I have a very special episode for you today because I’m going to show you how one birth photographer, Whitney Williams, one of my students inside of Marketing School for Photographers, is on track to hit $100K in 2022. If you have fears about COVID or around the economy, I’m excited to share her message with you today because she really grew her business during the pandemic and this year during an economic recession.
Obviously, you know I love birth photography and it’s growing in popularity every day. But don’t worry if you’re not a birth photographer because this episode will show you how you can apply these same strategies to your own photography business.
Whitney Williams of East Layne Photography is a self-taught birth photographer who moved cross country and built her business from the ground up in one of the busiest metroplexes in the country, Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Because she loved birth photography so much, she decided to add to her services and become a birth doula and child birth educator. When she is not working with moms, she loves paddle boarding, hiking, and reading non-fiction books.
In this episode, Whitney shares how she successfully moved her business 14 hours away and the tactical strategies she used to get on-track to hit 6 figures in 2022. In detail, she talked about the strategic way she connected with her local community to build her business, her SEO plan as she moved her photography business from Indiana to Texas, and the powerful way how she kept imposter syndrome from holding her back.
Tavia: Whitney! Welcome to the podcast. Have you been on the podcast before?
Whitney: I have not. This is my first one.
Tavia: I’m super excited to have you here. So can you just tell us a little bit about yourself before we get into your awesome story.
Whitney: Yeah, sure. Hi, my name is Whitney. I am a Dallas, Texas birth photographer, birth doula, and childbirth educator. I have two kiddos of my own – I have a five-year-old and an almost three-year-old next week, actually. So my life stays pretty busy.
Tavia: That’s awesome. So you guys have lived in Dallas for three years now, is that right?
Whitney: We’re coming up on four. Yeah.
Tavia: Wow. I remember when you moved like it was just yesterday.
Whitney: I know! It still sometimes feels that way.
Getting a Business Mindset
Tavia: I bet. So I wanted to have Whitney on the podcast because her story is really cool. And I think a lot of people can relate to it because she started her business in a different state and ended up moving her business and has had a lot of success since she moved especially during COVID and all of that.
I kind of want to go back though to before you moved and when you very first started your business. Why did you become a photographer? Were you hoping it could grow to the level that it is today? Did you just start taking pictures? What did that look like for you?
Whitney: Back when I first started taking pictures, I was probably like every other photographer, you know, taking photos of pretty much anything people would pay me to do. I remember my very first sessions were $25 for an hour and you gave them all the files. They weren’t great files, but that’s what you gave everybody.
I ended up photographing a maternity client of mine and this had been maybe three or four months into my journey. I actually picked up my camera because I struggled with postpartum depression. And it was kind of my outlet and to get away for a second and basically regroup. So anyways, I ended up photographing one of my maternity clients and she was like, “Hey, have you ever thought about photographing births?” And I was like, “Births, what? You want me in there when the baby is born?” And she’s like, “Yeah, that would be great. This is our miracle baby we’ve been able to carry. He’s an IVF baby. I think all I can pay you is $150.” I was like, “Done. Let’s do it.” So I photographed her birth and then shortly after, I caught the birth bug.
Tavia: That’s so cool that your client is the one that approached you about birth photography. Because normally it’s photographers hearing about birth photography and then being like, “Okay, where can I find somebody?” So this person actually had already heard about it and approached you about it, right?
So, what were you thinking when you had that very first birth client, you caught the birth bug, were you like, “I want to make this a full-time income” or were you just kind of like, “Oh, maybe I can make some extra money”? What were your goals for yourself back then?
Whitney: Oh, man. I really didn’t have goals back then. So I didn’t think that this would blow up or that I’d become full time. I remember my mindset right then, I was still in those postpartum blues. So it was more of “I just need an outlet.” So I was making a little bit of money on this side. I was getting to photograph things I loved. But once I hit that birth bug, I was like, “Okay, I need more of this. How do I do this?”
