Ever wanted to turn your passion for photography into a business? Now consider taking that business on the road as you travel full-time with your own family. Wedding and Family photographer Jake Ford has done just that! Tune in to discover the joys and challenges of growing a successful family photography business from the road.
Hear tips and get apps for fulfilling image orders or selling stock photos. Learn the importance of making connections, and consistently sharing quality content on social media. Spoiler alert: It’s more about quality than it is quantity.
Growing a Nomadic Photography Business
with Jake Ford
Your Host: Jim Nelson
Connect with Jake:
Listen to The RV Entrepreneur Episode #309
Photography Fulfillment Platforms:
- Pic-Time – https://www.pic-time.com/
- Pixieset – https://pixieset.com/
- Zenfolio – https://zenfolio.com/
- Smug Mug – https://www.smugmug.com/
- Shutterfly – https://www.shutterfly.com/
Sell Stock Photos:
- Shutterstock – https://submit.shutterstock.com/
- Adobe Stock – https://contributor.stock.adobe.com/
- iStock – https://www.istockphoto.com/workwithus
THE RV ENTREPRENEUR
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The RV Entrepreneur #309 Full Episode Transcript
Jake Ford Photography
RV LIFE: Welcome to the RV Entrepreneur podcast. The weekly show for Nomads, Work campers, RV ers and entrepreneurs looking to earn a living or build a business while enjoying the RV lifestyle. This week’s host is Jim Nelson. Let’s settle in and enjoy the RV Entrepreneur podcast brought to you by RV Life.
JIM NELSON: Hey there, Jim. Here with RV Life, your host for this episode of the RV Entrepreneur podcast. If you like this show, check out the RV Life podcast for exploring all aspects of the RV lifestyle with veteran RVers, Dan and Patty Hunt. You can check that out at podcast RV Life.com. But since this show is all about living and working the RV life, let’s talk about business. You know, there are so many different remote business opportunities available for RVers to support the nomadic lifestyle. Tell us about yours in the RV Entrepreneur Facebook group or at the RV? Entrepreneur.com Personally, I’ve always enjoyed photography, and I’m no professional photographer, not by any means, but I have helped a long time friend and client promote his wedding and studio photography business. I’m also aware of the many stock photography sites out there for monetizing one’s passion for taking pics, but I’ve often wondered how wedding or event photographers might be able to take their business on the road. I mean, how do you grow such a business without local word of mouth marketing and referrals? How much photography equipment can you really take with you in an RV? What product offerings can you fulfill remotely other than digital images? Do people even purchase albums anymore? Well, my guest today has answers to all these questions and more.
JIM: Jake Ford shot his first wedding at 19 years old. He has enjoyed building his successful wedding and family photography business ever since. And in early 2023, he and his wife bought an RV to travel full time with their two kids after photographing weddings in Tampa, Florida, for 11 years as husband and wife team. They sold their house, moved into a fifth wheel trailer and embarked on a giant adventure. Jake is a true family man, giving his kids the adventure of a lifetime while making connections with all the people and places they visit. Check out his work at Jake Ford photography.com. In this episode, we talk about the pros and cons of traveling full time while trying to market a family photography business. Spoiler alert when you’re shooting on location anyway, being nomadic may actually be a plus. Jake provides some helpful tips for photography apps and fulfillment platforms. We discuss the benefits and challenges of managing your own website for booking and sales, and we talk about the importance of social media and most importantly, making connections. Stay tuned to learn all about growing a successful photography business while living the life. But first, the best way to support this show is by supporting the sponsors who make it possible. So we’ll be right back after these short messages.
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JIM: Jake, thanks so much for joining me.
JAKE FORD: Thanks, man. Yeah, I’m excited. This is a really cool opportunity.
JIM: Well, I’m really excited, too, because, you know, there’s so many different ways people can support their nomadic lifestyles. And photography is one of them. And that’s a true entrepreneurial thing to do because it’s kind of on you. The whole thing, the production, the marketing and all of that, which we’ll get into. But I like to ask us a couple quick questions. First, since this is the Entrepreneur podcast from RV Life, when did you first start the RV life and what does that look like now?
JAKE: Yeah, my wife and I decided in May of 2022 to sell our home and purchase an RV and hit the road. We have two young sons. They’re now six and three. Yeah, we just wanted to do do something crazy and do something different. And this definitely is that.
JIM: So it wasn’t hard enough. You’re you’re traveling now in the RV? Yes. As a family and running a business.
JAKE: Yeah. So we bought the RV and we started living in it full time in September of 2022. We were living in my in-laws yard, so we kind of were in and out of their house too. But we hit the road full time in January of 2023, so we’ve been on the road about seven months now.
JIM: Okay. And what does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur or what is it? What do you think it takes to be an entrepreneur?
