like Photoshop is just, it’s so wide spanning that a lot. You can do full design work. I mean, obviously we all do that in our studio as well, but, but then you can actually retouch skin as well. You know, it’s pretty amazing stuff

02:50 and video now. I

02:52 yeah, exactly. It’s all in there. That’s pretty amazing. Um, so yeah. So anything else we need to know? I mean w how’s Wisconsin? It’s

03:00 cold. It’s um, yeah, I talked to him, my wife on the phone this morning. I’m like, well it’s raining but it’s not snowing and I’m in a tee shirt and things are green, so all is good. Awesome. That’s awesome. So I have one question for you about your website and um, and then we’ll jump into some of these questions about like what’s working now in the industry and stuff like that. But on your website, when you click on your session page, let me just click on it real quick and see what it says. It says only accepting 40 seniors to provide the most creative and unique senior session for you. So do you want to talk about that? So, I mean 40 seniors, you know, I mean I was wondering first of all how you did it because your, your work is so amazing. So it’s obviously time intensive and then it’s, I think it’s interesting you to say like, Hey, there’s, I can do 40 so it builds that scarcity and stuff like that.

03:44 And talk a little bit about that. Yeah, absolutely. Part of its scarcity and the other part of it is for many years I photographed everything like we all do when we start off, until we kind of get burnt out or find what are our key focus is and what we really enjoy. And you know, I was photographing hundreds of seniors and it became a production line and that’s kind of why I got out of the graphic design because I was basically, I wasn’t doing creative anymore. It was kind of a production. Like every day I had deadlines, three deadlines a day and this has to get to the printer and this has to be done and this has to be done. And then when I got into photography, as I got busy, it started to be the same feel and I got burnt out. It was just doing so I decided like, okay, I need to change something, so I need to raise my prices.

04:32 I need to add scarcity and like only get the people who really want to invest in it. Yeah. I mean cause I was looking at your session, one of your sessions is $450 and it has a $300 add on. You know, so you’re just session fee wise, you’re looking at $750 so like obviously nobody, not everyone’s just going to jump in and get amazing artwork by you. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I, you know, took me years to kind of figure that out too because uh, I used to have a lower session fee. Like let’s get them in because once they see everything, you know, hopefully you’ll be rewarded on the backend what higher sales and in theory that kind of works. But it’s also a business based off of hope as well. It is. Yeah. And that works great for the, for the beginning. But once I became more established, I realized that okay, I needed to start doing minimum orders.

05:20 What? The minute I put minimum orders up, I found my sessions, people weren’t booking me for for whatever reason, that large minimum. And it wasn’t large. It was like $800 minimum. Yeah. And my average at the time was like 1500 so to me it all, it was the same math but they looked at it around at $200 session fee and a $800 minimum and it scared them off. So instead what I found is actually what I did is it started slowly rising. My raising my session fee throughout the year. So you know, June when I want to fill my schedule in a session fee was lower. And then as my schedule started to fill, I started to just naturally raise it cause I’m like I’m getting too many seniors. I can’t keep up. And, and then people just kept booking and it kept booking. So all of a sudden I round up my only have four 50 was my sweet spot. You know, so it wasn’t like one day I just said I’m going to do four or 50 it was like I played with that number and tell people, you know, kind of what I tell people is like, you know, if every person calls in books with you, that’s not necessarily a good yeah.

06:23 Right. Because I know, yeah, yeah. You may want to look at that a little bit. Yeah, it’s a good thing. But you will be very tired at the end of the year.

06:29 Right. So I like, well I’ll just keep raising it until like every third call says no and you know, and, and as long as I’m making enough and booking enough and then that’s my sweets.

06:39 And that’s really good insight because I think a lot of people like, I mean I’m certain we’ll talk to you here at sink and you’ll say, yeah, I just charged $450 for a session and I have a $300 out on. So, and they’ll be like, wow. And they won’t understand that like that that’s market driven. You know, like you figured that out. Like you did less, you did more. He tweaked it until it was like, oh, that for 50 I book is about as many seniors I want and it’s the right type of senior that I want. You know, and that’s the, so they, they, they shouldn’t just w the advice would be that they shouldn’t just go home and charge it for 50, for the session. They should start working. There’s up until they find their sweet spot too.

07:13 Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of people, you know, they feel self conscious like, oh, it’s in print or this is what I have to do. And um, but it’s like, no, you can kind of ebb and flow like maybe a comparison as a restaurant, like when things are in demand or like lobster is market price. So it’s like, okay, certain times a year this is the session fee because it’s, you know, I’m not as busy. I can do a lower session fee or um, you know, as I get more busy, this is prime time. The session fee is going to be more and don’t be so caught up in like, okay, I set my session fee for the year. I have to stick with it because if anyone calls, it’s just like, well that, you know, they had a deal in that month. You know, it’s not like I feel like I’m ripping anyone off by adjusting.

