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, many 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. Today’s guest is Jeannine Pohl, a St. Paul Minneapolis photographer who formerly shot weddings and events and over the last few years has transitioned her business into a portrait model and some commercial work. We’re going to talk about how she did exactly that, the problems inherent in making that switch. Some of the mindset shifts that she had to make that transition and some of the pain points that she went through. I know you’re going to find a lot of good information in this, and Jeannine is one of our valued Art of Selling Art students and mind shift members. So she shares a lot of what she’s learned through that process and how it helped her make this transition. Let’s do it. Well, I am so excited for our listeners today because we have Jeannine Pohl from-
Jeannine Pohl: Hello.
Allison Tyler Jones: Minneapolis. Or where are you actually located?
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah, Minneapolis St. Paul area.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So Jeannine, tell our listeners about you, what you do. Just give us the elevator’s pitch.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. I have been a wedding and event photographer since 2007, and then with Covid I rebranded everything. I have portrait studio, and I serve families and I serve branding headshot clients.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So have you stopped doing the wedding and event altogether?
Jeannine Pohl: No, because I still love them. But I’m just not at the capacity. I have a seven-year-old and I’ve really enjoyed having some weekends back, so still doing some of that stuff but freeing up a lot more weekends.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, I love that. Okay, so 2007 I need to do math. How many years is that? 13?
Jeannine Pohl: Something. 15, 16 something.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah, I don’t know that’s a lot.
Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s interesting because I feel like that many of us started off doing maybe lots of things and at some point along the way our lives changed and we… That’s the great thing about owning your own business is that you can change your business along with your life. I love that. So Covid was kind of the tipping point for you on that?
Jeannine Pohl: It was, but with that I had to learn portrait sales because wedding sales it’s so completely different. You have this upfront agreement and then digitals are so common, and then to have wedding albums and when it came to selling the actual artwork and then with where our industry is with kind of shoot and burn. That was kind of the expectation for clients, so that conversation, even from past wedding clients to turn them into really good portrait clients I just didn’t even know what I was doing. So really how methodic the Art of Selling Art course was super helpful in making a process and a strategy behind how that worked for myself and how I could have some templates for conversation. One of the best things that you did was the frequently asked hard questions.
Allison Tyler Jones: FADQs.
Jeannine Pohl: Yes. That was a huge, huge thing that I was able to implement of these questions are going to come up. People are going to ask for digitals, I just need the language. I need to know what I’m going to say to the client.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay. I love that because I think here you’ve been this you know events, you know weddings, you know how to cull. So tell me about that. So when you are selling it, you’re meeting with the bride, you have a contract up front. It’s like it’s going to be X number of dollars to photograph your wedding, and out of that you’re getting what? Was your ideal bride? What would you get out of that?
Jeannine Pohl: Say eight hours of coverage, a second photographer, an engagement session and a wedding album and usually I had one artwork wall piece in there as well.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So there wasn’t any working on spec, it was all decided ahead of time what they were going to buy?
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: So you knew going in what that eight hours was going to get you. So then when you shifted over to the portrait side and decided to do more of that, what were your biggest challenges with that? What was confusing about swapping over to portraits?
Jeannine Pohl: So portraits in understanding what clients might have expectations, and this is probably me just telling myself these things too.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yes, of course. It’s always us telling ourselves things, there’s no question. Yeah.
Jeannine Pohl: Not having a good idea of what I wanted for my clients.
Allison Tyler Jones: Or even what they would buy. Even what they would buy would buy.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. With weddings couples have an established date, which means they have a deadline and they have an emotional attachment to that one time. So there was some parameters around decision making and making that happen within that, and then the emotional value within it. I found with families, a lot of times I had to create that for them in the emergency or parameters around let’s get this done now because that front tooth is going to grow in. Or I find after a few years now of photographing families, the senior year when people are leaving and that family unit’s going to change. That becomes a deadline. So trying to educate my clients on what that next deadline is, it’s kind of been new to me and-
Allison Tyler Jones: But I don’t think most photographers think… This is why I love your brain, this is why we’re having this conversation. I don’t think that’s a common realization. I think you recognizing that with a wedding that it’s like you say, it’s a finite date and everything is going to be built around that, down to the flowers and every detail and all of that. But that’s kind of why I didn’t like shooting weddings because I felt like I was just one of many vendors, even though I felt like I was the most important vendor because that’s the only thing they were going to have left. But I didn’t like that all these other things were going on and with the family, if you do it with right which is what you’re saying. Because families can put off portraits forever.
