In a world that seems to scream, faster is better, bigger is better, more is better. It is so refreshing to hear a master craftsman talk about being motivated by getting better at his craft. Today we have the honor of hearing from one the world’s most celebrated photographers, Erich McVey. But you may be surprised that this master of his craft, started his photography career having never picked up a camera and at a job interview his mom signed him up for!
Erich is a business owner I have looked up to for years and I am beyond thrilled he is sharing his business journey with us today!
WILDFLOWER SHOWNOTES : shannaskidmore.com/erich-mcvey
Erich McVey (00:00):
I didn't have everyone's work and everyone else's trajectory to look at right in front of me the whole time. I didn't have Instagram to see what everyone else was doing. I was happy with when I started the business. I was happy just shooting senior photos in Salem. When I started shooting weddings, I was happy making a couple grand on each wedding. Here in Oregon, I didn't know people were off doing other things. And that helped me so much because I never looked too far ahead and I never got down on myself because I saw other people doing things that I would have then wished I was doing myself.
Shanna Skidmore (00:41):
You are listening to Consider the Wildflowers the podcast episode 27. In a world that seems to scream faster is better, bigger is better, more is better. It is so refreshing to hear a Master craftsman talk about being motivated by getting better at his craft. Today we have the honor of learning from one of the world's most celebrated photographers, Eric McVey. But you may be surprised that this master of his craft started his photography career having never picked up a camera. And at a job interview, his mom signed him up for. Eric is a business owner I have looked up to for years, and I am beyond thrilled. He is sharing his business journey with us today. If you dig professional bios here, it goes From Bali to New Zealand, Norway, to Columbia, and everywhere in between. Eric McVey has photographed weddings all over the world during his 14 years of experience as a professional photographer named one of the world's top wedding photographers by Harper's Bazaar, Martha Stewart and Brides.
He uses an approach that combines documentary and fine art styles to capture images that are honest and timeless. His work has been featured in top wedding publications including Vogue Bride, Harper's Bazaar, Martha Stewart, weddings, the Knot Sea, weddings Over the Moon, LA Times, and numerous other publications. Eric is based in Oregon where he lives with his wife and daughter. Okay, formal introductions over, let's dive in. Hey, it's Shannon and this is Consider the Wildflowers, the podcast. For the past 15 plus years, I've had the honor to hear thousands of stories from entrepreneurs around the world. As a former Fortune 100 financial advisor, turn business consultant, I have a unique opportunity to see the real behind the highlight reel. I'm talking profit and loss statements, unpaid taxes, moments of burnout, and those of utter victory. Or as my husband says, the content everyone is wondering but not many are talking about. And now I'm bringing these private conversations to you. Hear the untold stories of how industry leaders, founders, and up and coming entrepreneurs got their start, the experiences that shaped them and the journey to building the brands they have today. Stories that will inspire and reignite encourage to redefine success and build a life in business on your own terms. Welcome Wildflower. I'm so glad you're here. Hey Eric. What's up?
Erich McVey (02:55):
What's up, Shanna?
Shanna Skidmore (02:57):
This is going to be so fun. Okay, so we hit record early because how have we never met? It's like this shocking, but I feel like we should be friends and we are. Let's make it happen.
Erich McVey (03:08):
100%. I've been hearing about you for what, 10 years now. You're the money queen from what I understand. Yes, I love it. When I created my course, my online course with if I'm a, and I would talk to some of the other people who made courses like Jenny, ah, and Tech Petach and talk to Emily over it if I'm a, and we'd go, whose course is selling really well. And it was your name came up over and over and over again that you were killing it. And that is how I first found out about you. And now I see you pop up all the time and it seems like you do everything.
Shanna Skidmore (03:46):
I mean, I'm all around in all the places I am very thankful that, so Amy Sabba, who does flowers? Amy was one of my very first clients and then Emily who founded if I Made, and once we was one of my first clients. And I think that was such a blessing because I got in this just incredible community of people who you all had big audiences. So I've always been kind of just, we joked before, I'm seriously on the fringe. I just am hanging out on the sidelines. What's up guys? But truly biggest cheerleader, but fly kind of under the radar. But yeah, I've gotten to work with so many incredible people and I love it.
Erich McVey (04:29):
What do you do on a day-to-day basis? I don't even know how you got your, I don't want to be interviewing you, but I'm really curious and I want to know a little more.
Shanna Skidmore (04:37):
Okay. I know this is fun. So this is our first coffee chat. Welcome everyone to Eric, the Eric and Shannon Show. So yeah, so I've done finance for 15 years. I did personal finance first. I did that for five years. And then I met my husband who you'll meet him one day. He's cool and he's younger than me. And so he had just come to the office and he has a marketing degree, but worked in finance for about a year. And I always laugh cause I'm like, I truly believe that's just a, we would meet each other. And we got married really fast. We dated for four months, we're engaged for three months to the day because I was like, wow, I cannot have less than three months to plan a wedding. So to the day we got engaged on July 22nd, married, October 22nd, we got married and I just knew finance wasn't his future.
