In this session of Career Advice from a Pro we welcomed pro Photo Manager Fabiana Morris to talk about how she started and maintains a profitable business as a Photo Manager. Watch the video or read the summary to see what advice she has for those just getting started.

Fabiana Morris discovered her love of photos while serving the in US Navy. Finding herself on the island of Guam as a teenager, Fabi started scrapbooking after meeting a Creative Memories consultant. After leaving the Navy she embraced her natural entrepreneurial spirit. While researching profitable business ideas, her journey led her to find The Photo Managers (then known as the Association of Personal Photo Organizers).


How did you land your first big project as a Photo Manager? 


My first big client project, which was two-and-a-half years long, was a direct result of my being in this association. I was very green, I had only done a few small clients and there was so much I didn’t know. 

There was a personal historian working with this person that’s now my client, and she had been one of the charter members of The Photo Managers but had since returned to practicing pro bono law. She needed somebody to pass the project off to so she went on the website, found my name, and connected with me. At first, I actually thought it was a hoax email because it just sounded so good. She said she had a huge project when wanted me to take over and asked if we could meet. I think I put out a message on the forum asking if anybody had got an email like this. So it kind of started out funny. But we connected. And it was all because of The Photo Managers membership community. I would not have this job without being part of this group. So I’m really thankful for that.


How did you tackle this huge project as a new Photo Manager?


The project itself was at this client’s office in Houston. He had a floor where his business was being run and was using a room as his book room. It had about 12 shelves of things, including his and his wife’s family pictures. He had also gotten into genealogy and had done about 40 years of research. And at that time, there was a two-part webinar for TPM members on genealogy. I remember listening to that and it really helped me because the speaker said that a lot of people do all this research, but then they don’t know how to put it all together. That’s where this client was. Not only did he have all this family history, but he also had pictures and it was just a massive amount of stuff. 

At this point, my learning began. I just started devouring all the resources that I could, going down all the rabbit trails that I needed to go on to figure out what to do. I went to metadata camp, I went to RootsTech, I did the Photo Managers conference– I went to several conferences. We invested heavily in training and resources and the reason we were able to do that is that we priced ourselves properly coming in. I didn’t do any discounting when I brought this client on. I had a set rate and that was my rate the whole way through. When we started bringing on employees, I also billed for their rate the same as my rate. That advice came to me from the SCORE program of the Small Business Association. They also provide other free resources including a business mentorship program.

For the first two weeks, all I did was inventory everything. I went item by item and I just tried to figure out what was in the room. I love puzzles, so it was great. After the room was inventoried, we moved into getting it all organized for scanning which took a long time. We brought in some college students to help us until we got everything digitized.


What was the outcome of your first big client project?


I learned everything I needed to know along the way. At the RootsTech conference, I met somebody who specializes in family history books, and that was another piece of the puzzle that came together at the right time. A lot of things came together at the right time after we digitized everything. Then we started working on how to create the books.  There was so much rich family history including 10 volumes on World War Two history alone from the client’s father. So that became one of the volumes that we did. I continued learning from various sources along the way. Janet Blunt’s course on book design gave me the basic training I needed to streamline the process, even though I didn’t end up designing the books myself. I had a graphic designer do the final design of the books.

One of the most valuable aspects of what we did for the client, was that I synthesized all this stuff that he didn’t know what to do with. So I got a really good understanding of the whole family collection, all the family lines. So much so that he could ask me questions about his family history and I could tell him about connections between people that even he himself didn’t know how to decipher. We did all that just from being there and going through everything and putting the pieces of the puzzle together.


What was your biggest lesson learned from your first big client?


The way I went into it was great. I set up my pricing, and that was very consistent throughout. So that was good. But since I was still new, I didn’t document well what was going on, because I was spending so much time figuring things out. I kind of got in the weeds and was so busy just getting the work done and I didn’t have my CEO hat on as much as I should have. I should have been analyzing the metrics of what was happening, instead of just trying to get it done. In the end, it all worked out okay, because this client was so hands-off. But that’s not a good way to do things because you always want to have updates and reports to be able to show your progress. Even if the client doesn’t want to see those reports, you need them for yourself, because you have to understand what’s going well, and what’s not going well. You can only do that if you’re documenting. It seems counterintuitive to stop and document, but it’s so valuable, and I’ve gotten much better at it since then.


Tell us about a more recent project you’ve worked on.


Right after I attended the 3-day Profitability Live workshop put on by The Photo Managers, we got a lead on our website, which is how usually we get our new clients. She wanted to do her mom’s photo collection as was a gift to her mom. So talked to her on the phone, gave her our rate, went to do the discovery session, got her all her stuff, and brought it back to our studio. As was recommended at Profitability Live, I got half the amount quoted for the project as a deposit upfront, and the client was fine with that.


What do you love most about what you do as a Photo Manager?


I love delighting people and just getting that burden off of them and helping them enjoy their memories. Remembering is so important, and we’re helping people remember! Appreciating both the good and bad memories really helps solidify where you are now. I love that we can do that for people.


What do you like least about what you do as a Photo Manager?


You can always hire other people to do the stuff that you don’t prefer. For me, that’s digital photo organizing, because it’s so multifaceted and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to it. I like to tell stories, that’s my heart. I just want to look at the pictures, organize them, and tell the stories.


Watch the full interview to learn more from Fabi about what it takes to run a successful business as a Photo Manager.