Or, listen on YouTube:
Intro: Welcome to the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast with JP Stonestreet, episode #18.
JP: In today’s episode, you are going to meet Brad Nicol. Brad is a photographer, but he is not your ordinary everyday kind of photographer, Brad takes pictures of buildings and architectural elements. We will talk about a niche market; his client base consists of builders and architecture firms, design firms, and they pay him to come out and take pictures of their beautiful creations. So, as they are taking pictures of babies and weddings, he is taking pictures of building and banquet halls and you name it. Anyway, today you are going to meet Brad, but before we get into that, I of course have to talk about JPStonestreet.com. I am very excited to announce that I am going to start teaching some seminars from free 45-minute to 1-hour seminars on various different business topics. The first one is coming up in March. It is called the Wantrepreneur Energizer Seminar and it is designed for people who want to start a business, but don’t know what business to start. I can help you figure that out if that describes you. So, come to the event, you can find out where it is and when it is on my meetup page which is at JPStonestreet.com/meetup that will redirect you right to my Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Meetup Group. So, go check that out right now or wait till after you have listened to this podcast and then go check it out and RSVP to one of the upcoming events. I really hope to see you there. So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Brad Nicol.
Welcome Brad to this episode of the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast, how are you doing today?
Brad: Good. How are you?
JP: I am doing fantastic, enjoying the final warm up here in Colorado.
Brad: I know, I am ready for spring.
JP: Me too. This winter has run its course.
JP: All right, well let’s dive right on in into your story and your background and your business. So, why don’t you just start from the beginning?
Brad: Yes, so born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, I was killing time there until I was about 21 years old, kind of found photography through traveling and took a lot of photographs in Europe through travels in Europe and across the US and took a few courses in film development and kind of figured out that there might be a career in this. So, about 20 or 21 years old, I applied to Brooks Institute of Photography in California and surprisingly I got in and so then my career started, I moved to California where I met my wife pretty instantly and began school at Brooks, studied there for three years, graduated, and began my own business in architectural photography and I have been in Denver, Colorado for about two and half years now. So, it is little bit of a shift, been in business for five years and halfway through that five years made the big move to Denver and kind of had to start things over. So, hopefully I am doing things the right way now and learning how to market myself, learning how to get new clients and I am just developing the craft.
JP: Great. You and I met at 3to5 Club meeting; I interviewed Chuck Blakeman who founded 3to5 just a couple of weeks ago. So, his podcast is going to air before your podcast. How much has that helped you – just as a follow on to the Chuck’s interview? I would like to get a real person, a real – somebody who is really doing it and going through his program, I would like to get your input on that real quick.
Brad: Yes, so it’s been the biggest game changer. It’s hard to point at certain things, but kind of everything we learned in 3to5 has really taken my business and turned it complete 180. One thing we missed in photography school was the business side of things. So, I did 3to5 for the education, but it really turned out to help me in connecting with the right people, learning how to connect with them, learning how to stay in touch with people and then really just kind of learning how to stay on task in my business, how to manage my time, and how to get my business to give me more time and make money, which is what we all want and my business is certainly doing that and getting better each day.
JP: That’s fantastic. My target market is really the early stage – people I call them wantrepreneurs or solopreneurs, people who are just starting out or even just thinking about starting a business and then I see that natural progression for the people that I get through that process to go into like a 3to5 Club setting because that’s not really what I do. I don’t help established businesses grow as much as I help new businesses grow, so I am looking at Chuck and 3to5 as the potential transition resource for some of the people that I work with.
Brad: Yes, it’s definitely been a huge thing and we have a whole range of people that have been in business for 15-20 years and then people like me who have been in business for 5 years, but really took the turn about two years ago. So, there is a wide range of businesses and how long they have been in business as well.
JP: So, let’s talk about your profession, architectural photography. Now this isn’t regular photography, you are not taking pictures of babies, right?
Brad: That’s right, no babies.
JP: So, tell us a little bit about what that is and how you got into that specific line of work?
Brad: So, I got into it originally through my travels, I kind of wanted to be a travel photographer, but going back and looking at all of my images when I would get back from these trips, everything kind of revolved around the architecture that I was seeing in different cities. I kind of like to think that if I hadn’t have found photography and I could have done it all over again, I might have been an architect, but I was just really intrigued by design and buildings, how things were built and just the aesthetics of them. So, architectural photography became my passion and I really focused on that in school and how it relates to the real world is all these architects, engineers, construction companies, contractors, they all build these amazing things and then they want them photographed, they want then photographed when they are finished for different purposes, but mainly for their portfolio to show the work that they have completed, so they can use them on project sheets to get new jobs, but I also think that some of what we do is kind of documenting a little bit of our history and when we photograph a new building in Denver, that’s kind of hopefully going to be something iconic in Denver or something that we can associate with the city itself. So, I like to think of my job as bigger than it really is, but that’s kind of what I do.
