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The Smart Passive Income Podcast

AP 1008: How Do I Stay Relevant in My Niche?

AP 1008: How Do I Stay Relevant in My Niche?

By Pat Flynn on

About This Episode

This week, Nicole Young, a photographer, is struggling a little bit with mindset, and with staying relevant in her niche. She’s worried that as the field grows, she’ll be left behind, and wants to find ways to future-proof her brand. We discuss her business and her current strategies, outline mindset shifts, and create an action plan for her business’ future.

What You’ll Learn: Strategies for future-proofing your business and staying relevant within your niche.

AskPat 1008 Episode Transcript

Pat Flynn: Hey, what’s up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1008 of AskPat 2.0. Today we’re talking with Nicole Young, a photographer who’s needing a little bit of help because she’s worried that a lot of other people who are entering the space that she’s in are maybe getting a little bit ahead of her, and have a little bit of an advantage because of age, and because they’re just quicker to find new trends versus what Nicole’s been doing. Nicole’s been doing this for a while. She’s an amazing photographer. We’re going to talk through all of that. A lot of it’s mindset but a lot of tactical, strategical things too that we discuss.

Hang tight because I do want to thank, as always, FreshBooks for being amazing and sponsoring the AskPat 2.0 podcast. If you don’t know what FreshBooks is, it’s one of the most amazing pieces of software out there because it solves a huge problem that we entrepreneurs have. No matter how big or small your business is, you need help organizing your finances. If you don’t have somebody on your team to do that, using a tool like FreshBooks is the way to go because it makes it super simple, from everything from keeping track of income and expenses obviously, to creating the forms that you need during tax time, to billing and invoicing. I mean literally, in under thirty seconds I can create a professional-looking invoice that I could send out to somebody who I teach or somebody who I consult. It’s just super easy.

You know, one of the best things about being self-employed is gaining control over your destiny, but oftentimes we kind of have this weight of all the admin and financial stuff, and then we feel like we’re losing control. This is why I love FreshBooks. Their entire team is focused on helping us with their cloud accounting software, just to make it easy to use, and to just relieve us of this stress of the admin and paperwork related to keeping track of all this stuff. They keep you in control of your business.

It’s now also there to help you land the business you want too; they can help you with proposals. This is a brand new feature. FreshBook proposals means you can include an outline of your project, scope of work, and a timeline so if you’re kind of hunting for different jobs out there, you know, instead of billing, what about using FreshBooks to get new jobs? I mean, amazing that they’re thinking about all these things for us self-employed people and freelancers and consultants and coaches out there. Super cool.

Guess what? If you want to check it out for thirty days for a free, unrestricted free trial, all you have to do is go to FreshBooks.com/askpat. Just make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section. That’s all you’ve got to do.

All right. Now let’s get to the coaching call today with Nicole Young. Here she is.

Pat Flynn: Hey Nicole. Thank you so much for coming on to AskPat today. I appreciate it. How are you?

Nicole Young: I’m great, thanks Pat. I’m really happy to be here.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, this will be a lot of fun. Tell me a little bit about what you do and what your business is.

Nicole Young: Sure. First and foremost I’m a photographer, but I’m also an educator. Probably more so than I am a photographer. I started photography, well I got into it in high school. Didn’t think I’d ever be able to make it into a career so I ended up joining the Navy. While I was actually serving in Hawaii I decided I wanted to ramp up my photography skills. Digital photography was just kind of becoming big at that time. This is in about 2005. I got a digital camera and kind of was doing that transition from film to digital. I started doing some stock photography. Then that just kind of picked up for me. I ended up realizing, “Hey I can actually make some money doing this.” Then I was like, “Hey I could do this full-time.” I was like, “okay I’ll get out of the Navy and I’ll do this full-time. Then that kind of transitioned into getting a phone call from a book publisher to write a book about photography. You know, I have about seven published books through a company—I don’t know, they’re not really around anymore, it’s called Peach Pit Press. Then I started doing that, and I was like, “Hey I really like this teaching thing.” That slowly transitioned into me doing it on my own, as self-publishing and creating my own ebooks and so that’s what I do now. I have an online store. I create video training and ebooks and presets and things like that. I market them and sell them to my audience.

