Recorded: Welcome to The ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price and confidently sell their best work. Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years, and she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, mini workshops and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do the rework.
Allison Tyler Jones: Hi, friends, and welcome back to The ReWork. It’s part two in our series of training your clients. And this week, we are going to talk about retraining yourself before you ever talk to a client. So getting into our own heads, digging into what makes us react poorly, what makes us stammer around when we’re talking to clients, when they ask something that we don’t have a good answer for and who we really need to get mad at. And spoiler alert, it’s not our clients when they ask questions that make us cringe. So let’s do it, part two of training your clients. Welcome back to part two of our Train Your Client series. I’m here with Miss Jessica Mackey.
Jessica Mackey: Hello.
Allison Tyler Jones: So glad that you’re here. Okay, so we’re going to talk about before we can train our clients, we need to retrain ourselves, right? And you have thoughts about that, I have thoughts about that. So one of the first ways I feel like to train, to retrain ourselves, is to recognize that we are creatives and we are feeling, very feeling people. Sometimes we can be just the teeniest bit drama, maybe a little volatile in our emotions, and especially when-
Jessica Mackey: And unconfrontational.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yes, some. Yes, not want to be confronting. We just want to make pretty pictures and we want to make people happy.
Jessica Mackey: And we want them to love it.
Allison Tyler Jones: And love me and love it and love everything, and love to pay for it. We just want love. We just need all the love. So when somebody maybe [inaudible 00:02:44] at something or asks a question that is maybe I might be interpreting as negative toward me, the tendency is to get locked up and freak out and be defensive or just shut down and give away the firm.
Jessica Mackey: Right.
Allison Tyler Jones: So I would say the first thing we need to do to retrain ourselves is to just pause, to not have a knee jerk reaction. You can’t control your immediate response to some trigger. We can’t control that very initial response. But when we feel it, maybe we’re still going to blush, maybe we’re still going to start to sweat, maybe we’re going to have a clench, right? But if we know that, we can just breathe and think, “Okay, are they asking what I really think they’re asking?” And then just take a beat. Maybe don’t respond immediately. So if you’re on the phone, that’s easier, right? Because you can say, “Oh, hold on just one second, let me put you on hold,” and then you can breathe for a minute. If it’s via text oh, that’s easy because then you can be like, “What?” Throw a fit. But what I really want you to do is when somebody asks something that makes you clench or that you’re not feeling great about, instead of getting mad, immediately being mad and thinking, “Why would they ask that?” I want you to ask yourself this question.
Allison Tyler Jones: How have I given them the impression that this is okay, or that this is how I work, or this is what I do? So this is harking back to our first part, which is to check your messaging. But just because you’ve checked your messaging and maybe fixed a few things doesn’t mean that the clients are going to pick up on that right away and get that message. It’s going to take a little while. So if we’ve been advertising on price nonstop and doing discount, discount, discount, mini session, mini session, mini session, and we all of a sudden decide, “We’re not going to do that anymore,” you’re still going to have clients that are going to ask for those kinds of things. So just because we’ve changed doesn’t mean they have. So just take a minute, pause and ask yourself that question, how have I given this person the impression that this is okay, or this is how I work, or this is what I do?
Jessica Mackey: And in some ways, I almost feel like that’s a helpful self-reflective question to ask after the fact, because sometimes in that moment, you’re like, “Oh, they’re waiting for a response. I don’t have time to process this and figure out how to respond.”
Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.
Jessica Mackey: But I think that you have to be aware enough that you’re getting these same questions, or if you’re getting a question that makes you gut clench, take a note of it and come back to it later when you can really think about that. But maybe in that moment, that minute that you’re taking a deep breath and figuring out how to respond, I think that there’s this tendency to make it about us. And I’ve heard you talk about this recently where it’s that defensiveness, where someone asks about pricing and you’re like, “Are you kidding me? You’re complaining about the price of this eight by 10, when I see that Gucci handbag you have,” and we just internally can get mad at the client for any pushback or questions or anything like that where really, it’s not about us.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right.
