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Rosie Parsons: “Figure out your dream client and have everything relate to them”

Figure out your dream client and have everything relate to them. I specialize in photographing female entrepreneurs, and specifically those who work on their own from home, hiring freelancers for outsourcing rather than having a team. But that doesn’t stop other people wanting to work with me too! I regularly get male coaches and entrepreneurs booking in. […]

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Figure out your dream client and have everything relate to them.

I specialize in photographing female entrepreneurs, and specifically those who work on their own from home, hiring freelancers for outsourcing rather than having a team. But that doesn’t stop other people wanting to work with me too! I regularly get male coaches and entrepreneurs booking in.

When you specialize, you get more of the clients you love to work with and yes some people will be put off. But that’s ok — you’ll still attract people wider than your niche and the ones you attract will be people you’ll really enjoy working with.


As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosie Parsons from Rosie Parsons Photography, an award-winning personal branding photographer from Devon, England who specializes in photographing female entrepreneurs with an emphasis on color and joy.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was 14 I was a massive Michael Jackson fan, and I decided the way to get close to him was to work for him.

I did everything I could to find out about how to work in the music industry, wrote to people I’d heard of (it was pre-email days!) asking how they did it, doing work experience… and eventually doing a degree in music business and getting a job with Tom Jones working as his management assistant.

It was a really interesting job and I loved it. I learned so much about marketing and promotions while there and got to see behind the scenes of photoshoots among many other exciting things!

I worked there for five years and during that time built up a real interest in photography, initially just as a hobby.

I would take my camera to shows and get some nice live shots which would end up on the website and tour programs.

Eventually I got asked to photograph my first wedding, and while it was very stressful — I also really enjoyed it.

Wedding photography really took off for me, and eventually I decided to take the plunge working for myself full time as a photographer.

A few years later I won Cosmo Bride Wedding Photographer of the Year and You & Your Wedding Magazine’s Bride’s Choice Award, and was having work published on the cover of Professional Photographer Magazine.

Weddings were going great for me, but then I had triplets! As you can imagine, photographing a wedding on your feet for 6–7 hours non stop would be tough for any pregnant women, let alone with triplets! So I decided to take a step back from weddings, and instead wrote a book with lots of tips for photographing weddings for new wedding photographers. It went on to be an amazon best seller in the wedding photography category, which is so lovely to know I’ve helped so many other photographers not make the same mistakes I did at the start of my career!

I had one more child, Zach and then once the children started school I looked to return back to photography. But I knew that wedding photography still wouldn’t be the right path for me due to wanting to be around for the kids on the weekend. Plus by this point I had also been through a divorce and become a single mum, which made childcare even more difficult!

The solution was to turn to the people I love hanging around with the most — female entrepreneurs.

For me, this is the perfect solution of being able to work around the children and being home on the weekends, while still doing what I love and being creative. I also really enjoy spending time with the people who book me. I find strong women so inspiring and love hearing what they’re doing in their businesses.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started my photography business I tried to be what I thought couples wanted and called my business “Forever After Images”. It was so twee and cringey and attracted couples who were very traditional, which wasn’t my style at all. After a year or two I gained confidence and changed the name to Rosie Parsons Photography and the kind of clients I attracted began to change as well.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

The year I won Cosmo Bride Wedding Photographer of the Year (2010) was a major tipping point for me. That resulted in a lot of noise in the wedding community and I got a bit of a buzz about me. Shortly after that I also had a wedding published in OK! Magazine which again added major kudos and got people talking. But it had taken five years to get to that point, and it’s important for people to remember success is a series of small steps taken consistently — that’s when suddenly you do get the big opportunities. They don’t just appear on day one.

It did settle down a lot when I took a step back to focus on the children. When I relaunched, it felt like I had to start from scratch again.

I was bumbling along doing ok, but it was when I rebranded over lockdown and brought my personality into my brand that I saw bookings start to skyrocket!

In the service industry, people are buying into a person, not a physical thing they can take home. So they really need to know you, like you and trust you. To do that, you need to bring your personality and passion into your brand consistently and keep showing up. I’ve noticed the more I keep showing up and sharing my quirkiness and love of colour, the more people warm to me and want to connect.