Pat Flynn: That’s really cool. What’s the URL for your website?

Nicole Young: My store is Store.Nicolesy.com. I’m Nicolesy pretty much everywhere else online. I have a blog there also, so NicolesyBlog.com is basically where people can go to find me.

Pat Flynn: Sweet. Awesome. Thank you for that. Tell me what’s on your mind.

Nicole Young: Oh man. That’s a really big question.

Pat Flynn: Just diving right in.

Nicole Young: Yeah, right? You know, you kind of did this call to get people to be on your show. I was like, “what is the thing that, you know, what is the one thing that I can think of that I struggle with or that I kind of look into the future and think, well what’s the hardest thing for me and my business right now?” I’ve been doing this for a while and obviously I don’t have everything figured out. I kind of have a rhythm and I’m doing well, but I really want to grow my audience and I think that’s kind of—probably most of the people listening to this right now are going, “Hey, that’s what I want to do too.”

My newsletter is my biggest type of promotion. I would call it my biggest social network. I’m also on Instagram, Facebook, and all those things, but I put most of my energy and I prioritize to my people that are actually subscribed to my newsletter, but one of the things that I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to me is I don’t want to become irrelevant in my own industry of photography. I want to make sure that I’m . . . because photography attracts a wide range of people. Every age group especially now with digital. I just want to make sure that I’m still relevant in the industry and I don’t turn into what I kind of call the dinosaurs, you know—the people who are maybe kind of stubborn and they don’t want to move on. It was originally the people who didn’t want to transition from film to digital because film is the best. You still kind of see, well, what’s in the future. I’m very adaptable. I might not necessarily like something that’s changed but I always try to change with that and go with it and not be frustrated by it. I’m really concerned that I’m going to . . . As I get older—I turn 40 in a couple years, and as I get older, I want to make sure that my audience doesn’t just grow with me, but that I can, you know, in age category, because I don’t know exact demographics but I feel like a lot of the people who are, I guess, my followers, are older than me. I want to make sure that I’m also attracting people who are younger than me, my age. Just kind of a larger audience.

Pat Flynn: Well, I mean first of all with the film thing, it’s interesting because I was thinking about that the other day. I actually have a friend who is well-known for her work with film versus digital and she’s getting hired for a lot of weddings and such because it’s not digital. Even though most of the people who are shooting now are on digital, she’s still crushing it with something that’s kind of, you know—many people think is gone now.

Just saying that to like, to give you a little bit of relief based on the example you shared. Meaning, you aren’t going away. It’s not like one day you’re all of a sudden going to have this thing happen where all of your followers leave you. If you are utilizing your email list as a social network essentially—and I would assume that means you’re building relationships with people—you’re offering a lot of value, but also sharing with them things, products that can be really helpful. Well then you’re creating the thing that you’re going to have with you that will help you no matter what happens in the industry. That is, you’re creating fans.

I’d love to know, from your perspective, how do you respond to that? Do you feel you’re creating fans, like people who know you and love you for you?

Nicole Young: Oh yeah, I feel that. I get that vibe from my audience. You only know what you can see and how people respond to you. I don’t have like a team of people, so it’s just me and I answer all my own emails. I don’t get a ton of them, but I get enough. It just makes me feel so good when I get an email from someone who says something like, “I’ve been following you since 2014. I love all of your products. I love your work.”

Somebody just wrote a review on one of my products. A recent preset pack that I released, and they said that I’m a born teacher. I do feel like I have people who are kind of like, I guess fans would probably be the best word. Yeah. And that’s what I want. I feel like when I’m using my email list versus just posting something on Twitter or Facebook, I feel like there’s a better, like a deeper connection, because people can respond immediately to me. They can reply to the email. It goes right to my inbox. I do my best to answer all of them.

I also watch comments on YouTube, even from some really old tutorials that I have. I get all of those notifications. I have all of the filters set up in Gmail. Whenever I see a question, I answer it. I do my very best to answer any question that’s put towards me. Same thing with email: I answer all the questions. But yeah, it’s I guess like a fan group.

