One of the biggest challenges for every photographer is pricing. Whether you're new and just starting out in business, or you're a seasoned veteran offering new services and products, maintaining a healthy profit margin is critical to not only survive, but thrive.
Last week I joined my co-host from Mind Your Business and Beyond Technique, Chamira Young to talk about some of the mistakes photographers make when setting their prices as well as a few solutions. There's a lot of good content in this new podcast and thanks to PhotoTexting.com we expanded the topic into what is the next big thing in marketing and relationship building.
Think about how your clients communicate today versus ten years ago, or for that matter just five! Technology is changing every day and along with the changes come some remarkable opportunities. Understanding how texting can help you grow your business, reach more clients and reinforce your client base with a stronger sense of customer service is so essential to your success.
PhotoTexting.com's Mobile Price Lists App helps you book clients faster. See how it works for yourself! Text "pricing" to 800-240-6909 to see a sample price list. You'll receive a text with a sample price list so you can experience what your client would experience if you were using the Mobile Price Lists app. NOTE: You won't be spammed, and you're not signing up for anything!
The Mobile Pricing App can include your pricing, specials and various options for prospective customers to book your business with one tap on their phone. And, you can customize your mobile presentation to be unique to your business and style.
The Mobile Pricing App is just one of a dozen or more apps to help you build a stronger business. Isn't time to check it out and learn what all the buzz is about?
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is the second time over the last few years I've wanted to share this post out of the SCU archives on pricing. Why? Because nobody addresses the challenge as good as my buddy Scott Bourne. In this post, he's hitting on far more than just the usual things to consider when you're pricing your work as a wedding and portrait photographer.
Plus, it's tax season, and in less than a month you're all going to hopefully meet with your accountant. Sadly most of you won't know whether you even made money in 2018 until after that meeting. Then you'll swear to do a better job in 2019, but within thirty days be back to your old habits.
Remember, you've got to pay attention to ALL of your costs. There are so many of you who forget to consider all the different things you've done to set up your business and then keep it going! There's also a podcast about pricing I just did with a lot of help from Chamira Young on ProPhotographerJourney.com that just aired last week.
The sad thing about pricing is that so many of you think it's rocket science. Well, it's NOT, but it does take the same dedication as NASA landing an astronaut on the moon. You didn't become a photographer to be a philanthropist, but to build a business.
Here's my point - We're in the last month of what many of you view as the slow season. Before business starts to ramp up, review your pricing! There's nothing that will undermine your success more than lousy pricing! You're working hard to build your skill set and your brand, but a photography business without revenue to support your continued passion for the craft is just a hobby!
By Scott Bourne
Pricing photography is the second hardest thing you will ever do as a professional photographer. (Finding the right clients is the first hardest.) It’s very easy to make mistakes when pricing and once they’re made, it’s hard to recover from them. So start out right.
One disclaimer: Not every pricing method works for every photographer. Much depends on the current state of the market and the genre (i.e., wedding, commercial, fine art, food, etc.) I’ll try to stick to some universal ideas in this post.
Start at the Beginning
You can’t effectively price your work until you understand what it is you’re selling.
You are not selling square inches of paper for the cost of printing them. For some reason, the first element that seems to enter some photographers’ minds when making a pricing decision is the size of the print. This “brick wall” has cost many photographers money. The most important thing to keep in mind is the value of your work, not the size of the print. You build this value by evaluating ALL the factors that go into making a salable image.
So what are you selling? How about your creativity and unique ability to capture something others do not see? Anyone can buy a camera, but can they capture the image exactly the way you do? How about the time you have invested in training for the moment when you captured the image? That time needs to be taken into consideration. Your mechanic, doctor, accountant, and lawyer all get paid for the time they spend doing the work. Shouldn’t you be paid too? You also have to consider the level of your present technical ability. The casual amateur should not be able to get the most out of the same equipment as an experienced professional.
And, speaking of equipment, you must also take into consideration the value of your gear. So, as you are deciding how to price your work, make sure you take into account and charge for your logistical skills, experience, time and your ability to translate your client’s desires into a visual statement. Know what you’re selling before you try to sell it. This will help you avoid many mistakes later.
In order to price something well, you must know the economics. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
B) Profit margin
C) The market you are serving
Calculating your overhead requires that you consider all the costs associated with being a professional photographer. These includes:
A) Equipment depreciation
E) Legal fees
F) Accounting fees
G) Payroll fees
O) Office supplies
Q) Professional dues
Calculating your profit may be a bit easier. You consider your cost of doing business by allowing for a percentage of your overhead to be applied to the cost of each job. From there, mark up your price to include a standard profit margin. This can be based on any number you want but a good starting point is to double the cost of your product (100 percent profit margin).
Selling or Licensing Images
Now you also need to adjust this figure based on the market type you are serving. Is the image being used in a small or large market? Will thousands of people see it or just a few? What is the perceived value to the client? How does the client plan to use your image? Who is your competition and what choices does your client have besides you for this type of image? Are there 50 photographers in the mix or only two or three? Consider these factors to calculate your fee.
