Episode 67: Her Husband Said It’s Time to Get a Job. She Made $13,000 in 2 Months With Photography Instead.

Episode 67: Her Husband Said It's Time to Get a Job. She Made $13,000 in 2 Months With Photography Instead.


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Have you ever wanted something so badly but it just doesn’t feel like it’s in the cards for you?

After being laid off, Tracy Lee Knuff decided to make photography her main job.

Six months later, she had photographed 22 sessions and made no profit. She was working all the time and that’s when her husband gave her a deadline.

She could either make it work or find a new job.

What Tracy did next will inspire you and make you believe that anything is possible.

Tracy Lee :

“I started my photography business back in 2016 and was part-time and wasn’t looking to make a lot of money.

My plan was that when I eventually retired from my day job, my clientele would already be built up for my photography business.

Last year, I got laid off. I worked in aerospace and people stopped flying because of COVID, so there weren’t any aviation dollars to be made.

I needed to do something and decided to pursue photography full-time.

Six months later, I had photographed 22 clients and had not earned a profit.

I was not happy and neither was my husband.”

Realizing I Wasn’t Making Money 

Sarah Petty:

“Wow. 22 Clients and no profit. When you’re married, you make decisions as a team and neither of you were probably happy with that.

You were basically working all the time for no money.

Talk about that conversation you and your husband had after realizing you were not making any money.”

Tracy Lee :

“My husband told me that I needed to find a job and that’s when I said that I wanted to try photography first.

I thought this might be a sign to go ahead and make it full time and he wanted to support me and gave me the “okay”.

He was retiring in December 2020, so I had to make it work, but didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

One of the things I didn’t do previously was measure how much profit I was making and when I sat down to see if I was making a profit with photography, I discovered I wasn’t.

I went from making six figures with my previous day job to making $0 with photography.

I knew something had to change and that’s when I saw one of your ads.”

Sarah Petty:

“After photographing these 22 clients and realizing you were not making a profit, were you still doing digital files?”

Digital Files Were Not Helping My Business

Tracy Lee :

“I was doing a lot of shoot and burn, giving some digital files, but not in the sense of, I take a portrait, you can have that digital file.

I was charging a lot for a digital file hoping to discourage people from asking for them.

It wasn’t until Boutique Breakthrough that I decided offering them didn’t help.” 

Sarah Petty:

“You knew that offering digital files was not going to lead to money, but you didn’t know how to get them to want to buy something else.

Which led to you and your clients ending up with nothing.

Were you doing online ordering back then?”

Tracy Lee:

“I was not doing online ordering.

I’ve always liked to talk to my clients.

I just wasn’t charging them my worth.”

Sarah Petty:

“Did you know what your worth was or were you guessing?

How did you figure out what to charge back then?”

Tracy Lee :

“I spent hours and hours creating my photography pricing for everything that I included and I didn’t get anything from it.

A lot of of my research of other photography pricing lists was wrong.”

Investing in Myself and Getting My Husband & Family on Board

Sarah Petty:

“So, you found one of my classes and you wanted to make that investment.

How did that conversation go with your husband?

Explaining that you wanted to invest in yourself but you hadn’t been making any money.”

Tracy Lee :

“He fully agreed that I needed to do something, especially because of the deadline.

He told me that if it’s worth it to go ahead and do it. And I did.

I joined the class and within the first week I was overwhelmed.

It made sense, but I was wondering what I had just gotten myself into.

My price list was wrong and I didn’t realize it before.

I really wasn’t ever going to make money from my own price list, because my prices weren’t compensating me the way I should be.

That was my first aha moment in Boutique Breakthrough.

I found that I’m worth it.

Before the class, I told myself that I just needed more clients.

I woke up after getting the price list and was a little shy.

I really thought no one would really pay me that much for photography and my husband said the same thing.

We had a family meeting and I explained the photography pricing to everyone and why it was there.

They all supported me… a little.

