“You only live life once, so you might as well do it as loud as possible.” So says today’s Bokeh podcast guest, Carrie Swails. A photographer and a blogger, Carrie has not only learned to leverage her personality to attract a unique client, but has created a popular blog (over 8 million unique visitors!) called Photography Awesomesauce. In this Bokeh podcast episode, Carrie discusses the significance of being yourself in business, the value of blogging in 2017, how important Pinterest can be in that process, and how automation can help you create more freedom as a business owner.
[show_more more=”Read the transcript and show notes” less=”Close the transcript and show notes]
Introduction to Carrie Swails [00:54]
Being Driven to be Different [05:07]
Being Different as a Brand Position [08:35]
Important Photos vs Pretty Photos [10:46]
The Photography Awesomesauce Blog [15:13]
The Relevance of Blogging [20:35]
Running a More Effective Blog [24:06]
Using Automation Tools [34:41]
Where to Learn More [42:02]
Shootproof – Online Proofing Galleries for Photographers Use SWAILS25 and to get 25% off any annual plans.
Pixifi – http://pixifi.com
Edgar – http://meetedgar.com
Schedugram – http://schedugr.am
Carrie Swails Photography – http://carrieswailsphotography.com/
Photography Awesomesauce – http://photographyawesomesauce.com
Nathan – Alright, so as I like to say, we are live. I’m here with my friend, Carrie Swails. And Carrie was gracious enough to come on the podcast with us here kind of last minute. Actually, you sent me an email and reached out and said, “Hey, I’d love to join the conversation.” And I love that and I’m excited about this topic that we’re gonna dive into about blogging. But Carrie tell us a little bit about yourself first before we dive into that topic for the day.
Carrie – Oh, where do I start? I am, I guess I’m what I would call a serial entrepreneur. I just come up with, I love coming up with ideas and starting businesses. I started out as a photographer, thought I was gonna be the world’s greatest gift to newborn photography, turns out I’m not. Moved into weddings.
Nathan – Is this a decision that you made on your own or feedback that you got from clients?
Carrie – Maybe a little bit of both.
Nathan – Okay.
Carrie – And I just think newborn photography is more physically taxing than wedding photography. You’re in a hot room and my back always hurt and I just don’t like babies that much.
Nathan -Well, that would probably kind of automatically take you off the list of good baby photographers then.
Carrie – Yeah, I mean I really, I gave it a really good shot, but it just wasn’t for me. And I ended up shooting weddings. And when I took my business full-time I actually started a blog, Photography Awesomesauce, and thought I would just sort of start writing down things that I learned as I went. ‘Cause I’ve always kind of been into blogging since I was a teenager and we had LiveJournal back then.
Nathan – Yeah.
Carrie – And I just thought if somebody reads it, cool, and it helps them. And if they don’t, they don’t. And now it’s five years later and there have been 8.5 million unique visitors to the website. So it just totally blossomed into a bunch of projects and businesses and different things I never anticipated. So that’s a little bit about me as a business owner.
Nathan – That’s awesome, well and we’re gonna actually get into the blog and this topic of blogging here in just a second, but I actually wanna take a step back. Tell us a little bit about where you’re from and where you’re based. In fact we were just chatting about the fact that you’ve got a blizzard headed your way. Where are you at?
Carrie – I am in a very tiny, remote town in Colorado. We call it the western slope, but I’m actually much further north on the western slope. I’m an hour and a half north of Grand Junction. Live in a town called Rangely. We don’t have a grocery store.
Nathan – Do you grow your own food?
Carrie – Yeah, we actually, we have big plans for gardening or putting together a greenhouse this summer.
Nathan – Oh, wow.
Carrie – That hopefully we can add some solar panels to and heat in winter so that we can have our own produce year round.
Nathan – That’s incredible. Are you from that area originally?
Carrie – No, I was actually born in Salt Lake. And I’ve lived all over the world, I’ve been lucky enough. And I’ve lived all over the U.S. So it’s really hard to say that I’m, I don’t feel like I’m from anywhere, if that makes sense. I’ve moved most of my life every couple of years.
Nathan – I totally get that. I’ve lived, actually grew up in Japan and I’ve lived on both the West coast in Washington state. I’ve lived in Georgia and Tennessee. And course have visited a variety of places internationally as well as nationally. But I can totally relate to that idea of just kind of being from everywhere. Your accents even begin to run together. People don’t know where I’m from based on the way that I speak because it just all kind of runs together.