So then it kind of started growing.
I actually took Tavia’s course shortly after that birth, the marketing course, and it really morphed my thinking into, “Okay, I can make this into a business and do what I love.”
Battling Imposter Syndrome as a New Birth Photographer
Tavia: Did you struggle with like imposter syndrome back then? Were you looking at other birth images going like, “Okay, so I’m in Tavia’s marketing course. I see what’s possible for me. I have it laid out for me how to do it. But are my photos even good enough?” Did you struggle with that at all?
Whitney: Oh yeah, absolutely. I remember in Indiana, birth photography was not a thing. I think I was one of the first ones there when I lived there. And I remember once I caught that birth bug and I was looking at all of it, I was like, “Wow, these are possible?” I remember from that first birth, I took what I thought was a really cool shot. I got permission from the mom to share this photo and everybody’s like, “What am I looking at?”
I made it in black and white, but it was basically the doctor pulling the baby out and you didn’t really see anything, but I made it black and white, the image was so blurry, but I thought it was the coolest image. And now when I look back on it, I’m like, “Wow. I have a lot to learn.
Tavia: So how did you like get over that? I had a similar incident happen to me. This has been probably 2009 and I posted an image that I thought everyone was going to go like, “This is incredible. You’re so great. Wow,” and people were ripping it apart! Telling me that my white balance was off and the composure was bad and all this stuff.
And I remember thinking like, “How am I ever going to actually learn how to do this? How am I actually ever going to see what other people see?” So how did you deal with that when you’re like, “I love this, I want to pursue this.”
And then that happens, like, what was your, what was going on in your head to get past that?
Whitney: The imposter syndrome is so real. It literally tells you that you’re never good enough. People don’t deserve to pay you the money you’re asking. It constantly is in the back of your mind as you’re typing a post like, “Is this even important? Am I relevant?” And I think that’s one of the hardest things in social media right now is staying relevant.
I remember back then, which social media wasn’t huge back then yet – I mean it is, but birth photography in particular. You had the people who were just naturally gifted. Like they would go into a birth and they just take beautiful images. And you’re like, “Well, why can’t that happen for me?” But then you go into a birth and say for example, mom has an epidural and you’re like, “Okay, there’s only so much I can do with an epidural.” You have to get really creative.
And I think that’s what I ended up having to get my mind over was, “Okay. I have this creative brain, let me take these from a different angle. See what I can see, what I can do with this.”
And slowly, I mean, I’ve been doing this for five years now and the imposter syndrome is still there whispering that I’m not good enough, but I know that I’m worth what I charge basically now. I don’t let it stop me anymore.
Whitney: I don’t know really when that shift changed. I think once I felt my marketing was good and I was confident in that, I think that’s when it slowly started to go away.
Tavia: Yeah. So it sounds like you just kept taking action through feeling that way because you had such a passion for it. So it sounds like by taking action, it slowly started to dwindle. And I totally agree with you that I don’t think imposter syndrome ever really goes away. No matter what stage in business you’re in, there’s something new that you kind of have to tackle and overcome when it comes to imposter syndrome.
And so I think the key take away from me based on what you just said is continuing to take action through those feelings of insecurity and not letting it paralyze you into not doing it anymore.
Whitney: Yep. And I think that it can trickle into any area of your life, really.
I mean, if you’re standing on a cliff about to bungee jump, you can either be like, “Oh, this fear is paralyzing,” or you can be like, “You know what, I’ve really wanted to do this. I just got to go for it and jump on.” And I think that’s how it was in my business.
Designing SEO for Birth Photographers Moving to a New City
Tavia: That’s so good. That conversation is like a little off track of the questions that I sent you, but that popped up for me because I know a lot of people struggle with imposter syndrome and they just look at what everybody else is able to do, and it paralyzes them from being able to move forward. So I think it’s really powerful that you were able to overcome that.
