Thirty Nine.

When you’ve just left your job to go freelance, in the middle of a global crisis.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from photographer Hannah Brooke. She says:

“So. I built my photography business up for 2.5 years alongside my day job, got it to the point I could resign. Yay. And I finish that day job next Thursday. Eek!

The photography diary already got cancelled or postponed and after crying about it for about 2 solid weeks, I picked myself up and wrote an online course on smartphone photography. Which people have actually bought. Hurrah! 

Obviously I’m right proper chuffed about this (I’m from Yorkshire and you’ll need to say this in a Yorkshire accent!) but my question to you is around pivoting my business and how to market this extra string I’ve added to my bow, whilst still making it really clear that photographing weddings and families  is what I do and want to be doing when this extraordinary time is over! I have A LOT of ideas but I’m worried it all looks a bit chaotic and confusing to my customers.

Thanks in advance, Hannah”

• • • • •

This episode is supported by Nutmeg.

Nutmeg offers customers a high-quality investment service at a reduced cost, whether they have £500 or £5 million to invest. Nutmeg now manages over £2bn on behalf of over 80,000 customers, making Nutmeg one of the UK’s fastest growing wealth managers and the fifth largest wealth manager in the UK by customer numbers (Source: PAM Asset Management, January 2019).

[Risk warning: Capital at risk. JISA rules apply]

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:22] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:32] – Steve
Hello, yes, so each week we take a different question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it best we can, but we start the next episode by going back to that topic and taking your much more well considered comments on board. Last week was…

[00:01:47] – Frankie
How to drum up new work without being seen as opportunistic!

[00:01:52] – Steve
Oh, it’s Gemma’s question, that’s right.

[00:01:53] – Frankie
Because we’re recording this in the context of the pandemic.

[00:01:58] – Steve
Bethany Carter got in touch. Hey, Bethany.

She says,

“I agree with Frankie about reaching out to people in a way that is real, human and honest. And I’d consider how-,”

I think we both said it. I mean, she’s making that sound-,

[00:02:13] – Frankie
I’ll take it!

[00:02:14] – Steve
Bethany says,

“And I’d consider how you can help in this situation. Ask your contacts how they’re getting on and offer them an idea for something they could do that’s unique to them. Mention that you have some free time if something comes up. And keep it light.”

[00:02:28] – Frankie
Steve Morgan wrote a very long, useful comment. I picked out one bit, but go and read it. Search for episode 38.

[00:02:37] – Frankie
Steve says,

“I think it’s more than okay to put a tweet, post, whatever out there saying to people that you’re looking for work. A friend of mine did this after he lost all his clients pretty much overnight when the lockdown was announced. And he went from having zero clients to being inundated with requests. If he hadn’t tweeted about it and hadn’t been so open about his rubbish situation, that wouldn’t have happened. I know a couple of others as well who have seen this. So his example isn’t purely anecdotal or a one off.”

[00:03:03] – Steve
That’s a very good point, actually.

[00:03:04] – Frankie
Don’t ask, don’t get, right?

[00:03:05] – Steve
Yeah. But that is different to messaging a client, don’t you think?

Lynda Kendall got in touch.

Lynda says,

“I put some stuff out the other week to offer payment plans and discounts on any work till this is over, as I knew some furloughed people might be using this time to follow their own business dreams and might want to get on with branding and websites. But I also knew money will be tight, so wanted to offer the option of spreading payment”
That’s nice, that’s a good idea. Well done, Lynda!

[00:03:38] – Frankie
That is nice. Putting herself out there, asking for work because she’s a designer — hence branding and websites — but being empathetic with it.

[00:03:44] – Steve
Well, I like the idea of a payment plan.

[00:03:47] – Frankie
Subtle difference, but significant.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:37] – Frankie
Right, this week’s question comes from Hannah Brooke,

She says,

“So I built my photography business up for two and a half years alongside my day job and got it to the point I could resign. Yay! I finish that day job next Thursday. Eek!

The photography diary already got canceled or postponed and after crying about it for about two solid weeks, I picked myself up and wrote an online course on smartphone photography, which people have actually bought. Hurrah. Obviously I’m right proper chuffed about this. I’m from Yorkshire.”

And you want me to say this in a Yorkshire accent? Oh, fucking hell…

[00:07:18] – Steve
Oh, brilliant. Go on.

[00:07:19] – Frankie

[00:07:23] – Steve
Come on. Didn’t you go to University in Yorkshire?

[00:07:28] – Frankie
Aye, aye, I did.

[00:07:29] – Steve
No, a Yorkshire accent.

[00:07:31] – Frankie
Shush you.

Hannah continues,

“Obviously I’m right proper chuffed about this.”

That’s so awful. I’m so sorry.

