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 our fourth and final part of our Training Your Clients series. And today’s episode is all about setting yourself up for success, kind of going back to the beginning and asking yourself what you want your outcome to be, being careful about the precedence that we’re setting with clients, and, as we make decisions in our business going forward, how can we make sure that we take the very best care of our clients that we possibly can. So let’s join Jessica and get to it, part four of Training Your Clients.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hey. Jessica Mackey in the house for our fourth and final episode in our series of-

Jessica Mackey: Woo.

Allison Tyler Jones: … Training Your Clients.

Jessica Mackey: I know. This is so fun. 

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: It’s like my favorite thing to talk about, is clients.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. It’s so true. So this episode is about setting yourself up for success on retraining your clients. And so we’re going kind of wrap up-

Jessica Mackey: Or just training your clients.

Allison Tyler Jones: On training your clients. Yes.

Jessica Mackey: Like, both new and old.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. Training new clients, retraining old clients, but basically, really, it’s about making change in your business and communicating that effectively to your clients why it’s best for them. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. I think that the first aspect when it comes to training your clients, you’re training them because you’ve made some change, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: You don’t have to train them to do what you’ve always done, I mean, unless they’re new clients, obviously.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: But existing clients especially, like, you’re not having to retrain them if it’s the same system. And so this is the assumption that you are looking to make a change in your business, a positive change for your business. And I know that ATJ Photo has experienced that over the years, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. And so when you’re making changes in your business, before you make a change, to set yourself up for true success, you really need to ask yourself, “What do I want out of this and why am I making the change in the first place?”

Allison Tyler Jones: We talked about this a little bit in the last episode, but I just want to reiterate it here, that why are you making the change? Is this from a negative standpoint, or is it from a positive, wanting to provide a better service to your clients? And sometimes, it can start from a negative thing. The example that we’re going to talk about in this episode is, at one point, I was selling unframed wall art size prints, so a 16 by 20 or a 30 by 40, letting that go out of my studio unframed. The clients could pick that up in that way, and then they still had to go frame it, they still had to hang it, and I realized I just really didn’t like that. But I was so scared, because I knew that sending it out framed was going to mean that it was going to cost a lot more money.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so I was really worried about that. But I realized, I asked myself this question, “Okay. What do I want?” And what I realized is what I want is the highest and best use of my work is to be on the walls of my clients’ home. I want to see that. And it doesn’t need to be kicking around in the back of their car on a 120 degree summer afternoon while their kids’ soccer cleats are bouncing on top of it, or that, if they manage to get it home undamaged, that because they didn’t take it down and get it framed right away, it’s in the back on their closet getting hit by their husband’s shoes or the golf shoes, or it’s under their bed collecting dust or whatever. But it’s leaning somewhere in their home, accusing them of not having it be completely done.

Allison Tyler Jones: So I wasn’t selling digital files at the time, but I am still selling an unfinished product.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and I think it’s also communicating… That unfinished product is communicating something different than how you want to do business. 

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: So for a lot of clients, they think that family pictures is, I guess… Would you call it disposable imagery, or what would you call it where-

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: … you have a frame on your wall and you just replace that picture year after year?

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. I call that, like, the LifeTouch… That’s school portraits, right? First grade, second grade, third grade.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: And only the teeth are different, the Adam’s apple, whatever, and that, really, that’s not the kind of imagery that I want to create. I want something that’s s, has more staying power than that. And I’m not going to just create the same family picture every year. We’re going to have a different concept every year. The interaction is going to be different. So-

Jessica Mackey: You wanted fine art. Like, if you’re selling fine art, then, like you said, you look at how other people sell fine art.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: When you go to a gallery, and they’re not just giving you the piece of paper, you know. Like-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Not usually.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: You know-

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: … that, typically, you are getting a framed, ready to hang piece of fine art.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And they, many times, will send an installer to do that. So, absolutely. It was absolutely informed by that.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. And I think that if I know anything about you over (laughs) the years, you are not impulsive when it comes to business changes. So that was kind of an adjustment for me, ’cause I feel like I am a very impulsive person. If I want to change the layout of a bedroom, I don’t think about it for three weeks. I’m like, “Okay. It’s happening tonight.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: “I know what we’re doing. Like, everyone in. We’re changing all the furniture. We’re buying new whatevers.” And I’m very impulsive.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so when I would throw out to you ideas for change, it would almost drive me crazy, because I’m like, “Okay. Let’s do this.” You’re like, “Okay. I like that.” And I’m like, “Okay. Let’s do it tomorrow. Like, we’re good to go.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: And you’re like, “Nah, no, no, no, no. Slow your roll.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Which is hilarious, because anybody that knows me knows how … That’s why you and I get along, is because I am extremely impulsive.