JAKE: Yeah, I heard I don’t know where I heard this quote or what it’s from, so if anyone knows, they can tell me. But I heard someone say once that entrepreneurs are the only people that will work 24 hours, 80 hours a week, you know, all the time to avoid working 9 to 5, 40 hours a week. That’s exactly where I land in being an entrepreneur, because I love the freedom that it comes with working for yourself and having your own business. And it’s been a little bit different being on the road, but it’s been awesome in a whole new way too.
JIM: Awesome. Well, let’s go there when and how did you first turn your love for photography into a business?
JAKE: So when I was 19 years old, just before my 20th birthday, I photographed my first wedding, and that was in 2009. And I got paid, I think, about $300, and I was over the moon. I was like, This is so much money for photos. This is awesome. Which, you know, was great at 19 and throughout the next couple of years, I just would photograph friends and portraits and engagement shoots and stuff with some of my friends in college. And when I graduated from college in 2011, I studied journalism and graphic design and applied to probably 40 different jobs. And I did not hear back from any one of them. And that was either because I was terrible at graphic design or just nobody. I don’t know. It just never happened. So, you know, decided, let’s just do this thing, let’s do the photography thing, let’s make it happen and pursue that. And I was lucky enough, blessed enough to have family that was supportive of that and believed in that. And so, you know, support of family and people saying we want to invest in that with you was really helpful. And yeah, so 2011 is when we hit the ground and we made it happen.
JIM: And so you’ve pretty much always been a self preneur, a solopreneur or an entrepreneur. You didn’t do a career typical career path and then Leap. It’s always been this way for you.
JAKE: Yeah. And I think the longer I do it, the more I will work as hard as I can to do this for my career, for the rest of my life. You know, if it changes into another business or whatever along the road, that’s fine. But I love working for myself.
JIM: Well, let’s talk about what that work is. Do you have a certain specialty? Is it like events and weddings, or do you do nature photography or corporate work? What have you done before you hit the road and how has that evolved now?
JAKE: Yeah, so I have always focused on weddings and families primarily when we lived in Tampa and before we, you know, hit the road, I did a lot more a lot more variety of work, which was part of the reason that led me into wanting to kind of scale things down and just focus on weddings and families. But yeah, on the road, families are my priority. They’re the biggest market, the biggest thing thing that I work on right now. But I book weddings as we go and I’m pushing weddings a lot more. It’s a little bit I’ve changed things from just Tampa wedding photographer to travel, wedding photographer, adventure, wedding photographer, you know, things like that. So we’re we’re kind of rebuilding that part of the business, which is a lot of fun. And changing course on that a little bit has been really great, but it’s been so much fun just photographing families as we go from city to city and just sharing on social media or my email list or website or anything and just saying, Hey, we’re going to be in Houston, Austin, we’re going to Denver, we’re going to be in Traverse City, you know, wherever we go. And just the connections of all of that has been cool to just kind of piece that together as we go.
JIM: So you talk about like family photography. My wife and I are childfree by choice and not really familiar with what sort of event, you know, why would families is it just the typical family photo or do you can you focus on marketing on a certain event or how does that work?
JAKE: Yeah. So it is mostly kind of, you know, when I say I’m photographing families, it would be kind of in that traditional family portrait way. Got it. Though I don’t try to create traditional classic portraits, you know, I want to capture more of the family being a real family together and like actually getting families playing together and loving each other and hugging each other and not just stand here and look perfect and smile at the camera for the Christmas card. Yeah. I’ve said often I have a big thing on my website that says don’t do it for the Christmas card. Like it’s not about that. It’s not about this like perfect little family. It’s about, you know, your kids will never be this age again and they’ll never, you know, have this obsession with rocks or their, you know, big teeth missing and their smiles like that or whatever, you know, just so my focus is always just capturing a family the way that they are and just letting them be an authentic family together and kind of giving them the space to to do that. So yeah, when I’m photographing families or when I talk about that, it’s just a family session either at their home or at as we travel. I’m trying to get in like awesome locations though. That’s never my priority. The priority is just the family itself. And you know what they’re doing right now in life.
JIM: Well, it sounds like you know what you’re doing there because it’s almost more of a lifestyle photography because you could redefine family and all sorts of ways. There might be a couple out on the road with their dog or however you define it, it’s you want to capture them living their life together in that particular time?
JAKE: Absolutely, yeah.
JIM: Have you ever delved into the stock art marketplaces? I mean, I know you’re traditionally wedding photography, but lots of photographers want to, you know, sell their work.
JAKE: Yeah, I haven’t I have considered it. It’s never been something that I have really put a lot of thought into. But every once in a while, if I need a stock image or something of something I don’t have, I look at it and I’m like, Man, I have so much work I could put up in these places, you know? And whether it’s travel or even just nature or stuff around the house, I mean, I take pictures of everything all the time. So sometimes I think about that, but I’ve never really pursued that. But I should I need to especially I heard you say on I listened to your other episode of them introducing you to the to the podcast. And you know, you said something about like, if you don’t have that steady, you know, remote job, we need all kinds of streams of income.
