Hey, friends. Welcome back to another episode of the Business Journey podcast, I'm your host, Rebecca, and today we are diving into a look back into 2021 and just talking about a case study of my business. So I feel like this is going to be a really fun episode, a little bit different than some of the other ones that we've done. But either way, I know that it'll be helpful for you. Before we get too far, I wanted to let you know about a brand new guide that I created. I guess it's kind of like a blueprint, a checklist that basically it walks you through step by step, the things that you need to do to make your first $3000 on one date of mini sessions. So if you've already, you know, made more than $3000 on a single day of Minis, that is so awesome, you could grab this download if you want to just make sure you have all your steps, right? But if you have never hit $3000 or more in a single day of Minis, then this checklist, this blueprint is for you. I like to call it a blueprint because it literally just lays out kind of like a house blueprint where it's repeatable. It lays out the steps, and all you do is follow it so you can grab that today at Rebeccaricephoto.com/ the number 3 the letter K dash minis. So that's Rebeccaricephoto.com/3K-minis, and we will link in the show notes here for you to grab that super easily. Now, I'm really excited about this episode. I was talking to my team trying to figure out, you know, what episodes we wanted to do in December, just to kind of close out the year. And one of my team members had suggested doing a case study of my business, which I feel like was really unique. I've never like done a full quiz to you, my business, and so that's what we're going to do. I feel like we've had a really interesting year where, you know, if you didn't know, my family moved to Nashville last November, so 2021. This was our first full year living in Nashville and being away from our families and just all the things, you know, continuing our business in a brand new state, which I know some of you listening can relate to, that where you had to move out of state and are trying to figure out, you know, how to get your business off the ground and all the things. So I wanted to do this case study and we're splitting this case study into two parts just because I feel like there was so much to hit. So in this first part, we'll talk about the one thing that really propelled our revenue this year that was super unexpected. And then in the next part, next week, we're talking more about, you know, what it looked like transitioning to full time because this was also my first full year, full time in my business. And so, you know, all the challenges that came with that and just the things that as a family, we had to kind of work through. So we're going to that's in next week's episode. But for today, let me paint the picture here. So my family and I, we moved to Nashville in November and we were building a house that wasn't going to be done till March. So in that in between, we were living in a townhouse and we're, you know, waiting to move into our actual house. So the first part of, I guess, the first quarter of the year we were living in temporary housing and kind of cramped for space. Honestly, we it was, oh gosh, maybe like a quarter of the space we're living in now. And it was just an interesting season being, you know, all of us, me, my husband and our two kids in this tiny two bedroom townhouse. But we made it work. And at the time, since this is my first season being away from the majority of my clients because the majority, my clients at this point were in Dallas. And so since we moved from Dallas, I still had a ton of clients that for the spring, they wanted to book sessions. And so I opened up some spring minis and I booked myself for a trip that me and my family were taking. We actually took two trips. We came in once for Bluebonnets season in April, and then we came in once for wildflower season in May. So I had booked myself some minis. It's really interesting whenever you booked to travel because you like, hope it doesn't rain, you can't really reschedule and the dates are not flexible at all. We're like, OK, we're committing to this weekend. That's the weekend we're going. So that's kind of how we played that. And I knew that I wanted to still be able to serve families because I had very, very limited availability in Dallas, just because I was literally only there for two weekends in the whole spring where I'm used to shooting. I mean, like six to eight dates of minutes. So I still had a lot of clients that I wanted to serve, but I knew I physically couldn't. And so my next best option was to hire an associate photographer to take over those clients. So I had dabbled in the world of associate photographers for the first, like several years, my business just because when I was fully booked, I didn't want to turn families away. If you're not familiar with what an associate photographer is, basically it's somebody that you hire on as an independent kind. Train her to go shoot the session for you, I still handle all of the marketing and the client communication and editing, gallery delivery, all the things, they just go and show up and shoot for you. And so that was a really helpful way in busy seasons for me to multiply myself so that I could be kind of in two places at once. I would be shooting at one location and I would have an associate shooting in another location. So up until this point, any of the associates that I had worked with were photographers that had their own businesses and they would sort of fill in as needed if I, you know, needed to book people. But in the beginning of this year, I actually hired on my first full time employee. And so her name is Bonnie, and Bonnie's awesome when she first came on. She came on as my assistant and then over the course of events, which I'll talk about here in a second, her position really shifted just out of need. And so when Bonnie first came on with me, I knew I wanted to teach her how to shoot because she's in Dallas, so I wanted to teach her how to shoot so that she could help in the spring, take on those clients that I wouldn't be able to serve. So January, when she came on, I gave her a course about shooting to teach her how to use the camera. She had never shot at all. She never used a camera before. So I bought her a camera and I said, Here, Bonnie, you're going to learn to shoot. Also, I'm already booking photo sessions for you. So I was very confident in the course content, but I'm like, Oh, she'll know how to shoot and she'll be fine. So she had literally never shot a session, never picked up a camera, and I was already booking sessions for her in March and April. So it was that a bold move? Yes, but thankfully it worked out well.