Carrie – Yeah. Well, I feel, I did some growing up in Virginia and I had a nanny with a thick Southern accent. And so sometimes I think when I’m really tired or maybe I’ve had one too many glasses of wine, I get a little bit Southern, maybe just a tad.
Nathan – It just kind of comes out of nowhere, huh?
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – That’s funny. Well, your Facebook profile is one that stands out to me and you began to mention the various businesses that you’re involved in, we’re gonna touch on that here in a second. But, I love your Facebook profile tagline. When you go to just search your name, it says, “Rock your weird.” It says that you’re nerdy and loud and that you photograph less traditional weddings. And you even, you’ve had a site that was called Rock Your Weird. So, you are needless to say, the last thing I mean that anybody would think is that you kind of fit into the typical mold of a photographer, much less an individual. I wanna understand a little bit better where that all comes from, where it is this drive to be different come from.
Carrie – Well, I guess I would first say, I don’t feel like I’m driven to be different. I feel like I am just different and I’m driven to embrace it.
Nathan – Oh, I like that.
Carrie – I think a lot of people, just in general, not necessarily photographers, hold back and we tend to look up to a lot of leaders in industry, we wanna do the same thing as they are doing. But the best thing about being a creative is that there’s so many different solutions to a problem and you can be whoever you wanna be, there’s a million ways to run your business. There’s a million ways to accomplish the same thing. And I just am willing to own that I’m very different. I’ve always been a weirdo since I was a little kid. I just go with it.
Nathan – What is being a weirdo when you’re a little kid look like?
Carrie – Well, I mean, like we talked about, I moved around a lot so I had to go to a lot of new schools, make new friends quickly. I just always felt different. I was often teased, made fun of because I was different and I was into different things. In high school I was that kid playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends during my lunch hour.
Nathan – Yes.
Carrie – You know, we would spend our weekends going to Renaissance festival, dressing up in costumes even at school for movie releases. That’s just, and I’m willing to be that person I guess because that’s what I love and I think you only live life once, so you might as well do it as loud as possible.
Nathan – Hey absolutely. You even have, is it purple hair right now or you onto a different color?
Carrie -I went from dark purple to pastel to kind of like really bright, fake red to right now it’s actually brown with like a purple streak in it, so.
Nathan – I love it, yeah, why not mix it up. Life’s short, have a little bit of fun.
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – Be interesting, right? The metaphor that comes to mind, and this always kind of cracks me up, but it’s also a good reminder for me, you talk about how it’s easy to just kind of follow the so-called leaders in the photography industry or even just your peers and do what they’re doing. The metaphor that comes to mind is how we as just human beings tend to kind of be like sheep even when it comes down to something as simple as coming up to a red light. And let’s say you’re coming up to a red light and you wanna turn left and there are actually two left hand turn lanes, but everybody kind of files into this one turn lane and because the car in front of you is doing it or a few cars in front of you are doing it, you follow suit. And then this line begins to build up while there’s this wide open second turn lane if you just go over one lane, there’s this wide open second turn lane there available for any and everybody to jump in. And yet nobody does because they just assume because everyone else is in that one turn lane that’s the direction that they have to go. And maybe that’s a little bit of a rough metaphor but I think that we have a tendency as human beings to follow what most people are doing, when there’s maybe a very obvious alternative right there in front of us that is kind of wide open for the taking and it’s not as crowded, right? So we have the opportunity to set ourselves apart in that which I think is a great segway then to how being different if you will, has affected the way that you run your business and the clients you attract. How has that given you an opportunity to set yourself apart from other photographers in the industry?
Carrie – That’s a good question and I like that analogy. Sometimes, I heard from a friend of mine, Chip, at BlogStomp, he calls it the zombie analogy in the photography industry, it’s just like a zombie movie.
Nathan – Yes.
Carrie – It’s all these zombies outside of the door clawing their way in, only one or two end up inside because those are ones that figured out they can go through the window.
Nathan -Right. That’s a great analogy, I love it.
Carrie – I love that, that’s why I thought I’d share it. But, yeah, I think what, I guess being different has been easy for me in business because there is a huge group of people who are getting married who, I think, like me when I was younger, didn’t ever see themselves in a bridal magazine. Maybe they don’t see themselves in that white dress. They grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and wearing costumes and those were the kids in school who I think were maybe the most authentic. And those people when it comes to weddings they’re just, the wedding industry is not made for them. So I think, I tend to attract people that I can be an advocate for with my clients. They want somebody who understands that they’re gonna do something different and that they don’t have to fit into that ad in the Knots magazine on the shelf in the grocery store. But I want my clients to feel like they deserve to feel that way at the same time. So, I really think that’s how it’s affected my business is that I attract these people who are super authentic and they own whatever they’re passionate about. They’re amazing to work with. And by being such a small niche, they really trust me. So working with my clients has always been very easy and I haven’t had a lot of troubles just because they love hanging out, we end up becoming really good friends just because we have so much in common.