She says, “But my question to you is around pivoting my business and how to market this extra string I’ve added to my bow while still making it clear that photographing weddings and families is what I do and what I want to be doing when this extraordinary time is over. I have a lot of ideas, but I’m worried it all looks a bit chaotic and confusing to my customers. Thanks in advance, Hannah.”

[00:07:54] – Steve
Wow. Well, congratulations, by the way!

[00:07:57] – Frankie

[00:07:58] – Steve
Do you know what I like about this question?

[00:08:00] – Frankie
She’s turned it around already?

[00:08:01] – Steve
Yeah, how positive it is. Because it could be like, “fucking hell, I just quit my job, guys!!” Although, caveat — can I put a little brackets?

[00:08:11] – Frankie

[00:08:12] – Steve
If you quit your job, you’ve literally just gone freelance and you have zero work, for example, there are some nice bosses who will furlough you.

[00:08:23] – Frankie
Yeah. They’ll take you back. That’s a thing isn’t it?

[00:08:27] – Steve
And it’s allowed. It’s not a dodge. I’m just saying — depending on your relationship with your former employer and whether you have zero work at all. Anyway, just saying.

[00:08:39] – Frankie
No, it’s a really good point.

Martin, Martin. What’s his name?

[00:08:43] – Steve

[00:08:44] – Frankie
Martin Lewis has lots of really good information specifically on that point.

[00:08:50] – Steve
But by the sounds of it, you are feeling positive and you’re cracking on anyway.

So, how do I pivot? Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, well, here’s the thing, right? Is it pivoting? Is it pivoting?

[00:09:02] – Frankie
Oh, he’s flipped the question on its head. BOOM.

[00:09:04] – Steve
To me, pivoting is like… so Flickr, the photo sharing app? Flickr started life as a computer game.

[00:09:14] – Frankie

[00:09:14] – Steve
Part of the functionality of the computer game was the fact that you could upload photos and tag them and people could comment and blah, blah, blah. And eventually they were running out of money and the guys pivoted — they took part of their company that they realised was getting a bit of a buzz and they ditched the thing that they loved, that was the game. And they went all in on Flickr, right? That feels like a pivot because it went in a totally different direction and off they went.

You’re not… You’re just adding extra services and ideas that supplement what you already do. And for that matter, even though you’re doing it to help people during a crisis, these might well serve you well further down the line.

[00:09:55] – Frankie
Yeah, totally.

[00:09:56] – Steve
You know, weddings are very seasonal anyway. We’re going to be entering some sort of recession.

[00:10:01] – Frankie
‘Sort of’?

[00:10:03] – Steve
Spoiler alert!

I mean, you do also say ‘an extra string I’ve added to a bow’. And I would say that it’s not pivoting.

[00:10:09] – Frankie
It’s a really good point because I bet there’s loads of photographers that have wanted to set up that kind of thing — online courses, other resources, stuff outside of their bread and butter job ± but they never have the time to do it. It’s always an added luxury that they want to bolt onto their business. But here you are, having already done that, you’ve already sold some! You haven’t even officially gone freelance yet. You’re doing something right. If people essentially trust you enough to buy a course from you, that’s amazing!

[00:10:37] – Steve
Yeah, do not underestimate how big a pat on the back you should be giving yourself. Yeah, selling those things is hard. It shows that you’ve got an audience of people who are on your side and interested in what you’ve got. Also, you’re like, “I have a lot of ideas” — amazing! That’s great. Because if you’ve got a lot of ideas, at least some of them are bound to work, right?

[00:11:00] – Frankie
I think she’s just worried about overegging it and confusing her messaging?

[00:11:04] – Steve
But what a great place to start from. Some people might be sitting there going, “oh, I know I should be making some extra money, but I don’t know what to do…” You’ve got lots of ideas, so that’s awesome as well.

But you’re worried that it’s all going to look a bit messy. So I think really that comes down to the way you put it out there, the way you message it. For a start, with your website — you might want to tweak that so that you literally say, for example, “I’m a wedding and family photographer. I clearly can’t be doing that right now, but here’s how I’m going to help you get beautiful memories to share right now anyway”.

[00:11:48] – Frankie
Steve’s on a roll. Get a copywriter in, job done!

[00:11:50] – Steve
No, yeah, I was going to say — and that is important as well — if you’re worried about it looking ‘chaotic’, speak to somebody who will help you make it not look chaotic because there are copywriters who will absolutely nail the message for you, and there are designers who will likewise be able to advise you or help you create it. I don’t think this needs to be a bad thing. This is like, “look at me, I’ve got all of this great stuff to help you through this time!”

[00:12:21] – Frankie
Presumably, though, there’s been an actual toing and froing? Because she had work lined up for going freelance, which has all been canceled. So I guess there’s also those people that she’s had to cancel or postpone with and how does she now manage that relationship? Talk about what she can help them with in a way that is clear and doesn’t muddy the offer I guess?

