Business + Marketing

How In-Person Sales Helped Me Work Less and Make More

February 1, 2018

By Christine Yodsukar

Photos © Christine Yodsukar

After discovering how to sell, the next task was figuring out what to sell. A new product line was developed, including one album and a portrait box.

At the start of 2015, I was newly pregnant, severely ill and unable to work much at all. By the start of 2016, my son was one month old and my luxury wedding photography business had been completely neglected. I still wasn’t feeling great, and the time commitment of weddings was not something I wanted to do with a newborn at home. On top of that, we moved into a brand new market halfway through the year. I knew I needed to make a plan that would allow me to stay home with my son and still make the income my family was used to. That year, I was able to cut my number of jobs in half, while making a 15 percent increase in revenue and reducing my overhead by 5 percent. Here is how I did it.

Continually marketing to new clients is daunting for most, and considering that I wanted to spend less time working, trying to get more clients was out. I was also struggling with the idea of charging more for just my time and knew that by offering products, I could provide more value to my clients, which would result in each spending more with me.

I hated the word “sales,” but if I wanted to work less, I knew I had to embrace the idea that selling is not a bad thing. I set out to learn everything I could about sales. I studied with Steve Saporito (who is teaching at WPPI this year) and he taught me how to connect with my clients, and I read books like Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck that taught me about communication, negotiations and building value.

The most important lesson I learned is that in order to receive, you must first give. So when I say I learned to sell, I really learned to provide immeasurable amounts of value to my clients. I did this by chucking my ego at the door and asking my clients what was important to them. Instead of focusing my photo shoots on my amazing lighting and epic skies, I focused on the relationships between the people in my photographs, on creating artwork that they would display in their homes for generations, and I invited them to be part of the process from start to finish. Not only does this create an exceptional experience for my clients, but it bonds them to the artwork that we created together. This way, I am no longer selling to my clients. I am simply guiding them and allowing them to choose what is valuable to them.

Now that I knew how to sell, I needed to know what to sell. I love simplicity, so I wanted my product listing to be the same. I created a new product line of four canvas wall art collections, one album, and a portrait box. That’s it. I created a spreadsheet that detailed out my cost of goods, retail pricing and net profit on every product I offered. Then, I calculated what I needed my monthly net profit to be and divided that by the number of shoots I wanted to do per month. This gave me the magic formula I needed for my business. For example, if you wanted to net $60,000 a year, you would have to do 2.5 shoots per month with a net sale of $2,000 each. If you need to net $2,000 per session, you can see which of your products will get you there the easiest—those are the ones you show your clients first.

Money is the way that clients reward a business for providing amazing service, so I needed to open myself up to portrait session sales that I had never even dreamed about before. As silly as it may sound, artists have a tendency to stop their clients from spending with them when the dollar amount exceeds their own comfort zone of spending. You often hear people say, “I can’t charge that, because I would never spend that amount myself!” But we must remember that our clients are adults who can decide to spend their money any way they wish. As photographers, we have infinite opportunities to provide value (and be rewarded for it), because we are documenting relationships in people’s lives that will grow and change and never be exactly the same again. For some people, what we do is priceless. By offering them artwork for every room of their home, we are offering them ways to celebrate their happiness every day of their lives. The best way to make it easy for your clients to invest their money is by pre-designing artwork for them in design software and then revealing it to them in person. I use Fundy Designer to design and sell everything I offer, and even build invoices and place orders directly to my lab, Millers, right in the software. It makes the process easy and streamlined for both my clients and my studio.

What started as a way for me to get through year one with a newborn turned into a huge shift in my business and my life. On my quest to find a way to work less and make more, I found a way to bring meaning to what I do and bring significance to my clients’ lives. I went from $500 shoot-and- burn portrait sessions that my clients were mildly happy with to a $4,000 sales average and clients that cannot thank me enough. I focus on giving value to my clients, allowing them to decide what they value, and I spend my extra time experiencing and enjoying life with my family. Define what makes you happy, make a plan to get there, and make everything you do about your clients. The rest is just 1s and 0s.

Christine Yodsukar hails from Boston and currently splits her work/live/play time between Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and the rest of the world. Along with her husband and business partner, she took her photography business from $100 weddings to a six-figure income in just three years. You can see her frequently on WEtv as a wedding and portrait photography expert. She is passionate about teaching other wedding photographers to grow their businesses so they too can live their happiest lives.

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