JIM: And it sounds like that could be a whole other show in itself considering the number of, you know, Shutterstock and Adobe and all the marketplaces out there. So but let’s talk about like the type of equipment you’re using. You don’t have much space in an RV or do you? What are you shooting with these days? Yeah.
JAKE: So we have a as far as our RV, just to kind of give the idea of the space that we do have. We have a 36 foot fifth wheel and that is not a small RV, but it definitely is smaller than the house we lived in. And so we had we pared down so much. And in my home I had an office all to myself with a closet full of gear that maybe one day I would need. And a lot of it just sat there and it was nice to have if I needed it. But as we pared down our life and pared down all our stuff and, you know, I realized how much I was not using in the business. And so we sold a bunch of stuff. We do have a storage unit, so I put some stuff there and but on the road I travel with two cameras, a bunch of lenses, and I have a couple film cameras as well. And so I have one bench in our dinette in our RV, and that’s where I have to fit all the business stuff in there. And if it can’t fit in there, I don’t get to have it. And that’s my computer’s hard drives, camera gear, tripods, all that kind of stuff has got to I got to make it fit in there.
JIM: And I presume you’re shooting all digital, right?
JAKE: Primarily digital. I do photograph film as well, and that’s more of a for myself for fun. You know, I use it at my sessions and weddings and stuff, but I don’t advertise myself as a film photographer yet.
JIM: Sure. And I guess it’s being more and more challenging to find development and and printing of film these days.
JAKE: Yeah. And it’s more I have a company that I use that I send all the film out to and they do all the developing and scanning and all that kind of stuff. But even that is a challenge because I’ve got to find a post office and it’s, you know, you would think that’s not a challenge. But even in some remote cities, we’ve been to little towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the post office is open for like an hour a day or something and you got to get in there and get it out and stuff like that has been interesting. Different challenges. And as we’ve been traveling.
JIM: I’ve had a wedding photography client for many years. I’m a graphic designer and I’ve helped him with lots of things and I’ve seen how that has evolved and he’s done a lot of work in the studio. For engagement and stuff. So talk to me about the differences of like having a studio with large lighting setups and reflectors and maybe a crew to help you light or stage a shot versus being on the road and doing work from your RV.
JAKE: So that definitely is something that wasn’t really that big of a change from, you know, my business in Tampa versus being on the road, because I’ve always been more of an on site on location photographer, So I’ve done my fair share of studio work, but I’ve never had my own studio. I’ve rented studios for certain situations or things like that, but I’ve always been. Do you want to do the set for family photos specifically? You want to do it at your house? Do you want to do it at the beach? Do you have a specific place that’s important to you? You know, does it matter where the location is? Because if not, I’ll pick it because I’ll pick a place that I’ve always wanted to shoot or, you know, things like that. So I think the biggest change for me now is when I was photographing families in Tampa, whether it’s a destination for a family, you know, they’re coming to Tampa Bay for vacation or they’ve lived there forever. I knew Tampa very well and I knew the great spots and I knew this beach is going to be best in this season of this time of the year because, you know, as the sun sets in different locations throughout the year, this beach is great because the sun sets perfectly in this spot or whatever. Now, being on the road, I don’t know these cities like I knew Tampa.
JAKE: So that’s been a bigger challenge is I’m in some ways relying more on my clients to say, You tell me what’s a great spot here, you know, and if not, if they don’t know, I’ll dig into Google Maps and dig into, you know, searching for it and find a great spot. And there’s also been times where I’ve said, I’m in this place and I really want to shoot in this location. You know, hit me up if you if you want to get some family pictures, that kind of thing. But that’s definitely been the biggest challenge is I don’t know where the sun’s going to sit perfectly like I did in Tampa, which in one way is really fun because I found myself getting a little almost robotic and repetitive in the work I was creating because I knew it too well and the art of it had kind of left and I was like, I could, you know, do these family sessions on the beach with my eyes closed because I just have done it so many times, which was great because I was good at my job and I knew what I was doing. But as an artist, it kind of left the the creativity was was not there as much. So it’s been fun to photograph in all kinds of new locations because it’s brand new for me.
JIM: I hear you there. So as you’ve pretty much always shot on location, that’s pretty much a nomadic photographer when you’re going to different places. It’s almost as though the RV life has opened up opportunities to find those new places and get more inspiration from the locations.