JP: Is there a lot of competition specifically for what you do in Denver or just nationally?
Brad: Nationally, there is a lot of competition. A lot of the big firms in Denver will hire photographers from other places in the US and Plymouth. In Denver, there are quite a few architectural photographers and most of them are pretty good. So, they are competition, we end up getting on a lot of the same jobs, but most of the time it comes down to portfolio and who you know and in 3to5 we talk a lot about living in a world of abundance and so far I have missed out on a few jobs I wish I had, but for the most part, there are so much work out there for us that the cream of the crop rises and we will all find plenty of work.
JP: There is that couple of important things I want to point out about you, you are very inspirational, I love your story and one of the things I love the most is that you are doing something that you are passionate about that isn’t – a lot of people think I want to start a business, I need to open a convenience store or I need to go into consulting whatever type of consulting and you went into a business where you followed your passion and now you are making a living at it even though it’s a competitive market and I think that’s very important, those two important things there is that if you are passionate about what you are doing, you can be successful at it even if there is competition.
Brad: Yes, definitely. That’s kind of the big thing with photography and I think with most businesses is using that passion to make yourself as good as you can get. There is plenty of times in the last five years where I thought all right this is done, I am going to go mow yards and make a living, doing whatever else I can, but there was always the passion that kept me going, it was always seeing other photographers like myself that were really good at what they did and kind of trying to figure out how they were doing it and staying inspired and really just thinking everyday that this is what I want to be doing, this is what I need to be doing to fill my creative void that I need to fill all the time and so, it was kind of easy to keep going when you have that passion for something whether that’s a convenience store or whatever it may be if you follow that passion and you try real hard, you will be doing what you love.
JP: Yes, that’s the important thing is may be a convenience store is what you love to do, may be you are raised by your parents who owned one and that’s what you love. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you love photography then you are not going to be very happy running a convenience store.
Brad: Right exactly.
JP: That’s my point with people is that you have to find something that you are truly passionate about if you want to be successful because it’s really hard especially in a competitive space, it’s really hard and if you are not passionate, you give up.
Brad: Correct. I believe that fully, yes.
JP: Are there companies that do that hire the employee photographers that do what you do or is it something that you kind of have to do on your own?
Brad: There are a few companies; some of the big guys will have an in-house photographer, there are a few of those, but for the most part we are all freelance independent contractors which makes it tough, no one is giving us the jobs, we have to go out and find them and then it also comes down to how you make money doing it and we are not getting a steady paycheck, so you have to go out and find it.
JP: Yes, you do. One of the things that you brought up in the 3to5 Club meeting that I went to is the difference between or how do you raise your rates and I thought that was a very interesting questions and a great topic for this because a lot of people are in business and they aren’t charging enough. One of my clients, Kathy Janak is an amazing jewelry designer and one of my pieces of wisdom or advice for her is that she needs to raise the rate. She does custom design jewelry, it’s beautiful, but she doesn’t charge enough for them and so, one of the things that we talked about in that meeting was how do you raise your rates and I am curious if you have made any decisions about that.
Brad: I have yes, it was a great meeting and I got a lot of feedback from a bunch of different businesses and it basically came down to – I am getting the number of jobs I want to be getting, I could always use more, but I am kind of at where I want to be with that, but the money is still not where I need it to be. So, the easiest thing to do was to raise my rates and that really comes down to perceived value of your service or your product. So, talking with some of my past clients, I kind of came up with the decision that it was a good idea to raise my rates that they were going to be happy paying for it, that they weren’t going to leave me for someone cheaper, that they like doing business with me and my end product was equal to what they were going to be paying for. So, it was real easy to do. I just have to make the decision myself to go ahead and do it and I think for someone that’s selling jewelry, I think it’s the perceived value that your end clients can have of what your product is and you will find a sweet spot of where you kind of want to put your rates or what you are selling your product as, but it takes some time and it takes some thought into it, but it’s a great way to set yourself apart from other people and you just want to make sure that you find that sweet spot.
JP: Yes and one of the things that you’ve mentioned a couple of times now is that it’s about relationships or it’s about – you said earlier, it’s about who you know and you are talking to your clients and you said that they like working with you and they don’t want to leave you even if you do raise your rates, so that’s about a relationship that you formed and it’s so important to form those relationships and tell me how do you go about doing that, how do you form those kinds of relationships with people that are willing to stick with you even through a price hike?