Now going back to after photographing that first birth, what did you do to get those first few clients? Like you knew you wanted to specialize in birth and then it’s like, “Okay, now what do I do?”
Whitney: Well, it was really challenging because my first, second, and third birth were right together. And then that was when we actually were about to move. So that was in 2018. So I’d gotten these three birth clients and then we’re like, “Okay, just kidding. We’re moving to Dallas, Texas,” 14 hours away.
So I didn’t really target my marketing efforts in Indiana at that point because there was no use. We were about to move. By the time we announced it, we moved in December. So at that point I was really focusing on my SEO in Dallas. I changed all of my website stuff to say Dallas, which now I’m kind of like looking back, I didn’t realize how big Dallas actually was at the time.
Tavia: So what do you wish you would’ve done differently? Sorry, I just want to ask you. For somebody who doesn’t really understand SEO, why do you wish that you didn’t choose Dallas when you were moving to Dallas?
Whitney: Because Dallas is too big. It’s the biggest metroplex and when you choose Dallas, you’re kind of just throwing it out into the wind and hoping somebody will pick it up. And when you have that SEO for a long time, it’s not going to rank. I wish I would’ve just chose the town I was going to live in or something smaller because it took me even about a year for just my small town for me to rank like one to two on there. So if people search “Flower Mound birth photographer,” I’m the first hit. But Dallas, I think I’m on the third page still.
Networking with Recommended Vendors
Tavia: Which is still really good! That’s the super valuable tip. I hope people listening to this really let that sink in.
We’ve talked a little bit about SEO on the podcast, but that is a really valuable tip that Whitney just shared for those of you, even if you’re not moving, even if you’re just like trying to get ranked on Google going after those smaller keywords. Yes, you’re going to reach less people in the same way that I wouldn’t post “United States birth photographer” or whatever. It’s so broad!
Instead, if I can get really specific – yes, there’s lots of people searching for Flower Mound, but those people are more likely to see Whitney than if she’s buried on page 25 for “Dallas birth photographer,” they’re never going to see her. So you started working on SEO…
Whitney: Yeah, so I did SEO and then I started searching up on Google, Facebook. I immediately started doing local moms groups, and at the time garage sale groups. That’s not really a thing anymore because they’ll flag you. But at the time, you could post an ad in garage sale groups and a lot of people would respond to those. That’s not a thing anymore, so don’t do it. You’ll get kicked out.
So I started doing a lot of online marketing efforts, so I’d go into mom groups. I’d search up like “midwife” and see who people were recommending. I’d search up “birth center” because in Indiana, there was only one birth center at all in Indianapolis, I think it’s still pretty much the same. But out here we have a birth center every 20 minutes. So it’s super cool.
So at the time I was looking up who people were recommending, because I wanted to work with those people. Yes, I knew that they had good reputations, but I knew that referrals are the best form of business. And if I could get in with these people, my business would grow immediately. And that’s exactly what it did.
So at the time I was looking up who people were recommending, because I wanted to work with those people. I knew that referrals are the best form of business and if I could get in with these people, my business would grow immediately. And that’s exactly what it did.
I had my list – I had like five midwives I wanted to meet and chat with, I had five birth centers I wanted to go and explore them and all this stuff. I ended up doing a bunch of blog pieces on each of these at the time. So it helped my SEO, another thing, because it had all the local keywords. But not only that, when I interviewed the midwives, the birth centers, they shared my stuff, which meant that I was getting more looks on my pages.
So once we moved, it went pretty quick, which I’m so thankful for. But that was my marketing effort. I put in the work beforehand, so that once I had moved out here, it was go time.
Tavia: Were you pregnant at that time when you were doing all of this and moving?
How to Succeed as a Mompreneur
Tavia: This is another question that just came out of my brain, but I’m just imagining, and I know how it is because I was pregnant, nursing babies, doing all of this stuff. And a big thing that I hear from people is…
Whitney: “I have toddlers. I can’t do this?”
