The Prodigy: Realizing a Childhood Dream & Building a Brand, Client by Client
Name: Meghan MacAskill
Name of Company: Meghan MacAskill Photography
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Market: Family and Newborn Portrait Photography
Bragworthy Factoid: MacAskill quadrupled her business in the last four years
SmugMugger Since: 2003
Realizing she was photographing so many non-friends that she had to start charging for her services.
The moment her SmugMug website went live (she viewed it every 10 minutes!).
Beating the recession by doubling last year’s earnings.
From Barbies to business
MacAskill pulled off her first shoot with Barbie models, a child-size camera and hard-earned allowance money. Although it took a few more years for her to transform her passion into a business, she now operates a successful part-time shop, relying 100% on referrals from happy clients. MacAskill is still driven by the same ambition that inspired her when she was nine: to improve her craft and entrance her clients. “I think about what I would want out of photos of my family,” she says. “I push myself to not only pick the right spot, the right lighting and the right posing, but to also get my clients to be real—to capture their personality and family dynamic.”
Client cheerleaders? Bring it on
Morphing from a talented hobbyist to a seasoned pro meant developing a specialty and cultivating that market. “My customers are young South Bay Area moms,” MacAskill says. “They appreciate fresh, modern, colorful photography that captures the memories, expression and joy in their lives. They are my biggest fans and cheerleaders and refer new clients to me every time. Once potential clients view my SmugMug website, they are impressed and trust me [to document] their children, family and memories.” MacAskill attributes her success in part to providing a quality experience, both on game day and beyond. “Your memories of a [shoot] affect the way you view the photos later. If the shoot was difficult, no matter how the photos turn out you might look at them and remember what a pain it was,” she says. “I want the photos to be a reminder of a really fun day you spent with your family. My job is to put clients at ease, make sure we have fun, and make sure that translates into beautiful photos.” She credits SmugMug’s gorgeous gallery display with maximizing the client review process.
Making friends with features
When it comes to taking advantage of SmugMug’s features, MacAskill is a true pro. “My site is customized from top to bottom. I get praise and compliments all the time on how clean and modern it is,” she says. “Clients see a beautiful website and know that I am a desirable photographer.” MacAskill ensures a seamless proofing, selection, editing and purchasing experience by using such features as the shopping cart for print sales, price lists, events and proof delay. “I am a busy working photographer. As a business owner I deal with both front and back-end issues,” she points out. “I simply don’t have time—or a studio—in which to do proofing sessions with clients. My clients love proofing their images from the comfort of their own home.” MacAskill makes great use of the Events tool in her wedding business, relying on the easily navigable Events gallery hierarchy in particular. “It’s very important for me to see what photos my bride and groom love and the favorites feature allows me to do that,” she says. Because her clients order prints on their own time, she appreciates that Proof Delay allows her to check orders before they go to print. “I have fixed so many potential cropping and editing problems with this feature, before they could become a problem.”
Branding secret: Strong offense, stronger defense
When it comes to image security and archiving, MacAskill calls SmugMug the best. “The image storage problem that plagues lots of pros has never been an issue for me. I feel reassured knowing my images are stored safely on SmugMug in their original sizes.” MacAskill’s customized settings also watermark her images automatically when she uploads a new gallery. Plus, she uses package branding. “I want my clients to see that extra bit of branding when their prints arrive and feel like they’re coming directly from me,” she says. Another favorite? Coupons and print credits. “I use coupons all the time,” she says. “Print credits are vital to my business model. [I noticed] that many clients weren’t actually pulling the trigger and getting prints. I decided to model photo sessions differently and include a print credit in every package to guide clients into purchasing prints. The photos my clients put on their walls are a constant reminder not only of the fun day we had and the relationship they have with their family, but are also the best advertising -- they constantly remind clients to get their photos taken again. It has been very successful and SmugMug's coupon feature is vital for it to work without me filling those orders myself.”
Meghan shared her best business tips with us too. Be sure to check them out.