November 21, 2022
Honestly, you guys, it is hard to turn on the news or open a social media app and not be inundated with fearful feelings (I’m totally raising my hand there). And I was sharing this with my friend Heather, just what’s going on in the world?
I know she stays really up to date on economics and the business world, and she had some incredible things to share that really put my mind at ease and made me feel hopeful, dare I even say, for the next year or two. And after that conversation, I just knew that I had to have her on the podcast so that she could share that with you.
If you’ve been feeling scared and fearful about the economy, and all of the questions about gas prices and inflation and potential recession, those things in the news and media are making you feel stressful, this episode is for you. I know it is going to help and encourage you today.
In this article, I am bringing on my friend, Heather, to talk to you about something called the Lipstick Effect and how it actually means that there’s hope for us as photographers in the middle of an economic downturn or whatever you want to call that’s going on in the world.
Heather’s perspective is so refreshing that I know that you’re going to leave this episode, actually not only feeling better, but inspired that the best is yet to come for your photography business.
What to expect in this article?
Tavia: Heather, welcome back to the podcast.
Heather: Thank you so much for having me, Tavia. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Tavia: I’m happy that you’re here and I want us to talk about this topic that is really important and that is what is going on in the world as far as inflation possible recession – these are all things that I don’t really talking about, and not because I want to dig my head in the sand, but because I tend to be a half-glass-full type person, which is great. But at the same time, we also have to be “realistic” or at least understand what’s happening in the world.
I want to just talk about what’s going on in the world as far as those topics of like inflation, gas prices, potential recession, and how it could affect photographers?
Heather: Yes, absolutely. Because you and I both work with a lot of photographers, and this is obviously on their minds, because they’re always wondering about their pricing – is their pricing too high? Should they lower it? What’s going on with the economy? Are people going to spend money?
I have studied this pretty extensively, not that I’m an expert in microeconomics or macroeconomics, but I do love the topic of business and I pay attention to these things, but NOT via the news ever, because they lie to you and they just want to propagate fear.
Heather: So, the first thing I’d like to say is gas prices. Everybody was talking about gas prices, maybe not so much anymore, but they were. And my question to them was, the price of gas, is that a problem for you?
Are you having to switch your budget around and you can’t do things or you can’t afford to feed your kids? Is it real issue for you? And I know that for some people it is. So, I don’t want to minimize that. But for most of us, it’s not an issue. We just don’t like it.
So, my question was, is this an issue for you or do you just not like it? Because if you just don’t like it, then we probably shut up about it, because you’re just making it worse by talking about how awful it is.
Heather: That kicked off this inflation situation, which the definition of inflation is just a general increase in prices and the fall in the purchasing value of money.
By the way, inflation is always happening. It’s just at a very high rate currently. The people who suffer the most are the people who are on a fixed income, such as the elderly or poor or lower-class Americans.
If you do not fit into the category of a fixed income, then it’s probably just annoying to you, but it’s not actually a problem. You just don’t like it.
Tavia: Right, like a life- threatening problem.
Heather: Correct. You are still going to be able to eat. You will still be able to live and have a roof over your head.
And honestly, again, if you’re not fixed income, which photographers are not, you can beat inflation by making more money. You can raise your prices, you can take on more clients, you can shoot different things.
05:46 – You can beat inflation by making more money.
So, what happens then is the government tries to control inflation. Essentially, they want to drive prices down or stop them from increasing at least by making it more expensive to borrow money, which is why interest rates go up on mortgages and loans. So, people borrow less money, which drives demand, and therefore pricing goes down.
So, understanding this is that a bad thing that the prices will go down? It’s more expensive to borrow money. So, people maybe aren’t buying homes right now, or they might be thinking about holding off buying a car, because it’s more expensive to borrow money.
Tavia: Okay, so that’s inflation. What everyone keeps throwing around, and I know that you and I could go on a tangent about this if we wanted to, I really rarely watch the news. I have a general idea of what’s happening in the world, I literally never watch the news.
And so, when people are talking about there’s a recession coming, it strikes people with fear, right? Especially photographers who are a luxury service. And it’s, “Okay, then nobody’s going to buy stuff from me if there’s a recession coming.”