[00:12:43] – Steve
You see, I think the good thing is… Let’s be realistic as consumers here, right? We can all take photos on our iPhones or whatever that look pretty good.

[00:12:54] – Frankie

[00:12:55] – Steve
But they are still never as good as a professional photographer who is awesome. That’s why photographers are still thriving, despite the fact that we have these amazing devices in our pockets. So if you’ve booked in to do a family portrait shoot with somebody, they are still going to want — even if you help them edit those photos and make them look great right now — I still believe they would still want you to take their photos when it’s all over.

[00:13:20] – Frankie
Further down the line. Yeah, I guess maybe there’s a fear that you’d dig yourself out of the higher paid job?

[00:13:27] – Steve
But it’s like… I’m taking art workshops at the moment because I’m enjoying it and I’m getting better at doing art, but God, I would still rather pay somebody to paint me a proper picture to put on the wall!

So it doesn’t matter if you teach someone even how to use a proper DSLR camera, let alone a smartphone.

[00:13:46] – Frankie
Such a good point.

[00:13:47] – Steve
They’re still not going to be a photographer.

[00:13:49] – Frankie
It helps them do their own shizzle. But it also reinforces the fact that you know your shit and they don’t.

[00:14:00] – Steve
But then, of course, nobody’s going to visit your website unless they’re being led there. So, for example, I imagine that Instagram is a big thing for a photographer.

[00:14:10] – Frankie

[00:14:11] – Steve
And not just on your grid, but more importantly in your stories; to share that personality. Every few days of course, you can say something like, “obviously, I’m really looking forward to shooting weddings again”. Don’t stop mentioning that that’s what you do! “But obviously, I can’t do that at the moment. So I’ve been taking these photos of my own family”. And you might share some of those… “Oh, I’ve just been doing some editing of family shoots I did before all of this happened. Do you want to see some of them?”

But maybe — and perhaps this is one of the things you want to offer already — you also say, “how many photos are you taking now? Would it be useful if I showed you some better ways of taking natural photos around your house? Or how better to edit them?”

So you can even ask questions, put a little poll or whatever the heck you use on Instagram. So that you can almost see whether it’s something that people are interested in before you create it. Yeah, so you could offer to edit people’s photos for them and then maybe create a nice photo album for them? And again, yes, there’s software where people can create their own photo books online you’re thinking…

[00:15:23] – Frankie
Doesn’t mean they want to do it themselves!

[00:15:25] – Steve
They don’t. Yeah, I think there’s huge opportunity, but you just talk about it so that when you are mentioning it on Instagram, you’re still referencing the fact that you can’t wait to get back out there and be with you guys and take the photos up front.

[00:15:43] – Frankie
If she doesn’t use IGTV, she definitely should. I follow quite a few photographers that do really, genuinely, useful mini workshops in a really short, easy to consume, five minute IGTV kind of thing. That kind of stuff — when it’s good, useful content — it spreads really easily in the right circles.

Yeah, I guess just like using social, using your website to create stuff that positions you as an expert, right? Another photographer I follow, actually quite a few of them do this, they do Instagram stories where they show their editing process. And even if you’re not teaching people how to do it, it’s just interesting to watch. Like the pictures change over time and again. It just reinforces the fact that you know what you’re doing and you’re worth paying for. And you also get to show off some amazing pictures that you’ve taken. It’s like a really nice, subtle way of selling your skills.

People love that sort of like process stuff, don’t they?

[00:16:45] – Steve
And then presumably you’ve got a mailing list too? Load it with that same messaging — “This is what I normally do, but I can’t do it now. Here’s what we’re doing this week”. And then show some of that, telling stories going back a year. “Oh, I remember this time last year I was photographing this”. And then you could maybe — if the couple’s okay with it — you share a bit of that and you tell a story around it. People are drawn in, then they think, “oh, I want Hannah to be part of my story when all of this is over”.

Hannah isn’t after our ideas, she’s after almost permission to go forth.

[00:17:23] – Frankie
You have that!

[00:17:24] – Steve
And like we said earlier on, if you need it, honestly, get a proper copywriter on board.

[00:17:30] – Frankie
Plenty of those in the community Hannah. And also, if you need a wedding photographer for 2021 — you know who to call!

[00:17:36] – Steve
Okay, we would love to know your comments. Maybe you’ve had to do something similar to this as well. Maybe you thought, “I don’t want to dilute what I’ve got by adding all of this stuff” but actually it’s worked out for you? In which case, get in touch, as ever, you can do it on Twitter or Instagram, #DIFTKpodcast. You can also look for episode 39 in the community and you leave your comments right there. We could be reading them out next week.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.