07:58 That makes complete sense. I mean I, it makes me think about the whole idea where like when we book airline tickets, like we’re always like, you know, our days are flexible and then we like sat there and we scan and we were like, okay, we’re going to leave on this day and come back to this day because it saves us a hundred bucks or whatever. So there would be people, you know, that would say, oh, okay, well I want to get my pictures done by you. And they were like, well let’s do it in June. It because it doesn’t matter if we do it in June, July or August, but let’s do in June because it’s a little bit cheaper and we’ll save 100 bucks. You know what I mean? And like, then they get to choose whether they want to save money, but then there’s, you know, it’s just a different mentality. Like they’re saving money but they’re not cheaping out on your services. You know what I mean? Yeah, absolutely. They’re making a choice. So that’s really awesome. Okay, so let’s jump into the questions that we normally do for the podcast. So the first one is just a general question, like what’s working now for you in your business? It can be around your photography or your brand, your business, but what’s working now that you would want to tell our audience about that you think is awesome?

08:56 I just think being unique is like standing out. We’re trying to do something that’s different because like if, if there’s more photographers in the market, you hear that a lot. Like, oh, everyone’s a photographer, everyone’s a photographer. And that may be the case. And sometimes I feel that too, but I feel like, well there’s only one of me and there’s only, I, I’m trying to do things unique and different so that I stand out and like the, again, the, those 40 people who value that and see that, I think that’s why my averages are high as well because there’s somewhat prequalified by this session for your style and my style. Yeah. Instead of, you know, if I’m, if I’m doing the same thing as everyone else, well then I’m just going to go to the cheapest person race to the bottom and it’s becomes a commodity. Yeah. It comes to come out of. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that’s, that’s what’s worked for me always. And I’ve just keep pushing that further and further.

09:48 So do you see like I typically see like, I don’t know, I want to call it composite stuff cause I wouldn’t even say it’s positive. Like you guys should just look at his work online so you can see what I’m talking about. But do you feel like you attract like sports and athletes more? Cause that’s the type of work I see in the industry. That reminds me of a little bit yours or are you attracting all kinds of seniors as well? Cause I look at your website and they’re not all just like hockey players, you know, so like who all is coming to you for your style?

10:16 Yeah, that’s a great question. And um, well one year I sat down in the, in the middle of cold, cold winter month, what I was feeling depressed and started making lists and really like identifying who do I want as my client. Who would that ideal client be? That 40. Yeah. Yeah. And I wrote notes and I just, I guess that things like what movies they would watch, what music they would listen to, like, uh, where they would shop. And because I had already been doing photography at that point, like five, six years, I had a pretty good idea. Um, cause I knew which things I didn’t like to do. Right. Yeah, that was clear. That one pretty easy. If you make this list, there’ll be easy. But yeah. Um, and then the ones like, oh, these sessions were fun and this is what I enjoy doing.

11:02 And so I realize, okay, seniors is really what I, what I enjoy doing. And not only senior, it’s like I realized I didn’t want like the, the, the beautiful drama queen. It could be drama queen and you know, whatever. It’s like I want an athletic female who likes to maybe get clammed up shows and get glammed up that often, but she’s more like a tomboy athlete that can also transition into a cool look. And, and the same thing with guys. I want someone, you know, that one that is, has a hobby or a sport because they are into the session and they’re not just like, okay, mom said I want, you got to get senior pictures done. So I think identifying that really clear. For me it was an athletic, sporty type person.

11:49 Right. And in the end, so interesting because in the marketing world, you know, you hear all the time, got to like really niche down and do something unique and all this stuff and you hear it all the time. And I don’t see a lot of people doing it. And I just feel like you’re really succeeding at those principles that just like we’re marketing, we’ll take care of itself. You know, you just keep putting out the work that you love to do and working with the people that you, that you want to work with and it just builds the next person, you know? So like, you know, when I look at your work, I can’t imagine that you’re probably like running tons of paid ads and stuff like that. And a sense because it just seems like it’s self fulfilling itself. You know, you’re attracting the right person and they love it.

12:23 Yeah. Because they were friends would tell their friends and, and, and, and they’re within the same value or have the same value of towards photography, you know, it’s not just like, oh, they have a lot of money, so come here. No, because as you know, money doesn’t equate, you know, I have people pull up in a, you know, a rusty truck and, and they’re, you know, paying just as much as someone who pulls up in a fancy vehicle. Yeah, exactly.

