Today Vicki Taufer tells about what is working now in her business. Vicki has been in the industry almost 20 years now. She focuses on artistic portraiture, located in Morton, Illinois (pumpkin capital of the world). Vicki teaches internationally and values work life balance. Work life balance constantly changes and just being aware of trying to be balanced is important. She went from 300 sessions/year, 9 employees, to Vicki being the only full time employee and being more hands on. Now Vicki goes into the client’s home and does design work, producing some of their highest sales over the past 20 years.
“I’m working smarter, not harder”
Vicki is hopeful about our industry as she’s getting higher sales than ever, offering full service experiences clients aren’t getting elsewhere. Doing things you can’t duplicate with snapshots on phones gives clients things they are willing to pay for.
Vicki tells us about what it was like starting their business 20 years ago, and what to do and not do. She received the advice “hire slowly, fire quickly” and highly recommends following that advice. She also talks about how much more profitable in person sales are than online sales and not leaving money on the table as the client doesn’t know what their images will look like large on their walls if you don’t show them.
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Transcription was done by Temi.com which means it’s an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.
Vicki: [00:00] Hey, this is Vicki Taufer and you are listening to from nothing to profit.
Speaker 2: [00:05] Welcome to from nothing to profit, a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kia where each week they talk to photographers about what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster. Good morning everyone.
Kia: [00:22] We are so excited that you are here. It may not be morning where you are, but it is where we are and we are interviewing one of my favorite people in the world today. Her name is Vicky topher and she has been involved in the photography industry for almost 20 years now. She focuses on artistic portraiture and loves to photograph people, pets and she does a lot of commercial shoots as well. She is located in Morton, Illinois right now, although she shoots all over the country and she has a passion for people. Her camera journey has taken her all over the world and if you follow her you’ll see that she’s taught internationally, traveled internationally, and her goal right now is a healthy work life balance and I bet you that that’s something that we’re going to talk quite a bit about.
Matt: [01:14] Well, awesome. Welcome Vicky. So tell me a little bit more. So where do you live in Illinois is like more like central Illinois. It’s a suburb of Chicago.
Vicki: [01:21] Tell me more. Yeah, yeah, we are in central Illinois and the small or smaller town that both my husband and I grew up in. You know, we’ve moved around a little bit but have ended up back here. It’s about 17,000 people a couple of hours south of Chicago, a couple of hours north of St Louis.
Matt: [01:39] Awesome. Yeah, I, when I was in college, my buddy, his parents moved to decatur and so we every break we have, we would drive out to the cater like and like 16 hours on had all the way out there. It was, it was actually a lot of fun, but I probably wouldn’t move to decatur, but it was, it was a cool experience to have in common.
Vicki: [01:57] Right. And that’s about an hour from us, but yeah, I mean the communities all in central Illinois there, it’s similar in that it’s a lot of smaller, you know, industry farming communities and then we have the bigger towns have um, like Peoria, Bloomington that I guess you would call us a suburb of. Awesome.
Kia: [02:14] Yeah. And you, uh, I think about you during this time of year with Thanksgiving and Halloween with your pumpkin festival too.
Vicki: [02:21] Oh yes. We are the, we claim to be the pumpkin capital of the world, so yeah, in September or whole town Kinda gets turned upside down with the festival and parades and pumpkin patches and all kinds of fun stuff.
Matt: [02:35] That’s really awesome. Yeah, I think every small town has like a little festival in Durango where I am, we have like a, like a cabin fever festival that’s like in February after it’s been snowing all winter and it’s like this wild week that nobody ever works and it’s just, it’s actually way too much fun.
Kia: [02:50] Mardi gras.
Matt: [02:51] Alright. Alright. So yeah, let’s, let’s talk, let’s talk about photography. We don’t need to go down too many tangents because we’re, we will be talking about like high memories before we know it.
Vicki: [03:00] Oh No, I will not be.
Matt: [03:02] Okay. So, um, so I’m just going to jump right into it. So Vicky, one of our main questions we always ask on our podcast is like what’s working now or what’s the story of working? What’s working right now in the industry or for you personally that you could share with our audience?
Vicki: [03:16] Yeah, um, I would say, you know, you kind of need to know a little bit of our journey for this to probably make sense, but um, our business being 20 years old, we have run the gamut of, you know, studio in the house, studio in a building, renting a space, buying a building. Um, we’re currently in our studio that we originally rented and bought. Um, we’ve moved back into which is an old bowling alley that we renovated years ago and we’ve had nine employees at times and now we’re down to very scaled back where I’m the only full time employee photographer and then we have a couple part time and contract employees. Um, and the thing that we’re finding that super interesting now is that I am way more hands on with the clients. So before I was more of a volume shooter, maybe I was shooting 300 sessions in a year, but I would shoot.
Vicki: [04:11] But then I had employees selling, you know, a lot more overhead, a lot more employees doing a lot of the work, selling and doing everything else. Whereas now the business is smaller, which actually is purposeful. And fits where we are in our life and with our little kids, um, and where I want to be, but I’m way more hands on with the clients start to finish in the consultations in the session, in the ordering appointment. And what I’ve implemented this year is I’m actually going into the client’s homes, maybe not a new concept but not really something I had done a lot of myself. So, um, you know, taking pictures and measurements and giving them suggestions and doing design work of being able to actually digitally show them what wall groupings would look like in their house. And we have actually to date had multiple of our largest sales to date this year, which is really exciting to me because I’m honestly since the adoption of our daughter eight years ago, I really had gone down pretty part time and I feel like put the business we were doing the business, but it was more kind of on hold that kind of just stayed stable.
