Wendy Yalom is one of the most sought after personal branding photographers in the world and has helped some of the most reputable public figures grow their brands.
If you like the sound of a six-figure creative business, learning the key to standing out against all others in ANY field in business, and how to travel the world for your job, this episode is for you.
Wendy built her photography business from the ground up and stepped into both the roles of a successful photographer and entrepreneur.
In this interview, hear Wendy share:
Her key to moving forward even when you’re terrified of failing.
Her three essentials for entrepreneurial success and leadership.
How to stand out in a saturated market place.
Interview with Wendy Yalom
Transcription of Episode
Leah Gervais: Hey, visionaries, welcome back. I am your host Leah, and this is the Your Biggest Vision Show. Today we have the honor and privilege of interviewing Wendy Yalom here with us, Hi Wendy.
Wendy Yalom: Hey Gorgeous. Oh my God, it’s so great to see you.
Leah Gervais: Aww, so excited for you to be here. For those of you that are just listening, you can’t see it, but Wendy is with us and now she is in Hawaii and she’s like got this beautiful backdrop and meanwhile it’s spring in New York and still like 40 degrees, but I can live vicariously. Well, we are so excited to have you here. For those of you guys that don’t know, Wendy, you should. Wendy is a personal branding photographer. I’ll just speak a little bit about her, but she is one of the most sought after personal branding photographers. She has a six figure photography business that she built from the ground up, which allows her to travel the world. She photographs entrepreneurs, coaches public figures, authors, anyone who wants really great, on brand photography for their website, social media platforms, PR and marketing. She has worked with public figures like Gabby Bernstein, Gina Devee, Kate Northup, Emily Williams, and countless others. She also mentors photographers and the art and business of personal brand photography. And she’s also my brand photographer. I love her very much and her images have been one of the biggest parts of my brands, so thanks for being here Wendy.
God, it’s such an honor my darling. I’m so grateful and it’s been such a pleasure to photograph you and to be able to capture the spirit and the essence of urban20something. I mean, what an honor. So I feel really fortunate.
Oh, thank you so much. Well it’s an honor for us too because the reason I wanted you here is not just because of obviously your light and you’re so wonderful to talk to you and you are such a visionary and you’re creative. But um, being your client and also knowing you well, I really can speak to how much of a true entrepreneur you are and how much you really bring service to people and how unforgettable working with you is. And I just, I would love anyone who listens to this show that is an entrepreneur or anything of this sort to, to hear that from you. So we’re all very fortunate to hear from you.
Wendy Yalom: Oh, thank you.
Leah Gervais: Oh my God. Thank you. So you’ve built a fabulous career, you’ve done so much, you felt a great name for yourself. It wasn’t always like this. Will you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Did you know you’d be a creative? Yeah, let’s start with that. Did you know you’d be a creative?
Wendy Yalom: God, it’s a fun question to ask and yes, I grew up super creative. My mom was a painter as well as a high school teacher. She gave me a camera when I was eight. Actually, this is the coolest thing, which is like years after I actually became a professional photographer, my mom who had been a high school teacher, and I had some holiday from school and she brought me into her classroom cause you know, it was the 70’s and you didn’t necessarily find babysitters. She had me sit in the back of her classroom and I took this like job test, like you know, career tests that she would give to her high school students. And it was like 250 questions and then you numbered them and you came up with like your top three professional jobs and actually my first one was commercial photographer when I was 11 years old, it was amazing.
