Small Town, Big Sales: How to Profit in a Podunk Market

Small Town, Big Sales: How to Profit in a Podunk Market

In a small town in West Texas, one photographer has established a thriving business that rivals big city photography studios. “We’re in podunk Texas,” Kaleigh Horelica says with a spirited, self-deprecating laugh. Although Abilene isn’t an affluent market, it has been the perfect place for Kaleigh to grow a successful studio that earns over six figures in annual revenue.

So what’s her secret to success? Turns out, it’s no big secret; she simply stays in touch with her clients and their families long after their photo sessions. As Kaleigh puts it: “some of my clients even become my besties!”

Building a successful photography studio doesn’t require angel investors or even an affluent market. “The median household income for the Abilene metro area is less than fifty thousand dollars,” Kaleigh acknowledges. “But even though Abilene isn’t filled with millionaires, it is filled with folks who value photography and relationships,” she says with unmistakable warmth.

Kaleigh welcomes families into her studio as she would welcome them into her home — as old friends. In fact, Kaleigh’s approach to doing business in Abilene embodies the history of West Texas: she hustles with the tenacity, creativity, and never-give-up spirit of the ranchers who settled the region. It’s no wonder that her clients keep coming back to her to book more sessions and purchase more fine art for their homes.

Getting the First Big Photo Sale

Kaleigh remembers her very first sale with a mixture of humor and pride:

My first sales session ever was with a young, single mom who trusted me with portraits of her kids. I was terrified and even felt guilty handing her my price sheet. Yet, she was thrilled to purchase fine art of her images and spent nearly a thousand dollars, which was huge for her and for me! Instantly, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Most of Kaleigh’s sales sessions happen in person, in her studio space. The “main event” is a slideshow, which she displays via AppleTV and iPads. She also offers remote viewings and uses ShootProof to facilitate the image selection and ordering process.

After the slideshow, she presents products to her clients, using carefully selected wording that will resonate with their values. “I always use words that my clients want to hear, words that reflect what matters most to them: words like preservation, document, heirloom, timeless, and priceless.”

Kaleigh’s clients share her love of printed photos; they want tangible memories that aren’t confined to a backlit device. One client in particular told Kaleigh that having a printed photograph “helped create a deeper connection to [her] own family.”

A Patient Approach to Selling (That Works!)

Kaleigh’s sales transactions aren’t transactional at all; they’re relational. She guides her clients through every step of the process, with a hands-on approach that feels more like a patient coaching session than a pushy sales pitch. 

“It can take time to decide which photos to order, how to frame them, or where to hang them, especially if you’re purchasing a large quantity of images. That’s why I never rush my clients; I walk them patiently through every step, showing them the best products for them,” Kaliegh shares. “Sometimes, I make product recommendations in-studio and then empower them to make their final purchase through ShootProof from the comfort of their couch.”

ShootProof-Powered Sales

Since her client relationships are often long-lasting, Kaleigh’s sales process feels like a casual conversation. “I schedule calls with almost all of my ShootProof gallery visitors to ask them if they’d like to purchase additional art for their homes.” 

Simply asking for the sale has helped Kaleigh average $1,500 in post-shoot sales on top of her regular session fee. “I capitalize on every opportunity to make a genuine connection with folks, whether that’s a mother or a grandmother,” Kaleigh enthuses. “After visitors log into one of my ShootProof galleries, I reach out to them via email and let them know that I’m here to help and would love to schedule a time to walk them through the photo products I offer.”

In addition to online galleries that showcase her clients’ images gracefully, Kaleigh uses ShootProof as her studio assistant. She taps into the power of ShootProof’s online contracts and invoicing features to manage her client relationships and track her orders.

More Than a Business. A Legacy.

Other than her husband and young son, Kaleigh’s greatest desire is to create a business that supports her family and honors the families whose history she preserves in pictures. “One day, when my mom tells people I’m a photographer, I hope they react the same way as if she said I was a doctor or a lawyer. In my book, photography is a distinguished and honorable profession.”

About ShootProof: Founded nearly a decade ago in Atlanta, GA., ShootProof has grown and journeyed alongside the tens of thousands of photographers they serve. They are committed to helping photographers focus on what matters most. Special Offer: The Fstoppers community can sign up for ShootProof and get 20 percent off.

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John Dawson's picture

Wouldn't "over six figures" be seven figures or more? Also, this reads like a barely veiled ad for ShootProof.

John Dawson's picture

Let's count... 1 0 0 0 0 1
Yep, that's six figures ;-)

Erik Linden's picture

The metro area has 166,000 people, not exactly tiny...

Michael Brock's picture

Abilene has grown some and there is several small towns around it such as Buffalo Gap and Tuscola. She is right about on the relations to her customers. In this area it does go a long way. It is good to someone succeeding and hearing about it.

michael buehrle's picture

sponsored by shootproof ?

Michael Petersheim's picture

Yup. LinkedIn says the author works at ShootProof. It's nicely written for being an ad, though: i.e. there's useful information about client relationships aside from the ShootProof info.

Giulio Palumbo Schiavone's picture

Really? This is clearly an advertisement for shootproof... give me back my 3 mins for reading this...

Ken Hilts's picture

There is a small but visible "sponsored" tag on this article, so the advertising nature of the piece isn't too surprising.

John Dawson's picture

Thanks, i didn't notice the "Sponsored" (click bait), but now it makes sense.

I think a more visually distinct disclaimer is definitely in order.

Jim Tincher's picture

I guess "Podunk" is a relative term...