Episode 31 – Erin Youngren: Generosity is a Strategic Asset

Jeff and Erin Youngren, Photographers   TheYoungrens.com

Jeff and Erin Youngren, Photographers


Erin Youngren is the better half (I think Jeff will forgive me, and probably agree) of The Youngrens, a photography business based in San Diego.

Through ten years of photography together, Erin and Jeff Youngren have learned a lot about what it takes to grow a sustainable business. They own and operate three photography businesses in San Diego and actively teach other photography entrepreneurs how to get started in a crowded market. By sharing their challenges, Erin believes they can help others learn without experiencing the same pain.

Fear was holding me back from doing important work.
— Erin Youngren

Fear is one of the greatest issues in most businesses. Many of us fear that someone will come along and take business away from us. Erin combats these fears with generosity. Instead of having their acquired knowledge taken from them they give it away freely, and in doing so the Youngrens found success.

Jeff began his photography career through the generosity of a mentor – another highly successful photographer. Wedding photography allowed Jeff to combine his love of photography with his passion for telling emotional stories.

Wedding photography was not a simple business start up. The Youngren's received help from surprising sources along the way, and this help will never be forgotten by Jeff and Erin. They discovered that wedding photography is a unique and collaborative industry. Photographers have come together to share and make the industry stronger and better.

The help that we received when we started out was so powerful, that we wanted to help other people in the same way.
— Erin Youngren

Erin and Jeff noticed that other photographers were willing to share their tips and tricks. Industry leaders led workshops. They noticed that giving was a huge part of the wedding photography atmosphere. Jeff and Erin realized giving helped them develop credibility and trust with their audience. Their business began to thrive.

When we do share information, we’ll all learn more and we become more of an expert.
— Erin Youngren

Generosity in their business is not without its problems. Jeff and Erin discovered some who would take and not give back, but they realized that that is their problem. It is not a reason to stop being generous.

Jeff and I have experienced a lot of hurt by being generous. It’s a hard lesson to learn.
— Erin Youngren

When people took advantage of the Youngrens' kindness, fear would sometimes pop its ugly head to the surface. When this happens, Jeff and Erin talk with each other and ask, “What are we so afraid of?”

Erin believes that generosity has not only helped their photography business, but has helped the wedding photography industry as a whole. Here are some of the ways that Erin has grown their business:

  • Writing prolifically on their business blog – not always about business, but about cooking and their life together. This is a strategic decision to give their audience a way to develop a personal relationship with them.

  • Erin works to connect with their target audience through shared values = Marketing! 

  • Erin has written a precise profile of their ideal client. Her name is Emma. Erin has conversations with her when no one is watching.

  • Erin and Jeff established themselves as industry leaders by being open about their business practices and actively helping other photographers be better. 

We don’t want to be seen just as photographers, but also as a couple who has fun together.
— Erin Youngren

Opening Music: "The Red One" by John Scofield and Pat Metheny off their album I Can See Your House From Here