I'm Dolly — a Nashville based family & branding photographer AND a systems + workflow educator (and Podcast Host) for creatives who want to be more streamlined and organized with Systems, Workflows & SOPS to better impact the backend of their businesses. I'm here to help you look awesome (for your photos) & feel great about workflows!
This blog post is not for the impatient, impulsive, or brand-spankin’ new business owner. This blog post is for the business owner who is willing to lay down some foundational work first before they truly invest in some elevated branding photos.
😎Have I got your attention with my saltiness?
Not trying to step on any toes, but I realize I’m coming at this topic with some STRONG opinions. So buckle up and let’s get started to see if you are truly ready for a branding session!
Knowing who you serve is an important part of any business or organization. The best way to determine who you should serve is to first consider the goals and mission of your business. Think about the types of people who would be interested in what you are offering and who would benefit the most from it.
Once you have identified your ideal customer, you can create personas that represent the different types of people who would be interested in your services. This will help you create targeted messaging and strategies that will be most effective in engaging and connecting with your desired audience.
Finally, you can use analytics and feedback to identify who is engaging with your content and who is actually becoming customers (aka actually setting up Google Analytics or some sort of tracking system on your website to see what people are visiting most, what they are actually searching for on your website, etc.)
This will help you refine and improve your targeting and messaging to ensure you are reaching the right people and creating effective relationships with them.
Plus, in the beginning stages of your own business (and services), you find out pretty quickly who you WANT to serve (and who you don’t want to serve). That’s why it’s called the growing pains of owning a business. You might come across some rotten eggs (it’s true…we’ve all been there) and I strongly recommend you serve everyone with grace and kindness. But while you are serving those “non-ideal” customers, you will be refining your services, your contracts, and pretty much everything, over time because you need to get to know what you like and dislike. I cannot even begin to tell you how many past clients have helped shape my own contracts and my own services and helped me cut down what I needed to take out (and what I needed to keep). Yes, I have experienced unpleasant clients, but through those circumstances, I have been more honed in on who I want to serve, and what I truly want to do.
⭐️Listen, this is a LONG process (and a process that will constantly ebb and flow as you grow in business). But my argument here is this: you should not bust out the gate (day 1 of opening up your business) with a branding session without first getting to know the types of clients who you serve. Without establishing that foundation, you will not be able to truly represent your ideal client in your branding session. You want to show off working with your ideal client in your branding photo session, and if you randomly bring a friend to “stand in” as your client (without first truly knowing who you serve) you are going to miss the mark MAJORLY.
Okay, as a creative business owner who is multi-passionate myself, this was a HARD pill to swallow in the early years of my business. I wanted to do everything and be everything to everyone. I wanted to be the solution for EVERYONE!
But here’s the thing, you literally cannot (and should not) serve EVERYONE in your business. Unless you want to be the Walmart or Target of your industry (aka your business is literally a drug store and has EVERYTHING). But, I am guessing, if you are reading this, you are a solo business owner (or a business owner with a smaller team) who focuses on 2-3 services within your own business.
I am not saying that being multi-passionate is a bad thing. It’s not, I think that’s the beauty of creative business owners, there is so much passion behind the business and everything you work on, you want to truly thrive in that area. However, have you ever heard of the phrase:
“Jack of all trades, master of none” is a figure of speech used in reference to a person who has dabbled in many skills, rather than gaining expertise by focusing on only one.
So if you hurriedly run from service to service (or offer up all the things in your business to everyone) before mastering ONE skillset, you are not doing anyone a favor. And that can sting on so many levels.
Listen, it took me years to actually understand that within my own photography business, I had to hone in on ONE area of photography before branching out to another area of photography. I knew I wanted to be known for photography, so I decided to truly hone in on family photography first (and I built out my family photography business slowly over time). I am now known as a family photographer in Middle Tennessee (which I love). But now I am slowly building out my muscles with branding photography and that is going to take time and patience.
I truly want to be known for branding photography and to be a trusted source for future clients, but if I don’t build out that “muscle” and hone in on the skill set of being a good visual storyteller, I am not doing any good for my business (or for my future clients).
