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Episode 37 – Photography Sales with Jennifer Hennigan

Photography Sales with Jennifer Hennigan

Watch the full episode here.


In this episode, Julie interviews Jennifer Hennigan, an entrepreneur, boudoir photographer, philanthropist, and sales coach. She shares her tips for how she incentivizes her clients to put more money down upfront, how to educate your clients on what’s included in a photo session and how to create a steady workflow for sales.

Watch the full episode here.

About Jennifer: 

Jennifer is an entrepreneur, boudoir photographer, philanthropist, and sales coach. She is also an author, and an improv performer based in Austin, Texas. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in communications and advertising. After two years of working in sales, she started the Eye Candy Boudoir, Austin’s world-famous boudoir studio. As a top boudoir photographer in Austin, Jennifer has had multiple six-figure years, with 2022 being her highest year, thanks to her one-hour workflow sales process, which you can learn more about within her course, the Build Better Client’s Bootcamp. She’s also releasing her first book, Why Your Photographer Hates You

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About Julie Goetzinger:

Schedule your complimentary breakthrough call with Julie today.

Julie Goetzinger is a psychic medium, best-selling author and coach who teaches how to make more money and impact without sacrificing your well-being. In her book, “Free to Fly: Manifest the Life of Your Dreams,” she shares her story of how she created abundance by stepping into her true self as an artist and spiritual medium. She is the creator of Free to Fly and has seven years of experience in business as an entrepreneur.

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Episode Transcription

I think a lot of people don’t realize how social I am. I was raised Catholic, I was the big kid who never did anything wrong. Even now, people think boudoir, they think sexy, they think Veronica, and then people meet me and it’s like I’m just a really wholesome person. I think a lot of photographers, a lot of boudoir photographers out there, there’s a lot of really good ones with straight morals and stuff, and a lot of people don’t expect that. They don’t expect photographers to be like normal women who have families, some of them go to church on Sundays. It’s funny because I’m single and so I date a lot and I date men that I meet online. When I tell them what I do for a living, I think they have this vision in their heads about me. Then they meet me and they realize, on the first date we’re going to end with a kiss, that’s good, and we’re not going to go further. I think it kind of throws them for a loop, but also our dating culture today is just terrible. 

I relate to you because people used to called me the PG boudoir photographer, because they’re like, “Oh, you just don’t share your risk gay stuff.” I’m like, “No, I just don’t do that because I live by my own morals and I also believe in God and living a life of modesty and I’m the same way. There are a lot of judgments when we tell people what we do. I’m curious how did your community, your friends and family respond when you came out as a boudoir photographer

My mother had the most supportive response when I told her. I was like, “You know, I think I might want to sell boudoir photography.” The first thing she said, I’ll never forget it was that season. But actually my mom is one of my biggest supporters and I always know that she’s just a big supporter because all the gifts I buy her with all the money I make. My mom, she’s very Catholic. We grew up very differently. She was the oldest in a family of five siblings, oldest daughter and she kind of took on, like my youngest uncle would call her mom and they grew up in the country. It wasn’t like the seventies we thinking of, like we think of the fun party seventies. They lived in the rustic country, middle of nowhere seventies, with religion and conservative values. So for her it was just, that’s Jennifer thing. I’m the one who doesn’t mind doing things that are different and fun, and pushing the envelope a little bit. Even though for my own self, like I do have morals and stuff, but my family is very supportive. 

My cousin Kim, who I’ve always looked up to, is almost like a sister. I remember her telling me, “I’m so proud of you and how hard you’ve worked and how successful you’ve become with your business.” That meant a lot to me, because like I said, I always looked up to her. My brother and sister-in-law supports me, but they didn’t really want their kids to know what I did. Once my parents came to Austin one weekend with the kids. They asked me to come back to their house and I was like, “Well, I have to go back to their house and get some stuff.” They were like, “We’ll follow you. We’ll go in there.” I was like, Okay, let me take a nephew down first when I was supposed to know what I need for a living and they’re going to see all the photos of my work and my house. We got in the car, I had my niece, nephew with me. They wanted to ride with me, I’m like, “So, Jenny needs to explain something to you before we get from her house.” I told them what I did. I think they forgot, because I later told my brother and I was like, “I’m so sorry, Mom and Dad brought them. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my decision.” He responded, “Well, you better make sure that their mother doesn’t find out.” I was like, “Okay, I won’t tell her if you won’t.” 