Vicki: [05:14] Did the work that came in. Whereas this year we’ve really tried to amp it up again, um, with our move back from Minnesota to Illinois. Both kids are in school full time, so I have a little more time. So, you know, we, we tried to go about it this way and it’s been really interesting just because I didn’t know, I honestly, I feel like I hadn’t been involved as involved in the industry and I wondered like, man, there’s so many more photographers are people going to value, you know, this extra time I’m spending with them, you know, are we going to have the big sales that we used to have? And like I said, we’ve had multiple sales that have actually surpassed our biggest sales to date in the last 20 years. So that was really exciting for me. That gave me a lot of hope for the industry and where the industry’s headed.
Vicki: [05:54] Um, so for me it was more about quality, not quantity. So it’s not that I’m working harder doing more sessions, but I am spending more time giving an experience to those clients that they’re not going to get from most other photographers. You know, like that’s not the same as someone shooting and burning and giving them a disk, you know, like there’s a place for that, but that’s not what I’m offering, so they’re going to spend a lot more money, but they’re also, I’m going to kind of hold their hand throughout that whole process and give them a full experience and guarantee and make sure that the finished product on their wall is exactly what they wanted. You know, when you, when you say that Vicky, it makes me think about you saying other times, like, you know what, what I would do if I wasn’t a photographer I would love to work with like interiors and design.
Vicki: [06:39] Do you feel like it’s kind of scratching that itch where you’re kind of doing both for people? Absolutely. I mean it’s funny. I can think back 15 years ago and all the clients who would say to me, just because we put so much effort into redoing our studio, I do have a passion and a love for, you know, decorating and that I’m sort of a thing. So it just naturally happened that my clients even 15 years ago would say, can you just come to my house and tell me what to get or Redo my walls while I was not in a place for that back then? I actually would have loved to, but it’s like, holy cow, no, I’m shooting 300 sessions. I know, have time to go into every client’s home and help them do all these things. And so it is funny to think back now, you know, 15, 20 years later that I’m, I’m actually doing that and it, it is something that I’ve always loved.
Vicki: [07:26] I’ve had a passion for not trained in or anything, but I’ve just always, you know, whatever house we’ve lived in and whatever we’ve done, I just, I have a knack for that and, and, and I love it. So it’s fun to be able to do that for my clients. Yeah, you’re so good at creating a space that feels homey but also has like an artistic design to it. Well, ambulant, it’s been funny. I mean, this year what’s happened is, you know, I’m implementing things that aren’t my photography in the work I’m doing with them as well. So I go into their home and honestly by the time I get home, I usually I’m getting texts from clients, hey, you know what? I already got online and ordered those ledges from pottery barn that you told me about this from Ikea or I ran to hobby lobby and picked up this cool sign that we’re going to incorporate with this wall grouping.
Vicki: [08:13] Uh, so it’s pretty cool to see, you know, like people just really need that help for me to be able to show them, hey, this is what it would look like. Or giving them that suggestion or making them feel confident in those decisions. You know, people get kind of stuck and worried and not sure what it’s gonna look like or is this the right choice? And so to have somebody that, you know, they’ve hired me as a professional, they want, you know, you get the professional’s opinion and then you just feel more confident making those decisions.
Matt: [08:38] And I feel like, you know, a lot of people just don’t know how to shop photography, so that’s really what you’re helping them with. You know, I tell a lot of people like, you know, photography is equivalent of buying a car, but the auto industry spends billions of dollars a year to educate you on how to buy a car. But it’s the same for photography, but they just don’t really have helped. So to have somebody actually hold their hand and give them confidence in their decision I think is huge. A one on one other question. Do you feel like you’ve, you’ve downsized a little bit and obviously I’ve lost overhead. I mean, do you feel like you’re making as much money now? Because I hear a lot of people say, oh, I’m making as much money now as I was when I had nine employees. Or do you know, do you feel like you’re making less money but it’s better choices for you and your family?
Vicki: [09:18] I would say right now, I mean you’re, you’re catching me at a time where we haven’t even finished our first season being back home. So. So it’s hard to say, I even honestly, my husband, he’s not as involved in the business anymore. He’ll even ask me that question. I’m like asked me in December, I still have so many, so many clients that we’re still working on their orders that it’s such a big swing between now and the next two months where we’ll end up. But um, for the amount of time being spent and I making more, I’m working smarter, not harder. Does that make sense? So shirt? No, it’s not the same as when I was shooting know 300 sessions because even in those days I was high dollar high volume. It wasn’t low dollar, high volume, but I wasn’t having typically as high, um, of orders as I’m having some of them now, but it’s way less, you know, I might do this year, I’m thinking, you know, I might be on track of shooting 60, 70 sessions now next year. You know, maybe that’ll double. I mean we just moved back last Christmas and spent basically the first half of the year redoing this space and we actually moved into the studio space. We rezoned it and it’s about a 7,000 square foot building. We live in half of it as our home and then we have a couple of renters and then we have the studio has about 2,500 square feet. So we had major things. We were redoing that. We weren’t even really like up and running and shooting again until almost summer.
