Only After 100 Clients, Did I Realize I Wasn’t Turning a Profit

One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is not understanding what it is going to take to achieve the profitability they want to make. And yet it is so important to building a successful business. When you don’t know what it will take to achieve your goals (or if you don’t have the right financial goals), how could you possibly be doing the right things…

…the answer is….

…YOU CAN’T

Maryia Ramanava shared with us her journey and how it was only after having achieved more than 100 customers that she realized she was not turning a profit. The shock and horror, the realization of what she needed to do – that’s what you’ll hear about.

In This Episode

In this episode I sit down with Maryia Ramanava, Founder of No Makeup Marketing. She shares the “dirty laundry” around pricing in the early stages of her business. She’s honest about how she was cruising along, totally booked and the moment she realized in spite of all that apparent success she wasn’t earning any money. She shares with us what that was like, what she did and how she’s used what she learned to shift her business to a more successful track.

You’re going to love her story and I’m sure you can learn from her mistakes and successes. Enjoy the episode.

Podcast Episode Highlights

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 2:35 Getting to Know Maryia
  • 6:42 Pricing at the Beginning
  • 10:20 I realized I wasn’t Turning a Profit
  • 14:53 Wrong Prices can affect your Confidence
  • 18:26 What did Maryia do Differently
  • 26:05 Pricing will Change over time
  • 30:10 Higher Price will never break Anything
  • 32:05 Wrapping It Up

Favorite Quotes

“I basically rushed into business, without knowing anything about pricing, business strategy, marketing…really nothing. But I got started quicked and set prices.” Maryia

“When people come to me and they tell me, I just want more clients. I’m like, no… you don’t. You don’t want just more clients. We want more clients who value what we do, who are easy to work with and who are ready to pay your prices.” Maryia

“It (my low price) was also interesting because, I had no business experience at that moment. I actually had clients who would tell me that it’s still expensive. Yeah. That they wanted discount even more.” Maryia

“I thought, okay, I will raise my prices. Again, raise them without nothing. I doubled them. I raised them to 300 and it was scary. I could not sleep.” Maryia

“But second year I made some profit, like not super impressive, I had fewer clients. I was not so happy, because I saw that the work I did the previous year was in vain. I didn’t build any client base (with my low price). I just overworked for nothing.” Maryia

“We want to work with people who really understand why we (are) doing this business and they (are) really excited to work with us.” Maryia

“Then I was raising them slowly. And I was losing people and losing people and losing people. Now I think that I should not have been doing this for so many years because it felt like starting new business (each time).” Maryia

How to Connect with Maryia

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Episode Transcript

Janene: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Live with The Pricing Lady. I’m Janene Liston your hostess. We’re so excited to have you here with us today. This show is all about helping you do better at pricing in your business so you can build a more sustainably profitable business and be there to serve your clients well into the future.

Welcome everyone. Welcome to today’s guest Maryia Ramanava. Hello, Maryia. Maryia is the Founder of No Makeup Marketing and she’s gonna tell us a bit more about that later on. Why don’t we kick this off with a few rapid fire questions? The first question I always ask is where are you joining us from today, Maryia?

Maryia: I’m based near Geneva. Close to Geneva airport, but originally I’m from Belarus.

Janene: Excellent. Welcome to you and all our listeners and watchers today. Next question. What do other people tell you is your superpower?

Maryia: I’m an action taker. If I have an idea, I will make it quickly. It has some drawbacks, of course.

Janene: Maybe that’s not the best name ever. can’t think about that. That’s very important, a lot of people can get stuck kind of designing things in the background and not get to the action part. That’s a very important skill to have. I’m sure your clients appreciate that very much.

Maryia: I try to practice it with my clients so my family can have a break. From my energy.

Janene: It’s funny. The last two weeks I was in the States and one of the things we were doing is helping my parents pack up parts of the house, in anticipation to move. My mom was like, wow, you’re such a slave driver. It’s all about the action when I was over there as well.

Getting to know Maryia

Janene: Cool. Next question. What’s one interesting thing that most people don’t know about you?

Maryia: Oh, okay. I actually have a quiet, impressive singing voice, and usually people are quite shocked when they hear me singing for the first time, because it’s different from how I talk. Yeah, but I don’t really use it in my business. So maybe I could.