The way I explain it to my children is, it’s like fine art and that you go to a museum and you see statues of nudes, the body is very beautiful. I had a picture of myself in one suit, it was like a one suit – a bathing suit basically, and my kids looked at it and my son just said, “That’s weird.” He was little when he saw it, but to me, it’s really important that my children do not shame themselves for their body and they see it as beautiful as art and it can be very classy the way you present it. My photographer did an amazing job and I did it right after I got divorced, and it was such a celebratory session of seeing myself as this goddess. It felt empowering and just like, wow, this is how we make people feel, like really important work. I think it’s important that children see too, it’s worth celebrating; our bodies and not shaming ourselves, we all have one, right? 

Absolutely, and there’s a way to do it. Obviously if I had children, they would not be coming in during the assessment, watching mom on these assessments, but they’re going to see things on your computer that you’re editing and you just explained to them. There’s a difference between an adult woman doing something like this for herself. Most of my clients wear more than most women wear to the beach, so they’re covered up. You’re not seeing anything inappropriate, it’s just the way you present that I recently started dating someone, and I mentioned how he thinks that it’s good for children to see bodies and stuff. I’m like, “well, of course my children probably see pictures of my work.” He was like, “Man, I don’t know about that,” yet he was like on the other hand,”If you went to another country and there was like new, and everybody was like, their nude, I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable for my kids to be there.” I much rather see them, see my photos where they’re covered up, but you can still see their body. People have different ideas, I think. I do try to respect my brother and sister-in-law’s feelings about that. I explain to my niece and nephew, “You know these women, when you’re an adult, a lot of women struggle to really feel good about how they look.” What I do to help them see their bodies as the beautiful vessel that God has put them in to live on this earth so that they can feel good about themselves. My niece is eight, I think she got it, and then my nephew was just excited that aunt didn’t take photos of butt. 

Sales Figure in Photography 

I am excited to hear some of your sales tips, how you become a multi six figure boudoir photographer? How did that happen? Did you start out as a high end or did you start charging less and then raise their prices as your talent increased, things like that. Tell me a little bit more about that journey with pricing and sales. 

Starting out, I think I was like, nobody’s going to spend more than $200 on photography, and throughout college and stuff, I would be doing sessions. I stopped the occasional wedding, realizing I never wanted to shoot a wedding again. My photography started at like $120 or $60 for, I think, 16 photos and I went up to 20 for like eight photos, and then I went up to like 160, 300. I thought that’s really good. And then I got my first boudoir business and they got the smallest package and it wasn’t less than $699, and I was like, apparently I didn’t raise my prices high enough. My mom, ever supportive parent, said, “Nobody’s going to spend a thousand dollars on boudoir photos.” I was like, I paid this woman a lot of money to tell me what to charge, and she told me to charge a thousand, and something I’ve learned is if it’s free advice, it’s probably not really worth very much.

Free advice is exactly worth what you’re expecting. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned in business. My mom has never run a six figure B Art studio, so do not take her business advice. That’s the best decision I ever made. I love my mom by the way. So I started out at $699, $1,299, and actually for my Black Friday sale, I’ve been considering doing something like a big back to the beginning sale where we charge 18 for a limited number of people. That’s something I’m working on right now. I feel like it would be a great way to get in a bunch of people real quick, especially because I am converting my studio at the end of the year, which I can talk about more later because I want to travel more and I want to make my house to be my house again. I’m making some big changes for 2023. I’m actually going to convert my house studio into just a house. Then book sessions in different states and travel so I can like, write it off, do that, write off thing. 

I eventually started raising my price, and decided to try something. I got my smallest package for $2,200 and then just tried to reward people with a $1,000 first card when they do something I want them to do. I tried that and all of a sudden, it’s like that meme of that girl. In one picture she’s making the “gh” face and then in the other picture, she’s making the “ah” , that’s a good idea. So it’s like, people, when they spend a thousand dollars on boudoir photos, they’re like “ugh” or people when they spend 2,200, but they’re getting a thousand dollars off, they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s a good deal.” I started doing that and I saw more people happy with what they were spending because they felt like they were getting a lot of savings. The thousand gift cards would convince them to gum bump up to the next package, or that thousand dollars goes to stores like a la carte, not just a la carte by itself, right? That way they can’t try to manipulate that to get free products and not any money. But normally the incentive is to spend at least this much money to get this kind of gift card. My prices currently start at 3,500 and go up to 11,000. 