Pat Flynn: That’s great. Yeah, I mean that’s . . . for what I teach in terms of building businesses, I really try to encourage people to see how they might be able to build a fan base, those raving fans, because that’s the number one way to future-proof your brand: When you have fans that are going to follow you no matter what happens and you’re always going to be safe from any sort of crazy events or things like that. As long as you’re always true to yourself, your fans will follow you for that. Hopefully that gives you a little bit of relief, meaning a lot of us think of these situations where things could go wrong. We always think of the worst-case scenario. Our brains do a great job of tricking us into feeling like things could go crazy off the rails and we could lose everything. Right?

Even when I was laid off in 2008, when I really thought about it years later, even though I was super depressed and I thought the world was ending, essentially at the time I always knew that I had my family there who was going to support me. They weren’t just going to leave me on the streets, right? Often the worse case scenario isn’t always as bad as we think.

If, for whatever reason, you find that there’s a separation between the stuff that you’re teaching versus a lot of the new things that are coming out—now there’s like all these crazy new cameras and digital phones and augmented reality, all this other stuff—even if you were to not get involved with that, you would still have your fans to help you and support you moving forward. That’s like mindset number one. Hey, it’s not anything to worry crazy about, but it’s still something you should be concerned about for sure.

Let’s talk more about future-proofing your brand. Another great way to future-proof your brand is to really be true to yourself and understand what your super powers are, because this allows you to, no matter what happens in the industry, you’re able to incorporate what you feel like your super power is into these new things that are coming out. If I were to ask you, Nicole, what is your sort of super power in this space, what would you answer?

Nicole Young: I would say that I have an ability to teach something complicated but make it easy to understand. Just, I guess like you know, the basic of a good educator. I’m very conversational with my writing. I’ve also been told from other photography educators that I have an egoless teaching style. You know I think we all, in every industry, we come across people who have very big egos with what they do. They have a lot of high self-importance and they exert that online as much as possible. Not to say that I don’t have any ego, because I think we all have to have some amount of ego to do what we do, but I don’t feel like . . . when I teach to people I’m not teaching at people. I’m like, teaching to a friend. I’m hopeful that that’s how people receive me whenever they listen to me or read my books.

Pat Flynn: That’s great. That’s something that’s so important and that will help you stand out no matter what. That’s what’s helping you likely build a lot of fans. Even though there are people who are younger who are coming on board with photography, I mean, they’re going to still want people who are honest and authentic and like a friend. In most cases age doesn’t really matter in that regard.

Nicole Young: Right.

Pat Flynn: Another way to future-proof your brand is to pay attention to a lot of the new trends the are happening. I feel like this is a little bit about what you’re most worried about, is “how do I keep up-to-date with all those things? What’s the real challenge for you there, you think?

Nicole Young: It’s tough to really pinpoint what my challenge is. It’s tough to keep up with things. You know, we don’t have kids, my husband and I don’t have kids. We have nieces and nephews but they’re really young. I’m not really plugged into the trendy teenager vibe, which is kind of . . . all those people are going eventually become consumers, you know, hopefully find their way to me if they’re interested in photography. That’s I think one thing, but more so I can see, when I just think of the generic photography educator, that’s the kind of . . . it’s like, this somebody who’s out of touch or they’re just creating the same photographs over and over. Their style is maybe a little dated. That’s I think what I’m most worried about becoming, because you can’t always see that yourself. I need somebody else to be like, “Hey. You know this is . . . you’ve been doing the same thing over and over and maybe you should make a change.” It’s just constantly making those evolutions to just become . . . to stay yourself, to be true to yourself, but also to be appealing to everyone. That’s a really big thing. That’s a really difficult thing to do. I don’t think I need to be appealing to everyone, but I don’t want to be like, only appealing to people in their 60s and 70s.

Pat Flynn: Well I mean, you touched on it a little bit. You don’t have to be appealing to everyone because when you are, you actually are appealing to nobody.

Nicole Young: Yeah, that’s true.