12:49 About how, how they value it. Um, we talk a lot on this podcast about how our industry, you know, just like you start in photography and you market to your friends and then you run out of friends and family to photograph and then, uh, you, you’re like, well, I guess I just have to go over after rich people. And it’s just so interesting because I don’t think that’s the answer. You know, you just don’t need to chase. I mean, chase affluent people, like that’s not the only answer. Like you can just find people that value work and speak to them and they’ll, they’ll, you know, they’ll reward your art for sure if they value it. So. Absolutely. Okay, cool. So let’s talk about the industry real quick. So the question is, what is one thing that has you fired up about in the, has you fired up about the industry? It could be something that you’re excited about, something that you hold true about the industry. Just when I, when, when we talk about the industry, what do you think about?

13:35 Well. Yeah, and I, that was a tough question and I thought when I, when I read it and I think the what, what really then pop to mind is, and some people might think this isn’t cool, but I love how the technology and the, you know, of course I’m into the composites and the effects and stuff. So I, I enjoy that. But even without that, I think there’s so many people coming into the industry, which some people look at as a bad thing, but I think it’s good for competition and it pushes me more and it pushes me to create unique things. And that’s really like taken off. Like every parent that comes in, the, one of the first things they say is like, this isn’t like my senior picture. You know? And we were like, yeah, right. And I even say, I’m like, yeah, like it’s crazy.

14:22 I agree with you. What we’re doing is crazy. But that’s what gets me fired up. That’s what’s cool is all the cool things. I mean people are doing destination shoots, you know, so it’s not just about composites or affects, you know, it’s, it’s the high end experience. It’s, it’s hair and makeup. It’s like all those cool things that we’re doing for a 17 year old who with today’s Internet and social media and bullying and, and presence. Like hopefully, you know, we’re making a difference in how they feel about their self image and doing all these cool things.

14:58 Yeah. And I just think there’s a lot of people in industry that are no longer just leaning somebody against a aspen tree and clicking a vertical picture. You know what I mean? And there’s still an audience for that and there’s still, people probably do it making great money, but it doesn’t seem like the people pushing the envelope, you know, of the industry have, have done that in awhile. You know, definitely looking for new creative ways like, you know, with Photoshop or destinations to to do something different, which is, which is cool because I mean this industry could still look like it did in the 80s you know, just with different fashion. But it doesn’t, it looks completely different, you know, which is pretty cool. One of the things that I thought about in terms of, you’re talking about like the industry changing and people pushing you, but I, what I think is really interesting about the senior market too is like the makeup trends right now, like in the last couple of years, and I guess it’s just the youtube world that we live in now, but like a lot of these girls show up like almost like professional makeup artists themselves.

15:54 They do so many tutorials, you know, throughout the end of middle school and high school now that they show up and they know more about makeup than our kids did like five, six years ago for sure. Don’t you feel like that’s true too?

16:05 It’s funny you bring that up because right before I came here I was like analyzing my sessions and stuff too. And I, I noticed that last year because I have, I started including hair and makeup in my sessions maybe six years ago and people loved it and now people are like, well I can just do it on my own. We were seeing the exact same thing. Keep telling you a story. And then I’m like, I think maybe I should take it out and put it back as an add on because yeah, some of these girls show up. And like you said, I’m like, oh, it’s youtube, you know? Uh, Duh, like they’re doing an amazing job with their hair and makeup. I’m like, Oh man, maybe I should just let him, let him do it.

16:44 Right. Well, I just think about it. I mean, I’m sure they’ve watched over a hundred hours of videos about just how to like style their brows, you know? And so they know how to do it and they know their face shape, they know all that stuff, you know, like, okay, my brown needs to look like this because my face is the shape. And it’s just amazing. You know, they’re experts in it. And um, a couple of years ago they didn’t, they weren’t, and so they wanted to go to a makeup artist and have that experience. And now I just think it like, it’s just feels a little different. Some of them are girls were like, I didn’t necessarily like the way my makeup turned out, even though it looks great, but they’re like, just not, that’s what I do because I put all this time into my look and it’s, it looks like this. And then the makeup artists didn’t necessarily know that. You know what I mean? So it was an amazing service for a couple of years in the last year or so, we’ve been like, we didn’t need to keep offering this. Like is this relevant to our audience anymore? And I don’t know if it is.

17:32 Yeah, I mean, and like I said, just before yeah. Leaving, I’m like, Gosh, I think I might experiment with that off. Yeah.

17:39 And so what we were talking about doing last night is, so the way we do it was we, they pay us for hair and makeup and then we just pass that on to the salon or the makeup artists. And we’re just like, we should just approach the makeup artists and just like get like do a coupon deal, right? Like, and just give it to everybody and say like, Hey, if you want hair and makeup done for your session, here’s $40 off or whatever. And so like, we’re still funneling people to them, but it’s a total, like just a perk, a bonus in it. And then it doesn’t come out of our, there’s no money we’re involved in. It’s like, yeah, we’re just going to give you the coupon and you’re going to go get the best deal. You know? I don’t know. That’s where we’re kind of thinking last night. I don’t know if that’s the answer, but,

18:17 and that’s a pretty, that’s a good idea.