Brad: Yes, finding the right people was the biggest thing for me. I spent a lot of years advertising in the wrong places or spending a lot of money in advertising where I shouldn’t have been spending a lot of money and it really came down to where are my clients, who knows my clients, where do they hang out, what kind of meetings do they go to and how do I get myself in front of them or next to them? So, I found some organizations that were full of my potential clients and I joined those organizations, I got on committees, I started going to events where they were at and just kept my name out there. So, when they bring up the discussion of photographer, they would immediately think of me. On the other side of that you have to keep that relationship. So, constantly staying in touch of them, telling them about new projects that I am photographing or just checking in with them and seeing how their holidays went or how the New Years treating them and stuffs like that is crucial and one of the other things is always communicate with them when you are on a project and one of my more recent clients that I picked up chose me because their previous photographer for the last 10 years became boring, that was their words and so it was very – it was a good time for me to come in and say “Hey look, if I ever get boring, let’s talk about it, let’s talk about what you are looking for what I can do differently and just keeping that line of communication open and a lot of times your clients really appreciate that, they really appreciate being able to know that they can pick up the phone and call and if they have questions or ideas that I am not going to just shoot it down or say I don’t do that, let’s talk about it and get it figured out. So, it’s really the communication and keeping those relationships solid that’s so far in my business that’s been the key thing and it was easy to find them once I knew where to look and it’s harder to keep the relationships going, it’s more work, but it’s certainly turning out to be very fruitful.
JP: So, how do you keep in touch with them other than you are face-to-face or phone call meetings, how do you let them know what projects you are working on or the holiday greeting or what do you use to do that?
Brad: I do everything from email them, personal email notes, I do handwritten notes after every project, holiday greeting cards, stuffs like that. I also send out to potential clients and past clients. I will send out email promotional pieces, not discounting anything, but it will just show a recent project to that shot and talk about the challenges we faced and how we overcame them or what a good idea for using those images would be and then following up with the handwritten notes has been huge for me to stay in front of them, I always put an image on the cards, that’s been a great way to stay in touch with them, going to coffee that’s always great, taking out to lunch, it’s just always keeping in contact with these people and so I have lists and I follow up every week with those lists and figure out who I haven’t reached out to in the last week or two and who I need to talk to and just keeping my name in front of them so they always are thinking about me whenever they think of photography.
JP: All right, so I am curious. How did you figure out how to do all these stuffs? Did you learn that at 3to5 or somewhere else?
Brad: Yes, I am sure I knew how to do it before, but I just wasn’t utilizing it, but 3to5 was really – we really hit on those things and keeping those connections alive and a lot of times you will find out like I did about a year and half ago, there was a lot of connections that were wanting to use me for photography and I just hadn’t reached out to them in recent years or recent months and so, just by connecting with them, they started brainstorming and saying “Hey we got projects and glad to hear from you” and it’s kind of those low hanging fruit analogy and it was huge, I got a ton of business just by reaching out to people I hadn’t talked to in a while even if I thought they weren’t interested, it turns out they were and/or their photographer was boring and they wanted a new one. So, it was a huge mind shift in 3to5 when I learned how to keep in contact, how to reach out to new people and how to maintain those relationships and a lot of my clients – if an architect hires me, there was also a contractor on that job. So, we may do share costs or the contractor may want to use the images as well. So, that’s always a potential client for me – new potential client. So, looking for those connections, finding out who the architect knows where they can put you in contact with someone else is another huge way when you are going through your contact list is trying to figure out who they might be able to introduce you to or refer you to. So, yes, staying in contact and all that is just huge in our business.
JP: Okay, so this is all great in marketing advice and that’s – I like to tailor the podcast to marketing because it’s the largest hurdle that most people have a hard time getting over is the marketing piece and the driving traffic. Most of the people are really good at what they do and they love what they do, but they forget that they actually have to sell it and market it. So, I try and drive that point home in every podcast and almost everything I do that you have to market if you want to sell your wonderful stuffs.
Brad: That is correct.
JP: Yes. So, when you first started out, how did you – when you first start a business, there is usually not a lot of income within the first month or six months or year; one of my last guest, he said that his first year was “revenue free” is what he called it. So, how did you stay afloat during the startup phase? Did you have another job? Did your wife support you? How did you do that?
Brad: I did some assisting for other photographers. Mine was also a re-toucher, so I would do re-touching for him and just for other photographers and that would keep me busy during the nights and that was kind of extra income and my wife had a pretty good job at that time too, but yes it was the first probably two years were “revenue free” they were, they were slim times. So, yes it’s nice now to be able to have a little bit of money to purchase new equipment or do some different marketing ideas, being able to do that kind of stuff is nice where in the beginning there wasn’t any money to market, there wasn’t money to do special things for clients or whatever it may be.
JP: Yes, you were just trying to make ends meet, trying to stay afloat.