I tell most of my clients, they come in, we do a consultation in person. I really get them into my domain so I can sell them and pick them in a way that I know is going to work, and they’re really invested because they’re already there, they drove here, they’ve taken the time. I also charge 99 bucks for a normal client for a consultation. It’s like you paid 99 bucks to be here, listen to the whole pitch and really pay attention to everything you’re getting, not just the money. I do a phone call, don’t tell about money or anything. I always say the phone calls like the first date. We’re just talking. We’re getting to know each other. I’m telling you all the good stuff about me. I’m telling you all the things that make me a great person, and yes, I’m going to have my baggage, I’m going to have the feelings that I’m going to need for somebody else. I’m going to need a little bit of a commitment. But I’m not going to reveal all that on the first phone call. I’m like, here’s what we have to offer, all I want is a small commitment from you for a second date. Give me 99 bucks for a consultation and let’s meet up and let’s talk, and we’ll go over all the pricing and product and the whole shebang. If they say no, well then, you know it’s like a date, right? If I’m not worth a second date from coffee to dinner, then okay. Is it in person, the consultation or do it online? It can be in person or it can be over zoom, whatever works best. 

We offer them a thousand dollar gift card, to put more money down, pay off the product, pay off a package, and then we offer finances stuff. We look at what they can afford ahead of time, so we know, okay, this person seems like they’re ready to go. “Oh, I’ll pay out of pocket,” I already know. Then we get a feel what they can afford. I feel they can do this. So let me incentivize them by saying, “Hey, put this much down or do a payment plan before you do this and I’ll give you a thousand dollar gift card and you can pay off this or whatever.” Normally that happens and that way I get more money. I know when I’m working and getting paid. I think a lot of us, myself included, were taught to do all this work up front and then collect the money. I don’t know one photographer who hasn’t gotten screwed over, doing all this work and then someone is like, “Oh, you know what, I don’t have the money to spend, or, that was fun. But I just want two pictures.” Those hard things that we experience teach us, there has to be a better way and we deserve to be paid before we pour our time, energy, and expertise into the project. 

I love that you do that. Then do you do prepayment plans as well, like before they do a shoot if someone wants to, space out their payments?

I use something kind of different. I don’t do prepayment versus a post payment. I mean, it is, but it’s not labeled that way. If people are  doing in-house payments, which very rarely I do that, I offer financing through a firm in Carna. There’s all sorts of different Paypal credit. If they do sign up for a payment plan, it depends on what package they want to pay off. If they want to pay off, let’s say my package too, that comes with I believe so essentially, you can do your session at any point in time in the next 12 months. If you want to book your session all the way out for like a year from now, or 11 months from now, I require you to start on a payment plan for that packet because that’s the smallest package that falls under that timeframe of payment. 

Normally if a client wants to do their session within three months of their consultation, there’s no requirement for a payment plan. But if they push out for four months, five months, six months, I’m lik, okay, now you’re falling into a payment plan timeframe, I need to get paid up front. If you want to book it out that far in advance, then you’re going to start payments today. I do that because I’ve had people who prepaid in just a thousand bucks, waited eight months to do their testing, and then they were like, “Oh well, I have other things coming up. I need to reschedule.” I’m like, “Okay, there’s a hundred cancellation fee.” They’re like, “I can’t afford that,” in return I say, “Well, then you’re going to leave your thousand dollars”, and they respond, “That’s fine.” I’m like, No, I need you to be making payments consistently or prepay this package if you’re going to schedule that fine advance. When that date comes, you’re not, “OH, well I sent that money eight months ago. It’s gone. It’s fine.”

The Entrepreneur Mindset and Artist Mindset

You states in part of your bio that you sent me, you said, “It’s important to have an entrepreneur mindset rather than an artist mindset.” What do you mean by that? 

Being in the boudoir photography industry, I’ve seen a lot of boudoir photographers going to know this through, there is a lot of drama, with people feeling so passionate about their ideas. I get it as artists, when we come up with an idea that’s our baby, we feel really like that’s something I created. Sometimes it does get to a point where it’s a little ridiculous. I saw one person post in a group a few years ago. They said, “I’m doing sessions with a crown and a blue robe. How do I tell them to stay in their lane?” I was like, “You don’t, because you don’t have a patent on seating with a blue robe and a crown.” You’re a business owner, why is this worth your time? This isn’t worth your time. You don’t see Chick-fil-A getting on Twitter, going after Popeyes because they came up with a chicken salad, and the sandwich is their thing. 

I think a lot of photographers, we get so wrapped up in artistic; I came up with this, it was my idea to start cheating with this setup. I had a photographer come ask me one time, because I did a similar theme at the same location. She also did and there was no ownership of anything. I was just something she did. I was like, that’s kind of cool. I want to try something kind of similar. I had a lot of photos that didn’t look similar. I think I had one photo where they screenshotted all my stuff. They tried to hurt my reputation and my thought process is as entrepreneurs, why were we worried about these things? This is not something we own. I could’ve called a lawyer because there was slanders. There was screenshotting my stuff, bad -mounting my company. I have people harassing me and I could’ve gotten a lawyer involved. He could not because I had done nothing wrong. 

