Your Life’s Story

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No matter what you do in your life, 
what you create, what career you have, 
whether you have a family or kids, or make a lot of money… 
your greatest creation is always going to be 
your life’s story. 
Because it’s like this container 
that holds all of those other things. 

~ Jonathan Harris

Read more about Jonathan Harris here and check out his latest project, Cowbirds described as “a community of storytellers working to build a public library of human experience.”

Finding Your First Clients – Part Three

This is part three in a three part series of how to find clients in your new business. We’re using photo organizers as examples but you can use this method in any business that offers a service. Decide what you’re offering and use this same formula. Click to read part one or part two.

Have your potential pig list in front of you?

Good job.

Today is the day you call your chosen pigs.

It’s not everyone’s lucky day at the pet store. You will be taking excellent care of your guinea pigs. But you also want to be sure that these guinea pigs are right for you and your business.

Examples of 3 Ideal Guinea Pigs:

Guinea pig #1 will be a fabulous test case for you to develop a system to organize, file and backup digital photos. Print the best, file the rest. Show this guinea pig how they can do it themselves every month. Better yet, they can hire you to come over and do it for them each month.

Record everything you do. How many pictures, the size of the hard drive, what you upload to the cloud, the service you use, cost of backup, cost of external hard drive, your time.

After pig #1 finishes hugging you and doing the happy dance, create a package for exactly this type of service. Ask pig #1 to tell everyone how you helped them. Let her sing your praises and do some marketing for you. For every referral she sends your way, offer an hour of backup service. (Or one hour of whatever service she’d like.) Let her bank the referrals. Keep a record to let your pig know she has a year to cash in on your services. Win-win.

Pig #2 needs your help because the milestone graduation, wedding or baby’s birth has been overwhelming her with a zillion other details. How to organize and display the pictures has been low on the list. She’s tired. You are here to gather all the photos from various people and cameras and get them all in one place. With pig #2’s input you will create a plan.

You might suggest a photo storyboard, or two or three suitable for framing. A canvas print for that one favorite shot–you know the perfect place she can hang it. A digital album completed and uploaded so family and friends can order a copy. Throw in a digital slideshow on dvd or uploaded to a web service so everyone can watch no matter where they live. Don’t forget the final step of backing everything up in 3 places. Again, record each step in your business pricing strategy notebook just like you did with pig #1.

Same ending for pig #2–offer a referral program and ask her to share with everyone she knows. No limit for this referral program. 12 new clients means a year of free backup services from you. Win-win.

Pig #3 has a box of photos and memorabilia. Maybe they are old black and whites or irreplaceable prints or slides that need sorted, organized and preserved pronto. Walk through the organization process. Spend time with her reviewing and choosing the best of the best. Get them scanned and labeled and stored properly. Make a traditional heirloom album or a modern digital album with the heritage photos. Or both. Back up to the cloud. Show her how other family members can have access. Create a slideshow. A framed print. Work with her to capture the stories before they’re lost.

Same ending–ask for referral names. Explain your referral program and other services you offer so you can work together again. You may consider giving the introductory rates exclusively to your guinea pigs for the first year. Creating these strong marketing partnerships can be invaluable as you grow your business!

Now what?

  • Send each guinea pig a handwritten thank you note.
  • Be sure to give them a stack of business cards, flyers or postcards so they can give people your information.
  • Ask them if they would be so kind as to write a testimonial about you and the services you provided.


High five yourself. Fist bumps all around. You have just completed 3 significant photo organizing projects. You have created a marketing team of 3 raving pigs fans who will mention your name every time someone takes a picture, talks about pictures, shows pictures on their phone or iPad. You get the picture. 😉

You now have photo organizing clients under your belt. You have experience. You can create meaningful packages with solid pricing because you kept track of the time it took for each of these projects.

Now…call some potential clients today and tell them about your fantastic new business!