JP: Yes, this is a typical issue and I hear this a lot from people who want to be entrepreneurs, but say they can’t afford it or they don’t know how to do it. I was lucky to – I had my wife at that time, we are not married anymore, but she had a great job and she was able to support me and the first year – on my first year in business I think I made 3000 dollars and the second year I think it was 30,000 dollars, which is not a very good – it’s not a very good living. You can’t live off 30,000 very well – you can, but it’s not great and I think I made 35,000 the third year, so if it wasn’t for her, we would not have been able to maintain the lifestyle, but it was nice to have that support. If you don’t have that support, it sucks for you, it really does, but it’s not impossible to start a business, you just need to save up, get yourself out of debt if you are in debt, save up your money, put some money aside, and then be working on it on the side as much as you can while you keep your day job to support yourself, but if you are truly cut out to be an entrepreneur, you have got to find a way to do it, just like you did.
Brad: Yes, that’s exactly right. It came down to – a lot of times, in the beginning I couldn’t afford to send out physical postcards to a thousand clients. So, I would pick five clients that were close to my home and I would go knock on their door and go visit with them and that was kind of ways that I would get connected with people, but yes, it was finding ways to do things that didn’t cost a lot of money to do or finding ways to market where you do all the work yourself is huge. So, you spend a lot of hours, more hours then than you do now, but it pays off.
JP: Yes, I am a huge fan of outsourcing, but in the beginning I did everything myself and even in my new business now, I started about a year ago, I would say seriously I started about three months ago, but for the first nine months or so, I did everything myself. I did everything, I wrote everything, I built my own website, I marketed, I networked, everything I did myself. In the last couple of months, I have started outsourcing even though it’s expensive and it saved me so much time, it has allowed me to do things like record these podcast interviews which are time consuming and it has given me time to travel and network and do more speaking and all that stuff, but in the beginning what I tell people is that in the beginning if you have more time than money, do it yourself. If you have more money than time, pay somebody to do it for you, but usually that didn’t happen for a while.
Brad: Yes and it’s really just been the last year that I have started outsourcing some of those things. I always did my website myself and that was the first thing in 3to5 we kind of do this process maps and you are the owner of a certain box and at that time a year ago I owned all the boxes, I did everything and so you kind of go through and you figure out what’s the next thing you can get rid of and the website was a big time consuming project for me and so I thought all right as soon as I am making enough money that I can pay someone to do it, I am getting rid of that and it’s been huge, I don’t have to worry about it, I just talk to my web guy and things get done and I don’t have to worry about it and accounting was another thing that was taking up a ton of time, the invoicing and estimating and all that stuff, I don’t do it at all anymore. So, I can really focus on the clients, I can focus on learning new techniques, I can focus on making my images look better, all these different things that I was strapped for time before because of little tasks that were daunting.
JP: Where did you find your web guy?
Brad: He is a friend of mine from college. So, I gladly paid him money because he is a good friend and he comes to visit a couple of times a year. So, yes he is good at it.
JP: Great and do you know what type of website it is? Is it a WordPress or…
Brad: It’s through a company called Squarespace.
JP: Okay, yes I know what you are talking about. Okay, so I want to circle back around a little bit and talk about what was your most difficult challenge that you faced so far in your business and how did you overcome it?
Brad: It’s a good question. They are all difficult, they all seem to be the most difficult at that time, but I would say it was finding the right people and the easy answer was 3to5 helped me realize where to look, but I always was fairly personable guy, my father is a good businessman, so he kind of gave me a little bit of a business sense. So, I wasn’t an introverted creative type, like a lot of other photographers, but going out and actually talking with clients and figuring out what they need and how I could help them was a huge issue in the beginning, I didn’t know how to do it and kind of overcoming the fear of talking to them, the fear of them thinking that I am just some little photographer guy and kind of turning that mind set into “Hey, I am a business, I am a really good photographer, I am passionate about what I do and I can help your business grow by making beautiful photos for you.” So, talking with them and figuring out that conversation you have with clients was a huge turning point from just placing phone calls and telling them who I was to placing the phone calls and learning about who they were and how I can help them; learning how to do that was a huge challenge that I overcame and really made a big difference in the number of clients I got, the quality of clients that I am getting, it made a difference in everything.
JP: Cool. All right, so owning a business as you and I both know can be stressful especially in the beginning when you are not earning a lot, you are working more than you are earning. My ex-wife used to say “You need to work less and earn more; that was the mantra in our household.”
Brad: That sounds about right.
JP: Yes, so how do you cope with the stress of owning your own business?
