Ever wondered how to pivot your offers, diversify revenue streams, or be both a present mom AND a great CEO?! Then, today’s interview with Abby Grace is a must listen! Real talk Abby showed up and delivered an in depth look at how she pivoted her successful (but all encompassing) wedding photography business into a business model that is more aligned with motherhood and a new season of life.
But don’t worry, if talking about money makes you want to bury your head in the sand (or cry into your pinot noir), don’t tune out today! Abby is right there with you, as a self-confessed “I hate money” person, she sweated it out and dropped some incredible gems on how she learned to divorce the finances from the feelings and gain financial literacy, in order to make more strategic moves in her business that allowed more time with her family without sacrificing the income her family relied upon.
“Did you know that when you call Crayola they end every customer service call by saying, ‘Have a colorful day’? That’s the kind of company I want to have. That’s the vibe I want in my life!”
A conversation with photographer Abby Springmann is filled with fun facts like this one. Whether she’s talking about her work as a brand photographer, chatting about changing her pricing, or telling a story about her family, her words are covered in joy, life, and color. That’s who Abby is, and I think it’s part of what’s made her such a success in her industry.
Since 2009 she’s been working full-time as a photographer with Abby Grace Photography, first for weddings and now as a brand photographer for creative small business owners. But if she’s honest, this wasn’t the plan Abby had for her life. Majoring in Communications, she thought she’d walk into a corporate job, though she wasn’t really excited about the prospect.
All that changed when she took a black and white film photography class in college.
Like any entrepreneur, actually hitting that goal didn’t come easily. Right out of college, Abby took a job in communications for a Fortune 500 company. Wedding photography it was not!
“I set a goal for myself on my first day: If I can build my photography business in the next two years, I can leave this corporate job and do photography full-time.”
Nights, weekends, time off—for Abby, it was all dedicated to getting her photography business off the ground. After contacting several wedding photographers in her area to ask for a little advice, she found herself working as an apprentice for one who wrote back.
“Mike was so generous with me in that season. I learned the basics of shooting a wedding day by doing it with him. I learned how to run a photography business by watching him do it. He really became my mentor.”
Abby spent the next two years as a second shooter, working alongside her mentor to hone in on the details of her specialization, build her name in the industry, and book her first weddings on her own.
“I built a portfolio, posted the work on social media, blogged daily about my life and work, and talked about photography in every conversation I had. Eventually, my friends from college started referring me to their friends, and I started booking my first clients.”
Those first few weddings were booked for a small fee: $1,000. For someone new to the industry, this felt like a great starting point at the time. But Abby quickly realized that, with the cost of gear, the time spent editing, and so much communication with the couple outside of the wedding day, she wasn’t charging nearly enough to get her paid or meet her goal.
“I wanted to have 50-75% of my salary replaced by weddings in order to leave my job. I got to that point in March of 2012 and gave my notice three months later. I started that job on June 7, 2010 with a goal to leave in two years, and my last day was June 1, 2012. By the skin of my teeth, I did it!”
Now working full-time as wedding photographer, Abby set a new goal: to shoot luxury weddings. Unsure of how to break into that part of the market, she contacted wedding planners working with clients planning those high-end weddings.
“They told me that my pricing just didn’t line up with what their clients were looking to spend. It was a major lightbulb moment for me. People equate cost with quality. They want a BMW wedding, and I’m charging Acura pricing. So, my pricing was giving them the impression that some part of the quality would be missing.”
If she wanted to make the move to that luxury market, Abby had to make a big decision. She had to raise her pricing… by a lot!
“I had to make the jump in pricing to move out of mid-range and into the luxury price range. For me, that meant doubling my pricing, which was really, really scary. Over time, thank goodness, it worked.”
By 2016, business was booming. She was doing up to 15 weddings a year, a number that felt comfortable for Abby to find that elusive work-life balance. That balance gave her margin to try something new when it came her way: brand photography.
“Someone asked me to shoot their brand photos that year, and I just said yes. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just chose to approach it the same way I would shooting a wedding. I just did what I knew how to do, and it worked.”
Like she did with every shoot, Abby posted the brand photos on social media and wrote about them on her blog. Though she wasn’t intentionally advertising herself as a brand photographer, the requests started rolling in.
“I wasn’t talking about it at all. I wasn’t trying to be a brand photographer. My clients just kept sharing the work. They saw something in me before I saw it in myself. Because of them, the inquiries kept rolling in and that side of the business started to pick up momentum.”
By 2019, brand photography had not just become her specialty; it became her passion. So much so, she and her husband, Matt, started wondering how they could take this side hustle part of the business and make it the main revenue stream.
“When our family started to grow, we realized how much more freedom and flexibility we needed in our business. Weddings weren’t giving us that, but brand photography felt like it could. It gave us more regular work hours and weekends off. It gave us the balance we were looking for between work and family, and that made it something we wanted to pursue.”
Again, Abby took a strategic approach to this next step. She took time to build that side of the business with intention and professionalism. And by the time they launched brand photography as an official part of Abby Grace Photography, it was strong enough to shift the entire income stream of their business. So much so that, by May 2021, Abby officially stopped taking bookings for weddings.
The growth Abby has experienced in her company over the last 12 years has been astounding even to her. It’s something she credits to her work ethic and talent, yes, but also to the understanding of how to make her money work for her.
“I’ve been in business for 12 years, and I still get uncomfortable with money. It makes me want to bury my head in the sand, but as a business owner, that isn’t an option. If I want this business to go where I want it to go, I have to be confident and knowledgeable in the details of our money.”
With the addition of her husband, Matt, to the team to take charge of the money and expenses in the company, Abby started feeling less fear and more power when it came to the numbers.
“I’m still working to divorce the finances from the feelings I feel about money. But honestly, the more I learn about the numbers, the easier that is. I want more peace and less sweat when it comes to money, and knowing my numbers has helped get me there.”
Now, Abby approaches every part of her business, numbers included, with a clarity and confidence that helps her plan for what’s next and find the balance she needs.
“The thing I was craving in my work and in my life was freedom. What’s been surprising to me is how learning my numbers in this business has really paved the path to that freedom.”
“My business has to serve my clients, but it also has to serve my family.” Yes, Abby, Yes! How to step into abundance, sift the good from the great, and let go of fear … all in today’s interview! Press play to hear the incredible conversation with Abby or read the full transcript.
Brand Photography Academy from Abby Springmann
Slow Growth equals Strong Roots by Mary Marantz
Abby Grace is a brand photographer for high-performing creative small business owners, based just outside of Washington, DC. She’s a wife, mama of two by way of adoption, and a speaker and educator for fellow creatives. Abby’s background in Communication & PR paired with more than a decade of profitable business ownership make her an authority for creatives and artists looking to put their big kid pants on, so that they can make the impact they were born to make.
September 8, 2022