And I said, if he could do anything, what would you do? And he said, I want to design and build airplanes. And I said, great, how do we do that? And he said, I have to go back to school. And I was like, awesome. We lived in Tennessee, I'm born and raised Tennessee, I'm love me some Dolly. I said, okay, great. I'll go anywhere but Atlanta, Georgia. And he said, well, Georgia Tech's the number two engineering, aerospace engineering school in the country. And so a few months later we moved to Atlanta and there we are. So that's when, cause back in those days when you built a practice, you can't just move your practice. And so I actually transitioned into corporate finance. I was hired by an investment company. I say like Shark Tank, but not Shark Tank. And so I worked for a startup fashion designer.
And that's really truly honestly, Erich, when I found my calling in life, because I have a degree in psychology, art, and finance. And it was this moment with my fashion designer where I was like, people are amazing at their craft, but don't always know how to make it profitable. And that is truly my gift. And coming from a world of finance, which is so male dominated, and I was one of the only females that wasn't an assistant and getting asked whose assistant I was all of the time, all of my clients were female. And I just knew that I could be kind of the bridge this in between person who got the world of art and creativity and passion and craft, and also the world of numbers and spreadsheets and words mitigate and <laugh>. So I really thought Kyle was going to be my sugar daddy while, and so I was like, I just need to start this business while he's in school, pay our bills for a little while.
And the first year we profited I think like 60,000, 70,000 the first year, which was, that was more than, I mean that was a big paycheck. That's what I need to make. And then it just grew from there. And then yeah, we launched, I need to ask you about if I may, but we launched the pricing for creatives course with if I made in 2016. And then I launched my own first course, the blueprint model, which is all about business finance. And we sold 54 courses at the whole first time. So we did 106,000 in sales and I had 250 people on my email list. I mean, that was the beginning days of Instagram. I had a thousand followers maybe. And so we just grew from there. So it's been a really fun journey just teaching people about money and then helping them manage it well. And I think it's just empowering, really gifted people with something that I find super simple money. And I do think that's my gift is making money.
Erich McVey (08:15):
Shanna Skidmore (08:15):
Erich McVey (08:17):
And you make it really approachable and not taboo, right? Yeah. Us creatives are notoriously bad at the business part and the money part and owning it, owning doing this to make a profit and talking openly about it and having somebody like you who we can talk to and who can help us with the part. I mean, we didn't get into this, we got into this because we taking pictures me for instance, or we like playing with flowers or we like planning weddings or I'm sure you work with all kinds of creatives, but most of us didn't get into this. To have to crunch numbers on a day-to-day basis or have to think about those things and having someone like you to help navigate through that must be so huge for the people you work with. Yeah,
Shanna Skidmore (09:11):
Yeah. It's such a gift because I love seeing people make money for themselves, but the lifestyle that it gives them and to know, it's just such really rewarding work to be able to see it click to make people who are like, I hate money. I hate numbers to be like, I love my spreadsheet. And it's so fun and <laugh> because it really truly is empowering. And Eric, I think you're a rockstar at this, but to know what you need to sell and what is a profitable price and not burn yourself out. And that's I think the gift that I can help with.
Erich McVey (09:50):
Well, to call
Shanna Skidmore (09:51):
Me, thanks for asking
Erich McVey (09:51):
To call me a rockstar might be an overstatement, but I was going to jump in and say basically I have in a lot of respects in my wife Amy, whose background is in PR and marketing, and she has allowed me to be able to think and live the artist stuff while she thought about the numbers and kept us afloat. And I would not be anywhere near where I am today without her mind and without having somebody by my side to talk to every day about this stuff. Because a lot of us wedding photographers for instance, are on a bit of an island. When we have a partner, if we're single or have a partner who does something completely different is and is out of the house all the time, we don't have somebody to, we're, we're just in our own head and we have to figure these things out on our own.
So having someone else to bounce ideas off of and talk through things. And Amy and I, we spend, when we're out on date night, we're talking about how we're going to execute this workshop or this online course or what we're going to do on the presets or whatever side project we have. It's kind of our fun. And we both grew up with parents who own small businesses and work together. Her parents do, my parents do. And so we had that example and <laugh> my parents for better or worse, their idea of fun, they don't have any hobbies. Their idea of fun is the business and making money and talking about the business and pushing, pushing, pushing. And again, for better or worse, it is what it is. But we do have a life outside of that, which I'm thankful for, but we also have that example where running the business and working together is actually something we enjoy.
Shanna Skidmore (11:39):
Yeah, that's so fun. So your parents, both sets of your parents work together?
Erich McVey (11:45):
Shanna Skidmore (11:46):
Wow, okay. That's such a unique perspective. That's so great. And for both of you, that's so interesting. So Kyle and I, it's funny, people are like, what is it working with your spouse? And I'm like, truly, that's all we've ever known. That's how we met. We worked together. And then Kyle of course went and pursued engineering, but he always has always done all of our production. I mean, people don't know how much Kyle's works in the business. And it wasn't until a year and a half ago that he joined like full-time. For real, but it's so fun. But you guys had an example and I think that's so neat because it, you have to figure out your roles and how to do things well together and how can we, do we want to not talk about the business at the dinner table or is that okay in our family? It's such a unique situation.
Erich McVey (12:34):
It is. It,
Shanna Skidmore (12:36):
Yeah. So has Amy always worked with you?
Erich McVey (12:39):
When we actually met through my first photography job and she was working at a corporation that hired me to do photography. We got teamed up on the project and they sent us all over the country on 10 day trips together to these retirement home communities for me to photograph older people who live in the retirement homes. And Amy was managing the project. So we were on a perma date for seven to 10 days at a time. <laugh> all over the country for a whole summer. And so that is her background. I it's in PR and marketing. And for the first, we dated for a couple years she was doing that and once we got married, I told her pretty quickly that the business has become a little bit too much for me to manage myself and we're going to be just fine. Our dream is to work together.
