Episode 194 – How Carmen, The Small-Town Mom, Turned $150 Sessions Into $2,000 Triumphs!

ow Carmen, The Small-Town Mom, Turned $150 Sessions Into $2,000 Triumphs


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Sarah Petty: If you are a small town photographer who thinks no one around here will pay that much for photography, then you’ve got to meet Carmen Hazelton. She’s a mom of two lives in a small forest town of about 2,000 people in New Hampshire and was selling three digital files for $150. She was looking at what other photographers in her area were doing and thought that was just what photographers made. Today, you’ll hear her story of going from digital disappointment to $2,000 orders.

Sarah Petty: Hey there, my name’s Sarah Petty and I went from a stressed out overworked mama with three babies to be named one of America’s most profitable photographers without working my kids’ lives away. Now I’m the founder of the Photography Business Institute where we provide guided support from start to finish, whether you’re a beginner photographer dipping your toes in, or a more advanced photographer with big income goals. Each week on this podcast, I’ll show you how to find and serve photography clients in a world where we compete with free. Thanks to everyone having a digital camera in their pocket. Take the first step to adding more joy and profit to your life by downloading your free photography business tools at Photographybusinessinstitute.com. Welcome, Carmen.

Carmen Hazelton: Hey. Hi. It’s all true.

Sarah Petty: It’s all true. It’s all true. Well, gosh, what I love about your story is so many people say, “Oh, I just can’t be a boutique photographer. My town’s too small. No one will hire me.” And you’re just proof that you can be in a small town and make good money, which is fantastic.

Carmen Hazelton: Absolutely.

Sarah Petty: So, tell us a little bit about your family. You’re a mom of two, and your backstory with photography.

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah. So, I’m married. I have two daughters. My oldest is 14, my youngest is 12. I always say I have two business birthdays. I got my LLC in 2019 when I was $150 photographer.

Sarah Petty: Probably cost you all those fees just to pay that incorporation.

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah, it’s ridiculous, Sarah and I did it because in my state, I don’t know if it’s like it everywhere, but an LLC protects your personal assets, and I think I had just started having people who weren’t my friends ask if I would photograph them. So, I just went, got the LLC. I was still a hobbyist, really. I had no idea. I didn’t even really know what a business model was. I didn’t really understand branding, none of it. I was just sure, I’ll take your pictures. Here’s three digital files. Thanks. And honestly, something always felt like it was missing, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. But I can also do math and I knew that at what I was charging, there’s no way I would be able to quit my job and do full time.

Sarah Petty: Yeah, and I just want to jump in here for everybody listening to this. You don’t need an LLC, don’t run out and get one.

Carmen Hazelton: No, no, no. Absolutely not.

Sarah Petty: Yeah, and we can talk later about, I think I’ve maybe even done a podcast on when to incorporate and those types of things, but especially if you’re a portrait photographer, wedding photography is a little different. You do have more liability. And I’m not an accountant or a lawyer, not giving that advice, but I want to make sure if anybody’s listening, they think, oh, that’s what I should do. It’s not necessarily true, but it shows that you were serious and you’re like, I want to make money, so this is what I feel like I should do first step. So, do you have any formal photography training?

Carmen Hazelton: Very little. I mean, I was that kid that always had a camera. So, if camping trips, family gatherings, I always had a camera.

Sarah Petty: Got it. Sort of self-taught, but you’re like-

Carmen Hazelton: Exactly.

Sarah Petty: I mean, in this day and age you don’t even-

Carmen Hazelton: It was a hobby. People liked my pictures. And so, and-

Sarah Petty: Well, what was your job? What was your job before?

Carmen Hazelton: I work in restaurants, I’ve been a bartender for decades and decades.

Sarah Petty: So, you talked to people, so that’s not a fear of yours.

Carmen Hazelton: Well, no, it is. I am a super introvert, oddly enough introverted people are extroverted to me. I don’t know why I can stand behind a bar and talk to a bunch of strangers, but I don’t know, it’s just a different thing. But I do think it has prepared me for this phase of my journey. So, I worked nights, my husband worked days when the girls were little, so we never had to pay for childcare, and I just never saw a way to move out from bartending.

Sarah Petty: Got it.

Carmen Hazelton: So, I kind of felt stuck there until I met you Ms. Sarah Petty, which is my second business birthday, and I’ll never forget it, you are actually being interviewed on a podcast that I listened to. It’s the famous camera store in New York, and I’m just driving home from work and I hear your voice through my speakers talking about the boutique model. And instantly I knew, I just knew that’s what’s missing from my photography business. I like to say, if I love you and you’re in my life, you have a framed photograph hanging on your wall that I took and I gave to you. It’s always been my love language. So, why wasn’t I doing this in my business? And it was just like a big light just shown, this is it. This is what’s missing. And I instantly binged your podcast. I got up the next morning, I took all my prices off my website and I just cannonballed in and I said, “This is it. This is the puzzle piece that I’m missing for my business.”