Jessica Mackey: (laughs).

Allison Tyler Jones: And I have learned, however, that those impulses to change things very, very quickly in business have actually hurt me.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because, eh, your clients are getting whiplash. It’s like people that are… You know what? I had this logo last week. I’m sick of that logo. I’m going to change it. And then with creatives, we tend to be impulsive. We like things to be changed quickly. We like variety. And so, we change things too quickly, and then the clients never really get who we are and what our brand is.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so because I am that… One hundred percent of my income comes from portrait photography. So any changes that I’m making in my business could potentially jeopardize the source of the income for m, not only my family, but yours and everybody that works for us. And so that has over the years weighed on me enough to where I don’t just go off halfcocked. Like, that, I got to really think about it, and it’s got to make sense.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so that’s basically our first point in our podcast today, which is what do you want? So as I thought about that, I thought, “Okay, yes. It is going to make the prices higher. I’m really nervous about that. I’m really scared about that. But I really, really, really do not want, for all the reasons I just stated, I don’t want these beautiful images potentially getting damaged, and I don’t want my clients to not have it completely done for them.”

Jessica Mackey: But you also don’t want your beautiful modern artwork in some crap ugly frame.

Allison Tyler Jones: A hundred percent.

Jessica Mackey: That’s how your artwork is being displayed.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: So you want to control that. 

Allison Tyler Jones: Also control freak. Right. So there’s a lot of things. So I didn’t feel like I was serving the clients to m, the best of my ability. So that is all the reasons why I wanted to change, is I knew that it would make it more expensive, but I just knew that I had to do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: So then, I decided, “Okay. That’s what we’re doing. Nothing is going out unframed out of this studio. Period. End of story.” So now, I’ve made that change. Well, that’s nice. But how arm I going to talk about that to my clients?

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Then, they’re going to have questions about it, “Wait. Why is this so much more expensive?” So when I first made this change, then they’re like, “Well, wait a minute. How come we get it with the frame? I want it without the frame.”

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: So how I decided to talk about that was not be defensive. Like, so when somebody said, “Hey, I just want it unframed. Like, can, can’t I just get it unframed?,” I realized that, “Look. I’m going to provide more value.” So I’m going to make change and I’m going to provide more value.

Allison Tyler Jones: If my framer finishes this for you, then that work is guaranteed. So if it falls off the wall, if your kid knocks it off the wall, if it gets scratched, whatever, we will replace it at no charge. If you take it and it’s not framed, and somebody else damages it, I can’t control that. So this allows me to guarantee the work. 

Allison Tyler Jones: So I factored that into the price not only of the framing. So that made sense to people. And not only that, it’s done. So I can talk about that in a way of, “I realized I wasn’t serving my clients to the best of my ability. These images were sitting in the back of their closet. They didn’t have time to get them framed. And I know what they should be framed in.” So it’s just adding a little extra service for our clients. So we just decided to send everything out framed. That way, it’s perfection, it’s ready to go on the wall, and everything is guaranteed.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and something else I’ve seen that you do with this is that you also communicate to them that, “You get to see it on your wall.” Because of the software, and the software is loaded with your frames, they can see what looks good before it even gets hung, whereas unfinished art, like, they’re going to go there and have to go to, like, Hobby Lobby and look at 40 different frames and try to figure out on their own what’s going to look good. Like, that is so overwhelming.

Jessica Mackey: But you were there as their trusted advisor, holding their hands, like, looking at the different frame options on their walls with their picture. And it’s, like, idiot proof. I mean, why wouldn’t they want that?

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And so what happened is, you know, what we all fear when we make changes is we’re going to lose all of our clients and they’re going to go away and they’re going to be mad at us and were going to talk bad about it to other people, and then we’ll lose everybody in the whole world and we’ll just die and live in a van down by the river. 

Allison Tyler Jones: But that’s not what happened. What happened was is it was more expensive, and so people were more thoughtful about what they actually bought. Rather than buying, like, a lot of things, they were very much more choosy about what they were picking, and then maybe doing one image kind of larger or whatever. And so it made it a more thoughtful process, and I realized I actually really liked that a lot.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that led me into really refining the consultation and nailing that down and not just shooting everything. So I, every one of the changes that you make in your business will have ripple effects, and you see how your clients are responding to that. And so as you’re training your clients, in a lot of ways, they’re training you, too, because they’re showing you what means something to them and how they love it.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so once I had that first client that trusted me to do it, they called and they were like, “I will never do it any other way. Like, this is so great to just have it done. I can leave with it completely done.” And then we went from there to not only sending everything out framed, but installing everything. 