Our dream is to have you a part of this. Let's fast forward. I know a little bit more trued and conservative and safe on this stuff. And she said, I can't give up this steady income. How are we going to make up for this? I told her, everything's going to be fine. We're only going to be able to grow photography business if you come on and I need you. And she trusted me. She took the leap and we started working together full-time. From there, she quit her job and we got to, for the past 10, 13 years, travel all over the world together doing this together and having side by side offices, desks. And so she's been doing it w with me ever since. So now we're 11 years into marriage and about 11 years into working full-time together.
Shanna Skidmore (14:20):
Oh my goodness. Okay. This is so fun. Take me, I just, Hey Erich, take me back to life before business. Yeah. When did all this start? What I mean, how'd you get in photography? Did you have a full-time? Like I just want to know all the things and tell me Sure. A year so I can get a timeline.
Erich McVey (14:40):
In 2009, I was finishing up my digital arts degree at University of Oregon, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. That program was all different kinds of using all different kinds of mediums and computer software. I really had no idea what I loved the most and what I was going to do after that. My mom came to me one day, said, I lined you up for an interview to be a photographer. I didn't have a camera. I had never been interested in photography, never taken any pictures. But so I said, no gifted. She said, no, you're going to do it. This person who used to work for us is hiring and I think you'd be great. I know you'd be great. I resisted a bunch. And then eventually she wore me down. She's this badass ex-marine super, super nice woman, but she gets what she wants when she sets her mind to it.
Oh, wow. And so my parents bought me a camera for Christmas. I had a few days to learn how to use it, and then I went and did this test shoot interview for this company who, I don't know what they were thinking, but they hired me to shoot this whole campaign for them. And this is the campaign where I got teamed up with my wife, my now wife, Amy, a star on the project. So it's how I got my start in photography and how I met Amy and wow. Kind of never looked back where the photography thing started. I was throwing a bunch of crap against the wall for a long time with how I was going to make this a business. I thought I wanted to do commercial stuff. I was much more comfortable shooting inanimate objects, Thane objects at that time, and directing and lighting people.
Again, I had no background in it, so the only way for me to learn was to go out and shoot more. So I was trying everything. I was shooting real estate headshots and architecture and senior photos and all kinds of business photos short term or I mean payday loan company, marketing materials, everything under the sun. And eventually someone asked me to shoot a wedding for 500 bucks, and it was someone I knew. So I said yes, even though it was terrifying. It was at a commune, hot springs with naked people running all over the place. The couple was not naked, which is the question I get all the time. Couple was not naked, but a lot of other people were hilarious. Yeah. Well, I was shooting their portraits up on this bridge over the river, and during their portraits, a dude just scampers down the rocks, takes off his clothes and starts bathing in the river. <laugh>,
Okay, this is a good foray into wedding photography. Is this how it always is? And I 500 bucks, I still 500 bucks. You'll do a lot. No, that was amazing money to me back then. And I still for probably months or years, didn't know that I wanted to shoot people and shoot weddings. It was really hard for a long time because I didn't know what I was doing and I wasn't like, I'm a people person, I'm pretty outgoing, but when you're in that moment and you're directing people and all eyes are on you and you feel like it, it's just a lot of pressure. So it took me a long time to fall in love with it, but once I did and once I got good at it, I absolutely loved it and could never imagine myself doing anything different.
Shanna Skidmore (18:17):
Yeah. So were you shooting film this whole time?
Erich McVey (18:21):
I started out shooting digitally because when I picked up photography in 2009 film, it was pretty much the low point of all time for film. Right. And I started shooting film when I attended Jose Villa's workshop in 2011. So Amy and I got married in 2011, and when we were looking for photographers, we realized that the thing we were always drawn to were the film images. And we hired the only film photographer, Kirk Mastin, who does the Mastin Labs photo presets. He was the only film photographer in the northwest. We live in Oregon. And once we got the photos back, and once I started seeing Jose via and Elizabeth Messina's features on style me pretty way back in 2011, I just realized that I was so drawn to film and I wasn't going to be happy with my work unless I went that direction. So yeah, I signed up for Jose's workshop, left the digital cameras at home shot film the whole time.
And when I returned from that trip, I committed completely to shooting film because it's what I wanted to do. A lot of the photographers that were at the workshop as well were very interested in film. That's a big reason why they were there. And I think one thing that separated me from a lot of those people in our trajectory in the past 10 years is the fact that I really fully committed to that thing that I wanted to do when I got back from the workshop. I had a luxury of being able to do that. Amy still had the corporate job, she still had a consistent paycheck. We could afford to make 20 grand less a year while I invested in film and learned how to shoot it and built the business up as a film wedding photographer. But I think what held a lot of people back was just the idea of the unknown.
And I, Amy tried very, very hard to convince me not to fully commit to film that it was too much money, that I should take it slowly, that I should shoot a few rolls of film at each wedding and basically grow gradually. And I wanted to come back and shoot entirely on film. So I did. And that allowed me to grow my portfolio on film very quickly. It allowed me to get good at film very quickly. And because I had a great film portfolio and that's what people were looking for, I was able to charge more money for my weddings a lot more quickly. And I think that changed the trajectory of my business quite a bit. That was a big turning point for me, probably the biggest.
