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A podcast where you join me (Colie) as I chat about what it takes to grow a sustainable + profitable business.
CRM Guru, Family Filmmaker, and Host of the Business-First Creatives podcast. I help creative service providers grow and streamline their businesses using Dubsado.
In this episode, Colie and Annemie discuss the importance of implementing automated processes inside your business. Automating aspects of the business can save time and create opportunities to build a deeper connections with clients. They both share their success as educators within the photography industry and the impact they have made on other photographer’s businesses and lives.
🎉 Colie announced an upcoming 3-day challenge happening on July 18, 19, and 20th where participants can automate their inquiry process, booking process, and online gallery for print and product sales. Go to coliejames.com/challenge to sign up! 🎉
The Business-First Creatives Podcast is brought to you by CRM and Dubsado expert Colie James. Join Colie each week as she discusses how to build a business that brings you joy and a paycheck! From business advice with fellow entrepreneurs to sharing automation tips and tricks, Colie and her guests are sharing industry trends and resources, along with a little bit of sarcasm.
Annemie Tonken is a family photographer + business strategist + podcast host based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She created This Can’t Be That Hard to help photographers get their businesses organized into a well-oiled machine. Her goal? Helping you put the BUSINESS side of your business on the back burner so you can (re)focus your energy on what you love… and why you started this business in the first place.
Here are the highlights…
[00:56] How’s married life?
[02:56] How did Annemie create the Simple Sales System?
[05:48] Enter Pic-Time
[06:33] Milestone Unlocked: 1000 students
[08:58] It’s about impact
[10:46] What should you do first to implement processes in your business
[14:22] Why no one is buying your print products
[18:02] The value of video
[19:59] The Announcement
Connect with her:
Review the Transcript:
Colie: Hello, hello, and welcome back to the Business First Creatives podcast. I usually let my guests introduce themselves, but I’m not gonna do that today. My guest today is Annemie Tonkin of the This Can’t Be That Hard podcast. She is one of my business besties. She has also been on the podcast, and it will actually be a year tomorrow.
When she first appeared on this podcast, I
Colie: that up. I did not know that, but when I had her on last time, the title of her episode was Expanding into Education and the whole reason that I know Annemie is because of her amazing course. And we didn’t talk about her course at all in that episode.
And so I have brought her back today to talk about her course. Now before you hit pause and you’re like, well, shit, I’m not gonna sit through a 30 minute sales pitch. That is not what this is. So please do not tune this out. I also have a really exciting announcement at the end. So you really do wanna listen to this podcast, guys.
Annemie. Good morning. Welcome back to my podcast. How is married life?
Annemie: Well, I love that it’s our one year anniversary of me on your show. And congrats on your one year, just past one year anniversary of the show in general. It’s so exciting. Married life is great. It is just as busy as life was beforehand. Unfortunately, there was this blissful couple of weeks in between where I was like, get married, relax for a little bit.
And then this summer has been go, go, go.
Colie: Well, I mean the pictures from the wedding made me really jealous. We’re gonna go off on a slight personal tangent. I don’t know if you know, I got married in a park and I didn’t have, we didn’t have our parents. We eloped over
Annemie: tiny. Tiny.
Colie: so. I got married in a black suit. Yes, I did.
Annemie: gosh. I bet that was amazing. I wanna see pictures. Oh.
Colie: It was, I will put a picture in the show notes. I never do that, but I will put a picture in the show notes. But it just made me realize that one of like my lofty goals, I guess if you will, was that I always figured that even though we eloped that like at our 20 year anniversary, that we would do a big party and like maybe we would be in the beach like you were, and I would be in a beautiful dress and we would have all of our friends and family, and our 20 year anniversary was during Covid.
And we bought this house, so happy anniversary to me. So, I mean, your, your wedding pictures has just made me think that, you know, I’ve got three years until my 25th. And so maybe by then I will get my shit together and we can have like a real legit camp style party.
Annemie: Well, if you need a place to host that, my doors are wide open, I would love to see that party come to fruition and I don’t see any reason that you need to wait for 25, like 22, 23.
Colie: Yeah, so Chloe’s going to a new private middle school. That’s why we can’t do it this year. I haven’t talked about that on the podcast,
Annemie: We have lots to catch up
Colie: is quite, quite pricey. Okay, so guys, she’s here to talk about her course. So Annemie in case people don’t know, why don’t you tell the listening audience how long you’ve been a photographer and how the simple sales blueprint came to be.