Nathan – What have you done to attract that type of client? How do you put yourself out there to rock your weird if you will, in such a way that clients are like, oh, I wanna work with her. Her message or her brand resonates with me. How do you put yourself out there so that you attract that type of client?
Carrie – Oh, I think first it starts on your website. And I think it also comes, you have to not be afraid to just say how you feel. I even felt this way at one point as a photographer. I was afraid to kind of put my beliefs and my thoughts and my morals out there because I wanted, I didn’t want anybody to feel bad about working with me, but what I’ve learned is that I’d rather polarize people and have them go to my website and be like, I don’t want to work with her. Or go my website and feel like, yes, she is exactly what I wanna hire.
Nathan – Right.
Carrie – So it kind of starts on my website for me, that’s where people go, they read about my bio, I took a long time writing a bio that I felt had the kind of vibe that I like. And then adding in small bits here and there. Small nerdy things. If you go to my wedding photography website my logo is Star Wars font. My blog says something about muggles, which is a Harry Potter reference. You can fill out the contact form in Harry Potter mode.
Nathan – No way.
Carrie – Yeah.
Carrie – They’re just small details that I think resonate with my clients a lot. And I think the second part of that is that you can put your personality out there and connect with people that way, but if you’re not backing it up with quality work, it doesn’t really do a whole lot for you. So it’s really important to me that I’m taking important photos instead of just pretty ones.
Nathan – Interesting, how would you differentiate the two? I mean pretty photos obviously, well certainly from the standpoint of a photographer. A photographer loves to look at pretty photos. I was just chatting with, we’re working right now on hiring somebody to come on board to manage social media for the Photographer’s Edit brand and the commonplace thing to do in the photo industry is to share pretty photos. Photographers like to look at pretty photos. I think the average person likes to look at pretty photos. But how do you differentiate between just simply pretty photos and important photos? What does that mean?
Carrie – I think, when I think of a pretty photo, I think of a bride standing there, maybe she’s posed looking just over her shoulder. She’s wearing a beautiful dress. She’s a beautiful person. But there’s nothing else happening in that image so it’s not telling a story to me. I like, for me important photos are ones that are full of expression and laughter and joy where something is happening. And they’re not perfect. A pretty photo is something where you’ve been posed, at your chin is just right, every finger is perfectly placed.
Nathan – Right.
Carrie – But an important photo is something that just happens and it’s a beautiful moment. And it can tell a story by itself.
Nathan – I love it so yeah, it tells a story, it’s raw and it’s expressive. I used to say I could, and I was a photographer for about 10 years, but I can take a, I can create a beautiful engagement session in a Walmart parking lot if I just have some decent light and an emotive couple, right, where I’m–
Carrie – Yes.
Nathan – Capturing images that are emotive. And if you have decent light and great emotion from these clients, you can get a beautiful image pretty much any and everywhere, whether it’s a Walmart parking lot or in a beautiful field or wherever it might be. But I totally understand what you’re saying there. And I love the differentiation between creating something that is perfect by, I guess, industry standards versus something that actually is going to communicate a story in a way that is going to resonate with people in a emotional level. I think that’s really, really powerful. Now you’re a photographer and how long have you been a photographer?
Carrie – Oh, man, I started in college. Photographed a couple weddings here, there on film and with a point and shoot. I graduated college 2008, so roughly 10 years maybe.
Nathan – So about 10 years, okay.
Carrie – Yeah, the first few years not so good.
Nathan – How long have you been photographing professionally would you say?
Carrie – Full time, I went full time in 2012.
Nathan – Okay, cool, so about five years then.
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – Now, you’re a photographer but you mentioned earlier your involvement in this blog or starting this blog called Photography Awesomesauce. Over eight million unique visits or visitors. Tell us the story behind, or a little bit more detailed story, I know you started to get into earlier. But take us through this process of starting this blog, the significance of it to you and then of course to your photography brand.
Carrie – Yeah, so I have my degree in K through 12 art ed. I’m actually a licensed teacher in the state of Colorado.
Nathan – Interesting.