JAKE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, as an artist, as a photographer, when you find a new location and the light is great and the whole setting is perfect, and then you add in your clients, whether it’s a wedding, a bride and groom or, you know, a family or even just one subject, and they’re connecting so well together. They’re connecting well with you. And, you know, you’re just kind of making this magic together. Add in, I’ve never photographed it this before. This is so awesome. Like, it just has become so much fun. And I was telling my wife in the last seven months, I’ve come home from photo shoots and almost every time I have this feeling of just like, I freaking love this job, it’s so fun. And the session was great and the family was awesome. And I think what I’ve found to be a little bit different being on the road is these families and I mostly reference families because that’s mostly what I’ve done so far on the road is they are excited to get family pictures because they love their family and they’re excited to have me photograph them because usually it’s like, Hey, I’m coming through for a weekend, you know, through Kentucky or through Ohio, and there’s not always a, hey, we’re celebrating this event, so we want to get family pictures. It’s just like we’re excited to have Jake come through our city and we want to get pictures and we see the value in family photos just for the sake of family photos, not because it’s this birthday or this vacation or whatever, you know, it’s just celebrating family instead of, you know, our vacation to the beach or whatever, which is not bad.
JIM: No, no, that’s great. And it sounds like the business and your actual production hasn’t changed much. But in traveling, how have you faced challenges in the marketing side of things? Because you no longer really have that local tight knit word of mouth network?
JAKE: Absolutely. I kind of had a plan when we set out to tap in to some of the network we’ve created. I say we so much because my wife and I photographed together for a decade. And just now, as our family is growing, as our kids are growing up in this last year, she stepped out of the business to stay home with our kids and not photograph anymore. So I’m so used to saying we because it’s been ten years of we and now it’s just me. But. You know, we built this network of people all across the country because Tampa Bay is such a destination for weddings. So oftentimes the weddings that I was photographing in Tampa, people came from Boston or, you know, Michigan or Texas or wherever, you know, just all over to get married in Tampa Bay. And that includes Sarasota and Saint Petersburg and, you know, some of the other cities around there. So as you know, we’re planning this trip or planning this new life for us. You know, I thought we have been photographing people here for ten years and they’ve all followed us on Instagram and Facebook and we’ve been able to stay in touch. And, you know, people sign up for our email list and things like that. And so I just had this idea, you know, I feel like we could tap into all those people that were either bridesmaids or guests or brides and grooms or whatever, you know.
JAKE: Will it work? I don’t know. Let’s try. And what has been really cool is the people that have reached out or said, hey, let us know when you’re coming through. This area has been a lot of those people. It’s been a lot of my friends and family who, you know, don’t live in Tampa who were like, Hey, you got to come to Houston. We’ve got friends and family that, you know, would love photographs or, you know, which has been awesome, but the coolest connections have been those, Hey, Jake saw you guys are on the road. If you’re coming through Maryland, we’d love a photo session. I am so-and-so’s aunt, and I was a guest at their wedding and I followed your work ever since then. You know, you photograph their wedding in 2016, and I’ve been following along ever since. And so to get to photograph a couple celebrating their 40th or 50th anniversary and it’s just the two of them and their dog in Maryland on the water, you know, it was just such a cool connection that why would I ever have done that before, you know, which has been that’s been really cool. Or even, hey, when you come through Kentucky, let us know. I was a bridesmaid in so-and-so’s wedding in 2020. And I, you know, love your work and would love to get family pictures done. So those kind of connections have been really, really cool.
JIM: You know, you said connections there a number of times, and I think that’s really what it’s all about, connection and community. And again, it seems like the life has kind of opened that up because now you can reach the world online. Absolutely. And when you’re coming through and they want to, you know, have a shot somewhere in New Jersey and you say, well, actually, I won’t be there for a few months, but when you’re coming through, that’s on your list and you can reach out. And then they tell two friends.
JAKE: Yeah, and I have a list on my on my notes that have locations and who said, when you come through this place, let us know, you know, because I want to make sure that I get to reach all these different places that we go. And yeah, the RV life has opened up beyond just my business has opened up so many new friendships and even just reconnections with old friends that we had in college or growing up that we haven’t seen forever. And you know, they saw me share something on social media that said, you know, we sold our house and we bought an RV and we’re hitting the road and they’re like, Oh my gosh, please come to Nashville. We would love to see you guys, you know? And so my wife and I are just like, all right, Nashville is on the list now. And we get to to kind of go through there and see what we can do as we go through, which has been awesome.
JIM: That’s neat. So when it comes to the business and what you’re offering these people, what kind of product offerings are you providing the clients? Do people buy wedding albums anymore or is everything just send them some files and without a studio and you don’t have or do you have books to show people? And so what are you doing aside from showing up and taking photos?
JAKE: Yeah. So my whole pretty much my whole business is online as far as the display of my work. So my website, social media, blog posts, you know, my galleries, everything’s online. So that’s primarily how I display my work. And most of my clients come from those places anyway, you know, we found you on Instagram. We searched for Tampa wedding photographer and found your work or Google Tampa family photographer or Now I’m trying to get more of that adventure. Family photographer, adventure, wedding photographer, Traveling. You know, photographer.