I think a lot of artists get so passionate about feeling like they were wrong, when really they weren’t wrong in any way. This is such an ugly word, but entitlement to something that they came up with that is not something you could patent. It’s not something that you inherently own. It’s not something you can trademark. But they feel like nobody else can do this, because I did. That’s actually hurting your business and taking away from your business and taking time away from your pro charity. If you have something that you can sue over, if you have something that has really been done wrong to you, go act like an adult and go hire a lawyer. But if not they need to just stop focusing on this. Put your mindset back into your business. Put your mindset back into what’s going to make you money, and focus on that because you’re holding yourself back from your own abundance when you focus on things that are not going to affect you and are not hurting you, but you’re taking offense to them because of an ego trip or whatever. Entrepreneurs, they’re focused on collaboration. They’re focused on sharing. They’re not afraid to share ideas, spread, and build welsh. Artists are very territorial. They’re like, “This is mine, this is my thing.,” and we have to let go of that if we want to be successful. 

I totally agree with that. The word that kept coming up to me was scarcity, you know, the scarcity mindset. Like, I’m the only one who can do this. And now, it comes from that fear of not being good enough. I have to do something so different I claim is mine. That energy is taking away their prosperity, their joy, their abundance. I have to admit that I’ve noticed, because I left photography for two years and I went into coaching. When I went back to photography, I did feel a competitive edge from some other photographers, and it was very off putting. And having left the industry and then come back, I was like, Oh, wow, what is this? We’re here for a shootout. This was a free event that we all came to photograph. There was a little bit of bossiness, a little bit of competition, and I was like, are any of us getting paid for this? Isn’t this supposed to be fun? I think again because I had left and then came back to the industry and being a coach, there’s millions of us online and I don’t feel that competition. But being in that photography, I felt it again and it was disappointing. I think it is that there are so many photographers, and especially locally, I think that there can be a lot more collaboration that happens to support each other, and we all have something different to offer our energy, our present, the way we speak, the way we engage people, our style. I mean, there are so many differences that we all inherently have, that there is no scarcity. There’s more than enough for all of us. And what? If you’re not available and there’s another boudoir photographer down the street, you’re not going to refer them to her? There’s more than enough for all of us. I hope that the industry can see that there’s plenty for everyone. There’s no need to put another down or say that’s mine, or you can’t do it because I did that. All art is based on inspiration. You see something, you hear something and it inspires you. It’s the same thing with music, you rearrange the notes and create another son. It’s not about claiming that’s mine, I did it first, but recognizing and appreciating that all art is different. 

Challenges in the Field of Photography

I’d like to know what you think is more challenging for photographers? The sales or the marketing piece?

I feel like sales is harder. I know there’s a million photographers out there who keep marketing. We have model call, and there’s multiple people selling different versions of Model Call, different coaches. They’re selling basically the same thing. It’s just changed up a little bit. It’s basically, they’re teaching a marketing strategy and here’s how you do it and here’s how you target and run it on Facebook, run it on Tiktok, and that stufff is teachable it just depends if you’re going to sit there and listen to it and pay attention to it. I could go one on one with someone and just help them build their Facebook ad and then they kind of get it. I think marketing and learning how to market on itself is hard, because I paid for a Facebook ads course back in 017, because I knew nothing about Facebook ads. After paying for that course, that’s how I actually started advertising my first model call, by using my Facebook ads knowledge. I think marketing is hard to learn, but I think there’s so many practices out there that people have that, that’s cheesy. 

Sales is more intuitive, sales is more out of talk to people. And then there’s a lot of people who are still afraid of sounding like a salesperson, that they’re almost like, “I don’t wanna want to do sales, I don’t like sales.” There’s already a feeling in a lot of people. I don’t want to get close to that. I don’t want to be that salesperson. Marketing people don’t mind marketing sales. You already have a little bit of resistance from the people who are trying to learn it anyway. I think sales can be very difficult because you need to know how to build an offer and then how to present that offer. It’s a skill that it’s teachable, but there’s also something internal about. You have to know what way the adjustment should be made. Also legality, what can you legally do? Just offering a thousand dollars gift card, you know, offering a thousand dollars discount? There’s all this legal stuff you have to put it in. If you offer a gift card, there’s already a logged in place for gift cards. It’s a gift card, it’s nonrefundable. I don’t have to refund you with cash. If you’re prepaying me money for the gift card, I don’t have to refund you. Whereas if you put down a deposit or retainer and that person wants to push it far enough to take you to core, you might actually have to refund them. Knowing how you can build your offer and what you can put in place, the legalities of things. It’s very, I like sales because there is a bit of creativity to it. 

