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 t