Fig-uring It All Out: Interview With UFP
Urban Fig Photography founder Jete Devisser discusses her brand and website refresh and how it’s made a positive impact on her business.
Who is Jete Devisser & Urban Fig Photography?
From picking up her first DSLR camera as a new mum, to her first celebrity photoshoot in Maui, ten years flew by for Urban Fig Photography (UFP) founder Jete. It’s also been a while since Khula Design Studio helped Urban Fig Photography with their brand and website refresh. So we caught up with Jete, to find out more about her experience of working with us, and how things are working out with the new brand and website.
Being a professional photographer takes a special blend of skill, talent, and intuition. Running a photography business however, well, that’s a whole different ball game!
In this interview, we speak with recent Khula client, Jete Devisser, founder of Urban Fig Photography, who shares what it takes to run a photography business, why a strong brand image and powerful website is important, and gives us some other interesting insights – that could help you on your entrepreneurial journey as a photographer.
So let's focus and jump right in!
How would you describe your business before your brand and website refresh?
My business had no real personality. I was mostly doing shoots through word of mouth, because people coming to my website didn’t know what I was doing. It didn’t show any character. It didn’t speak about me or my business!
What were your biggest challenges before the brand and website refresh?
When I first started photography, everything that I did was organic. I picked up my first camera, and starting photographing my friends, and their families. Then after a while I thought I should probably have a social media account. And then when I started building those things, I thought I should probably have a logo. But when you’re charging $40 a shoot, you can’t afford anything professional, so I ended up paying $99 for a make-shift logo from an online platform.
The problem with doing this is that it didn’t say anything about me or my business. It was just a random design based on my name. It never felt like a full brand or something I could build from. Essentially, it was just like a mom with a camera and a vague sort of online presence.
And then from a website perspective, it wasn’t well laid out on WordPress well and didn’t have clear CTA’s for users to take actions. It was hard for the users to navigate. I needed a website, but a DIY website wasn’t ideal.
After you initially launched, fast-forward a few years later, how did you feel about your brand and website?
I knew at that point that I wanted something new, but it's hard for small business owners like me to get over the financial investment it would take to get it done professionally. There are so many DIY options out there, and you are constantly getting bombarded with ads on social media.
You have your cheap, ugly logo, and you can just drop it on this website tool and off you go. It might seem easier to do this and then drag some images and roughly build it out yourself. But this does more harm in the long run. If it’s not customized or professionally made, from a design perspective it won’t be cohesive or modern. And it won’t have the best user experience. Also, best practices and things like SEO are not in place, and that can really help you with sales funnels. By doing it yourself, you have no real strategy or design thinking applied.
What made you hesitant to get your brand identity and website professionally done instead of a DIY approach? Price? Trust?
Yes, all of it! The thought of investing up to $10k on your brand and website is super-scary. I did do a lot of research, and I found it challenging to find designers who I really clicked with and could work one-on-one to really bring my personality across. It can be hard to communicate a creative vision, and so once you find the right designer, studio or agency, they can help you to do that.
What was your ideal vision for your brand?
I wanted UFP to be recognized locally: the go-to brand for photography in British Columbia. A brand that people trust immediately. When they go to my website, it looks professional, they get to know who I am and what I offer, right away. They don’t need to reach out to find out that information. I wanted it to be immediately professional.
When you had your old WordPress site, did any customers complain about the user experience?
They didn’t express their frustrations to me directly. However, I knew that the mobile experience wasn’t great, and my contact form was glitchy from time to time. Obviously, using WordPress at the time was a beast to update and not user-friendly. It seemed complex, plus I had a lot of design limitations on what I could show and do on my site, which then ultimately created a mediocre look and feel for the users.
When you were operating under your old brand and website, how did you feel showing up against your competitors?
No, I felt like I couldn’t compete. It was embarrassing. I felt like I was relying on my work, so if people were finding me and finding my website, I was literally just crossing my fingers and praying that they would see enough in my portfolio to hire me. But the website was sad!
Why do you feel it is important to have a strong brand image and online presence today, in this era?
I don’t know what the statistics are, but I feel like if someone finds your website or goes onto your website, you have 3 seconds to wow them and engage them. If you don't attract their attention, they’re going to click away. For me that's worth all the money that I spent working with Khula — just having that immediate grab, looking professional right from the get go, and using a more intuitive layout, so you can guide users and potential clients where you want them to go. You're giving them all the information they need, but it's also very concise and leads them to take action through the CTAs (Call To Action).
Other than refreshing your brand, what else was missing from your business and why?