Carrie – Teaching has always been something very, very important to me and I just think access to knowledge and to options and with the internet it’s so important that you be able to find what you need. So, when I started the blog I just thought maybe a couple of people read this, maybe it will help a couple of people. If not, that’s okay. But what happened is that, I think it was, I started it in April 2012 and in June, two months later I had two blog posts I wrote go viral on Pinterest. And I feel like I’ve been learning backwards ever since because I had no knowledge about blogging, I didn’t know what I was doing and my audience went from maybe 15 visits a day to hundreds of thousands overnight. I actually broke the shared server that I was on.
Nathan – Oh, wow.
Carrie – Yeah, it was really crazy and–
Nathan – What were the posts about?
Carrie – One of them is 20 things I wish I knew about photography posing and the other one is 20 things I wish I knew about manual mode. And they still carry the traffic for the website to this day.
Nathan – Wow, that’s amazing. So, what, again how did that go viral on Pinterest? Did somebody find it and share it or did you? And how did that end up turning into something so big?
Carrie – Well, that’s what’s cool about blogging and Pinterest is that they kind of go hand in hand. And you don’t need a big blog audience or a big following on Pinterest to have something go viral. I just was taking what I wrote and pinning it to my own Pinterest account. And I did not have very many followers, maybe 100 or so. And it showed up in search results for a few well-known Pinterest users. They were re-pinning it, they liked the content. And then from there, their accounts were re-pinning, hundreds of thousands of people had pinned these things. And that’s kind of where it went. Then I started doing even more of that. And I guess some people would say I got in Pinterest early because now it’s easy for me and I don’t have to pay for the advertising, but I still think this concept of blogging and pinning your own posts and work on Pinterest can work for anyone, no matter how many followers or how many readers you have.
Nathan – That’s really interesting. I would never have guessed and I guess this shows my lack of knowledge when it comes to, well at least Pinterest anyway. I would never had made the association between Pinterest and blogging. That’s quite interesting.
Carrie – Yeah. Well Pinterest is what I like to call a discovery platform. So it’s just essentially a visual search engine.
Nathan – Right. And that’s, I guess that’s where my assumption lies is it is a place that you go and you scan through a bunch of images and you create these boards that are relevant to whatever your interest is at the time, but it just, the connection between that and blogging is not one that I would’ve made. So that’s really interesting. So this turned into something that has generated over eight million unique visitors, how does that then affect your photography business? Have you actually gained clients from that? Or is it just a whole separate venture?
Carrie – I have gained a few clients here, there. What’s really funny is that I wrote a blog post that also went viral and it was called, it was just like a list, I made it for photographers, 54 must have wedding photos. And it’s just like all those moments ’cause I was teaching wedding photographers, they were like, “I’ve never been to a wedding. “What are the important things to pay attention to?” So it’s a really basic list, like make sure you get a picture of the couple and their parents, you know. It’s so basic that what I didn’t anticipate was that a bunch of brides would go on Pinterest and pin it. So, I actually had clients not realize that I wrote it and they send it to me, “Hey, here’s our shot list.”
Nathan – That’s hilarious.
Carrie – And I’m like, that’s great because I wrote that.
Nathan – That’s really awesome.
Carrie – I’ve gotten a few clients from Photography Awesomesauce but not a lot. I get a lot of my clients though through blogging and Pinterest even on my own personal photography business. Which doesn’t have a huge following on the blog either.
Nathan – So that actually brings, that’s a great segway in fact to my main question as part of this interview. Understanding that you have extensive experience creating a blog that has generated so much traffic. Blogging and how it relates to a photography business. Is blogging relevant in 2017 to running a photography business? Because five years ago let’s say, or even maybe six, seven, eight years ago, blogging was kind of the platform for photographers to share their latest work and that seems to have kind of transitioned to Facebook. Facebook’s an easy platform to post to, both text and image content and people are spending their time, probably most of their time of any platform online on Facebook, on their phones as well as of course on their desktops or their laptops. So is blogging relevant to photographers in 2017? Is there still a benefit to being on a blogging platform as well as Facebook or instead of Facebook? And if so, what is that benefit?
Nathan – Okay.
Carrie – Photographers are spending a lot of time on Facebook I think because back five, six years ago we were all using our business pages to reach clients and it was easy for us then because Facebook’s algorithm didn’t kind of punish us for posting content. So what I actually think is happening is that photographers are still posting on Facebook and we’re actually struggling to reach our audience there if we’re not paying to do posts or we’re not using live video, which is what Facebook is really promoting right now. So, I don’t think that people are necessarily switching to Facebook over blogging. I think we’re just kind of behind the times in some ways. But I think our clients are still reading blogs, they’re still doing Google searches. They’re on Instagram, they’re on Pinterest. And it’s up to us to kind of pick and choose which platforms to be on. But I don’t, I definitely wouldn’t say blogging is dying at all. I would say Facebook maybe is dying. But blogging has been around since 1998. And WordPress actually is the basis for 25, I think, percent of the websites on the internet.