Brad: Yes, for me it’s easy. I get stressed out quite a bit, but it’s always nice, I always take time to take photos for myself. So, I always revert back to photography as my stress reliever. I love – I have a lot of hobbies, I am outdoors all the time, fishing and hunting, and hiking and skiing and so it’s very easy for me just to tote the camera along, take some pictures, come home and work on them and just kind of step away from the architectural side of things and just work on personal projects and that’s been huge and I think that’s big in anybody’s business is to find something that you are still passionate about, but may be is a step outside to your business box and really work on that, that makes you happy whether it’s working for a non-profit or just anything like that where you get outside of your comfort zone and do something that – for me it was the reason I started this business, the reason I became a photographer was I enjoyed taking pictures. So, sometimes if I am shooting a boring project and I am struggling to get creative is just going outside and taking pictures of the mountains or whatever it may be, something that gets me back on track, gets the creative juices flowing and it’s a huge stress reliever. So, it’s very easy for me because I have this camera to relieve the stress in my business, although there is still a lot of stress.
JP: Yes, what’s that saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
JP: It is, you have to have that life balance and you have to do things that you actually enjoy doing outside of work even though it’s so tempting to just work all the time, especially if you are workaholic.
JP: But you have to force yourself to do some of those other things, especially if you have a relationship, you need to spend time on the relationship too, otherwise it seriously suffers – I speak from first-hand experience on that.
Brad: Yes, I understand.
JP: So, what in your business is not working for you right now? We have talked a lot about what is working, but what isn’t working?
Brad: That’s a tough question. For me, the biggest struggles are still the money, not how much I am making or how much I want to be making, that will always be an issue, but for me, it’s the accounting side of things. It’s the things that I am not good at, I just wasn’t programmed that way and it takes me a long time to realize that if I am not good at it, let’s find someone who is and get them to be a part of this. So, it’s kind of – it’s been figuring out what I am not good at in getting rid of those tasks, that’s kind of the big part of my business at the moment and of course with that comes the money issue of how do I pay these people, but we will figure that out and if they can get rid of those tasks for me, I would be a happier guy anyways. So, yes the accounting is one thing in my business that’s really tough for me, especially with tax season looming. So, yes everything else has been going pretty good. I always want to be able to find new clients, so I am always looking for new marketing ideas, new ways to get in front of new clients. So that’s another kind of small problem that I am dealing with on a daily basis is how to find those people and get myself in front of them.
JP: Taxes and the finances that’s the bane of the entrepreneurs’ existence unless you are a CPA entrepreneur, but usually the CPA has the worst books of anybody.
JP: It is, it’s a necessary evil, the finances; the best thing to do is outsource it. I have a CPA I have used for years. I wouldn’t be able to function without her. I just go into shutdown and I am a numbers guy and especially if the number has a dollar sign in front of it, I am even better with it.
JP: When it comes to managing all of that mundane reporting and blah-blah-blah, I don’t even want to mess with it.
Brad: Yes, that’s how I am and probably the best thing is for me not to mess with it, so I try to keep my hands out of it as much as possible now, so just I like to watch the money come in and not go out.
JP: Yes, that’s the best way to do it. Okay, so you belong to 3to5 Club which is a lot like a mastermind, that’s kind of the way it felt to me, it was like a large mastermind. Do you have a mentor or a coach, somebody, an individual that you work with?
Brad: I have a mentor that’s in 3to5 and we meet may be twice a month and just talk about each other’s businesses and brainstorm on different ideas and he has been in business for 30 to 40 years in commercial real estate and so he knows the importance of my business in marketing his and I can run ideas by him and say what would a client think about this and it has been huge just to have someone to talk to and then in 3to5 you saw us do the bottleneck that’s been huge as just having a whole bunch of different businesses give you ideas and you can take whatever ideas you want out of that and run with them or throw them all the way whatever you need to do, but just being able to ask people questions and not feel like your questions aren’t worthy, is huge. So, I have a mentor. I don’t have any personal coaches or anything like that. My wife probably thinks she is a pretty good coach, but she is not in here right now, so she doesn’t know that she is not, but yes having a mentor someone that’s been through some of the hurdles that you are going through is huge and you can also help them. He is little bit of an older guy that I kind of feel like I have insights in the marketing and websites and social media that he probably doesn’t know about. So, we help each other, it’s good.
JP: Yes, he brings the wisdom and you bring the young tech.
Brad: Yes, I am the young punk that knows about computer. So, I can help him in that area.
JP: Yes, it is so important to have some sort of mentor or a coach. So, you have a mentor and you belong to a mastermind, which is fantastic, and I like the way the interaction happen in that meeting because you guys were all so supportive that you are surrounded with – literally surrounded because they put you in the middle, you are like in the center of the donut pretty much and you are sitting in the hot seat and you are surrounded by a whole bunch of other entrepreneurs and I thought that was fantastic and everybody is just so eager to help and give their opinion and you can take it or leave it, it’s not like you have to do anything, but it’s so useful just to hear other people’s perspective.