I regularly get lovely messages from other colour lovers saying how much they love my social feeds, so it makes sense to focus on what you love and those like you will be drawn to you too!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Covid has really changed the workplace. More and more people are realizing that having a job isn’t the safe option anymore and are choosing to go it alone and start their own business. And those who were already doing well are having to step up their game and get themselves visible and out there online to stand out in a crowded market.

I’m really loving working with this new wave of women who are not going to let Covid get them down but are ready and willing to step up and find a way through.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Prepare a schedule for the week — write a list of all the things you need to do both in work and your personal life and then write down the hours you have available and what times can be scheduled for each task.

Include things like networking, social media commenting, one to one coffees, seeing friends and spending time with the children etc as well as your day to day essential jobs.

It might be that you realise that to achieve it all, your current workload just isn’t sustainable. If you have more tasks than time, then what would be most efficient to outsource?

It could be something business-related like accounts and bookkeeping or copywriting etc.

Or it could be household chores like cleaning, having the car cleaned by a valet company instead of doing it yourself on a Sunday afternoon or even getting a student or babysitter in to help the children with reading and schoolwork. Think about all the jobs which are most time consuming — which do you least like to do and take the most time? See if you can get someone else in to do it!

You can also think about batching your essential marketing tasks to get lots done on one day. I take myself off to a coffee shop for the day every Monday to do all my marketing tasks for the week. I never book work on this day as if I don’t bother to do my marketing, work will start to dry up later down the line. It’s important to keep a balance of all the tasks involved in your business, even when it’s really busy.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

For me, branding is about how a business makes people feel and what they stand for. Advertising is more about trying to get a customer to spend money.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

People only buy from brands they know, like and trust. Branding helps potential customers understand who you are and what you stand for. It’s like making a new friend. We make judgements about whether we’d like to be friends with someone based on what they wear, what they say, what others say about them, how they come across. All of this helps define how we feel about that person and how much time we’d like to spend around them.

Branding is helping potential customers know whether you are the type of business they would like to be friends with. What colours do you choose, language do you use? Does it vibe with them?

Just putting an advert or post out there without any thought to what your brand is won’t work. It’s like putting a classified ad out for friends. They need to see you being consistent and to get to know and trust you before they invest time and money into becoming your customer.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

A good reason to rebrand would be if you’re not feeling lit on fire by the kind of client you are attracting. Working on your own business should be exhilarating — if not, then surely just go and work for someone else and let them take all the risks.

Rebrand to bring a bit of your personality into your business — figure out what you want to stand for, and bring that into everything you do — from the colours and typography on your website and socials to the expressions, outfits and locations used in your brand photos. Everything should work together to tell the same message.

This way, your dream clients will be drawn to you, and you’ll start loving your work again. I used to photograph lots of corporate clients in boardrooms against white backgrounds. But I didn’t feel creatively fulfilled and I didn’t even get to know anyone I was photographing. It was disheartening. Once I focused on my dream target market — female entrepreneurs — I really started enjoying my job so much more!

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

I’ve seen some businesses rebrand three times in the space of 12 months and that certainly does not inspire confidence. It is better to strategically plan out your rebrand, figure out your values and USP and not make quick decisions that you later regret.

Ideally you want to make your brand so authentic that you can add and change your service offerings or products over time without needing to totally rebrand the name and look.

When you rebrand that often, you look unsure of yourself and it does not make potential customers feel they can trust you and that you know what you’re doing.

Rebrand once every five years or so to keep it fresh, but do it well.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Don’t be afraid to be different

Look outside of your industry for inspiration on rebranding. What brands do you love and think about why that might be.

Do you love their cheekiness and how fun and down to earth they are — like Innocent Smoothies with their handwritten puns, friendliness and humour?

Once you’ve settled on some brands you love and written down reasons why you like them, think about how you could bring that feel into your own brand.

Maybe it’s using more down to earth language, brighter colours, sharing more personality and being more approachable.

I’ve never seen an accountant have a brand that has the same feel of relatableness as Innocent Smoothies but you can be sure that they would get a lot of interest and be remembered if they did!

