Julie Christie started as a full time photographer, and now she's a full time marketing professional who helps other photographers succeed. In my interview with her this week on the podcast, we talked about how everything can change when you're excited about what you're doing, and how to be brave enough to follow your passions.
Read on for an edited transcription of our conversation.
Julie: I'm Julie Christie. I'm from Scotland. I run a photographer's membership site called Togs in Business. I'm just all about teaching photographers about marketing. So, helping great photographers become amazing at marketing themselves in their business, because I know that that's something that as creatives can really struggle with. And that's my passion.
Natalie: And whereabouts are you in Scotland?
Julie: A town called Carnoustie, which is kind of Northeast. The nearest city to me is Dundee. So those of your listeners who like golf will know about my town, which quite a famous golf town. It's a sleepy little Scottish village.
Natalie: Well, I'd love to talk about how you got into photography in the first place, like, what did that look like and how did you sort of get to this point?
Julie: Such a typical journey. It's that old story that you've probably heard a million times. It's always good to hear the stories. I got into photography just basically by becoming a mom and deciding I wanted to take better photographs, but at the time I was a teacher and I thought that that's, I honestly thought that's all I wanted to do.
And I was very ambitious within teaching. You know, I got into management. Focused. And then we had a house move. We moved just across the country…my husband got a new job. So we moved and I just find myself without a job, and no real prospects of a job any time soon. And I thought, “What can I do?” Just thinking on my feet. And I started a photography business.
I mean, it's embarrassing thinking about back. I was one of those photographers who started a photography business and really was not very good at photography. Didn't know anything about business, had no idea about marketing. Yeah. I'm, I'm that photographer that everyone moans about now. The good thing is I did progress quite quickly.
I think it was more of necessity. You know, the business was born out of necessity rather than “this is my passion.” I kind of found after about a year of being in the business, that the thing that lit me up the most was the marketing side of things.
I would find myself almost not looking forward to the shoots and driving back from the shoots so excited about what I was going to do with those images in a marketing sense. I just realized over the years that I really should be focusing more on marketing.
So I knew how to teach and I felt like I was becoming really good at the whole marketing thing and understanding it. So I just kind of brought those two things together and helped those that I felt I knew the best, which is photographers like myself.
Natalie: That's awesome. It's a very similar story to my own, actually, which is really funny, but I also have a background in teaching and it wasn't so much specifically marketing. It was just this wanting to help folks kind of bridge the community together a little bit, because it's so isolated when you start out. You mentioned that you got excited for the marketing piece. When folks start out and they're trying different things, I think sometimes it's always good to be open to what you're drawn to, because it might surprise you. That might not be the photos.
Julie: Definitely. Keeping your eyes and your ears and your heart open to what's filling you up the most and what's lighting you up the most. And I think sometimes we're in denial a little bit about that.
Natalie: And so what did that kind of look like when you were transitioning between the two? It's something I'm trying to figure out in my own business, what I want it to look like, but if someone's listening and they're like, “oh, I really want to stay in photography, but I want to do this other thing.”
Julie: What it looked like for me was extremely messy, to be honest, almost torturous at times. I was fighting fires basically for quite a long time until an actually it was a conversation I had with a friend who was in a mastermind group.She was a very honest friend.
When I told her how overwhelmed I was trying to juggle everything she just said to me, “Julie, what would you say to me if I had just told you everything that you've told me? And I said, well, I would tell you to give that up and just pursue that.”
It was that short and it was a completely game-changing moment. And I came home and I closed down my photography, the business. It was crazy. That's how quick it was. I felt like I couldn't do it for a long time because I felt like, “okay, how can I be teaching other photographers about marketing if I don't have a photography business anymore.”
And then I realized that that's such bullshit. Really, that's [my] passion. [My] passion is, is marketing, not photography. I think as long as you know your subject, you can do anything. I was kind of paralyzed by that thinking: “I have to keep running my photography business in order to help other photographers.” And it was this false belief that I held for quite a long time that stopped me from moving forward.
Because when I was able to then let go of that limiting belief and step into this role, I was able to do it 150 times better.
Natalie: You know, I love that you brought that up. It could apply to anyone that's listening. And just getting out there and doing it, I think in anything, is probably the hardest part.