Jeannine Pohl: For sure.
Allison Tyler Jones: They can delay and procrastinate forever. But if you let them know, okay this is the reason why we would do this now and then make it special. Then you’re giving them that reason to do it and the thing that I love about family portraits is that the only thing we’re doing is the portrait. There’s no we got to hurry up and get to the reception, we got to hurry up and get to cocktail hour. It’s like the only thing we’re doing is that family portrait. So was that a shift for you too? Did you love that or was it kind of hard? What was that like?
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. So part of the thing for me as well was my emotional connection in creating art for that family client. Because it was like come in and everybody look at the camera and let’s get a photo like that, there was no creative attachment for me to do that. I can do that all day long, but that’s not creatively fulfilling. So understanding personalities in the family, understanding relationships in the family, really story boarding ahead of time with that consult and then building poses. Sketching out poses and stuff beforehand really creatively is more fulfilling and that was one thing that I wasn’t… Prior to when I was doing everything before I just did weddings, I didn’t find it fulfilling because it wasn’t as creative for me.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. So you had to decide to make it creative.
Jeannine Pohl: Exactly, yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. I think of many wedding photographers that are transitioning into portrait I find one of the most common mistakes is that they really under price. Because they’re so grateful they don’t have to spend eight hours with a bridezilla and her mother or whatever. They’re like well this is… Of course, it would be way less because we’re not spending all that time. But actually just exactly what you said, if you’d flip your mind switch around and think actually how could we make this portrait such an event? How could we story tell you do in a wedding? What’s important in details in their life right now? What’s important about their relationships or these personalities right this minute, and how can we make that more of an event? Then you really bring all of those storytelling skills that you had in a wedding or an event world into… You’re just kind of creating your own event.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. I think as far as being a service to clients and families, there’s not a lot of areas that you get to stop and ask such personal questions to families and allow them to celebrate their family. If you go to the dentist, it’s very transactional for that one thing and even having big events in life when people come together and those things are kind of focused to that one thing opposed to being able just to celebrate the family unit.
Allison Tyler Jones: I love that you caught that. Well, and we met in the transition of all of this 2021.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: You were the first class of the Art of Selling Art course, a founding member. Yes, and you were a founding member which is so awesome and you’ve been such a great part of the community. So it was fun to watch you making that transition and the thing that I’m always amazed about with you is that you are such a quick executor. Once you see it, you just want to do it right then. Is that fair?
Jeannine Pohl: It is, even if I execute maybe only 80% of it.
Allison Tyler Jones: Dude. What did Woody Allen say? “90% of success is showing up.”
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: That’s awesome.
Jeannine Pohl: So what was really shocking to me, in the Art of Selling Art every week there was so much great content. But there was one, I think it was towards the end that you had a grades or a report card or something. I thought I had been doing the things and then there was an entire section that I just don’t know what was going on in my life. I don’t know.
Allison Tyler Jones: It’s common.
Jeannine Pohl: There was an entire section that I maybe did two things out of. So it was really great to be able to have that and reflect on, wow there is more to do even within what I’ve done so much of. So that’s kind of what I’m looking at doing again, is going through that entire report card and seeing where I’m at now. What is it, two years later?
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, totally. Well, and what do you feel like as you went through the course? Because you had a thriving business, this wasn’t you were just starting going okay I need to start a business, I’m going to take this course and figure out how to start a business. You had a business, you were transitioning from wedding to portraits or just trying to make what business you had better. What do you feel like you learned that was… I don’t want to say that you didn’t know. But maybe it validated what you already knew or maybe helped you do something better? Was there anything in particular that you felt like was like, whoa, aha?
Jeannine Pohl: I had to do a lot of money mindset stuff personally before I was even ready to understand the value of what portraits could be on an individual family basis.
Allison Tyler Jones: Tell me more about that.
Jeannine Pohl: So it’s more of life experiences of not growing up with a lot of money or even having photography when I was growing up as a service that my family did.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.
Jeannine Pohl: In the way that we do it, I should say.
Allison Tyler Jones: Sure.
Jeannine Pohl: So understanding that there is a need for it and that I can be the one to provide that for people and to be compensated well for it.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Jeannine Pohl: That changeover from weddings, and I can be transparent. In comparison to weddings and portraits I grew my business by a 100 grand, from where I was just doing weddings to where I’m at now.
