Want to know how it is possible to make a living while traveling the world? Emily Kidd shares how she does this as an elopement photographer.
Want to make a living by traveling the world? Do you want to know what it takes to build a financially sustainable business, while at the same time traveling the world? This is the kind of lifestyle many people want and don’t understand. So we are going to cover what it entails to make a living by traveling the world.
Emily Kidd is a destination elopement photographer that grew up in Kansas and later moved to California. It wasn’t until the end of her college career that she decided she was interested in wedding photography, even though she was interested in photography in high school.
She was interested in business marketing for a while also. Towards the end of it all she discovered the world of destination weddings and elopements. She also found photographers she was inspired by and later decided to attend a workshop. This gave her the needed tools and mindset to help her to kick start her business.
She’s always learning, growing and investing in courses as growth is a continuous process. She did two workshops on the West Coast and that’s what really kick-started her elopement and travel side of her business.
Why destination elopements?
Emily didn’t realize until recently that it was not common to dive straight into elopements. Many times people start with weddings and then niche down.
She was never really drawn to weddings. She didn’t want to be a wedding photographer. But, a year later she decided to do weddings and went straight to elopements. She was never a huge fan of traditions; that just wasn’t the direction she wanted.
With destination elopements, you can go to these extremely cool locations. The clients you work with all tend to be more laid back and adventurous depending on the brand.
You get to travel and meet people and shoot in beautiful locations. Emily at one point in her life wanted to do photojournalism and travel the world. So this was a different version of that, that included sharing a specific type of story.
This was something she was really passionate about, so she just put her heart and soul into it and went for it wholeheartedly.
What is a homebase like?
For 2022, Emily doesn’t have a home base, but last year was in North Carolina. Since she was doing international work already she pretty much traveled from all over from one week to a month at a time.
Her dream of building her business towards the goal of going to her favorite places at her favorite seasons and just building her business around them was already happening. So, she would plan the travels that she wanted to do and then take on work within those time frames in those locations.
This is a different kind of work. In the first week of January, she packed all her stuff, got rid of most of what she wasn’t using and now she carries everything she owns in one box at her sister’s house.
It is every basic thing she needs ranging from her equipment to clothes for every type of climate. Basically, it is like two suitcases. She has European backpacks and then her camera backpack and that’s it.
In 2022, she started in Central America and planned to move her way over to Europe and then in the fall she wanted to go to Asia. Emily is really just a digital nomad going with a plan where the wind takes her on.
How do you market yourself?
Emily’s marketing strategy doesn’t feel very different. She already has been intentional about creating a location independent business, which basically means she was upfront about the fact that she was based in North Carolina to people inquiring. But now she just says she’s a digital nomad because she genuinely doesn’t have a home base.
In marketing, you should target your top 5 locations that you want to shoot at. You should also really prioritize search engine optimization, and that’s how you will be found on Google and Pinterest, while Instagram can be just a supplement.
Utilize Instagram’s little portfolio, changes of locations and use of hashtags to reach people quickly and it can be very fluid, though unpredictable. Most of the time Emily keeps her focus on Google, blogging, and SEO.
You also need to get specific because if you aren’t you are not going to gain much traction. Choose a few places that are really drawn to you or that you want to go to, travel to them first, shoot and create content in those locations and then begin marketing it from there.
Emily’s marketing strategy lies on specific blogging, being at and choosing specific locations that you want. Avoid making the mistake of not being specific with your location, your SEO and with your marketing. Never say you serve everywhere.
Marketing yourself in multiple locations
There are different strategies for different places. Once she wasn’t able to travel as often, Emily had to change her homebase and found a spot in North Carolina that was more of a destination and fit with her branding.
This way she still was able to travel slightly, although it was closer to home. She used a little bit of Instagram, where she would just post and tag vendors’ locations, and use hashtags effectively. It was also helpful to make a blog post and then make sure that it shows up in Google and push it out on Pinterest. This helped get her content out there and appear in those specific locations.
Making sure you show up on Google
So how do you make sure you show up on google? There is a tool called Yoast that you can use where for your blog post you can pick a keyword. It can be a popular destination that you think people would want to shoot at.
For example, Santorini. If you wanted to do Santorini as an elopement photographer, that’s your keyword, or keywords and it’s usually three to four words. Basically you make that your title and there are courses on how to do it which makes SEO fun.
It is a process you have to learn. When Emily started SEO wasn’t easy but then you start working your way through and it’s really not as bad once you get the hang of it. It is a thing you can do from multiple locations and do in a very similar way. You will write a copy and put images that support where you’re shooting, which could include photos of Santorini.
Emily has done this for locations she hasn’t been to before and it works. You just have to show pictures of something that looks similar. Just think of a destination you haven’t been to and just use photos similar to what you have in mind.
This isn’t recommended for people who haven’t traveled before. If you have never traveled before, it is possible you get a call from a couple and start talking. They know you have no idea what the area is and you can’t answer properly.
Get some travel under your belt first! Catfishing a client is a bad idea. Be ready to serve them and make sure you carry out great research about any location you haven’t been to before. Be certain you’re a good fit for each other.