Matt: [10:50] Are you guys going to put a bowling lane back in? What you live there?
Vicki: [10:53] No, I’m p. everybody asks what would be so awesome? Wouldn’t be. We do have the lanes and a couple of the pins and stuff that we use as tables, but I’m not actually functioning. No, you guys do a lot of fun things. I don’t know if you have to. You could put in like a bocce ball court or something like that. Uh, we’ve played, we’ve played bags inside my kids roller blade throughout the space. Hey, you know, their friends come up and they do like gymnastics and flips and I mean it’s, you know, the main living space has really tall ceilings. So if they’re having fun with their kids are five and nine and they think it’s great. I’m living here. I mean at some point we might outgrow it a little bit, but it’s working really well right now. So Vicki, our next question for you is, now that you’re really back in with both feet and the photography industry, what are you most fired up or excited about with the photography industry?
Vicki: [11:47] Because you said just, uh, you know, recently you said you feel a lot more hope for the industry. So what makes you have that hope? You know, I mean, I think that’s multifaceted. Um, you know, because there are some things that I feel like the industry has definitely changed and it’s shifted. We all know that, you know, there’s a lot more people shooting and burning, which definitely, um, we do sell digital files actually, but they’re at a high dollar price after the clients have placed an order for portraits. So, um, you know, I feel like that’s one of the things that I was nervous about, you know, that made me like, Oh, do I have hope? You know, where this industry’s going, but it’s been cool because I’ve actually feel like what I’ve experienced and coming back, I shot more seniors this year without even trying.
Vicki: [12:34] Then I’ve shot in years and it was very shocking to me because I would have always put myself out there as definitely more like children and family photographer and I didn’t see. I’m really a ton of children’s photography, but I definitely it to you and I had a conversation a couple weeks back that this really like a light bulb went off for me. You know, this really came from you confirming what I was seeing, which is, um, I’ve seen tons of value and great orders with my family sessions and I’ve an actual increase with my senior sessions and what I think is interesting about that. And that gives me a lot of hope. Now I need to, I would like to figure out a way to kind of up my game with children sessions because I really do love to do that. But I’ve found that, you know, per our conversation, Kai, and I think you’re correct, is that, you know, it’s a lot easier for people to daily capture images of their children on their phone.
Vicki: [13:27] Um, you know, it’s not a replacement of what we do, but that is something that people definitely have lots of images of their kids, but there’s still this like big thing when you’re in high school, senior and like that whole experience that we do with them and all the outfits and going on location that you can’t really duplicate on your phone, um, that people are still willing to come in and do that and do albums, all these things. And then of course we all know what the families, that’s just a whole nother ballgame, you know, like there’s a whole experience on posing and how you’re interacting with people and bringing them together that you cannot just duplicate that with a snapshot on your phone. So I think that embracing the things that you see that you enjoy, but that also you see the industry can still support and there’s a need for and people are willing to pay for.
Vicki: [14:13] That’s what I feel like kind of gives me that hope as well as what I mentioned with just being more hands on, like I think that it’s become more important than ever to improve and give an amazing experience to your clients. So that doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you’re the one going in and, and measuring and doing the sales and the home or whatever that looks like for you. I’m not saying that, but I do think it means offering that good of a service, you know, like that’s what’s gonna make you stand apart from somebody who really might not be commanding that much money to just turn files over, you know, like what, why do you stand apart? Why are you, why would, why should somebody spend x amount more money with you, you know, what are you doing that’s different? And so I think that that’s more important than ever, like the experience that you’re offering your client from start to finish, whether that’s just you or employees helping you with that process that you need to, you know, really think about that.
Vicki: [15:08] And, and what can you do that’s different than the competitors in your area? And, and I think that, I really think that’s it. I mean I think it’s that, you know, the middle, I’ve heard that for years, but like I think that middle class kind of clientele that middle of the road, you know, photographer who’s can’t decide to be high end, low end, whatever. Like that’s, I think that’s going away. Like I think that golf is becoming bigger where it’s either like you are commanding high prices but you’re giving it an amazing experience. People are willing to pay for that or it’s like shoot and burn low dollar. Yeah. I feel like that golf has become bigger. So you kind of.
Matt: [15:44] And I think that’s true and like all businesses here and I’m hearing that from all kinds of thought leaders around the nation and all kinds of industries that the middle is a really, really scary place that people either want convenience and cheap or they want a full experience. They don’t want something in between that feels like it’s an expensive turn and burn or it’s a, it’s not quite the experience, you know, they, they want, they want to know exactly what they’re buying. Either a complete value or complete experience.
Vicki: [16:10] Yeah, I totally agree. And you know, I think the cool thing that I have experienced this year is, I mean for 20 years we’ve taught the concept of selling the experience and the importance of giving your clients a good experience. Um, and then you have them as clients for life and they’ll keep coming back. Well, it’s been really cool to actually experienced that because we left the state. We lived in Minnesota for five years. My business I was still shooting, but it definitely was not something that was putting near as much time into and you know, just this past year and moving back to see the support and the people coming back and the people excited about us coming back and the people willing to invest in our business again. Really was one of the pinnacles of getting me excited about being back in shooting again. You know, I came back not having a clue what we were getting into.