Jessica Mackey: And I know that you’ve talked about this where it’s being able to just check that reaction and be like, “Okay, it’s not about me, it’s about them.”
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. So I’m going to go back to what you said in the beginning there, which I think is important. Obviously, if you’re on a phone call in real time with somebody, you don’t have a minute to stop and go, “How have I given them the impression that this is okay?”
Jessica Mackey: “Can I put you on hold first?”
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Or what my mom used to do, my mom’s favorite thing, she would call me and she’d be like, “What have I ever done to deserve this kind?” The drama, right? So no, obviously that is not happening in the moment. But if it happens, let’s say that you get a text from somebody or an inquiry or a DM, just because you just got it doesn’t mean you have to answer that second. Sometimes the worst things we do are answered in too quickly. Pause, I’ve had it happen many times. How many times have, especially when you first started, you or Stacy would say, “Oh my gosh, so and so is calling and they want this, they sent a message, did you read it?” And I’m like, “Okay, hold on, let me read it.” Do you think that’s really what they’re asking? So sometimes you need somebody else to look at it and think, “If I’m really upset about this, am I maybe interpreting this in a wrong way?” So that is written communication.
Jessica Mackey: Yes. And I think that too, what you said right there is actually really important because I’ve noticed, I just had a situation yesterday as a parent, nothing gets us more defensive than our kids, right? And so there was a situation where my 14-year-old is the sweetest human being on the planet and my older daughter told me about someone being unkind to her. And so your mama bear kicks in. And I think even in the portrait world, you have that defensive, we don’t call it a mama bear, but it kind of is like. This is your artwork, this is your baby, this is your company. How dare they come against you?
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Jessica Mackey: And what I realized yesterday is I felt so defensive that sometimes you just react and then you have to go back and pick up all the pieces.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Jessica Mackey: And it’s like how much better would it have been to have taken some time and figured out how to react correctly than to have to go back and repair?
Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.
Jessica Mackey: And I think it’s the same thing with our clients. If we take that time to really just take a deep breath, think about how we’re going to respond instead of just come in full forced atom, then we’re able to continue the conversation in a positive manner versus having to sweep up all the broken pieces of a busted relationship because we came in full force.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And sometimes what they’re asking isn’t what they’re asking, it isn’t what we think they’re asking. So a perfect example of that would be like, “Well, can I just get digital files? Can I get a bunch of little prints?” Well what that really means is, “I love my kids to distraction. I want lots of pictures and I don’t want to have to decide.” A lot of little means, “I don’t want to decide,” okay? And so if we then let them know that, “Okay, they’re not just trying to rip me off,” you know what I mean? They’re not just trying to break-
Jessica Mackey: Not my clients.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. They’re not just trying to break my rules, they just are trying to get their needs met. It’s not about us. They’re not trying to do anything to us. They just love our work. They saw it or maybe heard about us and they’re so excited. And how they’ve worked with everybody up until now because of the state of our industry is a bunch of files for X number of dollars, and that’s all they know. And so when you don’t know about something, you’re going to ask about price and try to get some idea of how they work. You don’t think you’re insulting the artist. We don’t have to be that. We don’t have to wear our heart on our sleeve to that degree. We can take them and even if it does hurt our feelings or it does tick us off a little bit, they don’t know how we work. And so it’s just taking that beat. So that’s the first step in retraining ourselves is to not just knee jerk react, okay? Also, it’s not really that helpful to get mad at yourself or to get mad at the client.
Allison Tyler Jones: If you’re going to get mad at anybody, it’s get mad at the industry that has the latter clients to think that this is okay. That, yeah, has been the race to the bottom because everybody’s just so busy copying everybody else. If we realize that we are actually a market of one, each and every one of us as photographers has our own unique vision and we don’t have any competition, we don’t need to worry about anybody else, we’re just doing our thing over here, you can’t possibly shoot all the families in your neighborhood, even in your neighborhood, even in your town. Generally, most of us are solopreneurs or maybe have a little bit of staff, but we aren’t competing with anybody. We’re a market of one. And then realizing that when you call somebody for the first time, you might ask really stupid questions too, because they’re in it all day every day. You had mentioned a surgeon in our last episode, but whether it’s a surgeon, whether it’s a plumber, whether it’s a landscaper, whatever-
Jessica Mackey: A mechanic, that’s one that you’re always like, “Are you kidding me, it’s how much?”