JIM: Location, location, location.
JAKE: Get some more of that. And that’s what we are. I’m learning this is a little bit of a tangent, but I’m learning that, you know, as we are traveling to to Colorado, I need to start putting out some work and sharing Denver family photographer or blog posts that are like, you know, a day in Denver and sharing what I’m going to do when we go to Denver or we visited before. So I would share here’s what we did. Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for, you know, while you’re visiting Denver, if you’re looking for family photographers, here’s when I’m there, reach out. You know, so kind of trying to push more these different cities or different locations or a little bit of a different idea of of how I’m getting my work. But back to your original question with the products and stuff. So everything’s online. So my my clients find me, see my work on. Instagram, see my work on my website. Connect with my philosophy of photographing and how I approach weddings and families, and which that’s such a cool thing is to see people connect with. I like the way you photograph and I like your approach to it because it’s going to allow my family to be themselves and not picture perfect all the time, you know, because kids are crazy and kids are, you know, you can’t control them or dogs or adults, you know, not every adult is super into it. So if they want to just be themselves and be, you know, cool, calm and collected, that’s fine. They don’t have to be, you know, anything that they’re not, which is what I try to create a place for people to be able to just be themselves.
JAKE: And sorry, I keep getting off back to the product at all. So all my images are delivered online. So I have a whole gallery and I deliver everything there. And I have always included the digital downloads in my collections that I offer to people. Everyone can order prints through their galleries and create albums. I offer albums for all my sessions and all of my weddings. I try to push albums and prints a lot because photos don’t belong on a screen all the time. They belong on your wall, they belong in your hands. And there’s a difference of looking at a picture on a phone and scrolling and feeling that picture in your hand and sitting there on a couch with your family looking through those photos. You know, it’s just a, to me, a more authentic experience with the photo. So I offer that to everyone. Not everyone goes with it and that’s perfectly fine. But yeah, weddings. I’d say about 50% of my couples include an album in their collection because they see the value in that physical book that sits on a coffee table and you have your friends over or family over or. Fast forward ten, 20 years and your kids are sitting there looking through the album instead of, you know, I don’t know where that disc is. It’s on, it’s in some folder somewhere or I don’t have that computer anymore, or we lost the link to our gallery. So I’m always like, You got to get your pictures in your hands because that’s what lasts. You know?
JIM: I agree. I’m old school. I love the feel of a book, the look of a book and what they’re doing with albums now, with the flat finish and full bleeds and stuff, magazine style. So for aspiring photographers out there, it sounds like you’ve built in some infrastructure there where people can actually see a book offering and order it and have it delivered. You’re not doing that yourself. What kind of platforms are you using to work with and where would people get that kind of stuff done?
JAKE: Yeah, so there are all kinds of album companies and print companies and almost too many to choose from. Even as someone who’s been in the industry for almost 15 years, I still get overwhelmed at the options wedding photographers have now for gallery delivery and print sales and all that kind of stuff. But there are all kinds of companies. Millers Red Tree are two album companies that I’ve used that I love, great quality and ranging from $3,000 a book to all the way down to like $100 or something. You know, it just depends on the quality you’re looking for. There’s simple companies like Artifact Uprising that you can anyone can use in order to print. And I’ve done a variety of offerings from all kinds of companies. But yeah, that’s not something that I do in house. I don’t do the printing, especially now on the road. I don’t have any of that, but I’ve never done any of that myself in house. And that’s there’s just so many options to choose from. And they are such great companies that are very easy to work with and especially on the road now, you know, thankfully with the internet, I just upload it and they, you know, I design the album and make it and then customize it with my clients and then we send it off and then it either gets delivered straight to them or I get it to myself and I package it well and add some little gifts in it and send it off.
JIM: So you have partners that you work with. I found your website very impressive because you’re offering the product. People can go there and purchase it from you, but you either have it drop shipped to them or ship to you where you’ll give it the final finishing personal touch and hand it to them or deliver it to them. But walk me through you kind of went touched on a number of these things, but let’s say a typical project coming up. Walk me through the process of working remotely to promote book, shoot and finish a project from start to finish, getting the client doing the job and finishing it up.
JAKE: Okay, Yeah. So as we travel, you know, like I said earlier, our plans, we try to keep them flexible so that we can either pass through a city quicker if we need to get somewhere or extend it a day or two. If someone happens to say, Hey, we’d love to get photos, but we’re not available for those four days you’re here. But I can say, no worries, I’ll stay another day. We try to keep it pretty flexible like that, but my first step is just marketing where I am getting my plans out there, getting, you know, my dates and locations and all that kind of stuff out there, mostly through Instagram and Facebook. Right now I am a millennial. I haven’t touched TikTok or anything yet. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m struggling to hear reels on Instagram right now. So, you know, I’m just I’m just staying there. But I also have an email list that I’ve been building for years and that’s from past clients, that’s people logging into galleries or just signing up for the email because they want to stay in touch. And I will send out my dates there and and post them on social media. And those are the two places that I get most of my work. So I’ll say, Hey, we’re coming through Houston.