Brad: Yes, and in my time sitting there, my question for them was how do I raise my rates and I had – oh gosh, I can’t even count how many solutions I got and I only went with one of them and it was just interesting to hear, everybody kind of have that problem in their business of what do they charge for their services or the products and I always – we always need to charge more than we are probably, but it was awesome to be able to get that much input on my simple problem or what to me seem like a huge problem, but to others it was probably fairly simple.
JP: Let’s talk about that a little bit more because I think it is a huge problem that a lot of entrepreneurs face. I have several people that I worked with that have that issue of what to charge. So, how did you come up with your pricing strategy? What did you do? Did you just pull it out of the air, research, what did you do?
Brad: No. When I was in school and I had a mentor in school who was an instructor and he was an architectural photographer full time and I knew what his rates were and basically I came up with the formula of what it’s – my kind of cost of living and what I need to make in a given year which turned out to be how many times in a year am I behind the camera. That’s basically the only time I am making money is when I am actually photographing something. So, I would come up with these different numbers and it would spit out a monthly income that I needed to reach which gave me how many projects a year I needed to get of a certain size and that was all good and great, but it really came down to at the end of it was what are my competitors charging, what’s their quality of work compared to mine and where do I fit in that and I know for a fact that there are a few photographers in Denver that charge almost double what I charge and I am okay with that, I know there is a lot more that are charging less than what I charge and a lot of times you kind of get what you pay for and I think my clients understand that. So, it was really finding that like I said earlier the sweet spot and may be one day I will be the guy that’s charging the most and I will still have – I will have less clients, but I am making more money and that’s okay, but for right now I have kind of found the spot where hitting my numbers that I want to be hitting with the clients that I have and I know that when there is five bids put in on a job, I am somewhere in the top third of that. So, it was – it took research and knowing what it cost for you to do business which was finding your break even number was eye-opening and kind of hard to do, but it gives you clarity and what you need to be making.
JP: Yes, I don’t want to scare people, but you actually have to know algebra to do that.
Brad: Yes, little bit, I know.
JP: You don’t realize you are using algebra, but you are.
Brad: Right, right.
JP: Because anytime you want to back into a number like that because you started out – that’s the best advice that you can give is start out with your expenses and then back into your bottom line without – I say do it without your salary but then add in after you get that point, add in what you want to make. A lot of people forget to add in their salary.
Brad: Yes, I did that for years. I forgot to add myself and into the equation and just in the last year I met with a girl in my 3to5 who is a cash flow forecaster and she would look at my numbers and she says “You are not counting yourself as an expense, you got to pay yourself.” So, that adjusted everything and so that was kind of led to the issue of “Hey, I need to charge more money because I am not getting paid enough.” So, yes it was a big eye-opener to come up with what you need to make, what your business is making, and how to make more.
JP: Yes, and it is common too the fear of pricing. Pricing causes lots of fear and anxiety in people. You never want to charge enough. It’s our instinct to not charge enough because we are afraid people are going to say “Oh, that’s too expensive,” but if you are not hearing that’s too expensive, then you are not charging enough.
Brad: Exactly, that’s exactly how it works and I understand that fear. In my business, I deal with a lot of clients where the first number that comes out in the estimate, they say “Hey, that’s way over our budget, we need to work on this.” That’s fine, if it’s out of your budget, let’s figure out ways so that we can make it in your budget. May be instead of 10 photographs, we are going to do eight and i we will still get the job in the end, but we are going to have to adjust things and work with them and that’s another part of the relationship you have with your client is they are going to kind of tell you where you come in and where you are charging too much and you kind of figure out how to adjust those things. I don’t know if it’s easier or more difficult when you don’t have a physical product, but you are offering your service. I don’t know which one is harder to price.
JP: Yes, the service, I honestly think the service is harder to price because you are selling yourself. The product is an inanimate object, although if you make it yourself, then it becomes harder to price.
JP: Because then you pour your heart and soul into it and you are like “Oh, I don’t want people to say it’s too expensive, so I won’t charge enough for it.” One of my clients – actually one of my assistants and a client, she started her own cookie and brownie organic delicious bakery and she isn’t charging enough. She went to a client meeting the other day and was pitching her stuff and the client was like “Oh, that’s too expensive.” She was going to charge him I think 15 bucks for a dozen cookies or something like that and the client was like “Oh, that’s too much” and Jen’s like well I can lower it a little bit if I have to and then the client’s assistant walked in and she said “How much should we pay for those cookies that we bought last time?” and he said “85 dollars a dozen.” They paid 85 dollars a dozen for cookies and Jennifer is worried about charging 15 dollars for her organic deliciousness.
Brad: Yes, it takes research to kind of figure out where you fit in, but that’s kind of where you get the clarity on your pricing and clients aren’t going to tell you – they are always going to tell you, you are too much, but when you find out they were paying 85 dollars beforehand, you feel like your product really could be raised up in price.
