Jeff Watkins always thought photography would just be a hobby. With a degree from culinary school, his path to success was seemingly always going to start and stop in the kitchen.
Life doesn’t always work out the way you planned, though — when his son hit some unexpected medical issues, the hectic and demanding schedule of a chef simply wasn’t an option anymore. That’s when photography went from “a weekend thing” to an “all the time thing.”
So Jeff focused his energy on expanding his photography business, and soon his efforts started to pay off. “I was making more money taking pictures than I was in the kitchen!”
And that’s when he found Thumbtack. “I was researching ways to generate new business,” he says. “When I first found Thumbtack, it seemed a little sketchy but I was like, ‘Who knows. I’ll throw a few hundred dollars and see what happens.’”
After a few hits and misses, Jeff landed his first large client via Thumbtack.
“I booked a client here in Phoenix. On the third day, the CEO of the company approached me and said, ‘We do these events about multiple times a year across the country. We need a photographer for each of them and the quality of your work has been phenomenal. We’re tired of looking for people. Can you just do them all?”
Two events in California, two in Arizona, two in West Palm Beach and one in New York City later, Jeff’s photography business was booming. With about 60% of his business coming exclusively through Thumbtack, Jeff also does his fair share of standard jobs like portraits and weddings, but it’s the larger jobs he finds the most memorable.
Jeff closed out 2014 by spending a week in Los Angeles shooting A-List Clients like Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone. Its connections like these that have opened up doors to other clients for KolorPHX Photography.
“I always go into a gig thinking, how can I make this a lifetime client as opposed to a one-time client? Sure, I might shoot Al and Sly only once in my life, but what connections and referrals can I gain?” Jeff looks at each event as an opportunity to build a relationship, making a positive impression that will last a lifetime.
At the end of January, Jeff was also hired as a photographer for the Pro Bowl in Phoenix. “People from all over the country were flown out there, put up in a hotel, and were given all other kinds of prizes, like meeting several big name players.”
It was such a large event, Jeff needed help: “I ended up hiring a team of 13 photographers to shoot 20 different NFL players, red carpet style. That ended up being a $20,000 day for me. When that happened I said, ‘I need to call Thumbtack and tell them what’s going on because this is ridiculous.’”
Jeff has taken something that used to be a hobby, turned it into his full-time job and opened doors that otherwise never would have been possible. So what are the secrets to his Thumbtack success?
Persistence and Communication
“I’ll send a quote and as soon as I see that they read it, I immediately respond and say, ‘Hey, just noticed that you viewed my quote. Just wanted to touch base and let you know that we’re here if you have any questions.’”
A Complete Profile, Including Reviews
“If I were looking to hire a photographer and their profile was half done, I wouldn’t even respond.” So he’s made sure his profile is 100% completed and filled with reviews. After he finishes a job, Jeff sends his clients the following message: “Thanks so much. We’d really appreciate your feedback good or bad. If there’s anything we could have improved on, that’s what helps us serve our clients in the future.”
Reaching out, even when you don’t get the job
“When I don’t get hired I still send the customer a message and say, ‘Oh shucks. I see you decided to go with another photographer. Could you let me know why so we can better improve our services?’ Even though they hired someone else, I still try to build a relationship and see where that goes. Who knows, they might need another photographer down the line and think of me. Plus, I want to know what didn’t get me hired so I can improve upon it.”
And these tips have paid off. Jeff had a great 2014. After spending just over $3,000 on Thumbtack, he’s made over $50,000 from customers who have hired him on Thumbtack! Enough to help support himself and his family full-time. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, either. He just booked another large upcoming job, one that’s so high profile he can’t even talk to us about it until he’s completely confirmed it and the job is done.
“I’m in the middle of that,” he says. “But if it does go through, then that’s another super cool event that I got from Thumbtack.”