Nathan – Yes.
Carrie – So when people are reading Huffington Post and Buzzfeed articles, those are all blogs. So blogging is still this thing, I just think it’s maybe changed to a place for maybe media long form content. People are using it to build cornerstone and evergreen content that you can pull up from your archives and share over and over and over again. But I would encourage photographers to use blogging more because it’s something that you actually own. So when Facebook is kind of dying and we’ve spent all this time building up all these thousands of followers on our business pages and now we don’t have that same access to those followers we worked so hard for, that can happen on any platform. But if you have a blog, you own that. Always gonna be available.
Nathan – And that makes sense. And that makes sense. Now to be clear, Facebook’s not dying in the sense that people aren’t using it. I think they’ve got two billion users, active users on their platform now.
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – But when you say it’s dying, it’s the algorithms that you mentioned earlier that are affecting how much–
Carrie – It’s dying for, yeah.
Nathan – Your content’s actually being seen by clients or potential clients, is that right?
Carrie – Yeah, it’s dying for business owners, for being a good place for, photographers especially to use if you’re not willing to do sponsored posts and live video, I don’t think you’re ever gonna be able to get the same kind of engagement that you used to be able to get five years ago.
Nathan – That makes sense, yeah, that organic reach.
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – So the fact that you own the blog content, or blog itself, of course, but the content on that and can promote it, share it any way that you choose is extremely powerful. Are there particular ways that you drive traffic to the blog? I mean are you actually sharing that blog content on Facebook or how do you expect for your clients or potential clients to see that content on the blog?
Carrie – So I think my main way of driving traffic to my blog is either with SEO or with Pinterest. And then my goal is that, I don’t wanna just have people go to my blog and read, I need to convert them into something, right? And I don’t necessarily wanna convert them into followers on other social media platforms because then I don’t own those things. Even if I convert them to a follower on Pinterest.
Carrie – Or on Instagram. I don’t own those things and you never know what those will look like in five years. So, I think it’s a great idea to develop an email, basically an email list off of your blog, use that to convert your readers into followers. And I would actually urge people to use, maybe blog once a week, put out your, blog a wedding, share their story and then maybe write some useful, resourceful content, tips that can help your potential clients that’s exclusive to an email list. And start gaining followers that way and only send out that content on an email list.
Nathan – That’s interesting, now, so I wouldn’t have assumed that this would be a good approach to marketing to photography clients. When you have a business like Photographer’s Edit for example or any industry specific business that is trying to sell a service or a product, the notion of creating content that’s a value add, to pull someone in that hopefully they’ll either later invest in your service or your product or at least be interested enough to continue to follow you where maybe they’ll make an investment down the line. That makes more sense to me. But you’re actually talking about creating content to build a fan base for your photography business. And that’s really interesting to me. So talk to us a little bit about the type of content that you write and create for your blog readers.
Carrie – Well.
Nathan – And I guess maybe to add to that, I’m sorry to interrupt you. But the email, you’re talking about sending emails out to those readers or to the subscribers, what kind of content would you put in those emails?
Carrie – I think that’s, I think you’re definitely right. It’s something photographers don’t do or haven’t historically taken advantage of. But what’s cool about photographers is that whether you’re a wedding photographer or a newborn photographer, you probably have more experience with weddings and newborns than most of your clients will. If you’ve been a wedding photographer for 10 years, you’ve been to hundreds of weddings. Do you how much great advice and experience that you can provide to clients? And be a resource for them, which I think builds trust. And once you’ve made that connection over trust and somebody sees you as an authority, that’s when they’re gonna book you, refer you, whatever. So for me writing out content as a wedding photographer it’s just using stuff I know from my own experience having been to so many weddings. What can I do, what kind of information can I offer that can help kind of ease the pain of planning a wedding or take some stress off or give them some real life tips from somebody who’s actually gonna be involved in the day. If somebody’s hired you, you’ve already kind of won. And they’re gonna trust you to know more than what they know. I think a lot of wedding photographers can probably say that they’ve had clients email and say, “I’ve never done this before.” Well, yeah most people haven’t planned a wedding before.
Nathan – Right.