JAKE: We’d love to, you know, book a few sessions while we’re there. I’ll send out my dates and say, Here’s my availability and I’ll have families reach out and say, you know, we see you’re coming through or even, Hey, we’re not in Houston, but we’re an hour outside of Houston, You know, can you come through there? You know, so any kind of I usually stick with the major cities near where we’re traveling. So an example of that is when we visited my parents. They live in a small town in Maryland that’s about an hour from Philly, an hour from DC and two hours from New York City. So I was like, I named all those big cities instead of this little town in Maryland that no one would have ever heard of. So we reach out, coordinate with them as far as getting the dates scheduled and locations and and all that kind of stuff. And I have an online CRM that I use to book my clients. It’s called Tavi. It’s been great. I’ve used it for years and I love it. So I’ll send them booking information, contracts, all that kind of stuff. And they do everything online so they can sign that pay deposits and retainers and all that online.
JAKE: And then once the session comes, we photograph it. And sometimes my sessions are I’m passing through a city for a night and it’s like, we got to do it tonight or or the next morning or we can’t do it. And we got to keep going. Other times it’s a little more flexible in Houston for three weeks. So let’s make it happen. You know, within that time, after the session, photograph the session at whatever location it is, get back to my computer. You know, if we’re boondocking, I’m backing up everything on battery power. And then the next location is I can plug in and actually do the work. You know, if we’re staying at a park or we’re full hookups or anything like that, usually I can just do all the work right there in the RV at the park that we’re at. Sometimes the Wi-Fi is terrible and I have to go find a Starbucks or a coffee shop or a restaurant to just sit down and do the work. As far as uploading, that’s that’s the time where I need the Internet. Other than that, I’m just working on my computer. It’s all local storage. So. So, yeah, everything’s delivered online. I send out my galleries and if they choose to add on an album, I, you know, same thing.
JAKE: I work on that local to my computer and then I go find an Internet somewhere and there haven’t been too many big challenges. And the Internet has been less of a challenge than I expected it to be. But there have been a few times where I have I’ve been trying to let photos upload on my computer and it’s been 24 hours and the the Wi-Fi at the RV park is just so slow that I’m like, all right, I got to go and find a better Internet connection somewhere. There have been a few times state parks we’ve stayed at or boondocking where there is no internet and I have to, you know, drive somewhere to find it. And that’s been sometimes easy. Five minutes down the road, there’s a, you know, a Panera or something I can just sit at other times. There was a time in South Carolina where I had to drive almost an hour away to find a little town that had any kind of Wi-Fi connection. And I just sat there in my car and let it upload, you know? So that has been a little bit of a challenge, but not enough yet where I’m like feeling like I need StarLink or anything like that. I haven’t haven’t felt that yet.
JIM: Well, that’s good that you can get by with what you have there. Back to the website real quick. I love going to a website, seeing someone’s personal work, seeing the style and how they present it. But there are platforms out there. I don’t know if Smugmug is still around, but other type of platforms where they do all the work for you and have the infrastructure. Yeah. What benefits or challenges do you see about hosting your own, you know, your own store and gallery? Et cetera versus just jumping on board with some platform out there.
JAKE: Yeah. So actually, Smugmug was my first Shutterfly actually was my first ever hosting that. I delivered pictures through then Smugmug I used for a long time, which was great. Now I do use a platform that’s called Pic-time and they integrate with, you know, with a photographer you can customize all your branding and everything through them. And so that’s where I deliver all my images through my websites hosted through WordPress. And I thank you for your compliments on my website. I have put so much work into it, so it makes me so happy to hear. It shows that people, you know, see it and like it. And it’s my it’s my baby. It’s that thing that I’m always looking at like, you know, I got to perfect it here and all that. And but yeah, those programs, any of those kind of photo hosting delivery programs or websites are phenomenal. And again, I said earlier, like, there’s so many choices and even now I find one and I love it. And then I look over here and there’s another one and I’m like, Wait, what does that one have? You know? And I dive into that one and try to figure it out. And so, yeah, those kind of programs. Are awesome. And I know many photographers who use all kinds of them. Pixie set is one Pic-time is what I use Zenfolio I used for a long time as well, and they all have their different perks and things that make them better in one way than another. I love Zenfolio for a long time simply because of the delivery structure, the way I could kind of structure the galleries. I think where I ended up with them was some of the other ones that were coming along were a little easier to use and looked a little bit more professional. My final delivery, you know, my couples hire me and invest a good amount of money in in this and I don’t want to deliver a final product that is confusing or doesn’t look spectacular. So that was really important to me to find a delivery system that looked as good as the photos needed it to look.