Read part one of this series here
Read part two of this series here

Finding Your First Clients – Part Two

This is part two in a three part series of how to find clients in your new business. We’re using photo organizers as examples but you can use this method in any business that offers a service. Decide what you’re offering and use this same formula. Click to read part one and part three.

Before you can call your guinea pigs, there is something very important we need to talk about.


It’s the elephant in the room.

Photo :: Source

One that can squash your guinea pigs new clients before you even get started.

We need to talk about introductory vs. regular pricing in any new business.

Now is a very good time to figure out your pricing strategy. This is often the first obstacle that shows itself in new business. You know what you want to charge. You know what you dream of earning in your new business. But…

…what if people won’t pay.

…what if you’re not worth it.

…what if they find someone who charges less?

A whole lot of “buts” get in the way of pricing your services. Your goal should be to provide extraordinary service to each and every client. That has nothing to do with most or least expensive. It has to do with quality service.


You do need to make money. You need to price your services competitively in the market you live in. You need to be paid for cost of goods sold AND your time.

That’s where the guinea pig strategy comes in. It’s your beta test to help you figure out your pricing. It’s also the best opportunity to communicate what your prices will be and what your introductory prices are for your guinea pigs. It’s the perfect time to give these special pigs an extra special deal!

Your introductory rate could be 50% off your regular rates. Plus your cost of any supplies and materials.

Or it could be free. Plus your cost of any supplies and materials.

Or you could tell them they can wait until you are finished and then pay you whatever they think your services were worth.

Or you could offer to let them pay whatever they could afford.

The point here is to customize your introductory offer based on regular rates that you say out loud. The guinea pigs need to know the value of your services with a dollar amount from the very beginning.

It could be a package of 10 hours at $50 per hour which is $500. When people buy a package or block of time from you, they get 20% off which means the package will be $400.

For the guinea pig, the introductory package might be just $200.

You ultimately decide on the introductory pricing based on your relationship with each guinea pig.

Here’s some sample dialogue:

You know the new business I just started? I need a few guinea pigs to help me in this start-up phase. While I know my rates will be competitive and fair, right now I want to work out my systems with people I know, like you! Will you help me?

Now, stop and listen. Watch their body language. Don’t overwhelm them. Answer their questions. Assure them that you will keep things simple throughout the process.

“I’m so excited you are going to let me work on your ___________ (fill in blank with project related to your services.) For you, I’ll do this at an introductory rate of _________.

Once they say YES, what’s next?

Schedule a specific time for the next step. You have your calendar in front of you, right?

Here’s the conversation when setting up your first appointment:

“Let’s schedule the first step right now. What’s a good day when I can come over and get all your pictures in one big box/off your computer/from the wedding? I’ll sort them, organize them and then make a couple of surprises for you. Promise it won’t be hard and you will LOVE the end result.”

If your guinea pig has control issues then change the conversation to this:

“I’ll come over, sit beside you and walk you through each step. I’ll help you make decisions about the pile/the box/what’s on your computer.”

Be sure to set some urgency to start working immediately. You are not offering for them to be a guinea pig in 6 months or a year. You need their help right now.

“I need to do it in the next week or so. Once I really get the business going, I won’t have the time to help my relatives/friends. Take advantage of me now! If you really can’t, then I’ll ask someone else. But I’d rather do it with you. I’m only doing this with 3 people so I can do all my research and create the best packages for new customers.”

Tomorrow you will be ready to put all this into action. Stay tuned.

Read part one here
Read part three here

Finding Your First Clients – Part One

This is the first in a three part series of how to find clients in your new business. We’re using photo organizers as examples but you can use this method in any business that offers a service. Decide what you’re offering and use this same formula. Click to read part two and part three.

How many guinea pigs does a start-up business need?

three guinea pigs

Photo :: Source

I think you start with three.

One is too lonely.

Five is a crowd.

Three is a good number for so many reasons. More on that later.

For now, start with three.

I just realized you could call them your “Three Little Pigs” but only in your head. And you can label a file folder with that if you want.

