Portrait Photography for Profit - Interview with Brent Mail

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Portrait Photography for Profit: Interview with Brent Mail

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Click here to get "Portrait Photography for Profit" for a special discounted price

As a way of saying “thanks” to my subscribers, who inspired him to create this course, Brent is offering you a huge discount, but only for a limited time.

So if you’ve ever dreamed of making a living from your photography, grab this course now. Even if you’re not ready to launch your photography business yet, you get lifetime access to this training, so you’ll find it waiting for you when you’re ready.

I hope you find it as helpful and inspiring as I did!

– Phil

P.S. What’s also great is that Brent will share a portion of any sales from that link to help me create more free tutorials for you.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Phil Steele. We're going to do a Google Hangout with my friend Brent Mail. I'm going to interview Brent because Brent is a very successful portrait photographer. He runs a six-figure portrait photography business. We're going to find out how he runs that business, how he got started. We're also going to learn about a new course that he's just released, where he teaches other photographers how to run a successful portrait photography business. Brent is also going to give us his top five tips, maybe even more than five tips for you if you want to get started running a profitable photography business of your own. Does that sound good Brent?

Brent: That sounds great. I think I've actually got one extra tip to give your audience, just for free.

Phil: Good, extra tips are always welcome, no problem there. So, the first thing that I want to say is: what amazes me about you, and I've met you in person, what amazes me is that you're a regular guy. And don't take this the wrong way, but I don't see that you're some super-genius photographer, or super-genius businessman. You're a regular guy, a surfer guy. But somehow you manage to run this incredibly successful business, you make six figures a year running a portrait photography business. I know you don't work that much - you work part-time, half the week. What I'm wondering is, one: how do you manage to be so successful at this? I also wonder what got you started - what sent you down this path? And then: why are you so darn good at it?

Brent: Well Phil, you're right. I am just a regular guy. I'm not a super genius. But I was passionate about photography. I am passionate about photography. I wanted to make a living out of photography for my family. When we moved to Australia about eleven years ago or so, I had an engineering job initially just to get the money in the door, but I set up my photography business at the same time. I really struggled initially. I didn't know what to do. I got to a point where I ended up in bed for three weeks with bronchitis. Basically, I worked myself almost to death working two jobs, stressing out because more money was going out the door than was coming in. Actually nothing was coming in. I was spending money on advertising that wasn't working. I decided I needed to make a change. I needed to do this portrait photography thing: shooting people, photographing people and making money out of it. And I needed to do it right. I thought, 'How do I do this? There's got to be an easier way.' I realized that if I model other people that are successful, maybe I'll be successful. So I went to seminars and I read a lot of books on business and I bought courses from other successful portrait photographers about price lists and how they do their marketing. I basically copied what they were doing. I changed it to my own style and my own customers in my area, changed my pricing about every three months. Every time I went to a seminar I'd come back and my wife would say, 'What are you going to do now?' and I'm like, 'We're doubling our prices!' and she's like, 'Oh no!' and I said, "We gotta. Everyone else is charging way more than us and I think we're underselling ourselves.' So I followed what they were doing. I tested things and some things worked for me, and some things didn't work for me, but basically I figured out a way to do it. Then I created systems in my business. I created systems for everything. I read a book called The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It's a great book if anyone ever wants to know how to run a successful small business. He talks about systematizing everything. After I read that book I systematized everything. I went in and I created check sheets, check lists, which really helped me because that way I know that I'm not missing anything. So, I'll just go down my checklist ... is the coffee machine on? Is the TV on? Is the studio clean? I'd just tick them off and I'd do them. It's really easy and I basically trained myself to systematize everything, look at every part of my business as a system. And my business is a bunch of different systems. If you can systematize it, you can create a regular income. If you know that your marketing is working if you send out so many letters or vouchers, you get so many calls, which equals so many customers, which equals so many photo shoots, which equals so much money in the bank. It's actually quite predictable once you actually systematize everything. That's where I went. It took me about two years to go from zero - being broke - having about $8,000 on my credit card, and I was spending more money than was coming in, to earning a six-figure income in profit after about two years. I even try to see if I can get it to the next level where I could earn even more, and I started employing people, and my business just boomed. What I've done since then is, I had a look at the numbers and I've gone more into lifestyle type of business. I went into trying to see how much I could earn, a turnover. Once I actually looked at it, the profit wasn't that great, so I changed things up again and I've got less staff now, and I'm actually earning the same amount of profit and I'm working part-time. I actually changed everything to suit my lifestyle. What was the other question you asked?

