Meet QB Community member — Miami-based photographer Pascal Depuhl!
After falling into shooting images on a whim as a teen, Pascal honed his art over a number of years before starting his own company about a decade ago. Now he boasts an impressive lineup of clients, including National Geographic, SeaRay and Mars thanks to constant hard work and dedication to his craft.
We chatted with Pascal about the first big job that launched his career, how he learned to stand out in a saturated industry and the secret sauce for keeping your happy customers coming back for more.
Read on to hear his story!
Name: Pascal Depuhl
Business: Photography by Depuhl
How did you start your business?
I've been getting paid for my photography since my late high-school years. I began assisting and apprenticing after college for four years and got my first full-time job in 1996, but I only launched my company in 2004. I honestly don't know what first drew me to photography! I was saving money to buy a mountain bike and ended up walking into a store and picking up a camera instead.
I opened up my own shop out of necessity. I had gotten laid off from two full-time photography jobs in 12 months and didn't want to have to rely on someone else to earn my livelihood.
Who was your very first customer?
A friend of my dad had an ad agency that needed photos for one of their clients. I was a senior in high school when I got that job, and the budget for the whole thing — including travel expenses, food, lodging, film, processing, my time and equipment — was a little over $1,750 dollars.
My dad’s friend told me he didn't care how long I stayed in Israel to photograph, as long as I didn't go over budget. I was there for a month!
When did you know your business was going to work?
I got an unsolicited email from a company that provided a retouching service to photographers. I realized that they found my business online and were looking to sell me their service. I was so excited, because I'd spent absolutely zero money on advertising, yet someone who didn't know me figured out I was a photographer based on information that was out there online.
Today, what is your most effective means of getting new customers?
Everything I do, from writing a blog to keeping an active social media presence on sites like Instagram and Twitter, from putting on workshops to volunteering and being deeply involved in the local small business community, is done with SEO in mind. For the last few years, my business has ranked first on page one of the organic Google search results. Not a week goes by where I don’t get leads from that.
The second most effective marketing trick I learned was to have my elevator speech down. I need my business to stand out, so here’s how I introduce myself when people ask what I do for a living: “I’m a mind changer.”
Try to forget me now.
How do you price your services?
A lot of factors go into determining my pricing. The base is obviously the cost of doing business. Then it’s my time, how the images and videos will be used and what the market can bear.
Since I sell myself not just as a technician who pushes a button, but as someone who creates and produces mind-changing visual content, the main thing that the pricing itself does is weed out clients I'm not a good fit for.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
Realizing that people forget. I had an Art Director I worked with every day for years. We really enjoyed working together. About two years after I had gone out on my own and was struggling to find business, we ran into each other. She said she’d totally forgotten about me and that she’d been working with a client I’d be perfect for.
It was totally my fault — I wasn't reaching out to my potential customers. That was probably the biggest turning point in how I market myself.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I can find myself filming at 10,000 feet elevation in 25-below-zero temperatures in the mountains of Afghanistan one day and be writing a blog post for a national photographic society the next.
Or, I might be interviewing a 70-year-old pecan farmer in New Mexico another day and be figuring out how to automate the processes of my small business the next. There’s really no set schedule!
How do you juggle other responsibilities and interests outside of your business?
Being my own boss means I work long and hard, often deep into the night, but it also affords me the opportunity to take time to get involved in my kids’ schools, to volunteer at my church, to take a week off and cruise the Bahamas on a boat with just my family.
On one hand, I have hundreds of bosses — every one of my clients — and on the other hand I have just one. Me!
If you could go back in time, what's the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?
I would have started helping people remember my business earlier. That first year was tough, when I was still naive enough to believe that everyone who knew me was just going to call and hire me.
My clients are the lifeblood of my company and, as we all know, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than find a new one. Want to know the secret to a happy client? Under promise and over deliver.
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self employed professionals?
As a small business, I love the fact that we can follow our dreams and use that thing we're really good at. You know that innate ability, that God-given gift you build your business on. On the other hand, I also believe, that since we've been given this talent, ability, knack, whatever you want to call it, the mere fact that we did not earn it requires us to give back.
This belief is the reason I went to Afganistan to film a pro-bono documentary 5 years ago and it's the same reason that I have partnered up to film another documentary with an organization that rescues children out of slave labor in Asia later this year.
How do you give back to your community?
Images: Photography by Depuhl. All rights reserved.
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