Janene: Maybe you could, do you sing a certain style of music or?

Maryia: No, just, I used to sing in a choir actually also now sing in a small choir. And when I was teenager, I sang in bands. Actually I want to start a band when I’m like 50 something. I keep it for later.

Janene: I’m so envious. I’ve always wanted to, be one of those people who could sing and really belt it out. When I watch videos of like, America’s got talent or Britain’s got talent or the voice or whatever, it always makes the hair on my arms (stand up). There’s something about it.

That really resonates with me, oh, cool. Maybe we get to hear you sing sometime, but I won’t ask you today. No, no, it would be too much for me.

I have a question for you. Tell people a little bit about what you do and ultimately what’s the value that you bring to your clients.

The Value Maryia brings to Clients

Maryia: I’m brand photographer and brand specialist and marketing strategies. Yeah. Basically, I help people to take the idea and take some serious action. I help people to build a brand, Full of personality. Yeah. I work with small businesses, and I own work exclusively with female entrepreneurs, and then I help them to get confidence and kind of, push it to the big world.

Yeah. Like with some simple marketing strategies. I’m not like a business coach. But yeah, this is what I do. And, the value is, so I, I see my main. Main thing I do for my clients is really giving them confidence. It’s gonna work and they actually have everything they need. Like, just really this inner trust, which I think it’s super important.

Janene: Yeah. And what does having that bring them in the end?

Maryia: What do you mean?

Janene: Okay, so they have confidence. What does that bring them in terms of results in the end?

Maryia: As a result, they can establish themself in their niche, as someone really unique and interesting. And that they can stand out easily.

Janene: It’s about standing out and men being visible. Yeah okay. Very good. Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Well, we’ll learn more about that. I’m sure as we go through your journey. Right now, what I’d like to do is I’d like to turn towards that journey and have you talk a bit about where you started and when you first had to price something, what was that like?

Pricing at the Beginning

Maryia: Well, it was quite terrible. I jumped into business as, family photographer like made it really serious because I used to have some kind of photography business before that, but it was just additional to my academic career. At some point when I got kids and it all started being quite, chaotic. I was not happy with the lifestyle I had.

I decided to create my first serious business family photography business. And I just maybe because of this, my, impatience I basically rushed into business, without knowing nothing, about business pricing, business strategy, marketing, like nothing. Yeah. But, but I created it really quickly and I priced it.

I don’t even know where I took the price, like out of the blue. Because at the moment when I set my first price (for a shoot) I don’t know, maybe 150 or something, I had no idea how many clients I will book or how much time it will take. I had no idea about, expenses and investment and even taxes, like so we totally blank.

This is how I took my first price. It was just like, why not charge this? I was super comfortable with the price. So price was not scary for me. It was just like, Yeah, 150. Nice, nice number.

Janene: As you said, you didn’t really know if that price, what it would take at that price to be profitable, if that was, you knew it was, you probably knew on some level it was a good price from the customer’s perspective, but you didn’t necessarily know if it was a good price for you and the business, right?

Maryia: Yeah, absolutely. It was very silly. Yeah. Like I did.

Started a Special Promotion

Janene: I remember that you told me that even at that point in time, very early on, you started a special promotion.

Maryia: Yeah. Yeah. It was like everything, like some things I’ve heard, you offer promotions, you offer this, you offer that. I also included family album into this 150

Janene: Let me just clarify for everyone, that’s 150 for the family shoot, not 150 per hour.

Correct?

Maryia: No, no. It was for everything. Yes. That mainly going to people’s houses. Also getting ready, having calls, right. Getting to people’s houses, taking photos for several hours then spending. Usually I need about twice, two or three times more. Yeah. Like for example, for one hour photoshoot.

I need three hours to get through the photos and get them ready if I’m lucky. Right. And then, yeah, it was, making these albums, ordering them and picking them, bringing to the post office, no, it was terrible. It was really, I don’t know. It was really scary.

Janene: Yeah. When you were first telling me about this, I remember thinking, wow.

Maryia: Yeah, no, no, it was, well, I don’t know what I was making per hour. Maybe like two euro, maybe one.