I didn't have a brand before! Everything from brand colours to having a vibe. I am not a trendy person, but I wanted a brand that could stand the test of time and still reflect me a little as a person. None of my past branding elements had it. So just having everything clear and concise and cohesive, a holistic look and feel. From social media to handing out my business cards, my brand now shows up consistently from touchpoint to touchpoint. It’s so important.
So when I did my old website, I spent a lot of time doing SEO research and did a pretty good job being consistent with my blog and portfolio updates, which help give me good exposure online. Over time, when I stopped blogging and doing updates the enquires dropped off completely, and I lost a lot of organic traffic. And now since I have my new website up with much more comprehensive copy, keywords and good SEO structure, my organic traffic has increased exponentially over what it was before. In fact, within the first week of launching, we received three solid leads through our new Webflow website. Which was awesome!
When you had your old brand, why might have someone chosen a competitor over you?
People want to make sure they can trust you, and if your website doesn't look professional or long-standing, it's harder to garner that trust.
Who was your target audience before you refreshed your brand image?
Our main type of customers were the ones focused on the relationship and connecting with me more so than the actual wedding day itself. It was a stretch for them to hire me, but I found I only worked with people who were nice, and we had a great fit. To break it down, I would say my target audience was more wedding-focused.
Who is your target audience now?
Now I have added a commercial aspect. I’m also increasing my family portraits side of the business, so I’ve added a senior experience service photographing teens and grads. So my new brand has now allowed me to add more professional services and a comprehensive portrait experience to my roster of services.
What was your average fees or proposal amount before the brand refresh?
To give you an idea, my family portraits averaged 500 CAD per shoot.
What are your average fees now after the brand refresh?
Now after my brand refresh, my family portraits now average 1700 CAD per shoot. Basically, I’ve tripled my revenue, and this goes for my other services as well. The work is the same essentially, but I feel way more confident now charging what I feel I am worth and for my experience.
When clients work with you now, what do you want them to feel? What do you want them to think?
I want them to feel completely taken care of from the time they reach out to the time of the final delivered product. Prior to the rebranding, there was a lack of services. Having the rebranding done has enabled me to create an experience that is much less stressful for the client, as I offer in home consultations.
I’ll help plan what to wear, look at their clothing closets and help distinguish what would work best for the shoot. I look at their walls and see what will work nicely as final products to hang on their walls, and what they might want to invest in after the shoot. Not only that, I help them plan their location and venue, walking them through everything.
Did you receive leads through your old website? If so, how many and or value of leads?
1 or 2 leads per month before.
Did you receive leads post launch of your new website? If so, how many and or value of leads?
I’m now receiving about 10 on average per month.
If you could give one or two pieces of advice to someone who is starting out in the photographer business, what would it be?
When you are first starting out as a photographer, I feel you tend to need to own all the gear to create shoots, but the priority should actually be on the backend. A lot of photographers start out with a focus on being photographers and don't focus on being a business owner. You can be a bad photographer but run a very lucrative business. So focusing your investments on branding and marketing is probably the best piece of advice I could give. I wish I did this years ago when I started out!
Knowing what you know now after running your business for so many years, would you do anything differently and why?
I would have not bought $25k worth of photography equipment, and I would have taken $10k of that in year two and put that towards my branding and website. I think doing this approach, I would have been making the type of money I wanted to much earlier.
So, relating to this previous question, why do you think it is that naturally people tend to think that having the latest equipment will help them shoot better or have a better service or business?
And would you recommend to a new photographer having a coach or mentor?
Yes! I actually offer that myself now through my one-on-one courses and workshops, which you can find here on my website. This really can accelerate your learning and growth and avoid potential risks and financial loss. And we can really guide you to help you focus on what's important in the beginning because there are so many steps to starting a business and a lot of it is pricing yourself for profit and a lot of us just kinda wing it, so it's key to figure out your costing model and profits and then figuring out what licences you need to operate and whether you need insurance. There is a lot in the beginning, and it is nice to have someone sit with you and say here is a list and this is what you need to do and how to do it.
Where did you go for inspiration or knowledge when you started out?
I Googled everything!! Google was my best friend! I had no one sit down with me and say here is the list. Facebook groups can help you to learn a lot. Submit your work to critique your photographs. Get someone besides your mom to tell you there is something wrong. Find someone in your network or a photographer mentor who can vet and critique your work. You can learn a lot and grow from feedback. Lastly, try not be defensive about the feedback on what we are creating, it's hard to step back and agree.
How important is it to have a social media presence for your business?
