Oh friend, if you have a dream to go full-time with your passion, this episode is for you. I am chatting with my one of my students, Kate Buckles, who is a multiple six-figure photography studio owner. And just recently was able to basically retire her husband from his corporate career to start working for her. This is a long episode, but it is a great one. Let’s get into it.
Hey y’all, I’m Tavia Redburn. Thank you for joining me for this episode of From Better Half to Boss. It is a good one. I cannot wait to get into this episode.
But first I want to make sure that you know about our upcoming training, The Baby and Birth Photographers Marketing System: How to Hit 10K Months with Your Photography Business is coming up soon on September 20th, 2021, our first training.
Head over to getbirthphotographyclients.com to sign up for FREE. We’re doing all kinds of giveaways and contests and fun stuff. In addition to the training bonus trainings. So if this episode inspires, you make sure to head over to getbirthphotographyclients.com to join us for that free training.
This episode is a good one and it is a long one. So grab a notepad and let’s get into it.
Tavia: Okay, Kate, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I am super excited to chat with you today. Can you please just give us an introduction of who you are, what you do, all that good stuff.
Kate: Sure, absolutely. Yeah. So I’m Kate buckles. I am a photographer. I specialize in kind of anything family. So newborn, family, children, I do birth as well. I’m a doula as well. Yeah. Anything family, like you name it? I do weddings for people who have begged me and that are good friends and that’s it.
Tavia: That’s awesome. And where are you located?
Kate: I’m in Albuquerque New Mexico.
Tavia: Awesome. So you’re just like a hop, skip and a jump away from me in Oklahoma City.
Kate: Yeah. I don’t think we’re maybe like six to 10 hours apart. Yeah, not too far.
Tavia: That’s awesome. So let’s go back to starting out in photography. How did you start out in photography and what was that journey like?
Kate: The long of the short story is that I’ve always loved photography. I have like pictures of me and my cousins, we were 10 years old, putting up pretend photo backgrounds in our bedrooms and taking pictures on a little, you know, I don’t even know what camera. In high school, I did an internship with a really well-known photographer in our area and almost went to school and got a Fine Arts-Photography degree. And I actually didn’t, which I’m super thankful that I didn’t do that actually.
Tavia: Wait, you’re super thankful you didn’t do that? I’m just clarifying what you just said!
Kate: I know! Bizarre, right? So I ended up with a Business Undergrad and Master’s, and I think that those have served me so much better.
There’s so much to know about photography and learn, but so much of it is an art and so much of it I learned by shooting a lot, I learned by watching great YouTube classes, and signing up for trainings. But the business side, I feel like that’s a huge side that most photographers are missing, because they know how to be creative, how to take good pictures and they have no idea to charge what they’re worth.
They have no idea how to do their books, pay their taxes, all that not fun stuff. So that’s really funny to say that, but I’m really glad I didn’t get that because I think I was better prepared to own my own business.
I actually had a whole corporate career. I was in HR and Leadership Development. I worked at a university. I worked for a huge 120,000 company across the world. I did Leadership Development for them and then I had babies and my whole world changed! My husband and I had really said that we wanted our kids to be a priority. We didn’t want to do the daycare thing. It was really important to us that we could be there and raise them ourselves. And at the time I was like just actually my mom’s assistant, who is in real estate.
So I stayed home, and did that for a while from home and eventually had a second baby and that wasn’t feasible anymore. So I kind of became a stay at home mom. I don’t want to say by default, but kind of just like all of a sudden, I was a stay at home mom.
And to be honest, I really struggled. I went from having a really purposeful career where, to be honest, I got a lot of accolades. I got a lot of recognition. I was really young to be in the position I was in. I wrote a 300-page Leadership Manual that as far as I know is still being used globally in this company. And then I was a stay at home mom, and that was a hard transition for me.
So at the same time, this whole time, I love photography. I’ve always loved photography. I’ve had a good DSLR camera for, you know, forever. And now I have kids, so I’m taking a lot of pictures of them, which I feel like that’s where a lot of photographers start. I love taking pictures with my kids. And so here I go.
Tavia: So what year are we at right now?
Kate: So this was like end of 2015. So not that many years ago. Because I think I’ve like been officially a business for six years now. So I honestly, if I’m really honest, this business was a mistake–not a mistake. It was like a, “Whoa, that happened!”
I had a friend who was giving birth. After my own birth, I had just like this passion for birth and didn’t know what, how that fit in with my life. I kept on thinking like, “Man, if I had do overs, I’d go back and be a midwife.” But it was like, this doesn’t fit in this time and space in my life. Like what, what is this passion? What am I supposed to do with this?