So my advice to you, as a small business owner is this: exercise your muscles and hone in on ONE service (and make sure you are actually MAKING money from that service).
Again, let me repeat myself, I think it’s okay to be multi-passionate, but when it comes to your business, make sure that you are actually tapped into a service that you are getting paid for (and that you are truly skilled in that area and that you are known for that skill)!
One of the best investments I have ever made in my business was investing in Ashlyn Carter’s “Copywriting For Creatives“. I have learned that good copy + great visuals can go hand in hand to beautifully articulate what you do, who you serve, and how you can help transform a client’s business with your services.
However, having atrocious copy with “gorgeous” photos is like putting lipstick on a pig (yes, I said what I said)!
Having GREAT copy does a number of positive things for your website (for example):
Again, I understand that if you are a brand new business owner (with a limited budget) and you cannot afford a copywriter to help transform the words on your website (that is okay). You should still take the time to learn how to effectively communicate with your ideal clients. Don’t be lazy about this step. Don’t treat your copy like a microwave and expect it to give you crockpot (savory) results.
Good quality copy takes time (through learning about your ideal client, learning about your services, and learning about how to hone in on your processes within your business).
Ahhhh, don’t even get me started on point #4! I get WORKED UP about seeing so many business owners having expensive branding photos taken and then months go by and they never use any of their photos! WHAT? WHY?!!!!!!
Getting branding photos done without a marketing plan of how you are going to use them, is like deciding to sign up for a 5k (or let’s say a 1/2 marathon) and you have no plan of action to actually implement a training program into your life to truly be prepped for the 1/2 marathon. Like, you expect to magically be a great runner the day of the race, and you are surprised that you are cramping up within seconds (kinda like Michael Scott when he ate all that pasta and took off running for the “rabies awareness fun run”
So what are some ways you can truly have a strategic marketing plan for how you are going to use those branding photos? Here are some thoughts and questions to chew on:
Investing in a good branding photographer is a great way to make sure that your business stands out. You may be in a super-saturated market in your city. So make sure you have the visuals to help you STAND OUT! Here are some bonus tips for knowing when you’re ready to invest in a good branding photographer:
Okay so now that you have been armed with FIVE tips to help serve as a roadmap to help you determine if you are truly ready for a branding photography session, which one stood out to you? To be transparent, most small business owners just jump ahead and waste so much time and money in getting branding photos done before they know ANYTHING about their business or their services. I believe there is so much pressure from today’s online culture of “fast-tracking” your success to prove something to someone that small business owners (including myself) forget to take this business journey nice and slow (“slow” meaning, being intentional with knowing WHO to serve, WHAT services are the best fit in our business, and being WILLING to stay focused and intentional with growth).
🔖If you would like to read further blog posts on how to prep for your branding session check out this blog post on what to pack for your branding session:
Dolly DeLong is a Nashville-based branding photographer for small business owners, a family photographer, and a creative business owner who educates other creative business owners on all things systems, sops + workflows. Dolly loves serving business owners with her bold, elevated, and radiant photography. And, she also loves educating other creative business owners on how to set up systems and workflows that will ultimately help them save time in their business-she does this by producing weekly blog posts and weekly podcast episodes on The Systems & Workflow Magic Podcast.
She has a heart for serving the larger business community. Dolly shares her knowledge of tools like Dubsado, Email Marketing, and Business Systems with new creative business owners & family photographers in an encouraging and supportive way because she believes that anyone can find joy in automation! Plus BONUS: Systems is where the MAGIC happens! You CAN streamline & automate the backend of your creative business with ease!
Dolly’s faith and love for her family motivate her to help other business owners find the joy and freedom she’s found in running a successful small business.
Whenever she has a spare moment, she enjoys watching TV (i.e. Survivor), loves eating way too many sweets, and listens to podcasts while running or walking. To work with Dolly DeLong Photography for a branding photography session, fill out her contact form here
Or maybe you're not really sure how you'd use your new collection of branded images? Download my free planning guide to learn how to plan an elevated brand photography session to impact your business!