Janene: Yeah. I mean, by the time you get down to it, there wasn’t, there really wasn’t much. No, no there. And you, you said you got to a certain point and, and you realized that you weren’t turning a profit. Can you tell us about that?

Never had Time to actually Do Planning

Maryia: Yeah. I started very quickly and I was a good photographer. My photographs were really good then I got so many clients. I even had this feeling of momentum, success – that I’m like, coming out of nowhere and I’m fully booked.

Then I was booked like crazy. I worked all the time and I worked with more than hundred families in my first year. Because I was so busy just with client work, I never had time to actually do planning, looking what what’s going on. I didn’t even track my expenses so well.

It was the first year, I invested quite a lot and then I was just working and working and working and working, and then I think it was Christmas break.

I decided to just see what’s going on. And then I was shocked. Clearly. Because I didn’t make any profits. I was actually in minus.  I spent more money during my first year.

Janene: Yeah. I know we titled this episode, at least, for the live version, after a hundred clients, I realized I wasn’t profitable, and most people would be super excited to have a hundred clients. And I’m sure that you were as well, but it must have been quite a shock.

Maryia: Yeah. This how I learned that. When people come to me and they tell me, I just want more clients. I’m like, no… you don’t. You don’t want just more clients.

Janene: Ding, ding. That is gonna definitely be a quote from here. I know you heard that here, ladies and gentlemen, I just want more clients. Well, oh, maybe not.

Maryia: Yeah. Cause of course. Yeah. We want more clients who value what we do, who are easy to work with and who are ready to pay our prices.

Felt Burnt Out

Janene: Let me interject here, because one of the things you said to me is that at that point in time, you felt burnt out. You felt like you were dealing with a lot of very difficult clients, and you felt a bit hurt as well?

Maryia: Yeah. I mean, I had two really small kids at the moment. Yes. I was working weekends, so I was having photo sessions, weekends, and then I was doing all other things at night. Because I was still staying at home mom with two small children. Right.

And yeah. Burnout is like, maybe not so bad even in this situation. I’m glad, I’m glad I didn’t get sick or something. Right.  It was also interesting because, I had no business experience at that moment. I actually really had clients who would tell me that it’s still expensive.

Yeah. That they wanted discount even more. Or they would tell me how I should do what I do, like, because I had a particular style and also considered myself being an artist and actually. You don’t mess with this yet. I mean, I’m very, I get aggressive when people try me to, to tell me how to do my artistic thing.

I can, I’m flexible in other areas but actually, yes, they were people who were telling me that they don’t wanna see, so they actually wanted to hire me and then kind of give me instructions how I do my work. And because I had no experience, I even thought it’s just like, it is, I had a feeling that, oh, this is how, how it is to be business owner.

Wrong Prices can affect your Confidence

Maryia: It was a sad thing. Of course. I was losing my confidence also as an artist because some people, they wanted discounts. They were telling me, my photos are not good, this is what some people do. They try to make you uncertain to get some advantages. And yeah, it was all not so fun and not so forth.

Janene: I think that’s a very good point, Maryia. Having the wrong prices can also then have an impact on your confidence, not just further in your business and the value you deliver, but in how you’re doing what you’re professional in. And it has many impacts on a business. What did you do?

Maryia: I really like being a photographer, so if it would be something else, if it would be not about photography, I think I would quit. Yeah. But because I really like photography, I had a feeling I cannot quit.

I really wanted to work with people and to be photographer. In order not to get like, crazy upset and depressive and to motivate myself to do something, I thought. Okay, you didn’t make profit. It’s not the end of the world, but you now have all these people who worked with you, who likes you, I thought that I actually created a client base because by that point I already knew.

 I started reading some marketing books and business books while doing all these things. I thought, oh, this is my client base. Not so bad, because it was, I think I had an email list, like with almost five, 500 people by then. I actually thought I have a huge portfolio, I have hundred happy clients and a few, like bad people. I will never contact again.

Raising Prices again

Maryia: And I have an email list and, I also felt kind of, A little bit that people know who I am. Yeah. I felt that because I worked with so many people. Yeah. I got really big exposure. I thought, okay, I will raise my prices. Again, raise them without nothing,

I doubled them, I raised them 300. It was scary and I could not sleep. I got insomnia, it was really hard. I felt physically sick. Really? Then I told everyone and started contacting my past clients. There were people who came back to me, happily, without even like a blink. But I think about 80% of people never, never came back to me.

