Ever wanted to transform your photography business so that you can work less and earn more?
Today I have Destiny Tillery, Photographer, Coach and host of the IPS Made Easy Photography Podcast based in Brandon, Mississippi, who will teach us more about In Person Sales, how we can get started, how to make it more simplified and less intimidating.
Ashley: Okay, So I would love to hear a little bit more about your journey and how you got to where you are today. So, do you still currently do photography? Or are you only focused now on coaching photographers?
Destiny: So, I do both. But yes, I still do shoot. I have clients that I shoot, my niche is newborn and maternity. I have a studio here And I’ve been doing photography since my 15 year old was two. So I’m getting in the teens here at this point in my photography business and it’s only been the past few years where I have been coaching other photographers, which is so fun and so rewarding.
As far as like what began the journey, let’s say I started photography, like I said whenever Faith who is my oldest when she was two. Actually, let me just be honest with you, the reason I started photography was because my husband was so cheap, he didn’t want to pay for photography and he bought me this camera. But having a nice camera and a cute subject doesn’t mean that you can just create this beautiful whatever you know. It’s not like having a canvas and paints and say okay, paint a Picasso, that’s just not doable. You’ve got to have the knowledge to be able to use it well. After two years of having really crummy pictures of her, I developed more skill and then just my business took off from there and it has just evolved. You get more clients and then you change your prices a little bit or maybe not and you get more clients and you get more busy. Then this awesome cool thing that you’re going to start to do on the side then becomes like a complete takeover, takeover your life and it just becomes all-consuming.
I decided that this was going to be something I wanted to do full time. But in doing that, I didn’t also set up the systems I needed to help support me and my home life and in my work life. I was just completely kind of floundering a bit and it all came to a head whenever Faith our oldest was about five, almost six. We were going to Disney World, and we were preparing for this amazing vacation. We’re anticipating this first big vacation with her as she’s old enough now to be able to enjoy the things. I’m talking it up to her, I’m like, Baby, we’re going to get to go to play, we’re going to do these rides, it’s going to be so amazing! But at the time, we didn’t have our two little ones, she was just our only child. It was a way for me to say, let mom work, I’ve got to make money, please go play. Get out of my face. That’s basically what I was saying to her. Every time I did, it was like a dagger to the heart. So, there was this one day where she said, Mom, will you play with me? And for the 15th bazillion time, I told her I wish I could and I began to cry. I just can’t. I know you keep asking me, but I have to work.
I’m at my computer and she looks at me like almost scared. Like I don’t even know what to say and I was like, okay, something needs to change here, I can’t do this. I need to be able to figure out a way to work less and make more. I can’t work this much and I definitely need to show her my attention and my love more, than just working to make money because it wasn’t translating to love to her. So that is like really where it needed to change for me and really where I began to explore in person sales and making a change in the way that I sold my photography work and really the way that I valued my time.
Ashley: Oh, thank you so much for sharing that story. Because I do feel like every photographer at some point, has that pivotal moment where you have to decide is this going to be a job where it works for me, or where I work for it. I think we can all agree that we all started our photography business for freedom. We wanted time freedom and we wanted money freedom: We did not want a job that we were chained to. I mean that’s why a lot of people start their own business. I love that you came to this moment where you realized that it had sort of gone too far, it was starting to own you, instead of you owning it. I love that you dove into IPS, because I think that’s kind of where a lot of photographers feel stuck. You can only work so many weekends; you can only have so many clients a month and still maintain that balance. IPS is really the sort of gateway to be able to work less and make more.
Destiny: Yeah, I think so. I mean, in 2011, 12, 13, 14, it wasn’t a big topic. It wasn’t talked about wildly. Social media was not nearly what it is now and there was no formal education I couldn’t find. I had a mentor who mentored me in newborn photography, she did in person sales. She just kind of showed us what she did, but it wasn’t like that was part of the mentorship. It was just the actual posing and shooting newborn photography. I knew it was people were doing it and they were killing it. I’m like well, if it’s possible for her, then it’s possible for me and I’m just going to figure out how to do it. I didn’t have anybody teaching me what to do and it just seemed like this is something I need to do and I need to figure this crap out like now. I just started somewhere. I didn’t say Oh, I’ve got to make X amount of dollars. It was a more gradual thing and that works so well for me and it felt so natural. So that is the way that I teach my students how to do it: that’s what the podcast is all about is making it easy. Take the complication out of it, take all the barriers away and just start where you can.