JIM: Well, thanks for sharing those those tips and those platforms. And I am a web guy myself, so I have a few websites that are my babies, but those come along with their own technical challenges. And I’m sure you’ve been there pulling your hair out. But what what’s the favorite aspect of these projects? What really gets you coming home and saying, that was so exciting?
JAKE: Yeah. So I mean, there there are a lot. The first one that comes to my mind is I am a pretty emotional person. I have big emotions and I, you know, feel strongly whether it’s happiness or sadness or stress or, you know, I feel those things big. So when I connect with a family who also feels big emotions with their families or a couple for their wedding, that is like our wedding day is not about the photos. It’s about our love for each other and our friends and our family and those connections. We want photos of that. That to me is, you know, gives me so much life because I know that they see the value in what we’re doing. And that’s the biggest thing that that makes me, you know, come alive in a photo shoot is when the parents are celebrating their kids for who they are or the couple is just like so in love that the details of the wedding, I mean, it all matters, but the day comes and it doesn’t matter. It’s about each other, you know? And that’s one of my favorite things, is just seeing people celebrating and so happy with the thing that’s right in front of them in life right now. And I love that so much. And it’s something that I, I can sometimes lose sight of as a business owner, as a family man, as a husband and a and a father. I can lose sight of the things right in front of me as well. So when I go away and do a photo shoot and I see these families, you know, connecting so well, it reminds me, I get to go back home to my own family, and I have that right in front of me, too, which is just such a gift.
JAKE: And and same thing with family or with weddings, too. I mean, my wife and I have been married 12 years and I still look back at our wedding day and it was just the best day. It was so much fun and having all of our people there and the celebration of it all. So those kind of things give me so much life. And now being on the road all these different adding in the new locations makes that even more exciting because I love beautiful things and I love the, you know, the beautiful nature of this world. And so to be out there on a mountaintop, we haven’t gotten out West yet. We I’ve been out there, but not in the RV yet. So I’m just amped to get out there and photograph in those mountain ranges. But I did a few sessions in like the Blue Ridge Mountains. And just to be out there and their their own beauty, you know, But then to add in, you know, this couple in front of me who just got engaged and is celebrating their love for each other and that with this incredible mountain and sunset behind them, like it’s all just magic and so good and it makes me so excited. And that’s the kind of stuff I come home and I’m like, It doesn’t make sense that this is a job that I get to do this as a career like this is this is just play and fun.
JIM: And you mentioned connections. Again, it comes back to connecting with those people, connecting with the location and connecting with your own family when you come home. But I know this RV entrepreneur life is not just all dreams and unicorns. What bothers you most? What really? You know, not necessarily regrets, but what are the things that do bother you about this life and working in business from the road?
JAKE: I think the biggest challenge is getting the word out to, Hey, this is where we’re going to be or this is what we’re going to do. Because if I say we’re going to be in this place and nobody reaches out and says, we want a photo shoot, sometimes it makes us like it’s not worth going to that place because it’s going to cost me money to get out there. And if I don’t have any work while I’m out there, there’s some, you know, obviously negatives to that. So I think that’s definitely been a big challenge and something we’ve learned. It’s probably better for us to spend longer periods of time in places than traveling really quick through places. I will say, I think something that I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of, like the things that bother me about this, but I remember when when my wife and I set out to do this, we followed all the people on Instagram and. We followed all the YouTube videos and we saw all these families our age with kids, our kids age doing this. And we got out there and we were like, Where are all of them? Where are all the families that are doing this together? You know, and and I will say, too, on our side, we left Florida in January, which is where everyone was going in January.
JAKE: You know, all the everyone flocks to Florida or the warmer places, you know, in the winter. And we were getting out of there. So that was kind of a not a mistake. But, you know, nobody else was in, you know, South Carolina in February in the freezing cold. Right. Or, you know, Virginia or whatever, I think. Yeah, man, I don’t know. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head right now that specifically is like bothersome. It’s just the challenges of a new type of business that I’m running now because, you know, I don’t have the luxury or the advantage of being Saint Pete Beach family photographer and someone traveling from the north coming down for a vacation, searches Saint Pete Beach family photographer and finds my work and my summers full of family vacation family sessions. Right. Which was wonderful and is such a gift. And I loved that I got to do that for so long, and I look forward to doing that again in the future. But I that’s the challenge is nobody’s really searching for traveling. Photographer Right on the road like that doesn’t make sense.
JIM: Yeah. So if anything, it’s just creating more responsibility and a little more pressure on you to make this thing work. But making it work and accomplishing that challenge is really fulfilling your lifestyle. So you say you talked about a number of places and you’ve been on the road six, seven, eight months. Has there been a favorite location or a specific shoot that really sticks out?