When you sell or license an image, it is likely you will have to negotiate the price with a savvy photo buyer. Knowing how to negotiate can save you time, money and help you close profitable deals. Remember that negotiating is just problem solving. Both parties have something they need to accomplish and the negotiation makes it happen.
You must not take ANY of the issues that arise during a negotiation personally. The buyer is supposed to try to get the best deal that he or she can. That’s their job. Your job is the same.
The essential steps in the negotiating process are: establish rapport, gather information, do research, ask questions, and let the buyer do most of the talking. In any negotiation, the person who listens most is likely to gain more. In any negotiation, it’s always very important that you do more listening than talking. Otherwise, you will miss important clues, both physical and verbal, that will help you resolve the deal.
Before quoting a price, you must try to educate the client and build the value of the image you are selling. Make sure that the client understands the effort, time and expense you invested to make this image. If the image is truly one-of-a-kind or was made at personal risk, those factors translate directly into the value of what you have for sale.
Try to encourage the client to place an opening bid. If the buyer is the first one to name a price, I believe you will be rewarded with a higher fee. A good way to open the negotiation process is to ask a question like, “What’s the most you would be willing to pay to use my image or purchase my print?” If you are forced to begin the negotiation process by offering a figure, an alternative is to begin with a number that is twice your standard price plus 10 percent. Once this figure is given, you can work down from there.
But remember that if you give a number first, you run the risk of quoting a price that is much lower than the buyer was willing to pay, and you’ll never know what figure they were willing to pay. So, let your clients do the talking. Then, you should listen, take notes, and preferably wait for them to tell you what they can afford.
If the client has pricing objections, be sure to return to the rapport building and value enhancement stages outlined above. Usually, a price objection really means that there is another piece of information you have not uncovered. It is likely that there is something else you have not offered that the client really wants or needs. This is why it’s crucial to listen more than you talk and ask plenty of questions to uncover hidden needs.
Once you have taken all the necessary steps, be sure to ask for the order. A surprising number of photographic sales don’t happen simply because the seller has forgotten to ask for the sale.
(NOTE: Negotiating with magazines is not possible unless you are a famous photographer with images that are in great demand. When you approach magazines, understand that you will only get paid their standard rates.)
The first post in our new PhotoTexting series talked about your first step in the process of taking your business to the next level, being assigned your own exclusive 800 number. Well, this week let's jump into mobile brochures.
Wandering into Google, I asked a simple question, "How many people text?" General information from several different sites showed some incredible statistics**:
Twenty years ago I helped two friends design a product brochure and a workshop piece. I put what seemed like endless hours into creating and writing text for both brochures. And, while they both looked okay, they were printed pieces, expensive to produce because they were being printed in small runs and couldn't be easily updated. We had to guess at quantities. With one we printed too many and the other not enough.
A printed piece is still a necessity to have, especially when meeting directly with clients but the world is changing. In the same way, we share pictures today with the Internet we're communicating differently.
PhotoTexting.com is a new SCU partner, and I'm excited to not only be on the cutting edge myself but be able to share their apps with all of you. Having the ability to keep your company brochure updated with new images, text, and links to contact, special offers and pricing information is at your fingertips and easily changed/updated.
Most of you know I refer to myself as the "Low-Tech Poster Child" of the industry. Well, if I can do this stuff so can you. At WPPI last week I used their App as a speaker. Instead of giving people a handout of notes from my presentation, with one text message to my number they automatically got back my notes and a link to my website, exclusive content and two short videos. They could choose what they needed.
And here's one more important statistic about texting**:
82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive.
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build stronger brand awareness, increase sales and expand your reach.
And nothing changes from my goal - I don't want you to just survive in 2019 - let's make sure you thrive!
**Sources: StasticBrain, CTIA, Pew Research, Gallup, FlowRoute
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give!
Sir Winston Churchill
I've written a lot about the importance of community involvement over the years. It's so important to give back to your community, and being involved is one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Here's how I stumbled upon a wonderful non-profit here in Sarasota.
We moved to Sarasota in 2011 to give my Dad a hand with my mother who was fighting the battle with Alzheimer's. That's when we discovered the Caregiver Resource Center, and we started attending the weekly support group for caregivers.
With our very first meeting, Dad started to change. He learned it was okay to be angry and feel frustrated; he learned he wasn't alone; and discovered it was okay to share everything he was feeling, something his generation was taught NOT to do.
My relationship with the Friendship Centers is going on eight years. And, Sheila's also involved, having volunteered repeatedly along the way. They're a seventeen-million dollar nonprofit providing support to thousands of people to thousands of people in south Florida.