Basically this illusion of creating client base. So, yeah, I, I did, I, I could not, I could not live with this nice salt for long because I actually saw that. Okay. People just go away. Yeah. They’re not coming back, right? Yeah. But second year I made some profit, like not super impressive, but even …

Janene: Wow. That you got outta the red, first of all, and you were doing it with fewer clients. I guess.

Maryia: Yeah. I had fewer clients. I was not so happy. Because I just really saw that the work I did the previous year was in vain. I didn’t build any client base.

Yeah. I did not actually. Yeah. So, so I just overworked for nothing. This is what I found. Yeah. And, but at least, I kind. Yeah. I mean, I learned many things from this. Yeah.

What did Maryia do Differently

Janene: What did you do differently when it came to No Makeup Marketing? Because that’s not your, your photography business, that’s a different business altogether. Right? Were you able to take some of those learnings from what you did very early in the photography business and apply that here and what, what worked for you?

Maryia: Yeah, actually this No Makeup Marketing is the development of photography. Because I’m still doing photography in this, like photography for marketing and yeah, so of course. Because I actually grew my family business to really profitable point. Like family photography business by like doing the right things, like actually sitting down and putting numbers together, it took me more than two years to actually sit down and calculate. I don’t know why I didn’t start it with the calculator in the first place.

Janene: Oh, I think it’s important to, to share with people. I don’t know what it was like for you, but when I started my business and I sat down and did the first set of numbers, I kind of went like this. Oh boy. no, no. I mean, when I was not always a happy thing to be looking at, but it’s very important thing because then one what you need to do in order the things that you need to be doing in order to get where you wanna go, and two, you might be able to adjust things so that it’s not so difficult, right?

Maryia: Yeah. This is what happened to me. Exactly. Actually happened to everyone I know almost. Yeah. When I raised my price to like 300 I had not enough clients and the profit was there some profit.

She made Calculation

Maryia: But it was not a business, it was just like, yeah, it was really ridiculous. And then of course I got this feeling of not being satisfied and actually had time. Yeah. Because I had less clients and then I made these calculation. Then I saw the numbers and they were kind of 10 times as much as I was charging at the beginning.

It was not a shock. It was just like what felt sick, right? Yeah.

Yeah. Then of course I was like, no, this is wrong. This is wrong. This cannot be true. Then I started, because first I did this calculation, with just what I really need to pay for rent, for food, for kids and to go on vacation but then I started like, these, oh no, this cannot be true then.

I was like, oh, maybe I don’t need so much money. And then I even started looking for like, minimal wage in Switzerland. I was just like, oh, maybe I should just start. And I always had this feeling, oh, I should just start, with like something smaller. What is the wage? What are people in Switzerland people?

And really, and I mean, I was a business owner. Yeah. Like looking for minimum wage. And then I also saw there is, I cannot even get this minimal wage if I not raise my prices. Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, this is a completely shocking experience. And few of my friends will always tell that actually you need like a therapist, you need, you need some psychological.

Yeah. Because you are just like, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t don’t show me this number. I don’t wanna know. I don’t wanna know it.

Understanding Profit

Janene: A good business owner understands those numbers (profit). They may not know all the calculations in everything, but they have some understanding of those numbers because you will almost never achieve your business goals if you don’t understand those numbers. Right.

Maryia: Absolutely. Actually you will not achieve nothing. Yeah. So, I mean, you will not achieve, impact that you would like. Yeah. You will not establish yourself as a person you would like to be established. Right. You will have no impact with your clients because they will be wrong clients.

Yeah. Who don’t listen to you don’t do what you tell them. And actually also don’t value. Yeah, because, I mean, we don’t wanna work with people who come to us just like, why not? Yeah. Like why not work with me? Yeah. So, I mean, we want to work with people who really understand why we doing this business and they really excited to work with us.

There is some, it should be adequate with your pricing. Yeah. So, I mean, otherwise it’s like, it’s a huge disconnection and yeah, I’m a big believer in actually doing this math. Yeah.

