Blog


John Armich - An entrepreneur for the new economy

August 1, 2016

John Armich is a commercial photographer, a host of a beautiful farmhouse and acreage, and also a real estate agent.  

 

I’ve known John since the early 2000s, when I was living and working in Eastern Pennsylvania at a large camera store and photo lab.  He was one of the first pro photographers I worked with closely to help with his photo processing and the promotion of his work through various services my company offered.  

 

I helped him build his first website, and some years later, I helped him build the one he still uses today.  (I also enjoyed designing a number of his collateral materials until he had time to create his own.)

 

I wanted to interview John because he has an inspirational story that I think a lot of people can benefit from, especially people who are solo business owners/entrepreneurs, or are wanting to go the entrepreneur route with their work in an economy that supports that now more than ever.  

 

John photographs interiors and exteriors of commercial and residential real estate primarily, and also shoots food, events, weddings, portraits, and fine art. John also became part of the Airbnb world by renting out his beautiful farm in Alburtis, PA (north of Philly and West of the Lehigh Valley).  As if he’s not busy enough, he recently added selling real estate as well!

 

You’re from Vancouver Island in Canada, currently living in Eastern Pennsylvania and have had a varied, international career.  Tell us about your background and how you came to photography as your career.

 

Deciding to photograph houses came naturally to me because my father built houses on the side when I was growing up.  He would build one every couple of years and then we would move.  So it started out with a camera and shooting exteriors and interiors.  I wouldn’t call it ‘flipping’ like we do today, it wasn’t that intentional on his part.  It was an obvious way to keep yourself out of a mortgage and move on to the next.  

 

My mom was a housewife, a great mother, taking care of me and my two siblings, but I also witnessed her doing some charcoal drawings, which kind of surprised me. She was 'Mom', not an ‘artist’ so to speak.  When I was young, there was no recognition that you could make money from your hobby or art. Photography was acceptable as an art form in my house, because it was hands-on and a camera was a piece of machinery, and my dad was a tradesman, a welder, and it was a good combination of his work and my mom’s as she was also a master scrapbooker and a maniac amateur photographer.

 

In my 20s my life was spent teaching English in Japan, still being in school studying French, and then in my 30s I began traveling, and photography really started after that.

 

How did photographing houses then start as your business?  

My first paid assignments were from working in a marketing department for a real estate company, and I was building brochures, I was running out and photographing houses.  I didn’t write copy, was doing graphic design. I was able to convince them, as the jobs were requiring more and more photos, that they needed me as a full time photographer.  They had only been paying me as a designer, and then they understood that the photography was equally worthwhile.  I did that Monday through Friday, and then I started wedding photography on weekends, and then portraits.

 

Did you start in film or in digital?

I started out paid in digital, but played with film.

 

We met when your business was fairly new and digital was just starting to really grow, and I recall your business grew fairly rapidly.  How did you make that happen?

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.  Prior to 2008, the housing industry was great, and I rode the waves of architectural photography as well as I was introduced to builders and architects and designers.  All grew simultaneously, but then it all went to hell in a handbag after 2008.  It did kind of created a second wave for me from those people who were struggling to get any kind of business, going into social media, going into any area they could get and so they re-evaluated photography.  

 

 

And then the iPhone came out and the internet became more common for advertising, so that and with the iPad, people decided they could take their own photos.  The images were pretty good or at least good enough for on screen (vs. print), and they didn’t have to edit it and they could post it right away on social media.

 

My income dropped dramatically, really seriously.  And  it moved me to look at other things, and that’s when I began renting out my farmhouse, learning how to use social media for vacation rentals and things like that.  And that led to real estate as there is more built-in structures for fees and income than there is in photography.  

 

 

Please say more about the farmhouse and how that light bulb got switched on for you, how you got inspired.

Because my income had fallen so dramatically, I was at risk of losing the property. That was basically it.  I got a bridge loan, and went out and took a ton of photographs, and I realized I’ve got to learn how to write as no one is going to do this for me.  