So I had an acquaintance friend who was having a baby at the same birth center that I had my babies and we just were chatting one day. We weren’t even that close. And I was like, you know, “Who’s going to be there with you?” She’s going to have her baby in maybe a couple months. She’s like, “Oh, it’s just me–my husband and I. I really want a birth photographer, but honestly we just can’t afford them right now, but that’s something I’d really…” And I was like, “Well, I’m not good. But I’d be honored to be there. I’ll take pictures, I’ve been doing it kind of amateurly for the last 10, 15 years anyways.”
So it was at her birth and I took her birth photos. And it was like the heavens opened and I was like, “Oh, this is my purpose.” And it was literally, so I think her birth was in October 2015, I think. And by February I was like, “I’m going to do this.” I’m going to actually start my own business. And you know, I started a Facebook page and a website and all that good stuff.
I focused mainly on birth that first year. I think I did like 10 births that first year, which was crazy. I’m not really sure how I did 10 births in the first year. And then I kind of slowly made a transition to, I do far less births at the moment just because I have little kids. And do just the family, the babies has become kind of the passion, so there’s the long answer to where I’ve been and where…yeah.
Tavia: It’s so awesome. I love that story! So you kind of stumbled into photography by mistake. And then it was like, “Oh wow. I actually really liked this and I’m good at it. And people are hiring me for it.” So you shot 10 births…that’s really interesting because I know that you’re always like, “Oh, I’m not really specializing in birth anymore,” but you did start out, it sounds like, really specializing in birth and then were able to expand your niche, which is like something I love talking about because I think that people think if I specialize in something, whether it’s birth or newborn or wedding or whatever, that they have to only shoot that forever. And that’s just not the case.
I think that by niching down and specializing in something, it helps you stand out when you’re new. And then as you learn like, “Oh, I like this, I like that. I want to expand. I want to grow,” you have the room to do that because you’ve established yourself in the community. And so it sounds like that’s exactly what you did.
Kate: Totally. Yeah, yeah. And kind of like in an unintentional way.
Tavia: Yeah, no, that’s great. It was totally unintentional for me too. Like whenever I was like, “Oh, I just love births. I just want to shoot like all the births.” And then it was like, oh, that actually really worked out in my favor to, you know, be known for that and to specialize in that. Um, that’s so cool.
FROM $100 TO $10,000
Tavia: Okay. So once you started to really get things going, you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to make this a thing. I want to actually start making money with photography for real.” Did you have any goals for your business? Were you like, “Oh, maybe someday I can make this much money or do this or that…”?
Kate: Yeah, it’s funny. I was like, of course, just thinking about that this morning and the first goal I can remember having, and this is just blows my mind now to think about it. But my goal was to make a hundred dollars extra a month. So that could be our fun money as a family. Because my husband’s salary covered everything and that’s a hundred dollars a month. And I remember setting that goal and I had a conversation with a friend, who was kind of starting a business at the same time in a totally different industry, but we were kind of on this road together a little bit. And I remember telling her, being so scared to tell her that my goal was to make a hundred dollars extra a month. And I remember, I think the first year in business I think I made like $10,000-15,000 and being like, “Oh gosh.” Just little old me with three kids, two kids at the time, I’m like, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!”
Tavia: That’s 10x your goal!
Kate: Yeah! And that just started opening doors for our family because you know, honestly, my income for years and years, it’s just the fund money. And the money that we use to send our kids to a private school and things like that, that it allowed us to do things that otherwise would have felt impossible and really hard to do.
Tavia: Yeah. Let’s fast forward a little bit to where you are today and then kind of backtrack a little bit. So we know that you’ve specialized in birth, your goal was a hundred dollars a month, you like 10x-ed to that goal with no problem whatsoever…so what year was that like 2016?
Kate: Yeah, probably 2016, 2017, because I think it was right at the end of that, that I joined your, your thing. And I think, I wish I should have looked at the actual dates. I think that maybe I joined you guys in, like, I want to say 2018. Yeah. It was really odd. That sounds right. I think it was probably maybe late 2018. So that’s when you were like, okay, I’m going to be serious about this and I’m going to like actually try to make this like, try to make real money with it. Yeah. And then, okay.
Tavia: So let’s, let’s fast forward to today and then kind of backtrack a little bit. So where are you in your business today?
Kate: So I have grown more than I can even fathom. I still pinch myself most days. Most years, I’m doing between 500 and 600 sessions. So in a typical month, I’m like between 45 and 50 sessions a month. Most of those end up being full sessions. Some – like fall time, I do some minis. In the spring, I do some minis. So there are so many thrown in there, but for the most part it’s full, real sessions, not just minis. And I’m at like, I think I’ll probably be about $200,000 a year, this year.
Tavia: I know, right? It’s crazy to even say those numbers! For somebody who like wanted to make a hundred dollars a month, you know what I mean? To getting to where you are now. That’s so cool! And your husband is a stay at home dad now?