Carrie – So I write a lot of articles like how to, top 10 things you should know about wedding dress bustles. My favorite wedding venues in Colorado and I link to them, I link to posts that I’ve done that share my own photos at those venues. So it’s a great way to kind of provide a tool, help somebody out and hopefully get a booking in return. I’ve actually had people who have never booked me but have loved the content on my website, maybe I was out of the price range, but they referred me to friends who they know can book me. And it’s intriguing to receive referrals from people who you’ve never photographed with. But they found that connection with you and they just think that what you’re doing is useful and helpful and that you’d be a great fit for their best friend.
Nathan – Well they see you as an authority, that’s interesting. Now, this is a common thread, I mean it’s something that you hear in the realm of content creation, content that will hopefully add value to, as I mentioned earlier, a potential client which will hopefully translate down the road to converting that person to a client. That means that a lot of people or you’d assume anyway, that a lot of people are doing this out there. But what you’re saying is you’re maybe a bit of a unique case in that not a lot of photographers have taken this approach to establishing themselves as an authority, creating content that adds value to the potential photography clients. And so maybe you’re a bit unique in this or what have you found?
Carrie – I haven’t found a lot of people doing it, but I have been teaching it, so I’ve been seeing more photographers getting into it.
Nathan – Okay.
Carrie – I think a lot of photographers say they wanna start blogging and they automatically think on blog tips and then they just default to kind of what they know which is photography and they start writing tips about photography, gear, business on their blog. Which might be great for getting readers and visitors and numbers from other photographers, but it’s not necessarily bringing in people who are actually gonna book you and pay the bills.
Nathan – Right.
Carrie – I’d love to see more of even newborn, family, high school senior photographers, they can all do this because you interact with that population on a regular basis, you know what’s in, what’s trendy, what questions people have, what they struggle with. As photographers I think we’re naturally very observant, so if you take the time and really sit down and go, what are, what kind of problems are my potential clients having that I can solve for them. Start putting that content out on your blog.
Nathan – That’s incredible. And not only are you helping them out, but then as I mentioned earlier, they see you as an authority on the topic and then it makes sense that somebody who’s never used you or had you as a photographer is referring their friends to you because they see you as that authority and you’ve given something of value to them. So that’s really, really great. So this notion of creating content that’s a value add to the potential client, that’s a major first step for a photographer who’s wanting to develop a blog. Are there any other tips or recommendations that you would make when it comes to creating a blog that’s actually valuable for a photography business?
Carrie – I would say maybe in terms of consistency, try to blog at least once a week. That’s something, I know it’s hard to do. People just hate sitting down and blogging, I hate it too, I don’t feel like a writer. But every time I do it, I get more inquiries and it makes my clients feel really good about, if I’m blogging their wedding or something. I think too, photographers often think that everything we’re blogging is for future clients or when we’re blogging the latest family session we just shot, that’s to put an advertisement out to get future clients, right, to show them our work. But it’s also important to just tell your current client stories as well so when you’re sharing your own work I think in order to be a real storyteller you need to make sure that you’re writing things and not just saying, I’m gonna let the photos speak for themselves and fill up a blog post with 30 images. Clients love to see, I mean, to see themselves through your eyes. They’ve hired you because they love your photography and they love the way you tell a story so if you add words into those kind of posts, your clients are gonna become basically walking, talking billboards. They love hearing how you see their love for each other or their love for their kids, that kind of thing. So I recommend making sure you’re taking the time to write just a couple paragraphs when you do share photos. I see a lot of photographers who just don’t say anything or we talk about the weather or how great the couple was. Or we say that they’re our favorite session. We can’t say that about everybody, right?
Nathan – Right, yeah, there’s those, I mean I was guilty of it too back when I was creating blog posts for our photography business, it was that, it was a great session today, we had so much fun or there’s these kind of stereotypical three or four lines that we all use in our blog posts. And I mean, it just takes a little bit of effort and creativity to kind of break out of that. But–
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – Yeah, getting a little bit of creative and actually telling a story, I love that notion of telling a story and it kind of romanticizes the whole process particularly for the client if they get to come back and read that and how you see them and their story, I bet that just makes them that much more excited about what you’ve done for them.
Carrie – Yeah, it actually sort of cements the deal. You’ve delivered the photos, they’ve ordered products. And I always wait quite a long time to post a blog post because I’m slow and I’m busy and I fail. But by the time I do post it, even if it’s six months later, the clients end up re-posting on their Facebook. And if I follow through and kind of look at my stats, I can see that I’ve had 600 posts and it’s because their entire network has shared it because they love the story.
