Episode 101: Can You Be a Boutique Photographer If You Have Severe Anxiety? Yes, You Can!

Can You Be a Boutique Photographer If You Have Severe Anxiety


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Jennifer Tobicoe is a Chicago-based mom of grown kids who wanted to make a career change after her divorce.

The problem was that she suffered from severe panic attacks, so she wouldn’t answer the phone if she didn’t recognize the number.

Today, Jennifer shares her inspiring story of how she gained confidence for the first time in her life, and had two nearly $2,000 portrait orders.

Find out how Jennifer is building her photography business and her confidence from the ground up.

Sarah Petty:

Jennifer, welcome!

I’m so glad you’re joining us.

Tell everybody where you’re from and a little bit about yourself.

Jennifer Tobicoe:

Hi Sarah.

I live about 30 minutes south of Chicago.

I’m a divorced, empty nester and my mom and I live together.

Previously, I had a career in print marketing and had another art job where I did fiber art, but arthritis in my hands is making that more difficult now.

I used to take pictures before and then my brother wanted pictures for his second wedding.

So I photographed his wedding and then my daughter got married and I did her bridal portraits.

Then she got pregnant, and I did her maternity and newborn photos and it just took off from there.

Sarah Petty:

What do you love to photograph most? 

Jennifer Tobicoe:

I love to photograph maternity.

My mother doesn’t have any pictures of me when she was pregnant, so I love to photograph pregnant women.

I also love milestones, three, six, nine, and cake smashes, especially.

Overcoming Anxiety to Follow Your Passion

Sarah Petty:


Where were you in your career when you decided that you were going to do something with photography?

Were you working somewhere else, or did it just fall into place with this wedding that you did?

Jennifer Tobicoe:

I wasn’t working.

I have a severe anxiety disorder, so I’m on partial disability.

Basically, I was doing part of my daughter’s wedding and really just started the whole thing thinking I could maybe do this.

I’ve taken some great pictures with a really terrible camera, so when I invested in a higher end camera I was sure I could do this. 

Sarah Petty:

I’m so proud of you.

Thank you for sharing that, because so many people have debilitating anxiety or fears.

I know you shared that you’ve had panic attacks, and you wouldn’t answer the phone if you didn’t know the number.

When you’re running a business, that creates more anxiety, because then there’s a disconnect between trying to get clients and who’s calling me.

Jennifer Tobicoe:

Therapy has helped a lot, as well as medication.

I actually picked up the phone yesterday, didn’t know who it was, and found out it was somebody who wanted their daughter to be a model for something I’m doing.

Sarah Petty:

So proud of you.

Where is this confidence coming from?

Gaining Confidence To Reach My Potential

Jennifer Tobicoe:

A lot of it really came from Boutique Breakthrough.

My mindset switched completely around.

I was doing digitals, and nobody was printing anything. I was wondering why there aren’t more people printing their portraits.

This beautiful artwork should be huge and on their walls.

I went through your Ditch the Digitals challenge about three years ago, then I found Boutique Breakthrough and thought it was a lot of money.

I had stopped photographing and shut down my studio because of COVID, just because my immune system isn’t great.

But I’ve recently reopened a studio with a studio mate.

So now, I’m photographing again in the studio, which I’m so happy about.

I don’t think I could have done any of that without Boutique Breakthrough, because they really just hold your hand through it all.

I gained so much confidence.

When I saw my big, 20×30 piece of my daughter with her second pregnancy, it blew me away.

Sarah Petty:

I’m so proud of you.

I can just feel how happy and excited you are about your business.

You waited three years to jump in and do Boutique Breakthrough.

What made you finally make the decision to do it?

Jennifer Tobicoe:

It was a “now or never” thing, because I’m getting older.

Other people are photographing through COVID, and I’m vaccinated and everything, so I can do this.

The confidence that I gained through the eight weeks was insane.

I can’t believe it.

My therapist was like, “What’s going on with you, because you’re awesome right now.”

Sarah Petty:

I love it.

It’s like a therapy accelerator, I think.

The best way to get through some of that head trash is by doing, I believe.

Because I know if you can go and get that $1K client, Julie, it will change everything for you.

Talk to me about your Julie, a client that invests at least $1K.

Jennifer Tobicoe:

I got two.

My first was someone I never thought would be my Julie.

It was my niece, who never got photos for her first pregnancy, but for her second one, she wanted to get maternity and family photos.

I gave her my price list and took them into the studio, and did the photos.

It was a $2,000 order.

They were thrilled.

It’s the biggest order I had to date.

The second one was a sweet 16.

This happened right after I graduated Boutique Breakthrough.

It was $1,700 order. 

Sarah Petty:

Isn’t that amazing?

Talk about that feeling of confidence, because you are just radiating confidence.

Finding A Way To Make My Dreams Reality

Jennifer Tobicoe:

It’s not something I’ve been familiar with in my life, so to have this is life changing really.

I feel worthy of the work that I do and the money I charge.

Just worthy in myself.

I never would’ve had the confidence to do this.

I even found a way to pay for Boutique Breakthrough, because I didn’t have the money for it but I found a way.

I did it, and it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done really in my life.

Sarah Petty:

That’s amazing.

You said your therapist has noticed a difference in you.

Has your family noticed too?

Jennifer Tobicoe:

Yeah, definitely.

My mom tells me how much confidence I have now and how great I am doing. 

Sarah Petty:

You are so brave, and I’m so proud of you.

I appreciate you sharing your story with so many, because especially in COVID, anxiety, mental health and fear is at an all time high.

Just look how you’re getting through it.

I’m so proud of you, Jennifer.

Thank you for coming here.

Episode 101: Can You Be a Boutique Photographer If You Have Severe Anxiety? Yes, You Can!
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