Let’s talk to Caroline Guntur, otherwise known as The Swedish Organizer, about how she turned her love of photos and genealogy into a thriving business as a photo manager!
Caroline Guntur has always loved photos. In the early 2000’s she worked as a photographer specializing in commercial photography and model portfolios. After welcoming a daughter to the world, Caroline decided that once she was in school she would return to the world of photos. Wanting a change from photography, she pursued photo organizing. She joined the National Association of Professional Organizers where she learned about The Photo Managers (then known as APPO) and soon became a member of the TPM community. Known to many as The Swedish Organizer, Caroline has now been a professional photo manager for almost 10 years.
How did you get started as a photo manager? Tell us about your first jobs and your first clients.
When it comes to photo organizing specifically, I actually became really good friends with a person who does estate management. We met through NAPO and she had looked up who did photos in the area. We had lunch together, hit if off, and became really good friends.
She referred a couple of really big jobs to me when I was brand new, which was great, but it kept me busy for about two years. They were huge projects involving printed photos, digital photos, and scanning. The biggest one, was about 42 banker’s boxes of stuff, which was when you’re new, quite overwhelming.
With these early jobs, there was a big learning curve and it took a little bit longer, but the clients were okay with that so it worked out really well. After that, the referrals kind of just kept coming. In my process, I always focused on referrals and testimonials.
How does genealogy fit into your business?
Genealogy was a hobby of mine and it fits really well with photo organizing. A lot of the time when the client’s projects are done, they want to do something with it. So I always talk to them about creating a book, a family history project, or something to pass down. A lot of them don’t know much about that, so it opens the conversation. I tend to focus mostly on Scandinavian genealogy as that is my specialty, but I do work with other contractors too. So usually, this opens a whole other project where they become even longer-term clients, because genealogy can go on for a while.
Some of my biggest projects have gone from printed photos to digital to the family history part. Some clients have been with me for up to seven years at that point. The average project for genealogy, however, is about 12 to 14 months.
How do you evolve photo organizing projects into the maintenance of a collection?
To be honest, it just happens naturally. People just kept coming back and asking if I can do various things, so I started refining those offers. I don’t think I ever thought of it as an intentional thing to add maintenance as a service. It just kind of evolved that way.
The hardest part is convincing people to get into photo organizing. Once they’re convinced, they’re in. I have people who still call me now to ask when a person’s birthday is because I know their family better than they do. You get to know them really well, and they get to know you. So once that relationship is there, you’re likely to work together more and more.
What is a typical example of a photo maintenance project?
It could be anything that keeps their collection organized. A couple of my clients just upload to their cloud hub, and then I make albums for them. Albums are such an easy thing, but it’s something that a lot of people want off their plates. For example, one of my clients uploads to Forever from his phone or from his wife’s phone. Then every six months or so he asks me to go in and fix the last six months’ worth of stuff. I do that, and then I make it back up. It’s super easy to do but this client just doesn’t want to do it. When I take care of it for him, he’s so happy!
Are you tech-savvy by nature or did you learn this skill as a photo manager?
Before I got into organizing, I was already sort of hopping around in related areas. I did web design for a while. And then of course, of course, photography, so I was already used to using Adobe Lightroom. So I was kind of already in that world. I just didn’t know that you could do it for a living. I never really put my photography skills together with organizing until I found The Photo Managers!
How do you incorporate education into your services?
Right now I do a lot of teaching. I have courses and DIY offers for the do-it-yourselfers. With that, we do coaching calls every month so they still get a feeling that they’re getting some support.
What is the language that you use to help people see the value in the work that you do?
It’s important to remember that you’re selling the ‘why’, you’re not selling the ‘how’. Potential clients don’t really care about how you do things, they care about the outcome. So you have to phrase it in a way that they understand why it’s beneficial to them. A big one is having stories to share with your family.
The hardest thing to sell prevention. It’s kind of like hwen we talk about money. Everyone know you should save for the future but it’s not easy to do. The challenge is to make the investment relevant now. People only tend to take action when there is a pain point so getting them to take action before something goes wrong is a challenge.
What’s one thing you love about what you do, and one thing you don’t love?
What I love the most is the client’s “aha” moments when they figure stuff out. I love teaching and love helping people so they go, “Oh, okay, now I understand why I should be doing this!”.
My business is all remote, so I also love the fact that in normal times, I’m able to travel and go wherever I want. With my laptop with me I can still do my work. So those are like my two favorites. I actually usually go to Sweden for the summer.
I actually don’t think there is anything about my business that I don’t like. If I feel resistance to something, I reevaluate if I should be offering that service or who I can outsource that to. So I feel like, at this point, I’ve refined my business to a point where I actually love everything, which is cool.
What are some services you have outsourced?
Media conversion scanning is one thing I outsource. I’m also outsourcing digital organizing projects more and more. I’m focusing on building my team so that I can focus more on the vision and strategy of the business.
How has being a member of The Photo Managers helped your business?
It’s been great! Having a community is so valuable. Whenever you have a question, or if you need some outside opinions, you always have somebody to talk to who gets it. I can talk about this to my family all day long, but they don’t know what I do. They have no idea what I’m talking about. So just having kindred spirits that know what you’re going through is so valuable. All of our businesses are different and there is always something we can learn from each other.
Watch the full video interview with Caroline Guntur to learn more about her business advice for new photo managers.