Phil: I don't remember now, but that was a really good start. That brings me to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I've seen some of these systems now because I've had a look at this new course that you've created showing other photographers exactly how you run your business. I've been really impressed with this. It's an amazingly detailed course, it's called Portrait Photography For Profit. You really give away the whole business here. I've watched it, it's 57 video, it's over six hours, and it's mind-boggling to me that one, you're able to deliver that kind of content to everybody, but also that you're willing to give away basically the store. Give away all the trade secrets. So, what inspired you to create this course, teaching other photographers how to run a business like yours, and aren't you afraid of giving away all the secrets?

Brent: No, I'm not afraid of giving away any secrets, actually, because I learnt from other photographers and they were giving away their secrets. Really it's not a big deal. I'm a local studio so I attract people from about an hour, hour and a half's drive from my studio, so I've got a limited geographic range. So if someone's doing it two hours away from me it doesn't really matter, they're not going to have my clients. Why did I create this course?

Phil: Yes, what inspired you in the first place?

Brent: What I did is I created a kids photography course, which you promoted too, Phil. It sold like crazy. I think I sold a couple of thousand copies of the kids course, which was great. A lot of the feedback on the kids course from people that were learning how to photograph kids was the business side. In one of the videos, or one of the lessons I gave away my pricing, how I price things and why I price the way I do, and my average sale which is around $1500 per family, and how I incentivize people to get to that point of $1500. Most of the questions were on that lesson. How do you it? How do you do the marketing? What other systems do you have? People asked me to create this course on how I run my business, so I did it. It's taken me a year and a bit to film everything, and I thought, 'What can I do to make this course even better?' Because I struggled through each of the parts of the course, especially the ordering and viewing presentation where people actually pay real money for the photography. I think a lot of people might be a little bit scared and think it's a hard sale to get people to hand over cash, but it's actually very rewarding when you present the images to your client, they then spend or invest a couple of thousand dollars with you, and then they give you a huge hug on the way out of the door and love you for the images.

Phil: That's what surprised me most. Before you created this course we had talked and you had told me what you were going to create, and I thought it sounded like a great idea. I kind of knew what to expect because you had said, 'Here's what's in it.' But it still blew my mind when I saw it, and I didn't realize how powerful this would be because what you did by putting - not a hidden camera, because people I'm sure agreed to this - but you let us watch like a fly on the wall as you take a whole bunch of real customers through the whole process and we see what you do when you get first phone contact from them, how do you get them to give you a deposit. The really amazing part for me is what you do with them when they come in after their photo shoot has been done and they're going through that viewing where they're going to view the photos and make an order with you. Being able to watch live, the way you set the mood and create an atmosphere where they're going to be in a buying mood - to me that's brilliant! And I never would have believed that it would work the way it works if I hadn't been able to actually watch you do it, and watch how these people are so happy to pay you a couple thousand dollars. It's a win for you and a win for them, and the go out of there with a big smile on their face. If anybody out there thinks it's really hard to make high-ticket sales of photography products to clients like that, I really hope they'll watch this because to me it's just astonishing. This, if anything, is a place where you're a genius. It's in that part of your system that you figured out how to do that. That is worth the whole price of the whole thing to me.

Brent: Definitely. Thanks! I didn't figure that out. I copied what other people were doing and then created my own system. I broke it down into something that works for me and my personality. I don't like to do the hard-sell. I don't like to push people. I like people to actually just order from me. So that's how I do it. I've got an 8-step system for the ordering presentation. I've got a checklist, a check sheet if you like, for each of the things that needs to happen in that 8-step system. Setting the mood is really important. What I do is I want to appeal to everyone's senses. I want to appeal to their hearing, their smell, sight, touch, everything. When they walk in the studio they've got to feel like they've arrived, this is for them, the presentation is there. Get them coffee so they can smell the coffee. Have candy out there or chocolates, and they're not cheap chocolates, they're high-end chocolates. I want people to enjoy it. You only have one chance to have a first impression and give a great first impression when the client walks in.