Ashley: I love that you mentioned too that it’s a gradual growth. I feel like there are so many photographers out there that want the quick fix and just want the answer. Then there are so many coaches out there that know that and they sort of preach to that, all you need is more clients, all you need is more sales. But if you do not have the systems in place, if you do not have the foundation built first, then jumping ahead 100 steps is not what you need. You do need that gradual growth, so you can create sustainability. So, I’m very glad that you mentioned that.
Destiny: With the gradual growth in my business, came also the gradual growth in income, because then even if you just get started with a lower price point, at least you’re meeting with them in person. When you focus your business, especially one where it’s so connected with emotional ties like photography is, it’s important to have the foundation of service. This is just a super charged way to really gain loyal clients, because you’re meeting with them and you’re helping them and you’re serving them really at a high level. More high than you can in any other way, in my opinion of selling photography work.
Ashley: I agree 100%. Now, I think a lot of photographers are intimidated by in person sales, and it can feel really sort of out of touch or out of reach for so many, because it just feels like one more thing. We already have so much on our plates, juggling raising children, growing a business and now we think about adding in, in person sales, more time away from our family. You know maybe this pressure of selling that a lot of people are like, well, I’m just not a salesperson. So, can you share with our listeners just a little bit about what IPS entails maybe? What IPS is in your own words, and then how photographers can easily get started.
Destiny: Yeah, so my definition of in person sales is really in person service. Because anywhere where you serve at a high level, you’re also going to get the income from it. The income is going to raise to the level of service that you provide and it’s like that across any genre of photography, of any business in any industry. Now, I’ve heard this a lot, people think, Oh, this is scary, I don’t want to put myself out there. You’re dealing with a lot more than just the tacticals and the strategies of selling your work in person.
It’s more like mental mindset blocks, fear of rejection. It is money blocks. I feel like there’s a disconnect, sometimes we think, well, we’re doing something that we love that gives us time freedom. That we have some sort of like an outlet for creativity, then we shouldn’t charge a lot for it, or we shouldn’t get paid our worth for it. And it’s been very eye opening to me to see the different blocks that are having to be removed for people to really step into something that can be so simple. Now, whenever you think of time and the time that it takes. I had a recent a student recently, she was kind of like, I don’t know if this is right for me. I don’t know if I should do this. I said well, yes, it does mean that you have to meet with your client again, but right now, you’re making $350 a session, what if you just made $1,000 plus the sitting fee, could you make time then? And she was like yeah, because guess what, now she only has to shoot two or three sessions to make that.
And that is altogether better, because then not only are you shooting less, but you’ve just gained a really loyal client. One that is going to just completely shout your name from the rooftops, because now they’re going to have something in hand like an album, or framed art to show off. They may have just had this download link or this flash drive and I’m not knocking Digital’s. There is a place for them, but it’s not fully serving our client, because not everybody wants only just Digital’s. Some people just don’t have a vision of what it could be, of what their walls could look like of the memories that they have in print. They just don’t have that vision and they need help understanding what could be a possibility for them.
Ashley: So, I was just thinking about this, because I think that you just touched on so many incredible things. Going deep with your clients, instead of having a multitude of clients. So, you have multiple clients that you’re only charging say 350 for a one hour session with them and you’re gaining all these really awesome clients. But you’re not able to go deep with the clients, like a vertical up and down relationship. So that just made me think, if you could go more vertical with your clients, and create a very in depth experience for them, where it extends beyond their session and as you mentioned, giving them these ideas of how to use their photos that they may have never even thought about, is such an incredible service. I once heard someone speak about IPS and say, if you don’t offer prints to your clients, you’re actually doing them a disservice. Like you are not giving your clients the educational knowledge that every client deserves and I just thought that was really cool. But one of the questions that I wanted to ask you. Because I hear this from a lot of photographers is like, well, I wouldn’t buy prints. I wouldn’t buy an album. I would just prefer the digital images; how would you sort of speak to that?