Julie: When people are talking to you about these things, you can see it for them. But it's hard to see it for yourself. Sometimes it's hard to get out of your own head and you're always thinking about what others might think and what might happen. And all of that fear just sits there. But, really, you have to go for it or you'll regret. You will be full of regrets thinking, “I wonder what would have happened if I did”
I think this is the thing we all think. “What if it doesn't work?” Well, go back. You can go back and do what you used to do. That's okay to do that. It's not a failure just to go back. It's fine.
Natalie: No. It's like that quote, that everything you, something like everything you want is on the other side of fear.
Julie: And the thing is you can give [something] up, do that for a year and then maybe realize you actually love it. I remember giving up newborns thinking, “I can't, I physically can't photograph another newborn.” I hated it. Every being every part of my being was just dreading these shoots. But they were like half of my income and I thought, well, “I can't do it. It's like my bread and butter.” And then feeling like, well, “I'm not serving my clients because I'm not enjoying it.”
And actually giving up newborns and making that announcement just made me work so hard to get the other clients that I enjoyed working with. And, you know, I didn't die.
Natalie: Yeah, you didn't die. And also it's so important to remember that you weren't serving your clients. Yes. If you're out shooting stuff that you don't really like over and over where you're like, I physically can not do this again. It isn't serving your clients at all.
Natalie: After the struggle kind of abruptly decided to leave after some great advice from a friend, you're like, “okay, I'm going to shut down the photo business”, which was super brave. And I love that you speak to the idea that like you can teach something that you aren't necessarily doing all the time. So what happens next?
Julie: Yeah, I think just to clarify, I think the thing with me is that I'm not teaching anyone photography. I'm teaching them how to market themselves. So that's something I am doing every single day. Like I'm marketing, I'm in the trenches of marketing every single day.
I just wanted to kind of clarify that aspect of it, because I do think you have to be walking the walk if you like, but you don't necessarily have to be in doing that inside a photography business. Does that make sense?
Natalie: That's an awesome clarification. I think that that's good. I'm glad that you added that because of course, you don't want to be one of these people just talking and like fluffing of course, cause people don't listen. If they don't see that you're actually doing the things that you are promoting.
You were saying that you would like drive home from these photo shoots and you'd be dreaming about what you wanted to do marketing wise. So can you speak a little bit about like, what that would look like for you?
Julie: Usually it was all for me, it's all about campaigns. So it's never really just about one piece of marketing. I've always kind of thought of the bigger picture and the campaign that I might be able to create, because I am all about trying to get as many bookings at once as possible rather than chasing one client booking at a time.
And when I say a campaign, I mean a whole four week drawn out process of content and emails, social media content that builds a buzz to something so that you can then sell out a specific thing all at once, maybe in a few days so that you can then get busy working with those clients.
Think about your next campaign, you know, you're not, I think you're not then in the, in the weeds all the time, just the, oh, “I need another client. I need the next client.”
When you can get lots of clients at once, everything changes. “You have this headspace, like “Okay. I'm busy for the next three months. What can I start planning now that's going to get me excited. That's going to build a buzz to get me filled up for the next three months.”
Natalie: I like this energy of like being excited about something. Cause I think that that's, that's the thing to pay attention to. Like, no matter what you're doing, that's the energy.
Cause it's, it's a big deal when you're really grumpy about like you're doing.
Julie: Absolutely. Everything changes when you're excited about what you're doing, everything. It's just being brave enough to follow that.
Natalie: Do you have any sort of like intro tips to what you do or any points you can speak to about what's going on with what you do that new listeners might want to hear?
Julie: Absolutely. I think the big thing that I would say about the way I do things is. There's no one size fits all. I really feel strongly when it comes to marketing, especially marketing for photographers, you have to find your thing.
There are 101 ways to market your photography business. And probably 95 of them will not suit you. Because I think marketing is so closely aligned with personality.
We can look at all these rock star photographers, or people we admired even in our area. And we can start to try and emulate the kind of marketing they're doing. But if you don't have the exact same personality and values and character as them, that's not going to work for you. And it's being brave enough to lean into the marketing that is a really good fit for you and your personality and not being distracted by all the shiny red balls.
