Episode 131: If You’re a Long-Time Photographer Struggling to Eek Out a Photography Income, Listen to This

If You’re a Long-Time Photographer Struggling to Eek Out a Photography Income, Listen to This

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Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

When Minnesota-based, 13-year photography veteran, Jenn Kerfeld, looked at her end-of-the-year finances and saw just $376.89 in profit, she was ready to close her business. 

But just one year later, after making a few changes to her business model, she had racked up $46,486 in profit!!

Even during an uncertain time in our economy. 

Here’s how she did it… 

Sarah Petty: 

I know it can’t be easy being in business for all of those years and coming to realize that you weren’t making money. 

So let’s go back to what you were doing in those 13 years.

What did your business look like?

Jenn Kerfeld:

I started my business in 2007.

I was 25, single, and didn’t have kids, so I just worked a lot. 

I got married in 2012 and in 2013 I had my first daughter and that really changed my perspective and the way that I looked at my time and business.

I wanted to spend more time with her, but I didn’t know how to do that because I was working about 60 hours a week.

Sarah Petty:

Wow.

So during this time, were you selling digital files, or were you always trying to sell prints?

Jenn Kerfeld:

During that time I was selling prints, actually.

Digitals weren’t huge during that time and I thought I was doing a really great service to my clients.

I didn’t start selling digital files until 2018.

Sarah Petty:

So you’re selling prints, you get married, you have your first child, and all of a sudden your time becomes a little more valuable.

When did you open a studio?

Jenn Kerfeld:

I opened it in 2007 and I took over an existing business. 

He was doing a lot of volume at lower prices, and so when I took over, I kept the name of that studio and I just kept doing the same things he was doing.

Sarah Petty:

So you actually had a little bit of a system.

Then you had more children and what did the next few years look like?

Jenn Kerfeld:

Those were probably the toughest years, just trudging along, trying to do all the things that you do in business and keep going.

I filled my weekends with families and if I wasn’t booked with families, I was photographing weddings.

I spent a lot of time away from my daughter. 

And then I had another child in 2015 and that’s when things really got interesting because now I have two kids and a business and you have expectations in that business.

I tried to raise my prices a little bit, but I didn’t know how to do it. 

I ended up raising my prices and thought that was good enough.

And long story short, it wasn’t. 

You go through and a couple of years go by and you’re still doing the same thing and not much has changed.

Sarah Petty:

So how are you justifying in your mind that you should keep going that way? 

Because I’m sure your life was hard with working all the time and wanting to be a hands-on mom. 

Jenn Kerfeld:

I just didn’t want to fail.

So I just kept going and was working a lot with a lot of volume because my prices were so low.

I  kept adding sessions and clients because I needed to make the money. 

And it was a vicious cycle that I didn’t know how to get out of.

Sarah Petty:

So what changed for you? 

Jenn Kerfeld:

Everything changed for me in 2019. 

In 2018, I transitioned to digitals.

I found a lot of my clients were wanting digital copies and I should probably start selling digitals because everyone was.

That’s when my business really plummeted and I thought that giving the digitals would save me time. 

I thought I could do more volume and I couldn’t.

I had no time to do sessions and everything just kind of started coming in on me.

When I looked at my numbers at the end of 2019, I knew I had worked a ton and had nothing to show for it.

That’s when I noticed the $300 in net and I didn’t think photography was worth it for me anymore. 

I was thinking of closing the doors until I went to Go Boutique Live in 2020.

Sarah Petty:

So when you learned about the Boutique business model did you think that maybe there’s a better way?

Jenn Kerfeld:

Yeah, exactly.

I wasn’t ever 100% boutique and I wasn’t doing it the right way. 

The biggest part for me was that I had no support.

I was making less than $5 an hour.

I could work at my kids’ school and be with them for more than that.

You can’t keep enjoying your job knowing that you’re not making anything.

Sarah Petty:

So you found us, you came to the conference, joined our program, and what opened up for you?

Jenn Kerfeld:

I saw results really quickly.

I went right into Boutique Breakthrough and changed my prices and that alone made a big difference. 

Getting the price guide right off the bat was just huge for me.

But then the pandemic set in and there were no sessions so I went into the lessons and I just started learning. 

As soon as we opened back up, I got to work and booked sessions.

I transitioned a lot of my clients to boutique and told them what that meant. 

Just implementing the boutique system right off the bat made that big of a difference.

That fall I was able to do my first charity event, which was really great.

That was really fun and probably one of the bigger pieces of the success of that year.

Sarah Petty:

So as you were learning, you realized the pieces that you were missing in your business.

How does your husband feel about your business now versus those years when you were working so many more hours?

Jenn Kerfeld:

He’s still kind of in that, “Jenn works on Saturdays all day” mode.

And so now when I’m home he is happy that I have the day off. 

It’s even just a mind shift for me too because now I will work Tuesday- Friday and I’ll do a weekend here and there for clients and I enjoy that.

But it’s interesting just to wrap my head around the fact that I’m not at work every day of the week. 

I went on vacation in August with my kids this year, which I have never been able to do before.

I took a week off in the busiest month of my year and it felt great.

Sarah Petty:

And you got to be with them.

That is amazing.

So you sat down and you looked at how much you made in your first year as a boutique photographer, which was almost $47,000 in net profit? 

Jenn Kerfeld:

Yes, so my first year was during COVID and that was my profit.

Which is just mind-blowing because it just was like proof that I was just wildly underpriced. 

I’m really thankful that I was able to make the change and have the support to do it. 

Sarah Petty:

As you’re continuing to grow, how does it feel now?

What’s your confidence level and your happiness level?

Jenn Kerfeld:

Well, my happiness level is so much more than my confidence, it grows every day.

When you have a group of people that are supporting you and are there for you, they remind you that you can do this. 

There have been people that have been doing photography longer than me who are able to give me advice and be there for me.

The biggest piece in continuing to be successful with the boutique process is having the continued support of your colleagues and other people who are having the same questions from their clients and the same things come up in business.

Sarah Petty:

What encouragement do you have for someone who’s been doing this a long time, and can’t seem to figure out why they aren’t successful?

Jenn Kerfeld:

The biggest piece standing in my way was me.

I was the only person really in my life who didn’t see what was happening.

So I would say get out of your own way and have an open mind about something that you don’t know. 

Sarah Petty:

Yeah, I love that.

I love seeing longer-time photographers really fix the things, like the little knobs in their system and they can just get so much farther, so much faster. 

Thanks so much for being here, Jenn.

This is really inspirational.

I know everyone’s going to love hearing it.

Download the Episode Transcript Here

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