Kate: Yeah, he works with me full time. We work together. Yeah. Very much. He always has, if I can be honest, he has worked and been my biggest champion and support from day one. He believed in me more than I believed in me back in the day of a hundred dollars a month. But he’s like, I joke that I’m like, “If anything about my website looks good, that’s my husband.” My husband is amazing. He’s taken classes on SEO, he’s on all this stuff. His joke right now is, “My goal is that the only thing you do is edit and shoot sessions. That’s it. I do everything else.”
So I do a lot more than just that, but he does a lot of the behind the scenes.
Tavia: And how long has he been doing that?
Kate: Yeah, he’s been doing all of that basically since day one. I would say we’re very much a strong team in this whole crazy business. But officially, like home with me, it’s been like a month and a half now. Or a month and a week. Not very long.
Tavia: Yeah. Who’s counting? So how does it feel? What is life like now that you’ve achieved this?
Kate: Gosh, you know, it’s interesting. I was just listening to a podcast by LA Kasasa yesterday and she had this quote and I am going to slaughter it a little bit. But she said something like, “Money doesn’t change. You’re basically you’re the same person you were before. It just amplifies who you were before.” And I thought, it can be a really negative thing and it can be a really positive thing. And so I think that in a lot of ways, it has allowed us freedom. It has allowed us so much.
I mean, with the amount of debt we’ve been able to pay off, the amount of financial freedom has been amazing. Even like bought a new house last year that would never have been possible. But I think, honestly, the biggest part for us has nothing to do with like a dollar number and has more to do with that.
And so I think that in a lot of ways, it has allowed us freedom. But I think, honestly, the biggest part for us has nothing to do with like a dollar number. We get to live the intentional life that we wanted to. That we get to be home, you know, like even today I’m like, “Okay, babe, I have an interview,” and he’s upstairs doing school with the kids. And for me to know that my kids get just as much influence from dad as they do from mom, I couldn’t love that more.
We get to live the intentional life that we wanted to. That we get to send our kids to a school that we believe in wholehearted that we know is just as much about what they’re teaching them is what they’re not teaching them. That we get to be home, you know, like even today I’m like, “Okay, babe, I have an interview,” and he’s upstairs doing school with the kids. And for me to know that my kids get just as much influence from dad as they do from mom, I couldn’t love that more. I’m so thankful. It’s such a God thing that we get to parent together and it’s not just mom. And sometimes, honestly, crazy mom because I’m running a full-time business and a mom. But that I feel like we have more bandwidth for things. And we have more, like we were in Phoenix this last weekend visiting my sister and we’re going to the cabin for 6 days this next weekend – things that we could never have done before that we get to do and make memories with our kids.
And to me, at the end of the day — I love my business. I love taking pictures. I adore my clients. But at the end of the day, my kids and my family are number one. And all of this is to support that and that’s part of why to me the business side is so, so, so important because if I don’t have my ducks in a row, if I’m working for too little or I’m not working smart or things like that, I’m wasting time. And honestly, if I’m just wasting time, I would rather move into a thousand square foot house and spend more time with my kids. Because they’re, you know, they’re only little ones and I want my number one investments through them.
So to me, this whole thing, this is just like the beautiful support that allows us to live the life we want to live.
Tavia: We talk about the money and the bookings and all of that, but really what that leads to is the life that we want to create for ourselves. So whatever that looks like for us individually, you know what I mean? Whether that’s more family time or whether that’s retiring yourself from a job you don’t like or a spouse from a job that they don’t like, or, you know, just whatever your family goals are, that’s what those bookings and money bring.
We talk about the money and the bookings and all of that, but really what that leads to is the life that we want to create for ourselves. So whatever that looks like for us individually–whether that’s more family time or whether that’s retiring yourself from a job you don’t like or a spouse from a job that they don’t like, or, you know, just whatever your family goals are, that’s what those bookings and money bring.
And so when we talk about things like “Hitting 10K Months” and “fully booked” to all of that, it’s not just so that you can like say that you’re fully booked or say that you have 10K months. It’s like, what does that actually mean for you and your family? And like the life that you want to create?
Kate: Oh my gosh, Yes. I couldn’t agree more.
Tavia: I’m glad that you pointed that out because I’m such like a robot sometimes. Like my, not my Enneagram, but my Myers-Briggs is INTJ, which they literally say is like the robot. So my mind naturally goes to like facts and statistics and like, “What do we need to know? What do we need to do?” versus the feelings, you know what I mean? And really sitting back and going like, “This is why we’re doing all of this and this is why we’re working so hard towards these things.”
Kate: Yeah. Yeah. And I think at the end of the day is that — because not every client is happy. Not every day is easy. Not every day. There are days when I’m like stressed out of my mind and I’m like, I have 1,000,020 things to do, but that’s what keeps me going. For me, if you look at my Myers-Briggs, money motivation is actually pretty low for me. I’m pretty much like as low as you can get. But if we’re talking quality time and we’re talking family and we’re talking values, those are like way up here.