Vicki: [17:00] I mean in all honesty, where we live in central Illinois, our community, it used to be the headquarters for Caterpillar and it was just in the last year, year or two that caterpillar moved those headquarters to Chicago. And so that really, you know, that put people kind of on edge a little bit afraid, I feel like to spend money and where is this, you know, put us as a business, you know, selling, selling a luxury type item. And so I had some fears coming back, you know, can this be supportive, can we still do this? Um, and it’s been exciting to see that absolutely. People are still excited and willing to come in and invest in portraits. That’s exciting. Yeah.
Matt: [17:40] So let me, let me, let me ask you kind of a followup question to that and that’s Kinda, it kinda moves into our lightening round a little bit, but because you talked about kind of your reservations about moving back and starting up a business, but what was holding you back when you first started, you know, 20 years ago, what was, what was in your mind in terms of making the full plunge into photography or was there anything?
Vicki: [18:02] I just tell people the truth, which is we were kind of young and stupid. I mean we probably had no business making some of the decisions we made in all honesty, like it was a little more probably the fake it till you make it, which I would not. I would not sit here and tell you, hey go do this. I do the steps that we did because that was pretty scary. We took on a lot with like buying a large building, you know, tons of employees. It worked out like our business did succeed and I think part of it was hand in hand why it succeeded for us, but it just as easily could have probably gone the other way. Like we really did take on a lot of debt and made some pretty, you know, they probably weren’t the smartest financial decisions, but you know, we always do tell people to.
Vicki: [18:44] We didn’t have kids, we were young and we weren’t really making money doing other stuff we were doing before photography that it was Kinda like when you don’t have a lot, you don’t have a lot to lose. Like we were really in a place of, you know, worst case scenario, we do all this. We move in with your parents. Yeah. I mean like that was like that reality that we were, you know, kind of living with. Whereas now the risks are so much greater. You know, we got two little kids, you know, we would make different decisions now, but I think that a lot didn’t hold us back. We were pretty like on fire and excited about making something work. You know, I would say even back then, one of the things though, um, you know, there was some negativity, like there were definitely people who at the time there weren’t as many young women in the industry, not like there is now.
Vicki: [19:26] And so I think there was a little bit of pushback, you know, from some of the seasoned, older photographers that felt like, well, who do you think you are, you know, in just a couple years, you know, commanding these prices or having this big business or being out there teaching. We, you know. So some of that I think were some of the that if I had listened to those lies, you know, and internalize that it might’ve prevented us from making some of the decisions we had made. So I’m thankful that, you know, we pushed through that and, and didn’t believe those things. And I think people, even now today, I mean there’s way more young men and women, um, you know, jumping into this industry on a daily basis. So, you know, I think that, you know, focusing on doing what you love and, and investing in education and you know, hopefully, you know, I, I’ve always believed in teaming up with other people who might have strengths that you don’t have, so you know, whether it’s somebody with the financial stuff, business stuff, you know, employees, you know, just like finding those people to help support you to make good decisions.
Vicki: [20:30] You know what I mean? That’s always been something we believed in from the beginning. So not that we’ve always done it right, but you know, that’s what I would challenge people to do. Yeah. That’s great. So on that note then, what’s the best advice that you’ve ever received? Hm. We’ve received lots of advice, you know, one that just jumped, you know, just kind of came to mind when it comes even to employees was to hire slowly and fire quickly and we did not always follow that. And I will say we, we got burned because of that. Definitely. So all I mean by that is like, even right now I’ve struggled with this move back of Oh my gosh, we’re so busy. I feel so busy because I’m doing so much of the work, like we should hire some people, you know, and I’m like, oh my gosh, I’ve totally been here before.
Vicki: [21:15] I’ve done this before. That’s not necessarily the answer, you know, like you need to look at all the pieces, like maybe there’s something I can be outsourcing or finding a way to do simpler things smarter. Like Jed could automate some of the workflow for me in light room or photoshop, you know? I guess I would just challenge people to really try to automate systems and have a, have a workflow that works for them to work smarter, not harder and not just jump on that bandwagon of who I got to hire somebody or you know, really taken on more overhead that maybe you don’t need to do to really research out your options. Yeah. You know, when I switched over and started my own business, I wasn’t planning to hire anyone and people, the people that work for me came to me and said, I’m working for you.
Vicki: [22:08] I don’t care if you’ve been paying me. And I think that when you have people who are that motivated to work with you and help grow your business and have you as the, you know, they’re the focus your business as their focus and it’s not about them. That’s so different and I think that takes time. And it depends on your personality too. Like for me, one of, one of the reasons I work as, I mean obviously I need to support my family but I just like the personal interaction and I’ll go and work and talk and so I, I do love that. But like you said, yes, definitely not jumping into it, not forcing things is so smart. Well yeah. So like right now, like we have the most amazing employee, Tracy, she has been here. We hired her before we moved to Minnesota and she is who ran the business the five years we were gone and she’s incredible at like she’s been here.
Vicki: [22:59] My other two employees are my sister who lives in South Carolina who has been with us since the beginning doing retouching. And then Kate, who is contract, who we just hired a do like some of our design projects, design books and things like that. And so kate’s worked for you for what, 10 more than 15 years. So I mean we do have these three employees, they’re all part time or contract. But um, I think having an amazing. I agree with you like having that amazing staff and team member. Like they would be very hard to replace and they really did find us. I mean it’s that same thing. Like it wasn’t just like we randomly went out and hired a bunch of people, which I know can be hard, you know, sometimes people do need to hire employees and where do you find them? But I think having just a good team is a big, big deal.