Shanna Skidmore (21:10):
And that's so scary because that's cost. I mean, that's so much cost. You've got to get your pricing to pay your bills.
Erich McVey (21:19):
And before that, I was basically all profit because when you're shooting digitally and you're all local, you're not spending money on anything, a little bit of equipment here and there, but you're, you're not investing on a wedding to wedding basis where you're seeing big $10,000 chunks come out of the bank every year for this thing that is kind of intangible that you don't necessarily have to spend. It was a big decision, but it felt really easy for me. It felt like I would never be happy if I didn't make that decision then and there. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (21:58):
And it sounds like, so for a couple years, I mean because you were shooting digital and you were taking on everything and got the $500 springs wedding. I mean, in 2011 when you came back from that workshop, would you feel like at that time you had Claire? Is that when you're like, I'm going into business. Would you say that's the starting point of wedding photography? Film only?
Erich McVey (22:23):
I probably skipped, skipped over the 2009 to 2011. I was no, I was shooting a bunch of stuff during that time and I was shooting weddings and I'd shot quite a few weddings. I'd probably shot 52, 50 to 80 weddings between, oh wow. Maybe not that many, I'd say less than 50. But no, I was a bonafide wedding photographer. That's what I knew I wanted to do. And got it. That's what I was doing. And 2011 was just the turning point with film. It was also the turning point with realizing that Oregon was going to be a little bit too small of a pond for us. And where Amy comes in, again with her background in PR and marketing was she said, we're going to make a game plan and we got to get out of Oregon. Here's how we're going to do it. Write it down, type it out, make the spreadsheets and follow this so that we're constantly working towards that rather than leaving anything up to chance. So I changed all my SEO to California and I did all my vendor listings, which were a thing back then. I did them all for places in California. I shot a bunch of California and destination stuff in Europe for basically free just so I would have the portfolio. And that helped us get out of Oregon because Oregon's very limited in terms of the wedding budgets here.
Shanna Skidmore (23:46):
Yeah. Okay. So talk me through the, did you have a sales goal before Amy left her job? At what point was it, I can do this, we're going to make enough money, you can leave your job. I mean, was there a sales goal? Was it, I was charging this much for pricing? What was the comfort level for you guys?
Erich McVey (24:06):
I think I was entirely comfortable. <laugh>, hard to remember. I don't remember specific numbers. And there being a, I've never even heard the term sales goal. That's how layman, layman I am. I'm sure we had had goals. I don't remember if we reached them. I'm sure we did because it was all, in all a very good decision and the business grew much quicker because we made that decision. And I believe we made up salary within the first year or two for sure. Yeah, if that's what you're asking.
Shanna Skidmore (24:40):
Yeah. So it was like you knew how much you needed to pay your bills and you were just going for
Erich McVey (24:45):
It. Yeah, exactly. We were just going for it. And my goal has always been just to grow year to year, just to continue growing. Yeah. I don't write a number down. I don't make a specific goal. I think that in a lot of ways it is good too. And I'm sure I, I'd be curious what you'd say about that. But for me, in a lot of ways it, it's much better just to kind of look a couple steps ahead rather than miles ahead and really keep my eye on what's kind of right in front of me and know that if I'm doing the right things that I believe in, things will turn out how they should turn out. Yeah. I suppose that might sound a little woowoo I guess, but if I write down a number and I don't get to it, I don't know what that would look like for me. Yeah. I don't know if that would be disappointing or if I even really need that as motivation. I'm just always trying to get better and know that if I'm doing those right things, that I'm going to be happy with myself and that good things will happen.
Shanna Skidmore (25:54):
Oh, that's so good. And I love this perspective and hearing about, even just with you and Amy, the way that you're thinking about things. For me, I always, and what I teach all my students and clients is I love knowing my number, my need number, because that gives me comfort. I know what we have to sell to pay our bills, and then I focus more on that than traditional goal setting. I call it kind of our enough number. We know what we need. And I like that just because then I don't have to stress if I want to slow down or if I want to create a new product and we're not bringing in the same amount of sales. And so I just find a lot of comfort. That's why I teach people to know your number and then you don't have to worry about the bills. But
Erich McVey (26:39):
Totally. I mean, where that comes in for me is I know what I charge per wedding. I know what my average <laugh>, I know how much each client is paying, and then I know how many weddings I've booked. So knowing my number is the number of weddings I've booked, yeah. That's the number that I go off of. So if I've got three for the year and it's November and I feel like I should be at 10, that's when I know that there, there's something that needs to be done. Yeah. Something drastic needs to happen. So I think that's my number more than the dollar amount. Exactly. Because I know what that's going to equate to
Shanna Skidmore (27:18):
Exactly. If you
Erich McVey (27:20):
Know it, just looking at those wedding numbers. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (27:21):
Yeah. I love that. Okay. Walk me through, once you transition over to film Amy's now with you, how did things grow? What would you say went really well? Were there any kind of bumps in the road along the way that you want to share? I would just love to hear more about the growth and trajectory from there.
