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An Interview with Jason Kirby, Founder of Togally

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jason kirby in snow

Jason Kirby is a photographer and entrepreneur who is working on building Togally, a new online marketplace for connecting photographers and those who need photos shot. We had a chat with Kirby about his new venture.

PetaPixel: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Jason Kirby: I started my career as an entrepreneur in residence for a respected marketing consultancy. I built and grew multiple marketing verticals for the consultancy before quitting to pursue my passion in photography.

I have been a photographer for 10 years starting my first business The Right Light Photography specializing in events and headshots for corporations like Samsung, Qualcomm, Walmart, and many other big and small brands.

Teaching photography is a passion of mine and I started LocalPhotoClasses.com where I have taught over 5,000 students. I built a 3,000 sqft. studio in San Diego, CA and consider a photographer’s playground. It is in the studio we run day-to-day operations for Togally.

The homepage of Togally.com.
The homepage of Togally.com.

In a sentence or two, can you pitch us what Togally is?

Togally.com is the easiest way to book a great photographer in minutes. An online marketplace that is revolutionizing the way consumers hire local photographers – we seamlessly integrate everything a consumer needs: ratings, trusted reviews, and portfolios.

How did you get the idea for Togally?

The idea came from an experience at my business partner’s niece and nephew’s 4th birthday party. His sister was incredibly frustrated because she was stuck behind the camera capturing the memories, and realized she wasn’t enjoying the party, nor was she in any of the pictures. He asked her why she didn’t hire a photographer, and she said she didn’t know where to find someone easily and affordably. Craigslist wasn’t an option for her because she was weary hiring a non-vetted stranger to attend her kids’ party.

For me, it was teaching photography that I learned a lot of people wanted to pursue photography as a career, but had no idea where to get started. They were great photographers but had no idea had to get clients and what to charge to be profitable. I met Jon, my business partner, in June 2013 and explained to him how I have hundreds of talented photographers trying to make money but have no clue on how to acquire new customers. We came together to build the perfect solution that allowed customers to easily book affordable photographers by making our service free to photographers and provide them everything they need to deliver the images to the client.

Browsing results for family portrait photographers in San Diego.
Browsing results for family portrait photographers in San Diego.

How big is the team behind Togally at the present time?

The team is 9 strong. Our core management team is 4 people, and we have 3 full time web/app developers and 2 marketing support staff.

How are you guys funded? Have you raised any money, or is it entirely bootstrapped?

We are funded by angel investors and raised enough to generate hundreds of jobs a month for photographers in San Diego. We are currently working on expanding nationwide. We’re looking for talented photographers who want to do what they do best, taking great photos, and let Togally do the marketing for them.

Can you share any usage figures with us? How many photographers are currently in the system?

We have just over 1,100 active photographers registered on the site across 39 states with the majority in California. We’re growing everyday with more signups.

A photographer portfolio.
A photographer portfolio.

Who are some of your closest competitors, and what are your distinct advantages?

We built Togally because competitors like Smartshoot.com, thumbtack.com and even places like JC Penny Portraits don’t deliver what customers want and what photographers need. For clients we dominate the competition by offering the most value and make it easy to book a great photographer in minutes. Clients can choose from flat rate packages or set their own budget and available photographers apply to do the job. They receive high resolution images in every package and have a 100% money back guarantee.

For photographers we believed in making our system free. No monthly fees and no cost to purchase leads. They receive access to a myriad of tools from leads, to payment processing, client galleries and image delivery to the customer. The absolute best feature that our competitors can’t offer is guaranteeing a review for every job they complete on Togally.

Our Togs are enjoying supplemental income, repeat customers, and an easy process flow saving them time and money. Our business model is to only collect 5% to 20% after the job is completed.

What do you mean by flat rate pricing? How much can photographers expect to earn through jobs found through togally?

We offer clients upfront flat rate packages or the option to create their own custom package. Our packages are always being optimized to meet customer and photographer needs in the myriad of categories we offer. A photographer can expect to earn $30-50/hr+ factoring in time for preparation, shooting, and editing, depending on the category.

Uploading to your portfolio.
Uploading to your portfolio.

For Togally’s 5-20% share, how is that determined?

When Togally generates the leads we take a 20% commission once the tog is paid for completing the job. If the tog uses our send agreement feature for their own clients, in which they leverage the image gallery, payment processing and guaranteed review, we only take 5% to cover the cost of the transaction and hosting fees.

An example of a Togally photographer's business card.
An example of a Togally photographer’s business card.

We’ve been seeing more and more scams involving fake negative reviews. How will Togally combat this type of problem?

I completely agree that this is a real problem. Competitors are leaving negative reviews on yelp and google to their fellow photographers. Some clients are going as far as extorting their photographers by threatening to leave a bad reviews in hopes to squeeze a discount from the photographer. This is not cool and it’s bad karma for the industry as a whole.

At Togally we’ve developed a closed loop review system. This means only real paying customers that have hired that specific photographer can leave a review and we guarantee a review for every completed job. It’s an incredible system that builds up a photographer’s credibility on our platform and helps them get booked more often. Out of the hundreds of completed jobs on our platform 98% off all the reviews have been 5 stars! It goes to show how well are system works making customers and Togs happy.

Sending client agreements.
Sending client agreements.

Are you aiming the service at photographers who are new to the industry? Once a photographer’s business takes off, would it start to make more sense for them to build their brand and customer base outside Togally?

We are targeting passionate photographers who are talented, love to shoot and want to make money doing what they love. We have a wide range of full-time pros, part-timers, and pro-sumers. The togs that succeed and benefit most from Togally are those that want to focus on shooting and making clients happy, not marketing & sales or personal branding.

We’ve had a few of our togs do really well outside of Togally and are building up nice businesses. We see them coming back to Togally and cherry picking the jobs they want and appreciating the efficiency that Togally provides for those jobs supplementing their income. There are some really exciting features coming soon targeting more active togs. Just to mention a few: Togs will be able to offer their own packages, exports to popular accounting software, automated email marketing to bring past clients back, print integration to offer clients prints and much more.

A photographer's dashboard.
A photographer’s dashboard.

Which are the most popular categories on Togally right now? And which are the least?

The most popular categories are weddings/events, headshots and family shoots ranging from maternity, newborn, kids and family portraits. We haven’t started marketing to small businesses yet, so we only get a few small business and corporate related jobs as of right now. Our goal is to get a lot more in the near future.

A few of the categories on the service.
A few of the categories on the service.

Is there anything else you would like to say to PetaPixel readers?

Our mission is to make it easy and affordable to book a great photographer in minutes so that people hire photographers more frequently. We are trying to grow the market – giving people that never hire photographers an opportunity to start, and those that already do, a solution to do it more. We’ve already proven it in Southern California and can’t wait to do it for the rest of the country.

As a side note: we know Togally is not perfect and we always want to hear constructive feedback from photographers and clients to make the experience incredible. I encourage people to sign up (it’s free), try it out and let us know their thoughts.

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