Today’s guest is the ever-so-talented and one of my really good friends, Rachel Traxler. Rach is a destination wedding and elopement photographer, making photos a warm, joyful and connective experience. She’s a Type 7 enneagram, so her heart for spontaneous adventure is BIG. Even though she lives in a small Wisconsin town of 600 people, she has been able to market herself to travel the world, all while doing what she loves. This girl is no joke and you are about to LOVE today’s episode all about marketing yourself in the destination market, so let’s dive on in! 

On her career path:

This is such a funny story, and long story short, I accidentally fell into photography. It’s not like I always wanted to be that, it was more of a pipe dream for me. I specifically remember in college, or even earlier, having to write down my dream job. One of my dream jobs was traveling the world doing photography because I honestly just thought I had to write down my pipe dream. So it’s super funny that that’s what I ended up doing here now, but I actually got a job after college in the medical field working in the cancer center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. So I was working with cancer patients and I loved it, I loved the medical field. But honestly, I’m a Type 7 enneagram and I crave adventure so much, so working in a windowless office job following protocol just did not make my heart happy at all. Honestly without a plan, I never wanted to take photography full-time, I just went for it and made the leap. And Trent, my husband, really had my back on it and really pushed me to do it. So I went full-time and I just have not looked back and it’s been so so incredible. 

On growing your biz quickly:

All good things take time, and with time comes experience too. But there’s definitely ways to fast-track those processes and pass down knowledge from your experience. One thing- the whole “fake it til you make it” only gets you so far. I truly think you need to know what you’re doing and be confident, especially in your business. Your business in general shouldn’t be a question mark and if you feel it’s a shiz-show, then your business is going to reflect that. I think gaining confidence comes with experience and investing in yourself honestly with education is the number one way you can fast-track your success a lot quicker too- the way you invest in yourself and invest in your education and your business will truly reflect that. 

On workshops:

You get to a certain point where you have to know what you’re doing. I went to two workshops back-to-back and I truly feel like that played a big factor in having a quicker success for me. What I mean is everything kind of took off as soon as I went to those workshops. The funny thing is I didn’t even know what a workshop was back then when I was going to them. I literally won a spot to one of the workshops for free through Instagram, and I didn’t understand that. I didn’t know what I was signing up for, I was still working at Mayo Clinic. I was sitting at my desk in the cancer center and I signed up for this workshop that I didn’t know what it was, and I won it, and the first thing I thought was “well how the heck am I going to get off work for this?” because it was during the week and luckily for me by the time the workshop came around I had already gone full-time. But after the workshops I just feel like things really took off for me. Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I got. Because the connections I made from that, and the education and knowledge I learned from that was crazy. I truly feel like that was the first big stepping stone and foundation for where my business truly started. 

I had so much to learn, we all do. I think at that point I was a sponge and taking in everything. The two workshops, one in California and one in Oregon, were one of the first times I was traveling by myself across the country for something. It really put me out of my comfort zone. I was able to meet and network with so many photographers that I still talk to all the time. The people you form connections with will then have weddings that they can’t shoot and then they say “oh but I have a friend that does,” so that was another part of how I got into more destination work too, and traveling and all of that. Everything about workshops is so rewarding- they put you out of your comfort zone, you form such deep connections with people, you gain experience, and create an awesome portfolio, and I just love everything about workshops. You’re surrounded by people who all have the same passion and you get each other. It’s nice to have people to talk to that just get it and are just as passionate about it as you are to build your community and network. 

On the struggle with clients ghosting you:

As far as clients ghosting you, I suggest taking a look at your process and workflow and making sure you’re not just sending over your pricing guide and holding your breath and hoping for the best. I’ve been there, done that- that’s what I used to do. I’d get an inquiry I was super excited about, I’d throw all my stuff at them and just cross my fingers and hope that it would work out. So from then, I’ve found that wasn’t working and I’ve created a specific workflow that helps ensure that I don’t get ghosted. I have specific outlines that I follow just to give an overall better client experience. One of my favorite things I love to do is get them on the phone right away, and that helps me have control over part of the process because I’m able to lead the conversation and foster a relationship with them. Then once I’ve created that bond and that relationship, being able to follow up with them in a specific way in a specific outline making sure there’s no way they’d want to ghost you, and if they did then they ain’t for you. But getting raving reviews and referrals from family or friends of theirs, they’re going to be less likely to ghost you too because they’ve heard from family and friends and they’re really interested in working with you.

On handling price shopping:

On my contact form I have them write a specific budget that they have in mind and so I have an idea going into it, but honestly it’s not like if they have a low price listed that I would say “oh they’re not my ideal clients.” They don’t know. This is their first time mostly likely getting married. They don’t know the process, they don’t know it as well as we do- it’s our professional job so we know it in and out so we can’t get frustrated if they don’t know it and then they lowball a number. They may not know, so that’s why I like to talk to them first. And by the time I talk to them they may be talking to a few other photographers and then also realize the pricing is higher than they realize and then they’re able to do that, they just didn’t know it up front. So I just like to talk to people and I think that fosters a relationship with them quicker and that way they can see that investment before they see numbers- see that relationship and what that could be. It’s a big investment for these people and you have to let them know what they’re investing in. You can’t just throw a high number at them and expect them to just say “oh ok.” You have to take that relationship and educate them and foster that whole connection. 

