Founder Interview: Tim Shields of Photography Academy Shares How To Start an Online Business & Keep It Profitable Without a Large Team
What does your company do?
My company is called PhotographyAcademy.com and we help people to become award-winning photographers. We do that by selling courses and online tools, and through our free community. Everyone takes pictures and even if you don't have a goal of actually winning photography awards, everyone wants to know how to make their pictures look better. This is where we come in to help you create your own photos that look awesome.
How did you come up with (or why did you want to do) this idea/concept/product/service?
I came up with this business idea because photography has been a life-long hobby for me and over the years I became good at it. I realized that if I conducted additional research I would be able to create digital products that people would pay money for. I also realized that I don't need to be the world's best photographer, but instead, I just had to be one step ahead of my customers. Digital products are very attractive as a seller because there is no shipping to deal with and no product costs, so the profit is higher.
How did you decide on your company name?
I wanted a company name that separated itself from me personally because I wanted it to sound like something bigger than it actually is. I also wanted keywords in the company name that described what we do. And finally, I wanted the company name to be reflected in the URL. I conducted research with finding the perfect domain name and was able to purchase PhotographyAcademy.com as a domain for $3,500, and had a logo design done. It is longer than I would like, but the two words describe exactly what we do so I like it and it works to provide a sense of credibility for the company which builds trust...and no one is going to buy anything unless they trust us.
Who were your first customers?
My first sale was a $27 online tool called profiles. This tool is a plugin for Adobe Lightroom. I created a video showing before and after photos of what your pictures would look like if you used these profiles, and I gave away a free sample pack to attract customers and build my email list. I ran Facebook ads to get traffic to a landing page on Clickfunnels. My first sale was a very big deal because I had created a product from thin air, and it was an amazing feeling of vindication to actually sell something that I created out of nothing.
What's been a good way of growing your customer base and sales?
The best way to grow has been through giving away free products and content, and by maintaining a Facebook community that I am actively involved with. These photographers are my best customers and some of them buy every single thing I create. My Facebook group has attracted my perfect customers and my involvement in the group builds their level of trust for me and my products.
What did you wish you knew before you started your company?
I wish I knew a step by step blueprint when I was starting. The internet is so massive as to be overwhelming and scary, and there are so many distractions with starting a business online. If I had a step by step plan it would have saved so much time.
What are you looking forward to in the next week/month/quarter or year? Or what are your aspirations for your company?
My aspirations for the business involve the principle of ratcheting up. I want to take my success with this business and create a new course on how to start your own online business. I would provide my best advice, based on my own mistakes and successes so that buyers of the course would have a running start. This niche of making money online is lucrative and I could charge more for a course compared to what I charge for a photography course.
What three words describe you as a person?
The three words I would describe myself as would be: pioneer, visionary and builder. I never stop looking forward to what the next thing could be. I am always dreaming and thinking creatively, and there is no limit or ceiling to my ideas. I don't enjoy managing a business, rather, I enjoy dreaming up a business. Executing my ideas is the hard part.
What is the last book you've read that you would recommend others read?
The last book I read was Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards. Copywriting is the key to business success and everyone needs this skill to maintain a profitable business.
What is an unusual thing can you not travel without?
I cannot travel without my camera, and a second camera to shoot video. I make videos from all my trips and use the footage to help sell my courses. Traveling far away and having quality videos from the trip ads to credibility and helps create more digital products to sell.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
My favorite place in the world is Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is the most beautiful place on earth. I have so many photos of that lake...in the winter, in the spring, and in the summer. I just can't get enough of it.
If you had an extra ten minutes per day, what would you do with them?
If I had an extra ten minutes I would close my eyes and meditate on what my priorities need to be and what I need to accomplish that day. I would write down those tasks and make sure I get them done.