Erich McVey (27:45):
There the things that went really well were just the really sort of naturally sustained growth at a healthy pace. One thing that I think about a lot is what the world looked like during that time for us in terms of social media and the connectedness of the world and what we were thinking about when we grow our businesses. So what I'm thankful for is that I didn't have everyone's work and everyone else's trajectory to look at in front of me the whole time. I didn't have Instagram to see what everyone else was doing. I was happy with when I started the business, I was happy just shooting senior photos in Salem. When I started shooting weddings, I was happy making a couple grand on each wedding here in Oregon. I didn't know people were off doing other things. And that helped me so much because I never looked too far ahead and I never got down on myself because I saw other people doing things that I would have then wished I was doing myself.
So it's almost like, I want to say we were good at that, but it almost, it was less of a factor back then because it was a lot easier to be blissfully unaware, blissfully ignorant of those things. So I think what we did a really good job at was in incremental growth and never being comfortable with where we were at that time. So we were confident in what I was doing. I was satisfied with who I was and where the business was, but not cocky. Always looking for a little bit more, always looking at what we could do, be doing better and how we could grow more. And I think that that has served us really well, and that's something that we did extraordinarily well.
Shanna Skidmore (29:45):
Yeah, I love that. And with weddings from there, I know you started adding workshops and then you did the program with Iffa made. What are some of the other ways that you have the outlets in your business as you've contin over the last 10 years as you've continued to grow?
Erich McVey (30:05):
Yeah, that's something we've also done well is being a little bit a ahead of the curve on things. So we, our first side hustle was doing workshops and they went really well while we did them for two years, we put on four or five of them, and then we got out right at the right time when there was a massive workshop, boom. And <laugh> very glad we got out when we did because workshops started not filling up because there were so many of them. Then we wrote our online course and we were one of the first photographers, wedding photographers to put out a course. And a lot of amazingly talented photographer wedding photographers have put out courses since if we were six months later, I don't know that it would've been half as successful. So we just happened to get in at the right, and I don't know if it was by accident, I think it's because Amy is really smart and she always just knows these things.
We got approached about, we got approached by Emily at If I made about doing the workshop, about writing the course. And I remember saying, no, no, not doing this to Amy. When the email came in saying, no, this, it doesn't feel right. And Amy convinced me that we should do it, and it ended up being a home run for us. And we worked really hard on it. It took a lot of work, but the profit we made was well far and away worth the work that we put in. We put out Photo Lightroom presets last year and a little behind the curve on that. But again, that was something I was very resistant to for various reasons for a while, but ultimately made the decision that it was going to be a good thing, and Amy was part of that as well. So I just make myself sound like a dumb dumb <laugh> here by saying it's always Amy and I'm <laugh> constantly saying no to really good opportunities. But I think we've been great with our timing on things and just being a little bit ahead of things.
Shanna Skidmore (32:15):
Are there any things that you feel like you didn't get quite right or we're kind of bumps in the road looking back now that hard moments in the growth?
Erich McVey (32:27):
Yeah, I'm thinking about that. I think that the biggest thing was trying to do too many things. Gosh, it's hard because there have been so many phases in this growth. So if we're talking about early on, it was trying to do way too many things and not being good at any of them, just being mediocre. And if we're talking about the past 10 years, one thing that does come to mind is that early on my parents own picture framing businesses. And I remember growing up, they're always very competitive with the other picture framing shops in town. When someone new would come in, it would be, how are we going to, I don't want it. This sounds really bad, but it's like, how are we going to put them out of business? How are we going to do so much business that they can't have any of it?
But not in a <laugh>, good people, I promise <laugh>. But I feel like I came into photography with a bit of that mindset where I didn't know I needed community. I didn't know how important community was, and I wouldn't say I was competitive or vindictive or that I hated anybody, or I've always gotten along with everybody. But I didn't realize how important it was to have a community in this industry, not only amongst photographers, which has been amazing over the years, just to be able to hop on the phone with somebody and talk through, have a comradery and talk through some very specific situation that Amy might not be able to relate to, but that another photographer can. Having that has been huge. And then having an actual community outside of photographers in the wedding industry, I started going to engage conferences a couple years ago, and that's been huge for me.
I have always felt like my life is outside of my job. I live where I grew up. I've got a lot of family and friends close by. After I clock out. I'm not thinking about photography, I'm thinking about other things. I have a very fulfilling full life. And I think I was riding that to a fault in some ways that I really just didn't value the relationships that I have in this industry or realize that I could actually get a lot out of them. Not even not pertaining to business or profits, that's not even why I'm bringing this up. It's an actual friendships. And I've now a part of a really special group of friends who I value their friendships as much as I value friendships that I've had for a long time in my hometown. It's just that they're just as important to me in a lot of ways, and I get just as much out of them. So I was very, very bad at that for many years. And only over the past couple years has that changed, and I'm really thankful to have my eyes opened in that way.
Shanna Skidmore (35:34):
Yeah, I think that's so interesting, Eric, because I can relate in some ways because the people I work with, they're my clients. I meet wonderful people, but they're all my clients or they're my students. And so for a long time I struggled with how to just let them be my friend. Does that make sense? So it's funny now because some of my closest friends, many of my closest friends were first my clients, and it was just this weird trying to figure out how to just let that be. And I think like you were saying, business and profits aside, somebody who's running their own business, there's commonality, there's some kindred spiritness there. There's shared goals, and you might not have that with your brother or your sister or your people in your hometown. So there's more value there, not just even for profits or for business, it's just Wow, we're similar.