It disappeared from my life. But of course my mom kept it with, you know, all those precious things you keep. And she gave it to me years after I had actually established myself as a photographer. So it was such a cool thing to realize. Yes, this is totally destined. So yes, I have always been creative. I actually was fortunate in that I had my first opportunity and my first paid photography job when I was kind of, must have been about 20-ish and it really lit me up. I was the photographer for all my friends, which you know, back then, which was like in the early nineties, mid nineties, not everybody had a camera. We didn’t have smart phones and so it was, and digital photography wasn’t even happening. So it was like really, uh, some friends were getting married and I was the friend, they asked to take their wedding photos. I thought like, that’s so fun, I’ll do that. I got totally lit up about it and realize it was early enough for me that I hadn’t gotten into that place of like, what am I going to do with my life? I was 20, you know, I was like, yeah, I could be a photographer. So I just got so lit up with the idea that I could earn a living doing work I loved. Which of course we’ll probably talk more deeply into this interview, but of course in the beginning it was, I didn’t realize there was this whole, I was going to actually have to be a business woman also. It was like at that point, I get to own a camera and get paid, cool.
Leah Gervais: Right, right. So really quick, did you go to school for photography or did it just so organically happen?
Wendy Yalom: Yeah, that’s such a great question. So after that wedding and photographing that wedding for Max and Marry, those were my friends. I realized this was what I wanted to do. So I went back to school and got a degree in photography. I had been in school, I had didn’t ever have a real clear direction. It was like, maybe I’ll take ceramics, maybe I’ll take child psychology, maybe I’ll take geology. I just had no clear direction. As soon as I had that experience, I was like, oh, this is so clear. So I went back to school and got a degree in fine art photography after that.
Leah Gervais: Okay, great. So it sounds like you come from a creative family, but did you feel any resistance from maybe society or even yourself about pursuing a creative path or did you not have fear at that point of doing it?
Wendy Yalom: You know, it’s a great question. And um, yes and no. It was, you know, I was in school and it was the 90’s and I was living in San Francisco, and it was just at the beginning of like the first dot com boom. And so I got a job at a dot com because that was just like what everybody was doing and I would tell people I was a photographer. But I really thought I still needed some kind of security or back up to begin with. Right as the bust happened, the first dot com bust happened in 2000-2001. Which like suddenly it was like all these dot coms just disappeared overnight because we realize like most of them weren’t generating money, but they were overvalued. So when that happened, my company was going through a round of layoffs and it just, it became obvious to me that this was not where I wanted to be. So I asked to be laid off and I took those first six months and just pushed it. I got two jobs that first year and the second year I got 22 jobs. As a wedding photographer, 22 is actually a pretty full calendar. There’s what, 52 weekends a year, and of those, you know, people typically wedding dates or like March through October. So really just out of the gate, once I decided to say yes, probably similar to you and to like a lot of guessing, any of the people listening, like soon as I decided to say yes, doors just opened.
Leah Gervais: So do you think that that piece about making a decision has stuck with you throughout your career? Because I do want to hear from you in just a second of sort of how you’ve been an entrepreneur this whole time. You wear multiple hats as a photographer. But do you think that you were more decisive because of that decision?
Wendy Yalom: God, it’s such a great question. I don’t know if it’s just my nature, but I’m decisive and directed and sort of purpose driven and disciplined. I have a very high value on discipline, meaning like consistency. So I don’t know if it’s that, but I will say this, you know, once I’d made that decision and leaped, I was like, like, oh my God, now I have to actually earn an income, you know? So I think in some ways, yes, because I’ve never had the sort of luxury of being like, I’ll just take the next few months off. It’s like, no, actually I’ve built this business and this is what sustains my lifestyle and my lifestyle has grown. This is the most casual version of me, I’m just like on this farm in Hawaii. I didn’t really have a high quality lifestyle and so in order to maintain that and one that I really love. And so in order to maintain that and to just maintain a thriving business, it’s kept me in action.
Leah Gervais: So when you, and then we’ll move on from this time period. But I think that the time period when you leap is something I really try to highlight because that’s when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. So when you were going through that, when you quit, and it sounds like things picked up in year two, but, you could have, you know, gone through a lot of fear. Maybe you did, maybe you did have a lot of element of fear. You know, how am I going to make money? Am I going to make money? Is this gonna work? How did you then, and how do you now still stay positive when you’re scared?