Phil: One of the things I love also about the course and the way you've done it, is because you've created these systems and these checklists of your own, that you give your buyers of these course all these checklists that you use and the form letters that you use, and every email you send, but especially those checklists I thought were really cool. I should mention this too: for anybody who's interested in this, we'll put a link down below this video where you can get Brent's course probably at some kind of special price. So down below the video, that will always be there if you're interested in learning and seeing this course that he's created.

Brent: Totally. I created the special price for you, Phil, because of your audience, because they pushed me to actually create this course, so I'm so thankful to everyone that bought my Kids Course and actually pushed me into this course. For me, I've been telling a lot of people because I just finished this course, we've launched it with you - you and I have launched it together - it's my life's work. I've put everything that I've learned up to now into this course. I didn't leave anything out. I even put stuff in the bonus section that I thought would help people that are running a small business, even if it's not a portrait photography business it'll help you running a small business. Some of the stuff in the beginning, some of the lessons about why and the mindset that you need to create a successful portrait photography business, or even a successful small business works for anyone. I've put everything that I've learned over the last forty-something years into this course. I'm loving it, and the feedback is amazing! The few hundred people that have jumped in and are learning from this course, it's just amazing some of the feedback.

Phil: I'm not surprised because it blew my mind, even knowing what to expect I was still surprised when I saw it, so it's that good! I promised at the beginning that I'd get some tips from you. So, what you suggest to somebody who's watching and is interested in created a successful photography business of their own? What are your key points or key advice, five things or more things if you want, that you would tell somebody who wants to start out and be successful, that you've learned the hard way?

Brent: I think the most important thing or tip when it comes to starting a business is knowing why you're getting into it. Why are you starting this business? Basically, what do you want out of it? I've noticed, I've been involved in quite a few small businesses, you can actually forget why you got in. A lot of things can happen. You can get pulled in this direction and this direction, but if you actually forget why you've started it, you won't actually know when you're successful or not. It's a way to gauge things. For me, why did I start this business? Firstly, I wanted to support my family. Secondly, I wanted to live at the coast and play and be in this beautiful area that I'm in. I also wanted to create a lifestyle type of business where I don't work all the time. Now I only work two and a half days, if that, a week, and I earn the same amount of profit to what I was earning when I was working five days a week. So, I wanted to create a business that actually supports my lifestyle, and where I get to create for my clients and they love us for it. So the 'why' is probably the most important out of everything.

The next one is the mindset. You've got to have a winning type of mindset. A lot of people I meet that are business owners or starting their portrait studios or any kind of business, don't necessarily have the right mindset. You can change your mindset by reading the right books or watching the lesson that I created about mindset. A lot of people make excuses and blame other people, where really you just have to look at yourself. This is the only person you can blame if things aren't going well.

Another one is rules. I think of my business as a game. It's a game that I've created, I've created the rules in this game. If I'm not winning the game, I can change the rules because it's my game. Don't forget that it's your game, you can change the rules whenever you like. Change the rules so that you succeed, or that you win, and that your customer wins. That's important. You don't want just you winning, because if just you win and you burn the customer, they're going to tell other people. So you want a win-win situation, a game where everyone wins.

Phil: I like that.

Brent: The forth one is: know your numbers. You need to get feedback from your business. A business is kind of like flying an airplane. It's a long-flight. It's from Australia to America. It's a long way you have to go. You're not racing like these Super Hornets that we have over here from the air force base, the fighter jets. It's actually a long trip that you're taking. The numbers is the feedback in your business. Do you have enough fuel to make it across the ocean? Are there leads coming in when they should be coming in? What's your conversion rate? Does it take six phone calls to have one shoot? Things like that. And also, where are your leads coming from? How much is your average spend from a certain lead source? For instance, if you're running a Valentine's special, which is one of the ones that actually bombed for me and I lost a lot of money - are you actually making money? Do you get all these people coming in and just get a freebie print and they don't spend any money? Is it worth, then, investing more money next year in the same marketing campaign? So know your numbers, know where you're getting the most profit and then focus on just that area. That's a really good one.