Nathan – Wow.
Carrie – People who were unable to attend the wedding or something, or something personal. And I struggle too with not talking about the weather and I’m always trying to do a better job making sure I get to know my clients really well so that I can tell their story. I think it makes taking photos easier if you really get to know them. But, yeah, it just helps build a really good sense of wellbeing, love for you, and when that blog post spreads like wildfire after they share it on their Facebook, then you’ve got a bunch more people knocking down your door and saying, “We just love the way you told Susan’s story. “And we wanna book you.”
Nathan – Absolutely, it’s so powerful and what great recommendations and advice. I’m learning from this myself, so I really appreciate this information. Before we close out this conversation though I’m really curious, and this is kind of a theme for us here at the Bokeh podcast, we certainly dive into photography as a business and how to run our photography businesses more effectively in various areas of the business. But how do you create freedom for yourself as a business owner? I know this is something I’ve said so many times before but I see running our own business, being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, probably the primary benefit, or at least what I think should be the primary benefit is the freedom, the flexibility that we can have as business owners, and yet it’s so easy to get caught up, and I’ve certainly been guilty of it, to get caught up in the process of running a business and then not really capitalize on that. So how do you create some of that freedom, that time for yourself, for your husband. The time to do things besides photography. How do you create that freedom for yourself?
Carrie – Well, a lot of it’s come from automation. So I own four separate businesses, which makes it really tough. I could be totally bogged down with social media, content creation, blogging, et cetera. But I automate a lot of processes behind the scenes. So emails, social media, all kinds of stuff. So that really the only kind of stuff I have to do on a day to day basis is edit photos, write blog posts and maybe create videos or courses for my other businesses. Which are the things that I like to do the most. So I actually work maybe on average 30 hours a week on a busy week and–
Nathan – That’s awesome.
Carrie – Just because I really value time for myself. I’m very introverted. Maybe you wouldn’t believe that from my website. I am. And I just love having alone time. But I take guitar lessons once a week, even though I’m so bad at playing the guitar. And I make sure that I read every day. My husband, he just got this job up here recently and he’s come from a place where he was working 70 hours a week.
Nathan – Wow.
Carrie – Never having any days off. So we’re really excited to be in this little town with no grocery store just because it means that now when I have the free time, he actually has it and we can spend that time together.
Nathan – That’s incredible, so.
Carrie – So that’s, I mean. Yeah, that’s how I make it.
Nathan – So when you talk about, when you talk about automation, are you using other particular tools that you would recommend photographers take a look at that you’ve seen a lot of benefit from?
Carrie – Yeah, I use a pretty good handful. I automate as much as possible. I use Pixafy to automate email communications with clients. And I actually tie it into blogging so all these resourceful blog posts I will link to and send out in emails periodically to my clients to help them out along the way. Kind of anticipate when they’re gonna have a question about timelines and already have sent them an email that has five links to timeline tools.
Nathan – Oh, that’s brilliant.
Carrie – So I do that because then instead of having to remember to email them and send them content, they just reply. And that’s been amazing for me. And Pixafy’s automation email system is great. And then I use ShootProof, they are actually, I think, the only online gallery system that has an automated email system where once the online gallery is delivered, I have a year’s worth of email automations going through there to help to sell product. And then I use for social media, I actually use a tool called Schedugram.
Nathan – Okay.
Carrie – Which is the only thing that fully automates Instagram. So it doesn’t just send a reminder to your phone, you make it go live, it actually just does it all for you. And then I use Meet Edgar as, for Facebook and Twitter, what I love about Meet Edgar is that it’s a queuing tool and a lot of these other companies have come out with tools for creating a queue. But Edgar lets you create a library of updates, however big you want, and then it just alternates through them repeatedly. So I actually have just loaded up my whole portfolio in there and it posts one photo a day, seven days a week.
Nathan – Wow.
Carrie – And then I copy that over onto my Schedugram and that way even when I’m not busy, I’m putting out content regularly at least. And then I can add more spontaneous posts and feel kind of the freedom to add whatever I want versus going, oh my gosh, what should I post today? ‘Cause I think we don’t realize that a lot of photographers post one sneak peek after a wedding. Maybe they follow it up in the next couple weeks with a couple more, but they don’t ever post those photos again. And our work is awesome, right? If you love what you do, you can reshare that. There’s always gonna be somebody who hasn’t seen it yet.
Nathan – For sure.
Carrie – So that’s what I do.