Pat Flynn: You know? That’s the first thing. The second thing I want to share is, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk, who you may know, he has this percentage breakdown of how much he hustles on his stuff—the stuff that he’s working on. The stuff that he’s invested in his brand versus time that he spends on new things that are coming out. For Gary, it’s a little bit easier because it’s like, “okay, well there’s this new startup. Now I’m going to spend some time exploring that.” He allows and gives himself 10 percent of his time and effort to try and experiment and research new things, because he wants to be on the front end of a lot of the new trends that are happening. This allows him to be open with the fact that, “hey, there’s 10 percent of my time for these things and for learning new opportunities and for getting some time to explore these new platforms. If they work out, great. I’m going to put more time into it. If not, that’s okay. Not all of them are going to be wins.” He allows himself actual time and a percentage of his effort to spend time focusing on some of the new things. It’s going to be a lot faster in his world and social media, right, because social media and startups, like that stuff’s changing every day. Photography, obviously is not changing every day. There are obviously trends and things like that. Could you perhaps incorporate a way for even just a little bit of time every month to perhaps find some people who are talking about some of the latest things or reading articles from new sites related to photography, just to kind of keep a beat and a pulse on what’s going on?

Nicole Young: Yeah, absolutely. That’s definitely something I could do and that’s a good idea. It’s such a simple idea.

Pat Flynn: Just allowing yourself a little bit of time just so you don’t feel like you’re so left out of everything. I think that would be big, even though likely . . . here’s what I’m going to guess what happens Nicole. You’re going to give yourself time to do that and you’re going to read these things and you’re going to be like, “Oh okay, that’s cool. That’s not anything I need to focus on right now, but I feel comfortable now knowing that that’s there, and I’m kind of up-to-date on things, but I’m still going to focus and triple down on the things that are working for me now.”

Nicole Young: Right.

Pat Flynn: Sometimes people, they just want to . . . really what the issue is they just don’t want to feel left out. Right? There’s that FOMO.

Nicole Young: The FOMO.

Pat Flynn: Right. Exactly. You just at least knowing and getting this information coming in, whether you use it or not, is still going to help you.

Nicole Young: Right. That’s something I definitely need to work better at because, like, I’m pretty active on social and I do my best to kind of keep up, but I also try to have a really good, not staring at my iPads/computer moments, because it’s easy just to sit there and stare at the computer and look at the news and read all these things. I try to disconnect from that, maybe just play like a stupid game on my iPad in the evening.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, I get you. I spoke with somebody else the other day who would go into social media and spend a couple hours there when really they just wanted to spend an hour there.

Nicole Young: It’s like this rabbit hole.

Pat Flynn: Interestingly enough, I haven’t mentioned this to anybody yet, but that was actually your husband.

Nicole Young: Oh yeah. It’s funny because he and I are kind of opposites in that regard. Obviously social media’s one of those things, especially when you’re in the business of doing anything online where you’re trying to make money, you have to be there. It’s a struggle for me because I want to be there but I don’t want to spend too much time there. You know, I want to spend enough time there and then be able to step away from it because it is a rabbit hole and you could just go down and down and down.

Pat Flynn: It is designed to keep you there.

Nicole Young: Yeah.

Pat Flynn: There are machines learning about you, more than you know about yourself, to keep you on those platforms because that’s how they make their money, right?

Nicole Young: Yeah.

Pat Flynn: The way to counter that, and this is the same exact advice I gave your husband on a previous episode of AskPat: Schedule it in. Literally allow yourself to have time to go down that rabbit hole for X amount of minutes. For thirty minutes, or fifteen minutes every other day or whatever it is. Then once that time’s over, you’re done. You’ve gotten your fix. You’re out and you can focus on other things and not have to worry about it.

Actually your husband was really surprised to see me mention that and to share that I actually schedule my social media time in as well. What this relates to, what we were just talking about actually, it reminds me of a good friend of mine and a mentor, Ramit Sethi, from IWillTeachYoutobeRich.com. I remember he was talking about his schedule, and he works quite hard, however he reserves Fridays, I don’t know if it’s still the case, but he said he reserves Fridays to do no work, but think of bigger things. That’s his think bigger day. He has literally a day for himself, outside of the normal grind that he has, to think bigger.

I was just like, that is awesome because it’s hard to give ourselves time to do that. He’s giving himself permission to think on that particular day about those things. What you could do is perhaps have even just one day a month even that you have reserved, and set up just for exploration in trends in what’s going on in your industry, just so you can keep a beat on it. That allows you to not worry every day about social media and trying to determine what the latest things are every single day, which could obviously easily leave you in some sort of rabbit hole, right?