Being credible builds a lot of trust with couples. If you haven’t traveled internationally, there’s a lot of little pieces that aren’t even related to photography that you have to know, like how do you get from one place to another? And do you need a SIM card to talk on your phone? Or how are you going to communicate with a couple?
These are just a few things that she has heard the first few times she traveled internationally. At first, she just did everything wrong, sitting abroad and even checking in and checking out and moving locations all the time.
There are just so many little logistics that go into it. Though for Emily, it’s just part of her life now and so she’s used to it. But if a person isn’t, they might find that confusing. It is a good idea to do some styled shoots, so one gets a feel and some practice.
Primary way to find clients
The best way to find clients is really through Google and Pinterest, as this is how Emily’s clients find her. She is contacted via her website also, and there is a spot that asks her clients a ‘how did you find me?’ question and most times they will say Google.
When she first started, she was super overwhelmed and it did take a lot of time. She remembers just working on SEO and just trying to blog and make that happen.
It takes so much time and energy on the front end. When she didn’t have many jobs lined up she could remember people asking her what she was doing, when she wasn’t shooting.
They couldn’t understand why she was spending so much time on her computer as she didn’t have much business, because it hadn’t really kicked off yet. There was a period of time where she just decided to put in the work, because she needed to remain patient and consistent for it to work. This is what you need to do, is to be patient and have some grace for yourself. It’ll work!
Clients contact Emily through her website and then she uses HoneyBook, which is a CRM tool, Customer Relations Manager, which keeps her organized. HoneyBook is like a scheduler for her. Since she travels a lot it helps her with her schedules, with contracts and links to meetings and she never has to miss a meeting because she missed an email or so.
She works hard on building the truth factor and connecting well with her clients. She helps them with destinations they’ve not been to, and just shows them her willingness to be invested. After the call she sends a recap email and pricing guide so they refer to it and once they decide on the package, she sends them a HoneyBook proposal which is the contract and invoice that they need.
Different platforms for funnels
When clients find Emily on Pinterest or Google, that automatically shoots them onto her website. On some blog posts, she will have the contact form directly at the bottom so they can just reach out from there. Other times they’ll look around on her website and end up on her contact page and contact her from there.
Sometimes when she is found on Instagram, there’s usually two ways to go about it. She gets a DM and from there sometimes she just sets up a call and then adds them manually to Honeybook. Otherwise, she could just send them to the link she has on her bio and there’s a contact form there. The link goes directly to her website as well or they can choose to go directly to her website from her Instagram profile. Having them inquire is always better and more organized.
Finding vendor connections can be a struggle for some time, because it can be hard for vendors to recommend you unless they’re also a destination photographer or elopement planner. They usually want someone who’s a little bit more consistent, but she thinks connecting with vendors is great to do styled shoots and create content together.
Emily says she found out that a flat travel rate works for her because of the way she runs her business. She was looking for more of a reasonable salary and knew what needs to be spent on travels. She lets her couples know that travel is included in the packages. Sometimes when the prices are different in different market places, she has to have an idea of these prices. Every wedding allotment is different so sometimes she customizes it. Sometimes she fluctuates her prices and still looks for a flat rate even when customizing.
Emily advises starters to play around with their prices at first. They can bring them lower or higher until they find their sweet spot. For her, she did kind of find her sweet spot where people would book and it is a flat rate. She charges the same whether she goes to Mexico or Santorini while being strategic about that.
Budgeting is something that Emily enjoys and is one who goes for really cheap flights. Having points on her credit card and all, she takes it like she’s doing personal travel. At the end of the day, she just makes sure that what she’s getting is more than what she has spent.
Figuring out your costs
Having been in the groove for awhile now, Emily has an idea of all her spending and total costs and that’s really helpful. She advises that it is always easy to know your numbers and have an idea what your total cost is going to be like, so you don’t encounter losses while in the business. Give yourself a salary that you need to live on, which helps you to be confident and determined to stick on what you need to do.
Pen down all of your expenses and make sure you have a final idea on what your expenses would look like. Know what you need to live on, which should not be a lot if you are living alone.
Then give yourself a target and a general number that you need to make for each elopement. So let’s say it ends up being that you need a big $2,500 for each allotment or $3,000 for each allotment, which can be your middle package because that’s what people will generally book the most. Sometimes you’ll make more, sometimes you’ll make less but that can be the average. That is one way you can do it.
The important thing is to be proactive. If you want to start booking, you need to start traveling, start building content, and sign up for workshops. Be proactive, because people aren’t going to hire you until they see that you’re trustworthy and that you are capable of doing that.
You need to show that and to do that you have to be proactive. You have to go out there and even if you don’t have much money, you can find creative ways to do this. Switch up your mindset and be committed to seeing results no matter how long it takes.
Believe you will get there if you keep showing up, no matter how long this takes, if it’s one year or seven years or 10 years to be successful. Know that this is what you want and this is what you’ll do. Commitment and perseverance are what got Emily to the other side because there were times where she was doubtful because it was not happening immediately.
On social media we don’t see a lot, we only start paying attention when people are successful.
It’s not that they immediately were successful even though sometimes people do rise up really quickly. Either way, that might be your story and it might not be, but if you’re committed and keep showing up, then it will pay off eventually.