So, I know that you nerd out on this kind of stuff and love digging into the research and whatever’s happening with all of this stuff, and so what are your thoughts for photographers? Is there a recession coming? Should we be doing something to prepare? What do you think?
Heather: Those are great questions. Number one, there is always a recession coming. There will always be a recession in our future because that’s the way the economy works. It’s important to understand exactly what a recession is.
There have been 19 recessions of all time: 12 of which have been since 1945. That’s a lot. The bulk have been recent and they all lasted about 11 months on average.
But here is the really important thing to understand: if you watch the news and you hear them saying, “We’re in a recession,” they are lying because recessions are not defined until one-year post-recession because that’s when the actual GDP numbers are reported.
Tavia: Wait a second – I think that is very valuable to know. I feel like we need like a beat there because if you’re hearing the news saying, “We’re in a recession,” you’re saying they can’t actually even know that because it’s not something you can declare until 12 months after to look back at the numbers.
That is so eye-opening for me and enlightening and makes me so happy to hear.
Heather: Yes! So, did you know there was actually a recession in 2020? But it lasted four months and it was defined in 2021 or maybe even 2022. That’s when those numbers were finalized to say, “Okay, there were two consecutive quarters of decline in the GDP.”
So, any news outlet that is screaming “recession” is not telling the truth. Again, there are indicators in the economy. They can look and say, “Okay, we sense that we’re going to have a downturn to the GDP. It happens one quarter,” it has to happen two quarters in a row, and that is very significant.
So, the people that I watch and listen to in regards to business and economics are predicting in fact that when there is a recession, it will most likely be at the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024, which means we will not know of it for sure until 2025.
So do I think we need to worry currently? No, I do not, because it is a non-issue. And I don’t know, do you base your life off of the GDP?
Tavia: No, I barely knew what that was before the conversation.
Heather: So, most people don’t. So really, honestly, again, you have to ask yourself: does this matter to me because I’m seeing it on the news and they’re telling me I should be afraid or does this actually impact me?
Chances are, for our listeners, it doesn’t impact them as dreadfully as they might be led to believe.
The question, is a storm coming? Yeah, there is a storm coming. but guess what? There always is. And you know what else about storms? They don’t last long because they can’t.
All recessions are temporary, 11 months or less. So, we’re talking about one year decline than the GDP. Interest rates are up, it’s more expensive to borrow money.
Heather: How I want to bring this back around is specifically for photographers – what does this mean for us? Will this hurt our industry, specifically, our clients? Won’t this hurt us because people are spending less, to which I respond, an emphatic false. That is not true because of a phenomenon called The Lipstick Effect. Have you heard of this?
Tavia: Ooh no, but I like it already!
Heather: Right, it sounds fancy!
So, Estee Lauder claimed that their lipstick sales soared after 9/11, which prompted financial types to investigate this type of spending in light of inflation in a possible recession.
The Lipstick Effect
The definition of The Lipstick Effect is when consumers still spend money on small indulgences during recessions, economic downturns, or when they personally have little cash. They do not have enough to spend on big ticket luxury items; however, many still find the cash for purchases small luxury items such as premium lipstick.
For this reason, companies that benefit from The Lipstick Effect tend to be resilient even during economic downturns, and I believe very strongly that this includes photographers. I think we benefit from a downturn in the economy via The Lipstick Effect.
I don’t know how familiar you are with luxury lipstick, but a luxury lipstick from Estee Lauder might be $30 or $40, and a tube of lipstick at Target might be $10. So, what they’re saying is people still indulge in these small luxury purchases, which includes photography.
They can, they feel better, they feel normal doing that. Everybody wants to feel normal. They want to eradicate the fear, they want to feel normal, so they do things like that. But also, these people that would normally be buying a house or a car, they aren’t. So, actually, our clients currently have more money because of this.
Tavia: Oh my gosh, yeah! I freaking love this so much. So, what you’re saying is we should even be excited about this. It’s good news because people are not making those big-ticket purchases.