It honestly differs from creative to creative. I don’t actually get many leads from social media, even though I have a great following fan base. For me, my strongest has been word of mouth and Google search. But I do see other creatives who are absolutely crushing it on social media, so it really depends on your clientele and target audience. I feel like my target audience is not necessarily on Instagram. I see they are more on Facebook. It definitely still has it place in that it helps me create brand awareness for UFP and stay top of mind, which then in turn helps with the increase in referrals.
Obviously, apps and platforms evolve and change, but what social media platforms have worked best for your business and why?
My perfect clients are between the age of 25 and 44 actually, so I am finding most of my clients on Facebook and Google, rather than on Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok.
How many times per week would you post on social media?
When I was doing it great, I was posting about 3 times per week. That was hard to do, I feel I was posting on Facebook more. I don’t love being on social media, so It's always been a struggle for me.
For those photographers who love social media, how often would you recommend to them that they should post on social?
Oh, I would say at least once per day, feed and stories.
What type of content have you seen works best for the posts that you have put out there?
I do feel like my stories tend to get more traction. Stories are great to show some behind the scenes of your life and get engagement and putting your own personal self out there. So, showing the person behind the business that people can relate too.
For feed posts, I feel like the ones that did well were posts about anything unique, that was totally different or stood out. Giveaways always do well. I try and also ask a lot of questions to get to know people.
How important or how much impact does it have on your business to have the latest or best tools, in this case your camera equipment?
Camera equipment is not as important as the equipment you are using behind the scenes of your business. So having a strong brand and website is huge. I wish I had done that a lot earlier and then also having software to manage my clients, that has also been huge. So creating workflows and automations to keep you on task and make things easier.
We see a lot of photographers apply a certain style or their edited photos all have a similar look and feel or filter applied, what you would you say works best and do you follow trends?
For someone who is starting out as a photographer, what could they do to create an amazing customer experience? How can they create raving fans?
Serve your clients well! Do what you can to ensure that they are taken care of from start to finish. Be good at communication. Make sure that you are managing expectations well so that you provide what you promised to provide within the timeframe you promised. That's the best way. Build a strong business and take care of people.
How has having a proper website helped you and your business?
I think it helps big time with building trust. It’s create a feeling of this is a legit business after a user finds you through Google search. It helped me have the right content and flow on the website and that the content is informative, and it has my personality and values come through.
When you are a solo photographer at what stage do you need to hire or outsource certain elements of your work?
What area of your business takes up most of your capacity?
Editing! Editing! Editing! This is the part I like the least and takes up most of my time. So if I can contract this out, that brings me joy because I am also trying to raise kids and be a good wife and mom, so having that extra time helps me with work-life balance and spending it on other areas of the business.
How do you build brand awareness and market your business?
Just service your clients well, because word of mouth is one of the biggest organic awareness tactics you could have. Free avenues like social media helps a lot and then having a strong online presence, so my website is a huge piece of the puzzle! In this day and age you have to be on the internet, if people find you on social media, and they want to Google you to find out more about you, and you don’t even show up, that could hurt your business and brand.
What has been your wildest shoot to date?
Oh, I mean I have been on multiple helicopter rides which is awesome. I’ve been to two different tropical destinations for photoshoots, and I was supposed to go to Vietnam but then Covid hit, so that probably would have been my most epic one!
If you had to start your photography business today, what are those essential business elements you need to create a strong foundation?
Besides making sure you have all the legal and financial elements, I would say a reliable set of gear and having a back-up camera if possible and then one decent portrait lens. Then the very next thing would be building out a professional brand image and website!
Last most important thing or take away from Jete:
Finance is the heartbeat of your business, you have to keep a pulse on your pipeline of leads, cashflow and how much you are charging out and what profit margins you are making to make sure your business is sustainable for the long run.
And lastly, if you are a mom or parent trying to run a business like this, you need to come to the fact or realization that you are not just a mom or person with a camera running around shooting photos for a hobby or because you are passionate about it. You have to treat it like a business, own it and become a boss who takes charge. Find a good balance between work and home life.
Return On Investment:
When Jete and Urban Fig came to us to help build out their new brand image and website, it was an investment and a stretch financially. But Jete saw and understood the value in getting it done properly from the start.
Here are some technical stats to show her return on investment, which all forms part of building a strong online presence:
Performance score went from 49% to 94% — 45% increase
SEO score went from 75% to 90% — 15% increase
Domain Rating (DR) & Authority went from old website 14 to new website 18
*Sources: Taken from Google Lighthouse report & Ahrefs
Want to read the full case study? Click here!
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Or visit Urban Fig Photography website at www.urbanfigphotography.com
Jete and her Husband