Nicole Young: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pat Flynn: Give yourself a day to do down a rabbit hole, but then don’t go down a rabbit hole those other days.

Nicole Young: Yeah. The difficult part is kind of what you said. It ties in with social media knowing more about us. Facebook for example, they have their algorithms and I sometimes feel, and I’m really happy that they came out with this new snooze button, because I feel like I’m just seeing the same things over and over. If you hover over somebody’s post for too long then all of a sudden Facebook’s like, “Oh you want to see that over and over.” Then that kind of takes away the discovery factor or the potential for exploration within social media because you’re limited to the people you’re following. Specifically about Facebook.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. Get on email lists. I mean, that’s another thing you can do and have them be automatically put into a folder that you only open up on that day, for example.

Nicole Young: Oh that’s a good idea too.

Pat Flynn: You know, there’s ways to counter all that stuff. Related to your comment about social media and Facebook and having them share only what they want to share with us, and you know, making it much harder to reach people: I think that’s why it’s so smart that you are focusing heavily on your emails, because that’s something that you can control. It’s not really a machine. I mean, yes, technically there are servers and blah, blah, blah, there are things that can happen, because it’s all tech, but it’s not a platform that’s throttling based on user behavior.

You’ve gotten a person’s email. You’re sending them emails. You’re building a relationship, and that’s why I was just very thankful and happy to hear you focus on email more than these other things.

Nicole Young: Oh yeah. Like Instagram with photographers is a really big platform. I don’t have as big of a following on Instagram as I do on some of the others, but I still use it. Yet I see a lot of photographers and they put so much of their energy into Instagram and it can be very lucrative in regards to getting sponsorships and things like that, but there’s always that little person in the back of my head going, “What happens when Instagram isn’t around anymore?” It’s not always going to be around. We want it to be. You know, it’s like one of those things, we want it to be there, and it’s easy to say right now, “Oh it’s going to be around for so long.” But like, Google Plus was really big for a couple years. I have over two million followers on Google Plus, but that complete platform is dead. It’s just changed so much. It just kind of fizzled. That’s why I put so much energy into my email list.

You know, like you said, things could still go wrong. I don’t know, I might share this out here real quickly: I had, I guess you’d call it a scare, because I’m really good with my lists. I definitely don’t spam. I think that’s a really big thing to not do. You don’t want to spam your list; I try to give as much as I ask. Not as much, but I try to give and also ask, but not like ask too much. I recently had an email from MailChimp and they were like you’re . . . like your automation, when you do a welcome automation, I was getting a lot of spam reports for it. It was like, flagging it. Just like, “Hey you need to look out for this.” I was like, “What’s going on?” I’m kind of freaking out. It turns out there was a Russian bot thing that had latched onto some of the MailChimp forms and was signing up people, so I had like a couple hundred of these spam Russian emails in just a couple of . . . it was within like a week.

Pat Flynn: What? That’s crazy.

Nicole Young: I was sleuthing and I figured out what was going on, so I unsubscribed all these ones that I could tell were the spammers, but I was like, “Oh my gosh.” Before I did that, I immediately exported my list, just to make sure, you know, because I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this cannot . . .” you know. I have like 70,000 people on my list and that’s my source of income right there. I was a little worried. I contacted them and they found the problem too so I’m not worried anymore. Little things like that, I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” This would be like if all of a sudden I was using Instagram and that was my only thing, and then all of a sudden they’re like, “Hey. We’re going to shut down the system,” or whatever, and all the people who were really latched onto that and needing that as a way to get out there, they wouldn’t have anything.

Pat Flynn: It happened with Vine. Vine was a popular video platform that was playing these six second loops, and people were becoming famous on Vine, and then all of a sudden Vine just went away. Those people were no longer. It was only the people who either migrated to, or were also simultaneously on places like YouTube and Instagram who were able to keep things up. Man, some people lost millions of followers and are unable to reach them anymore.

Again, that’s why I’m huge on email. I was thankful that you were talking about that. Anyway, I wanted to finish off by just asking, was there anything else on your mind and . . . actually let me just start with that one. How are you feeling right now with all this?