Sarah Petty: So you were like, Sarah Petty, is it, I got to find this person.

Carmen Hazelton: That’s right. I need to find her. And there you were. So, I signed up for your free challenges, and every time I heeded your advice and implemented what you were suggesting, I saw results and I saw them quickly. I got my first Julie probably a month or two after I did one of your free challenges, and that’s when my pricing was nowhere near where it needed to be. I mean, I think about that sale now with how I’m actually priced to-

Sarah Petty: We call that, yeah, we call that a U haul sale, right? Where they walk U-Haul to take everything home because you were so low price.

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sarah Petty: That’s awesome. So, you got a Julie after just the free challenge information because you implemented. That’s amazing.

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah, yeah. Because what I’m learning is the more I can genuinely and step into a space of just being really authentic with potential clients and people, the better I can serve them and the more that the investment on their end goes up, because I’m really serving their needs. I’m not just selling you a photograph of your family, I’m selling you a piece of artwork that’s shifting your emotional state when you look at it. And so, the more I can understand that reason of why you need that in your life, then it’s just a no-brainer.

Sarah Petty: Yeah. So, you got that first Julie, and then what happened? What were you feeling now-

Carmen Hazelton: So, I did a couple of your challenges, and then I made it to Go Boutique Live. I won a scholarship for it, and it happened to fall on the same days my husband and the girls were going skiing. So, I had the whole house to myself, girl. It was you, and me and my dogs and lots of notes. And it was just amazing. I really kind of learned that I needed to get out of my own way. There was more mindset shift than I expected to experience. And that’s probably been one of the biggest changes for me is really just you gave me tools to recognize the thought patterns I’ve developed since, or we all developed since we’re young children that are just subconscious.

You gave me tools to identify those thoughts or the head trash that I think was sabotaging my efforts and I didn’t even know. Now I see it, now I hear the thoughts come in, and then it’s like little Sarah Petty pops up on my shoulder and she’s like, “Carmen, those thoughts aren’t true. That’s your head trash.” And then I can reverse it and continue moving forward. And that has been just monumental in my growth. So, after Boutique Breakthrough, I was ready to go. I was ready to invest in Boutique Breakthrough. My husband, not so much.

Sarah Petty: What’d he say?

Carmen Hazelton: He was reserved. He was worried it was a scam. He’s not even on social media and we’re in a little town. So, he’s really in a bubble. And I think that he was just worried that it wasn’t legit, that it wasn’t good advice that I was going to be investing in. And we had some hard conversations and at the end of it, he said, “You know what? I trust you and I know that you are talented and I know that you can do this, so if you believe in her, then I’ll fight off debt till the end of time.”

Sarah Petty: So, you kept talking to him about the program and how you would do the work and you had to fight for yourself.

Carmen Hazelton: And he was witness to my transition and he started seeing how my sales were getting higher. And when I was doing certain switching to wall art, he could see the money coming in, which at $150 before, I mean and I didn’t even really have a ton of clients before. And now I have more inquiries now than I have ever had, and it’s amazing. Now I have the tools on how to respond to those inquiries and what to say.

Sarah Petty: Yeah. So, I’m curious. You did the free challenge and you went out and you got a Julie, why didn’t you say, “I can just keep doing this?” I mean, you got a what, a $1,600 order, so why were you, I want more? What made you say “There’s still more that I’m missing?”

Carmen Hazelton: Because I knew there was a system to pricing I needed to learn more about because not only did I want to sustain and grow my business, but I want to have the support my life too, and I didn’t know how to price, so that is possible. I would play around with numbers, exactly. And I needed those seven Bs, man, I needed those seven Bs.

Sarah Petty: Do you like the seven Bs?

Carmen Hazelton: The seven Bs, yes. Yeah, absolutely. The more you do them, the more they just flow. And now there’s just, I don’t know, it’s just what I do now. I don’t apologize for it. I don’t feel bad about it. I’m done the apology tour you called me out on, and it’s just been amazing. And so, I signed up for Boutique Breakthrough, I got a buddy. I talked to her every day still, every single day. And let me tell you, she is my saving grace because she’s experiencing the same thing too, but I can call her up and be. I feel bad because this client says I’m too expensive for her. And then she’ll say all the things that I need to hear. Then all the things I say to her when she’s calling me up saying, because it’s hard. We’re trying to establish ourself and teach our clients what it is we do. We are so different than other photographers in the market.

Sarah Petty: For sure. For sure.

Carmen Hazelton: yeah.

Sarah Petty: You don’t have a studio, right? Correct?

Carmen Hazelton: I do not. I lug all my stuff with me. I usually will bring it to clients’ homes and set up and look at their light. Bring all the things.

Sarah Petty: All the things, okay.

Carmen Hazelton: All the things.