JAKE: Yeah, a couple. I was kind of thinking through that before we came on and one comes to mind and then that leads me to another and then it leads me to and I’m like, Oh, what do I choose? You know, there’s three specific ones that come to mind right away. The first was already kind of referenced it in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The couple that I was photographing was a friend of ours from from college that we hadn’t connected with in years. And we, you know, got to reconnect with her in this wonderful season of her life of getting engaged and, you know, planning a wedding and a marriage and all that kind of stuff. And to go back to Virginia and photographing those mountains and just it all lined up so perfectly. It was so cold, but it was crisp and clear and the sun was beautiful and the over the mountains and it was just spectacular. So that was definitely one another would be everywhere that we spent time in Michigan. Michigan is a beautiful state and we didn’t spend enough time there. I was only there for about two weeks and we did a lot in those two weeks and we got to visit Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Lake Placid Lake, Chicago, Lake Michigan, which was awesome. I got to spend time with a great friend there who’s also a wedding photographer and photographed some weddings with him while I was up there. Shout out to Dan Stuart.
JAKE: He’s also he’s not full time, but he’s also an author as well, which was fun to connect on so many different levels with with that. But yeah, photographing up there was was awesome and we got to go up into the Upper peninsula to pictured rocks and so much beautiful landscape up there. And then the last one, I mean, as much as I have spent time in Florida, I will never, you know, get sick of the beauty of that state. It’s just, you know, an incredible state. And from the sunsets that are just spectacular to the beaches, I got to do a session at a I think it’s called Little Talbot, Little Talbot Island State Park or something. I don’t know. I might be saying that wrong. But so much driftwood and huge driftwood that my kids are climbing all over. And I got to go out there and do some pictures there too. So yeah, those are the three that come to mind. And then also just visiting new cities, New York City, I mean, I’ve been there before, but on the road we got to my wife and I got to go in there and visit. We left the kids with my parents and had a weekend there. And Atlanta visiting there, you know, have not spent time there. Got to do a session in downtown Atlanta. So, yeah, I mean, I feel like I could keep going. There’s just I’m.
JIM: Sure you could.
JAKE: Cases and I haven’t even touched the West Coast right yet. So.
JIM: So congratulations. I mean, you’re on the road for a short time so far, but something’s clearly working. Do you have any final tips for photographers hoping to grow profitable business on the road? Something’s working for you. If someone wants to do the same thing, do you have any specific apps or tips or tools or anything to help these folks?
JAKE: The biggest thing for me is just taking the leap of faith to do it, because I think we could have buried ourselves in what ifs. And, you know, I didn’t have a huge business plan setting out to do this. It was more about me and my family. And if we can make photography fun to this as we go, let’s do it. I think the biggest thing is just exposure and getting yourself putting quality content out there, not just constant content out there. I think that I didn’t really touch the I posted on Instagram a lot, but I never really touched the reels game. And that’s kind of where Instagram has moved. And I’m trying I’m trying to do it. It’s not I don’t know. I’m figuring out, okay, do these type does this type of content get me work or is it just views and do those views lead into work or not? What’s worth putting my time into right now? And I think the biggest thing is just making sure I am constantly putting my travel dates and travel places out there, because you never know when somebody’s waiting in line at the grocery store and scrolling on their phone and sees, Oh, Jake’s coming through, let me let me reach out, you know? And so I think sometimes I am like, man, I haven’t shared, hey, we’re still in Texas, or, hey, we’re going to don’t forget, we’re coming to Chicago, putting that out there. So I think my biggest tip is just take the leap of faith, do it and put out quality content. Make sure you’re posting your information, but make it good, not just content for content’s sake.
JIM: Definitely my takeaway there is quality, not quantity. But it seems you have both. You’ve got all sorts of really good work out there. Where can people see your best work and learn more about Jake Ford?
JAKE: Yeah, so you can currently see my best work at my website. Jake Ford photography.com. Like I said earlier, that’s my baby. I’ve been putting so much work into that. I kind of restarted from scratch. I didn’t try to move anything over from an old website or anything. I just started over because I feel like this time in my business is a little bit of a restart in a lot of different ways. And so Jake Ford photography.com and then follow along on Instagram and Facebook also just Jake photography nice and easy. Awesome.
JIM: Yeah. Jake thanks so much for joining me. You’re clearly doing something right. Keep up the good work.
JAKE: I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
JIM: What a great guy. Jake and his family are on an amazing adventure indeed. You can hear the passion for his craft in everything he says. And I can’t agree more about the importance of connection with the people and our environment wherever we go. So connect with us everywhere at Entrepreneur.com Slash, Connect and speaking of connections, would you attend the next Life Entrepreneur Summit? What would you expect to happen there? We want to know. Let us know at entrepreneur.com/summit to help us shape the future of life at Ben’s and to share your story with listeners, Reach out at the Entrepreneur.com or in the entrepreneur Facebook group on Facebook.
The RV Entrepreneur is presented by RV Life – Tools that Make Camping Simple
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