Nancy McFarland is a Certified Photo Manager and SoCal Photo Solutions. In this interview, she shares her advice for new and aspiring photo managers.
Nancy McFarland has been able to accomplish some amazing things with her photo organizing business, from paying off her kids’ college loans to expanding the business so that her husband could retire from his career and join her in this exciting field. Let’s find out more about how she did it as well as what advice she has for new Photo Managers and those considering taking up this new profession.
What changes have you seen over the past 10 years in the profession of Photo Management and the challenges clients face?
When I started people were most interested in their boxes of photos and their slides and now, of course, people are overwhelmed with all their digital media. Ten years ago not so much. I go into a client’s house and I know that their printed photos end in about 2005 or 2006. It’s the same with everybody.
In the beginning, people were interested in their printed photos and now it’s everything, especially for the people that are that have been historians of the family. They have
their grandparents or great-grandparents, from baby pictures to growing up, and they
have their children and now they have grandchildren. People call and they tell me the same story like it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it and they all say “I’m overwhelmed”.
In this business, we started 10 years ago we were making it up as we went along. We were inventing the wheel, we weren’t reinventing. We were all helping each other grow this business and figure out what the best practices were, how you help a client, how you charge, and how you do all the things. Now, the education available has gone through the roof. You can learn anything you want to learn. We’ve all helped each other grow the level of professionalism in this business to a point where it is amazing.
How do you manage co-owning a business and splitting tasks with your spouse?
Our goal was to make enough money so that he could retire. So my husband doe a lot of the money-generating activities. He does a lot of scanning including photo scanning, album scanning, and slide scanning. He’s used to sitting in a chair and working all day so that is really what he does.
I do more of the people-facing activities. I work with clients, talk to people on the phone and I do the invoicing and the people part of the business. I’m happy to share this experience with my husband and we have a lot of fun!
The nice thing about this business is that you can do whatever your strength is and there are plenty of other people who will do the rest. I’m fortunate enough that my husband scans, but there are plenty of other members of The Photo Managers who I could go to if I needed their services. I have plenty of people collaborating with me. For example, someone does my video transfers and I have a historian that I work with for life stories. We act as project manager to get our clients the services they need to achieve their goals for their collection.
Who is your ideal client?
My ideal client is someone who already knows the answer to why they are doing this. I don’t have to convince anyone, it’s someone who came to me and understands the value of having their photos organized, scanned, backed up, and available to their family. My ideal client understands the value of having a professional help them with this as opposed to trying to do it themselves.
How did you start to understand who your ideal client was?
I did a lot of networking. I learned how to talk about the business and how to collaborate with other people. I started with chamber groups which were small business owners. Small business owners are not my ideal client because they aren’t people who can afford my kind of services. They might be more do-it-yourself-oriented. My clients are people who understand the value of my services and can afford them.
How do you find new clients?
We do not have any trouble finding clients. We were busy before, but the pandemic caused people to stay home and connect with their photos. Now, they want to do something meaningful and make connections with their families. People are calling every day who are ready to get started.
Now that we are established, my business is basically from referrals and word of mouth. Clients tell other clients and referrals come from like-minded businesses such as the person that does my video transfers.
How have the natural disasters in your area impacted your business?
Since last year, after forest fire season, we have been inundated with new business. The first thing people grab when they are evacuating is their photos. Some people were evacuated two, three, or even four times last winter and they can’t picture putting those bins in their car one more time. Many people don’t know where to start, and I always say to start with the stuff that was in your car when you evacuated, those are the most important photos.
When I talk about someone knowing the value of our services, I don’t have to convince someone who had to evacuate and the first thing they grabbed was their photos.
What have you found most satisfying about your work as a Photo Manager?
Everybody wants to have a job where they make a difference and I really feel like I do that for y clients. The most satisfying thing is that their children and grandchildren are going to know who they are because of the work that we do right now. That’s come to light a lot now with the pandemic. I’m saving everything I can from this experience because people will want to look back years from now and understand what it was like to live through this time. There are some amazing stories out there that are worth preserving.
What advice do you have for people who are new to or thinking about a business as a photo manager?
I would give the same advice as I would to somebody that is just starting to organize their own photos. Starting is the hardest part. When I started SoCal Photo Solutions, I had already been organizing photos for clients for so many years and I was intimidated by starting a business. I would need a website, a name, business cards, and all of that evolved. I think just starting to work on your own photos, and your friends’ photos, and talking to clients is the best way to start. You can’t be totally prepared before you start, you have to gain experience and learn from other people’s experiences.
Watch the full interview to learn more from Nancy’s experience at the forefront of the new industry of photo organizing.