Annemie: So I’m gonna try and wrap that into a short version. I, because I’m guessing that maybe several people do know this. I have been in business since 2010 as a family photographer. I’m based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Nothing rockstar quality about what I do. I mean, hopefully my clients think that I’m, you know, their own personal photography rockstar, but I.
I was just, you know, trying to make a living like everybody else in business. When I first started in 2010, I took a class on in-person sales. I got, you know, I, I sort of dragged myself kicking and screaming into that cuz it didn’t really feel like, I didn’t wanna be like a vacuum cleaner salesman.
Like, Hey, hey, buy this thing. But I was told like, this is how you make money as a photographer and I needed. If I was gonna make photography work, I needed to be able to quit my job. I was working as a nurse. So anyway, I took that on, became pretty good at it, was making good money. Everything was chugging along.
I was able to leave my you know, real job, quote unquote. Seven years in, so 2017 I got divorced and all of a sudden my financial picture changed pretty significantly. So even though I was making good money as a photographer, it wasn’t enough. And the problem was I didn’t have more space in my calendar.
Because in-person sales is a really time-intensive process, so I, I couldn’t take on more clients. I was already kind of charging top of the market rates and I felt like I was backed into this corner. I had, you know, everybody from my lawyer to my friends being like, so has, is your nursing license expired?
Like, which lit a fire under me? And I was sort of in this like desperate backed into a corner situation where I I was trying to figure out how I could make the in-person sales process, which includes some really nice personal touches, and it gives your clients a sense of like they’re on a journey and they have more buy-in.
And then that buy-in translates into higher sales averages. How I could capture all that, but streamline it in a way that allowed me to take on more clients and actually make enough money. To, you know, raise two kids on my own. So so I developed a system that at the time didn’t have a name. And over the course of the next few years my photographer friends started asking me like, Hey, seems like you’re killing it and you’re not, you’re not doing what you were doing before.
What’s going on? And so they started asking me, and then the real turning point came when my gallery software, which is Pic-Time the powers that be at Pic-Time, approached me and said, we see here in your gallery that you are making a lot more money than a lot of other photographers with online print sales.
How are you making that happen? So I met with them, I explained my process, and they said, we wanna turn this into a thing. We wanna turn this into something that other photographers can do because this, you know, people need to make more money. You’re making more money. Show them how to do that. So we. Pic time and I partnered to build their marketing automation that’s called the Simple Sales App.
At the same time they were like, this is gonna be great. And I said, it’s not just an app though. This isn’t just like a sales strategy, it really
is a whole process.
Right. So I, I built a course, an online course called The Simple Sales System, and launched that in 2020. So I now have just as of a couple of weeks ago, or a
couple of days ago, A thousand students.
who have come through my course and many thousands more who use this system, because I teach the system for free. It’s just, if you wanna take the course, then you get all the, you know, all
Colie: Let’s talk about those goodies.
Colie: Cause I happen to be one of
Um. When, When Annemie decided to update the course, I submitted a bonus episode, and so I’m telling you how to automate the process for your Simple Sales inside of your crm. Now, it’s not specifically Dubsado, we’re gonna get to that, but it does tell you what parts of the process.
Because she does have a really like laid out in-depth process about how you automate your sales. Part of it is done in your C R m and part of it is done in your online gallery software, which both of us happen to use. Pic-Time and if you are a Pic-Time user or you would like to be a Pic-Time user, please again, stay until the end of this episode cuz I have a big announcement.
But, so you got the, you got the simple sales blueprint running and amazing that you’ve had a thousand students. I feel like you’re talking about the turning point of your. Like putting this out into the world as education was that, and while I’ve been a photographer educator a lot longer than you, you are probably solely responsible for what my education business looks like now, because we are almost to the three year anniversary of my very first podcast guest episode on this.
Can’t Be That Hard, where Annemie asked me to come on as a CRM expert, which at this point guys, I wasn’t doing anything related to CRMs. I was just telling everybody what they could do for free. Like I had no. No course, no systems, uh, one-to-one offers, none of that. I went on there and immediately after I was like, oh, this, this is something.
And now I have a six figure business on that side of things all due to Annemie. So, you know, this is why she’s
Annemie: Well, I. I’m just paying it forward because Naret and Amir at Pic-Time did the same thing for me and, and I just wanna pause and say like, it’s amazing that you have a six figure business built on education. It’s amazing that I have the same. What’s truly amazing about that though, like I love making money.