Vicki: [23:44] But I think that piece where I said the hire slowly fire quickly. On the flip side we’ve had, what that means is we’ve had at least two to three times over the years. Like somebody who their time was really, it was obvious it was up with us and for different reasons. And because of me not being the best manager, people like I would never say like that’s my, my strength, you know? Oh, I feel bad. Oh I don’t want to let him go, Oh, you know, whatever. Like it really can end up not being good for either of you guys, you know, and end up harming even some of the other employees, you know, if, if they’re willing to position that they shouldn’t be there anymore. And so that, that’s the fire quickly piece and what’s been interesting. Even the people I can think of that happened with when we finally did get to that space, like they ended up in good places where like, it probably ended up better for them anyway. You know, prolong, like, it’s better for everybody.
Vicki: [24:42] But yeah. Awesome. Can you share one of your personal habits that you think contributes to your success? [inaudible]? I think I love people. So as far as like my clients really ended up becoming my friends. So I think I’m sure I need to be able to go into the camera room and know how to light and make somebody look good. But I think it’s also just as much about making them feel comfortable. I’m not working with professional models, so it’s like making them feel comfortable and relaxed. And um, I’ve always said that, you know, if, if like high school age guys or the dad when they leave a session, they’re like, you know, that was kind of fun or that wasn’t half bad, that that’s one of the biggest compliments I can get because a lot of times they might be the ones just showing up because a mom, like, they’re doing this for mom.
Vicki: [25:32] Um, they’re not looking forward to it. That if I can make the experience fun and they’re excited to see, you know, the images when they come back for the sales appointment, you know, then that’s where I’ve succeeded. Well, and I think that even leads into something I didn’t really mention that was a big change for us that, um, before we moved to Minnesota. So six years ago, everything was pretty much imperson sales. So even though I wasn’t the one doing the sales, I had an employee doing the in person sales. Um, and so we had good sales with that, like I’m a big believer in that, but the reality is when we moved to Minnesota, but my business was still in Illinois and we didn’t really have the staff to pull it off, that didn’t always happen. So we were a mix of online in person sales and it was just kinda like shoot.
Vicki: [26:21] And hopefully people would order, yeah, they ordered, but I absolutely know they didn’t order as much as they would have with an imperson sale. So I think those, those eight years or eight years, those five years we dropped the ball some, we definitely left money on the table with that, but it’s been exciting. That’s why it makes this year I think all the more exciting though because I was afraid to come back because a lot of my clients, most of my clients are clients. They’ve been with me for years, so I was a little nervous that they might push back on that a little bit. So now I’m home, I’m doing the sales. Nope. We’re not just gonna throw them online for you. And it has been a nonissue, like absolutely not an issue. They’re way more excited about coming in to an in person sale.
Vicki: [27:01] Getting my opinions, I can help them through that process. So they’ve actually seen it, I feel like as a positive. So I think, you know, just in person sales in general, that has been a huge, huge thing, a huge impact on our success. And, and you know, we have the numbers to prove that, you know, this year because we used to do it, we stopped, we didn’t stop doing it, but we did it last and now we’re full all in doing it again. And we’ve had the numbers to prove that it’s working well. Yeah, that’s great.
Kia: [27:29] Exciting to hear. I just had a client the other day say, uh, can you just send me a link to the pictures? And I was like, um, no, definitely can’t. So yeah, it definitely, it’s not the service and that’s what you’re providing for everyone is that service,
Vicki: [27:46] right? Like we almost have to untrain them from what they’ve been trained by other photographers, or in my case, the way I was doing it for those couple,
Kia: [27:55] which I think did help your business and the fact that they, you didn’t give them, you didn’t drop out altogether. And so they didn’t have to find someone else to replace their photography needs, but now they’re getting your full service and I’m sure they’re so happy for it. Absolutely. Yeah. Um, so our next question is for you to recommend an internet resource and if you want to tell us about like, your kind of connections, what Jeff is doing with his podcast, but then also if you have any like Internet resource that you are love loving using or something new you’ve discovered, we’d love to hear that too.
Vicki: [28:29] Sure, sure. Well, so I guess I’ll, yeah, I’ll talk about general quickly first. Um, so, you know, because it will kind of tie into the next question I think. But um, yeah. So, um, my husband, Jed, he has been involved with the photography industry honestly since the beginning of our studio. So for almost 20 years, but I’m not always as part of the studio, so for the last nine years, um, you know, he’s had a presence at the studio but he actually started working for White House custom color who has been our lab pretty much since the beginning. Um, and that’s why we lived in Minnesota. So I’m now, he currently is a podcaster for them and I’m really having a lot of fun with that. It’s been super cool seeing him in his element. He’s really good at it and um, it’s just, it’s been really fun, like it’s been a really great experience for him.
