What is radical generosity and how can it help you grow your business?
Our latest podcast guest, Rob Greene, has always been a firm believer in generosity in business. From graphic design to photography and now course creation, we’re pulling back the curtain on Rob’s journey–and some of the unexpected ways generosity has helped him grow.
Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
Rob’s first job out of college was doing graphic design and video work for a local church, where he built up the knowledge and technical skills that would later propel the growth of his photography business.
But it wasn’t until he was in grad school that he came up with the idea for Square 8 Studio.
The name is a nod to his birthday, August 8th, as well as to his parents, who instilled the value of generosity. His parents taught Rob to take things most people would make about them (like birthdays) and make them about other people.
A few years later Rob bought his first camera and started taking photos. He hasn’t stopped since.
Generosity in business was one of Rob’s core values, even when he was just starting out. Much of his growth in the first year of business came from giving away sessions for free.
Even after almost a year of working unpaid, Rob was reluctant to start charging his clients. “I was charging like 50 bucks, 100 bucks, and feeling terrible. I felt like I was stealing from people. I can’t believe I’m charging so much money for a photo shoot.”
Finally, in December 2015, he took a more experienced local photographer out for coffee and asked to pick her brain. She told him her minimum fee was $1,200 and average sessions were $3,200.
“It was like in that moment the sky parted and the rainbows came out. There was a value here that I wasn’t aware that existed.” It was time to start working on his money mindset.
“I went home that day and said, all right, no more $50 sessions. I’m charging $800. And for me, that was terrifying.”
But to Rob’s surprise, most of his clients didn’t bat an eye at the price increase. People continued to book sessions and he continued to give generously in other ways.
So Rob sat down to map out a plan for his next five years of business, and to see how much photography and graphic design work he would need to replace his salary at the church. He set a goal to reach 75% of his church salary with the photography business in the next three years–and reached it within just six months.
Rob brought in $124,000 in his first year as a full-time photographer, more than double his previous salary.
It wasn’t an easy jump to go from charging $50 to $1,000+ per session. It took a lot of money mindset work to get there, but also seeing an example of what was possible.
“I think for me what it took was somebody else giving me permission,” Rob says. “The moment I started surrounding myself with voices that had been where I was trying to go with my business, it freed me up to believe something different was true for my life.”
If you’re looking for inspiration, click here to read the success stories of other creative entrepreneurs!
It can be intimidating to leave a steady paycheck behind and make the leap full-time into your business, something Rob experienced firsthand when he left the church.
“I was very comfortable with stability. That first day I woke up and didn’t have a paycheck coming in was terrifying.”
But Rob stayed focused on his goals, and one dream in particular, to get him through: “My dream when I was leaving that full-time job was to take two weeks off and go to Hawaii.”
Just a few weeks later, a friend from the church heard Rob was leaving his job and invited him to come and stay in Hawaii to do some consulting work. “For me, I felt like that was God’s way of saying, I’ve got you. I’m the one providing and you can trust me.”
Over the next few years, Rob built out his team and worked up to 50 weddings per year. “There was this intense stretch from 2017 through 2019 where it was just shoot, grow, hustle non-stop. And then 2020 happened.”
Before the lockdown, Rob had run some in-person coaching and workshops. In quarantine, he shifted his focus to creating an online course.
“I didn’t know how to make a course. But I had taken great courses from amazing people, and I knew how to reverse engineer things.” Course creation was uncharted territory for Rob, but he knew he wanted to build something that helped people.
While launching the education side of his business, Rob was also navigating rescheduled weddings, taking care of the studio’s brides, and reassuring concerned parents. The stress of running two businesses started to take its toll.
“I needed to start scaling back on the wedding side, raise my prices, and be more strategic about who we worked with.”
In October 2020, Rob came across online marketing expert Amy Porterfield. “All of a sudden it was like, oh, this is everything I’ve been missing.” Using the strategies he learned from Amy, Rob launched his course and made $12,000 in the first week.
Rob took the money he made in course sales and reinvested it into the business–first into Facebook Ads, and then into a mastermind with fellow photographer Hope Taylor.
“For me, this post-Covid era has been about growing the education side of things. The photography side still runs around the same volume in terms of revenue, but we’ve brought in a matching side with the education piece.”
And for both sides of the business? Last year, their total revenue was $238,000.
Generosity has been a pillar of Rob’s business from day one. Yet he sees other creatives struggle all the time with the idea of giving too much away for free or worry that being generous will somehow cheapen their value.
“If you’re compromising on your prices, that’s one thing. But if you’re being strategic with what you’re giving away, generosity can be an incredible part of your growth model.”
If you’re wondering what that looks like on a practical level, Rob was kind enough to share: “For me, I look at my projected revenue for this year. Am I on track for that? Cool. Then there’s plenty of room to be generous here and there.”
One way Rob does that is by giving away photo shoots. In my own business, I used to practice Fun Fridays, where I would go and help other creative business owners for free. There are so many ways to be generous, whether it’s with your time, money, or talent.
The first step is to get clear on your revenue forecast. Once you know how much money you have coming in, you can choose how you’ll use it to give back, impact others, or whatever feels aligned for you.
Something I always remind my clients is our money should be a tool to do what lights us up.
That’s why my signature program, The Blueprint Model, starts with creating a vision for your business–to help you grow strategically and use the profits to fuel a life you love. Head here to join the waitlist for our next round!
“I can’t stand social media,” Rob says. “You see what somebody else is doing that you’re not doing. You see what somebody else is achieving that you’re not achieving.”
Rob has started hiding other photographers from his feed and only looks at their profiles when he’s in the right mindset. “I want to be that photographer that’s championing other people in my area, celebrating their successes, and encouraging them.”
If you can’t quit social media entirely, consider using it more intentionally, and muting other businesses in your industry so you don’t get sucked into comparison.
“We are in the people business first and foremost,” says Rob. “We serve people through photography, through education, but we are in the people business.”
“At the end of the day, what really matters is the impact we’ve had on the lives of other people. I want the people we interact with, whether it’s photographers or photography clients, to walk away feeling so well loved and cared for and provided for, that it leaves an impact on them beyond just the photos or courses that we deliver.”
No matter what type of business you run, remember that you’re still in the people business as well–and a little generosity goes a long way.
To hear the rest of the story and what Rob is up to now, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
Free College Photo 101 Challenge for photographers
Rob Greene is the owner of Square 8 Studio, a photography and education brand based out of Fort Worth, Texas. Through both his online courses and his podcast, The Bop, Rob and his mini goldendoodle, Snoopy, are on a mission to help photographers build their business, wow their clients, and make photo magic. Rob is a firm believer that you’re always ahead of someone and always behind someone, therefore you should always be teaching and always be learning. When he’s not taking photos or teaching photographers, you’ll find Rob tinkering with the latest Apple Devices or watching his favorite soccer team, Atlanta United.
March 9, 2023