I’ve been a wedding photographer for a decade now.
When my business was younger, growth was organic and easy to come by: we had great word of mouth, killer reviews from happy clients, and an increasingly growing network.
Then, all of a sudden, my revenue plateau’d.
Well, for one thing, it turns out that there are only so many weddings you can shoot in one year. It also turns out that getting older really does come with growing pains.
Did you know that your body at 20 can handle way more than your body at 30?
Talk about a rude awakening.
At each and every wedding, my body was getting a beatdown - and I didn’t have the benefits of a corporate job to lean on, like health benefits, much less a 401K or a pension.
I tried them, but it didn't work for my business. “Brandon Wong Photography” meant that I had to be present. Our clients were turning down our associate photographers because they weren’t me.
Thinking about involving other photographers in my business brought other concerns to light: How could I ever sell my business?
Who would buy “Brandon Wong Photography” without Brandon Wong?
This was a deeply unsettling realization.
Entrepreneurs spend years building the value of their business with one goal in mind: eventually selling their brand and moving on to the next project.
With no clear path ahead, I had a major internal crisis. Why would I, or anyone else, choose such a demanding lifestyle if there was no end in sight?
I watched friend after friend sell their businesses for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I felt left behind. I felt scared. My future was looking bleak.
I envisioned myself in my mid-thirties. An accident happens at a wedding, and suddenly, I’m no longer in commission. I would have no marketable skills with my disability.
It was time for some serious reflection.
How could I grow my business without working more long, grueling hours?
Or at the very least, how could I earn an awesome income with less physical work?
Work less, make more. That’s the dream, right?
At that time, many of my clients had been asking me if I provided a photo booth as one of my services. Not having a photo booth, of course, I had to turn them down.
Self-reflection really is important - thinking over all of these things made me realize something important.
Every time I turned down a photo booth seeking client, I was losing at least $800.
At thirty weddings a year, not having a photo booth amounted to a staggering missed opportunity of $24,000 a year - minimum.
What's a millennial entrepreneur to do?
Obviously, I hit up Google for more information.
Back in the day (I told you, I got old), the only available booth that fit our aesthetic was $15,000.
Talk about pricey - but this was before better versions started selling for $2,999, and it was the only choice available.
The price tag was insanely, terrifyingly high, but I did the math. I knew there was existing demand - and it was built right into my business. There was no way I would lose money.
I wanted to be absolutely, totally certain that this was the right move, so I did the next thing any millennial entrepreneur would do: I conducted a survey on Facebook, and sent out an e-mail to all of my clients, vendors, friends - you know, my entire social network.
One simple, life-changing question: “If I had this photo booth, would you rent it?"
The answer was a resounding YES.
My inboxes all blew up. People couldn't wait - so neither could I, and we pulled the trigger.
You know what feels better than waking up to hundreds of notifications and emails from enthusiastic clients?
An immediate return on my investment.
It took literal months for us to be in the green. Not one year, not ten years, not an entire lifetime of backbreaking work: months.
Don’t take my word for it though.
A survey conducted by Photobooth Supply Co in early 2019 showed that 40% of existing business owners experienced a 30% increase in revenue because they added a photo booth to their services.
After we began marketing that our business now offered a photo booth, something interesting happened that I wasn't expecting. Adding a photo booth to our services helped us expand our market - and our bottom line.
I started seeing demand for our booth roll in from unexpected places.
It turns out weddings aren't the only place people like to use a photo booth. Corporate events, DJs, festivals, school functions, birthday parties, product launches - you name it - it seemed like everyone wanted in on the fun.
We thought we should run our first few events ourselves, because we were a little nervous and wanted to make sure everything would run smoothly.
We quickly realized we didn't have a thing to be nervous about.
There's minimal skill needed to operate a photo booth, and having more help meant we could work more events. Working more events meant bringing in more money. Bringing in more money meant getting closer to our dreams. Getting closer to our dreams meant... well, okay. You get the idea.
We turned to our second shooters, who performed exceptionally well as booth attendants. We also turned toward eager, quick-to-learn college students who were excited to work events. The lack of necessary technical knowledge required to run our booth meant that we could broaden the scope for hiring, which was a lifesaver for our budget.
We started to consider whether we needed to expand our marketing and advertising, but the thing was, we didn't really need to do that. Weddings alone were an easy way to market the new business venture...without having to actually do any marketing.
With at least 100 guests present, and sometimes upwards of 400, there were plenty of interested, engaged people who couldn't wait to ask questions about how they could get a photo booth for their next event.
We started getting asked the same questions:
- “Can you bring this booth to my daughter’s birthday?”
- “I have a restaurant grand opening coming up, is this available?”
- “I run events for my company, and this would be perfect for our holiday party! How can we book you?”
A fun bonus?
Corporate events pay more than private events, and corporations are usually less sensitive to a higher price point. Event coordinators have larger corporate budgets available, and the ability to expense it to a company account made the whole thing an easy sell.
Many of these corporate events took place during the business week. That meant that I was earning revenue when I was usually at home editing or... doing nothing.
With all of these new markets opening up, and my weeks filling up with them, my initial estimate of $24,000 was beginning to seem small.
I knew this could turn into something big - much bigger than one man's dream for retirement.
There were definitely obstacles to overcome before we could take things to the next level.
We used to drive my SUV with a U-Haul trailer hitched to the back, hauling equipment to every event. Two hours of setup and a grand total of seven trips back and forth from the car to lug each piece of the booth was its own kind of misery.
We also had limited support, no marketing materials, and, Google aside, no education to help us grow our business.
Fast forward to today, and booth technology has changed tremendously.
Today, booths like Salsa from Photobooth Supply Co make that misery seem like a distant nightmare.
Do you know how long it takes to set up a Salsa booth?
You don't need a U-Haul, either. You don't even need an SUV - Salsa can fit in any car.
Photobooth Supply Co also provides the kind of marketing materials that will actually sell your clients on a rental - before your booth even ships to your front door.
PBSCO will provide support, education, and assembly videos so you can easily train attendants to make money for you. They'll help you scale, and they'll help you succeed.
Whether a photo booth is a solution for you or not, all wedding photographers should have a backup plan, a side hustle, or a solid alternative to secure your future.
Whether you're doing it to protect your wallet, your family, or your dreams for the future, we can all find the time to fit something else in our schedule to achieve our goals.
Good. You can learn all the insider strategies and tips I used to create a booming photo booth business in part two of this blog post here.
Want to learn more tips and tricks on how to have a successful photo booth business?