Erich McVey (36:26):
Exactly. Yeah. We understand each other on a different level.
Shanna Skidmore (36:30):
Yes. Yeah, that's what I'm still learning that as well, how to let my first client now will be my friend, because they're really cool people. I 'em off there. Exactly.
Erich McVey (36:41):
Yeah. I don't talk about my R or I don't talk to my real friends about business stuff ever. They know I go on an airplane <laugh> 15 to 20 times a year, but they're not really, when I get home, they're not going, how is The Bahamas? How is the wedding? Who are the clients? It doesn't come up. We talk about other stuff. Yeah. It's good to have this other little group that I can talk to about those things and have that camaraderie, like you said. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (37:12):
Okay. I have two things I want to talk to you about. Well, so many things we can talk forever. But before we go into, I want to make sure I get to these. One is, and I don't know if you want to talk about it, but you brought up the thought of Instagram and how you're grateful that you did not have that kind of external in your face especially in the early days. Would you say you have seen a shift in the industry, not to blame it all on Instagram, but mm-hmm. Love for you to talk more about that or what you see or has that affected you? Do you feel like you feel the effects of Instagram and because you grew a big audience on there?
Erich McVey (37:52):
Yeah, I think all, I actually kind of resent the idea that we have to buy into, that we have to live in this world of <laugh>, the algorithm, et cetera, in order to be successful in our business. And I know that's a bit of a negative take and not helpful for myself even, but I try my best. I, I'm really not, I don't even have the app on my phone and I don't get anything out of it. When I'm on there for more than five minutes, I start to feel, I don't know, my blood pressure goes up and it's not a comparison thing. It's not a FOMO thing. It's just this isn't, I don't want to be living on here. I want to be living real life. And I understand that it's a great tool for growing our businesses and getting our work out there, especially as photographers, but for what it demands of us in order to grow on there these days, I resent it a bit because I had something like 110,000 followers in 2015, and I think I have 90, 90 some now.
So since that point, I've only lost a bunch. And I promise it's not because I bought 'em all or anything like that. Yeah. Because I believe that I don't really play into the system at all, and I don't spend enough time on there where I'm going to get the what do you call 'em, impressions, and where my work's going to be shown to the number of people that it used to be shown to. And just right now for me, I am kind of refused to give up my peace in that way and spend any more time than I already do on there, because I would be a different person if I did. I'm the person I am, I'm the artist I am because partially because I don't feel like I have to do that knowing that it would change me in that way, knowing that I would be probably sadder on a day-to-day basis if I did. So I know that I have a luxury of being able to say that. Definitely saying it from a point of privilege because I was able to build my audience early on when it was a lot easier to build an audience and when less people were on there and when there were less wedding photographers really out there doing their work in that way. So it, it's not advice for anyone, it's just being honest. Yeah. I think that's pretty much it.
Shanna Skidmore (40:36):
I appreciate you sharing that. And I know that people listening, I know they need to hear that in the sense of, would you say now your marketing strategy has changed from Instagram to a different thing or because you were in a situation where you had built those relationships that you don't like? Word of mouth is what's sustaining. Have you seen a change in your marketing strategy over the last few years? Cause of the way Instagram shifted?
Erich McVey (41:06):
I think, again, from that privileged position of already having that following and being exposed to plenty of people and that when someone comes and looks me up on there, I do have a good following and I'm just lucky to have that. And I can approach this a little bit differently. I don't think I've changed my marketing strategy. My marketing strategy has changed just as the business has grown because different, I think different levels of clientele tend to find their photographers through different avenues. So most of my clients are finding me through wedding planners now. So I do have to have a really good business front on Instagram, and I need to make sure that I'm posting here and there so that the planners that do hire me to shoot their wedding, that I'm benefiting them the best way I can, that I'm sharing their work and that I'm not the photographer who shoots the wedding and then kind of ghosts and doesn't share anything and doesn't expose new clients to them. So it's still a part of the business, but I have my wife help out and jump on there and do the posting for me. And I try not to spend, try as little time as I can on there, but the marketing strategy is essentially the same as it always has been, but it changes every year in terms of how the clients are finding all of us.
Shanna Skidmore (42:39):
Thank you for sharing. I think just acknowledging that all platforms shift and change with time, interest changes, Instagram changes, Facebook changes. So I know I'm grateful as well. Relationships is what has always grown my business, and I know that you've done that well as well. Thank you for sharing. My other thing I want to ask you about before we go into a quick fire round is we didn't talk a ton about money, but I would just really love to hear you share. I love asking guests, what is the best thing you have learned about money?
Erich McVey (43:16):
Definitely. So best thing I've learned about money is, you probably hear this a lot, but it, it's having the abundance mindset over the scarcity mindset first and foremost as a business owner who's living it every single day, also hard not to have your identity wrapped up into your profits, right? We are, because we're dealing with numbers every day and some years are really good for business, some years are bad. And that translates directly into whether your family can have a vacation or whether you're putting money into your index fund. This particular year, for me, being able to separate daily life from how well the business is going at that time has been paramount. It's very hard to do, and I'm not always good at it, but if my bookings are slow or my profits aren't good this past year with, I travel for every wedding and with the crazy cost of everything right now, my profits are much less than I had planned on because I'm spending tens of thousands of extra dollars on flights, hotels, my second shooters, my third shooters, their travel, all those things, because I was building my travel costs into my wedding pricing, which I sent those contracts out <laugh> two plus years ago for some of 'em.