18:18 Versus us trading dollars with the heroin slides, you know, are, we were just like a pass the reform for a long time. So. Okay. So let’s, let’s jump on to the lightening round. So these are kind of designed to be quick questions, but we, you know, we’re going pretty quick, so feel free to dive into these as far as you want. So the first question is, what was holding you back from being from becoming a full time photographer when you first started?

18:41 Really, I kinda dove right in once I like made the decision, I had a full time job and I’m like, you know what, I’m just going to do it. I feel right. Like, um, um, I’m going for it. And so I didn’t really hold back a whole lot. I’m kind of a risk taker that way. Um, and so I’m just like, I’m doing this. And my thought was they, if worst came to worst, came to worst, I could always go back to my job. Maybe that was like, be a little egotistical, but they’re getting there. I was then when the time came to tell him I was leaving, I’m like, Oh man, what am I doing? And I’m like, ah, um, okay, I’m, I’m giving my notice. And they were like, well, we’re so happy for you. Like you’re going to rock and all this stuff. I’m like, okay, good. Then they would take me back. Right. So that gave me some confidence. But yeah, I’m pretty determined. Like when I, when I go, I, I go all out. So yeah.

19:36 So there wasn’t a lot holding, right. What’s the school like? Yeah. I think some people take on risks better than others. Like I’m a risk taker. My wife Allison is not a risk taker. You know, like we are a good balance for each other and you know what, to be honest, she’s normally right. But, but definitely I’m, I’m the risk taker in the relationship for sure.

19:52 Well yeah. Well what are similar because I wasn’t married at the time and now I’m married and my wife Stephanie, she’s, she keeps me under wraps. I’m like this idea, this idea. And so she like, yeah, she balances me out. I’m not, I’m still the risk taker, but she kind of reels me back in. I did a lot of things.

20:08 It’s like you can’t take three jumps in through in a week. Like just one a week would be fine. Yeah. Okay. So if you had $1,000 right now, if I gave you 1000 bucks and you had to spend either here at sinker, wherever, but in the, in the industry, where do you think you would spend that thousand dollar?

20:25 Well, I’m, I’m kind of in a waste am spending it here. I am teaching a jump start a class, but like last year I wasn’t teaching. I came to me education is so important, especially when I’m doing it, you know, I’m now in my 13th year so I’ve had pretty much all the equipment and things like that. So to me the one thing that is constantly and changing, especially with the senior market that I’m in a seniors are trending are trendy. Maybe that’s not the right word, but you have to stay on top of the trend.

20:56 Do you feel like they, every year feels like a totally different oh look, business sometime.

21:01 Absolutely. And that’s why I tell my wife too, I’m like, I like the beginning of the year is like the scariest time for me because I, I’ve this chalkboard in my studio where it says, welcome to your senior session. I write their name on and then they sign their name below and it’s kind of a metaphor, no metaphor or whatever. But it’s like this time of year I wiped the slate clean and it’s like, yeah, this is what I’m doing it. Like every year I’m like brand new clients. You know, and, and so I have to stay on top of things and otherwise the chalkboard doesn’t fill up the chalkboards empty and the bank account’s empty. So yeah, I think education is key and staying on top of the trends and picking up nuggets of information and implementing those in your businesses.

21:41 Yeah. And so, so let me bounce this idea off you real quick cause it’s about trends. So, so we do destination sessions and we travel, you know, typically like three, four hours from our studio for these destination shoots. And they work out really well. So we did them. I’ll see if you’re counting the kids that just sign or signing up right now. So two classes ago it went, it went pretty good. And then last year it wasn’t as popular. And then this year it’s extremely popular again. And so here’s my philosophy about it and tell me if you think I’m crazy or not. So I’ll see if I can do the math. So we’re booking 2020 kids. So 2019 was not into 2018 was so twin. I sometimes I think 2019 was not into into the destination stuff cause they watched 2018 do it and they wanted something totally different. So it’s almost like not only do I want to like reinvent, you know what we’re doing every year that’s kind of resonate with them. But I also think I have to do like almost like a every other year rotation of stuff too. Because you know, the following classes has always followed that class and they don’t want to do the same thing. You know, they’re like, oh we’ve, we’ve seen what 2018 always, always has done and we’re not going to do it the same way. I Dunno. But like do you think that there’s something there?

22:53 I yeah, I think so. And sometimes, yeah, you’ll get that word. It seems like seniors are coming in and I’m like, I want something completely different. But then they ended up bringing the same outfits in and do anything. Everything’s kind of the same. And we as creative sync, like we always have to outdo ourselves, but it doesn’t also have to re we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But that’s, that’s an interesting point.