I will say, whenever you were saying the definition of The Lipstick Effect, and you were saying it was small luxury purchases, my mind first went to people listening to this thinking, “Well, I charge $1,500. That’s not a small luxury purchase.” So, what would you say to that? Are there any parameters around that?
Heather: I really honestly don’t believe it impacts our industry no matter what you’re charging. Because what somebody thinks is a small amount of money, that’s all perception. And you’re seeing that through your own lens. So, if a photographer thinks, “My prices are expensive,” they might be to you. But that doesn’t mean that they’re expensive to your client or the person who chooses to hire you.
No, I don’t have a parameter for that. I know photographers who average $5,000 sales. I have a photographer client that I work with very closely who has had two recent $23,000 sales on portraits. You can’t tell me people still don’t have money.
Now, here’s the thing, and why I wanted to talk to you about this is I want to caution photographers – don’t watch the news. Don’t even look at the news because they are lying. But also, don’t let this get in your head and think “Oh, there’s nothing I can do. It’s out of my control, it’s the economy,” and use that as an excuse to not move forward in your business or not work on your pricing model.
That will not ever fly with me. If my clients come to me and say, “Well, it’s the pricing, it’s the economy,” I’m going to stop that line of thinking right there and ask them, “Why would you choose that thought? Why?”
If you don’t believe that, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy in your results – your results will actually tell me your thoughts. I will know what you’re thinking based on your results. If you say, “Oh I think that there are clients out there that will spend money,” and then you get clients, that can be true as well.
But most photographers do the opposite. They say, Oh, nobody’s spending money. No, you might not be spending money. But there are people, and actually there are people still going on vacations. I’ve heard that Disney World is as crowded as ever.
Tavia: They’re raising their ticket prices.
Heather: And it will still be packed, full of people. So, if this is the case, if none of this impacts our businesses and it only is annoying to you at the grocery store – listen, I respect things have gone up. Then, I just wouldn’t give this any energy or attention.
Tavia: That’s so valuable, and I think that’s good no matter what is happening in the economy, that’s good business advice. Whenever you understand the value that you’re bringing your clients and you feel confident knowing, “I’m absolutely worth this price,” we talk about it all the time, that comes through in everything that you do.
Whenever you’re putting yourself out there on social media or on your website, when you’re fearful like, “I don’t know if people are really going to pay this. Am I really worth this?” People can feel that. But when you’re confident, no matter what’s happening in the economy, people are much more likely to book with you.
Heather: Yes, a hundred percent. It doesn’t matter because it’s your energy, you’re right. It’s all about the energy you put into it.
Okay, we may have a few doubters, Tavia. We might have some people that are like, “Oh, Heather, but this is really bad. I’m not sure.” Do you remember the housing market crash of 2008 into 2009? Do you remember that? Did that impact you? Were you a photographer then? What were you doing?
Tavia: I had just started my photography business, so I was like a new adult, new mom. I was young. I was like 21. It didn’t heavily affect me. But I do remember it and I do remember that it took a while to get to Oklahoma, if that makes sense. Like stuff always happens on the coasts and then takes a while to get inland . But it didn’t heavily affect me. Did it affect you?
Heather: This is so interesting. For us as adults, that was the biggest economic downturn, the biggest recession that we have ever seen, and it lasted the longest out of all of them. Meaning, in other words, to a lot of people, it was really devastating. A lot of people lost their homes.
So it turns out, not only did it not impact me, I actually did not even know it was happening until much long, like years after. So, it was announced that it was an official recession, a year afterwards, and things were really difficult for the housing market. I was the busiest I’ve ever been in my wedding photography business. I had a new baby, my son was born, so he’s about to turn 15. And I was like, “Wait, there was a recession? There was an issue?” I was too busy working. I didn’t pay attention; therefore, it did not impact me, not even for a second.
I made the most money I had ever made at that point in those years. I had 30 weddings a year because people will continue to get married. And spoiler alert: people will continue to have babies in recessions. In fact, usually even more. There’s actually usually a spike.
