Episode 42: From Losing Her House to Selling $45,000 of Photography 3 Months. Here’s How.

Episode 42: From Losing Her House to Selling $45,000 of Photography 3 Months. Here’s How.


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Today I want to introduce you to a woman who will inspire you, no matter where you are in your photography journey.

This is the very personal story of my student, Colleen Carlson.

You’ll get to hear in her words, how she went from nearly losing her house to selling $45,000 of her photos in 3 months.

Be prepared to be lifted up by one of the strongest women I know.

My name is Colleen Carlson.

I have two amazing children, a 16-year-old son, and a 13-year-old daughter.

I am 48 years old and recently divorced.

My husband left me three days after my father passed away for another woman in 2018.

Before he left me, he told me that he had lost his job.

It was a complete lie.

He just wanted me to get a ‘real’ job before he left so that he could pay less alimony.

After that, I decided to throw myself into photography because I realized that it was the only thing that made me happy.

The Struggles of My Divorce

One week later, he cleared out our bank account and took everything.

That day, I filed for divorce against him because I had to protect my kids.

I got my home outright from my husband, but I live in Bergen County, New Jersey.

It’s right outside of New York which is an expensive area.

I thought I was doing great selling digital files.

I had hundreds of customers, $200 a session.

Then COVID happened and I couldn’t pay my bills.

I could no longer pay the taxes to keep my home even though I owned it.

I had a thousand dollars to my name and I couldn’t pay for my house or feed my kids.

Something inside me told me to keep going and to not give up on my dream.

I knew that my kids were watching and didn’t want them to see me fail.

During this time, I joined the Five-Day Ditch the Digitals challenge.

I threw myself in, and it completely changed my life.

After that, I did Boutique Breakthrough and in three months I went from having one thousand dollars in my bank account to $48,000 in sales.

Investing in Myself

Before and during my divorce, I hated myself more than anything.

I had no confidence in myself or my business.

My ex always told me,

“You can’t do photography, it’s never going to work. You’re not good enough. It’s a waste of time and money.”

Even people who were well-meaning like my best friends thought my photography was stupid.

They told me that I should get a job at a grocery store or do Doordash instead.

Instead of listening to them, I focused on myself.

I started reading positive quotes and books, and I threw myself into my business.

I invested in Sarah’s courses and put in the work.

Every day got better than the last and mentally, I feel like a completely different person.

I’m so happy now.

My kids see the changes in me too.

They say,

“Mom, you laugh all the time.”

I didn’t know I never laughed before I invested in myself.

I didn’t know I didn’t smile.

I didn’t know what the type of miserable person I was.

Now I wake up so happy every morning and I cannot wait for the day.

I love every second that I work and I feel so blessed.

Investing in My Photography Business

The Boutique Breakthrough class flipped my photography business upside down and improved my life greatly.

Each step had its own struggles, but it taught me tenacity and made my photography business stronger.

Here’s where I made changes in my business that helped me get to $48,000 so quickly.

Step 1: What Makes My Photography Business Different. My What and My Why

I quickly discovered my why which is important for explaining why I’m different than shoot and burn photographers.

This was a big part of getting the right clients in my photography business.

For me, I want to help other divorced women and single moms feel confident and beautiful and I want my kids to be happy.

Step 2:  Pricing

I did a deep scrub of my price list and I love it now.

I know a lot of creatives get freaked out by numbers, but Sarah and her team made it simple.

I think the hardest part was actually typing in my new numbers.

Once I got back my printed price lists from White House Custom Color, I started crying.

I thought to myself,

“This is it. I’m legitimate.”

Having prices beautifully printed changed everything for me.

That is what made me finally feel like a boutique photographer.

Step 3:  The First Phone Call

Learning the seven Bs of the first phone call was easy, but actually making the calls were horrifying. During this step, I mentally shut down.

I felt so afraid.

I was doing calls on zoom, and I didn’t like people to see me.

It was so hard to tell possible clients why I’m good and why they should choose me because I hardly believed the amazing things I was saying about myself.

I had a lot of head trash.

I shut down.

I didn’t log into the course for a week and I started to cry.

I thought I was going to fail.

Then, someone sent me a DM that said,

“What’s going on? I haven’t heard from you. Are you okay?”

The tears just started falling, and I went to the group and explained why I couldn’t do it.

Everyone said,

“What do you mean you can’t do it? You’re amazing. You’re awesome. Go do it!”

I had a breakthrough in that moment because they lifted me.

They carried me by my elbows into the next step, but it was terrifying.

Step 4:  Finding Your Julie 

My first Julie was someone that I had photographed, but never heard from again.

I called her and said,

“I haven’t heard from you. You never even opened your gallery. I’d love to sit down in Zoom and go over your photos with you.”

Her name is Maureen and she placed a $4,000 order.

I still get chills just thinking about it.

She was the best Julie.

I put artwork all over all her walls in her house.

Making that money was amazing.

I felt so powerful and grateful.

All my fear and doubt about my photography business left.

Step 5:  The In-Person Consultation

My first boutique consultation was tricky, but I now find them really easy.

It feels natural.

I want to get rid of the people that aren’t a good fit for my photography business and the consultation does that for me.

Step 6 – The In-Personal Sales Presentation

The image presentation is where I play back a slideshow of the client’s images set to music.

The first few presentations made me anxious and dealing with that head trash that I carried about my artwork was the hardest part.

My first three presentations had me shaking, but I’m not scared anymore. It feels like second nature.

The Result:  $48,000 In Just Three Months

I started the Five-Day Ditch the Digitals Challenge in June of 2020 and I joined Boutique Breakthrough for the month of July.

I had only one thousand to my name before these courses.

In October alone, I made over $16,000.

As of November 8th, I had made $26,000.

By December 31st 2020, I made $48,000 in sales.

In 2019 I was shooting weddings, working 24/7, and never seeing my kids.

I only made $25,000 that year.

I made $48,000 from September to December with a quarter of the clients that I was used to.

I went from shooting 200 sessions to 50.

My average sale is now $3500 and it feels amazing.

follow boutique photographer sarah petty on instagram to learn more about the boutique photography timeline

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