I remember my first sales job outside of college. Basically I was a glorified salesperson. We were like person to person marketing. We’d go to a dance club, we’d set up a booth for two weeks and we’d sell things like body massages, straighteners. And I had gone up to a leader and I had two people who were underneath me, we were all in a different area. We were in Waco and we were, you know, on a business trip, we were staying in hotels and we were working at the SAM Club in Waco, and they were selling something different than I was. We had two booths and I was right next to them, and I could see what they were doing. They were really struggling. They were really having a hard time getting people to stop and talk to them. What I did was I created a bingo board for them, and the bingo board was basically things they had to do while they were, and it was crazy things like they had to sing their pitch. They had to go up to a person and they had to tell a joke. They had to get them to come sit by, dealing a crazy dance, just all sorts of different things. Then as a bingo card, whoever got past it, the winner. They both started doing it and they got really into it, because now it was a game that was fun. Now, it was something different. It was making them more interesting. So customers were coming to talk to them and they were getting more people to sit down. Then when the game ended and they got out of it, they kind of got out of the sales again. They started losing their momentum. It’s definitely something you have to get creative with. You have to have fun with it. But if you’re already afraid of sales, if you’re already nervous about it, it’s gonna hurt you. You have to understand that you’re having a conversation with someone, you’re selling yourself, you’re selling fun,you’re selling joy. You have to be joyful. You can’t be scared.

Sales is fun, sales is creativity, sales is play, sales is game playing. It’s tuning into that energy because people respond to the energy and it’s like not the words you say, it’s how you feel about it. It’s an internal thing, so if you’re fearful and you’re literally pushing away sales, you could read a script, you could say exactly what your coach told you to say, and it’s not going to work because you’re not tuned into it and you’re fearful of it. It’s like you’re fearful and you do it anyway. Even if you are fearful, you practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. You keep doing it until it just becomes automatic. I have a friend who’s also a sales coach, and she says the price, and then she takes a sip of her drink and that way she’s not still talking. It’s like, shut up, you give the cost and then you shut up. I’ve done this before, I’ll jump right in, and we also have payment plans and then, or I’m like, just stop talking. The cost of the project is to take a sip of your drink and be quiet. And I’ve heard that too, that the person who talks the least makes the most. You gotta tune in to the person. What do they want? Tune into them and then offer what they want and show them what the experience can be like. 

Bonus Advice to Other People

What is the free gift that you have for other people? Can you tell us a little bit more about that? 

A free gift is really exciting. It is my contract breakdown template. A lot of photographers, and I did this, I struggled with this forever. They have the hardest time getting their clients to read their contract and actually like, know what they’re signing up for. Then throughout the entire process until photo delivery, they’re bombarded with texts and emails. They’re like, “Oh, I think I need to remind Julia. Oh, that.”  And it’s like, that’s against their policy. Then you have a client complaining, you’re like, well, it was a new contract. Well, I must have skipped that part, you know? And that’s, I see, needs all the time. We’ll just add that to the concept. Okay. But what can I do to get them to actually read the concept? 

My concept breakdown template is essentially a PowerPoint presentation, where you break down your contract into a PowerPoint presentation. I’’ve never heard of anything like this, but it’s so smart because the customer doesn’t want to read your damn contract. But obviously I didn’t read it because I don’t know it. And if they don’t know it, then it’s on you and then it’s awkward. 

What I used to do with my model call is as soon as they signed up for it, I plugged the information there, but I wanted them to sign a contract immediately because I wanted them in and locked in. And so what I did was I just made like a little video of me on Zoom presenting my PowerPoint presentation. It was like 12 minutes long and it’s literally just me breaking down my contract and then I’m like, click the button below, that’s where your actual contract is. It’ll have all the information on it. You can read it again if you want to get more in depth about all our policies, but like all the important stuff was in the content breakdown, no refund policy. All our money goes towards gift cards so that you, you know, it’s not a refund. If you cancel within two weeks, if it’s a $200 fee, you can’t come back later and say, “You didn’t know this.” You saw the video. 

It reminded me of a little cartoon, like a figure, like pointing things out and like, I don’t know. I’m getting this whole image of like, being in school and like one of the science cartoon team videos or something. That’s what reminds me. That’s brilliant and that serves the client and you, you know, and it’s all about being up upfront, forthcoming. We’re not trying to hide anything from them. We’re not trying to get more money. Like we’re, we’re being honest and forthcoming and educating them first, which is really good customer service.