Allison Tyler Jones: So, but this didn’t happen overnight. I was over a period of time, just making each service better and better for our clients and making it based on our best clients.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. Because it’s, it comes back to the second point that we were talking about, which is what precedent are you setting. So if you’re setting that precedent that, “Okay. What I really want to communicate to my clients is that this is fine art.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: Like, this is not fine art that goes in your closet. Like, this (laughs) is fine art-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: … that goes on your walls. And so it needs to be framed.” That’s the precedent I’m setting. And then from thee, like you said, it evolved. And that became, “Well, then we’re going to install on your w…,” because, again, it goes on your walls. So if I am delivering this framed artwork and it just sits on your floor ’cause you don’t know how to hang it for a year-

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: … again, it’s not reinforcing that very base, like, what you want, which was framed art portrait on your client’s walls.

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely.

Jessica Mackey: And so all of that evolution of decisions all reinforced what it was that you wanted.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And then, then that full circle that comes back to kind of the very beginning of this series, which is that first phone call that, when you came into the business, we had long been only selling finished framed work. And so that’s where you go back to that initial phone call, where it’s like, “We’re not normal. We’re, we work differently than others. And everything is custom wall art, which is, includes all the…  All of our prices include the custom framing.” 

Allison Tyler Jones: You know, so we talk about it in a lot of different ways, setting that expectation and letting our clients know that it’s fully done.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and I think that you did a very interesting approach to this as well, and it’s something that you touched either in this episode or the previous one, that sometimes when you’re making changes for existing clients, you can’t just throw everything out and start over.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: So what you did, especially, like, I remember with this change, coming in and be like, “Well, that’s weird,” is you kept the unframed art. It was available. You had a price for it. But it was the same price as the framed artwork. So you’re basically like, “Yeah. You could do it if you really want to, but why would you when, for the same exact price, you get it framed, installed, and guaranteed?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: You know, so if you’re wanting to shoot studio, you make location more expensive, you know, (laughs) so that it-

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: … starts to almost naturally encourage your and train your clients to do what you want them to do anyways.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And it’s, I have to keep repeating this. I feel like I’ve said it a thousand times during all of these episodes, is that it can really sound like you’re trying to be manipulative. And I think that’s why people sometimes don’t make change, because I think in this industry we have really, for the majority, very nice, kind, and accommodating people. 

Allison Tyler Jones: But I really do feel I will not make a change in my business if I don’t feel that it will serve my clients to the best of my ability. And sometimes, that means that the price is more. And that sounds counterintuitive, like, well, eh, that’s not being nice, using air quotes, but actually, it, it is, because, like, raising my session fee to, made it so that I didn’t convert as many clients and I didn’t maybe necessarily shoot as many clients in the busy season. But that’s so that I could spend more time with the clients that did come. 

Allison Tyler Jones: And so when I explained that to my clients, they were like, “Oh, okay. That makes sense.” I found that I was so busy at whatever the price was, $150 for a session fee. I was so busy that I was running them through like a cattle call. Whereas when I raised the session fee to include a product credit, we had less. I had more time to spend with less clients, and that allowed me to get to know your kid, to spend time with them. And that’s really how I want to do business.

Allison Tyler Jones: So when you hear that from, let’s go back to your surgeon analogy, yeah, when I had my ValPack coupon for my $350 LASIK surgery-

Jessica Mackey: (laughs).

Allison Tyler Jones: … we’re moving them in and out, moving them in and out. I don’t want to go to the ValPack surgeon for my eyes. 

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: But if, like, you know what? For $1200 or whatever the, you know, maybe it’s three times the price, we do less surgeries, but we only do surgeries before noon. I find that I’m freshest, and I do not want to touch anybody’s eyes after noon, because I’m tired.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: So I only do morning surgeries. You know, so when you hear that, you’re like, “Oh, I, I got to go with this guy, ’cause he’s going to be cutting my eyeballs.” Well, we’re going to be dealing with your kids. We’re going to be looking at your kids through our eyeballs, and we’re going to be, our talented, creative eyeballs, and we’re going to be making beautiful art for your home that’s going to hang on your wall, that’s going to make your house look amazing, that’s going to bring those memories back of how much you love your family, and that is going to celebrate your family every time your kids walk by it. It’s going to set the tone for your home.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that’s going to cost more, and we’re going to charge more, because we want to spend more time with less clients.