Okay. I didn’t study that data. I shouldn’t say that, but my understanding, after COVID, there was a spike in birth rates. People will still have babies. There will still be a demand for photography and it will not impact you if you don’t allow it.
Tavia: So, is that practical? I’m just hearing people being like, “Okay, that doesn’t impact me if I don’t allow it. But Heather, there’s real people who are really struggling.”
Heather: How do you know this? I would say, how do you know that? Is it because you hear it on the news or you see it on Facebook? Stop reading it.
Even if it were true, the thought does not serve you. By the way, I don’t believe it’s true. I think there’s just a lot of arm waving going on, so I don’t believe it for a second. It’s just a story that people are telling themselves. But even if you thought, “No, Heather,” and you gave me an example, “This is true, this happened,” I would say, “Okay, but does that serve you?” So why would you choose to think it or expose yourself to it?
I can hear also the “don’t bury your head in the sand.” You have to know what’s going on. Give me one good compelling reason why I need to listen to them screaming and yelling about a recession that they don’t even know is happening. I just don’t see the point.
And like you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, you know enough that you need to know and otherwise you’re just focused on your family and your business. You seem to be pretty happy to me and at peace, and that is because you do not let those things get to you.
And then guess what? That means you will succeed. I expect great things and success from you in the upcoming couple of years when there are some other people who will struggle because they are choosing it. I know nobody wants to hear that, but it’s true because Tavia and I both choose not to participate. And business has been great.
So, 2020 was my biggest year ever after 2008, 2009. How is that possible? How do I have my two biggest years ever to date during big economic downturns? Because I just keep working, serving my clients and having fun.
Tavia: And apparently, they have more disposable income. Maybe they’re not buying a house, maybe they’re not buying a car, but they still have the money to be spending on things that they value.
And that’s what I said in a recent podcast talking about myths about the economy is I said, “Look at your local Chick-Fil-A. Are there lines still wrapped around the building?” Mine sure is. And look at Disney World or any vacation that you want to plan. You go to buy a flight. It’s mostly booked.
Black Friday, there will be people banging down Target’s doors fighting over Squishmallows or whatever’s going to be popular. I look at that as a good thing when I go to Chick-Fil-A and the line is wrapped around the building, I’m like, “Good. Great,” because it means that people are spending money on stuff that they don’t have to spend money on. You don’t have to eat at Chick-Fil-A. You don’t have to go on vacation. You don’t have to buy a new capsule wardrobe from Amazon, influencer person. There’s so much stuff that people are spending money on that they don’t have to spend money on.
Tavia: So, then the conversation becomes, how can I differentiate myself enough to stand out so that people want to spend that money with me? Because we can make the argument that people are still having babies, they still want photographs. Cool, but why should they pick your business above anybody else? If they want photos, why wouldn’t they go to the $50 photographer or the $200 photographer?
Heather: People buy people, so they don’t buy photography. They buy your energy and your belief, and my brides loved me. And it was not because I was the best photographer. I was an okay photographer. I absolutely could do the job, and I felt very good about my work, but I certainly wasn’t the best. But I had a really good attitude, I believed in myself, I believed in them, I had good energy, and they couldn’t stop telling their friends about me.
So, I built my business largely through referrals, but I don’t think it was because of the photos. I know it wasn’t because the price, because my price went sky high. It was because they were purchasing me.
I could not win as the best photographer. I could not win as the cheapest photographer, because it was neither. So, I just had to turn up the volume on who I was and the experience I brought to the table.
And I never, ever once in my business career looked at my calendar and thought, “Oh man, I need to get more weddings.” It was always the opposite. I always had too many, or I was raising my prices. I was always booked and it didn’t have anything to do with photography skills per se. Again, I was decent. I don’t want somebody to mishear that.
They’re buying your energy. If you’re in fear or unbelief about what people will spend or you don’t believe in yourself or your product or your service, people can smell that a mile away. It comes out in your marketing, in your emails, things you say, things you post people you meet – everything.
They’re buying your energy. If you’re in fear or unbelief about what people will spend or you don’t believe in yourself or your product or your service, people can smell that a mile away. But when you have passion and belief in what you do, people want to be around that type of energy.