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I had no idea that whatever that part is, that alternator was going to be whatever. And so you’re going to ask them questions and you’re just going to think, “Okay, yeah, I need my car to run, but I don’t want it to break the bank.” But if somebody told you, walked you through the process and explained how it worked, you’re going to feel more taken care of and then you will understand and that price will have a context. And that’s always what we want to provide is that context is the value of what it is that we’re doing.
Jessica Mackey: Right, that service you’re providing. And I think that when you can do that, and sometimes I think retraining yourself is coming to understand the value of what you offer. You can’t communicate that if you don’t understand that yourself. And so being able to look at the process, look at every little thing that you do for your clients, make a list of it, figure out maybe there’s ways you can even add value to the experience, not even just the products, but the experience for your clients where you become that expert. I mean to have a surgeon who knows what they’re doing and you just feel like you’re in completely capable hands versus the cheapest surgeon, that has value. And so you walk into a surgeon’s office and you can see their plaques and their awards. I mean they do not hesitate to communicate their value. But sometimes as photographers, we do. We feel like, “Oh, I don’t want to seem all bougie or make it seem like I’m all that.” And you don’t have to do that to be communicating value.
Allison Tyler Jones: Well exactly. And I think it’s not even so much not wanting to toot your own horn, but the water that we’re swimming in everyday is lighting and cameras and helping people figure out what to wear. And we just do it so often and we know how to do it. And so when you know how to do something and you’ve mastered your craft to a degree, it becomes less special to you because you’re just like, “Well yeah, I know how to do that.” But it’s really special to somebody who doesn’t know how to do that. And so it’s allowing yourself to call some of those things out and to let them know how it is that it’s going to work so that they feel like they’re in really great hands.
Jessica Mackey: And I think that sometimes it’s this… I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, an artist thing, I can’t really speak for the men in the industry, but this tendency to minimize our contribution. And so I was talking to this awesome student today, and she’s a little bit older and has only been doing it for eight years, photography. So she’s like, “I just sometimes doubt that I have as much to offer as the people who have been in for 25 years and the younger generation.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” That age comes with wisdom and so much experience, you can connect with a teenager the way some 28-year-old never could. And I think that it’s starting to restructure how we think about ourselves and the value that we personally, like you said, this market of one, what is the value that Jessica brings to the table? Not just Allison Tyler Jones photography or whatever, but you as a human being. What is it that you bring to the table where nobody else can do that? That has value.
Allison Tyler Jones: For sure. And I think sometimes when we think about adding value, we think, “Okay, we need to have a more expensive frame,” or, “It needs to be printed on a more expensive substrate,” or that sort of thing, adding cost to the product. But I feel like the value for Allison Tyler Jones photography for our business is that we have so many moms that work there who understand fleeting time, understand ages and stages of kids, understand that kids act naughty and we think it’s hilarious and funny and we can totally accommodate that and handle that and we’re unruffled by that. And then we have Caitlin who doesn’t have children, she’s 20, she’s young, but she’s babysitter extraordinaire. So she’s going to go in there and corral those kids and give them a great experience.
Allison Tyler Jones: So there’s a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with photography. And it’s not that we’re necessarily talking about that in saying, “Well, we’re all moms,” and we’re selling it like that. But when you have a mom that’s saying, “Okay, look, I got this three-year-old. He’s either going to be the president of the United States or he’s going to be in prison by the time he is five.” I don’t know, but it’s going to go dicey either way, that you can go, “Oh, yeah, that’s my third kid. I’ve got it. Yeah, totally. I’m on it. Just don’t even talk to them, we’ll handle it.” So then that you can see them just relax. So that’s valuable. That’s valuable.