23:14 And I think you said it well, like I don’t know if it’s an actual thing or if it’s just me like being creative and board and trying to like reinvent everything for no particular reason. You know? I don’t know. I, I, I’m just working on it right now in my head because I don’t know, it seems like it’s a thing, but I don’t have a lot of data to go off of, you know, so.

23:31 Right. And you talked a lot of people, I talked to a lot of people in 2019 seemed like a weird year for a lot of people, so, and I’m like maybe it was just a weird kind of class year. Yeah, no, absolutely. Part of it too. Yeah. You

23:46 never know. Okay. Sorry. Back to the lightening round. So now I gave you that same thousand dollars and you have to spend it, but what would you not spend it on?

23:53 Just not, I wouldn’t spend it on equipment. And I say that like, don’t think like having more equipment is going to make you a better photographer. Right. I 100% agree. Yeah. So I mean if you need equipment by all means like get some things, you know, a lot of people, I jumped on the Sony bandwagon a couple of years ago. It was an expensive transition, but I did it, um, because I really liked that I focus, you know, and I, you know, my images weren’t coming in focus with what I was doing and other people were having the same problems and I already had a Sony Camera I use for vacation, a small one. So I focus on there. I didn’t even realize it. I was on night, started digging into menus. I’m like, oh, and I had a girl come over, I’m like a dance. I’m like jumped in the air.

24:38 And I was like, click, click, click, click. And I was like, oh my God, there’s all in focus. And I photograph a lot of dancers that are jumping and stuff. So for me I’m like, okay, I’m making the transition. But you know, I also started over it in the photography industry with with nothing. And so I had a bunch of equipment and then I started over with a camera and a reflector and I’m like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? And that, right. And I realize that the equipment didn’t make me yes. You know, and I missed some things, but I also realize that it made me a better photographer because I focused in on things and then it became a challenge, a fun challenge. Like how long can I go without buy in lights? And My, I got better with seeing natural light and using that and I had done natural light and then I transitioned off camera flash and I went back to natural light because it was kind of a necessity. And now I have a bunch of equipment again and I’m like, I don’t even use half

25:29 this stuff. Yeah, yeah. So yeah. So I think the advice is like, just be careful. Like make sure you’re buying it because you actually need it. Not because you’re just like trying to buy one new thing. Because you know, in our industry, the camera companies and equipment companies are always marketing to us. You know, and they are always finding the best photos to put in front of you and you’re like, I want to do that. You know? And then you’re like, well, that’s only $800. I’ll just purchase that thing. And then you’re like, okay, I never use this. You know? So,

25:55 yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it kind of goes back to like the education, like, well, I think you’re better off investing in education if you can, you know, then equipment, the hard part is when you invest in education, you see these speakers and then like, oh, I want that now. And I wanted that now. You know? So it’s like, oh yeah, you know, then you end up buying equipment dealer.

26:16 Yeah, exactly. So yeah, it’s, it’s hard to know where the balance is, but you know, I do see some people that get into the photography industry and spend eight $9,000 on equipment and they don’t even begin to know how to use it because they haven’t even like dialed their style or anything like that. So I think you just gotta be careful. Yeah. Oh, what is the best advice that you’ve ever received?

26:34 Yeah, I think the best advice is just believe in yourself. I think as creative people, I talked to a lot of people and we have a lot of self doubt and it’s like, oh good enough. Or compare yourself to other people and, and what it comes down to is people book me or they book you because of who you are. They’re not seeing who these other people are, you know, they’re not comparing you to that. So um, you know, you might be self conscious. Like when I shoot, like I analyze everything and I, I used to actually even say it in front of them like, oh we, we’re viewing images and I’m like, oh I should’ve did your or moved your hand different or this hair is flying. I’m ripping the images a part in front of them. Well they’re not going to buy it now. Would never have seen it. Yeah. Like what are you doing? Shut up. I’m like, Oh yeah, you’re right.

27:21 You know, it’s one of those situations where like you show people the pit like pictures and they pick the one that you would probably be, the first one you would eliminate is the one that they actually buy. Right. And it’s just because you see different things than they see and they’re like, I love this picture. And you’re like, yeah, that’s the first one. And that one barely made the cut.

27:39 Yeah. So just Kinda, you know, believe in yourself and know that they hired you for, for you. And I think that’s the best idea. I need to get knocked down. And you feel, you know, like uh, you know, down on yourself, but they’re just like know that they’re there, they’re paying you and they love you.

27:56 Yeah. That’s really, that’s really, really good. That’s really good advice. What’s one personal habit that you think contributes to your success?