Janene: Yeah. When you look back on this whole experience and I mean, right, so you have raised your prices significantly.

Maryia raised her Prices 10 Times

Maryia: I raised them 10 times. Yeah. But it took me several years and right. Also like when I was doing this, because I was doing this really slowly. Every time I had a feeling I’m losing clients, so I really had these feeling that these are people I work now.

Like as a photographer.Even now, actually there are many returning clients and this also part of my business model, as the people keep coming to me. Then I was raising them slowly. And I was losing people and losing people and losing people. Now I think that I should not have been doing this for so many years because sometimes it felt like starting new business. Yeah. Like, cause well, I still actually still have people who work with me even now, like all these, they looked all this circus, like, oh dear, she’s right. She’s raising her price. Right.

Janene: That’s really terrible. What’s one thing that you would’ve done differently if you knew what you knew now, back then.

Maryia: Well, at least I would really take, instead of, telling yourself, oh, no, this is not true. Or like, what is the minimal wage? I would, I would really kind of accept that this is, should be done. Yeah. I just have to do it if I want this business, I have to do it. Because for me, this decision was missing, I always was kind of, maybe I figure it out some, some other way, like just, yeah. So, yeah, it took me actually years of, because at the end, it’s just a decision, like how you raise your price here, you raise your price. Yeah. That’s it.

What is Your Finishing Point

Maryia: But I think that you really might need some time to kind of get used to this number, so I would, what I do now. Yeah. If I know that I should raise my price somewhere, I just, I just added to my information kind of this future price or like worse Z, so kind of that I see the number often enough, my client sees the number. Yes. Basically kind of just to feel where you going. Yes. So where, what is your kind of. Finishing point. Yeah, because just, yeah, I mean, and some people say raise prices and they lower them.

Janene: Here’s the thing. If you think you need to raise your prices, you can spend the next three to five to six months or years Heming and hawing about it and stressing about it and worrying about it. Or you can do it, see what happens and if it doesn’t go as planned adjust. Right? Yeah.

Maryia: No, of course, because I mean, there are many different, again, like packaging and upsells and so, I mean, there are different ways to make it comfortable for everyone like subscriptions, like, yeah. But I got to know these things much later.

Janene: yeah, I’d like to start wrapping this up and. Usually I would ask you, what’s one thing you want people to remember, but I’m going to do this differently because there’s something I think it’s really important that you brought up during a previous conversation we had that I thought was really something that we should discuss. And what you said is that you now know that your pricing will change over time.

Pricing will Change Over Time

Maryia: This is also very freeing, that actually that even if now you don’t sleep, freak out and really get sick, it’s not something you just decide once and for all, and if you get it wrong, it’s ruined.

I really try to think about, because we, like business owner, we change and we get more expertise. We get better in some things, or we might want to try something new, like profile of our deal, clients change. It’s like a living process. I think this is the beauty of having your business because you can actually adjust what you do to who you are and where you want to be. This is why I really believe that. You should not be panicking about price so much. Just make sure it’s profitable, but then it’s just still going to change. Yeah. In the future. It’s not forever. Actually sometimes, you look back at your price that you were terrified and now you think, Hmm. Just raise it again.

Janene: True. And I think I wanted to bring it up cuz I think it’s so important. For people at all stages of business, whether you’re just starting or you’ve been in business for 10 or more years or whatever it is that your, to accept the fact that your prices are going to change because if you can accept that, that needs to happen from time to time, then it doesn’t feel so scary when you realize that you need to do it. Yeah.

Maryia: Yeah. And I also think that you can actually also get your clients ready for this. Yeah. I mean, we live in this economy with a huge inflation. So, I mean, everything just gets so expensive. I mean, you cannot not react to this. Yeah.

Everything Just Gets so Expensive

Janene: It’s funny, you mentioned that because I was on the phone with my dad, the other. And he goes, what I noticed the other day that all the packaging is getting smaller. That’s a price increased death and we’ve all seen it. It’s been happening here in Switzerland. Well, before the pandemic, a couple of the grocery stores who shall remain nameless, we’re already playing that game. In some areas, especially swapping out bio for normal, and the. Gets smaller and the price stays the same and the package gets smaller and the price still stays the same.