Wendy Yalom: Totally. I just could hug you. I love that question. I love that this is what your teaching. It’s so good. That’s what makes me so happy. For me, in addition to my business and everything in my life, it’s the number one thing is like self awareness is a practice of self awareness. I feel so blessed and fortunate to have the business I have. I, like all of us, I think have moments where I go into that sense of like, oh my God, like am I going to screw this up? Is it going to disappear or are people going to stop wanting what I have to offer? I have all of those fears. Even year after year of the opposite being true. I now am going into my 18th year of business. So it’s like, it’s not just going to disappear tomorrow, but I still have that. So much of the practice of self awareness allows me to see those fears as just fears, as thoughts. Not that I don’t sometimes get hooked in them, but the practice, I adhere to is to do my best to not be in action and reaction to my fears. But when I’m having those, to be aware that that’s what’s happening, not react and then allow whatever is in this space to settle out. Whether that means meditating or like spending like a whole day just watching Netflix or whatever it is, you know, going for a big hike. I just do what I need to do to get out of mindset. Get unattached to believing those are true, those thoughts are true and then be in action. It’s okay for me to have the fears I believe as long as I’m not reactive to them. I don’t start like emailing a bunch of people, or doing a bunch of things in order to like avoid the fear when it’s not what’s happening in reality.
Leah Gervais: No, I love that. I love that. And I was just thinking about that today, how important it is to not take action when you’re in freak out mode, because you will never be happy with the outcome of your actions.
Wendy Yalom: Totally. You know, I’ve talked about this before, I mentor photographers now and so often I hear my photographers be like, there’s just so much I have to get done. I can’t take a break and I go, what do you actually need to get done? Like we sometimes create this belief that there’s so many things and sometimes there are legitimate deadlines, like I’ve promised a client I’m going to get them something at a certain time or there’s someone waiting to hear from me on an email. There are certain things I need to do, but very little has to be done immediately. Right? Most things can wait an hour or two or even 24. So whatever I need to do to get out of that mode and like back to remembering what it is I’m doing.
Leah Gervais: Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. So you’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. You signed up to be a photographer. You now have to be a businesswoman and entrepreneur and you have to market yourself and you have to make connections and you have to deal with finances and you have to build a six figure business. Did you welcome that invitation or were you sort of like, holy crap, what did I get myself into?
Wendy Yalom: Not at first, when I first started out as a photographer, if you could imagine, I feel like such an old lady right now, but I actually love it. I feel like a wise elder, which is, I started out like people didn’t use the Internet to find photographers. In order to find someone you would go… it wasn’t until five years into my business that I actually got a website. People would ask friends or Yelp was a big deal. People would go to Yelp and then they’d set up appointments and come meet with you and like look at your photos. There was no online portfolio, you know? I bet you I had like eight photos on my first website. That was a big deal. So at the beginning it was like about relationship and building relationships and having those clients refer their friends and it was just such a different marketplace. Then it shifted and it became a totally different playing field. That was when I really needed… so for those first two or three years, it actually was not easy, but it didn’t require the same kind of entrepreneurial skills.
Leah Gervais: Hustle?
Wendy Yalom: Hustle. Exactly. It was like, if people are going to take the time to come sit down in your studio, meet with you. If they felt great, you know, you hand them a price list. If it was in their budget, it was like easy. It was a much different kind of a sales and marketing experience. You didn’t have to work as hard to stand out. I think that’s the thing. So, as the market place changed, which was like around 2007, 2008, which was also the time of the economic downturn, it was like, holy shit, I actually need to learn how to do this. It was so intense. I mean, I didn’t know what to do honestly. So I hired a business coach and I didn’t even realize there was a whole mindset to the component. So she helped me with that. Then I dove into a couple of business courses. I did a year long course and then I did a few other fun, really like NLP is a kind of a pattern shift. If you’ve ever done that as like a modality for behavior change. I did some NLP sessions and so I just started getting into it and there was this point where I had become so excited about my ability as like a sales and marketing woman that I actually would like have to force myself to walk away from my laptop to go to yoga, which before had been like it was like the hardest thing getting into my chair, like I don’t know what to do, I’m just staring at the laptop like on Yelp all day, you know, what do I do? And then it just shifted to the point where I was like, I was so into it. I felt so capable and I was seeing so many results. I became as proud of that as I was of the photography I was creating.