Jessica Mackey: Well, I think the way that you just addressed that was brilliant, because it seems like the almost gut reaction for a lot of people is to explain why it benefits you. So, well, I-

Allison Tyler Jones: As the photographer.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. As the photographer. Yeah, well, you know, my family never got to see me and my kids were always complaining ’cause I worked too much and, you know, my marriage is in the toilet. It, it’s not about you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Nobody cares.

Jessica Mackey: (laughs). Again with that. Nobody cares.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: You know, but if you can change that narrative and make it about them, like, still maybe at the back is the fact that your marriage is in the toilet and your kids never see you. 

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: Like, that might be your personal motivation.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: But the client doesn’t need to hear that. You need to turn the narrative to figure out the value for the client in these changes. And that’s what you communicate is why-

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: … why it benefits them.

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely.

Jessica Mackey: And if you can’t communicate why it benefits them, you need to be analyzing whether or not (laughs) it’s a change you should be making.

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely. It’s so true. So that’s setting yourself up for success, is that before you make that change, you’re saying, “What do I want to have happen? What is that ultimate outcome?,” following that decision through to, “Is it a setting a bad precedent going forward, or is it setting a great precedent going forward?,” ’cause it can go either way. Is it consistent with your brand? 

Allison Tyler Jones: And then just kind of harking back to our earlier episode about how not to hate your clients, is if I make this change, is this going to make me mad at clients or is it going to make me happy to show up to work and happy to work with my clients? And so I find that when I am charging appropriately after I’ve adjusted for inflation or whatever and I know that my margins are what they need to be to support my business and my employees, I feel it wakes me up and it makes me feel like I really want to do the very best that I can.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then also, feeling like ultimately, if I can explain in a way that communicates the value to my clients, then they understand the value, it makes sense. And even though it’s going to … Obviously, higher prices are going to benefit me, because I can pay better wages, I can pay myself better, all of those things. But really, it’s also I can create the best version of my art for my client, because I’m not working with so many different people for a really low price. I’m working for less people at a higher price, and I can devote myself more fully to them.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. And you are able to enjoy that interaction.

Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm.

Jessica Mackey: Because it’s not just en mass.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: You know, that you do have that relationship. You do start to look forward to seeing different clients. And, and so it also builds that job fulfillment, because you start to like what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: … because you set those appropriate boundaries, you’ve looked at change from a global perspective, and you’ve trained or retrained your clients appropriately.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. So that’s kind of a, in a nutshell, how we feel about training our clients, is to really look at how the message that we’re sending, if we keep getting the same annoying questions or we keep feeling like people are just not getting what I’m putting out there, are we putting it out there in the correct way? Are we looking out ahead and calling out potential problems before they even happen, figuring out our frequently asked difficult questions, having answers for ourselves, and then also anybody that we’re training to work in our business, that we’re communicating early and often how it is that we work? 

Allison Tyler Jones: And then going back and retraining ourself, even before we get to client, is to retrain ourself to take a minute and really think about, “Okay. When I would get something that comes in that, that asks us a hard question, what am I doing to communicate that that’s okay? And how can I, adjust that?” Instead of getting mad at our clients, look at what we can do to change, because it is all within our control. How can we take responsibility? And then really repositioning what it is that we’re doing in this industry as we’re in the art and furniture budget versus the picture budget, learning about not, saying no, but what we can do, communicating our process, and really just taking the time to think and listen to what our clients are saying and figure out how we can serve them to the highest and best ability.

Allison Tyler Jones: You might do it differently than I do, for sure. Everybody’s going to do business the way that they want to do it. What Jessica and I want to leave you with is just to encourage you that you can figure out a way forward for your business that makes sense for you, that makes sense for your very best clients. And these are just some examples that we’ve come up with that have helped us serve our very best clients to the very best of our ability.

Jessica Mackey: But we would love to hear about things that you’ve done in training your clients, because I just think that there is so much wisdom and so much experience out there and we all benefit. And so reach out to us. Like, DM us, message us, email us at and let us know what changes you’ve made, how it’s gone.

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely. And anything that, it may be, things that are, you’re running up against that we haven’t mentioned that you’re finding particularly perplexing that maybe we could help you with, that we could have a future episode on. But as always, we, appreciate your time and attention. We know there’s a million things that you could be doing, a million people that you could be listening to, and we’re so grateful that you chose to spend the time with us.

Jessica Mackey: Bye. Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: 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 spent time here at The Rework, learning to make your portrait business better. And that really means a lot to me.

Allison Tyler Jones: 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. 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.

Allison Tyler Jones: 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 in helping you build the best businesses ever. Thanks again so much for being here. 

Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at and on Instagram at Do.The.Rework. 


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