Tavia: Yeah! Or someone like you coming to me, which we were working together at the time, but you never came to me with excuses. You never came to me saying, “Tavia, I’m moving. I can’t blog because I’m pregnant, I have a baby.” How did you find the time to do all of the things that you’re talking about when you had so much life stuff going on?
Set Your Focus on What Matters
Whitney: Yes. So we moved to Dallas in December. In January, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, so we moved cross country and then found out I was immediately pregnant. And my son at the time was a year and a half old.
At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom, so our family has the luxury that my husband provides enough that I can stay at home with the babies. So it wasn’t crucial for me to have immediate inquiries coming in. But obviously that would’ve helped because my husband had just found a job. And we were navigating all of that.
But I made it a point that every week I had somebody to meet with, I was going to blog about somebody, I was going to take pictures of or do like model calls to get people recognizing my name because that’s such a big thing. Especially in Dallas, we are a saturated market. Everybody is a photographer out here.
So when you are marketing yourself, you have to make sure that you market consistently enough that people start recognizing your name. And it was just something that I had to focus on.
So making the time it was easy, but I also had to make sure I was staying consistent if that makes sense.
Tavia: Yeah, totally. So I hear you saying that it was just a priority for you – you knew you wanted to do this, and so you just made it a priority, even though you had all of this life stuff going on. You’re just like, “I want to make this thing work. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it.”
Whitney: Yes, absolutely.
Tavia: You make it sound so simple.
Whitney: You know, I have a very Type A mindset. So you should see my to-do list. It drives me crazy because I look at it and I’m like, I have so much to do. There’s only 24 hours in a day. So I think it’s harder now actually than it was back then.
Tavia: Well, yeah. As your kids get older, there’s new challenges and everybody’s running around doing things.
Whitney: Even this morning, I had to go take my kids to the daycare, which they don’t usually go, but I was like, “This’ll be a nightmare if they’re here.”
Biggest Tip to Achieve a Six-Figure Year
Tavia: Yeah! So good. So let’s talk about what your business looks like today because you’re doing pretty well. In fact, Whitney has been in Marketing School for so long and I knew she was doing great and she told me that she was on track to hit six figures this year. And I was like, “Girlfriend, that is huge!” Because I know what you’ve done the last several years, I’ve seen you at the beginning with your very first birth, and I remember just seeing the transformation is so incredible of all the things that you’ve gone through. And so to hear that you’re on track to hit six figures this year, I just had to have you on to share whatever you possibly could, whatever golden nuggets that you could give people. So what does your business look like?
Whitney: Oh, man. So today it’s completely, literally 180 from when I first moved out here, because I was really, really grinding it out, doing things myself. And I think sometimes being a business owner by yourself can be very lonely, because it’s just you and maybe you have somebody else who’s like an assistant or something, but it’s very lonely.
Especially compared to my husband, who goes into a corporate setting and he gets to mingle with people all day. My co-workers are toddlers. That’s just what it is!
So something that really, really helped my business was getting into the community of other birth photographers.
Like I mentioned, our community in Dallas is just incredible. We have so much available for new parents. So one of my biggest tips was to get in with other birth photographers. There’s like five of us, we all have our own separate businesses. But when one of us gets booked up or is going off call or whatever, we send that business to one of our other birth photographers.
So I actually get a lot of my business from other birth photographers and that’s the craziest thing. If you were to tell me that four years ago that I’d be getting business from my competitors, then I would be like, “Are you kidding me?” So I would say, make these people your best friends.
Yes, they’re your competition. But one of my closest friends, she’s actually in our marketing group too, Jenna Van Loon, her and I work closely together. And it’s so funny, because we were talking on the phone last week and she was like, “Hey, did that person ever get back with you?” And I was like, “Yeah, but apparently they don’t want me either.”
So if they didn’t hire either us, it’s somebody else. But it’s totally fine. And I’m like, “Go with them. That’s fine. I’m pretty much almost I’m booked up for the rest of the year.”