Vicki: [29:25] And what’s the name? Is it this conversation is conversation. Yep. Okay. This conversation and um, it’s, it’s sponsored or it’s through White House custom color. And honestly when you say what online resource or Internet service or something that we’re excited about are using. It’s actually through White House. It’s their card editor wondered about it. Oh, that has absolutely changed how we’ve done things with cards. Um, so I mean, for many years we’ve offered holiday cards, Grad cards, you know, for years and years and years, made them all custom, um, you know, a lot of time and investment in that and commanded pretty high prices. Well, what we’ve seen in the industry in general, I mean obviously we know our clients now a lot of times with photographers have access to their data, digital files. There’s lots of online resources where they can order a cool cards that, that has not. It’s been harder to stand out, you know, in that kind of arena with our business.
Vicki: [30:30] And so, um, what we’ve found has been an amazing solution because now the time involved is way less his White House. Um, I think it’s been almost a year and a half now, maybe even two years that they came out with a card editor. But basically it’s an online ordering system that you don’t even have to go into photoshop or you’re dragging and dropping images. I’m changing the text, the color, the layouts that it makes the ordering process so fast and easy that either myself or even my employee who doesn’t use photoshop can create designs for clients really quickly. So the investment that are the time investment that, you know, we used to put in to making cards isn’t so much, which is great because you know, it’s become more challenging for us to sell card. So you know, for us to take a few minutes to mock up some designs, we don’t have much in the game.
Vicki: [31:22] You know what I mean? It’s, it’s not as big of a deal is like we used to spend so much time custom designing each card that, that now you know, to compete with all these other sites that, you know, people can drag and drop and their images, you know, real quickly to acquired. That’s made it a lot, lot easier for us to, to keep doing it. Especially with less employees. You know, like before I would just have all these employees designing them. Well now you know, I’m saying it’s just me and a couple of part time employees. If that’s me designing them, I love having something that’s quick and easy.
Speaker 5: [31:53] And so are you, are you designing them like alive in front of the customer? It’s just a shadow.
Vicki: [31:59] Oh, like the way we’ve used it two different ways. We have used it for preselling, so actually I’m at times we’ve used that where we will even before the client comes in or as part of their imperson sale, mock up a few designs and just do a screenshot or there’s even like little proof link you can get that, that will be part of their slideshow. So even if that’s not the card that they get, that would be something like, Hey, have you thought about doing, you know, Christmas cards or credit cards. Then you’re showing them, hey, this is something that we offer. Even if they end up doing something else or it’s after the fact, you know, they pick out three images and texts they want and then we can mock up a couple of designs and I’m thinking, no, that’s where definitely are. We are using online services that will will email them proof links, you know, and stuff like that.
Vicki: [32:45] Is super easy, like we don’t make them come back in to view designs and stuff. So White House charging anything for it or is it just. No, no, no. You can just, anybody can go online right now to adjust the, their website, the whcc website and if you click on their section with the cards and click on ordering, you can, it’ll take you right to that site and they have a built in a way that’s pretty sweet that for a photographer who maybe isn’t doing in person sales but wants to offer cards, you can actually, um, copy a link that you can send your clients that’s unbranded so they’re not actually gonna order from it, but at least could show them a lot of the designs and things like, Hey, so it’s nice. It’s a nice way to just be like, hey look, we offer this, you know, if there was somebody say that’s never done cards, you know, and they want to start offering that, it would be a really easy way to kind of test the waters.
Vicki: [33:34] Hey, if you pick one of these out, you know, I can make this for you and it would be really easy for someone to do that. And actually the other thing that they have, the, I love that every single one of my clients get um, is there inspiration, guidance, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with, but there’s actually an online link, but then they have actual little these adorable like magazines that they’ve created for newborns, families, weddings, high school seniors that are completely unbranded that I just saw him for like a dollar a piece. And so I just have a whole bunch of those in my studio that every client, if I go do the consultation in their home at the sales appointment or at their session, they get a copy because what it is, it’s basically what it sounds like. It’s an inspiration guide. So it is full of like all the products that we can do and offer, but it doesn’t say White House on it.
Vicki: [34:23] It doesn’t say any other photography information on it. And I tell people this is just for you to get excited to see, you know, some of the things we can do, you know, while groupings and it shows, you know, gallery wraps framed and all the different products, the albums. So it’s just to get them excited and then they come in with me to actually pick out their specific products. But it’s just a great way to kind of get again, the foot in the door of, of selling print selling products. And if there’s somebody who let’s say right now they’re just shooting and burning or throwing images online. Like what a great way. And they don’t have a studio space. They don’t have products to show like it is such a fantastic way to again test the waters, you know, to see to see if people would be interested in buying, you know, wall portraits or products at a very low, you know, low risk magazine and they might pick something out. You know, I think so many people leave so much money on the table by not offering prints and products. And, you know, in my heart, I am not in the business of selling, you know, digital files will file. Yeah. I just, I have such a passion though for like, because I think that’s the interior decorator in me that the person who loves, like design and the way the room looks, um, you know, all the elements of it that, that I want to see that finished piece on the wall.
Kia: [35:44] I mean. And, and you know, what else is interesting, I, um, this is kind of a sad story, but a good friend of mine who used to be by nanny, she died on Friday. Oh my gosh. And it’s very sad. But, um, I don’t, I cannot find the digital files of a family session. I did have her, you know, which is probably like 15 years ago and I’ve looked through like boxes of cds. I’ve looked through the backup drives and one backup drive that I think they might be on, you know, from over 10 years ago, won’t turn on. And uh, you know, and then the other ones I have, I’m looking everywhere for like different chords to see if I can hook them together. But I know for sure that she also had wall portraits of those pictures on her walls and so I don’t know if we’ll be taking good care of our digital files if we’ll be able to access in that easily, you know, I mean I know the cloud is there and that type of thing, but the prince and the portraits really are more of a forever than, than any digital files we’re going to have.