So she, you know, watched the course, learned how to, you know, shoot with her camera in manual mode, and then she went out and practiced several times before her first official session with me. So yes, we had booked sessions for a photographer that had never shot before, just believing in the fact that she would be ready by the time these sessions came around. So good news she was, and they turned out, great. Over the course that time, we, you know, we booked her more and more and I said, Oh my goodness, like, we're going to have to expand this thing because not only was she shooting for me, but I also had a few other photographers, some with their own businesses that have worked for me seasonally. And then some that, you know, I was just hiring on to work with us in the spring. Because since this was the first spring since COVID and everybody missed out on spring photos last year, then I knew this spring was going to be very, very busy because bluebonnets season in Dallas is huge. That's the Texas state flower. So Texans, you know their Texas pride. Everybody wants blue bonnet photos and nobody could get blue bonnet photos last year because photographers were deemed nonessential businesses when COVID hit. And so we couldn't go out and shoot now. I lost out on a ton of revenue last year, but the good news was this year I knew, OK, we're going to be in for it. We're going to have so many clients wanting spring photos. So, you know, we started realizing things were getting super, super busy and we were booking in really high volume. I decided in March that I wanted to separate my associate team from my Rebecca Rice photography brand. This was sort of an experiment I was doing just because I knew they would be booking in high volume. They were hitting a little bit of a lower price point than what I was booking my minis at just because it wasn't me, which is fine. And the photographers were a little less experienced. And all that to say we were booking them at this lower price point, and I didn't want it to become confusing to my clients, confusing to my students, like all the things I just wanted to like, have there be a clear separation for this brand, my associate team? So I ended up rebranding them entirely in 24 hours. So literally in March one weekend, I said, You know, I think I'm going to separate them from my brand. I'm just going to do it. And so in 24 hours, I designed a logo for them. What we came up with a name. I designed a logo for them. I designed a website for them, a CRM. We plugged into dubsado and shoot proof and all of the pieces. They had a Facebook page and Instagram page like literally all the pieces to kick off a business I created in 24 hours. And I went back to my team on Monday and said, Hey, guys, we have a new brand and we're like, Excuse me what? So it was fine. It worked out great. So with this new brand, one thing that was really attractive to me about separating my associate team from me was it elevated the experience. So no longer were they the B team, the, you know, the back up of, Oh, Rebecca's busy, but I have this associate now. They were a collection of photographers that there's no quote unquote lead photographer in my associate team brand. They are all photographers, and that's the branding that we put out was that this is a team of photographers. There's no B team. It's literally just you can get one of our photographers to work with. So rebranding them was a really awesome move for us that I didn't realize would be so awesome. And it was like I. This associates team and expanding it and just having its own brand was one of the most unexpected things that we did this year that resulted in amazing revenue. We hired this associate team, which at that point was primarily in Dallas for the spring, and I think we had like three or four photographers. So Bonnie was one of my full time girls. I had a girl that I had trained from the ground up that had worked with me before, so she was under our associate brand and then there were a couple of others that we brought on. So our spring was super busy, and because my associates were newer photographers, we did not do mini sessions with them. We only did full sessions because like Bonnie had never shot any session before, so I needed her to get really comfortable shooting families. So we only did full sessions, and the majority of our lead generation was through Facebook ads. So, you know, we did some in the Facebook groups, but we kind of shifted gears because I wanted something a little bit more automatic for our lead generation, for my associate team. So we started some Facebook ads and that campaign went so, so well, where all of a sudden we were. And if you're not like a numbers person, you may like, skip this part. But because I'm a numbers person, we're booking clients for like $20 and under like booking sessions. And so we without getting into too much of the technicalities of it, we're running Messenger Facebook ads where basically they would click on the ad and we would have an automated message pop up and then we would like have a conversation with them to book their full session to kind of figure out what it is they're wanting and all the different things like that.