But when you have passion and belief in what you do, people want to be around that type of energy. Why would you hire an insecure photographer? That doesn’t even make sense. I would never do that. I want to be around someone that inspires me, that I look up to.
So, if you could just be more of who you are, that’s what differentiates you. And I know there’s a lot we could cover around that, but the truth is, if you just turn up the volume on who you are, you’ll attract a lot of people, you’ll repel a few, and that’s okay. But you will not hurt for business.
Tavia: Love it. Yeah. Attract and repel is the name of my game a hundred percent. If you’re vanilla when you’re putting yourself out there, you’re not going to attract anyone. If you’re a little bit polarizing in whatever it is that you believe, and you yourself, like Heather said, it’s a personal brand, and if you put out there your beliefs around birth, photography, home births, cesareans, the state of healthcare in the US when it comes to maternal healthcare, that’s a big deal. If that’s something you’re passionate about and you’re putting that out there, that’s going to tick some people off, but it’s also going to attract people.
I think that this starts to come up for photographers, “Okay, cool. You convinced me. People are still going to hire photographers, but why would they hire me?”
Heather: Nobody wants the photographer who’s, “Oh, I’m not good enough yet. Oh, I didn’t get a degree. Oh, I’m not sure they’re going to like it. I’m not sure I like it.” Nobody wants that energy.
I always say that the world is a stage watching you, hoping to believe in you. You know what I tell my clients? “I understand you’re learning. And okay, there could be some imposter syndrome. You and I have talked about that. But if you could just borrow a little bit of my belief in you or my confidence, I will happily share it because I have enough for both of us. I know that you can figure this out and you can do this and you can make it happen. Just believe. You don’t have to believe you’re the best, but believe that you’re improving and that you have the skills and you’re getting better and believe in who you are just as a person and your worth, and people will be attracted to that. And you will not hurt for clients and they will spend money.
Tavia: Yes, a hundred percent. So, if someone’s listening to this who historically watches the news, maybe they see news on social media that they internalize and they’re feeling fearful and they’re feeling scared because they have this desire to go full time to book a lot of clients, maybe to retire their spouse. They know that they can do it, but they’re feeling scared with the potential recession, what would you say as some final action steps for those kinds of people? Or what could they take away from this episode to help them feel better consistently, not just right now listening to it, but in the weeks and months to come?
Heather: I’ll actually give an example. I have a business program called Elevate and one of our elevators, that’s what we call them, wanted to leave her corporate job in August. And she was very fearful because that’s a steady income and that’s a paycheck. And what if this doesn’t work and all the usual fear, which, by the way, is perfectly normal.
And we were on a call and I encouraged her to set a date that she would leave her corporate job and just go for it regardless of the emotions that were going to come up. So, she set that date, it was maybe about a month out, and she recently did it.
She left her job and she was working on her business full time. And she just had her biggest sale ever from a client was $3,000, which actually blew her mind. She had never seen that kind of money. But in the meantime, I said to her, “Don’t watch the news, because if you have even this much fear leaving your job, which you will, and you watch the news, it will just affirm, feed, and grow that fear. I want you to put your blinders on and just get clients in front of your lens. That is your only focus. I want you to meet people and get clients in front of your lens. I want you to eliminate all distractions or things that could derail you, such as the news.”
Tip: Walk away from things feeding your fear
Heather: So, actionable step is to take Facebook off your phone. You don’t need it. I don’t have it on my phone. I don’t have Messenger on my phone. I only put it on if I need to do a live video, and then I promptly remove it.
I have business groups that I manage and lead, I check it on my computer, but I have something called Newsfeed Eradicator installed on Chrome, it’s an extension, so I do not see the newsfeed.
So, if I want to see what my brother’s up to, for instance, I would physically have to type in his name and go see what he’s up to. So, I don’t see any newsfeed, I just go to the groups that matter to me.
Tip: Be aware of how you’re feeling and choose to prioritize what you want to feel
I always say business is really simple: You meet people, tell them you’re a photographer, and you make them an offer and that’s it. That is business. Get clients in front of your lens. Nothing else matters. In fact, everything else is fluff. That’s all you need to focus on, and whatever is derailing you, I want you to just pay attention to it.
