We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Liz Putnam. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Liz below.
Liz, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’ve love to hear an interesting investment story – what was one of the best or worst investments you’ve made? (Note, these responses are only intended as entertainment and shouldn’t be construed as investment advice)
While I like to think of myself as a talented, creative person, sometimes I think my true passion is for the number crunching side of the business. I have an engineering background, and I approach every business decision with the financials in mind.
When I was first starting out my business, it needed to be bare bones. I was trying to use as little capital as possible to start out, and it was getting used up quickly to get permits, set up a website, buy gear, etc. So when it came to contracts, invoicing and scheduling, I decided to cut corners and use a cheap, but cumbersome option. Yes, clients could e-sign. But it required that clients take the extra steps to set up an account, unless they used a desktop. And yes, I was getting their information, but I would still need to manually save it somewhere else. When it came time to pay, I needed checks, so I was always reminding clients to (find) and bring their checkbook to their session. Scheduling meant writing everything down on a paper calendar.
A fellow photographer friend mentioned that she had started using a CRM software program. I looked into it, but it was $400/year, which was WAY more than I felt comfortable spending. I mean, I was spending like $30/year on my document signing program, and everything else was “free”, so it was fine….right?
I stumbled my way through a couple years of this. Long emails, confused clients, awkward conversations about “hey, so when can I pick that check up?” I finally decided I had had enough and paid the $400 for the software.
All I can say is: life changing. I suddenly had email templates for contracts. Invoices can now be paid online, with automated reminders. I build inquiry forms to embed on my website that automatically integrate with the CRM software. I quickly realized that this program was worth every. single. penny. I had spent on it, and then some. Not only did I gain back hours and hours of my time (which meant more time for my kids), it was a much better experience for my clients! It was an excellent lesson in realizing that the “cheap” way of doing things wasn’t always saving me money.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a family, newborn and maternity photographer, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Like a lot of women, I started my photography business in 2016, as a way to have a flexible job while I was still home with my kids. Over the last six years I’ve been able to build it into a full-time business, photographing over 100 families in 2021.
I strive to show the connection and joy that is a part of every family. While it can be an awkward experience to be in front of the camera, I work hard to put families at ease. It’s hard to be stiff when you’re getting mauled by little kids wanting a hug!
My goal is to provide a professional and stress-free experience for my clients. I do my best to walk them through the process from start to finish – all the way from booking a session to delivering their images in less than two weeks. My sessions are fun and relaxed, and my clientele is almost entirely word of mouth or repeat customers. There’s nothing better than getting to see “my” kids grow up over the years!
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
Other clients! I’m always amazed at how many of my clients find me though their friends. When I get a referral come in, I know we’re going to mesh well!
In the last couple years I’ve also started to realize that there are a handful clients who consistently refer me to good-fit clients, year over year. One of my goals in the next couple years is to figure out a way to reward those clients, as they’re one of my driving marketing strategies.
The best part about word of mouth? It’s not dependent on an algorithm!
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative?
It can be incredibly exhausting to provide a creative product on a regular basis, under pressure. When photographing a client, not only am I checking for light, body position, exposure, and clothing malfunctions, I’m also needing to read social cues and provide encouragement. All of that can be really hard when I’ve had a long week!
I want my clients to feel like they’re getting a one-of-a-kind experience – I don’t ever want them to feel like I’m going through a routine shot list and just getting it over with. It takes a lot of practice and experience to be able to multi-task during a session – making conversation, thinking through a list of potential shot ideas, while also taking photos.
Being a family and newborn photographer isn’t just about understanding light and composition! It’s being there to listen to someone’s story, to understand body language, to make someone feel heard. I really believe that the success of my business isn’t just dependent on the quality of my photos, but also the quality of the relationships I have with my clients. At the end of the day, I want my clients to look back at their photos and remember how much fun they had at their session!
- Website: https://lizputnam.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/liz_putnam_/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lizputnamphoto/
Liz Putnam Photography (lizputnam.com)