Leah Gervais: Oh, that’s just amazing. So you said that you really had to learn how to stand out and that’s like one of the things that really became part of the playing field in 2007, 2008. So, I know you know how much I love your photos and I know how talented you are and I know that you are more than just the photos you produced. I’ve heard you talk about your mentorship and so what do you think, and how did it develop that your photos are actually only part of what you offer. I think one of the things that really stuck out to me that I heard you say once was that, for photographers, there will always be someone who will take more photos for you, for longer and they will be good and they will charge less.
Wendy Yalom: Totally.
Leah Gervais: I think it’s for everyone listening, I think it’s the same in any industry. There will be someone who can do what you can do. None of us are just the prodigal son here and they’ll charge less. So how did you overcome that and what advice you have for entrepreneurs?
Wendy Yalom: Oh my God, I love this and I love how lit up you are about this because it’s so true. For me, that was one of the biggest things I had to learn. During that time when I was taking the mastermind and doing the NLP, the biggest belief I had to shift was that I was going to be offering a product for a number of dollars. Meaning that the way I’d traditionally be in photography was like you got x number of hours, plus x number of photos and that you charge x number of dollars. It was just the hours for dollars equation and what I got was exactly what you said, I was never going to succeed at that game. I was always going to have someone who was going to be willing to charge less, starting out student who had beautiful photos, and you know, I feel really masterful at my skill as a photographer, that said, it’s objective. There’s plenty of great people, amazing photographers out there who take beautiful photos and objectively more beautiful than mine to some people. So it’s not about that, the photography. So what I had to learn to do is, you know, I talk about these three principles with my clients and I think that this is what I think your clients can really take away from this too is first of all, I had to create an experience that was totally unique. I had to get out of charging the hours for dollars. So what I had to be creating was an unique experience that was going to totally differentiate me because I was genuinely the only one who could offer that particular experience and then I could value it at whatever I wanted. It wasn’t about how many hours I spent or how many photos the client got. It was an experience.
So that’s where I started. The second thing I had to learn to do was really learn how to lead my clients. I needed to be able to lead them through the experience of buying from me. I needed to learn how to lead them through understanding what it was I had to offer. I needed to learn to lead them through understanding what it was they actually wanted. Because a lot of people will come thinking they want something but they won’t necessarily know exactly what it is you have to offer. So, I had been learned how to lead them to understand that. The third one is the principle that I needed to learn how to feel totally in love with all of my clients.
This goes back to that first thing actually that you and I talked about about self awareness and mindset. So often I think what gets in our way is beliefs about our own ability, and I say this with the photographers I mentor and then we paste those beliefs on the clients. The reason this didn’t work was because this client wanted this kind of thing that I couldn’t actually offer. This client was this kind of a person, and so much of that I hear when they describe it to me is just totally stories made up out of nowhere. So for me, so much of it is like just learning to remove as much of those beliefs as possible from the interactions that I’m having so that I can just genuinely be with the person in front of me. Then like it’s impossible for you not to magnetize amazing clients.
Leah Gervais: Amazing. So your three principles to summarize are… and you know, you probably have so many values within your company, but to summarize, you say it’s create an experience unlike anyone else, like don’t think of it as a transaction of your time for money, but in variance. Learn to lead your clients and treat every client like they’re your best client because they are.
Wendy Yalom: Exactly.
Leah Gervais: Amazing. I’m so, so glad that you shared this. So you know, we didn’t even really talk and that’s okay, unless there’s something you want to share but you pivoted from wedding to personal branding. I think one of the reasons that you know, you have grown so much in this field is because you have such a gift for capturing people’s personalities and stories and Auras and emotions through one single snap. I mean not like anyone that I know of. Do you think that you’re able to do that because you have applied these principles to the way you treat them and the way you see them?