Obviously that’s a really nice security blanket, and I know that that’s true for you as well. But the fact of the matter is when I crossed that thousand student mark, it wasn’t the money that made me so excited. It was the thought that a thousand people out there there in the world have this tool now where they can go make mo more money and they can help more people, you know, and put their art out in the world in a more sustainable way.
Because, when I was teaching my friends how to do this and before I like took the time to learn how to build a course and started marketing that course and everything else, Like three people knew how to do it. I didn’t have time or space or energy or the knowledge to ha like how to share that with people.
But I do feel like people look at it and they’re like, well, isn’t that great for you? Like the, the truth is when you find an educator that you love, like the, the thing that they love most about it is is the fact that it is, you know, sharing that strategy or that message far and wide.
Colie: Yeah, I mean I don’t necessarily often have like big numbers that I can share for wins or anything like that, but like the wins that my clients share is that, you know, oh, I was cooking dinner and you know, all of a sudden. I got a booking from someone who inquired two days ago and I didn’t have to do anything like, and that’s what we’re really here to talk about today.
We’re really here to talk about automating your sales process and what that means from the inquiry stage to the booking stage to like the print sales that happened after. And it just so happens that the whole reason that I asked you about the Simple Sales Blueprint is that ties together like all three of those steps inside of the client experience for a photographer. Many of those things are processes that you can automate. And so I know from being in the back end of your business that automating everything is really important to you. But if someone was like, okay, I. My photography business is not going, you know, great. Right now I’m a little stuck. I’m not getting the bookings that I need.
I’m spending way too much time looking for clients, communicating with clients, all of these things. What is the first thing that you recommend that someone do? Like if they have 30 minutes to lock themselves in a quiet room, what is it that they should think about?
Annemie: I think that when you are in that place where you don’t know where you need to spend your time next, the best way that you can. kind of identify where the problem areas are is to map your process. So you sit down and you think through your client’s experience from the second that they come across your business at all, all the way to when they’re like, Tapping the nail into the wall and hanging the, the print on the wall or writing you a review on Google or whatever, like, whatever the end point is, you need to see what the beginning is.
You need to see what the end is, and then you need to write out every single step in between. And that’s gonna take you 30 minutes just by itself. So the next time you have 30 minutes then you wanna look at that that map and say what? Where are the friction points? Where are the friction points for my clients?
What’s hard for them? Is it, you know, is it hard to get in touch with me? Cuz my website doesn’t do a very good job of like giving me, giving good contact information or a call to action is a sticking point that like I deliver a gallery of images and then I say, Good luck and you know, peace out. Is it that you are, you know, where is it along the way that your clients are getting stuck and where is it along that path that you feel friction and resistance?
Do you hate? The process of editing your photos. Do you hate it? You know, what do you procrastinate about? That’s a, I feel like we all are like, well, I don’t hate anything in my business. Okay, but what do you procrastinate about? We all have things that slow us down or you know, we put off doing because we don’t love it or we’re not great at it, or we feel uncomfortable in some way.
So once you have all that mapped out and you can see where the points of friction are for both you and your clients, then you start. Working on sanding down that friction, like make it easier, make it easier for yourself, make it easier for your clients. It was a version of that process. And then some creative thinking about like, well how can I do this without having to show up and have a meeting in person?
How can I automate this process that seems automateable? And the thing that I love about automation, and I know that you love, cuz we have spent so much time diving into this, and I feel like. You and I are two sides of the same brain on this. It’s like there’s sort of the technical side of it and like the how and I’m like, okay, we’re gonna like big picture of this.
So I have loved being able to work with you so many times and having you. Build my Dubsado for me was like a life-changing experience. That process of mapping out and seeing what the, where the issues are was exactly how I built the simple sales system. And I, I feel like, you know, that process is what you do when you’re building a workflow in Dubsado.
It’s the process that you, you know, you’re just chopping up that, that map and, uh, putting it into different places.
Colie: And figuring out each step that it takes to get from point A to point B, because it’s not, you know, it’s not, Ooh, this just happens. There are things that have to be in place. And while you were talking, it reminded me of a question that comes up so much, not only in your simple sales group or your, this can’t be that hard group, but just on the internet from photographers in general.
And that’s where people go and they like, Decide what products they wanna offer to their clients for prints,
and then no one buys. And they’re like, okay. But no, I sent them to the store and no one bought. And I’m always like, But you know, how did you, how did you talk about your products? And they’re like, oh, but I mean they’re in the gallery.
