Today's blog post is another interview! I spoke with Fiona Margo of Fiona Margo Photography, who I originally connected with on Clubhouse. She has a lot of knowledge to share about Pinterest and some other things regarding a business approach to photography. So without further ado, here is an abridged version of my conversation with Fiona.
Fiona: Thanks so much for having me. As you said, I've been doing this since about 2010. I started off with just families and newborns. Then over the past five years or so I did two things. I transitioned to be a full-time photographer, and I kind of carved out an interesting niche for myself of adventure family.
So I do a lot of photo shoots up in the mountains and all over my state. I live in Washington. So we have some of, in my opinion, the most beautiful backdrops ever. So I spend a lot of time in my car, but I love it. And I get to see absolutely gorgeous places. I've also been educating other photographers with marketing, because I know that's a huge struggle point for a lot of people.
Natalie: I'm curious how your marketing approach changed and how maybe it got easier or more difficult. Like what were the benefits of sort of niching down to adventure family from family?
Fiona: So I found that I really wanted to create more boundaries around my business. That was a big struggle point for me because I was in this place of saying yes to everything. And then I wasn't loving what I was doing creatively and that really hurt my pride.
So there's one emotion that I'm very, very careful of in my business, which is resentment. I'll do pretty much anything to avoid that feeling.
Because if I come away from a shoot and I feel resentment, then I know I'm entering the burnout territory. And so I decided what I really wanted to do was these types of shoots where my clients could create beautiful wall art that incorporated landscapes. So it caused me to put the boundaries up to a lot of local folks and say, I'm no longer the girl who's going to meet you at the park at four, when the light is gross and we'll just try to make the best of it.
I started implementing that. I would only shoot golden hour. That was my first thing I did. Then I said, I'm only going to shoot weekdays, so I didn't shoot weekends anymore. So I kind of trained my clientele to work within my boundaries.
Then I said, okay, not only are we not doing those things, but we're also going to drive like two hours. I think because I was really sure about the process and had really strong boundaries around it helped other people trust that they are going to get great images.
A lot of people ask me, like, how do you get people to go really far away? Or how do you, how do you get them to shoot at golden hour only? And it's, I think it's that if you trust yourself as the artist and other people can trust you as well. I knew that if I could reduce the types of imagery that made my creative heart sing, then I would be an even better photographer and business owner. It was just slowly letting go of the things I didn't love and really hyper focusing on the things I did.
I tell people not so much to focus on the ideal client, but to focus on creating your type of creative, ideal imagery.
If you're super consistent with that it really builds brand trust. And that allows the ideal clients to find your work and gravitate towards it without you having to market to them specifically. I think sometimes we forget our confidence in the way that we're the artists, the clients are coming to us. They don't know anything about light and they don't know anything about how to produce the results that you could produce for them. Otherwise they would just do this shoot with their iPhone, which of course they know is not going to work.
I have had no complaints in the past two years, I've had no unhappy people and that is so different than when I was just falling all over myself, trying to cater to the needs of people who we were almost going off of their vision completely. And I was just trying to execute it, as opposed to they're hiring me for my vision, which is of course much easier because I know exactly how to execute.
Natalie: I had someone ask me the other day, “how do you handle clients that are bummed that you're not sharing their work?” And I've not actually ever had much of an issue with that because I share so sporadically and randomly that I don't think everyone expects to see their work, but have you had any issues?
Fiona: I'm the same as you. So in the very beginning, I used to promise a sneak peek and that would be another like little mountain of pressure that would be on my back end. Then I decided like, that's actually not part of what I'm promising them when they hire me. What I'm promising them is the session and the images. And I have to be very specific about what I show, especially when I was in that transition phase.
I'm always kind of using my images strategically for marketing.
So it's not like I post a session and then I show that I'm posting what I'm booking next. So it's done in a very strategic way. I do snow minis up in the mountains and I'll not show most of those because I want to use those for marketing. And I know that when they're going to be the most potent for people to book those sessions is if I keep them in my pocket until September and then show them.
I think that when photographers feel pressured to show every single session, then they lose the ability to use those marketing images strategically later on.
Natalie: I'm curious if you have any literature that you send out, like a page that you send people to or a PDF that you send along to explain to people why you're driving two hours.
Fiona: So the way that I do it is kind of weird. I book out pretty much my entire year on one day, which is I do a Black Friday sale. So every year I raise my prices, and then I do a little discount and I do a sale. And my husband's a firefighter and we kind of sit down in October. So when we plan out the things we want to do for the year, and I use acuity online scheduling, and I put all the dates that I'm available for summer and all the sessions I want to do.
And then my clients know. People who want to book with me right now, I'll let them know I'm booked for now. But my calendar opens on this [specific] day. Once that calendar opens, then it's just a flood of people that go and book all the days through the summer and all the days that are available. There's not really a lot of questions that come in the beginning, because I feel like the imagery kind of speaks for itself in that way.
Then when the time comes to actually go to the mountains, they all know it's on my website.
My website I think of as like my storefront.
I direct everybody there. So if people had questions about mountain stuff, it is all on my website. I don't have much pushback. I just know they know they're booking me for the types of imagery that they see wherever they found me, whether it be Pinterest or Instagram or my website. And then as the session gets closer, I send them the styling resources and how to get to the location. But beyond that, there's not that much.
Natalie: I'm just curious also with your scheduling. Let's say somebody is only available on a Tuesday at a week that they choose in July. How many days do you keep open? Do you know what I'm saying?
Fiona: Yeah. So it's usually like, I'll shoot Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. And not all of those will be in the mountains. Usually only two of them will be in the mountains. And so this is the thing: if they can't shoot on the day, then like too bad. It sounds mean, but I have to set those boundaries because I want to be available for my girls.
You know, my girls are 11 and almost 10. They just got on a soccer team. There's more after school activities, more things I want to be available for. And also that allows me reschedule time within the week if I need to reschedule because of weather. Obviously I live in Washington where we can get the full gamut of weirdness with rain and cloud cover. I'll even allow people to reschedule if it's cloud, because my business is so built on my use of light. So I do keep it just those days in the calendar and then I reschedule if necessary.
It's really just first come first serve with the available dates. It was a huge mental transition.
My business went from, “I need these people to hire me” to, “if you want to hire me, this is how we do it.”
That was a huge switch. The online scheduling has kept me very true to that because I put the days in there and then it's easy for me to say, “what's available is what's available. But you know, if you want to come around next year…”
Natalie: Do you get inquiries throughout the year though? So like folks that missed that black Friday thing, how do you handle that?
Fiona: So I usually get about five to seven inquiries a week. So there's quite a few coming in. A lot of people can see that I'm booked. I have a lot of out of state people cause they want the mountains, I refer out a lot. I have a great group of photographers that I can trust and then I can send business to. You know, another huge mindset shift for me. Not being in that scarcity mindset about clients and really going to that abundance mindset of thinking “the more the merrier.” If I can't serve someone, but someone I trust can, then that's the best case scenario for both of us.
Since 2011, I have been providing family and newborn photography to fun-loving, adventurous and snuggly families in Seattle and beyond. I have loved running my photography business full-time for the past five years, and am passionate about helping other photographers to best utilize their time so that their businesses thrive. I have previously been an instructor at the Unraveled Academy, and have taught workshops about family and newborn photography from Waco, Texas to Seattle, Washington.