Destiny: We are not our ideal client all the time and that’s just that. When you establish who your ideal client is, then you can serve them better. But if you’re trying to cast the net wide and reach every single person, then of course you’re going to get everything and we don’t want that. We want an ideal client who values printed artwork, ones that value something that they can actually flip through. Another good point is we know what to do with the Digital’s, not our clients. Our clients are not graphic designers, they’re not photographers. They just don’t know what to do with Digital’s or how to size correctly the canvases for the wall or create groupings, or they don’t know where to order them. So, you’re exactly right, by not offering these other things it’s doing our clients a disservice because they very well may be completely open to it, they just need help, they need a little bit of hand holding. And you’re right too, quality over quantity is where it’s at for sure.
So, there’s something that I thought about. Now, I told you that I’d been married for 21 years and so I got married at 18. My husband and I we knew that photography would be like one of our biggest expenses when we got married, because we had a very shoestring budget whenever we were planning our modest wedding. But we’re like okay, who is the best in our area? I’m from Gulf Shores, Alabama and my husband is closer from Mobile. And there’s this photographer who had been in business for years and years in Mobile. He was an older man and every time I think of this analogy, thinking about Digital’s versus prints, I think of this man, because that is the only way that he sold his photography work. It was only in person, only by looking at this portfolio of the photos that he had taken. And we flipped through, we looked at them in person, we chose what we wanted. And then it occurs to me all these years later, there was no other option before.
The more reputable photographers, they would meet with their clients in person, because digital just wasn’t a thing, it was not even available. So, it wasn’t until the past 20, 25 years that this is even been an option. And right now, we have to kind of go back. We’ve conditioned our clients to expect to get only Digitals, because there’s a lot of reasons. But another reason is it was easy and we didn’t have to address a lot of our own inner problems and blocks and stuff when it comes to selling. And if you are thinking as a listener, if you’re out there and you’re thinking, well, this is not something that I’m good at, I’m not good at sales and the idea that makes me want to barf. Go back to thinking, when was the last time you did something that made you want to barf and you did it anyway and you came out on the other side. And guess what, you didn’t die and chances are the next time you did it, it was easier. You just have to remember, you’re not actually going to die and number two, client friends make more money, even if you don’t even raise your prices. If you just meet with your clients and offer them something, you’re just going to make more money because you’re offering them a service that not everyone else does. And you’re offering something that they either want or didn’t know they want.
Ashley: Thanks for sharing that because I am one of those people that would have been like, I just I don’t want print sales you know. I don’t need the album and then here I am, I am a photographer. And if I had a photographer who sat down with me and was like, this is important, show off these beautiful photos. I am literally that client who doesn’t post their photos and doesn’t show their photos. And I am a photographer and so it just goes to show that, just because we’re not our ideal client doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who are looking for this exact type of service and who want to get their photos off of the USBs or off of the digital galleries. It’s just kind of eye opening, very inspirational hearing you talk about that, because it’s a mindset shift. We have to just know that this is possible. It might not be the most widely accepted right now because everybody is so shoot and share right now. Just shoot and share the Digital’s and that might be what the majority of the people want.
I also like to use this analogy too, is like do you want to be the photographer who is inexpensive and you have a lot of volume or do you want to be that boutique photographer who creates the experience? The incredible photography and doesn’t have a lot of clients, but you can charge more. So, do you want volume or do you want revenue? And I would still prefer to work less and make more. So, I think I would love for you to kind of dive into maybe how photographers can get started, but also like bridging the gap of the transition. I’m a photographer who only shares Digitals, but now I really want to get into IPS. But what how do I start and how do I transition?