Jessica Mackey: And I think sometimes one of the strengths that I’ve seen, even just within our own studio that I’m sure other photographers are doing and just aren’t realizing it, is the capacity to listen. How often has a first phone call or a view in order almost turned into a counseling session?
Allison Tyler Jones: For sure.
Jessica Mackey: Where you’re supporting the client, you’re validating their life experiences, you’re there for them to be able to talk to without being, “Okay, look, I’ve got to go.” I’ve given you the token five minutes and now I’m out. I mean this is a relationship that we’re building, and especially post-COVID, people are starving for quality relationships. They want that even from their photographer.
Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.
Jessica Mackey: If you’re going to engage with them, a lot of these clients are more than happy to engage back.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And having that long-term relationship and listening and getting into their heads as a mother and as their kids, it helps you even develop concepts for the images themselves. And then those images have so much more layer of meaning and depth of meaning to them, especially over a period of time. So again, layers and layers of value.
Jessica Mackey: And we had one student, sorry, really fast, who brought up the fact that she was questioning not her value, but the fact that she doesn’t have kids. She’s like, “I don’t know that if I can engage the same way.” And it’s like then you bring a whole different vision and a whole different set of skills to this shoot than somebody else. That doesn’t make it less valuable.
Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.
Jessica Mackey: It just means that you get to bring a different vision.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And that can be observation of, “Wow, I really noticed this about him, and this is so cool, I’ve always wanted to have a relationship like that with my future children, or it reminds me of my nephew.” There’s always a way that we are more alike as humans than we are different. There’s always a way to connect. Always.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: No matter how different it may seem that we can be. And I think we have a unique ability to do that in this industry. Okay. So as we’re retraining ourself, some of these things we have mentioned before in past podcasts, but I think they’re important to bring up here again, one of the things that I like to always say when we’re training new employees is that we never say, “No.” We never say, “No.”
Jessica Mackey: There’s a whole podcast on that.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And we’ll link that in the show notes as well. There’s always something we can do. So instead of saying, “No,” to a request, we say, “Well what I can do is this,” because there is something always that you can do. So that’s one way. Definitely recommend listening to that Never Say No podcast, that will give you a lot of information there. And then communicating our process. So as we’re communicating a process, it helps us to know that we do have one. You have a process, whether you know it or not, you have one. It might be bad. It might be a bad process, it might be a process that teaches your clients to try to beat you down on price. It might teach them to not respect your boundaries. But you do have a process. If you have an intentional process and you set it up the way that you want it to be, then you’re way more likely to be able to communicate value and to have your clients respect your boundaries, because the process, your process acts as a boundary.
Jessica Mackey: And I think part of that retraining yourself is also acknowledging that maybe the way you want to do business or maybe the way you want your process to be isn’t necessarily how anyone else is doing it. We’ve had so many students that will bring up the fact that, “Well I was thinking about doing this, but all of my photographer friends recommended this.” And it’s like you don’t have to do it the same way that everybody else is. Your process is your process. This is your business, this is your artwork, you get to decide what that looks like.
Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely. I love that. Few other things that just are quick little bullet points when we think about retraining ourselves, especially as we come out of COVID and things have just been loosey goosey for a while, is the idea of maybe tightening up on some things that maybe we’ve gotten a little bit lax about. So response times would be a good example. We find that if we get a first contact from somebody through our website or a DM that the quicker we can respond, that generally the better the conversion. When clients are thinking about portraits and they contact us right then. Now, if it’s 11 o’clock at night, you’re not going to probably get back to them. But you might have an auto respond that would say, “We’ll get back with you within 24 hours,” and then make sure that you actually do.
Jessica Mackey: And that does take training because I feel like there is, again, a lot of feedback we’ve heard from other photographers is that it’s really easy to put off that first phone call. It feels really intimidating, it feels really overwhelming. You’re afraid that it’s going to burn down and the conversion’s not going to work. And so they’ll put it off and put it off. And so one way that we found is almost like those trigger behaviors. So I know if I’m brushing my teeth, then I need to take my nighttime meds, or whatever it is that this behavior triggers this behavior. And so for us, figuring out that as soon as that email came through, no matter what I was doing, if I was in the middle of designing a card, if I was in a meeting… I dropped everything and called them. Otherwise, it was so easy to put it off for days.
Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.
Jessica Mackey: I mean we’re not talking hours. It would be three days and you’d be like, “Hey, did you call that client?” “Oh, I forgot about them.” And it’s not even intentional sometimes, we just get it moving on to the next task and we forget. And so figuring out whatever that thing is that triggers you calling and following up right away.
Allison Tyler Jones: And when I was earlier in my career, I was always so shocked by when I would call people back, they would send in something on an info at or whatever, and I would call them as soon as possible. And the response was always like, “You’re the only photographer that called me back,” or, “Thank you so much for returning my call.” And I’m like-
Jessica Mackey: The expectations are so low.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. The bar is so incredibly low. So literally it’s like Woody Allen says 90% of success is just showing up. That’s a perfect example of that. Just return the call. You’re already going to be way ahead. Now that we’re known for what we do and known for who we are, and we definitely have more referrals, people expect, of course they expect that they’re going to get a call back so it’s not quite so shocking to people. But man, in the earlier days it was definitely shocking. I think you probably find that if you’re a good responder, you’re going to find the same thing.
Jessica Mackey: And on the flip side, you find that if you forget or you postpone that phone call for a couple of days, you’ll call and they’ve already booked with somebody else.
Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm. Exactly.
Jessica Mackey: So those leads go cold the longer you let them sit.
Allison Tyler Jones: So true. Okay. So retrain yourself, take a pause, take a minute. If a request is coming in written and it sends you off the deep end, just take a minute and think, “Okay, why do they think this is okay? What message am I sending?” So you’re going back to section one. “How did they get this message that this was okay? Am I advertising too much on discounting? Am I advertising on prices, that’s why they’re asking about that?” Don’t get mad at the client. You can get mad at yourself for having bad messaging or bad branding, but that is something you can do something about. We don’t need to get mad at the client, always realizing that our clients are just trying to get their needs met. It’s not about us.
Allison Tyler Jones: They’re not saying that we’re losers or that we’re not worth it. They’re just asking questions to get their needs met. And of course, we always want to treat our clients with kindness and patience and respect. And then retraining ourselves to that we don’t need to say, “No,” we don’t have to be a hard no, there’s always something that we can do and we can always communicate that process to our clients. And processes act as the best kind of boundaries. And that being able to realize in our own mind what the value is that we’re bringing to our clients allows us to speak about that in very authentic and warm ways that makes our clients just feel taken care of and happy.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. It enables us to educate versus apologize or defend.
Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. That’s a great one. Yeah. Definitely would rather train and educate than be apologetic or be defensive. So this is number two, we’re now headed into part number three.
Jessica Mackey: Which is retraining their thinking, our client’s thinking, retraining how they’re thinking about our process.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So retraining our client’s thinking, helping them make mind shifts to see what it is that we’re doing in a different way. So that’s going to be part three next week. We will see you there.
Jessica Mackey: Bye.
Allison Tyler Jones: Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you being here? I know that you have so many demands on your time and so many demands on your attention. You could be watching Netflix, you could be listening to a True Crime podcast. But you’ve spent time here at the ReWork learning to make your portrait business better. And that really means a lot to me. If there’s somebody that you feel like could benefit from this episode, that you could help them and help us spread the word in helping other portrait photographers build better businesses, please go to where you’re listening to this episode and hit that share button and share it with them.
Allison Tyler Jones: And if you have time and can give us a review, you don’t even understand how much that means to a little tiny podcast like ours to see those reviews and see how we’re helping. And if you have another minute and can send me a DM and let us know what you would like to hear in the future, what you really enjoyed hearing about, maybe things that weren’t that great, how we can do better, we always want to do better and we always want to support the portrait photography industry and helping you build the best businesses ever. Thanks again so much for being here.
Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at dotherework.com and on Instagram @do.the.rework.