 

I remember when you first started my website and you would say ‘you’ve got to give me copy with your photos’ and that was a challenge for me.  I've learned how now as it was a financial need.  At that time many people had second and third homes, and realized they could save their properties by renting them out, and it’s a whole industry now.  I’ve gotten amazing reviews, and even if I could afford to do it without the rental, I like doing it!  I like meeting new people from all over the world.  I’m crossing my fingers it continues as the whole thing has been a miracle.

 

You’re juggling three businesses.  How do you manage it all?  How do you stay energized with so many different demands?

I have a co-owner in the farmhouse and he manages the caretaking of it.  It was a training of the minds.  It’s a 10-acre property and it wouldn’t have worked if I would have needed to hire out the work for the gardens and the lawns and pruning the trees and everything.  We had to create a calendar of sorts for the timing of all the needs of the house and land so it always looks great.  I had to realize ‘I can’t do it all in one day.’

 

Do you have cycles with the three businesses?  Real estate just seems crazy regardless but do they overlap or play nicely together, so to speak, and are you inspired by it all no matter what happens?  

It’s interesting as real estate adds a whole new dimension.  Philadelphia is booming, with lots of outsiders coming in for rentals.  It’s like looking for a parking spot on the street.  It goes that fast.  So that absorbs time at a really random speed, so at least inquiries for regular bookings you have time to schedule it and edit it.  Real estate is very demanding, it's 24/7.

 

What does energize you and replenish you in your daily life with such a busy schedule, what keeps you inspired?  

Now?  My fiancé!

 

I’m so happy for you!  

 

In the last year since we met, he’s an MD, and due to his training, he’s very demanding of himself, though not a perfectionist.  He understands all the different things I’m doing, and until a job is completed, he’s very methodical and efficient, keeps things minimalist, and through that organization I stay on track.  We operate ready to go, and we make sure to get proper sleep… I realize I could never have done the real estate thing by myself! We go between a small apartment in Philly to the farmhouse since everything can be done via mobile and online systems.  I can work from anywhere.

 

What is your best recommendation for people looking to be entrepreneurs? Our world economy is different and people are not finding the work they want and people are looking to be their own boss, and now like you said, with social media and online everything you can run a business from your kitchen or car.  

Don’t give up your day job.  If you don’t have one, have a part-time job to provide for your basic needs.  You’ll spend a lot of time doing unpaid work for a long time until the business takes hold, until you get your first job, your first client, your first reviews, and it could take a long time.  

 

Everything for me is based on referrals, but because I built up my photography, and even though it’s going at 20% of what it was prior to the recession, that’s still 20%.  The farmhouse is breaking even, and so right now as we talk I’m standing in front of a 1.7 million dollar property I’m representing and there are all kinds of things to do to make it curb-ready, ready for the open house, and I have the time to do it.  

 

But you’ve got to have that paid thing to feed yourself.  And you’ve got to be willing to work the extra hours any day of the week if you want that (your business) to happen.  No one’s going to give it to you.  Nothing is free!

 

But my hunch is that you’d never go back to a 9 to 5 job!

 

I’ve never really had one!  Even the job I had with the real estate company was a stipend, I was never given any benefits whatsoever.  I’ve never known the security of a day job.  I was teaching English back in Japan 20 years ago but that wasn’t a normal thing as it was during an economic boom in Japan.  But other than that, my whole time has been, if you don’t work you don’t make money.

 

Are you still doing fun photography for yourself, your fine art work?  

I do.  I’ve never sold it, though I’ve had some exhibits.  Maybe when I get older!  It is very relaxing.  

 

I will actually say what I do for myself to stay inspired and energized is my commitment to physical exercise.  It’s a way of training my mind, of ridding myself of stress, and as I get older, retain muscle and health.  Ireally enjoy it and it’s part of my overall progress I believe.  I’m so excited about the combination of things, and sometimes I do say to myself, how the hell am I doing this?  

 

It seems like a testiment to your belief in yourself and work and art!  

 

Thank you, thank you for recognizing it.

 

 

Find John's lovely farmhouse at www.hemphillfarm.com and on Facebook.

 

Find Johns' beautiful photography at www.johnarmich.com

 

Reach John regarding real estate at john@johnarmich.com

 





Comments

- No Comments Yet. -

Leave a Comment

Name:
Comment:

Return to Blog Main Page