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How Melanie Seleman Built a Full Time Boudoir Business with Boudoir Certified

 

[Apply for Boudoir Certified here.]

Sarah: My name is Sarah Sobon. Um, I am the marketing coordinator with booty shorts. And this is Melanie.

Melanie:
Hello.

Sarah:
So Melanie, what is business name?

Melanie:
So my business name is Belladonna Boudoir by Melanie Seleman Photography.

Sarah:

Where are you located?

Melanie:

I am right in the heart of St Louis, Missouri,

Sarah:

Why did you become a boudoir photographer?

Melanie:

So I started out, um, as a photographer, kind of similar to how most of us start out. Um, either we go straight into weddings So I started out doing weddings. I started out shooting pretty much anything that I can get my hands on. Anything that anybody would pay me for. Um, even things that people wouldn’t pay me for, I would volunteer my time and do it for the exposure, uh, because that’s what pays the bills apparently. Um, and so I like most women, I grew up, um, kind of negative towards my body, towards myself as a whole. And I had a friend of a friend come to me and say, Hey, will you take boudoir photos of me? Um, and I was like, yeah, sure, why not? I mean, I do photography, what could be so hard about that? Um, and so we rented out a loft in downtown St. Louis and she came, had her hair and makeup done.
She had tons of outfits and we just kind of played around and I had tons of fun. I’m just posing her and having conversations and just relating to her and being able to kind of help her to come out of her shell. Um, and which also kind of helped me to come out of my shell and start to want to do boudoir photography full time. Um, cause just seeing that transformation is like my absolute favorite thing.

Sarah:

Awesome. I love it. Um, so tell me about a session that you have had that you feel like had a really big impact on your clients.

Melanie:

Yeah. Um, so one client in particular comes to mind. Um, she is a mother of four, um, single mother for a living with lupus, working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Um, she’s always been really ashamed of her body due to her illness.
Um, discoloration, um, difficulty with just functioning, um, as like normal, uh, like you and I can just get up out of bed in the morning and go on about our day. Um, and she would wear clothing that like covered her from her feet all the way up to her neck. I mean she would wear turtlenecks, she would wear scarves. She would wear hats. Um, she would wear her hair down so nobody could really see, um, anything on the side of her face. Um, and I, in her first outfit, it was like one of the first couple of shots I showed her back at the camera and she’s sitting on my bed and she just breaks down sobbing. She’s like, Oh my God, there’s no way that’s not me. Um, I can’t be that beautiful. Like there’s no way that that photo is of me. Um, that woman is beautiful.

And I just like, it took everything out of me not to also start crying. Um, but just got to like reassure her and say, yeah, girl, that’s you. 100%. I haven’t done any retouching. Like there’s no magician inside my camera to do anything. Um, and so we kept going about the session and she just like opened up and she just started feeling so incredibly confident and just proud of herself. And just during her ordering session, she, while we were going through all of her photos, she broke down again. I’m just seeing them all like one after another, after another, just seeing herself in this new light. Um, and she just couldn’t like hold back her emotions. Um, and it’s one of those times where it’s really hit me how much of a difference I can make in somebody’s life with just a couple hours of their time. Um, just being able to be that person that she could confide in, being that person that she let her guard down and let me kind of take control and do what I know how to do. Um, unfortunately, like she couldn’t afford one of my top collections. Um, but she scraped together like multiple credit cards, PayPal, credit, cash. She borrowed money from a friend, uh, because she couldn’t bear to leave, uh, without having these photos as proof to herself. Um, not so much as proof to anybody else or proof to me that she liked her photos, but she saw that she needs these images around so that she could feel that feeling every single day of her life. Yeah. And I just like never forget about her.

Sarah:

Oh, I love it. Yeah. Sometimes it’s not about the sales. Like, yes, obviously sales are amazing, but the impact you can make and if you can leave, they can leave with some photos that they can go and look back on. It’s amazing.

Melanie:
Yeah.