Nathan – And when you’re creating that content for, or I guess importing that content into Meet Edgar, and you post that or automate the posting process, do you, are you writing text to go along with that? Or is it usually just an image on its own?
Carrie – I do have text that goes along with it. Just the nice thing about Edgar is that you go and you create a library, you assign your updates to categories and then you assign those categories to a schedule. So I have mine, just for an example, Sundays it posts a wedding prep photo. Mondays, ceremony. Tuesdays, a couple. Wednesdays, wedding party or detail shot. Thursdays a couple. Fridays a reception photo. And Saturdays an engagement photo. And then within each category I have a library of at minimum 52 photos.
Nathan – Wow.
Carrie – So that it cycles once a year.
Nathan – That’s incredible, wow. This is, you’ve just offered enough resources for photographers to be busy for the next couple of weeks I think. This is–
Carrie – Well, the nice thing is it just takes so much energy out of deciding what to put on social media.
Nathan – Right.
Carrie – ‘Cause I think you’ve probably heard people talk about decision making energy.
Nathan – For sure.
Carrie – And I don’t wanna sit down and have to decide what to post every day. I want it to just happen and then use that energy for creating content, helping my clients, the important stuff.
Nathan – Wow, that’s really incredible. I do have one last question about this though and this is actually something I was reading recently and doing some research about creating and posting social media content, but that is using a third party tool to post to Facebook. Does that affect its natural ranking in the Facebook feed to use a third party tool or do you know anything about that?
Carrie – I don’t know a ton about it. To be honest at this point I’m kind of at the mindset that I don’t care.
Nathan – Sure.
Carrie – I just post to Facebook as sort of a courtesy in case anybody wants to see it. But other than that I pretty much ignore Facebook.
Nathan – Well, I guess the key there is consistency and content and sharing of content.
Carrie – Yep.
Nathan – It just makes such a big difference that somebody can go to that, whether it’s a Facebook platform or Instagram or, I’m not sure if you’re using Twitter or not, but your blog certainly, the fact that you’re consistently posting to those platforms, that there is always fresh content, that’s the key here. And back to the original question, the fact that you’ve automated this has created freedom for yourself, so maybe the trade off, if there is any trade off there, the trade off is certainly worth it because you’ve saved so much time as a result. So that’s, wow, what a–
Carrie – Yeah.
Nathan – What a great, what a great piece or pieces of information, just a load of information. I really appreciate you sharing that.
Carrie – I would just add to that that people who are looking into this, a lot of people go to meetedgar.com and they see sticker shock, it’s pretty expensive. But people are often asking in Facebook groups, I wanna hire somebody to help me out with my social media. It’s cheaper to automate it than it is to hire somebody. You can automate all your social media for less than $100 a month.
Nathan – Wow. That’s a great resource and a great tool and we’ll certainly link that and the other resources that you mentioned in our show notes. I can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing this wealth of information with our Bokeh podcast listeners. Where can listeners find you online and certainly your companies, the projects that you’re involved with online as well?
Carrie – Well you can check out my photography at carrieswailsphotography.com. You can go to photographyawesomesauce.com to learn more about how to shoot weddings, how to run your photography business a little bit differently. At Rock Your Weird, I’m actually building out a course on confidence and learning to be confident being yourself, so that’s just gonna be a place, not necessarily for photographers. But if you go there, I’m about to release sort of a new website revamp in the next couple weeks with a lot of information, content about that. And then you can also find me at Made in the Lab. madeinthelab.com, I’m a third of the ownership but I don’t do any of the graphic design.
Nathan – Yeah and tell the photographers a little bit more about what Made in the Lab is about. I had the opportunity to be a part of that just recently.
Carrie – Yeah, we’re all about creating affordable website design options on Showit5 and we’re hoping to branch out to other online platforms for website building in the future. But we really love what Showit5 does and it’s easy system to build on. So we’ve created a yearly subscription for $199 and you can get access to all of our templates and we have lots of extra tools, icons, buttons, arrows, and basically take bits and pieces from multiple templates to create a totally custom website. So, that’s what we’re all about is helping kind of the DIY photographer build their website.
Nathan – Perfect, and then lastly tell us where the photographers, our listeners can find you on Instagram because I know they’re gonna wanna check out your work.
Carrie – I’m Carrie Swails on Instagram.
Nathan – Perfect, perfect. Carrie thank you so much for setting time aside in your relatively busy work week to make time to chat with our listeners, for sharing all this wonderful information. Can’t thank you enough.
Carrie – Thank you for having me.