Vicki: [36:50] And I, I tell clients that all the time as far as like if they were going to buy a wall portrait or spend that money to buy some digital files and it’s the same money to me. Like if I were making the same amount of money hands down, I would always want them to do the wall portrait. You know? Like that to me is what I, that’s what satisfies me. Like that feels good to me as like I’ve delivered a final product, you know, like otherwise I feel like they’re just like here I spent all this time with somebody, you know, like preparing and shooting and sales and in their home and if they don’t end up with anything on their walls, it just, it’s very dissatisfying, you know, not even just from the financial standpoint of the just why did we even do all this, you know, like, um, I want you to have something on your walls that you have forever and your kids are and that you’ll be able to get to. Yeah.
Matt: [37:40] Here’s something that I noticed this weekend for us that was a wall portrait versus digital file thing that I never noticed personally. And so we did a, we did an fo, like an expo. It was like a local, what a girl wants expo. And we just basically took stuff. We already had printed a in our studio and put it in our booth. And our booth looked amazing and there was other photographers there, you know, and they had some eight by tens printed and some things like that. And it, you know, our stuff just looks so much more grand and a lot of it was not because we had it in the studio because we had exercise that muscle in our head a lot about printing big stuff on the wall. So like it, it now has become like second nature. So when we go to an expo were like already in that mindset, we’re ready to go, we have stuff to hang, we know what it looks like to hang it in a booth, let alone at home. And it just changes the philosophy of your business in a major way.
Vicki: [38:31] Well, and I, we’ve always, to me sale, I don’t even like using that word sales or in person sales. I number one, think of it as like the clients are investing in me as an artist, but it’s also, I look at it as an education process. If nothing else, that’s what it is. It’s like, you know what, I’ll show you guys because we show like the actual size on the walls. We show, you know, their images on the walls of their home because we can digitally do that. That we’re just educating them. If they look at that and that’s not what they want, fine, you know, but if like I don’t show them, hey, this is what it could look like on your walls. There is no way that most clients even understand what those images look like large on their walls. You know, I think people just tend to think, oh, a big eight by 10.
Vicki: [39:15] You know what I mean? That’s just like naturally, like our images just live on our computers, you know, they hardly get printed, you know, just our personal photos for a lot of people that, you know, the concept of printing something big like that. It’s kind of foreign that it’s an education process that I actually think, you know, I would argue that you are doing your clients a disservice if you’re not showing them their images big because they really don’t know what they would look like big, you know, they’re just seeing what they look like on a computer screen. Small. They have no idea how beautiful that could look maybe as a grouping, you know, on their wall unless you’re showing them that. So, I mean, I believe very strongly like that’s part of a big part of why people are hiring me as the professionals. Like that’s, that’s what they want me to show them, you know, that’s what they’re going to get, that they aren’t going to necessarily get elsewhere.
Matt: [40:07] Awesome. Okay. So a final question before we wrap up, um, if you could recommend a book to our audience, what book would you recommend that.
Vicki: [40:14] Why? Hmm. Okay. You know what, I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not a big reader.
Matt: [40:23] That’s totally fine. That’s totally fine. I don’t like it for a long time in my life. I, I hated reading. I think it was like hold overs from seventh grade, but um, you know, like,
Vicki: [40:35] nope, I, you know, I’m, I’m going to pass on this one and that’s just me being honest. I’m not a big reader. I do way more. I’m just kind of reading different random things online, talking, talking to different people. Um, you know, asking their advice on different things than sitting down reading a, you know, sitting down to read a full book.
Matt: [40:55] Yeah. And I agree. I think networking can be super powerful, you know, because then you can ask specific questions where a book is just kind of telling you what’s going on, when you can kind of dialogue back and forth with somebody. Sometimes sometimes that’s way more powerful than a Kia. Actually
Vicki: [41:08] one of those people that will come to mind, I say Kia, Kia is my favorite book right now. I know she’s heard about several books recently because I’m like, let me tell you exactly what happened in this book. I’m a synopsis or totally you’re my cliff notes. I’m like, truly like that is, I feel like it’s a cop out, but that’s the truth. Like I, I reached out just we’ll just reach out directly to people who I feel like are an expert in their field or who I know might have a good answer or a solution. And um, I do that.
Matt: [41:41] So I think your guys’s group of friends does that the best. You know, like getting to know all you guys better over the years. I think that’s what I’ve noticed most is that you guys are not afraid to call each other on a random Tuesday and ask hard questions of each other, you know, and I think that’s pretty
Vicki: [41:57] well, that’s sort of stay up late at night. Now. The funny thing is I could send you a snapshot of the book cases and cases and cases of books in our house and that you, you, you kind of laugh because there’s lots of them in there. But generally my husband. Yeah. So that’s the it, that’s obviously he reads a lot and I’m like, hey, tell me, tell me what I need to know. I was gonna say I bet you jed would have a list of 10 immediately. Sure. For sure. That’s fine. So Vicky, we would love to end with a parting piece of guidance. I know you’ve talked a lot about in person sales. Uh, but I, I would love for you to touch on just family work balance just a little bit and what you’re learning from it because I feel like you have just really, it’s so important to you and you really struggled to just make it work for you.