Allison Tyler Jones: Awesome.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: So I’m glad that you’re bringing that up because I think sometimes, especially Americans we love the underdog story. We love the finish line that everybody runs through breaking the tape and we reinvented ourselves and everything was great. But what we don’t see is that messy middle where it’s just hard and you’re having to make decisions and believe in yourself when you don’t really totally believe in yourself. If you never had portraits and your family never paid for big portraits or whatever, you’re like people don’t pay for that.
Jeannine Pohl: Right.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. So what were you telling yourself? Was it the course? What were you telling yourself to get your mind around that?
Jeannine Pohl: Well, before the course I was doing things like affirmations and I was trying to be intentional before every meeting with people to have what I wanted for them in front of mine. So then when it came to telling the dollar amount, and what it came down to is I had to make all the mistakes first. I had to do it not right to be like this is a pain and I don’t want to have this pain again. The way to fix that is, well you have to go through the pain, unfortunately and then you have to have a reason to do the things. Like the frequently asked hard questions. I have to have that all answered, not right with no script and do that first before it’s going to work.
Allison Tyler Jones: We want to avoid that, we always want to avoid the pain. But I find that you just learn… Sometimes I think failure gets glorified like, “Oh, you just need to fail.” Well I’d prefer to not fail, I’d prefer to get it right the first time. But even when you kind of get it right the first time, there’s part of it that didn’t work. So that you’re always going to get caught out by some weird question that you feel like, I didn’t really have a solid answer for that and I was a little defensive and I came off a little not confident. So next time how can I answer that in a way that feels true to my personality. But that is from a happy place of, yeah totally, it’s expensive but this is what’s so great about it or whatever.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. I think documenting what those things are too. Often we just want to like, thank God that’s over with and not think about that conversation or that interaction or portrait session that when awry or whatever and it still happens. Right?
Allison Tyler Jones: 100%.
Jeannine Pohl: I just had a client order that was picked up and I’m like, oh my God thank God the order is done. But for so many reasons that I could have avoided, but now I make sure I do the process better.
Allison Tyler Jones: Well I think there’s such value in doing a postmortem on any interaction that you have with the client, any session. We know how to do that as creatives, as photographers right? When you’re editing your work and you’re sitting there going in your mind it was the most amazing portrait session in the world, and you just knew that you nailed the lighting and it was so great. Then you go to edit it and you’re like, okay it should have been at 45 degrees, it was at 90, the shadow is weird. But you know how to fix it, you know how to do it better the next time and as you master your craft from a photographic standpoint we totally embrace that. But when it comes down to actually selling the work or building the business or talking with clients. Like you said, we just want to get it done and not ever maybe see that person again.
Jeannine Pohl: Right.
Allison Tyler Jones:
that person is going to come back in one form or another until you learn that lesson.
Jeannine Pohl: Right. Here’s another thing though, sometimes you don’t know there’s another way until you take the Art of Selling Art and you’re like this doesn’t have to be so hard.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. That’s true. I think education is key and being able to share, you guys are so good in that Facebook group because you can get in there and say, okay this is what happened. What do I do? Then everybody can weigh in and help each other with words and all of that stuff. I know that when I was creating that course, it was just like okay what are the things I wish I had known in the beginning? How do you gain confidence? Because I’m sure people say that to you like, “How are you so confident?” I always am like, “I’m really not.” But there’s certain things I am confident about. I’m confident that I do not want to chase your three-year old around the park for free, that I’m confident about.
Jeannine Pohl: I know that because I’ve done that.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. I know that because I’ve done that and I was not happy that I missed my kid’s soccer game to go chase your kid around the park, and I didn’t get paid to do that. So I don’t want to do that again, I’m confident in that. So sometimes it starts from just what you were saying is even if we weren’t raised with money, even if we didn’t have all this portraiture on our walls. It’s slowly realizing that what we bring to the table has value and that we are providing this amazing service for people. Do you think most of that comes from what your clients say once they see the images? Or where does that confidence come from for you?
Jeannine Pohl: The less pain that happens through the process.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Jeannine Pohl: The easier it is when you find your avatar client and they’re actually in your studio and you’re actually doing the full process, and the words that they’re saying are words from your website or words that you want to put on your website to check that same client again.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. The people that really get what you do and want it.
Jeannine Pohl: Yep. Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: So were you doing consultations with… I mean, you were obviously doing consultations with your wedding clients. Were you doing consultations with your family and portrait clients once you made that transition? Or tell me about that.
