Business + Marketing

Four-Figure Sales Average in the Former Eastern Bloc 

May 23, 2023

By Abbey Pleviak

In the latest episode of The Portrait System Podcast, host Nikki Closser  speaks with Jovana Marinkovic about how she has adapted The Portrait System business model to the unique economic challenges and cultural situation in Serbia and how she has overcome supply issues to become a highly sought successful portrait photographer in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade. 


As a former Eastern Bloc country and province of Yugoslavia, Serbia has faced great economic hardship due to limiting socialist policies, political unrest, and civil wars — with the latest occurring in 1999. Serbia gained independence in 2006 but has continued to lag in economic growth compared to other parts of the world. The average monthly income in Serbia is $700 compared to $5,900 in the US.  

Despite these economic challenges, Jovana Marinkovic has built a portrait business specializing in maternity with a four-figure sales average. Marinkovic’s average clients are not above-average earners in Belgrade. They are ordinary people who value the service she provides and prioritize working with her.  

Marinkovic worked first as a retoucher and then began shooting for another photographer while taking clients in her free time. Feeling burned out from focusing on other people’s work at the expense of her own, Marinkovic took a few months off to rest and take stock of her situation. Marinkovic made three main changes to get her business where she needed it to be – she got a studio with tall ceilings that enabled her to apply what she had learned about lighting from Felix Kunze, she started an Instagram account for marketing, and she figured out how to custom make the products she wanted to sell.

[Read: 5 Fixes to Weak Marketing ROI for Photographers]

Marinkovic was resistant to starting an Instagram account, but it has made a world of difference to her business. She uses it as her business card when meeting people, and as soon as she shows it to someone, they become excited to work with her. Sourcing her folio boxes was a bigger problem. Because she was unable to find photo mattes or boxes inside of Serbia, and she would have had to purchase in bulk to make it worthwhile to import them, Marinkovic decided it would be most effective and least stressful to make her own. Marinkovic was able to find and purchase a machine to make the photo mattes from a company in Croatia, and she worked with four different artisans before she found someone who was able to make folio boxes to her standard. 

Marinkovic hopes her story will help other photographers see that no matter where they are in the world, they can run a successful photography business. She says, “It’s all about not giving up. . . It’s really about you putting the work in. And if you do the work, it will work out, I promise. You just need to not give up. You just need to continue trying until you figure it out and everything will be fine. I promise.” 

© The Portrait System

To learn more about Marinkovic and her business, visit her Instagram

The Portrait System Podcast helps portrait photographers navigate the world of photography, business, money, and much more. Hosted by Nikki Closser, the podcast is powered by The Portrait System, a comprehensive, online educational platform that teaches all aspects of running a successful portrait photography studio.