I’m like, yeah, but like it is not that you are just going to be able to throw up a store and all of a sudden people who have never bought prints from you are just gonna be super excited, buy the prints. There is a process. In prepping your clients to know that these are the things that you offer and this is what, you know, these are how these products are different than what they could find on the internet.
We’re talking about ease of convenience because one of the things that I think we overlook for our clients in terms of buying products from the images that you give them is that they don’t have to upload the images to a different. Website. I didn’t really think about that until the first time that I ordered my own products out of Pic-Time.
I was like, oh my gosh. I didn’t have to go to my computer and pick out the images and like upload them to the thing and pick the different print sizes. I mean, that process takes like an hour. Versus if you’re doing it inside of your Pic-Time gallery or whatever online gallery software you happen to be using, you have uploaded the images and they are already there for your clients to select the images that they want to print.
You have saved them time, which is why it’s worth it to buy prints and products from you. So, I’m sorry, I had to just like put in that little interjection. I’m just like so many people are like, But my store is there and no one’s buying. And so from my end, when you’re talking about mapping out your process, I’m like, but when can we n when can we nudge your clients after they inquire and before we deliver the gallery to show them the products that you love?
Tell them why they’re fantastic. You know, give them examples of where they are hanging, either in your own house or your client’s house, because that is what pushes people to buy print products, not just the fact that you’ve thrown up a store and you’ve got prices on there.
Annemie: Yeah, I mean, certainly making it easier for them, cuz I think even as photographers, it takes more time to upload photos and do all that sort of stuff. But it’s also a matter of like, when you’re not a photographer, file handling can feel overwhelming, you know, worrying that you’re gonna get a pixelated print from the place that you upload it.
Like when you’re buying in somebody’s. Online gallery store, there’s a certain sense of just like, oh, I can just, you know, press a button and it’ll magically show up at my, at my doorstep. But the the other thing that I think is Worth noting is that shopping in an online gallery store for somebody who doesn’t know a lot about photography, prints and things like that, is something that is as intimidating as going into, I don’t know, William Sonoma or something. If you’re not a chef or you’re not a cook, and you walk in and there’s all these, let’s say you go to the appliances area, so there’s all these like cooking appliances that you’re looking at, and you’re like, I don’t, I don’t know what this does. I don’t know what it’s gonna do for me.
But if there’s somebody in the store giving a demo and they’re like, look at the, you know, it slices, it, dices it, you know Then when you can sort of see and touch and feel and in that case taste the, the end result, then you’re much more like, oh, I can do this. And so I think that when, you know, part of the reason that Pic-Time was like, wow, your sales are a lot higher, is that I wasn’t just sending somebody to an online gallery store and being like, good luck.
I had educated them and walked them through the process and done a lot of showing like you would in in-person sales. Except that again, the auto, the big a automation.
Colie: I mean, I think this is a perfect time to talk about how both of us value video throughout your client process so much because there’s so many opportunities for videos now, and I know a lot of people are like, oh, you mean reels? No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about making very short, uh, Education based videos for your clients, either in the inquiry process when they’re still deciding if you’re the person they want to hire after they’ve actually agreed to pay you money, and you are onboarding them into your client experience and getting them prepped and ready for their session, and then again for the print products in their gallery after you’ve delivered the session.
That’s three different videos that I’ve just given you.
Why you should hire me. I’m so happy you’re here. This is how your session’s gonna go. And then, hey, I’m about to send you your gallery. This is how it works. This is how you can order your prints. You know, my favorite thing happens to be an album. So if you wanted to do like a quick 60, 120 second video on how they can design their own albums, At every point that you are educating, you are increasing the chance that they are going to do the thing.
Whether that is hire, you have an amazing time at their session, or actually buy prints and products when you deliver the session.
Annemie: Yep. Absolutely. And it’s, I just feel like we’re all so wired these days too. Consume information on our own time, but also consume information in small, kind of digestible pieces. And video solves all of those problems. It’s not, you know, you having to schedule a meeting where you’re showing them these things.
It’s on their time, on their timeframe, but it’s also got the visual component of like telling some, reading an instruction manual on how to design an album versus watching somebody do it and then, you know, copying it. Just worlds apart.
Colie: It is. Okay. So I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m gonna make my little announcement because you know, So guys, I think you all know I’ve had the CRM blueprint since January of 2021, and the truth is I’ve never actually launched it. it. has been an evergreen since I created this course. And I brought Annemie on here because she is a big part of why I created the course.