Sarah:
Where would you say your business was before you started boudoir certified

Melanie:
as a boudoir? Our business, I was not existent. I had done my one shoot for my friend of a friend. Um, and I was known as the wedding photographer. Um, people still come to me and they know me as a wedding photographer. Uh, I was working full time for a another company. Um, I was also working outsourcing, uh, myself as an independent contractor for another local photographer just so that I could be shooting. Um, because people weren’t coming to me. I didn’t know how to market myself. I didn’t know how to run ads. I didn’t know how to hit my ideal client. And um, I was one of those people who went into the buy sell trade groups and I was commenting on those posts, Hey, I want to do a shoot. I have a maximum of $200, who can do it for me? And then there’s like 300 people commenting like, Oh, my cousin has a camera, she’ll do it for you for 50 bucks. I’m like, yay. That’s exactly what I want to do. That was your strategy? Exactly. Uh,

Sarah:

so now that you’ve finished the certified program and graduated and you’re also in our empire program, where would you say your business is now?

Melanie:
Um, it’s just light years different. I am booked out through mid December, um, of this year and I have constant bookings coming in. Um, I understand how to market to my ideal clients and I understand how to communicate to those clients. Um, so that they are fully educated by the time they come into me, which is something that I never understood before. Um, I would try to do sales, but people didn’t really, they weren’t prepared. They weren’t mentally prepared. Um, and so now I have this arsenal of information kind of in my back pocket that I can share with them and even just prepping for their session. Um, being in communication constantly through different emails. Like, Hey, here’s the timeline of when you should shave your legs before your shoot. I mean, people just don’t think about that kind of stuff. And that’s the number one thing that my clients, uh, compliment me on is how well prepared they were, uh, before they came into my studio. And so that’s something that I learned from boudoir certified and I’m still constantly adding more to that based on what I’m learning from all the other students and what I’m learning in empire. Um, it’s a never ending cycle. I mean, you’re always going to be adding more knowledge and giving that knowledge, passing it off to your clients as well.

Sarah:
I think that’s one of the great things too about the program and the, the group is it’s ever changing. Like it’s never gonna just be this is it and go, you know, go do it. Right. Like we see stuff that changes and we fix it and like, we get ideas from other students and they help, you know, help other students. It’s just so great. Yeah. Um, what would you say is your favorite part of being a boudoir photographer?

Melanie:
I mean I have the best job in the world. Like I get to hang out with kick ass women all the time. I get to have creative control over my sessions. I get to be this person’s best friend, um, from the moment that they book their phone consultation with me. Even up past when they pick up their final order. Um, they’re still in my Facebook group. They’re still in communications with me. They’re always thinking about, Oh, when’s my next shoot? What am I going to wear? I’m always thinking about, okay, I have this new prop coming in or that new outfit coming in and I want somebody to be able to help me out with that. And I now have this really great like Rolodex of past clients who I have this relationship with who I can always reach out to with anything. And because of how I kind of set them up, um, before their session and during their session and how we really bonded. Now we have that relationship where if I need anything, they’re always kinda chomping at the bit to get back into the studio. Um, so I just get to shoot all the time. I get to do what I love. I get to get paid to have a camera in my hand and be someone’s friend and dance around to crazy music. Like it cant be better than that.

Sarah:
And I’m sure that your past clients, because you’ve built them up in that way, that they’re probably your biggest advocate too. So they send you referrals. What would you say is your favorite part about the boudoir certified program,

Melanie:
honestly like certified is amazing. I mean it’s a business in a box. Like you follow the program and you will get these results. It’s not, Oh, four out of five people saw results. It’s if you put in the work you’re going to get out of it what you put in. Um, and we have this awesome community of like 200 and something students in this ever-growing community who are always asking other questions and putting tips in the group. And it’s, so, it’s not just what the boudie shorts team puts together, it’s hundreds of people’s experience and just being able to learn from them. And then being able to lend my experience and maybe hearing from somebody, Hey, I have ran into that same kind of scenario, here’s how I approached it. And then, Hey, maybe their approach is a little bit better and now I can take that to the next time that I run into that same scenario. Yeah. So it’s really awesome.

