We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.
Wouldn’t you love to ask a question and have $30k just handed to you just for asking that question…of course you would! Who wouldn’t! Sounds pretty easy right? In the grand scheme of things, it is. But sometimes asking the big question that leads to a big reward like that can be really hard to do – at least for us. You see we both suffer from analysis paralysis. If overthinking was a sport….we’d be rockin’ a Michael Phelps’ worth of gold medals right now! We all get in our heads of not wanting to sound stupid, think we’re not worthy or enough, and ultimately think about rejection. All of those things work against us, but the truth is, they are all just mind games. And the funny thing about mind games – they are all in your control. So we want to talk to you today about how we drummed up the courage, and how one big ask turned into $30k!
We’ve talked before about the idea of Networking Up. That when you try to network for your business, especially as a brand photographer working with brands, you want to network with brands that are going to level up your own brand. We recommend doing this by asking for things like collaborations or portfolio building work with brands that are going to elevate your own. It’s one thing to get DM’s and email requests from brands asking YOU if you’d like to collab, but in our experience those types of collaborations rarely yield us the types of results we hoped for.
Instead with the principle of Networking Up, we encourage you to identify a brand that’s definitely elevated – one that you look up to, and one you feel would not only look great in your portfolio, but also resonates with your ideal client and audience. Ask THEM, if you can do a collaboration. Real talk: When YOU initiate the collaboration, something magical truly happens. YOU get to take control of the opportunity, YOU get to reach really REALLY high instead of just accepting the person that slides into your DM’s. It’s so true that…“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky” – Micheal Scott. #IFKYK. With that big ask comes the potential of a huge reward.
Networking Up isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s really hard to overcome the voices in our heads that tell us we’re not enough, we can’t do it, or we’ll end up just getting rejected. All of those things build up and sometimes we end up just not sending the email, not sending the DM, and just quietly letting the time pass. Don’t let those dreams just fade away by not taking advantage of a potential situation. With that in mind, we want to tell you about a time we DID ask, and how it helped our business.
We started our photography career as wedding and lifestyle photographers. Since we were working in the wedding & lifestyle space, we naturally wanted to collaborate with other vendors in the wedding space that would potentially lead us to opportunities with wedding coordinators, venue coordinators and the types of people that could potentially send us leads. With that in mind, we found a particular brand that we REALLY looked up to. It was a local cake shop, and they provided luxury wedding cakes and baked goods for all of the ideal brides that we really wanted to work with. Here was the problem. They already had incredible photography. They already had plenty of people shooting their products. They were already very well established and definitely did not need us.
Feelings of insecurity aside, Erica typed up an email to offer to collaborate with the cake shop. We offered to do a shoot absolutely free to bring value to the brand by promoting their goods with fresh imagery. And then… we sat on the email. FOR WEEKS. It sat in Erica’s drafts folder, unsent, doing nothing except constantly spinning in her mind the big “What If.” The mind games of, “Am I worth it?” “Should I send it?” “What if I get laughed at?” all started to play in full effect.
After a couple of weeks and some encouragement from Jon, she finally decided to send the email. We’re not saying this situation happens every time, but in this case….the brand responded with an affirmative YES! They said they would love to collaborate with us and even sent some potential dates for us to come shoot for them. #WINNINGSTREAK! Now we were super excited because it was just an honor to be able to work with this brand. Being able to shoot for them felt like that “Yes” to do free work was the best job we could ever land! We ended up doing the collaboration with that client…..AND let’s just say, beyond adding some incredible photos into our portfolio, it worked up to be a lot more..
When we showed up to photograph the baked goods for the cake shop, we had an AMAZING time! We loved capturing new photos for them, had a blast styling and knew we were adding great images to our portfolio! What we didn’t realize at the time was we would shortly make a transition to fully doing brand photography. And with that transition, would be a new open door to working with many different brands that we actually met that very day we did the collaboration with the cake shop.
You see, ultimately, the free collaboration with the cake shop turned into a paying client. CRAZY, RIGHT?! We ended up doing multiple projects for this client on a paid basis. Because in her words, “You can’t live off of trades for cake.” As much as we like cake, we can’t eat it for every meal. Ultimately this shoot led to more than that as well. During one of the shoots, we met a daughter from a local restaurant chain who asked us for more information. We did an in person interview and ultimately ended up working for them over the course of a year and a half photographing their entire menu! The images we captured for them ended up on billboards, mailed as flyers and was some of the first printed collateral that we ever created. From that, it led to additional opportunities for collaborations with other brands and paid work with other brands that branched off of those two relationships.
THAT my friend is how one big ask turned into $30k!! And know that we are not saying this happens everytime you ask and network up. You’re not going to have a $30,000 check deposited into your account every single time. It’s easy to look back and see how the dots all connected. It’s also easy to realize now how influential and impactful that free collaboration with the cake shop really was. Trust us, it wasn’t so easy at the time, but it’s just proof and evidence that if you ask the big question, give it time, consistently show up to do great work and provide a great experience….the right collaborations can turn into great opportunities for your business. And you might get to have some cake too!
So with that in mind, think of some brands.. What’s the one brand you want to reach out to? The one brand that’s elevated above yours that you would just die to have simply in your portfolio… let alone any additional work that could come up? With that brand in mind, jump off this page. Go type up that email or DM and offer to bring them value. Offer to do a shoot for free and see what happens from there. Keep us posted on how it goes! 🙂