Vicki: [42:49] And so, um, I would love to have that last gift for the audience from that. And then, and then also also where they can find you. Yep. Yeah. That one is interesting for me because I will say number one is it constantly changes. So what my work life balance looks like, you know, year to year, day to day is very different. Um, obviously this year both kids are in school full time. So that changed quite a bit. I was, I’ve been able to put more time into the business without feeling like, hey, maybe this balance is off. Versus like when we first moved back I will say like, I don’t think I did great on that work life balance because I felt this pressure to get the studio down in the house done and our son was still not in school full time. And so that was challenging, but I also have learned to be a little more loving to myself because I could catch myself really beating myself up of being like, oh my gosh, you know, I’m not able to do all the things that I want to do for the kids.
Vicki: [43:52] And maybe the business has taken me away from too much. But the fact that I’m even aware and constantly trying to find that balance, I think that’s what’s important because yeah, sure, you have days where maybe you’re working long hours at work and like to be okay with that. As long as you’re aware of like, I don’t want to always be this way. How can I set things up so that I’m not, you know, the next time something comes up that I can go to whatever I want to go to for the kids. But, you know, it’s also okay if maybe I missed a soccer game because I have a sale. Like it’s. And I think the big thing I’ve learned is how great it is for my kids to see like, hey mommy, mommy works. You know, like, that’s okay. In fact, I have one to share that really I think change this for me just in the last couple months, um, I was struggling with like, am I working too much?
Vicki: [44:39] Am I getting pulled away from some of the things I want to do with the kids even though I do a ton of stuff with my kids and in their school and I’m involved with them. It’s like, am I in balance? Am I doing this right? And I was questioning it a little bit and somewhere something happened that I can’t even remember the specifics but that it came up with like, I don’t know if I was just kind of joking or somebody said something that my daughter, she heard it as mommy wasn’t going to be a photographer anymore. And her reaction was like, no mom, you have to be like, she was so distraught. My County, I’m still doing the studio. Like I’m a photographer. But you know, I would have maybe been thinking like, Oh, does she harbor bad feelings against clariphy? Because she knows that’s what takes me away from always being 100 percent, you know, available to her.
Vicki: [45:24] And it was the opposite, like she loves that she can see, I do something that I love, that I work hard at it, that I get satisfaction from it. They understand the concept of money and like mom and dad work to make money to be able to pay for our house and in the things we have here. And so I think that, you know, just being aware of those things, you know, I think this day and age with social media and pinterest and all the things that can make us think like from the outside, oh, this is what I need to be doing, you know, like my life needs to look this picture perfect pinterest party all the time. Um, I think really realizing that that’s not reality for anybody. Um, and to not beat yourself up, you know, if you know when, when your life looks more like a pinterest fail.
Vicki: [46:12] And I think having a good community, you know, I think that’s a big piece to like, to help keep you in check that you have that balance, you know, because sometimes we’re not the best people to kind of see ourselves, you know, it’s like having people that you trust that are close to you, whether that’s a spouse or best friend, someone you work with that you know, you trust enough that they’re going to speak into your life if they see things are maybe a little bit off or off balance. So I think, you know, being open to those relationships and people to speak into your life is one of the best things that you can do. Um, and you know, and when you mess up or when you think, hey, things are unbalanced. I think just acknowledging it, being aware of that and just constantly striving for what your goals are, you know, setting those goals and working towards them. And you know, being very clear about that. I think, you know, just, and it sounds so cliche, but you know, enjoying the journey, not just that, that end result. Pinterest. Perfect ending. Yeah. So that’s, that’s what, that’s why I think about the work life balance.
Matt: [47:16] So shirt real quick, how our audience can connect with you, like, you know, can they find you on social media or website and all those different things.
Vicki: [47:23] Sure. Uh, Yep. Uh, we’re on all of that. So instagram, it’s just V topper. So for Vicky topper, that’s tea you far and you can also find me on facebook as well that way. And the gallery photo on facebook and yeah, that’s it. So basically facebook and instagram. You can also follow our vintage orange, orange camper. We do actually a lot of fun things with the studio, with our vintage orange campers ball, but that’s the tin mango. So you can follow the tin mango on Instagram as well. Oh, I didn’t realize that the 10 mango had an instagram adds its own instagram. Yeah, we’re doing some fun things with that, but no, mostly it’s V topper on instagram. Yep.
Matt: [48:08] All right. Thanks so much vicky for being on the podcast. So I know you’re not going to plug yourself, so I’ll just do a for you. So you can also find Vicky@vGalleryDotNetandshealsohassomestuffforphotographersatvGalleryhaven.com and so that’s the gallery and an h, a v e n Dot Com. So thanks so much vicky, for being on the past. I wish the best for you and jab as you guys restart your studio in Illinois and I hope to connect with you more in the future and hopefully we can get together sometime and sit down and have lunch together. So thanks so much.
Vicki: [48:38] Yeah, thank you Vicky. This is awesome. Thank you.
Speaker 2: [48:42] Thank you for listening to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kaya. Be sure to subscribe for more business strategy and ideas to help you create a profitable and successful business you’ve always wanted. See you on the next episode of from nothing to profit.