Nicole Young: I think this is great. It’s just good to hear things like that, like scheduling your time to just look at trends because we’re always so busy. We have all these things we have to do. Like in my head right now I’m like, “Oh, I have a course I’m working on. I’ve got to finish it.” All these things are going on in my brain right now. It’s tough to just sit back and . . . for a full day. You know, I can take the evenings off, you know, I’m okay with that. I’m pretty good about that, but taking a full day or just like half a day out of the month, that’s tough to do. I have a whiteboard that I schedule, you know, I write my to-do list on. I’m going to be writing that in there.

Pat Flynn: Cool. Yeah, I mean, I do the same thing. I have a couple days every month where I explore new software, new plug-ins. Things like this. They’re coming in all the time, right? I see them being talked about on social media. I mean this is likely very similar in the photography space, but what I do is I put them away for that day or for those days where I do explore. I use Evernote to kind of keep track of things that come across my way that I don’t need to look at right now, but just the fact that I’m saving them for later makes me feel so great. It makes me feel like I’m not necessarily missing out. It makes me feel like I’m in control.

The most interesting thing about that is I hardly actually ever go back to articles and things that I come across. I save those as well. This is what’s called just in time learning. Don’t learn about things that you don’t need to learn about now; only let yourself learn about things that are really relevant to what you’re doing. By saving those things that come across your way that don’t matter to you right now, it makes you feel great knowing that they’re there for when you need it.

For the articles specifically that I save, I hardly ever go back and read them. It was just the fact that I saved them that made me move forward. It’s just so weird how that works sometimes. Cool. What was the most useful thing about this call for you?

Nicole Young: Oh man. I think it was probably the scheduling thing, that was probably the biggest. It’s just such a simple concept, you know, but it takes having a conversation with somebody who knows what they’re talking about to actually go ahead and do it.

Pat Flynn: It’s so funny. You said something that many other people who have called in have said too, which is like, “You know, it’s so simple, but I just needed to hear it from somebody.” I think that’s why it’s so important to have other people in your life who kind of understand this language. Not necessarily who are even way ahead of you, but people in a similar arena who speak the same language, who are perhaps in something like a mastermind group. You know, it’s cool that you have your husband as well to kind of bounce ideas off of if you wanted to at the same time.

Yeah, okay, great. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s schedule it and I’d love to follow up with you Nicole and make sure you’re cool and good and moving forward. Tying back to what I said earlier to finish off, you’re building these fans, you’re building your email list, I mean, that’s going to keep you future proof for sure.

Nicole Young: Right.

Pat Flynn: Cool. Thank you Nicole. I appreciate it. Your URL, one more time just for people.

Nicole Young: It’s NicolesyBlog.com.

Pat Flynn: Very cool. Well. thank you so much.

Nicole Young: Thanks, Pat.

Pat Flynn: All right, Nicole, hey thank you so much for taking the time to come on and open up and be transparent. Hopefully take action on the things we discussed. Like I said: You are set up for success here. You just have to stay in your lane and not worry about all those other things that are happening. You know what you’re good at. Utilize your super powers. Use those super powers for good, obviously. You know, just keep going. Thank you Nicole. Appreciate you coming on, and thank you to everybody else who’s listening as well.

Hey, if you’d like to get a time with me to chat, and in exchange for that time allow me to publish here on AskPat, just like we did today with Nicole, if you want that coaching opportunity just apply at AskPat.com. If you get selected you’ll hear from myself and my team. We’ll schedule a call, we’ll make it happen, we’ll rock it out. It’ll be awesome. Again AskPat.com. You’ll see a button to apply there.

Hey if you have a moment and you haven’t done so already, just subscribe to the show because we’ve got another one coming next week. It’s great, it’s awesome. They’re all different, because everybody has different businesses. Hopefully this just shows you that there’s so much opportunity out there, but also that we’re all not alone when it comes to these struggles. I mean, I should call myself on AskPat, because I struggle with a lot of things too. Of course, I talk about those things on SmartPassiveIncome.com and on the Smart Passive Income Podcast.

Anyway. I love you guys. Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to FreshBooks for making it easy for all of us to manage our business finances and for the thirty-day free trial too, which you can all get at FreshBooks.com/askpat. Make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section. All right guys, take care. Please subscribe, and I’ll see you in the next one. Bye.

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