So that escalated really quickly, and their entire spring was booked out for like these three or four photographers super fast. So that's when I started to see like the value of, Oh my goodness, this associate team thing could be massive. Like this, maybe the best like accidental discovery that our business has ever made. And so they continued shooting through the summer and I thought, Oh, things will slow down in the summer or they didn't because of those Facebook ads. We had people still booking sessions even in the summer for things like maternity and lifestyle, newborn and, you know, extended family sessions and stuff that, you know, can't be minis, which was great. So once the summer hit and I was really confident in my photographers, I said, OK, guys, I really want to do Minis for you guys for the fall because I knew the volume that would be coming in for fall mini sessions. It's just naturally really, really busy. And I knew they would have no problem booking out just because our marketing, we had a marketing machine with these Facebook ads. And so I said, you know, let's go ahead and start doing Minis. So by this point, we had expanded. We had associates in Dallas. We also added in a couple of associates in Nashville and then some in Houston as well. So we were expanding the team. And I wanted Mini as in each city. So I sat down with my team and said, OK, I need you guys like, we're going to plan out mini dates for all these areas and get these Facebook ads going for each area. Because that's one thing I really like about Facebook ads is you can target specific cities. So we were able to run ads in various cities targeting, you know, different people, different areas and book in all these cities. So we didn't have to rely just on, you know, joining Facebook groups in cities that we don't live in, which can get a little tricky because, you know, I like to advertise in Facebook groups when I can, but it wasn't practical as we were expanding here. So that's why we wanted to invest in Facebook ads because as long as they're converting, I'm totally fine spending the money on it. If we're going to make money off of it, make more money than we put into it, then it works. And so we started booking minis and that, I mean just exploded. You guys like way more than I anticipated. So not only was I booking my own minis, but now we were booking Minis for all of these other photographers. I think in our peak of fall, we had 12 associate photographers going all at the same time. Now all of them are doing minis. We had probably four or five of them doing Minis and the rest were just doing full sessions. They just weren't as comfortable doing Minis, which is totally fine. But it was awesome to be able to really multiply myself where I could serve my clients in Dallas. We could serve clients in Nashville and in Houston and all these other areas where I didn't have to be physically present because it's impossible to be all those places at once. But I didn't have to be physically present and we were able to serve these clients. Now you may be saying, OK, that sounds like crazy, because like you guys, even just this fall, we've booked probably over 300 minis amongst the four or five photographers that were doing Minis. So we did not do our own editing. We definitely outsourced our editing. We would not be able to keep up if we didn't. So if you're like thinking about doing an associate team, that is a key piece of the puzzle is you have to outsource. To be able to keep up with the demand, so we outsource our editing and, you know, we've been able to serve clients like crazy. So that was like a very unexpected move this year. And that associate team alone, which we basically started in March, hit six figures this year, just them. So that goes to show that, like the associate model really, really works. And I've been able to do one on one mentoring with a few photographers about associate like starting an associate team and growing their own associate team. And it's just been an awesome way for me personally to kind of explore, you know, we've got the mini sessions thing down, but then be able to scale it and say, How can we take the mini sessions model that I know works, which remember that 3K minis blueprints, Grab that. If you're like, I want to know the model, how do you do these mini sessions? That's how grab that download in the show notes. But we have this model that works, and then we are able to multiply it with all of these other photographers, some of them. By the end, I had, I think, three or four that I trained from the ground up photographers and the rest own their own businesses, and they were to go shoot for me for an hourly rate, and we were able to help them like, you know, keep their calendar full, where if they had extra days that they weren't booking their own sessions, they were doing sessions for us. And so it was a really great like win win for photographers that either wanted more practice or wanted to build their portfolio or had some extra time that they wanted to go, you know, make an hourly wage shooting minutes and not having to worry about editing and client communication and marketing and all that. So this whole associate model has just been a whirlwind and a lot of it, like very we learned a lot along the way. We learned a lot along the way. We had, you know, shooting with that many associates. We did have a little bit of associate drama where we learned some things for next year. And so for next year, we're going to go into things with our associate team with a lot more intentionality. And by the end, we ended up having to bring on a culling team. Also, because our culling for all of those sessions was taking two full days, like one of my full time girls, she was culling for two full days trying to just get through all these images. And so we added on a culling team, which if your on my email list, you got that application a while back. We've been doing it for a while now, but that has been just incredible. Add to. So we know for next year we're going to be just working with a lot more intentionality because we kind of stumbled into this thing by accident. And so next year, you know, we're going to take the things that we learned and make it better. We're going to improve the client experience. We're going to improve our automations and our workflows and our communication and everything like that. You know, we'll do more with email marketing. We're just doing whatever we can to make this thing even better next year with a lot more intentionality now that we have one year under our belts with the true associate team. We're going to take it and run with it. So I'm really excited for like what the future holds with our associate team and I. I've been thinking about doing a course about how to start an associate team. So let me know like DM me or something. If you're you'd be interested in something like that, I haven't found a good course about associates and people keep asking me about it. So if this like sparks your interest and you like, yeah, I feel like, of course, would be great. Let me know. Like, because they don't want to make the course if it's like nobody cares. But if people do want it, like, let me know and I'll see about putting something together. But either way, it's been a whirlwind. So that was like one of the biggest unexpected pieces of this year that I really enjoyed. And so that's part one of our case study of my business. Next week, we're going to come back. They didn't want to make this like episode way too long. So next week we'll come back and hit part two. I'm going to be talking about what it was like transitioning to full time in my business, going from having a full time job and photography, being my sidekick sidekick, my side gig with my kids in daycare to all of a sudden, me, my husband and our kids are all home in the same space, like trying to run this business. So we learned a lot in that season and still learning. And so we're going to talk about what that transition looked like, what things we've learned and stuff like that in next week's episode. So hope you enjoyed this one. And if you have any questions, I'm always available for me on Instagram at Rebecca Rice Photography, and I love to chat with you, chat, business, chat, life, whatever. So until next week, we will go ahead and close out today and we'll see you next time. Bye, guys.

45. A Look Back: 2021 Case Study of my Business (part 1)