So exciting now is that I had a number in my head that I wanted to hit, financially, births per month. Like I mentioned, I am a birth doula and childbirth educator. So that kind of goes into my numbers now as well. But I do a lot of family sessions, maternity, and newborns, so I kind of do it all.
But my business now is just thriving and it’s one of those exciting times to like look back on, because I remember when I was just starting out. Like I said, I was grinding it out, I was working real hard, I was going to birth centers, trying to get my name out there that people would be like, if a mom came to them and was like, “Hey, I really want to birth photographer. Who do you recommend?” My name was not the one being said because nobody knew me.
And now birth centers know me, midwives know me, obviously not all of them because we have so many here, but my name is out there now. I’m getting recommended by all these people and birth photographers because they trust my work. It’s just one of those like mind blowing things.
But yes, I am on track to make six figures this year, which it’s kind of crazy because it’s almost October and I’m like, “Oh yeah, let me look at my metrics since you recommend that.
Recognizing Marketing Strategies that Works for Your Business
Tavia: I love it. That’s so cool. So when you think about grinding it out, do you think that you spend as much time on marketing now that you’ve got a lot of those things in place today that you did then or is it just that it’s easier because people know who you are and you have the SEO and the referrals? Because we talk a lot about the snowball in Marketing School where it’s like when you’re trying to get that snowball going down the hill, you know, you’re packing this tiny little thing and it’s a lot of work and then eventually it kind of gets to roll on its own down the hill and you don’t have to do quite as much work. So have you found that is true for you these days in your business?
Whitney: Oh yeah, absolutely. My husband hates this, but I used to have an obsession with updating my website. I was constantly on my computer updating my website. Especially when we first moved out here because I was like, “Oh, I got to make sure all these photos have their alt tags. And I have to make sure that everything’s perfect so that when somebody comes on my website, they’ll know exactly where to go,” and all these other things. I remember doing that and now, I can’t tell you the last time I touched my website because I know it’s good. It’s fine. It’s doing what it needs to do.
A lot of my marketing efforts are still in person. I think a lot of people think Facebook and Instagram, you need to go viral to get a lot of clients and that’s just simply not true. I’ve never went viral, yet I’m still fully booked. It’s just one of those, you get a lucky shot or something like one of our local birth centers just had twins and baby B was born en caul with their placenta, which is one of those wild things. But there was no birth photographer there. Unfortunately, but that’s still what that went viral. Had a photographer been there that photographer would’ve went viral and it just would’ve been a luck-of-the-draw type of situation.
But your people are literally in your community. That’s how you will get booked. And if you aren’t showing your face and getting out there, I know a lot of people are introverts, but this is the thing: if you get out there and you show people your face, show them your personality, and then you get to work with them, give their clients small discounts, then those clients will keep coming back. Those clients, the birth center, whoever, will keep recommending you, because they’ll have a great experience with you.
I think sometimes we get all in our head and we think this is just about me, right? But if you can up your client experience, up your vendor experience, you’ll get referrals and that is the best form of advertising.
Tavia: I love too, that you said birth photographers are one of your biggest referral sources. I didn’t really touch on that, but I think it’s worth like bringing up again because so many photographers are like, I would say introverted, yes. But they heavily lean on social media, like what you were describing, and they’re afraid to get out in person. What if people don’t like me? What if my work isn’t good enough?
And then they’re also scared to connect with other birth photographers because they don’t want to build relationships that are going to eventually burn them or send clients another way, and man, what a limiting, scarce mindset to be in that is literally the opposite of everything Whitney is saying that actually helped grow her business, which was getting in person with people, making these relationships, not heavily relying on social media. Yes, still using it. It’s still a piece. But not so heavily relying on it that you’re trying to go viral or – I mean, I don’t know how many Instagram followers you had. On my photography account, I had 2000? 2200 maybe? You don’t need a lot of followers.
