Success Secrets of a Photography Business Coach
Interview with Michael Cheuk
Bernie Griffiths is an International Photography Business Coach who has over 5,000 hours of coaching photographers around the world toward success. This article is an excerpt of a conversation Bernie had with magazine editor Michael Cheuk.
Bernie, it is great talking to you. Tell us about how you became an International Photography Coach.
When I was around 15 years of age living in England, I set a goal to be a successful photographer and travel the world. I wrote that goal down, and then I applied and managed to get a job as a photographer for P&O Cruise ships. At age 23, I was traveling the world, supervising four photographers, and making a lot of money. After being a photographer on board for nearly two years travelling the world, I decided to emigrate to Australia. Within six months of arriving, I purchased my own photography studio. With a staff of three photographers, we grew into a million-dollar business doing portraits and weddings. During the forty years as a professional photographer, I also mentored a lot of other photographers. So it was natural for me to transition into a coach when I sold my studio.
The first thing I did after deciding to become a coach was to hire a coach. That’s the quickest way to learn to become a coach. I’ve been coaching other photographers for eight years now, with over 5000 one-hour coaching calls. I was fortunate to win the world’s Top 10 Outstanding Photography Professional Award for Photography Business Coaching two years ago. Nowadays I have clients in the US, UK, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and Australia.
So how did you transition from giving free advice to fellow photographers to marketing yourself as a professional photography coach?
Well, with the help of my coach, I put together a coaching program and then a pricing package, which was one of the hardest things to do. I put my pricing at what I thought was my “cringe point,” a price I thought no one would purchase. But I also offered four levels, and as we know, everyone tends to go for the second from the top. So that’s how I rolled for a while and it progressed from there.
When I look back at what I used to charge to what I charge now, I just go, “Wow, why was I so cheap?” Because now, I know my value to my clients. It’s just incredible that they make so much money from my coaching and my implementation of systems to what they’re doing. So, I look upon myself as being quite cheap, really, for the value I provide my clients.
So how do you charge your clients now?
One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to figure your pricing on an individual basis. What I charge for coaching can sometimes be related to the actual profit turnover of the company of the person I coach. In other words, if you’re going to coach a company that turns over a million dollars, you say: “Okay, so my coaching fee is usually 7% of photographers turnover per year.” That can be a fair and reasonable amount to charge because I know the value of my coaching that will help them earn more money.
So it’s a mindset thing. You have to believe that what you’re doing is impacting people’s lives. In fact, coaches change people’s lives. When I look at many of my clients, their lives have changed totally because of my coaching. One client just bought a new home, which he wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to afford before he had the money, that I helped him earn as a coach. So my coaching does change people’s lives. while another photographer is earning four times more than what he did in the private sector.
What I’m hearing is that while the dollars and cents are important, what is really crucial is an underlying belief in oneself and to take that step toward the future self that one believes and sees…whether as a coach or as a client. And when one has a coach, chances are much higher that vision will actually become a reality.
Very true. It’s building their self-esteem as well and their self-belief as you go. That’s what helps them enormously in their lives, as well as everything else. You have to believe in the value that you’re giving to the people you coach.
In your practice, what are some common obstacles your clients face in marketing themselves?
Fear is one of the biggest blockers. People say one way to overcome your fear is to do what you fear, like putting your prices a bit higher than you feel you should. I remember I did that in my own business with some products, and it took me a while to get over it. But it wasn’t long before that price became my normal.
Another obstacle of my clients is being stuck in their comfort zone. What we have to do, as coaches or as individuals, is to get out of our comfort zone and do things we haven’t done before. Like in our marketing, we get out of our comfort zones to find and speak to people, and to learn new things, like building third party affiliates. One of the things I’m learning is how to use LinkedIn Navigator to find new clients. So I’ve committed to the strategy by paying up front, and that forces me to move forward with it.
Yet another obstacle is analysis paralysis. We’re so bombarded with so much information on the internet, we don’t know what’s right or wrong. This confusion leads to non-action, when we should be actively out in the marketplace testing and measuring.
Talk more about testing and measuring.
Yeah, well, all business boils down to numbers, doesn’t it? It’s about the number of leads you can generate. It’s about how many leads you convert to clients. It’s about how much you charge those clients. And the bottom line, of course, is the one number that matters, whether there is profit or loss at the end of the year.
So you have to test and measure your scripts — what you say to people and what you put out there. Personally, I tested a lot of things to get a response from my email list and I had very little traction coming from everything I tested. However, when I did my first webinar, suddenly, I got 70 people register! So now, I do a webinar about every two weeks, and those webinars enable me to build my list.
What’s one thing that has made a big impact in growing your business?
From my experience, it’s all about creating a process and implementing that process. When I started my business as a photographer, I tried to run it following Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth. What he says is, “Build your business so that you can sell it.” He wasn’t saying you will sell it. He was saying to get your processes in place so that if you were to sell it, then people would buy it. And what they would buy is the instruction book of how to do your business.
So I built my photography business that way. I have an instruction book that says, “So here’s the phone script, this is what you do. When a customer comes in, you sit them down, and you say this to them, and then you photograph them in this way, and then you do the sales this way, and these are the exact products to sell, and this is your price list etc.” And so on and so forth.
I think, for a coach, it’s exactly the same thing. You have to build your processes. So that when you get an inquiry, this is the process you follow it through. And when you get that successful process working, it becomes easy, right? You don’t have to think about what’s the next step. You know what you’ll do the next day, all day. You know your next steps. You know the two or three objections to buying that leads may have, and you know how you’re going to answer. Every day, you continue to build your process. It’s about building. You just keep building and never stop.
That’s a great place to end our interview. Thanks for sharing your story and how you built your successful business as a photography business coach!
I really appreciate it, Michael, for your time…… thank you very much.
Bernie Griffiths is an Award Winning International Photography Business Coach who has over 5,000 hours of coaching photographers around the world including the UK, USA, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and Australia. He is the author of Success Secrets of a Professional Photographer, and is a winner of the World’s Ten Outstanding Photography Professional Awards for Photography and Coaching. For the last ten years, he has coached photographers to record financial returns in their businesses. Visit his website www.berniegriffiths.com for more information.