And so when the days when I’m like, “That’s a really frustrating email,” I look at my kids and go, “But this is why I’m doing it.” This is why I look at my house and go, “Wow, God, thanks!” That’s my motivation, you know? But most days I do really love it, which is like, isn’t that like a dream to love your job, make good money? Honestly, I have to pinch myself.
FOCUSING ON THE 1% TO OVERCOME THE IMPOSSIBLE
Tavia: Yeah, that’s incredible! So did you ever think that this wouldn’t be your reality? Like, did you ever have this dream of like, “Maybe someday I can do this, but it feels impossible. I can’t actually do that. People don’t really do that.” Because everybody thinks photography is such a hobby, kind of side hustle thing. There’s so many businesses that operate that way. And so whenever somebody comes in and says like, “No, you can really make real money doing this.” You can make a full-time income, you know, it’s hard for people to believe. So did you ever think like it wasn’t really possible?
Kate: Yeah, I do. I think that probably around the time that I joined the Marketing Course, I was kind of going, “Okay, things are going well. I’m getting traction.” But like, no. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that, honestly, my husband would be able to leave his job that we’d be able to do this.
Tavia: So what changed from like, “I don’t think I can actually do this” to “We’re going to do this.”
Kate: Yeah. So there was a few key things that I can look back on. So back when I joined the course, I think it was like, cause my husband was laid off, I think it was like March of 2018 because it was like early in that year. I know it wasn’t the spring for sure. I remember like we were kind of flirting with this idea of like, “Wow, I could maybe gain some traction and like really start making some real money.” I was pregnant at the time and I’m not the going pregnant girl. I have really hard pregnancies. And I remember like having this like, okay, “I know how to do business. I have degrees in it. I literally have a Master’s in Business.” We know this is possible. I know people can do it.
And I remember like, maybe this still happens. I don’t feel like I see it as much, but like just being bombarded with like do this free training, do this free training, do this. And it’s always like the, you know, the hour and then sign up for the course kind of thing. Um, and I actually have no idea how I got connected with you. I don’t know if it was a Facebook ad or I’m not sure. Um, but I found your course. And I remember like at the time thinking, I think that birth photography, cause I was doing it all at that point, thinking birth photography is where like that the point like was my highest dollar amount.
So like that’s where I can like really make a lot of money and really do that. So, I signed up for your course and like a few of the coaching calls. And I remember, and I don’t remember if it was early on, but you had talked about Atomic Habits. And I actually just read it again, re-read it this year.
But that the idea of Atomic Habits is you improve 1% every day. It’s just one, it’s nothing huge. I’m not like making a 10-page long list and trying to accomplish that in a week. I’m just doing a little tweak here and a little tweak there.
And she has an analogy in that book of, I think it was the British race team that they had just like totally stunk, the cycling team, sorry, they totally stunk for like years and years and years and years. And they were actually so bad that the really famous bike company in the UK wouldn’t work with them because they were so embarrassed of how bad they did in races that they didn’t want their name associated with their own team. So they fired everyone and the new coaching staff, their focus was, “We’re not making big changes. We’re just going to make a 1% improvement here and we’re going to make a 1% improvement there and a 1% improvement there.” And they went on within like a matter of like, I think like a year or two to win like all the big things, all the big things. And it wasn’t that they did something huge. They made like a little tweak on their bike here and then a little uniform adjustment here and a little eating thing here.
And I remember thinking, “I can do that.” Like I can make a little, I can make a little tweak here. I can make a little tweak there. And honestly, for years that’s just been my philosophy — just a little tweak here, a little tweak there. A little tweak here, like “I’m just gonna make that intro letter that my client gets just a little bit better.” And this is so silly here I’m in a few years in, my recent thing was I have lots of great reviews. I have the most amazing clients in the world. But I was like, I need a way to get better reviews. And so just like probably a month and a half ago — and it’s so dumb and so stupid, I should have done it like five years ago. But little tweak here, a little tweak there. I finally just put in my workflow for clients to send them an email that just says, “Hey, I know you’re super busy, but if you have any time, here’s the links. Would you just write me your review?” And so I send that like a couple of days after they’ve received their photos.
And like, I probably just, the last four weeks gotten like 15 more reviews and I’m like, “Wow.” Really, really, it took me five minutes to set that little workflow up. But I finally was there mentally where I could do it because sometimes there’s so many things that you just have to get there and like, that’s what I’ve had to stop like stressing myself about all the things I need to get done, but just a little bit everyday, just a little bit everyday.
So I feel like that’s like been probably one of the most game-changing things for me is just a little bit here, a little bit there. And whether that’s like workflow, business, or whether that’s like actually shooting, like how do I get better? How do I get better? And I feel like the pros, they’re never done learning, we’re never done learning.