Destiny: I want to touch on something that you said just a moment ago. There’s so many things as a business owner, we have so many things pulling at our attention all the time and I think we truly live in a culture of procrastination. We’re always trying to figure out the thing that needs us the most. And you say you’re a photographer, that is the one that wants Digitals but never prints anything and there is a reason for that. It’s because the same reason that we don’t want to let our clients fall into that same trap and it’s this. There’s always something to do and so when you have that dedicated time to sit down, it’s more for them than us a lot of times.
You just have this time that you’ve set aside, to choose your order to make your decisions. You can prep your client a lot beforehand, so that by the time you meet with them, they have already been prepped. By the time they get with you, they’re ready to go. That’s just another way that we can help them just make this decision. Otherwise, two years goes by and you’re like, well, it’s time to get new pictures now. So, for transitioning and starting, if you are a shoot and share, if you’re a photographer who shoots, puts them on an online gallery or you do offer these products, but you just don’t meet with them in person, if in person sales seems completely out of the realm of possibility for you, just start anywhere. If you are selling products but online, keep your prices exactly the same. Just simply meet with your client, that’s all.
Have some samples of what you already have, what you already offer and just practice meeting with them. Now that you’ve taken away the fear of your prices being higher, you have already met with them, wants to shoot the session, so they’re not strangers. The only difference is you now get to see their reaction when you present their photos to them. This is a very rewarding aspect of in person sales too because when we shoot and send, they may have an amazing reaction, but we don’t know. If you don’t have a studio, no problem, meet at Panera, meet at Starbucks, meet in your home, meet in their home, meet in the library. The multitude of options to be able to meet with your clients is absolutely endless.
Start where you are and the only difference is you just meet with them in person to show them and then to present their photos. Maybe the next step after that would be to create a pricing guide, that would include some products. Maybe just prints for now, just so that you can get your feet wet in it because it really has nothing to do with your client, it has everything to do with you as a photographer and your confidence. When you get started, the first time you do it, you’re going to have a little bit more confidence than you did before. Then the next time it just grows until you feel more comfortable selling all the products that you want to sell. To transition if you really want to do this the right way, you just start with your next client. So, your old clients, you may have some sort of offer or one year, two year, kind of like where you are truly transitioning them. But for all your new inquiries, they won’t know the difference. They have no idea what your prices were before and hopefully you will be getting new clients and new inquiries. And when you do, you just start implementing this on the front end, so over time, you’re in person sales clients will increase, your older ones will decrease.
You don’t want to lose those, so you want to make sure that you are letting them know that they are a valued client of yours. That you’re going to kind of like walk them through this a little bit. You know, have a few options for offers that they could choose. Like, one example might be that they have the same pricing for up to a year. Or the very next session is the is the same price or a product credit of X amount of dollars. I mean as long as you communicate with them, they’re going to feel valued.
Ashley: So, the next question I have would be, so if a photographer decides that they want to start having these sessions, or just like a reveal. Like how would they present that to their client? Because their client may not have been expecting that. Because they haven’t been talking about it for a while. Do you have any, like recommendations or tips for like, first how to present it to your client? Because, you know obviously they might say no, and then that can feel like well crap! They’re not interested, like what am I doing wrong? So how could we present it and then maybe like, a loose outline of how would we structure that meeting.
Destiny: I have a mentorship called IPS Made Easy Collective and in there we would go through like individual exactly what to say. But to give you like a broad overview of what that would look like, is to know that, if you already have a client that you’ve already booked, obviously, you’re not going to spring it on them. You don’t want them to feel like they’re getting something that they didn’t anticipate. So even if you’re not ready to change your prices, or up them or offer products just yet, or just to shift things, do it with your next client that you book, but let them know ahead of time. Let them know, before they book that that’s the process. With many of the photographers I know, before booking you kind of give a little synopsis, a little brief overview as to what it could look like and what they can expect if they book a session with you.