And she’s also a big part of what I’m going to be doing in a free three day challenge next week. Now, before you say it’s summertime, Coley, I don’t have time for any of this shit, let me tell you. It’s gonna be three days. You are going to do one task every day, and it is not going to take you more than an hour.
More than an hour to listen to what I tell you to do, more than an hour to actually do it. And if you do these three things, which are automate your inquiry process, automate your booking process, and automate your print sales in your online gallery, these three things are going to make a world of difference for your fall season and beyond.
And so, When I first told Annemie that I was gonna do this challenge, I mean, I slid into her text messages, freshly out of the shower, dripping wet in a towel, guys, and I was like, oh my God, Annemie, I’m finally gonna do a challenge. Can I give away one of your courses? To which she said, of course. And so I’m not gonna tell you what the other two prizes are, but there are three very big prizes for this challenge.
And so if you are a photographer and you are interested in implementing, Even a sliver of what Annemie and I have been talking about today, I highly recommend that you go to coley james.com/challenge and enroll for my free three day challenge happening July 18th, 19th and 20th. Again, not more than one hour every day, and you will have like a completely brand new system at the end.
Now, Annemie, you did a challenge when you launched your course. Do you have any advice for me?
Annemie: Oh no. I love a good challenge. Oh my goodness. Challenges are challenging to host, uh, so, you know, hydrate and sleep. I feel like have fun with it. Like get to know, I, the thing that I love about challenges, a lot of my products are evergreen and you know, so I host a podcast and I do other things, but a lot of my business kind of runs in the background because I practice what I preach.
I automate things. Um, And I wanna make it as easy for everybody to be involved. But I run a couple of challenges a year to this day because it is an amazing way to connect. And the one thing that I feel like you have to keep in check when you are automating, automating, automating is that the benefit of automation is that it opens space.
For your, in your time and your head space and your kind of emotional bandwidth to really connect more deeply with people. If you are not busy answering the same emails over and over again and answering the same questions or dealing with the same problems over and over again, doing the same silly tasks over and over again.
Those things don’t actually foster connection with your clients, which is. Other than making good art, you know, that’s the thing that’s the most important. Then again, more automation gives you time and space to like pursue more work on your art. I mean, I think that when you’re automating the stuff that doesn’t matter, it gives you so much more time for the stuff that does matter.
And so a, a challenge, you know, in the, in the online connection world of photographers is such a great way to foster community. Really like help people make quick transformative changes in a short period of time. So hydrate rest and you know, enjoy it.
Colie: I am, and you know, this is my first live event. Um, I’m a little worried. I’m a little, I’m a little scared. I’m gonna
Annemie: amazing. Live. Oh my goodness.
Colie: I’m amazing live, but like, you know, there’s always that. Is anybody gonna show up? Am I gonna be talking to a room by myself? I know that’s not gonna happen realistically. I know that’s not gonna happen, but I am excited because just one of the reasons that I’ve never bothered to do a live event before.
Usually live events are correlated to someone doing open and closed carts. Like your, your course, whatever it is, is only open for a small amount of time. And you and I both offer courses where we don’t feel like that. We feel like the moment that you are ready to take action. And either improve your offer, get a new pricing structure, make your CRM really do all the work for you.
I want the course to be there for you right then. Because when you’re motivated, you take action and then you actually do the damn thing instead of buying a course and just letting it sit in your to-do task list, you know, for a month. A couple months, like when you’re ready to take action, I really want you to do it.
And so that’s one of the reasons that I’m really excited about this three day challenge because at the end, as I’ve said, one hour of your time guys, you are gonna automate the inquiry process, the booking process, and have your online gallery set up inside of Pic-Time or the online gallery of your choice so that you can start to bring in some of these print and product sales that everybody says
are amazing that you’re not currently doing. So once again, free three day challenge, July 18th, 19th, and 20th. If you would like to join me, go to coley janes.com/challenge. Honor me, thank you so much for coming on the podcast while I made this announcement. It makes me so happy to have you here.
Annemie: No thank you. I love a good. Giveaway. So I’m excited to see who I get to welcome into my course. Uh, it’ll be fun, but good luck. I mean, I’m a little sad. I’m like, I have those things automated by you largely, and, uh, I don’t, I don’t, I I wanna come to your party though. It sounds amazing.
Colie: All right guys. That’s it for this episode.
See you next time.