Meet the Jansons
Robin and Jennifer Janson started Sock Monkey Photography in 2006. Jennifer had just left her corporate job in software sales and decided to be a stay-at-home mom; but while her kids were having their preschool pictures taken, she thought, “I can do this!” Although she didn’t have any photography experience, the difference between Jennifer and every other parent that may think this phrase is that she put in the work and made it happen! At the time, they had young kids, a small Kodak digital camera, and didn’t know the first thing about settings: “Best Buy told us to get a better SD card to ‘freeze the action,’ and we listened!” They’ve come a long way since those early days.
Learning & Growing
Robin is also a DJ with a successful company called Rockin’ Robin, so he connected Jennifer to a few wedding photographer friends who helped her learn the basics. She caught on quickly, kept practicing, started going to Texas School, and Sock Monkey Photography was born. At the height of Robin’s business, he and his employees were doing 15 events a week, but as he got more involved with Jennifer in 2007, he naturally started downsizing Rockin’ Robin. By then, their daughter was out of preschool and playing volleyball, so Robin focused on building the sports side of Sock Monkey.
With the mantra of working smarter, not harder, they decided to keep things simple without adding any employees. Always striving to keep learning, Robin and Jennifer both continued going to Texas School to be “as trained and knowledgeable as possible” with their new business. At the time, there wasn’t a course for volume photographers, so they were able to learn all about lighting, posing, and shooting, but had to come up with all of their own processes—“I wish we had PhotoDay then!” In true trailblazer fashion, Robin was one of the first photographers to get his Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) credential based on volume photography. They both went on to get more involved, volunteer, and serve on various boards and committees for PPA, SPAC, and Texas School.
"PhotoDay: Saving Relationships"
They first heard about PhotoDay when Robin was on the committee and Lisa was a speaker at Imaging USA. “I was originally anti-PhotoDay,” he remembers, with reasons from “it’s hard to get data from preschools” to “I don’t need anyone’s assistance” to “why would we want to change a system that’s working for us?” Then COVID hit and going paperless was a necessity. The workflow change immediately improved the quality of their relationship, too. They laugh, “It should be called PhotoDay: Saving relationships...or at least minimizing the arguments.”
We asked them to name a few more ways PhotoDay has helped their business:
- When COVID happened, they tried to modify their system, but it presented new problems such as privacy concerns and how difficult it was for customers to search for their students. “We decided to shop around, but didn’t have to look long—it was an easy choice, and PhotoDay just felt right.”
- Not only is picture day communication easier with the marketing flyers and automatic texting, but PhotoDay’s fast, friendly support for both studios and customers is a game-changer: “We love the bubble people!”
- The marketing promos are quick and easy to activate for prior jobs, resulting in residual, passive income.
- Everything is “lightning-fast now.” No more passing out proofs (hoping they even make it out of the student’s backpack), waiting to have order forms filled out, gathering them, processing them, and delivering the products. The post-production turnaround time went down from weeks to days.
So how has PhotoDay helped their sales? Averages have gone up even more, their buy rate is higher, and the whole process is significantly faster. Robin and Jennifer have their process so streamlined that they capture photos, knock them out, build composites, crop with aspect ratios in mind, and have the images uploaded for parents to view the very same day as the shoot. Then all that’s left is “listening for the cha-ching!”
Words of Wisdom to Other Users
- “Add yourself to the data, opt-in to the gallery, and experience it as a parent does...How can you support a customer if you don’t know how it works for them?”
- If the organization is hesitant to send you all of the data requested for private galleries, at least try to get a roster. “Then you can still send the organization all of the codes and flyers easily.”
- “If you hit a wall while pitching to one particular school director, try to get the business of an associated school.” Word will spread about how fast and easy the process was, “and if we can make their jobs easier, they’ll keep us around.”
- Try targeting schools that have a particularly high parent-spend. When they were first getting started, they picked an area of town and focused on where they wanted to be shooting. “Then we made cold calls, took marketing pictures, and created pamphlets and flyers.”
- “Using QR codes allows a lot of room for error, whereas FaceFind is more foolproof with its facial recognition. 99.9% of images match.” One time they had a couple of silly teenagers pose for their reference photos with their hands over the bottom half of their faces, and it still matched correctly. It’s also worked surprisingly well with identical twin babies and class pictures of infants and toddlers.
Advice to Anyone on the Fence
“I’ve heard people say ‘Why would I want to pay this or pay that when I could just hire somebody to do it?’ but dealing with employees” isn’t always ideal. “We’ve found it to be well worth what PhotoDay is charging due to the quality of life difference. We photograph a school, it’s up the same day, and we’ve blown the minds of our schools and parents. So the next day, they’re coming in, dropping off their kids, and talking all about their kids’ pictures.” Robin and Jennifer are also taking a lot more pictures, and it doesn’t take much more time to add those extra poses to the gallery, unlike when you’re proofing with paper forms. From smiles to goofy faces, “if they’re candid and they’re cute, the parents are going to spend more.”
Robin & Jennifer Janson were also featured in the article 18 Side Hustles That Still Make Money in 2022, According To People Who Do Them Every Day by TIME partner, NextAdvisor. “Through PhotoDay, our sales have gone up, our buy rate is higher, and our workflow is streamlined,” Robin says. “No one ever expects their side hustle to become a career. It’s pretty awesome.”