JP: Yes and I have been talking to Jennifer about that that her market is high end. She is selling high-end high quality product and she is selling it – her prices were low, now they are kind of mid range, but when you are selling something that’s high value, you should be charging a high value for it and that’s a hard thing to do because you don’t want to hear “no,” you don’t want to hear “That’s too expensive.” I have heard that about my podcast, I have had a couple of people say “Oh, it’s just too long to listen to.” Well, most people don’t think it’s too long and if you listen to it on the treadmill or in the car when you are driving in rush hour traffic for an hour, it’s not too long, but some people think that, that’s fine, it’s their opinion. Some people are going to think you are too expensive, it’s fine, that’s their opinion. You just have to do what’s right for you and in my opinion I think it’s better to charge too much and then be able to negotiate than to charge too little and having to just snap it up and you do not even realize they would pay twice as much or more.
Brad: Yes, that’s exactly how it works, especially in my business, it’s that negotiation is huge and so when I put in a bid, I will let them know “Hey, everything is negotiable; if this doesn’t fit in your budget, we can make it work” and I am not going to give them anything for free, but we can adjust things to where may be I am not spending two full days on the project, I am only going to spend a day and a half and that’s going to come down on cost. So, on the other side of that is we talk a lot in 3to5 this metaphor of what kind of car are you? Are you a Kia, are you a Mercedes or are you a Maserati and you kind of figure out what your product and services and what you want to market it as and there is always going to be people buying Maserati and there is going to be a lot of people buying Kias. So, you got to figure out where you kind of fit into this scenario and that kind of will dictate your price and if I kind of feel like I am kind of listed as the Mercedes right now and my clients like to buy Mercedes, so I think I will keep getting a good number of clients at the price I am at and there is going to be a few guys that are charging double what I charge and there are going to get less clients and may be make the same or may be make more, but it’s a tough deal pricing out all the stuff.
JP: It is and I love that analogy, the car analogy because it’s something that people can relate to like for instance the organic cookie and brownie business, they are making a Mercedes product and they are selling it for Honda prices.
JP: The jewelry lady, Kathy Janak, she is making a Mercedes product and selling it for Kia prices and you got to get over that. That is such a big hurdle and don’t be afraid to hear no or that’s too expensive, just suck it up.
Brad: Yes, there is always going to be Kias on the road, there is always going to be Mercedes on the road. So, clients are out there.
JP: Yes and you just have to figure out how to charge, what yours is worth and to get that perfect client, so that also means that you have to do your market analysis, you have to look at your competition, you have to find out where you fit like you talked about earlier where you fit in the competitive landscape – are you low end? Then you don’t charge very much. Are you high end? Then you have to charge more or you won’t be in business very long.
Brad: That’s right.
JP: All right. So, Brad who or what inspires you? Do you have a hero?
Brad: Oh my gosh, I have got so many heroes. Non-photography related, my dad is probably – he is my best friend and he’s kind of been my hero I guess. We do a lot of stuff together and we talk a lot about business and he gives me great eyes on my business and most of the time I don’t take anything he says and put it to work, but occasionally I will remember something he said and it really makes sense. In photography related stuff, I have got – oh my gosh, everyday I am looking at past photographers and hardly any of them are architectural photographers, I look at photographers like Robert Capa who was a great war photographer. I just got a book recently on Roger Fenton who was in the 1850s and 60s and he actually did some architecture, but he was in the very beginning of photography and just did some stunning work and so it – my heroes range in all source of different things and it’s important for me to keep look at other photographers’ current, past, and draw inspiration from them and take their ideas and mold them in my own and look at how they did things and learn from it and so yes I have a ton of heroes I suppose.
JP: That’s great. That’s great. It’s so important to have people that you look up to and learn from.
JP: Is there a book that you can recommend, something that inspired you, it can be business related, but doesn’t have to be?
Brad: Yes, the one I just finished recently was called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that was really interesting, it’s I am learning everyday of how to manage my time better and be more effective with the things I do. So, that was a good one. Chuck Blakeman’s books are great. His first one Making Money Is Killing Your Business was huge for me, that’s kind of the entire idea of 3to5 in one book and it really spoke to me and I learned a lot from it. So, that’s probably the biggest business book I have ever read that really worked for me.
JP: Great, I will put links to those books on the show notes page for this podcast at JPStonestreet.com. Cool, I have both of Chuck’s books and I have started reading the first one Making Money Is Killing Your Business and it looks great so far. I haven’t gotten very deep into it, yes, but it’s definitely on my list to read. I am going to date myself a little here. I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 18 years ago I think.
Brad: Oh my gosh.
JP: That was – date myself a little bit there. I am actually older than I look. One of the few peoples that gets to say that. Okay, those are great, great advice and I will put links to those on the website. We have time for a couple more questions. Looking back from where you are right now in your business, you are about 5 years into it, would you do anything differently?