You know, if Instagram reels make your skin crawl, then don't do them. I'm a big believer in just saying, no, just stop, just stop, stop looking at them. Just find the things that work for you and do them consistently and do them to a high quality, because if you just choose one or two things to do, you'll get really good at them. And you can't fail when you're really good at one or two marketing strategies, things go crazy.
Try stuff, you know, you have to keep trying stuff until you find the sweet spot for you. But I think you've just try stuff and fail at it fast because when you do something, you try a certain marketing strategy and it feels wrong to your very core.
If you hate it, it's never going to work. So just keep trying stuff until you find that thing.
And I have to clarify something actually, you know, when I sayIf it feels wrong, I don't mean if it's scary, that's a good distinction because I think there's a difference isn't there. It can feel really wrong and make your skin crawl and that should be left alone, but it can feel scary or terrifying–that doesn't mean you should leave it alone. So I just wanted to make a distinction there between the two. That's probably my biggest passion is find the marketing strategies that work and a big part of what I do is introducing photographers to all the different marketing strategies, and helping them to find what's right for them and their personality, their aspirations, because we all have different aspirations also, you know?
Natalie: Yeah. That's a great point. It just really resonated for me because I really don't like all the reels. I'm like, I can't do this. I'll watch it other people doing that, you know?
Julie: You don't have to do reels to succeed. And everyone's talking about, you know, reels and video on Instagram and we can't be sharing. It's not just a photo sharing app, so everyone's panicking, like “If I don't do reels, I'm going to disappear off the face of the earth,” but it's just not true. It's not true.
Finding the things that are working for you and the things that feel good are so important.
Julie: I have a masterclass on how to run a marketing campaign as a photographer, you know, building that buzz and building that momentum up to a point where people are just desperate to work with you. The link is togsinbusiness.com/campaignclass.
Natalie: Is there any piece, like favorite piece of advice you have in life or just in business that people might like to hear?
Julie: I think the, the thing that pops right into my head is remove things. Simplicity, you know. Just strip everything down to only the essentials. I honestly think from speaking to so many photographers over so many years, is overwhelm is the biggest thing that comes up over and over again. It's the biggest issue and it completely freezes us all as photographers and as business owners. You know, we end up procrastinating, not taking action.
We are listening to too many podcasts watching too many videos. We're consuming too much content. We are trying to do too much in our business. We're trying to sell too many things within our price list.
I think every single thing in our life should be simplified and everything in our business should be simplified.
And I'm a big believer in looking down at everything I'm doing and thinking, “okay, what can be removed?” And keeping on removing things and removing them until all you're left with is the most important stuff.
Natalie: And would you say that a good sort of gauge for what to remove. Like you said, if it makes you feel gross and just like does not resonate to your core. But is there any other criteria for when to remove something in your life or in your business that you use when it's business related?
Julie: My first question is always, “does this get me closer to my vision?” And if the answer is no, then it shouldn't be. There's this book I read once called, “Does it make the boat go faster?”
And it was an Olympic rowing team that, they were doing so badly. They had the saying amongst themselves, which was this question, “does it make the boat go faster?” And if the answer was no, they didn't. So in that spilled over into their personal lives, their business lives, everything.
And when I read that, I thought to myself, okay, I'm going to adopt that question, but change it for me. And mainly it's just, “does that get me to my vision? Does it get me closer to my vision?” And it just helps me to say no to the wrong things. Yeah, it helps me to stop watching stuff that is maybe interesting, but it's just taking me down a different path and giving me the whole shiny new ball syndrome.
So that question is good. Keep that question somewhere visible.
Does this get me closer to my vision for my business?
Natalie: Well, thank you so much for being here, Julie.
I wanted to pop back in here and remind you that Togs in Business is offering this audience a discount code of 25% off. If you're interested in exploring Julie's education and membership, just use code PBH25 when you check out.
Julie Christie is dedicated to helping photographers to become skilled marketers inside her paid membership community, Togs in Business. As well as being a Class-A marketing geek, she's also a lover of cheesy jokes and rum cocktails. Her idea of heaven is chilling on the couch with a full-size German Shorthaired Pointer on her lap.
Use the discount code PBH25 forJulie's Togs in Business.
Julie's Free Campaign Class for Photographers https://togsinbusiness.com/campaignclass/
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