Some of 'em are still covid reschedules. So not having that creep into my daily life, not thinking about those things while I'm playing with playing dolls with my daughter or watching her tennis practice or hanging out at dinner with the, not thinking about those things, separating those two things, not letting the money that I make in the business sort of define me as a human is very important to me. That's one thing that has been hard to learn, but that I'm trying to get better at every day.
Shanna Skidmore (45:21):
Yeah. I'm so glad you shared that. Thank you so much. Because it is hard, and I always tell people I doubt many of us got into business for the money. That's not our motivator. And I'm over here, I'm the money girl, I'm the numbers girl, but what I think is my differentiator is I lead with heart and this life that you're building, and so just acknowledging like it is, there's ups and downs in business and it can be hard to not let that affect you, and I love that. So intentionally working so that it doesn't, and you're living your life.
Erich McVey (46:00):
Yeah. One thing more thing that I was thinking about that just came to mind was, I remember in the early years of the business, it was more of a game. I feel like you just said, I wanted to book the weddings at the certain price points and have that keep going up, but when the paychecks came in, I remember I would've like 15 paychecks sitting on my desk, and I didn't care about taking them to the bank. I didn't care about the money being in the account. I had cared about getting the win in the form of that booking. And now with a bigger mortgage, a kid, all the things that come along with being an adult, wanting to <laugh> fund my index fund, wanting to buy some crypto, wanting to buy an investment home, that money, those checks are going straight to the bank. I can't get 'em there fast enough.
And I'm constantly having to think about how much money is in the account and what can I do with this money, when can I afford to, like I said, drop money into an investment property. And that stuff becomes, as we get older and more responsibilities and more leveraged, that stuff becomes, seems to become so much more top of mind and so much, we've put so much more importance on it. And I kind of, in some ways long for the days when it was just all for the art and for the game, and it was just a fun game I was playing, and there just wasn't as much pressure on it. And the money it mattered, but it didn't matter
Shanna Skidmore (47:36):
Really. Right now, that is my season in life right now is you get into business and it's rose color glass, it's starry, it's dreamy, it's so exciting. And then you're in it for 10 years. We're 10 years in, and there's a lot that comes along with it. And like you said, we just had our daughter, she's 19 months old, and you think about, I mean, we were responsible with our money, but now it's like, okay, hey, be, come on, fund that retirement, do those things. And so just finding this balance in this beautiful harmony of having fun, making it dreamy, and so that's something Colin and I are working on right now. How can we do it for the win again or whatever, let's make a new goal and have fun with it, and it's not just to pay the bills.
Erich McVey (48:22):
Yeah. Yep, yep. I know I'm working on booking one of my biggest bookings ever right now, and a few years ago, it would've just been all about the win, man, that number, I never would've thought, but I'm already thinking that deposit, it's a big deposit I going to go towards. Yeah, I need to pay this off, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. Oh, it's hard to go back to that once you're in it, isn't it?
Shanna Skidmore (48:50):
I know. Okay, so I'm going to challenge me and you and email me later. Think about it. How can we, and I do that sometimes with my students, with people who are savers and they're just hoard all their money. I'm like, you need to go buy something. Just go buy something. And so for us, I don't know, I'm like, how can we just have fun and celebrate that next big win in a way we used to, I don't know. Let's think on it. Love
Erich McVey (49:15):
It. Let's think on
Shanna Skidmore (49:15):
It circle. Okay. Alright. Circling
Erich McVey (49:16):
Back. Accountability group.
Shanna Skidmore (49:18):
I love it. Okay. This has been fun. Let's do a quick fire. I'm going to put you in the hot seat. Okay. And we'll do some quick fire questions. Okay. All right. First, what is one thing you would be embarrassed if people knew?
Erich McVey (49:30):
Okay I've ripped my pants at three weddings and <laugh> in <laugh> where it would be embarrassing to rip. And I've fallen really badly probably four times in the last 18 months at weddings where I smashed different decor <laugh>, where lots of people, and I'm actually a fairly athletic, I'm pretty nimble. I don't know why this is happening or how, which makes me slightly more embarrassed about it because I feel like I shouldn't be falling at all these weddings, but I am.
Shanna Skidmore (50:09):
Well, when you said four times, I'm like, okay, and then you said in the 18 months, I was like, right.
Erich McVey (50:15):
Oh yeah. Yeah. No, it's a lot. Very recently, it's not good. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (50:21):
Okay. Well, you'll figure that out. Work on that nimbleness. Okay. Second. Do you have any regrets or wish you could do over moments?
Erich McVey (50:33):
I think my biggest regret is not relying on others for help sooner. I think I spent too much time sitting at my desk for the past 13 years. I've only just figured out that I can hire good help to help me with certain parts of the business without any drop off in the quality of the product that I'm providing. And I'm spending a lot less time at my desk lately, and I think I could have been here at this point years earlier if I had gotten out of my own way and just realized that I don't have to do it
Shanna Skidmore (51:08):
All. Yeah. Oh, that's so good. Hiring is tough. Would you say follow up question that's out of fear or just didn't want to deal with it?