28:04 Oh, well yeah. And habits can be good or bad. So this can be both cause and like Kinda mentioned earlier how like my, I’m always like creative ideas and things are rolling around my head and, and sometimes I get lost in that, that noise. And get pulled into many different directions, but it also is what makes me, me. It makes me that creative thing that comes out of nowhere just because there’s so many things going on, you know, and you throw enough stuff against the wall and I think something’s going to stick. And, and, and that’s what I do. I’m not afraid, like I said, either to experiment with things and try things and, and just like, hey, this is, this is what I’m going to do. You know, like, I’m just going to photograph seniors. Like it was so hard. Like I get a phone call for a wedding and I’m like, I know I’m passing up thousands of dollars.

28:53 So then what? But what, instead of just hanging up and feeling sorry for myself, or like, oh, maybe I should have done that. What it did is it drove me to be like, okay, I just lost say $3,000 by not booking that wedding. So what do I need to do? How many hours is that wedding? Would that have taken me? Well, if I took even a quarter of that time and focused, put it right in my calendar, like I’m going to mark it and I’m going to do these things, uh, that I would normally be doing it. Weddings, I have that time now. So don’t just squander it. Like I’m going to do marketing. So I get, you know, x amount of seniors and to make that up.

29:28 That makes sense. Yeah. That’s like, that’s a great driver because yeah, you could turn it down and go feel sorry for yourself and you know, go drink a beer instead of [inaudible]. You could like say, okay, I made that choice. Now I have eight hours free, I’m going to go kick butt with that eight hours, you know? Right.

29:43 And what I found too is when I started over is that I had less clients in the beginning, so I spoil the heck out of them because I’m like, this is all I have. Right. I mean, I spent so much time with them and I pampered dome and you know, like the, and they loved it for me. And then I’m like, oh well there’s, they’re rewarding me with large portrait sales because of that. So I’m like, oh, it’s not a bad thing to be, you know, instead of chasing every dollar and I’m not, you know, fulfilling. Or a lot of times I’ll book seniors because, you know, I always ask them, how’d you hear about me or this and that. And they’re like, well, I called two other photographers. You’re the only one that called me.

30:18 We built our business on that. Yeah, totally built our business.

30:21 And everyone’s like, I’m, I’m so busy or I’m editing until four in the morning. I’m like, well, maybe key in on raising your prices and finding that balance and getting back to people and you’ll be rewarded for.

30:33 Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. We built our business. We had one of the very first rules we put in our business, cause you get into a market and you’re like, all right, how do we differentiate ourselves? And of course we’re trying to do with our photography and stuff. But one of the very first things we did was like, okay, we, we answered the phone and we call everybody back within 24 hours. And like that was not a normal in our market. And we booked so many people the first couple of years because we were, that’s all we did. Yeah. It’s called people back and it was amazing. So

30:59 yeah, that’s, that’s true. And I, you know, like that could be your unique thing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, like I said, it really like a composite or digital. Like you’re a unique thing that makes you stand out as, hey, you call people back,

31:12 you know, give them a nice little gift or you know, yeah, that’s amazing. In this world, like how those little things that should just be standard or actually like really nice touch points now, you know, it’s amazing. What’s an internet resource that you would recommend to our audience that you use for creativity or that you find yourself using all the time?

31:31 Well for creativity. I watch a lot of movies and a lot of Netflix. I always wanted to be a, like a movie maker. Like when I was a little kid, my creativity was like, I was like grabbing my mom’s makeup and like doing horror makeup and, and the old, I’m dating myself, the old VCR, we didn’t have the Beta, but the old show on the shoulder. Yeah. We were like filming things and I had blood and my mom would freak out because she’d come around a corner and I’m the youngest of seven, um, you know, and mostly boys. And so she’s like, oh, what did, what happened now? Like she was kind of used to it, but kind of like, oh boy. You know? And uh, so yeah, I get a lot of inspiration from movies and things like that. Um, as far as you know, industry stuff, there’s so many resources out there.

32:22 I know I run like the seniors are locked Facebook page. I try and do webinars and stuff too, to give back and help those out that are starting just like people had helped me out in the beginning. Like, there’s so many people who saw in me and I’m just going to state Oregon state organizations and, and PPA. I just, I, I feel like one on one stuff like in sync here is invaluable as well as your state organizations, which are sadly, it hurts so bad that see that they are dwindling, dwindling because I think there’s such a great resource. It was such a great resource for me. Yeah. So, yeah, all of that.

33:05 Yeah. Well that makes sense. Um, do you have a book that you would recommend to our audience?

33:10 I do. And as far as far as marketing and stuff, I’m, I’m, uh, I’m terrible at reading, but I love audible. And so if you’re bad at reading like me, cause my mind, I, I’ll start reading and then I’ll get off like a v I’ll envision something. An idea. Yeah. I was like, oh, I have to come back. So audible is good. And, and there’s a new APP that my wife just found that I love. It’s called Blinkus.