Sarah Petty: So, tell me about after you did Boutique Breakthrough and you went through the system and you got your second Julie. What was that like and what were some of the ahas you had along the way?

Carmen Hazelton: It was pretty amazing because developing my price list was, it was harder than I thought it was going to be. Designing it, getting all the numbers down, but then being like, people are going to pay me this. And I was stressing out about my smallest priced item, just being like, I don’t know. And my first Julie, she purchased the most expensive thing on my menu. She purchased on, I think we call it the Anchor. You kind of put down that I never in a million years expected anyone to actually invest in. And here I was worried about this little thing, and this client did not even blink twice, paid in full. Here you go. And I said, “Okay, all right. Reassured, this is going to happen and this is going to work.”

Sarah Petty: Yeah. How did you feel about yourself in that moment?

Carmen Hazelton: Amazing. Amazing. And to kind of back on what Sally was saying, investing in Boutique Breakthrough and actually having a coach and a mentor did so much for my confidence because I did finally feel like an official business woman. I think as creators, a lot of us have imposter syndrome because it kind of comes from within, this is what we do and create. And I don’t know, I just had a hard time stepping into that space of being, no, I’m a business owner. This is my business. This is what I’m trying to support my family, and that comes at a price. And I don’t know, it just shifted my perspective a lot, investing in that and being able to say, “I have a business coach,” and hallelujah.

Sarah Petty: Yeah. What did your husband say after the second Julie?

Carmen Hazelton: He’s very happy with my decision to invest with you, and I’ve had multiple Julie’s since then. So, I graduated Boutique Breakthrough in June, and I’ve had at least four Julies. So, I do pets in their people is how I market. But I have done some seniors and I’ve had $2,000 senior sessions. I’ve had $2,000 pet sessions. I’ve had family sessions that it’s normal to have a $1,500, $2,000 sale now.

Sarah Petty: Wow. After the first one-

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah, now I’m going after the $4,000, 5,000 sales.

Sarah Petty: Yeah. Yeah. It’s normal. Did you guys all hear that? Everyone listening.

Carmen Hazelton: Normal, yeah.

Sarah Petty: It’s normal to have a $1,500 session when after the first one or two, did you think that’s a fluke or were you like, I’m just getting started, baby?

Carmen Hazelton: I thought, I’m just getting started, baby. Here we go. Yeah. And it’s so invaluable Boutique Breakthrough because I revisit that information often. I can go back and I can re-watch a video and hear something different from it that maybe when I first listened to it, I wasn’t ready to hear. And just having that resource to go back and just build on what I’m creating, it’s just invaluable. You have saved me years, years of my time and efforts trying to structure my business. Now I have a structure, I have systems and I can move forward and I can expand and I can grow because I have these guidelines and structures in place. And I don’t even know how long it would’ve taken me if I would’ve even figured that out on my own. But you have saved me girl, years and years of my time.

Sarah Petty: I love it. And I love how you said introverts are extroverted to you.

Carmen Hazelton: Oh my God.

Sarah Petty: Do you think of being an introverted introvert that having the systems and the words served you? Because I know a lot of people say, “Well, I’m really shy, I’m really introverted,” and I know you’re a bartender, but you can almost put a mask on when you’re in that work situation. It’s different when you’re selling yourself, right?

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah. Absolutely-

Sarah Petty: You have have to talk to people about yourself.

Carmen Hazelton: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, all of it. You gave me a language to use, which is very important when trying to convey the value of what I’m offering. And I have, because I have structure and systems in my business, I have the confidence to have those conversations. And yeah, sometimes my heart pounds and I’m sweating and I’m nervous, but again, that’s the head trash repeating all these stories in my head that aren’t true, and you just move forward. You just do it, girl.

Sarah Petty: I love it. Literally, everyone listening, it is normal for a mom who doesn’t have a studio, who doesn’t have formal training in photography, works nights as a bartender-

Carmen Hazelton: In a little town.

Sarah Petty: A town of 2,000 people, and she’s saying it’s normal for her to get $1,500 orders. I mean, that just gives me chilly bumps all over my entire body. And if someone’s hearing this and doesn’t see the possibility for themselves, they need to listen again. Thank you, Carmen.

Carmen Hazelton: It feels amazing. And if I can do it, anyone out there can do it. I’m telling you, just listen to Sarah Petty.

Sarah Petty: And it does feel amazing. It feels amazing to do what you love and have people pay you. There’s no other word. It’s amazing. Thank you, Carmen. Hey there, photographer. I want to thank you for tuning into this episode. If you enjoyed it and found value, could you spare a moment to visit Apple Podcasts and leave a quick rating and review your feedback, gives me the information I need, so I can help you even more with future episodes?

Download the Episode Transcript Here

How Carmen, The Small-Town Mom, Turned $150 Sessions Into $2,000 Triumphs!
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