Business + Marketing

Jumpstart Your Portrait Business Growth: Heather Wanninger Q&A 

April 27, 2023

By Abbey Pleviak

After eleven years in business as a portrait photographer specializing in senior portraiture, Central Illinois photographer Heather Wanninger hit the $20k mark in her annual income and knew she was ready for even more business growth. At that point, Wanninger felt that not only had she made her business a success, it was time to make it even better. After figuring out her cost of doing business, Wanninger made changes like switching to in-person sales and getting proactive about reaching out to people who had expressed interest in her services.

In the Q&A below, Wanninger shares more tips that grew her business from $20k to $100k in just one year. Whether you are just getting started or are ready to increase your income, these tips can help your business grow.

To hear more from Heather Wanninger about how she made her remarkable business growth, check out her appearance on The Portrait System Podcast.  

Heather Wanninger

Heather Wanninger’s Tips to Jumpstart Your Business 

What is your average sale currently? 

My current average for high school senior portraits is $4,300 with session fee.   

Do you regret any decisions you have made in your business? 

My biggest regret was not understanding finances and not asking for help with that aspect sooner.  I had not done a cost of doing business (CODB) until after 5 years in business. That’s a lot of sessions where I wasn’t charging properly. (At that point, I was doing all-inclusive sessions for $400.)   

Once I did my CODB and I started treating my photography business like a ‘real’ business, taking the emotion and fear out of it, and looking at the numbers and making decisions based on that, my business nearly instantly leveled up in all ways. I took my business seriously which translated to other people taking me seriously, which attracted more clients who valued what I did. My business growth went from $20k to $100k revenue in one year.   

[Read: How to Build a Successful Portrait Photography Business]

For someone starting out on their photography journey what advice would you have for their business growth?  

I would suggest you do two things sooner rather than later:   

  1. Hire a mentor/invest in a coach. 
  2. Take tasks off your plate you don’t enjoy.   

1. When you invest in someone who is further ahead of you on the path, take advantage of it and seek guidance. Your journey to get there will be so much faster than going it alone. I talk to so many people who think of coaching as an expense rather than a wise investment. It’s the best investment you can make because your return will be so much more. Investing in yourself is always worth it. My $20k to $100k year I mentioned earlier was the year I hired my first coach for $7,800. Not a coincidence. Was that ‘expense’ worth it for my business growth? Heck yeah!  

2. Quickly take tasks off your plate that you don’t enjoy even if you have the time to do it yourself. When you truly understand your finances and charge properly, you can afford to pay someone to do the tasks you don’t enjoy. You will enjoy your business and your life even more when you remove unenjoyable tasks off your plate and stress off your shoulders. 

[Read: Does Your Brand Really Need a Mom? Think About Outsourcing]

Where do you see your business growth in the next 5 years?  

In less than two years, my youngest graduates from high school, which means I get to reevaluate not only what I want my business to look like but also my life in general. I plan on continuing photographing local high school seniors. I love empowering those in front of my camera to feel beautiful, worthy and loved. I will strategically plan my local sessions, so I create plenty of time in my schedule to travel and photograph people all around the world!   

I also love educating other female photographers to create freedom in their lives which allows me to work from anywhere, and I tend to take advantage of that. I’m hosting my first trip for photographers this fall to Morocco and plan on that being a regular thing – organizing a group trip or two every year for photographers. It’s a great opportunity to be around other passionate, kind, loving photographers who have a zest for living life boldly and exploring new parts of the world with like-minded photographers.