Kimberly Melton is a Certified Photo Manager and Owner of Visual Story Media. In this interview, she shares her advice for new and aspiring photo managers.
When Kimberly Melton heard The Photo Managers Founder and CEO Cathi Nelson speak at a seminar, she was immediately drawn to the field of photo management. After some extensive research (Kimberly is a self-described “super-researcher”), and some reassurance during a one-on-one appointment with Cathi Nelson, she decided to make this Photo Manager her new career. Kimberly loves helping people find their stories and hidden gems in their photo collections.
How did you start your business as a Photo Manager?
I did my research and figured out what you needed to start a business as a photo manager. I went to The Photo Managers website and looked at everything. Then, I interviewed the Founder, Cathi Nelson. I told Cathi about my background in project management and marketing, and I wasn’t afraid of the technology part.
One motto I try to live by is, “Never retire”. When you expose yourself to new things and difficult things it keeps your brain supple, you’re younger, and you make connections in your brain, especially if it’s hard stuff you have to figure out. There are some challenging times in running a photo management business but when things are hard, it means that I’m creating synapses and that’s a good thing. Within The Photo Managers, I have a great community that I can ask when I don’t know how to do something.
What was your own photo collection like when you started as a photo manager?
I’ll tell you a secret, there’s no photo manager that has their own collection perfectly organized, it’s not going to happen. We’re working on everybody else’s stuff! But in my family, I’m the keeper of our history. I would like to take a couple of days on my vacation and walk into my office and do my stuff, that’s going to be a treat to myself.
What do you love most about photo organizing as a career?
I love helping people when you’re in chaos or they dont know what to do. Organizing photos sounds like it’s really easy, bu ti’s a definite method and there are system snad procedures of how you do it so you cn again what you need to gain. ONe client sent me a thankyou note that said our work helped him heal the process of looking at his family pictures and going through his father’s life. He was so grateful that he didn’t have to worry about doing anything and that I knew how to help him with what he needed. That perfectly encompasses the impact we have on people, through tough times and joyful times.
What equipment did you invest in to help you start your business?
When I first started, I chose to buy a camera for camera scanning. My reasoning was that, if photo management didn’t work out for me, I could still use the camera. So I decided to start with camera scanning as opposed to buying a flatbed scanner. The first job I had involved scanning a couple of thousand pictures. That was the right choice for me, but might not be for everyone.
How did you discover who your ideal client is and how to find them?
I think it’s important whenever you start a business you should make sure that you know in
your head who your client is. You should know where they shop, and if they go to church. What are their likes? Are they Talbots or are they TJ Maxx or are they both?
I created two personas. One is named Phyllis, she’s about 55-60 so her parents are still alive but her kids are grown or in their 20s. So she’s sandwiched between generations. She has digital photos, her own older assets, and the assets of her parents. She’s got to balance all that and she works full-time so she doesn’t have time to do it herself. For this client, I can be a one-stop shop and do everything for her.
Then there’s Casey. She’s 20 years old and she’s got two kids and she’s a busy person with a full-time job and but she hasn’t made a baby book and she feels super guilty about it. I can help her digitize and understand how to know what is okay to delete.
How did you start getting clients and who was your first one?
I have a friend who wanted to digitize some stuff, I knew she did not have the funds to do it and so I charged her nothing. I came over and worked on her computer where she had about 22 thousand pictures when I started and we finished with 12 thousand which was much more manageable. I always try to do a little personal thing so there was one picture of her dad that was super small but fabulous. He was leaning on a car in the 1950s and it had scratches. I cleaned up the picture, reproduced it and put it in a 5×7 frame. When I delivered her stuff and I told her I had a little figt for her and she just bawled and was so grateful.
When working with clients’ princess memories, they need to be able to trust you. So word-of-mouth advertising helps people know that you are reputable and they can trust you.
Tell us about the presentations you’ve given in your community.
Networking is huge. It provides an opportunity to get the word out to a lot of people at one time. They may not hire you, but they will talk about you to others. I’ve done presentations for the National Association of Women Business Owners and also the Library. ANy time you can get out there and talk to people about what you do and find a niche, then you’ve got to take that opportunity.
What advice do you have for people who are new to or thinking about a business as a photo manager?
I would like them to know that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. You’ve got to understand that it will be uncomfortable and challenging. You will fun into situations where a client asks you a question you don’t know the answer to. One of the super things about The PHoto Managers organization is the willingness of everybody to help you. So get out there and find what you like to do and the ways you like to do it. Take classes when you can and just get out there and have fun with it. If a client asks you to do something you haven’t done before, you can figure it out.
What do you predict for the future of the photo management industry?
In this industry, the potential is limitless. It’s doing what you like and discovering how to do something you haven’t done before. We can open people’s eyes to how creative we can get and all the options that exist for both physical products with their photos and for online sharing.
Watch the full interview to hear more from Kimberly Melton. She will touch on the Learning Lab she presented at The Photo Managers annual conference and answer more questions from the audience. Watch now!