Hey guys and welcome to another episode of Make Your Break. For episode 70, I’m lucky enough to be joined by Dawn Jarvis from Dawn Photo. Dawn has a big Instagram following and she always shows up for her community. She’s going to share some of her best Insta tips with us on the show today; if you feel like your social media game could use some work, this is the episode for you.
Dawn Jarvis is a wedding photographer from Oregon who’s been working in the industry for the last twelve years. She went full time for five years, which was the point where she saw her business open up. Dawn has been active on Instagram for almost a decade. I was interested in why it took Dawn a long time to become a full-time photographer. She went to school for something very different to photography, so she was a little hesitant to treat it like a full-time career. She worked in a camera shop for a little while before going pro, which has given her a great grounding in the technology side of things.
Dawn has no regrets about going full time; it gave her much more space and freedom to consider all aspects of her business and fully commit to it. I think it’s amazing to get up every day and create art on your own terms. Dawn agrees but admits it’s also terrifying at the same time. It’s all on her to do the work and make the money. But that’s the space where I think you feel alive. I often think about how crazy it is that I get to create things for a living. I’m grateful I get to do that each day.
I get messages from people all the time who are looking to grow their Instagram follower count, but I feel they’re looking at it the wrong way around. They see many top wedding photographers speaking at workshops and assume they got the gig because of their follower count. But once you stop focusing fully on followers and start to trying add value, that all important number will grow without you realising. But I want people to realise that any one can do it if they put the hard work in.
Dawn also doesn’t care about her follower count, but she admits that it does add credibility. Dawn’s taught at workshops with people who don’t have a huge follower count and people underestimate them. People often don’t see them as a credible source. Dawn always responds to messages, despite having close to 100,000 followers. The number shouldn’t make a difference to how you treat people. I’m the same; I always have time for anyone who’s interested in my work and business.
Dawn interacts with a lot of people who don’t use their proper name in their bio; so when she’s messaging them it comes up as something generic like ‘Oregon Wedding Photographer’. Unless she has a picture, she can’t tell who she’s talking to. Make sure you put your name in your bio so that your business is personally branded. A lot of people don’t say either their name or where they’re from. You build trust from the get-go. Often, photographers get booked for their personality as much as their photos. It’s crucial to display this from the very first interaction a customer might have with you.
I often think of it as a party; you invite people in and get to know them a little, then you invite them to another room (your website) to talk business.
Dawn knows it can be terrifying and intimidating to put yourself front and center of your stories. It took her months to build up to it, but it’s hugely important. If anyone uses Marco Polo or Snapchat to talk to their friends, it should feel the exact same on Instagram stories. You’re trying to connect with people while presenting your real self. Captions are also a great idea for people who can’t turn up the volume or are hearing-impaired. Show snapshots of your life; I post my dogs, my coffee, everything I’m interested in. The couples I book usually end up being people who like the same kind of things.
Dawn believes that every professional photographer should have highlights directed towards their clients and potential clients. They should have an ‘About Me’ section, an ‘FAQ’ section, basically, turn it into a mini-version of your website. If you travel, for example, you should have a separate section dedicated to that.
I’m building a house at the moment and I find myself obsessively checking interior designer’s pages. I don’t really check out other photographer’s pages, but when it’s a new industry that I don’t know much about, I go in deep. Your clients are going to do the same thing. Dawn thinks they’re also useful for checking out where people got certain things; she often links to products or places in her own highlights.
Planning your posts is seriously important. You should think about how you present your feed, whether you’re matching complimenting colours, creating a theme, using light with dark; whatever it is, you should aim for some consistency. Your feed should be a kind of portfolio. That doesn’t mean you should only post-professional stuff, you should post whatever you want. In fact, she’s often been surprised at the positive response she’s received over posts she thought no one would care about.
Dawn uses the Preview app to get a sense of her feed before she goes live with it. I’m a little bit on the other side of things; my feed isn’t as well-crafted or considered as Dawn’s, but I do try to post as much as possible. Don’t operate on your followers’ presumed schedules, post when you feel. I’m all about impact, so I tend to post a lot. Dawn doesn’t post every day, but she does attempt to engage with as many people as possible after she posts. You should allow yourself twenty minutes to an hour after each post to engage with your followers. It’s not just about the post, it’s about showing up.
This tip is one of my own to finish on; don’t be afraid of using different types of content! There’s so many ways to deliver to your audience. I use IGTV a lot, because I like longer content and I like posting in that form. If you’re not finding your audience, don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone. Have some fun and mix it up; you might be surprised at the results!
I’ve noticed that Dawn has been teaching a lot of workshops over the last few months; I was interested to hear if she’s thinking differently about her business now, as the year has been so different than what we expected from it this time last year. Dawn says she’s definitely listening to more podcasts, but she finds she’s teaching workshops more than attending them. Dawn also has a baby on the way (congrats Dawn!) so she’s been busy figuring out how she’s going to recalibrate her business for 2021. She’s nervous about it, but she’s looking forward to the challenges.
I want to say a big thank you to Dawn for coming on and chatting us through her top tips for Instagram! If you’d like to check out Dawn Jarvis and her amazing work, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her own website.
Thank you so much for listening guys, catch you next time!
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All photos by Dawn Jarvis