Wendy Yalom: 100 percent.
Leah Gervais: Yeah, it’s not just like about the way you put the camera and everything like that?
Wendy Yalom: No, I mean all of that is imperative, right? Because I could see the beauty of you and like see the incredible visionary you are and the hustling like dynamic, energetic, urban like connector that you are. If I’m framing you in a way that there’s a potted plant sticking out of your head or like shooting you from an angle that’s unflattering or whatever, you may energetically be so present in those photos because you’re actually being seen in the way that like your soul knows itself to be. So it’s like that part of you comes out. But if it’s not in a way that’s not in a flattering way, it’s like a cool experience, but you miss that. So I think it’s gotta be both. I think for most photographers they usually lean more into the side of being able to take beautiful photos, but then all of their own fears get in the way of them being able to actually be present with the person and see them in the way that you’re describing. To capture all of that requires just a real deep self work. You need to like excavate all that stuff and decide that it’s true for yourself in order for you to see other people. Right?
Leah Gervais: Yeah. This is such amazing advice. I actually want to pull out one last question for you based on these three principles because it’s so powerful and this ties back to what you’re explaining now. But the second you gave about learning to lead your client through the process. I think it’s so powerful and especially, I work with so many new entrepreneurs and I’ve been doing this for… I wouldn’t consider myself new any more, but I’m young. I think that this lead part is something we all want to be. But I see so often people are like, okay, I’ve got a client, what if the client doesn’t like me? What if I fail the client? Like, what if they don’t know what’s going on? They’re so afraid for every email and then of course the client does freak out and it’s like this big perpetual thing. So when you hadn’t been doing this for 18 years, when you hadn’t been so renowned as you are now, how did you step into that leadership role and what advice you have for people that are still maybe looking for the confidence to do that too?
Wendy Yalom: Oh my God, I love this question and I’m so glad you brought this piece up because I actually realized that I failed to really flush that part of leading with the client on the day of out because I think what you’re talking to is that that experience on the day of that is almost like… and when I say day of, I mean during the photo shoot. So for some of the clients, if you could imagine the experience that your client wants to have, any time they’re interacting with you, whether it’s email, coaching, session, whatever, you know, for me it’s a photo shoot, that they really feel held and taken care of. I think that the thing that became really, I’m not sure if this is going to answer your question, but this is like what’s coming to my mind. Which is, you know, early on I had a couple of clients who were killing it in their businesses. I mean these women were successful, they were confident, they had multi seven figure businesses, they were killing it. There was no question about their confidence in their ability to kill it.
What I saw when I worked with them was that when they got in front of the camera, all of that confidence disappeared in the face of like, how am I going to look? Am I going to look okay? Is this going to work? I don’t feel comfortable in front of the cameras, but how’s my body going to look like? So much appeared in the space that I realized that actually they needed someone to be a leader in this area for them. Probably in the same way that like when your clients have those experiences like, oh my God, are they going to like me? I tell this to every one of my clients, like the minute someone books you, it’s because they trust that you can handle it better than they can. Once have said yes, they are trusting you. You don’t need any more affirmation. If you are continuing to search for affirmation after they’ve said yes, that is totally your own personal work to do. It has nothing to do with your client. Don’t put it on them because it won’t be a successful relationship and you won’t magnetize more clients.
Leah Gervais: Right. No, this is such good advice because even when you are, you know, I think when people are starting out, if someone’s hired you, you still know more than them, you still are the leader. You are the expert, so really own that. I think it does take inner work. That’s why this is all such a holistic experience and why it does take so many assets or aspects of growth to you get to where you want to be. But I think it’s such a powerful point. I just love how you said they already trust you. Don’t make it their problem. It’s not their problem and it’s not fair to make it their problem. So I think that’s such an empowering point. Oh my God. I’ve loved everything you’ve shared. Thank you so much.
