Six years ago, Heidi Guerard was a high school art and photography teacher. She wasn’t sure that teaching was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life and decided to take some sessions while she was on maternity leave. At the time, the type of newborn photography that Heidi wanted to do didn’t exist in her market. Her work stood out and the business took off quickly.
She had borrowed money from her mom to buy a camera and her goal was simply to pay the money back by the end of the year. She easily achieved that goal. In fact, from April to December, Heidi made about $30k, which was close to her annual teaching salary. Her husband was also between jobs and they decided to both put 100% into the photography business to market it and see where it would take them.
Initially, Heidi was working from home and doing online sales. While her photography pricing wasn’t too low, it also wasn’t structured to encourage purchasing and she wasn’t helping clients figure out what they needed. The result was decent sales of mostly small (4×6 and 5X7) prints. While the income was good, it wasn’t enough to allow them to plan for and invest in their future. They couldn’t take vacations or think about having another child because the business couldn’t survive a maternity leave.
Heidi hired Sarah Petty for mentoring.
“Sarah Petty helped me realize that I was in control
of my business and if I wanted to take maternity leave or retire someday,
then we needed to structure our business so that it was possible.”
And that’s what she did. Today, Heidi and her husband own one of the most successful portrait studios in the country.
The Secret to Success
When people hear how well Heidi’s studio does they often assume that there aren’t a lot of photographers in RI and that everyone must have a lot of money. The truth is, Rhode Island has the second highest concentration of photographers in the country and the economy isn’t great. So how does Heidi compete in a saturated market and keep people coming in the door? You might be surprised to hear that she doesn’t compete, at least not in the traditional sense.
“The way we’ve been able to make our business successful is to look inwards. Examine yourself. Examine what you are passionate about. What feels the most fulfilling to you in your work? What would you do without being paid? What are the things you really love to do?
And then, what are your greatest strengths and how can you infuse those into your brand to make it different than what’s around you?”
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The things that bring other people success may not work for you. Heidi encourages people to stop looking at what other people are doing and just do what you love.
“When you build a business that’s uniquely you, then it automatically eliminates all your competition because
there is nobody else who can do it exactly the way
that you’re doing it.”
Relationship Marketing & Social Media
Essentially, marketing your photography business is about building a relationship with customers over time so that when they’re ready to buy, they want to buy from you.
Heidi admits that she hasn’t spent a lot of time on Facebook because it never felt like people were making buying decisions there. Heidi and her team have always posted links to their blog posts, but for a long time, that was the extent of their Facebook presence.
However, when she realized that about half of her blog traffic was coming from Facebook, Facebook became a valuable tool to getting traffic and improving her SEO rankings. The same thing happened with Pinterest. By posting sneak peeks to her blog and then sharing it on all of her social media channels she has found that it’s more likely that her message will be heard.
Professional photographer and studio owner Heidi Guerard of Heidi Hope Photography is internationally recognized for her colorful, soft and whimsical portrait photography. Often referred to as a “baby whisperer”, Heidi’s most celebrated work is creating artistic portraits of babies from their first days of life through their first days of school.
Since 2009, Heidi has been creating modern portraits for her clients out of her busy Rhode Island studio and has first hand knowledge of managing a creative team and building a profitable photography business from the ground up. The Heidi Hope Photography studio is currently one of the top performing retail studios in the country. Heidi has followed her passion for connecting with other photographers and met rave reviews by hosting in-person workshops at the Heidi Hope Photography studio, building a website with free learning resources, broadcasting a weekly FAQ Friday and traveling to speak.