They’ve been playing that game for a while, but that is one way. As a consumer, we may not make it, but that is one way to go about increasing prices as well. There are many ways to do that. Actually, I have a web class coming up, not in July, but I think in August or September, which is about is it time to change my prices and how so eye out for that one people because, we get into, why to do it. And some of the how about doing it as.

Cool. Thank you, Maryia, for sharing that. This is a very open and honest conversation, I know the listeners love that when my guests, share their dirty laundry a little bit journeys, because we can all learn from that. Yeah. I’m, I’ve even being a pricing expert. I’ve made my own mistakes along the way, myself. But that’s, that’s how we learn and grow. Hopefully by sharing, some of the people out there who are listening can get there a little bit quicker or do it with a little less pain than some of the rest of us have done before them.

Higher Price will never break Anything

Janene: What is the best business advice that you’ve been given that you’d like to share with us today?

Maryia: Higher price will never break anything. This is really what one of my business coaches just told me that you can, there are many ways to ruin your business, but this is not the higher price and I think because it was given to me in this point, when I was really kind of painfully reacting to everything around my pricing. I think it really made me feel so much better.

Janene: Right. I think it should go with this caveat. Of course, if you’re already overpriced and you raise your price higher, it’s gonna make your life difficult. It has to be taken in context. At the time you were seriously underpriced and they were just trying to get you to make a move.

Maryia: I think this was one of the things that really made the shift because for my business really pricing was a main issue. Because I was good with marketing, I had strong message and my photography style. I just really was not making profit and overworking. Like not making it comfortable for me.

Janene: I always tell people that pricing is an act of selfcare and they look at me like I’m crazy. No, it really was right.

Maryia: Yeah. No, I mean the people like really just how’s the quality of clients improves. When you charge adequate. It should not necessarily be like super high, but it should really communicate in value of what you do. Yes. Because when you get it right.

Then suddenly. There are such lovely people and they just so happy to pay this price. It’s really worth. Having few sleepless nights to at some point.

Wrapping It Up

Janene: Is there a favorite book or podcast that you’d like to share with the group?

Maryia: Well actually now I’m reading Atomic Habits. It’s like, really just this just comes to my mind. Because I’m a huge picture in. Small shifts and also creating some kind of routine. Well, I have three kids. So, I just cannot not do this. But I really think that instead of thinking that you have to change everything, you have to, just wake up and start to, and it’s all like the math and I really believe in just small shifts.

Like.. Just small, extra moves and that it keeps us just keeps the balance and actually you get better results in a long run. I can really like habits, I have this bookshelf here and I pretty much read all of those, but I have another bookshelf in the other room and atomic has this, my two read shelf and there as well yeah. I may have even taken it when I was away the last two weeks, but I didn’t get started on it cuz I started something else. Yeah.

Janene: Cool. Excellent. We’ll put that in the show notes with a link for everyone in case you wanted to check that book out as well. So,

Janene: Maryia, one last question. How can people reach you if they’d like to find out more about what you do and how you work with people.

Find Out More about Maryia

Maryia: I have a Facebook group for female entrepreneurs, which is called No Makeup Marketing. It actually has nothing to do with makeup it has more to do with this authentic, just so marketing should be natural part of our business and not like an extra work. You don’t have to get like super ready, like who are to do it yourself, just that you actually have everything you need. Some people tell me, oh, I love your group, but I use makeup. I’m just like, no,

Janene: No, I think it’s clear. If you head on over to Facebook and check out the group at No Makeup Marketing, you can also find her, we’ll put other links for you to reach out to Maryia in the show notes. You’ll have that information there, but this is one place that you can go and check. So Maryia, thank you so much for joining us today. That was a wonderful episode. I’m sure that our viewers and later on when we release it as a podcast episode, our listeners will enjoy it very much. Thank you for joining us.

Maryia: Yeah. Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Janene: Everyone, this is the end of our episode today. Don’t let yourself get to a hundred customers and realize that you are not profitable. Listen to what Maryia said, reach out for help. You can always book a call with me at thepricinglady.com/book-a-call, and you can reach out there and we’ll be able to have a chat about what’s going on in your business and see how I might be able to help you get over your pricing hurdle.

That’s all for this episode. I wish you all the best everyone until next time. Enjoy pricing.

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