Now, ask yourself, why am I choosing to read this when it’s making me feel like garbage. I understand we all have moments of weakness and I still occasionally will get caught up in something, but I just ask myself, “Is this serving me? Is this helping me grow my business? Does this feel good?” No, it feels awful.
I go through times when I take Instagram off my phone as well. You will die if you do this because you’ll pick up your phone and you literally won’t have anything to do with your phone. Oh, I haven’t had an email on my phone in a year.
So that was step one. You’re not the President. You’re not Oprah Winfrey. I don’t even know if they check their email. But I’m just saying, you’re not like that big of a deal that you need your email constantly in front of you. My phone, I text, I Voxxer with you, I use it as a phone, and I don’t know that’s pretty much it.
Tavia: Beware: don’t delete Instagram if you have drafts though, or TikTok. I’ve learned that the hard way.
Heather: Oh, you lose your drafts?
Tavia: Yeah, you lose your drafts.
Heather: I did not know that.
Tavia: Where I’m like, “Oh, I’m so sick of Instagram.” Delete. And then it’s like bye drafts. Yeah. It’s been, it was rough. Same with TikTok. Okay so, watch what you’re doing, news, social media – Is this making me feel a certain way and do I want to feel that way? Also, focusing on getting clients in front of your lens.
Heather: It’s actually very simple and straightforward. I’m not suggesting it’s completely easy, but it is simple. I have a post-it note on my bathroom mirror that I see every morning, several times a day, actually. It says, “How do you want to feel today?” And then the next one below it says, “You have a choice.”
Sometimes we get caught up in things without realizing it. That’s totally fair. But the minute I catch it and I’m like, “I’m not feeling good reading this, this is making me worry – actually, you helped me with this last week. Towards the end of last week, I Voxxer-ed you and I said, “Oh my gosh, Tavia, I saw something that just really triggered me and now I’m all turned upside down,” and you in 10 seconds, talked me off of a ledge and I was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s right.” Done. Stop looking. You do not need to see that.
Tavia: From personal experience. Done following people who, you know, you just never know what you might scroll through, and there’s no reason to let that into your brain.
Heather: That’s exactly right.
So, there’s no victim mindset here of, “The economy is just outside of my control.” And then people are talking about it and then, “Oh, woe is me,” and you’re just giving away all of your personal power doing that, and it’s not necessary.
And I have proof I lived through that recession, the housing market crashed, with a thriving business and a young family and came out on the other side clueless, because I did not even know it was happening. So now I am a little bit more aware just because I like business and I pay this much attention to it, very little, but it’s not from the news outlets.
I do my own research or I choose who I’m going to get my information from about recessions. There’s a couple of podcasts I listen to that I trust and that’s it. But even for those, if I’m starting to hear things like doom and gloom, I’m like, I’m out. Yeah. It just does not put me in a good place.
Tavia: I’m totally the same way, and I love that you questioned this idea of “I have to know what’s going on.” I love that reframe big time because it’s like, why do we think that we have to? What are we here to do? We could go on and on about this. But where can people connect to you to keep hearing more from your awesomeness?
Heather: Oh, no. Thank you. Thank you. I have a podcast, so if you just look up Flourish Academy, my name is Heather Lahtinen. You can find me on all the social media platforms and if you’re interested in coaching, check out heatherjl.com. I just opened up some one-on-one spots if people are interested in working with me directly.
Tavia: Awesome. Which I would highly recommend because somehow, I got the benefit of being on the receiving end of Heather’s coaching just as a friend, and you’re absolutely incredible. I’m super thankful for you.
Heather: Thank you.
You have made it to the end of another episode. I hope that you have a big smile on your face and are feeling so much better after listening to that conversation. Thank you so much for being here.
And remember my friend, if you have a passion, it is not an accident because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So, no matter what’s going on in the economy, I hope that you’ll get out there, pursue that passion, and make it happen, because it’s there for a reason.
Have a great rest of your week!