Another one, and this is really close to my heart, is have fun! Don't take life too seriously. Don't take your business too seriously! I'm probably the worst person here, because I've taken my business way too seriously, and I've got stressed out. And actually, when you think about it, you're not doing a difficult thing. You're capturing beautiful images of families having the best fun in their lives and you're presenting it to them and they're buying the images, they're investing in these images, you print them and it's all positive! There's actually no negatives in this business, really. Don't take life too seriously! Laugh at yourself! You make mistakes. In one of my ordering and viewing presentations, which is in this course, I think it was the Anderson order where they spent close to $2,000 where I actually record the whole ordering and viewing presentation - it's about an hour long and you can see exactly what's going on, you can see what the client's asking me, you can see what I'm asking, you can even see where I click on the screen. My computer froze. Something happened. That's probably because I was actually recording the screen-flow while I was trying to run the ordering presentation, and I had a GoPro on at the same time, and I had audio connected to my lapel over here. So things happen, but it doesn't matter, you just laugh at it and you just keep going.

And the last thing, this is the extra bonus, the extra free tip that I'm going to give you. It's all about resistance. As soon as you're about to make a breakthrough in your business, as soon as you're about to get that really big order, stuff happens to you. It's called resistance. Expect it to happen. I'll give you an example. A week ago when you, Phil, when you sent out your email about this course that I'm just releasing, our Labrador died the night before. We had to put him down. Our family all cried and everything. I was expecting something to happen just before we do something that's going to be really positive. So, expect resistance. When you're running a business or starting a business, expect stuff to happen. The closer you get to the finish line, the more resistance happens. Until you break through that resistance and you finish, then suddenly everything opens up again and there's no resistance. So, those are my tips that might help someone who's starting a small business or a portrait studio.

Phil: That's all great advice, Brent. That certainly corresponds to my own experience, especially the part about the resistance getting stronger toward the end. I make these photography courses too and sometimes I think I will never reach the finish line, and there are some very dark days before the dawn, before the end of any of these things and I'm sure you know exactly how dark those days can be too. It happens at any business, not just the kind of business we're doing. Everybody has to be willing to go through that if they have a business that they own and they operate. Thank you for sharing that. I think it's all really good advice. I want to remind everybody again, if they're interested in seeing how you run your business, how you do it successfully working half-time basically and make a very profitable business, we'll put a link down below where they can go - it'll link straight to your site and get that. Is there anything else you want to add before me go?

Brent: Yeah, just one more thing Phil, well two things. I wanted to thank you, especially, for pushing me, or giving me encouragement to finish this course, and your audience for telling me that you actually wanted it. Thank you! The second thing is that I really want to help people. The main reason why I created this course, the overall reason was I want to help people that are struggling, that are going through what I've gone through in the last eight years. I've gone through a lot of struggles figuring out the systems that actually work. I've spent a lot of money, wasted a lot of money, a lot of hours, a lot of energy on stuff that doesn't work, and I wanted to really help those people that really want to make it, who want to run a successful portrait photography business, and that's why I created this course. I guess that's it.

Phil: It really shows. When I look at what you create it shows that you want to help people, and that's part of what makes it so good. I can't recommend it too highly to everybody. It's well worth it and you definitely are helping people, you're accomplishing your mission.

Alright, well thank you for taking the time to let me interview you, I know you probably are busy there, it's the middle of the day in Australia where you are, and I'm sure there are other demands, callings, probably a photo shoot waiting, so I'll let you get back to it. Thanks a lot, I appreciate it and I'll be in touch again soon.

Brent: Thanks, Phil, for having me. Actually, I've got no more photo shoots I'm going to go surfing after this, I've taken the rest of the day off.

Phil: You go surf!

Brent: See you later, bye.