2. Figure out your dream client and have everything relate to them.

I specialize in photographing female entrepreneurs, and specifically those who work on their own from home, hiring freelancers for outsourcing rather than having a team. But that doesn’t stop other people wanting to work with me too! I regularly get male coaches and entrepreneurs booking in.

When you specialize, you get more of the clients you love to work with and yes some people will be put off. But that’s ok — you’ll still attract people wider than your niche and the ones you attract will be people you’ll really enjoy working with.

3. Work on your personal image

Your business brand is important. But so much business is done face to face, even when it’s on Zoom. I get people chatting to me in coffee shops, adding me on Instagram after seeing me on the school run — it’s lovely! But I’m very aware that I am the brand!

This means you need to get how you look in order. I love bright colours but for a long time wore black as I wanted to blend in.

Once I rebranded, I bought lots of colourful clothes for my own brand shoot and now I wear a lot of colour every day — and it’s noticed! People comment on it and it starts conversation.

You want people to associate you with your brand, so think about your clothing and how you come across. When you’re doing a brand refresh, it is worth also refreshing your wardrobe. If this doesn’t come naturally, hire a personal stylist. They will chat to you about what you’re looking to achieve and go around the shops with you giving advice to make sure you look great.

4. Service your social media channels

Social media has been a massive source of referrals for me. And a big reason for that was doing a LinkedIn course: LinkedIn Profile Success with specialist Jennifer Cocoran and a one to one session on Instagram with Lou Chudley from Spark Social.

It’s a bit like having a car that needs a service. My socials were ok. They worked — but they weren’t efficient.

Through the LinkedIn Profile Success course I made changes to my LinkedIn profile which made it much more engaging and clear on what I offered. I now have people connecting with me all the time telling me they love my work, and even better asking to book in for photoshoots — it’s brilliant!

And with Instagram as well, I didn’t have a clear strategy or call to action and Lou from Spark Social helped me with that. Now when I now post on instagram I get a lot more interaction, new follows and enquiries.

When you rebrand, I would certainly recommend taking courses or one to one sessions to make sure that you are maximising the opportunities from your new brand across all channels.

5. Share more photographs of you!

Now more than ever, it’s important to be the personable face of your brand. This year has humbled us all and we want to connect with other humans. People who are good and expert in what they do, yes, but also those who we identify with and like.

The way to make your brand more human, is literally to get out there and be the face of it. And the best way to do this is to show up regularly with warm, approachable photos that summarize all that your brand is.

To stop it feeling too posey, it’s a good idea to mix up headshots with some professional behind the scenes photos of you working. And you want to take a variety of shots in different locations with different outfits so people don’t get bored seeing the same photos all the time.

If you put in the work to define your brand and personal style before you have your shoot, your photographer will be able to get all your brand values across in your images and your photos will make a deep connection with your ideal clients.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

I really like Liberty of London’s rebrand.. They are such an iconic store in the centre of London, with a rich heritage. I think the new brand really does manage to strike that balance of keeping the history while also appealing to a new generation of luxury buyers.

I also like how they have retained elements of the old brand such as the colour purple and similarities in the text, so that the new brand can be integrated seamlessly into the business.

I like how this brand has evolved, and I think we can all take inspiration from this about letting our brands evolve to appeal to our customers without losing where we’ve come from.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to inspire a movement of kindness, community and collaboration. When I bought my house in February I had a vision to fill it with new friends I’d met through business networking, to draw them together over good food and enable discussion and new opportunities for them to collaborate.

Unfortunately Covid has put paid to that temporarily, but I still love seeing people in smaller groups.

I love seeing people make new connections and I genuinely am inspired and love making friends with interesting, passionate people. It’s exciting hearing about what one person is doing and thinking how they would be awesome to meet another person in my network. I look forward to when we can have big gatherings again and fill a room with laughter, opportunity and encouragement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favourite life lesson is :

“Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide.“

I read this on Serena Edwards from Calm Waters Counselling’s instagram feed and this is what sparked my entire rebrand! This is when I decided to bring in colour, warmth and no longer worry about what was expected and to just be me instead.

It has been a revelation and I am so much happier for it! I feel more at peace and I really am attracting lots of people who I love knowing!

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: http://rosieparsonsphotography.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosieparsonsexeterphotographer/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rosieparsonsphotography/

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

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