Erich McVey (51:17):
I think it's out of don't want to deal with it. Things are moving too fast. Let's not actually stop and think about the really big picture things that could make my life easier, because it's easier just to kind of chomp away at the day-to-day stuff and never get to it. Yeah. So I think fear as well in thinking that I'm just not going to be able to find somebody that can do the things I want them to do, even though they're not that complex. But I think it is more the former that we talked about as opposed to the fear.
Shanna Skidmore (51:51):
Yeah. Yeah. Been there. Yes. Okay. Third, a big win or pinch me moment,
Erich McVey (51:57):
I would say when I f I signed a N D N contract to shoot a quote, celebrity's wedding, a male actor, and I didn't know who it was before I signed the contract knew what the paycheck was, et cetera, et cetera. I was just assured that this would be a good thing. Then I found out it was Miles Teller, the actor, and my favorite movie is Whiplash. So that I definitely gave a woo when I heard that one. Yes,
Shanna Skidmore (52:25):
Erich McVey (52:27):
Oh, I celebrated. Yeah. Big. Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (52:29):
That's so cool. Eric, that's amazing that you didn't know who it was going to be. I mean, were you like, what if this is the ugliest wedding ever?
Erich McVey (52:37):
No, I wasn't. I trusted the PR person and the wedding planner that it was going to be a good thing, but I just had no idea who it was going to be, and given that it ended up being the actor from my favorite movie, that was pretty cool.
Shanna Skidmore (52:52):
Yeah. Oh, that's so fun. I mean, it's the best moment, which business is fun. Doing this is fun. Yeah. Yeah. Entrepreneurship rocks.
Erich McVey (53:00):
Shanna Skidmore (53:01):
Okay, next quickfire question. Best advice or just really good advice that you have received?
Erich McVey (53:07):
So my family motto is Go ugly early. And I'll probably have to elaborate on that because it's not at its face that apparent what it means. It means that if I have a client who tells me your photos were shit I don't like them. I actually had someone do this. I had someone a few years ago go, my planners told me you were one of the tough photographers in the world, and I'm really disappointed in the photos I got because I'm not seeing that. And within a couple minutes I messaged back and said, how can we make I, yeah. I take no offense to that. I mean, yes, it sucks. Yeah, and I do take offense, but I'm not going to show it. I'm going to say, how can we make this better? What can I do to make you happy? We're going to fix this.
And I've always taken that approach to everything, whether or not I think I'm right about something it it's not a customer's always. Right. I think that's a little bit different, but go ugly early just means pride aside, just fix it. Just work on fixing it right away rather than, I don't know, rather than pushing back on anything because it's easy. It's easy to instead go the route of, well, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, it wasn't all me. It was this, that, and the other. And instead taking full responsibility. It feels really good to own something, by the way. It feels really good sometimes to say, I was wrong or I could have been better. It's actually a lot more empowering, and you're going to walk away feeling a lot better when you take extreme ownership over that moment, even if there are a few things you could say about it to sort of defend yourself. But if you haven't tried it, not you, Shannon, but anybody try it out sometime and it feels pretty damn good to say, I was wrong. How can I fix this? Yeah.
Shanna Skidmore (55:04):
Yeah. Ooh, I love that. Go ugly early. Yeah, it's good. All right, <laugh>, last quick part question. What are you working on now or one resource you would like to share?
Erich McVey (55:17):
What I'm working on now is the good light presets. The photo presets that we partnered with Good light presets to create their amazing, they're not only film emulation presets, but they're just good. They're, they're built to be a one click preset and to be able to cover a photographer for the whole wedding day. So they kind of got something for every situation, and I'm really proud of the way they turned out. So we put 'em out a year ago and I've heard nothing but really, really, really good things.
Shanna Skidmore (55:49):
Okay. Eric, this is sad a little bit. I don't want to see you go, but we're going to send it off because we're at an hour and people have loved it. I have no doubt. Let's go all the way back to the beginning of when your mom forced you to become a photographer. What would you tell yourself on day one of accidentally starting your business? I guess
Erich McVey (56:11):
I would tell yourself you're about to meet the woman in your dreams, so do it. Say yes.
Shanna Skidmore (56:17):
That's so fun. I just think that's amazing. Your mom, man, she's got the intuition.
Erich McVey (56:23):
I will never understand how I was lucky enough for that all to transpire, but it did. She's got the intuition,
Shanna Skidmore (56:32):
The coolest story. Okay. Well, I want to meet you in real life and sounds like I need to meet Amy as well cause she sounds so cool.
Erich McVey (56:39):
I would love it. Yes,
Shanna Skidmore (56:40):
I know. We'll make it happen. Come to Tennessee. I
Erich McVey (56:43):
Think I'm coming to Tennessee actually possibly in March, so I'll bug you.
Shanna Skidmore (56:48):
Great. Seriously, I'm serious about that. Not still. I
Erich McVey (56:51):
Shanna Skidmore (56:52):
Okay. Yep. We'll make it happen. Thank you so much for sharing your story. This has been so fun to spend time with you and I mean, I'll see you soon. Thank
Erich McVey (57:00):
You, Shannon. I appreciate you and it was really awesome getting catch up.
Shanna Skidmore (57:04):
Hey, wildflower, you just finished another episode of Consider the Wildflowers the podcast. Head over to consider the wildflowers podcast.com for show notes, resource links, and to learn how you can connect with Eric. One final thought for today from John ak, don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle. As always, thank you for listening. I'll see you next time.