Wendy Yalom: I love you. I’m so proud of being a part of this. I’m like so proud to be part of the Urban 20 Something brand I mean it’s just, it’s really… thank you.
Leah Gervais: Oh my God. Thank you. I will never forget our first photo shoot was so amazing. Even now, the next one coming up, it’s just everything you just said, I now can see both ends of it because being your client and I trust you so wholeheartedly. I have no doubt that our photo shoot is going to be great. I have no fears. I like am so looking forward to it and I just don’t know that I would feel that way if you didn’t really do everything you just did. So it definitely goes noticed, you’re amazing. Can I ask you a couple of quick questions before you go? Do you have a minute?
Wendy Yalom: 100 percent. Can I just say one last thing, which is I think the most important thing is like if you are having the experience that you described your clients might be having where maybe they get a curt email, just trust it’s not personal. That’s the main thing I tell my clients, or the photographers who I mentor, don’t take it personally. It’s not that they’re not trusting you, it’s that some fear is coming up and then it has nothing to do with you and you actually get to be the stand that shows them. It’s okay. So, anyway, that’s my last little snippet on that.
Leah Gervais: It’s such good advice and I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent, but I think especially for like what you do and what I do and a lot of my clients, when you’re very in your face and you as a person are a big part of your business, it’s hard not to take things personally because you are like not a corporation, but you can’t, otherwise you’re not serving them or yourself, so great advice. Okay, very quick, your biggest vision questions. What are you most proud of thus far in pursuing the vision for your life?
Wendy Yalom: Oh my God. I just feel so proud that I’ve been able to create a business that allows me to talk to you about things like, how do we disappear beliefs and how do we fall in love with ourselves so that we can fall in love with the people around us. I mean, what a joy. I mean that’s, what I’m most proud of.
Leah Gervais: That’s a fantastic answer. What is your go to podcast or a book to keep your vision strong specifically?
Wendy Yalom: Yes. Every single time I mentor a photographer, the first thing I do is send them a copy of Marianne Williamson’s, The Divine Law of Compensation. I haven’t listened to this in a while, but I’ve got it downloaded on my phone and there’s just some days where I just need to hit play. It’s one of those books that like whatever chapter it’s on is exactly what I need to hear. So that, when it comes to business is my number one.
Leah Gervais: That’s one of my favorites too and I have all my mastermind clients read it. It’s just, it’s a masterpiece. I mean, it’s beautiful.
Wendy Yalom: It’s so simple really.
Leah Gervais: Yeah, it’s amazing. All right, is there anything that we can look from you next or anything you want to share at the end about your work?
Wendy Yalom: Yeah, I mean, as you and I have talked about, I mentor photographers. I do brand photoshoots, those are my two things. You probably will see more of the mentoring. I’m starting to do some small group mentorship with photographers and so you’ll see some like masterclasses coming if you follow me on any of the socials. Then, other than that you’ll see me just tooling all over the planet with amazing women like you and taking beautiful photos. So, yeah, that’s what you see from me next for sure.
Leah Gervais: Amazing. Well, thank you so much Wendy. This was lovely and I’m very jealous of the birds tweeting in the background. But thank you for everything you shared. You are such a light and this was just wonderful.
Wendy Yalom: Thank you. Oh my God. Such a pleasure. You know, just to anybody if they want to follow me, you can find me on Insta @brandingphotographer or @WendyKYalom and you can find me at wendykyalom.com if you’re curious about mentorship or photography. I would love to see you there and Leah please, I’m just so honored. Keep up that amazing work.
Leah Gervais: If I may plug for you, you have a great free branding photo shoot guide, right? She has it totally free. If you go to her website, you can just download it and she’ll really show you some great bullets that I definitely never would have thought of if you’re thinking about branding your site.
Wendy Yalom: Yes. Oh my God. That ace your photo shoot guide. Yes.
Leah Gervais: All right. Thanks so much, Wendy. We’ll talk to you soon.
Wendy Yalom: Such a pleasure beauty.
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