Choose your pigs wisely.

  1. Choose a guinea pig with a boatload of digital photos and a slight or big fear of technology.
  2. Choose a guinea pig with a recent or upcoming life event that you could swoop in and help with.
  3. Choose a guinea pig who has inherited boxes of photos recently or years ago and has yet to open the box and tackle what’s inside.

Why pick pigs like those described above?

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

For today, just make a list of your potential pigs that fit the criteria above.

Read part two here
Read part three here

Picture Amy at Work

Amy Brooks Hoffmann is a small business owner who balances work alongside of family. I’ve known Amy for years and have always been impressed with her ability to plan strategically, envision a business that is relevant to the time, and network within her community.

Most recently, Amy added photo organizing to her existing business and rebranded with a new name — Fleur de Lis Photo Solutions.

Enjoy my conversation with Amy as she shares a few tips and explains how her business has evolved.

Tell us about your business. What made you decide to become a photo organizer?

A lot has changed with the way we take photographs! Digital photography was introduced in the early 2000s, allowing us to be free of film and photo processing. The good news? You can take so many photographs with a digital camera! The bad news? You can take so many photographs with a digital camera!

More and more often I was asked to create commissioned albums for my clients. The time seemed right with our family’s schedule – so I added the service of photo organizing and digital album creation to my existing business.

You have been a Creative Memories consultant for many years. How has adding photo organizing to your existing business been a benefit?

Expanding my business from Amy Brooks Hoffmann, Creative Memories Consultant to Amy Brooks Hoffmann, Fleur de Lis Photo Solutions broadens my client opportunity.

People and organizations who would never have anything to do with the preconceived idea of a “crafty” business are now interested in working with me as a business consultant for all of their photo needs. Flexibility is the key.

I am working to make sure that current clients, members of my church, school and social communities know that I have expanded my business and offer more services that might benefit them. My current business goal is to expand the business to see what opportunities are available with small and large corporations. I’d love to organize the photographic archives of businesses throughout my home town.

What do you like most about what you do?

I love talking with people, learning their stories, and seeing those experiences in their photos. I have come to the conclusion that most families are really the same – we all have hopes and dreams for our children, challenges with our professions and celebrations throughout the year. I’m convinced that we all have similar experiences and concerns. Most people love their photos. Most people want to enjoy them. Most people have no idea how to transform their “mess” of photos to “masterpieces.”

That’s where I come in.

What advice do you have for new Photo Organizers? Or for someone who is adding photo organizing to an existing business?

If you have jumped into this profession, you probably have worked with your own photos and family memorabilia.  Realize that the work you have done with your own photos is a perfect “apprenticeship,” preparing you to work with clients. When working with a new client, Be Confident in your ability to bring an outside, objective view to the new project. Your clients will express nothing but gratitude and relief as you assume the responsibility for their project.

You have kids at home (2 smart and active boys!) How do you make it all work?

“Making it all work” is a lofty goal by anyone’s standards. Is it really possible to integrate a smooth home and professional life every day? We try at the Hoffmann household. Often succeeding. Sometimes failing. The greatest challenge for me as a Mom and home-based business owner is time management. I often over commit to professional and philanthropic projects. That leads to panic, frustration and can obliterate a well planned schedule.

Keeping my family’s schedule in mind, I always discuss a deadline (or series of deadlines) with my clients. Accountability to the client keeps the project on pace and moving forward while putting my family first.

A second word of advice: find a “desk” for yourself. This was a really big transition for me after I decided to become a stay-at-home mom 12 years ago. It is frustrating to  have “stacks” of paper and projects throughout the house. You need a landing spot/clearing house for the paper and information that comes into your home. I keep my to do lists here, along with project files. It is a daily challenge to keep my space clutter free…but that is a discussion for another blog post, I’m sure!

Amy Brooks Hoffmann can be reached at Fleur de Lis Photo Solutions
She is an Appo™ member.