33:35 Yeah. Blinkist. Yep. I know he’s okay. Yeah, I did it like two years ago. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I’m like, Oh my God, I love that. So it’s like shorten, it’s like cliff notes to books. Yeah. And like I want to say they’re less than 20 minutes long or something like that. And it just summarizes the book. So it’s interesting because some of the, the idea behind it was like, we’re going to give you the summary of the book and then you, they encourage you to buy the full book if you like the summary. But there was a lot of the books I listened to and I’m like, I don’t need to buy this. Like that was, that was good enough, you know? Right. Cause we want you to really think about reading a book. You’re like, what did I come away with? I came away with like these couple key points. One or two big ideas. Yeah.

34:08 Yeah. And I even purposely, um, listened to a few books that I had read all the way through to see like, oh yeah, that’s pretty much, those are the points. So I kind of knew they were doing a good job, I guess, in my mind, but right. Yeah. Before, like to me it’s an easy read. Uh, is the purple cow, you know, a lot of people. Yeah. A lot of people have mentioned that and, and it’s true because he talks about a lot of things that I’ve talked about today. It’s just how to be unique and how to stand out. And uh, even here, like when I spoke here a couple of years ago, I talked about that. And um, you know, when you drive into this resort area, the speed limit sign say 23

34:48 miles and hour 19 miles and I fluctuate and there are these weird numbers, numbers

34:53 and then it’s like maybe cause we’re creatives, but I think everyone, I think it, it probably, I don’t know what the stats are, but it probably increases the odds of you noticing that because it’s just that one or two off.

35:04 Yeah. And it does. And if you notice it, but it also makes it feel like a cool place. Like someone took the time to be a little silly with that. And not only does it make me slow down, which is probably safety number one, but also then looking, I’m like, this place is kind of cool.

35:19 It’s kind of hip and cool. Yeah. Yeah. And I, that’s a good point because a lot of people, he’s, so you walk into my studio and I have all these 30 by 40 canvases when you walk in, I’m trying to make a statement and everything, you know, and, but sadly, the way my places laid out the door to the bathroom was kind of in the same area. So I’m like, wow, I can’t just have a normal bathroom sign. So I have, uh, like as everyone comments on it, like, like the, the girl is like crossing her legs, you know, and you know, the boy is doing, you know, so it’s like all, they’re like China and everyone comments on it. Um, I know we don’t have a visual here cause the podcasts, but um, yeah, you can envision it and it’s just fun. It’s just fun and it’s kind of sets a tone and uh, yeah, I don’t know if that’s a good or bad.

36:00 I think it’s good because it just says like, Hey, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Like, you know, like this is going to be fun. This is going to be lighthearted. We’re going to put a silly sign up. You know, you’re not coming into this place because they count, people show up and they’re so nervous cause I don’t know what to expect. Right. So they just start like, okay, is this going to be awful? Experience is going to be amazing. And they walk in, they see a bathroom sign, they’re like, okay, it can’t be that bad because I purchased that sign and actually hung it up. You know, it can’t be that bad guy is going to be okay. So, um, awesome. Well I appreciate that. I mean that’s the end of line around. So just to wrap up real quick, before you give some parting advice, just how can people connect with you?

36:36 You said that you have your Facebook page, the senior unlock Facebook page, which has like a zillion people in it. Yeah. It’s really gotten crazy large. Um, I, yeah, so the seniors unlocked Facebook page is, we’re like, photographers can go for information and we try and keep it like themes each week and inspirational and educational that way. Um, you know, my personal photography is just under my name, which is a free ball photography. All my social media as far as my personal stuff, like Instagram, Twitter, snapchat is just my name. Dan Free Vault. If you follow their you’ll, you’ll see wood, what I’m up to you. Yeah, that was awesome. You guys got to check out his work for sure. So just just to wrap up partying, partying, guidance for the audience that’s listening. Like what, what would you, what would you just, how would you summarize what we’re talking about or what would you tell them?

37:25 Yeah, I mean enjoy, enjoy the journey. Like keep pushing for education. Never, never think like, like you know it all or you know, like push, push yourself. You’ll see me in classes, like other people have come up to me like, oh, I can’t believe you’re sitting in classes. I’m like, I don’t know. It all, you know, and that same and saying that same thing, like people are like, oh my God, they’re coming up to me. I’m like, well I’m no, no, this is special. I know. Right. I got a few things figured out that I shared with you, but I don’t have it all figured out. Right. And it’s like I failed and I, I, you know, stumbled and I, uh, you know, I didn’t know it all. I still don’t know at all. So don’t, you know, it’s like, and it takes time. I mean, I’m doing it for a long time, so don’t get frustrated if you’re not there right away.