Sarah:
Yeah. I love the Facebook group it’s just the best thing ever. Yeah. And it’s something that we never, um, never thought it would be. It just turned into that and it’s just so cool. Like we didn’t set out to make this amazing Facebook group. It was just Facebook group, but it’s just so inclusive and it’s all the friendships and it’s very cool.

Melanie:
Yeah. I mean you get a bunch of like crazy creatives who love shooting the same niche together and we’re all just kinda gonna feed off of each other. And you get one person doing crazy filters on the Q and A calls and then you get somebody else and, and then we all get off track and it’s great. And then somebody cat comes in and somebody else’s dog. And then all the kids come in and we’re like a crazy family. Yes.

Sarah:

How has your life changed now having a successful business?

Melanie:

My life has changed immensely, but not in, not in some of the ways that a lot of people think. I’m like currently I’m still, uh, I’m still working my full time job. Um, not for too much longer, but I know that with building up my boudoir business, I have the option of going out on my own. I know that I have this security, uh, like I’d never had before and I know that I can make my own schedule so that I don’t have to miss family dinners and um, like my cousin is giving birth in two weeks. Like I don’t have to miss that anymore because I actually have control over my calendar. Um, and it’s just taken such a huge weight off my shoulders, not only financially, um, because obviously like the more experience you get, the more successful you get with your marketing, the more clients who bring in and then the more experience you get with shooting, the better you get. And all that. And it’s just kind of a constant like wheel that’s turning. Um, but just know like my mental state is so much better than it was a year ago when I joined certified. Um, I joined certified and I was scraping money together for my $75 to get my hair and makeup artist. Like it’s crazy thinking about where I was to where I am now.

Sarah:

That’s awesome. Yeah, it sounds like a lot less stress of, you know,

Melanie:

yeah. I mean, I was always in, I was always in the certified group saying, Oh crap, somebody else canceled or I had another no sale and I was in my own Facebook group with lots of last minute cancellations and now I’ve had one maybe in the past like nine months because the more active that you are and the more, um, proof that you have, uh, like that you’re showing in your group, the more before and afters, the more sneak peeks, things like that.
People start to get excited and they don’t want to cancel on you anymore because you’re not just this girl who they saw on a Facebook ad. You’re actually a legit studio, which is great.

Sarah:

That’s awesome. I love it. Um, okay, so last question. What would you say to somebody that’s considering boudoir certified?

Melanie:

Just do it. I mean any objection that you have, there is always some way that either the boudie shorts who can help you out or the students in certified can help you out. If it’s like a financial thing. I can say that my return on investment on certified is like through the roof. Like I made back what I spent to join certified within the first two months of joining and [inaudible]. I mean even since then, like now I’ve joined empire and there’s like just a constant growth in my business to be able to have that constant return on investment.
Um, I mean if you’re not, if you’re not investing in yourself, then how can somebody else invest in you if you don’t believe in yourself enough to invest in your education and growing yourself, how would clients come to you and feel confident with like being so vulnerable in their session and then making a sale too? Because as much as we do love taking the pretty photos and editing them and being able to show them off somewhere, I mean, we are running a business and that is like the bottom line and people need to trust you to be able to see you as a successful business and for them to actually make you a successful business. Yeah, exactly. Do it.

Sarah:
I love it. Um, is there anything else you want to share?

Melanie:

Um, I feel like you did good. I don’t know.

Sarah:

Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask you. Um, what is your, do you have an Instagram? I’m assuming?

Melanie:

I do.

Sarah:

What is your Instagram?

Melanie:

So my Instagram is at Melanie Salomon photography.

Sarah:

Awesome. Yeah. And if anyone wants to reach out with you with questions, is that okay?

Melanie:

Absolutely. Reach out to me on Facebook, Instagram. Um, you can try finding me on Snapchat.

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Molly Keyser

Boudoir photographer and business coach, I am dedicated to changing the world with the power of a camera. Originally from Wisconsin, I'm now in Texas, but I help photographers around the world learn how to go full-time with boudoir photography.