Tips for growing yourself in the destination market:

  1. Workshops. Having those two initial workshops being in California and Oregon, people saw my posts and just assumed I was a west coast or traveling photographer. It just kind of happened. Once I figured that out and found I really enjoyed doing that, I made those connections with people out there so I was getting referrals from people out there too. So that was amazing, but I started to market myself to other places as well. Throughout that whole process I found I really loved Colorado so I started marketing myself strongly to Colorado to the point where people thought I was Colorado-based. 
  2. Pick 2-3 places that you really love and just market the heck out of them, market yourself like crazy to them. This looks like keywords on blog posts and Pinterest and Instagram and naming your image-files names when you’re uploading blog posts and Pinterest and all that. So leverage your marketing toward that. 
  3. Create your own content. People don’t know you love traveling if you don’t travel, so when you do travel, there’s so many ways to create content for yourself. If you’re not already traveling, book travel. Find cheap flights for less than $200, to a place you want to go. If you don’t want to pay for a hotel, find a local photographer, connect with them, see if you can stay with them. Then the two of you can set up a shoot together, because chances are they probably know people in the area that are going to be willing to shoot so make the most out of that. Connect and network with local vendors in the area- venues, florists, coordinators- and collaborate or pay them for their services and then you’re going to have that connection with those vendors if they’re ever in need for a photographer. 
  4. Your website. Make sure your site is clearly communicating that you travel. And that also goes for your social media. If you have photos of big fancy weddings, you’re going to attract that. If you’re wanting to get into elopements, are you posting photos of ballrooms, a bunch of guests, or even large wedding parties? Think about how you want to clearly communicate that to the people who are coming across your work. When they do come to your website, you want to make sure they can clearly tell you travel. Can they go to your website and instantly know you would travel? That’s a question to ask yourself because you don’t want to send them down a rabbit hole and have them have to chase to find that you do what you do. You want to make sure that’s clearly communicated right away- like in the top fold of your website, explaining what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. You don’t want to have them scrolling and searching everywhere. 
  5. Social media. Hashtags! I started using hashtags of where I wanted to go and a lot of people who found me have said it’s through hashtags. So don’t underestimate the power of using hashtags and especially with your stories too. Sometimes what I like to do is in my story tag locations of places you want to shoot. That can be for any stories that you do and people will find you that way too. Even when you’re posting, think “is what your posting promoting travel? Does it show a wide range of locations? Does it clearly communicate destination weddings and work?” You want to make sure you’re clearly talking about how much you love traveling. And if you want to post a location, if it looks similar to the place you want to go, I say do it. Do what you have to do if that’s what you want. 

Tips for attracting ideal clients:

  1. The absolute number one thing before you do anything is figure out yourself and figure out your “why”, your mission statement, your story. Once you figure those things out, and it does take awhile, and know that it can change, you can better market to them and attract them in that way. Dive deep into figuring out your why and your mission statement and why your story makes you you and everything like that first. Once you have that figured out the rest comes so easily. 
  2. Branding. I love branding- everything about it: brand voice, visual branding. Once you figure out your “why”, you can use your brand voice to attract them in your social media posts, blog posts, stories, and in person. Once you have it, it will really click for you and it will all make sense. Then you can clearly figure out what type of voice you want to use and then that’s going to lead you to how you are on social media. The ultimate goal is to get someone on your website, because from there you’ll have full control over their experience and journey with you. 
  3. Social Media. Pinterest is amazing for social media. You want to optimize your profile, so clean up your bio, have a clear call to action, have the same profile picture throughout all social media which will create that brand trust and so people will be able to instantly recognize you. Clean up your boards and make sure they match and attract your ideal clients. For me personally, I love travel and outdoorsy-type of people, so I have a board on my Pinterest that’s about camper renovations and my ideal client may also love that kind of thing. Maybe you’re really into interior design and you love really pretty, clean, minimal things, make sure your boards reflect that because if they come across your profile they’re going to be drawn to that and they’ll connect to you and your style. And make sure all your links clearly lead to where you want them to go- a blog post, a contact form, etc. 
  4. Attracting in person. You’re a walking marketing campaign for yourself and your brand. Everything you do is your brand. Dress how you want to attract, talk and act how you want to attract, and always know that people are watching you and you just never know who has what connections and what referrals come from certain situations. I’ve been surprised at certain connections that created certain opportunities- they come out of nowhere and you truly never know, so just making sure how you always are in person is attracting who you want to be photographing as well. 

On running a business:

Get your shiz together from the start. Sometimes that takes time, but it’s going to make your life so much easier if you just figure that out right away. The sooner you can figure out who you are, the better your entire your business will be. But also, on the other end, I know this does take time. It takes time to figure out who you are, who you want to be and all that. Also know what you’re getting into. There’s so much that goes into a photography business that people get started for the photos and they don’t realize that there’s actually a lot more to running a business than just taking photos. Don’t get too overwhelmed either. Take things in chunks and never bite off more than you can chew because that’s the fastest track to burnout. So make sure you’re pacing yourself as well, know what you’re getting into, figure out you are and what you want to do with your business and get your shiz together from the start. 

Instagram: @racheltraxler

Website: racheltraxler.com/

Client connection quiz: https://racheltraxler.com/client-experience-quiz

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Marketing Yourself in the Destination Market with Rachel Traxler

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