Jeannine Pohl: So I was doing vaguely. I was doing a discovery call and taking a few notes, but not as defined in this specific piece of art as going to be in this specific location in your home and then these are the outfits, the colors and all the parameters are defined beforehand. I was not doing it like that, and it is truly a game changer. I’ve done a couple sessions that I didn’t do a full consult with because they had pretty good corporate guidelines for it, and I kind of felt a little lost in the session. When you don’t have those clear things in the conversation with the client ahead of time. They come into the session with a higher level of trust with you too, because you’ve helped them along the process for all of those things.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. For sure. It’s just so easy to blow it off. I mean, even still, I’m the consultation queen. Anybody texts me they’re like, “Oh, yeah, we know you’re all about the consultations or whatever.” And I’m like, “Well yeah, I am until I get talking too much about kids or books or Netflix series or whatever and then realize wait I forgot to quote them pricing. Or I forgot to really talk about clothes or whatever.” Whatever the thing was that I missed, and then that’s always the thing that comes back and bites me in the butt later.
Jeannine Pohl: Right. I think the visuals like the slideshow that we put together for the consultation, that has been super helpful because it allows my ADHD to stay focused on the topic at hand.
Allison Tyler Jones: Seriously.
Jeannine Pohl: Even if we go off on to a tangent, that visual is there as a reminder of where-
Allison Tyler Jones: You’re like there is a slide in front of me on the screen, oh let’s get back to this. Yeah.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. Yep.
Allison Tyler Jones: That’s good. Yeah, I love that. Well, what else? What are you most excited about for the coming year? What are you working on in your business right now?
Jeannine Pohl: Honestly a big project manage management software, I’m switching from Asana to ClickUp. That’s a huge project that we’re working on. I’ve got a CRM called Pixifi over the last two years, so that’s been super helpful and then I’m launching a personal project that is going to be at a focus over probably a few years.
Allison Tyler Jones: Is that an artist project?
Jeannine Pohl: It is an artist project, yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: So it’s kind of secret, you’re not really talking about it?
Jeannine Pohl: It is, and it isn’t. I just don’t have a landing page or anything up for it. Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Well, we’ll definitely link to your website and what is your Instagram handle?
Jeannine Pohl: My new one that’s not hacked.
Allison Tyler Jones: Oh gosh, seriously.
Jeannine Pohl: Is block.portrait.studios, and then my wedding one is jeannine.marie.photo.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Spell Janine.
Jeannine Pohl: J-E-A-N-N-I-N-E.
Allison Tyler Jones: Jeannine Marie.
Jeannine Pohl: Yep, jeannine.marie.photo.
Allison Tyler Jones: Well, definitely we need to follow and see what you’re up to. Okay, let me go back. When you’re thinking from going from Asana to… So you’re changing your project management software as well as your CRM, like that’s a major.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. Well, the CRM was last year and a little bit of the year before, and then this year has been that Asana to ClickUp.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. That’s a lot of work. So a lot of project management and getting your systems and then you’re going to do whatever this creative thing that’s coming up. That’s exciting.
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, I love that. Okay. Well, I appreciate you taking the time. Is there any advice that you would give to maybe somebody to maybe a Jeannine 2019, that’s maybe been shooting weddings and events and is thinking about coming over to portraits or any portrait photographer? What advice would you have?
Jeannine Pohl: Yeah. I think, well education. I’ve taken part in so many workshops with different instructors over the years and different retreats and one-on-one mentoring type of things. The value that I got working with you was really that it was so one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and that you have it in a way that is just with my brain. I don’t know, it just worked really, really well for me and I had to let go of the idea of not making my life and my career around weddings as I imagined it. I know I’ve been in it long enough to see the burnout that happens with any creative, that you do the same thing for a long time. So I knew it was… Even though I still love it now, it was super important that I needed to start looking at what that next thing was, and also for my family, for my weekends back. So knowing that to go into the portrait world again, to work in the studio and the confinements of the studio itself. Having a strategy that allowed all of that newness to have some sort of system around it, like do these steps. It doesn’t all have to be so scary.
Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Well, I agree with you. I think I know in my own business to have the education of people that have gone before that have done what it is that you’re wanting to do. I think we all just stand in the shoulders of those that have gone before, and it’s just an accelerator. It helps you move further, faster and then you make it your own. That’s one thing that I think it’s so great is to watch you, is that you’ve taken the principles that you’ve learned from not just my course. But other courses and very much made your own brand, made it your own, how it works with you, because you’re a different person and you have a different life. You have one kid, I have seven, but that process, having that process. I think that’s so smart that you’re getting all these processes figured out in your business, and I just only see great things ahead for you.
Jeannine Pohl: Well, thank you so much Allison. I appreciate you.
Allison Tyler Jones: You are the best.
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