I can always get better at photography and like the actual art of taking a picture. And I never want to be in a place where I’m complacent. Like, “Yeah, I know it all. I’ve learned it. We’re good.” But I think I always learn so much. And so my goal is even in that just a little bit, what do I, and I mean, literally, I started finally using like an ExpoDisc in the last two months and it’s like totally changing things for me again. And I’m like, “Wish I should have done that five years ago!” But hey, I’m doing it now!
Tavia: Yeah. And it can be so overwhelming to look at a gigantic list of things to do. And it’s like, I can’t do all of this, but if you take it, like you said, one piece at a time where it’s like, “Oh, now I’m gonna start using the ExpoDisc. Oh, now I’m going to start like asking my clients for reviews.” You know, those little things that we know you should be doing, but I love that you just kept going even though it wasn’t perfect. And that is such a huge lesson that I hope people listening to this take away is like just doing it without being perfect.
I think so many people are paralyzed by that — their photos aren’t perfect or their website isn’t perfect or their social media isn’t perfect, or they don’t have the perfect relationships with these midwives and doulas and all these different things. And it’s like, nobody said everything has to be perfect before you put yourself out there. And in fact, that’s keeping you from being successful. So just continue to keep going, understand you’re always going to get better and focus on that 1% like Kate said. 1% better every time and you’ll eventually get there.
I mean, it’s only been two and a half years since you joined this course and had that mindset shift of like, “Okay, maybe I can do this. Maybe I can make this happen.” And that was 1% better two and a half years later. And you guys, two and a half years is going to go by whether or not you’re making yourself 1% better. So might as well take it 1% at a time and be where you want to be in a year or two or three. I love that so much.
KNOWING WHAT DRIVES YOUR BUSINESS
Tavia: Okay. So I would love to know now today, or even the last like year or two, where are you finding your clients? Like what is working for you guys right now with marketing?
Kate: Yeah. I feel like there’s a few really great things that are working for me. I used to do the whole like surfing the moms conversations on Facebook and all that was exhausting. I’m never on Facebook anymore, which I actually was like really afraid to get off Facebook because I felt like if I got off Facebook, I would lose touch with my clients. And I’ve actually found that I’m just more mentally healthy now not being on Facebook. I still have my business page, but I don’t do the mom surfing, the mom groups anymore.
Probably one of the biggest things that I was able to get on early. So the Albuquerque moms blog, it’s like a nationwide, I’m sure you’ve many moms have heard of it. They’re in like lots of cities. That’s like the city mom collective. That for me has been huge. They were fairly new in my city when I started, which just really worked well for me. Because I was one of the first photographers to kind of partner with them a lot. So I’ve been partnering with them for years and years and years. They do lots of fun events. They do really fun motherhood events in the spring. For expectant moms, they do a really fun in the fall. And so for me, that’s my target audience is moms, expectant moms.
And I find like all this virtual stuff for the past year has been a bummer. But I find that when I’m in front of moms and I can come across as human and fun and sweet, which I hope that’s, I mean, I feel like that’s who I am then technically. Moms go, “Oh, you’re not a stuffy photographer who’s going to be like, ‘Oh my goodness, your kid is crying. Like what’s going on?'” And I’m like, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I have three kids. I understand.” And so that has been a huge marketing thing for me is finding like the groups that are my ideal target base, which is moms. And I’m not sure what it’s like in other cities, but in my city at least the Albuquerque moms group is huge and really respected in our city. So that’s been a huge, great marketing thing for me as well.
Honestly, like probably my biggest marketing tool that I have is my email list though. I think I have like 3000 or so on my list right now, which is really funny because again I look back to like somehow I had the presence of mind and like day one to like start like tracking that all. And like I started in the spreadsheet. I quickly outgrew that. But my email list is like the bomb.com. I love my email list. It is the most fun thing because I don’t even really put a ton in my email list. I try to keep it, or in my email marketing, I try to keep it pretty simple. I try to keep it just kind of straight to the point, “Hey, this what’s going on.” I blog at least every week. But I don’t even add that stuff to my newsletter.
I kinda just feel like I’m a mom. And as a mom, I want something short, simple, to the point — what’s going on this month? What minis do I want to catch? — so I can kind of look at it quick and be done. So that is where it’s really well for me. I typically send out my email list and I’ll get 50 emails back within three hours of “I want to do this, I want to do this. I’m going to do that. So I’m gonna do this.” And so in most of my minis I used to advertise a lot on Facebook and Google, and with the mom’s blog. Now I send out my mailing list and most of the time my minis are booked within like 10 hours. And I’m talking like 60 to 75 minis. So, it’s a lot of minis. And then I’ll put them on my Facebook and my social media and people have learned quickly, “You gotta be in the mailing list. Otherwise you’re not going to get a spot.”
