Episode 193 – How My Top Students Made $658,466 in December

How My Top Students Made $658,466 in December


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

In this economy, everyone wants to say that people aren’t spending money. People have cut back on spending for some things, but boutique portrait photography is not one of them. In the month of December, my Peak Performance Coaching students brought in almost $700,000 as a group in just 30 days. The boutique photography industry is healthy and that is what today’s episode is all about.

It’s easy to get down when it seems like the cost of everything is going up, doesn’t it? If you have kiddos, it feels even more out of control because they’re expensive. Always needing something whether that’s food or clothes. If you want to give them the extra opportunities that develop them into amazing humans, that costs money.

What I continue to see as the best way to close the gap on expenses that just keep growing is boutique portrait photography. Nothing proves this more than what I saw with my own two eyes last month. If you didn’t know, I have a group of photographers that I work with on a yearly basis called Peak Performance Coaching students. This is a group of about 165 photographers who are working toward being certified boutique photographers. They want to be coached along the way to reaching their goals as portrait photographers. We have meetups throughout the month and in person three times a year to work on their photography businesses.

In December, I pulled the coaches in this program together and asked what a realistic revenue goal was that we can set as a group to reach in the month of December. We really want to end the year strong. As a group, they threw out the number $300,000 and I thought that maybe that goal was too lofty.  What happened blew away every single expectation I had and proved the theory that you need to know about if you’re trying to grow your photography business in 2024. 

Here’s how the goal worked: during December, they could count any money that they collected and add it towards our goal of $300,000. If they sold a big order back in October and the client paid the balance in December, what they collected in December counted. If they just took a big order mid-December and they took a deposit and the rest will be paid in January, they could only count the deposit that they took. It could be any money from their photography business like gift certificates, printed artwork, framing, holiday cards, personal branding, business portraits and so on, but they had to collect the money.

What this did was encourage them to consider, maybe I ask for pay in full or maybe I go and I get aggressive with some past clients that didn’t order much or maybe they didn’t order an album or whatever it was. It really got them thinking about, “How can I serve my clients in a better way and really be aggressive with collecting that money this year?” Let’s talk about the outcome. Within a week, the group hit $100,000, and then $200,000. And then, before Christmas, they were over a half a million dollars. They blew me away.

When all the chips settled, the final amount they collected was $658,467. That’s an average of over $7,158 per person, and that made their average order of over $2,166. How would that feel to have an average order of over $2K for three or four sessions and bring in 7K in one month? That would feel amazing because you’re not working and doing all the grind things that you’ve probably done to make whatever revenue you’ve made in the past. Isn’t that so much fun to think that you could make this kind of money so easily?

Here’s where it gets wild. Our group was on fire with the things that people were sharing that they had done. It ran the gamut from high school senior portraits, to kids, to families, to boudoir, definitely extended family sessions, pets, business portraits, and we had people pre-selling family gift certificates for spring sessions that they knew families wanted. They were doing gift certificates and artwork for Christmas. They were doing composites and paintings for the holidays. They were reaching out and offering specialty sport sessions for tweens and their friends over break. They were selling Christmas cards. They were reaching out to past sessions and offering albums for people who hadn’t finished ordering or didn’t order all of the things. They were offering experience sessions where the session was actually part of an experience, whether it was for dancers or princesses or they had specialty clothing like Rent the Runway sessions. 

We provided them with a campaign to use that was a fundraiser called Making Spirits Bright, where we gave them A to Z of how to easily make that money. They were selling tickets to an event that they were having called I’m Possible. As well, we do an event together in January called Pooch Playoffs, and some of them were pre-organizing, getting their pets lined up for that bracket where we do a national competition, which is so cool. 

People were helping each other. We tell people, “It doesn’t matter if you have a $50 bit of money you’ve collected, add it to the total.” Some were adding $300, $500, $900, and we  had people with $20,000 orders that they were adding, which was crazy. But here’s the good news. Here’s what they didn’t do… My students were not doing mini sessions with thousands of digital files to edit. They weren’t giving up time with their families and sacrificing all those fun holiday traditions. They were showing up as their best selves because they were following what we taught and they were making money the easiest way possible.

Here’s why this worked…. Here’s a theory that you need to know about if you want to grow your business in an easier way in 2024. Study after study shows that with support and being with others who are striving to have growth in the same area as you, you are going to do better. Whether it’s a program like WeightWatchers to lose weight or joining a spinning class or committing to go walking every day with your friends, you’ll get better results being with others. 

You can set yourself up for success because the people in the room are doing the same hard things as you. Do you see that you are more likely to do those hard things and succeed with flying colors when you’re in a room with other people doing them? I want you to check out what Lori Gush, one of our Peak Performance Coaching students, said about being a part of this community and what happened to her the very last day of the month because of the momentum and support in the group.

Lori Gush: Hi, I’m Lori Gush and I am a new Peak Performer. December 1st, I was on the Live that Sarah did when we set our goal for $300,000. I remember feeling like it was really daunting, and wondering if I could really contribute to this. Then, I started seeing posts in the group and it really was motivating and inspiring because we don’t get to a number from just one person. It was a collaborative effort of the entire Peak Performance team and every dollar counted. Every time that I saw a post with the race to $300K, it could be a couple thousand dollars, it could be a session fee for $175 or $200, and it really motivated me to do this. I can be part of this, and it really helped me to be able to focus on December and stick with it. It wasn’t easy.

I had some great help from some mentors in the program to be able to really execute extended families and get some sessions for that booked. The most exciting thing was, on the very last day of the year, December 31st, I had met a connection through one of my cheer clients for Volume Cheer, and the grandma hired me to come out and do business photos. She wrote me a check for $3,300 on the 31st, so I was able to contribute to that grand total. It felt really good to be able to know that it really is possible and that you just have to follow the process because it works. I’m so thankful to be part of this amazing Peak Performance community.

Sarah Petty: Isn’t that so cool? What’s crazy is Lori told me she’s new to this business portrait branding work. She worked with one of our coaches and mentors in the program, to get pricing and last minute questions answered, and she made $3,335 from this session. She could have just finished off with a fizzle out and moved on to something else. Instead, she served her client. Because she had access to that support and the momentum of being challenged to just go a little bit more, she was able to get more than she would’ve been able to get on her own. If you have been wanting to join a program to get results and you could join one where people are having these kinds of results consistently, wouldn’t you run and not walk to be a part of it?

This is a brand new year. It could be the year that changes everything for you. I just showed you how my Peak Performers students came together and did it in such a big way last month, which means you can do it, too. Let’s make 2024 your best year ever.

Download the Episode Transcript Here

How My Top Students Made $658,466 in December
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