They thought I was worth it, but just didn’t think anyone would pay me that until I had that first client.”

I Went From From $3,000 to $13,000

Tracy Lee :

“In 2020 and years previous, I made about $3,000 a year with photography and didn’t realize it wasn’t enough.

After Boutique Breakthrough, I quadrupled that.

I went from making $3,000 to making $13,000 in 2 months.

I was able to pay some debt off and invest some money back into the business.

My clients weren’t complaining about the prices.

I am making way more money and spending a lot less time doing so. I only had four clients in those two months, so I went from 22 clients to 4 clients and quadrupled my income.

That’s the aha moment I showed my family and then they believed that there are clients out there that value photography and will pay these prices.

We all kind of had a nice little grin and decided it’s worth it.

I’ve changed my mindset.

I know I’m worth it and I stand behind my photography pricing.

I was fearful that I  was going to lose too many clients and everybody would leave me because I was charging too much, but I didn’t lose all of them.

The ones that I kept believe I’m worth it.”

Not Being Afraid of Losing Clients 

Sarah Petty:

“Talk a little bit about the ones you lost, because I think that’s hard for a lot of people.

Usually, the ones we lose are our early clients and they love us, but we know that they’re not going to be a right fit client now.

You just have to make that hard decision and know that you need to be in business for profit and may lose some clients.

How did that go for you and how are you okay with some of them not coming with you?”

Tracy Lee :

“Several of my older clients who were with me at the beginning loved my work, but they weren’t in a place to pay that kind of money for portraits.

I understood and explained why I needed to change my business model especially after being laid off.

We’re still friends and all but they’re just no longer my clients.”

Finding The Right Client

Tracy Lee :

“It was really hard for me to say no to business, especially when I was struggling.

It was super hard until I had one of my old clients purchase from me with my new photography pricing and didn’t bat an eye.

My old client told me how proud of me she was and how much she loved her portraits and how she will keep coming back with her family.

My latest client, I thought, would never come back.

They wanted family pictures on their wall and thought of me.

We did a family session and I thought I could get them to buy a few portraits, but when they came back, they loved everything.

They were having trouble deciding, but I helped them through it.

With no hesitation, they asked me what they owed.

They are going to come back to put portraits on their stairwell and in their basement. 

I got $4,500 off that one sale and they already wanted me to come back in October for holiday portraits.

I was able to sit down and help them decide what they needed now and what they needed later.

It was so nice to help them decide what was important and when it would be important to do it.

I served my client and I was ecstatic.”

Standing Up For My Worth

Sarah Petty:

“Isn’t it crazy when you find that right client?

It shows you that you weren’t serving them in a way that you could have been.

So awesome that they love your new system!

Does it make you want more clients like that?

Now, you’re making money, doing what you love, and serving people who love what you’re doing.

Now that you know what it feels like, does it make it easier to say no to people who only want digital files?”

Tracy Lee :

“I actually just had a recent issue like that.

A new client came to me and said they were looking for a family portrait to put in their main hallway, which ended up being a 30X 40 piece of art.

When we started talking about the photography pricing, they wanted to bargain and asked for a discount.

I told them I do not discount and that it was okay if they didn’t want to use me as their photographer, but they really wanted to do business with me.

It would be great to get a picture of their father before he passes on a great family photo, but I don’t discount my work.

I used the Ruth’s Chris analogy and told them that I am worth pricing my photography at a high price, and if they chose not to use me, we could still be friends.”

Sarah Petty:

“I’m so proud of you.

I know that’s an aha moment for a lot of people.

A lot of photographers think they would rather discount their work but it’s really just a downward spiral from there.

You will never win that price-race to the bottom, because you’ll go back to the price sensitive clients and then you have 22 clients again and make no money.

When you say no to discounts it opens the door for the right clients.

Tracy, thank you for being here today and sharing your story.”

Episode 67: Her Husband Said It's Time to Get a Job. She Made $13,000 in 2 Months With Photography Instead.
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