It’s great though. And I’m like, to me it’s my — Facebook and Instagram and Google, yes, I use them. And I have a running ad on Google that I use. But honestly it’s my email and my email marketing that drives my business. And it’s something that can’t get taken away from me because that’s what just drives me absolutely crazy about all those other platforms is “Oh, they changed their analytics. And so now it’s not reaching as many people or I didn’t get as many likes there.” And I used to obsess about that. Like, “Oh my gosh, I only got five likes in that photo! People aren’t going to see it.” And now I’m like, I don’t even care to be honest. I don’t get huge amounts of likes. I probably post multiple times a day and I probably get, you know, maybe 10 likes or something, maybe a comment. And that used to bother me and I don’t care anymore. I’m like, whatever, it doesn’t bother me, because that’s not my driver. And I feel like, you know, especially Facebook can be so finicky and so frustrating that to me, my email list, that’s my gold, that’s my ace in my pocket.
But honestly it’s my email and my email marketing that drives my business. And it’s something that can’t get taken away from me because that’s what just drives me absolutely crazy about all those other platforms is “Oh, they changed their analytics. And so now it’s not reaching as many people or I didn’t get as many likes there.” And that used to bother me and I don’t care anymore. I’m like, whatever, it doesn’t bother me, because that’s not my driver.
I try to send out a letter every month. Sometimes I do it every month, sometimes I miss a month. But typically, if I miss a month it’s because I’m really busy. And so the next month I’m like, “Oh, I should throw out a letter,” then it’s great. So yeah, that’s what’s really working for me. I think finding my niche, finding my people.
Tavia: Because I have been preaching that, I feel like, for so long of like, “You guys are spending so much time with social media,” and I love social media! Don’t get me wrong. I love so many things about social media.
There’s a lot of opportunity on social media. But when it comes down to it, you don’t own that following. You don’t own those people and it could disappear or it could, like you said, the algorithm could change or like so much could be different and there’s nothing you can do about it all this time and effort that you’ve put into growing this will just disappear.
And there really is something different about getting an email from someone versus seeing their posts on social media. Like it’s just a different kind of relationship. And so the fact that you have 3000 people who have raised their hand and said, “Yes, I want to hear from Kate.” And you know, that you can utilize that resource that you own in your business is just smart business.
Like people talk about how they don’t like email lists all the time and they don’t open emails. They don’t like emails and whatever. And the truth is like, I just talked to Lydia, who’s a coach inside Marketing School now. And then I also have an appointment to talk with Ashley a little bit later this week to talk about what’s working well. So I just have like a pulse on what people are doing from Marketing School, what is working well in their business that we teach. And because we teach this 7-Step Marketing System, there’s basically like seven touch points where people can see you and hear you and know who you are before they decide to book you. And it’s interesting to me that not everyone has the same three or four or two or three of those steps that are worth–like it’s all different for everybody.
Some people it’s the email list, some people it’s vendor networking, some people it’s social media–it all can be different. And so it’s just interesting to me that you’re saying email list when I’ve heard other people talk about how much they don’t like their email list.
So I think the moral of the story here is to really look into your analytics and really look into your business and really see like, where am I getting the most bang for my buck? And your buck meaning the time you’re spending.
Because you could easily be looking at your social media and be like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to spend so much time on social media because it’s not working. I have to do this. I have to do, maybe I need to take another course. I’ve got to keep learning because this isn’t working.”
And you’re like, “No, I know that that’s not where my people are. I know my people aren’t in the Facebook groups. I know they’re from my email list.” So instead of fussing about social media, I’m going to do the minimum I need to do over there just to exist. And I’m going to keep doing what’s working, which is my email list. So I love that. You said that.
Kate: Yeah, I think too that, like the whole 7-point touch, I try to be really active in my community and try to be, and it’s not about business it’s because like the school my kids go to–I adore their school and I would give them money regardless of if they put my logo on anything. But they do happen to put my logo on things. And that’s amazing. So again, I’m marketing to people who have the same morals, the same values I do, they’re parents, they’re like all these things. And so I’m doing good, loving my kids’ school, but I’m also getting great clients.
And so I really tried to, you know, even like with the mom’s blog, I will sponsor events. I’ll do things. And honestly, I’ve gotten to the point I used to go like, “Oh, if I sponsor this, I need to get at least this many bookings to cover that cost.” And I kind of like stopped even worrying about that because I’m like, I don’t care. The only reason I’m doing this is just so that my name is a household name in Albuquerque. That’s it. Because I want them to see me seven times. That’s what gets them on my email list. And that’s what gets them there because they’ve seen me around and I built trust because they love the school or they love this event or they love friends who’ve done 5K runs and, you know, things like that where I’m like, that’s what I want to be. Someone who loves our community and is part of it.
The only reason I’m doing this is just so that my name is a household name in Albuquerque. That’s it. Because I want them to see me seven times. That’s what gets them on my email list. And that’s what gets them there because they’ve seen me around and I built trust.