38:08 I know it’s easy to come to something like this, be inspired, but maybe also feel like, oh, I have so much to learn. Yeah, well all those people on stage and every, you know, they didn’t get there overnight. You know, it took a long time and you know, plug away at it and, and you haven’t said that to like you, you might get super excited, like come to something like a educational event and be like, oh, okay, I want to learn off camera flash, I want to learn composites, I want to um, change my pricing and do in person sales. And it’s like, okay, tackle one thing at a time. Once you get that down pretty good, then add something else, then add something else. Like that’s what I do is like every year it’s like, you know, starting way back when I’m like, okay, I’m going to learn a natural life. When I first started it, I’m going to get better at it, then I’m going to learn off camera flash. Okay. That was like two years later. Then I got pretty good at that. I’m like, okay, I need to start making more money here. I need to dive more into business and in sales. And then, you know, it’s like, yeah. And then before, you know, you look back and like, oh I don’t have to take as many notes. But yeah, exactly.

39:09 One this year we’re working on sales. Like I feel like our sales average has slipped a little bit and it’s not quite what we needed to be. And so we said the sheer, I mean it’s the middle of February, end of February, and we haven’t done a great job but like our focus is about sales and like, you know, other people would be like, well you know, you guys do in person sales and do all this stuff. And it’s like, no, there’s still room for improvement there, you know, every year. So

39:31 yeah, cause that changes to like the, the benefit of, of me going and speaking a lot of places as I get a feel for the industry and some of the struggles that people are going through. And it’s like, okay, like wallet sales are down for a lot of people. So I’m like, okay. And the good thing about being in a Midwest is it kind of takes a little bit longer. So it’s like all the other areas are kind of ahead of us. I’m like, okay, I can eat, prepare for this, you know? So I made changes and prepared for that. And same thing with digital files and, and that’s a thing too that I was thinking that kind of head had the industry I think has kind of done a cool dramatic trip shift is people use went for awhile, they’re asking for digital files and now they’re not because they realize that it’s a pain in the butt to take things in.

40:15 And an interesting, I see it too. Yeah. So it’s like, you know, we want you to do it, you know? And so I changed what I do. I do offer digital files now it’s a high price point, but I also give them a discount if they print through me. They were like, yeah, we just want the files, but we don’t want to print them. Yeah, we don’t. And that’s a lot of work. Yeah. And so a lot of people get caught in this, this realm of, oh, they want files and they just want to, they just want to get files and not pay for him and, and print their own. I’m like, wow, they just want them because if they think they need them, but don’t discount the fact that you’re still a full service studio when you’re going to supply that to them. Yeah.

40:50 Because the truth is if, if they didn’t want full service, they would find somebody else a lot cheaper and they would just go,

40:55 yeah. And that’s another one. Those things it’s like, then don’t be upset if they don’t book you use, be happy because you didn’t, you didn’t spend a bunch of time with them to find that out later and it hurts. But then it comes back to that like, okay, I need to get the person in my studio that does appreciate it and that gives me time to focus on them.

41:11 Yeah. Like you said, just need your 40 it doesn’t, you don’t need all the forties

41:15 yeah, yeah, exactly. So there’s, there’s some sane and sales like I’m hoping to get like 300 knows this year or something. Yeah, exactly. I’m not sure how the saying goes, but

41:24 yeah, when I’ve seen this, so before we wrap up, but I’ve seen this, like some of my friends that are like writing books and stuff, they’re going, there’s a, there’s a something that must be a business out there, whatever that is. Like they just count their failure or their rejections, what they do. And so like they’ll present their book or whatever and they’re like, I got rejection number 37 and they celebrate these rejections because they know every time that you’re rejected they’re closer to getting the yes. And it’s like, well that’s exactly how it should work. But that’s so like, you know, our society in our school system does not train you for them at all. That’s a very conscious choice. But it’s fun to watch them. And I, there’s one girl that I follow online and I think she’s like up to like 77 rejection letters or something like that.

42:04 And she’s still celebrating. It’s been like two years and she’s got this book. And like you do, like you start rooting for and you’re like, you’re actually probably really close because I bet like 81 or 82 is probably the yes. You know what I mean? And some people never even get through the third rejection, let alone where she’s in the 70s, you know, so it’s pretty cool. It’s almost like you’re disappointed. Like, Oh man, my third one, I got what I wanted it to sound. Exactly. So the rejections longer. Right. Right. Well, awesome. Well thanks for joining us everybody. Check out Dan free ball online and I’m, and I’m excited to be here this week with you at sync and obviously it’s just now kicking off, so we’ll uh, we’ll definitely catch up and have a beer and stuff for sure. So, but thanks for, thanks for coming over and being on the podcast. Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. All right guys, well that’s all we have for here. So, uh, we’ll see you guys next week.

42:52 Thank you for listening to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kaia. Be sure to subscribe for more business strategy and ideas to help you create a profitable and successful business you’ve always wanted. See you on the next episode of from nothing to profit.

 

About the author, Matt

Photographer Durango Colorado

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