And as far as verbiage, I think we could really get in our head about what we say, you don’t want to make a mistake. But it really is just about two humans coming together or a few humans together making a connection. But whenever you are first starting, you don’t have to have it all figured out. A moving ship is easier to steer than a stationary one. But for a few to really get started, let me give you just a few things that I would make sure that you had shored up:
- You want to be clear as to what your prices are, based on your priorities and your boundaries. Have them printed and ready whenever you meet with your clients.
- Next, decide on where you’re going to meet your clients. Just go ahead and have an idea in your mind of where it is that you’re going to meet him or a few options that you could meet with your client.
- Have a few samples, whatever products that you already offer or want to. Just keep a very simple list of products. It could be just prints, it could be an album, it could be canvas, it could be framed portraits. But if you’re just starting and you just want to get your feet wet somewhere to start would be prints.
- Decide how you’re going to actually present them. Just have anything with a screen, anything that you can pull up their photos, look through them together and that’s it. You can get fancy and print them if you want to. You don’t have to because that’s just one more barrier, one more thing on our shoulders that we’d have to do and one more expense. It’s not necessary, we don’t have to do that.
- Decide how to accept payments. I think that it’s crazy to think you’ve done all this work, you’ve gotten there at the very end and then you’re afraid to tell them the price. You’re afraid to tell them what the total is. If it’s $5,000, you say it’s $5,000, would you like to write a check or do you have a card for that? That is a big block for a lot of people and just knowing how you accept payments is a big important step to go ahead and have already ready. That way if they say I have a card, you can take that right then.
Ashley: Yes. I have a follow up question on that. Do you offer payment plans?
Destiny: I do.
Ashley: Can you tell us like a little bit about what a payment plan might look like? Is it do they get their prints and then they can continue paying? Or they pay until they’re paid in full and then they get all of the products?
Destiny: Personally, I have the payment plans where they can stretch it out over three months. And then they receive their products whenever they’ve paid in full.
Ashley: Okay, cool. That’s so good to know. Because I know some people allow their clients to get the products in advance. And I’m like, Oh, I don’t know that I would trust that.
Destiny: For a lot of years, I did do that and I never was burned, until I was. And it only takes one time to get burned really good and you’re like, you know, that one’s on me. I’m not going to do that again.
Ashley: Right, live and learn. Oh, my goodness! Destiny, this was such a great conversation. I feel like our listeners are going to be so much more empowered to just get started. As you said, all it takes is just deciding that you’re going to do it and just one foot in front of the other and just baby steps. You’re going to grow, you’re going to get better, your sales are going to increase as you get more comfortable with it. But I love that you gave really practical, actionable steps, getting your pricing ready, having it presented in a way that’s really easy to digest. I know another tip that I would have too and you did mention this, but just so that I can like really hit this home is to keep it simple. If you give them every option that is offered through your print company, they’re going to be so overwhelmed. So do them a service. Do them a solid lead of really honing in on a few things. And then if they want something that’s not offered, I’m sure they’ll bring it up and they’ll say, do you have this because I’ve seen this before. But keep it simple, because again, decision fatigue, we don’t want to add to that.
Destiny: Yeah, we’re not the Cheesecake Factory. We don’t need all the options. Yeah less is more for sure.
Ashley: Absolutely. Okay, so before we end, would you please share with everyone where they can connect with you and how they can learn more about this program collective that you offer?
Destiny: Yeah, it’s the IPS Made Easy Photography Podcast. I’ve got a Facebook community, the same name and also a Facebook page that you can reach out and find me there. The Collective is a mentorship that goes through A to Z, all the way from the business basics all the way through the delivery and referrals and testimonials. And teaches you every single thing that you would need to do to get started and be profitable right out of the gate with in person sales.
Ashley: Oh, I love that and I’ll be sure to of course put all the links in the show notes for you guys. So, you have easy access. Thank you so much Destiny for being here today. This was such a pleasure.
Destiny: Thank you so much for having me. This has been great!
- Learn with Destiny!
- IPS Made Easy Photography Podcast
- Find Destiny on Instagram: @Destiny.Tillery
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- Find me on Instagram: @thepurposegathering