The Path To Six-Figure Success with Andrew Gilford

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Andrew Gilford from Film & Flourish.

Andrew Gilford is a wedding filmmaker based in Virginia. On this episode, we dug into how he found success so quickly in this industry. We talk about his numbers over the past three years, pricing structure and philosophy, about how service gets you a long way, and how important it is to connect with our clients and fellow vendors.

Thank you so much for joining us, Andrew. Tell us a little more about you!

Thank you so much for having me on again. My name is Andrew Gilford, and I run a wedding videography company called Film & Flourish. I'm based out of Central Virginia. I've been filming weddings for just over three years now, coming up on three years full time.

As you just mentioned, we've had you on the podcast before, and since then you've rebranded and some things have changed. I think that this is going to be a little more of a conversation than a structured interview. You have so much invaluable knowledge about the wedding industry and business in general, and I think many outsiders are impressed when they learn how quickly you've gained success just by jumping into film and building a successful, profitable business. Tell us a little bit about your humble beginnings as a landscaper, and how you transitioned into wedding videography.

My introduction to the film world was film school. I went to Liberty University for their cinematic arts program back from 2013-2016, and once I graduated the program I started applying for jobs on film sets out in California, Atlanta, and New York, or even local stuff. From 2016 to the end of 2017, I landscaped. I had been landscaping for three or four years each summer all through college, and then did that full time. I worked on a couple film sets and feature films, but that didn't really work for the type of lifestyle I wanted to be a part of since I was trying to get married and didn't want to be gone all the time. Midway through 2017, I ended up filming my first wedding. Basically, a friend from school knew I was in the film program, and asked if I would film their wedding. I showed up with one camera, one lens, two mics, and a drone, and that was it. I filmed their wedding for $200.

By the end of 2017, I ended up shooting ten or eleven weddings. Going into 2018, after a lot of praying and talking with my wife, discussing the financial side of things, I said, "Hey, I think I can go full time with this, and I think I can make more than my landscaping job." Skip ahead, and now I'm in my third year full time.

I would love to talk numbers, if you don't mind. So, ten or eleven weddings in your first year. How many do you think you did in your second year, and what did $200 for your first wedding turn into by the end of 2018?

Once I had numbers in front of me, it totally restructured my mindset. I can see where I've grown, I can set future goals.

In 2017, I shot 11 weddings for a total of $16,000, which comes out to an average of just under $1,500. I think how that average played out was – I shot the first wedding for $200, weddings 2-5 were between $800-900. Two weddings for $1,000, one for $1,200, and I think everybody after that I charged $1,700, and then one person in that year booked me for $2,700.

In 2018, I jumped to 30 weddings for a total of $58,000. So, that's almost quadruple my income. The average booking went from $1,458 to $1,957.

In 2019, I did 33 weddings for a total of $83,000. The average booking went from $1,957 to $2,500.

Before corona hit, when I put these numbers together back in January, I had 27 weddings booked for a total of $92,000, with the average booking up to $3,400.

I was roughly estimating about a $500 jump, and then going into this year about a $1,000 jump. I don't have 2021 numbers in front of me, and I've also lost a lot this year and replaced a lot of those weddings. So I think my number for this year dropped back down to $84,000.

What do you feel like are the main factors that helped you grow so quickly? It took so long for me to just hit a $2,000 wedding, and I think it was mostly because I was too scared to charge that much, certainly realizing now that there are people out there who will happily pay that. Do you feel like it was you pushing yourself to increase prices? Was it an increase in quality, skill, what you were giving your couples? How do you look back and reflect on that?

Yeah. Confidence was never what pushed me to raise my prices. I was never like, "Dang, my work is getting better. I feel so confident in the quality of my work, I'm raising my prices." If I'm being completely honest, the main reason I forced myself to raise my prices was because I couldn't keep up with the number of people booking. That's why between March 2019 until June 2020, a 14-15 month difference, I raised prices three to four different times. Because even though I was overrun with bookings, I still wasn't willing to make big jumps.

I thought no one would book me if I raised it $400. They kept booking. I thought no one would book me if I raised it another $300. People kept booking me. So I finally made an $800 jump, and three people booked me immediately. And I was like, I have to go $500 more. In a very short timeframe, I went from a $2,000 base to a $4,000 base.

I think a lot of that has to do with - I don't want to say "sales" because that sounds kind of disingenuous. I think it's more like I'm open and honest with them of, here's what I like, here's what I think you'll want, here are the two different types of value. I think that's also huge aspect in being able to charge more, is just educating my couples and making them feel like I know what they'll want based on the previous 95 couples.

What do you feel like kept people booking? Was it there one thing or a couple things that you think people saw in your films or your business that made them want nobody but you?

If I had to take a guess of what I thought were the main contributing factors, it would be two things. Somehow they saw something in my work, even early on. Maybe I'm my own worst critic, but I look back at my early stuff, and I'm like, "Why would anyone trust me with their wedding based on this?" I might have gotten a lot of people early on that only had that $1500-200 budget, saw my stuff, and said, "That's good enough."

I think the bigger thing is that I'm still getting referrals from the photographers I worked with on those early weddings. They might not even know what my work looks like now. But the fact that they're referring me tells me they aren't looking at the video I shot working with them three years ago. If they aren't, that's very telling in people's ability to take on work and always have people coming their way based on how they work with others in the industry, not even going off of their final product. Just how they're able to work with vendors.

Definitely. Where do you find that most people are finding you?

I basically look at my website as just a landing page with five or six of my favorite wedding videos, different couples and different types of venues. Different states too, so that people know I've shot in Virginia, Maryland, etc. Outside of the landing page, probably 80% find me through word of mouth, and then the other 20% is organically through Instagram - me tagging the couple, tagging the venue, friends of the couple or guests in attendance who follow me and then months later reach out.

That's awesome. It sounds like you don't spend much money on marketing, which is nice.

Recently, a good friend of mine, Ethan from Wise Films, reached out and was asking about views. The last few videos of mine had gotten a ton of views, and he wanted to know what I'd done. I'm putting $1/day for seven days on any of my videos that organically hit over 1,000 views and have a lot of engagement. I then say, I want to get more engagement, more social media presence out there. So I put seven dollars into seven days of Instagram ads, and that kind of pumps up view count and interaction. I just starting doing that over the last month and a half. Before that, I had never paid for an ad on Facebook or Instagram, or anything like that. I have a free Wedding Wire account, a free Love Stories TV account, but other than that, it's all been word of mouth.

A lot of people follow me because I talk to them at a wedding. They don't pay attention to me until I talk to them. Then we have a conversation and they follow me, and the next thing you know they say, "I'm sending you a friend who wasn't at the wedding to look at you for video."

Is there anything that you have done with Instagram specifically that has been drawing people in? What do they see on your Instagram that you think converts them?