You do not have to have a lot of Instagram followers or go viral to have a six-figure photography business.
And I know that people listening to this have heard that before, but I think it’s worth repeating again because we can get so caught up in social media. But if you can instead – man, Whitney dropped so many gold nuggets in this episode –listen to it and really think about how to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, because if you’ve never been a six figure photographer before, then you’re going to have to do things that you’ve never done in order to get there.
And so if what you’re doing is currently not working, maybe it’s time to try something different.
Biggest Piece of Advice in Reaching your First Six-Figure Year
Tavia: Are there any tips or advice that you would give someone listening to this who isn’t going to hit six figures in their business this year? They’re not booking the number of clients that they want to book per month, they feel like the things that they’re doing on social media aren’t working – what would you say to that photographer listening to this?
Whitney: I was really thinking about this one because there are so many things that I could say, and I was trying to like sum it down into something that would be easy to chew and digest through this.
And my biggest piece of advice is to keep putting in the work, if what you’re doing is not working, stop doing it or at least just put it on the back burner for now and try something else.
If that means, you’re like, “Okay. I’m posting to Instagram seven days a week, three times a day, and why am I still not getting booked,” that’s clearly not working and you need to put that effort somewhere else. Maybe go find a local birth center midwife or an OB’s office. I know we talk about birth centers and midwives a lot, go to a local hospital you might want to work with.
It does take a lot of courage and you might hear a lot of ‘no’s’, don’t let that discourage you because not everybody’s going to say no. It just takes a couple ‘yes-es’ to get your spirits up and be like, “Okay, that worked. Let’s do it again.”
You just keep going. It is hard, but you keep going and you start reaping the benefits, you’d be like, “Wow, that effort was so worth it.”
And now four years later, a lot of people aren’t going to see crazy success in two months. You’ve got to think of the big picture. I think when I look back I’m like, “Wow, all those efforts were so great. I’m so glad I did it.” And now I don’t have to do that hard work anymore. At least not as hard.
Tavia: Yeah, it’s never going to go away, but I think that anytime you learn anything new, like marketing is new for a lot of photographers, because they learn photography they don’t necessarily learn how to run a business. And so just like it took you time to learn how to use your camera and lighting and posing, and you know how to be on call, all these things that were new to you, business and marketing are also new to you, but eventually it becomes much easier and you get a system in place and you’re like, boom, boom, boom, this is what I do.
And you can even get to the point where you’re bringing on people to help you to do these things so that you really could potentially start only focusing on serving your clients. And this marketing stuff is kind of happening in the background. So there’s a lot of possibility.
So I love that you said keep consistent, keep going, persist – that’s kind of the secret. And I totally agree with you. That’s what I would say is just persistence. So good.
Connect with Whitney!
Tavia: So where can people connect with you?
Whitney: Yeah. So I have my website that you guys can check out, look through, see what’s working for what’s working for me. But yeah, I have my Instagram. It’s kind of funny. Most people don’t know that my business name is actually a combination of both my kids’ names. that’s been her business name for like four years.”
Tavia: Nice. Thank you so much. This has been so incredibly valuable. I know this is going to be one people are going to want to like go back and listen to, and come connect with you on social media and your website and all that good stuff. So thank you so much, Whitney.
Tavia: Nice. Thank you so much. This has been so incredibly valuable. I know this is going to be one people are going to want to like go back and listen to, and come connect with you on social media and your website and all that good stuff. So thank you so much, Whitney.
Whitney: Yeah, absolutely.
Make sure to connect with Whitney on IG because one of the things we didn’t mention in this episode is how good her messaging is on social media. She’s very clear about who her ideal client is and she’s not afraid to share a message she’s passionate about which I think is not only admirable but also makes her a magnet to booking her ideal client.
If you want to learn more about marketing school for photographers the next time it opens up head over to thebeautyinbirth.net/waitlist to join the waitlist and be notified the next time it’s open to new students.