Brad: Creatively, no. It’s been a long journey in these 5 years it feels like, but everything where I am today creatively it was a process and I wouldn’t change anything, I think I did the things the right way. I always feel like I could have worked harder, but I think everybody probably feels that way, but business-wise yes, there is. Two years ago is really the turning point for me where really everything kind of clicked. Before that I just wasn’t doing it right. I was wasting money in places I shouldn’t have been spending money. I wasn’t reaching the audience that I was looking for. So, there was a number of things I could have done differently back then that I think would have jump started my career little bit sooner and really got me doing more photo shoots and all sorts of stuff a little bit quicker, but looking back on it, it is what it is and I am happy where I am at now and things are growing and it’s really fun to be a part of my business right now and I wake up everyday and can’t wait to go do whatever I am doing and everyday is different which is awesome in my world; we get to shoot all different stuff, I was in the steakhouse for 12 hours yesterday photographing and it was a ton of fun.
JP: Did you get to eat any steak?
Brad: I did not – little bit of bread pudding, which was delicious, but no steaks, I was kind of upset about that.
JP: I was going to plug-in, but now I am not.
Brad: I know, like I am in Texas and I can’t get a steak, it was really tough.
JP: All right, last question – your words of wisdom for people who are starting a business, what is the most important piece of advice that you would give someone who is just thinking about starting?
Brad: Don’t be afraid to ask questions to other business owners. That’s the biggest thing. Seek out help, everybody in business whether it’s the owner of the convenience store or a photographer, everybody has had some of the same hurdles you are going through and people are going to be able to give you so many answers and more answers than you can find on Google. So, talk to people, figure out what they did right, what they did wrong, what they would do differently, listen to JP Stonestreet’s podcasts and you will probably get all those answers.
Brad: Yes, I think at best the biggest thing is don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask them questions about their business, how they got where they are, find a good mentor and stick with it and do what you are passionate about, that makes it really easy to enjoy what you are doing.
JP: That’s one of the things I love about doing this podcast is that I get to ask all those questions. I get to ask all kinds of questions and you might think that I know the answers to all of them, but I don’t. I learn lots of new stuff on every one of these, I have learned new stuff today, I learn new stuff on every podcast that I have done and got new ideas and I have been inspired and it’s great when you can talk to people and you are not afraid to ask them what they think.
Brad: Yes, and we have all done things different ways and for some it has worked, for some it hasn’t worked, but it’s great to listen to these things and other business owners and figure out how they did it and what they are doing differently and hopefully you will talk to me in a couple more years and I will be even bigger than I am now.
JP: Yes, good luck to you on that.
Brad: Thank you.
JP: All right, we had a third guest on the podcast interview and I think it’s only fair that we introduce – what kind of dog do you have?
Brad: Oh my gosh, can you hear them?
Brad: Oh no. I tucked them outside, they are just horrible dogs. I have two yellow labs.
JP: Oh I love labs.
Brad: Yes, one of them is 3 and the other one is 8 months and she is rowdy. So, the older one is asleep. She just got home from – she is a therapy dog. So, she just got home. My wife had taken her to a school to do reading. She reads with little kids. She doesn’t read out loud because she is a dog, but she lays there and listens patiently.
JP: That’s cool. Okay, so you have to send me an image of yourself that I can use on the podcast page and also send me an image of your dog so that we can put them on there too.
Brad: I will yes.
JP: I have a Heeler/Border Collie mix. She is little black and white dog with freckles on her nose and she is adorable. I will post the picture of her too. So, okay Brad, this is a fantastic interview. I really appreciate your time and your ability and willingness to share all of your wisdom that you have learned during your – pretty early entrepreneurial career.
Brad: Yes, JP this has been great. I was flattered when you asked and I look forward to doing this again in the future and hopefully business is still going strong.
JP: I am sure it will be. So, good luck and keep it up.
Brad: All right, thanks JP.
JP: I will talk to you soon.
I hope you enjoyed that podcast and learned a thing or two about pricing, strategies and how to charge for your services and how to value your services. We talked quite a bit about that, also 3to5 Clubs; I highly recommend checking one of those out. If you are at that point in your business where you are starting to think about the growth phase and you want your business to run itself within the 3 to 5 year timeframe, not everybody is at that stage yet, but if you are, I highly recommend checking out a 3to5 Club with Chuck Blakeman. Let’s see, we also had a special extra guest today – actually a couple I think, one of their name is Bella, you will notice her in the picture on the show notes page and also I talked about my beautiful dog, Daisy, and I also put a picture on the show notes page of her so that you could see her. She is a very smart dog as you will be able to see in the picture. I think that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this podcast listening all the way to the end as you always do. I really appreciate that and until next time, this is JP Stonestreet with the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast.