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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?

I think it's a mix of things. There's probably a couple dozen people who consistently message me about my coloring, my audio, my edits in general. There's probably twenty to fifty people who frequently comment on my stories. Someone was telling me that just by watching my Instagram stories they could tell I had a higher brand just by the way I engage and interact with people. I'm not posting that kind of content for people to consume to book me, the stories are just extra bonuses. Here's little nuggets of things that I've learned or things I've done at a wedding or here's what I'm doing with an edit and why. It's been really good to attract both creators as well as couples, and it's also engaged both creators and couples.

Just recently I had this epiphany that while I certainly love my couples and getting to know them really well, I also am super passionate about the wedding vendor side of things, educating other vendors and getting to know them and trying to figure out how I can boost their business, too. That's been really cool. You are a person in my experience who has always been super receptive, open to questions, and willingly sharing your knowledge. So, thank you!

Kind of skipping backward to the number game again, how many inquiries do you think you get every month?

It's really a month by month thing. On average, I'm probably getting 2-3 leads per week. And that's on average, sometimes I don't get anything. Sometimes I get 2 leads the entire month, and then months like this I've probably gotten two dozen, and booked six of them. Some of them have been for this year, some of them have been for next year.

For the people you say no to, what is the split between you being unavailable, them being the wrong fit, you being out of budget. What does that look like?

Most of the time my job is easy and I get to say, "Sorry, I'm already booked." Then I can send other names I trust and know will take care of the couple. A year ago, anyone who wanted to pay my prices could get me. Now I'm at the point where, depending on the time of year and what I have booked around that period, I might turn down a couple that says they have a $5,000 budget because I already have a ton of weddings around that time, their wedding is 4+ hours away, and I think based on my experience I can book someone closer, or someone will come around and book me for more.

I have had a recent inquiry where a couple wanted a lot of changes to the contract. I've never been asked to fix so much before anything's been done. With that couple, I took some time to put together an email and sent that to them. They understood, but I didn't send them any referrals because I didn't want any of my friends to deal with that treatment.

There was someone else recently where I had the date open and I wouldn't mind making the amount of money they said that they could pay, but there were just three or four big things factoring in that made it like, that money wasn't enough for me to go through all the trouble of logistics, of driving, of the time of year, I'll already have a ton of weddings to edit. It's a case by case situation.

What do you think was the driving factor between 11 weddings and 30? Was it just that you were taking everything you could get?

Yes! 2018 was a phenomenal year to realize what I was doing wrong. 2019 was a good reflection on what I did right, and 2020 and onward has been a mix.

I took a lot of weddings on 2018 and had pricing all over the place. Every package was totally different. I could barely handle the organization of 11 weddings, and then I jumped to three times as many weddings. It was a bit of a mess on the business side of things. There were probably four or five weddings in 2018 that grabbed the attention of some of my, at the time, highest paying clients of 2019, whose weddings grabbed the attention of my highest paying 2020 clients.

That's so interesting. I love that one of those years was a reflection on what I can do better, and one of those years was a reflection on this is what I did better, and how can I continue to improve. I would love to know what kind of advice you give people when they're trying to figure out their pricing.

I think one common mistake I see a lot with people's pricing structure - and this is something I did very early on to an extreme - is there's not much differentiation between packages or their pricing.

So let's say you have three packages, and they are all totally different, which would be a great start. The majority of the time I still see people struggling with their prices having a $2,000 package, a $2,300 package, and a $2,800 package. Those are very close in number, and whether it's conscious or subconscious couples are coming in and the first thing they're looking at is numbers. Everything is so similar they feel like they could get almost as much value for $800 less. When you're in that $1500-4000 price range, a lot of couples really are eyeballing, and they aren't going to see something that costs $800 more as that much more valuable.

Whereas, if you do $2,000, $2,900, and $3,900, all the sudden you've given your packaging structure a little more dynamic range. They're now paying more attention to what's in the packages because the numbers are so different.

That's the first thing. The second thing is if there is no difference in their packages. Clients are just going to go with the lowest one. Those are the two main issues I see with packaging structure on a surface level.

I know where you stand on this, and you probably know where I stand on this, but something that's always up for debate is pricing on your website. Full price, starting price, or no price. I would love to chat about that. Do you put a starting price on a video page, or only when they go to fill out a contact form?

Only when they go to fill out a contact form. I used to have a whole section of my website dedicated to pricing and people would still ask me what my pricing is. If they're going to reach out, putting it in my contact form means they can't not see it.

That's smart. I'm someone who puts all my pricing on my website and I like it that way, but I still get messages through social media and wherever asking for pricing, and I'm like, "You literally didn't even go to my website!" That's always frustrating for me as someone who does put pricing on my website. I've heard from other educators that they've experimented with a few different methods and found that when they put full pricing on their page that inquiries go down, but bookings go up. I've always had my pricing on my website, and that's mostly because I want to weed out people who can't pay that. I don't want to answer emails from people looking for a $500 videographer.

And that's why you do it. Just to be able to facilitate the number of people who have to respond to.

For the majority of the time I've been doing weddings, there's always been a viewable price for people to see. It's probably been close to a year ago when I put it in the inquiry form, so that when they reach out they know what the base rate is and what the average investment is.

There is such a deep psychological connection to beating your couples to the punch. Instead of waiting for them to tell you their budget, I tell them what I start at. Back when I was at $2,695 for my base price, couples would say their budget was $2,700. When I jumped to $3,495, they said their budget was $3,500. A lot of couples also say a price in between the base and average price.

You're already saying to this couple, if you can afford me continue to fill this out. If not, it saves both of us time. And for the people who do reach out, they at least now know what to expect, and most of my couples do.

I had a call with a guy out of Florida two months ago, and we talked about pricing structure. He's in a really good, high end area of Florida. He's been really successful. Right now, all of his prices are literally like a menu to order online. You can pick everything you want and hit submit, and it gives him the order and he has everything they want to buy. That's super convenient - sometimes I wish I could have that instead of filling everything out by hand. But he's missing the entire interaction side of things by never even talking to people. I asked him how many people only booked his base price and didn't click any other of his two dozen options for add-ons. He said, "Most of my couples."

If you don't get to talk to couples, most of them aren't going to understand or see the value in those add-ons. I told him what I thought he should do was keep the pricing on his website, but instead of letting people pick and choose what they think they want, get them in conversation so you can start sharing value to them. You can add some of the add-ons that people aren't picking to your packages. You might already be flying your drone, or making social media teasers, both of which have been huge for me. I was doing both of those for free for the longest time, but as soon as I added them to packages, it made my packages look a lot stronger and like I offered a lot of good stuff, and yet I hadn't been charging for it the first two years.

That's also very helpful. I think that videography... All the time I think videography is harder than photography, but I usually say that sparingly because people argue about that, which I get. But one thing I think is really difficult with pricing is that for a photographer they have hours of coverage just like us, and then how many images they get, how the gallery is delivered, and then if they want albums or prints or something like that. I think most of that is objective, you know what you're going to get. With videography, especially when we build packages that have different edits on them, my ceremony edit and your ceremony edit look very different. My bonus footage looks different than something you would offer. Even our raw footage is going to be different. Even the way we fly our drone is going to be different. I think it's really difficult for people who are price-comparing to figure out how to price themselves because they aren't seeing the finished product. Their only seeing the price, not the final product. That's something that's been difficult for me, because you shoot a ceremony with five cameras, and I now shoot a ceremony with three. So logically to me, it seems like my ceremony edit should be on the lower end of an add-on because it's not a perfectly sculpted five-angle thing.

I think that's what makes video pricing in particular tricky. I'm sure each vendor area has its things like that. Even with photographers, everyone has a slightly different style and approach. It's just so tricky figuring out how to price yourself, and I think a lot of the education out there is saying the same thing, but there will always be different opinions on how you should go about it.

Absolutely. And this sort of goes back to what we were talking about earlier - confidence is so valuable. Confidence is invaluable. But it doesn't matter how confident you are if your business doesn't have proper structure in order to make those confident decisions. You can't say, "I'm confident, I can book more," and raise your prices $3,000. There has to be reasoning on paper, in your numbers over time. I think a lot of people look at people like Taylor Petrinovich or Jake Weisler or myself and see how quickly we've reached numbers they want to get to, but we're at those areas because we did 3 years, 5 years, 10 years worth of work and learning and adjusting within those short periods of time for our own business, which has allowed us to get to higher prices and offer things differently. If you talk to Jake, if you talk to Taylor, and now talking to me, all three of us would say that even when everybody - the couples, the vendors, the educators - were telling us to get our prices, even when the data was there, we still didn't have confidence. So confidence can't be overlooked, however I think a lot of people are told they just need confidence when there's a dozen things that need to be in place first.

You definitely have to have the skills to back up the confidence. Hard question for you – I realize they go hand in hand and they are both very important, but if you had to choose between videos/deliverables/quality and good business/client relationship, what do you think is the most important for a wedding business to succeed?

110% how you run your business and how you interact with your client. All day, every day. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people who are phenomenal at what they do and I think they should be charging $3-4,000 more than what they are. And then I'm looking at other people and not seeing what's so special per se about their work. I don't see why people are willing to pay what they do for their work, but other people aren't willing to pay another person the same amount. Probably 99% of the reason is who the videographer knows, who knows them, the relationships they've built, the type of business structure and model they have, and it doesn't even really come down to the work. Obviously if their work sucked, none of those things would matter. But as long as you have a good, solid, and consistent product, doing those other things is what's going to continue to make your business boom and grow. And as your product gets better, that's just icing on the cake. I definitely think the business and relational side of things will always be first and foremost in keeping a business moving forward.

In early 2019, you helped spark for me how important Instagram was as a marketing tool, and I invested most of my time and effort into that. I saw that build and grow, and saw inquiries coming through Instagram, which was awesome. Now I'm super passionate about Instagram, but one thing I often tell people is if you can get your face on your instagram, whether that's in your feed or in your stories or both, it helps with that client relationship so much. When it comes down to it, if they're looking at two different videographers and they already know who you are because they've tapped through your story a few times, and they know what you like, and who you are, and what you do, then they're going to want YOU at their wedding over someone else just because you're you and you have the skills to back it up. I think that's something that people should really learn to value. Make the client want YOU there, and nobody else. That's something that you have done very well.

It might sound cliche and corny, but I honestly think that you are the best asset to your business. You are the face, you represent whatever you branded your business to be. At least from the many great examples I've seen, people who have infused themselves into their business are thriving because they're just being themself.

Definitely. I think it's overlooked sometimes, especially when people are first starting out. You are your brand!

I've struggled being able to answer this question with people. A lot of videographers are more introverted than extroverted. Look at any fun, outgoing, verbal, great with social media kind of video people and they're all extroverts! At least I would think. Some aspect of who they are is able to embrace putting their face out there. But a lot of people I talked to are like, what if I'm super crass, or bad at communicating, or known for saying the wrong thing? What if my personality is super boring and dry? That's what my business needs to be?

When I talk to photographers and videographers I think a lot of them are introverted because they are used to and like being behind the camera. I always joke that growing up as a theater kid, I have no problem being in front of the camera and I really enjoy being in front of the camera. I also hear from a lot of people that don't want to put their face out there and it's not something that's easy for them. I never really have good advice for them other than, "Just try it!"

And I think part of it goes back to confidence. I have met and have worked with some real Debby Downers. Their energy just sucks away my energy. So when you post stuff, whether you realize it or not, you are encouraging many introverts to at least start considering trying something like that. I can't tell you how many times where I go three weeks without showing my face on Instagram stories, and then I have things to talk about while editing or about something that happened at a wedding, so I post my face for like fifteen videos. Then all the sudden within a day I see like half a dozen to a dozen people putting their face on their Instagram story, and I half wonder about my impact on people.

I feel like we had less of a topic and more of a discussion, but would you care to tell us why you're passionate about wedding videography or education or anything we touched on today?

I have so many conversations with people, kind of like this, with video people where we just talk. I talk with so many people in the industry that I've never met. The only thing that we started off in common with is that we film weddings, and now months and years later I realize that whether I'm teaching somebody in our field or a couple in a consultation or just having a conversation with a venue owner, my profession is filming weddings but what's always going to continue driving me is wanting to have a better love for people. I know we just jumped real deep with that. But in any way I can use my words or actions to convey to people, I've known you for a couple years or a few weeks and that doesn't matter. I love you, I care about you, I want you to feel invested, I want you to feel valued, like when you're talking I'm listening and hearing what you're saying. I want to do that with everyone I come in contact with. That's my "why." What better place to do that than in the wedding industry?

I love that. And I resonate with that a lot. I think people are what drives us, and I truly think the most successful people in the wedding industry are people who invest time and love into the people they're working with whether that's a couple or their fellow wedding vendors.

Absolutely. And I'm sure you can share many stories and conversations with people where you look back and realize it had nothing to do with weddings, but because of the position you're in you were presented opportunities to engage in those moments. It's amazing. We get to interact and talk with people we would never probably know exist.

Truly! I got really emotional at my weddings in September for many different reasons, but one of the reasons was that I would have never crossed paths with these people if I didn't do this as a job. How lucky am I? How incredible is it that we are all here and I get to witness this, and I get to give them this heirloom for their lives? I've met some of the most incredible people and it never gets old.


Find Andrew at Film & Flourish.

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