And that’s honest. That’s not like me just saying, I’m just trying to market. That’s who I am.
Tavia: Yeah. And you are, but you can do it in a way that’s like real and authentic. You know what I mean? I love that so much.
Tavia: So can we talk about the moment whenever your husband left his job? Because we were talking about this a little bit before we started recording and I just remember what was like for us. And I feel like sometimes, because it was so long ago, I forget the nerves and everything associated with that. And that’s something people always ask is like, “Okay, well, how do I know I’m ready to quit my job or to have my husband quit his job? Like, how do I know and what does that look like and all of that? And I always just tell people it’s just going to happen for us. It just kind of fell in our laps and we went with it, we felt like that’s what we were supposed to do. And so we did it and it felt scary. So can you talk about what that was like for you guys?
Kate: Yeah, I feel the same way that it kind of was like what we talked about. So we’ve been, we just celebrated 14 years of marriage. We’ve been together like 20 years, which is crazy and we were babies. We’ve always wanted to work together. We’ve always kind of had that entrepreneurial spirit, I guess. So my husband was recently laid off from his job and I think the first feeling that you get is just go find another job. Like go, start applying. We’re like, “We’ll figure this out.” And it actually happened to be our anniversary so that he got laid off on Friday and then it was our anniversary weekend and get planned a trip just the two of us. So kind of a God thing that we could have this like time together.
And every time I thought about him going to get another job, I just felt sick. Like he was going to go get another job and it’s going to be like this hard, like, “Can you get off? Can you help me with drop-offs and pick-ups at school? Is he going to be able to go to the games? Is he going to be able to support me? Like, what is that gonna look like?” You know, there’s just a lot of unknowns and we both kind of went, thankfully, we were both on the same page and we both kind of went, “You know what? I don’t think this is the road for us anymore. We have said for so many years, this is what we wanted to do. So I think it’s time to jump.”
And my mom was really sweet. I talked to her, and my mom and I are very close and I was chatting and she said, “Kate, can I be honest? I was like, “Yeah?” She’s like, “I think God just pushed you out of the nest.” I was like, “What do you mean?” She’s like, “Honestly, I think that you guys have wanted to do this forever. And I don’t think you would have,” — the job he was at was like AMAZING. They treated him so well, they were flexible. We could go to his dad, my kids–he worked for church–my kids went to preschool there. It was amazing. We would never have left. We would never have left. It was probably the best job he’s ever had in his life.
And she was like, “You would never have left that.” And I was like, “No, you’re right. We would never have left that.” And she’s like, “I think God just booted you out of the nest. And he’d seen if you’re going to fly.” And if anyone knows me very well, they know that I’m going to fly, dang it! We’re going to do this. So I think we’re both just like, “Okay, let’s do this!” There’s a lot of unknown and a lot of like–you know here I’m laughing like it’s August 31st today and tomorrow we don’t have health insurance.
So today we’re going to figure out what health insurance we’re going on! You know, 3 weeks ago that was like giving me heartburn. And today I’m like, “Ah, we’ll figure it out. We got this.” But it’s just, again, it’s these 1% like these just little steps, it’s these baby steps of going, “Okay, things are going well.” If there was ever a year for things to go bad, it was last year. And last year my company saw, I think it was a 260% growth in a year that, in Albuquerque, so we’ve been one of the most shutdown states in the country like this entire 18 months. And we’re actually headed back down that road again right now, which is really sad. But in a year that should not have been amazing, it was a year that God was like, “See? See? I got ya.”
And I feel like that was just this beautiful prep for this year of going, “Okay, if we can make it through last year, we can make it through anything.” So it’s definitely not without its fear. And I don’t even know if I want to use the word ‘fear,’ to be honest, because I don’t think fear is maybe right. But uncertainty is maybe a better word. I guess I’m trying to change my own. I’m not afraid. I’m just like, “Well, we’ll figure out the health insurance thing.” That’s what we’ll do this afternoon.
It’s just figuring it out. And I do, I have a husband who’s, we have said for years that we love to work together and we love to spend time together, and we are that couple that can work really well together. And so it’s kind of like I have my best friend at my side and let’s go. And you know what? Honestly, at the end of the day, I don’t think this is going to happen. But if we get six months down the line and we go, “This is really tough and I’m not sure if this is working for us and he’ll get a job,” like, oh, well, we tried it! You can always get a job. And that’s kind of like, okay, cool. Yeah. But I don’t think we’re going to need to, because I just think that, I don’t know. I just have a lot of confidence. Even though it’s crazy!
Tavia: Such a cool story and so I think inspiring for people to know, you know, I don’t know if it’s helpful honestly, or not helpful, but both of us have a similar story of just sort of like God threw it in our lots and we did it.
But I do think that, you know, if you’re considering leaving your job or retiring a spouse, being open to things and signs around you that might seem scary.
And like, maybe there’s not always this perfect, well laid-out like, “Oh, we have this much money in savings. And we had this many clients.” I mean, of course you want it to make sense. You don’t want to “I just started my business. I’m going to quit my job.” But when you look around and you start to see these things are adding up and there, you know, it feels scary.
But I think it’s like Dave Ramsey that says something about getting the boat close enough to the dock that you can jump off. Like you still have to jump. You’re not going to jump out in the middle of the ocean. You know what I mean? Like you’re gonna jump when you’re kind of close and it’s always going to be a jump. And so just looking around for opportunities and signs that maybe it’s time.
Kate: That’s exactly what I was just going to say. I think it’s kind of like having kids or at least having kids for me, like I was never going to be ready. Like, I dunno, like, do we have enough money in savings? Does anyone really ready to be a parent? No. Like, I don’t care if you’ve dreamed about babies your whole life. I don’t think anyone’s really ready. I love that analogy of the boat because I don’t think that we might be getting close, but like I would…like my husband has been saying for probably literally the last month, “I think we just need a little more in savings. I think when could use a little bit more,” and like, “No! Nevermind. We’re doing it.”
There’s always going to be that fear. There’s always going to be that like, “Oh crap, we’re doing this.” But I think you can rest well knowing that that’s kind of where everyone starts. You’re in good company.
Tavia: And nothing is as mature as you think it is. I think that we were so like idolizing his paycheck. I’m like, “Well, we have to have that. We have to have that. We have to have that.” And then eventually it just got to this point that was like, “What if we didn’t have that?” You know, cause my money for forever, I was making a lot of money, but it was still our fun money and our play money, and it just wasn’t ever like the mindset shift of switching to like, “Oh, this would be what pays our mortgage. This would be what pays like everything.” That’s a little bit terrifying! I don’t think it would ever be like, “Oh, okay. No problem!” So it’s just really figuring out like when you’re ready to make that jump.
FOCUS ON IMPROVING 1% EVERYDAY
Tavia: Okay. So good. And final question for you, Kate, because this is the longest episode ever because I think you and I could talk for forever. Is there anything else that you want to share with listeners who might be like “2017, 2018 Kate” where like they know that they want to go big and they’ve got some bookings, but they’re not sure–what should they focus on? What should they do? What would be your advice to them?
Kate: Yeah, I think I’ll just go back to the 1% thing. Find those things that you can hone in and get really good at. I remember in the early days and I really, honestly, still do this, but I’ll leave a session and I’ll go, “I wish I’d done that differently.” Or I’ll be editing a photo and go, “Hmm. I almost had the angle I wanted, but I need to just change my camera just this much next time.” I even just yesterday in a newborn session, I was like, I could get some different, better angles. Because I just was kind of in my rut of this is what I do with my newborn sessions. And for me, like when I’m editing, after a session, I would kind of intentionally say, “What what’s like one thing I could just improve from that session?” And then just try to keep that in mind the next session. And what is the one thing like I can do, you know, whether it’s just automating invoices, what’s like the one thing like, how can I utilize my time the best so that I can do the parts that I love?
Find those things that you can hone in and get really good at. And for me, like when I’m editing, after a session, I would kind of intentionally say, “What what’s like one thing I could just improve from that session?” And then just try to keep that in mind the next session.
And so for me that means a lot of automation. That means a lot of templates. That means a lot of things that like on the outset are really overwhelming. But if I just write one template a week, like by the end of the year, that’s 52 templates of, oh wow. And then I get a lead. And instead of having to come up with all this new verbiage, I just say here, and then I’ll personalize it because I never want people to feel like they’re just a number. But you know, it takes me 30 seconds to respond to a lead now versus it would have taken me probably 10 minutes 3-4 years ago.
So I just think start small and find just those little 1% improvements. And know that those 1% improvements might not feel like a lot today, but if I do 1% improvement every day, that’s a 365% improvement in a year. That’s mammoth. That’s more improvement than most people do in a lifetime.
Tavia: Yeah. I love that such good advice. Thank you so much for this conversation. I think it’s going to be a super inspiring and helpful to everyone that hears it. Super appreciate you, Kate. Thank you so much.
Kate: Yeah. Thank you. It really an honor to be on this. So fun!
Whew! I hope that you were scrambling to write notes during that episode with Kate. I am just so incredibly proud of her success and just in awe of everything that she’s been able to accomplish. This is one of those episodes that you’re going to want to listen back to multiple times, take notes. And again, if you are ready to take the next step in your photography business, join us for The Baby and Birth Photographers Marketing System Training for free, getbirthphotographyclients.com.
And remember my friend, if you have a passion, it is not an accident. Not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, I hope that you get out there and make it happen. Have a great week.