I'm not writing to toot my own horn but reminding you how important it is to be involved in something in your community and the industry. I've heard so many photographers comment, "In my community, there aren't very many things to be involved in!" Seriously? There's a level of pain, frustration, and a place for photographers to lend a hand in EVERY community. Try these on for size:
Those are two of my favorite photo-centric organizations who are involved on a national level that will keep you engaged but let's move to the local level. Here are just a few ideas of resources to identify where you can help.
I know many of you are outside the US, but in every country and every community in the world, there are groups of people needing help. Your community, wherever you are, needs to see you as more than just another retailer. You're looking for your community to be good to you - so you need to be good to your community!
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
The longer I'm in this industry, the more everyday occurrences remind me of things I’ve heard or learned over the years. After a lifetime in some aspect of photography from starting out making emulsions in a research lab at Polaroid right through to yesterday’s phone conversations, email threads, and forum discussions, the non-photography lessons are relatively few in comparison to everything else.
Take this past Monday night’s sunset for example. We were at friends for dinner on Long Boat Key. We hadn’t been there before and didn’t know they were right on the water. While I’m usually not without a camera, with WPPI this week, I’d left everything at home, packed for the next day’s trip. All I had was my cell phone, which honestly didn’t do too bad a job, at least for Internet viewing…so there’s lesson one from Monday night – practice what you preach and don’t get caught short without a real camera.
But lesson two is a BIG one.
Years ago, I did a podcast with the late Mary Ellen Mark. She’d been a nice friend going back to my Hasselblad days in the ’80s. She talked about why she loved shooting analog so much more than digital. As an example, she told me how she made her students cover up the LCD screen on their cameras to help them learn to wait for the “decisive moment.”
I’m paraphrasing a little, but this was her point,
“Shooting digitally photographers check to see if they got the shot and move on, but what if the real moment is yet to come? What if the emotion of grandma’s tears with a bride wasn’t at the hug, but seconds or minutes later?”
Last night’s sunset looked like it was going to be non-existent. It was all clouds and solid gray. Little by little the clouds started to break apart, and while we never got the kind of sunset that graces the covers of romantic novels, the sun found a spot to sneak through, and it was stunning, but only for a minute or two. All I had to do was be patient and wait for it.
And here’s one more fun perspective. Having spent most of my life living inland, I love living near the ocean. Just about every vacation over the years was always near the water. I remember all those bittersweet moments when a vacation was about to come to an end, and we’d sneak in walk on the beach before packing, trying to make the most of the last night.
So, these days, whenever Sheila and I leave the beach one of us always says the same thing...“Hey, it’s not our last night!”
Often when I'm teaching a marketing workshop or doing a website review, the importance of accessibility comes up. It happens every time I come across one of my pet peeves on a photographer's website - the absence of a phone number. They've got everything there, EXCEPT a number for people to call. Typically that launches a rant on the importance of giving clients and more importantly, potential clients instant fulfillment in their ability to talk to you.
Many years ago we lost one of the industry's greatest managers and friends, Bruce Landau. Hearing the sad news, a number of us started chasing down people who we knew he was close to. I got to a well-respected photographer and educator on my list, but no matter where I looked I couldn't find a phone number. He'd recently moved, and there was nothing on his website. A few months later I saw him at a convention and apologized for not taking more time to find him. His answer left me speechless, "Yeah, there's no phone number because I don't want people calling me!" He honestly felt phone calls were a bother!
So, fast forward fifteen years and I'm still seeing photographers who don't have a phone number. They use a template contact form for email, but don't respond quickly. They act as if it's the customer's job to become an Internet miner and find them! And when I've confronted some of these artists, their attitude is, "If they really like my work they'll find me!"
Think about your frustration the last time you called a company and couldn't find a way to talk to a live-body! We live in an instant-fulfillment world and that old expression of "strike while the iron is hot" couldn't be more valid.
I'm very excited about a new SCU partner, PHOTOtexting, a very cool app that helps you market to and book new clients from your phone. I'm using their application myself this week at WPPI with presentation notes for attendees at two programs I'm doing in the Panasonic booth (934). Think about the Internet, social media, how we use our phones - everything is changing from how we share images to how we can more effectively communicate and market ourselves.
This post is the start of a series of marketing ideas on how to build a stronger business in 2019, and it starts with being accessible and responding quickly to customer requests. And, best of all for me - I'm excited because there's the potential to not hear excuses any longer from people who think they don't need a business phone line!
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build a stronger presence.
I don't want you to just survive in 2019 - let's make sure you thrive!
I don't pull posts out of the SCU archives very often, but it's Marketing Monday and a perfect way to remind many of you that great marketing doesn't trump your skill set!
I wrote most of this post three years ago, I had just come back from WPPI and was surprised at the number of new photographers I met who thought they could rush the process of becoming a pro. I heard somebody comment as they were watching Michele Celentano during a live demo say, "That's easy for her to say!"
Not one of today's icons started iconically. They didn't just wake up one morning as if the Success Fairy wandered in during the night and sprinkled success dust over them and *poof* they'd made it to the top. And, if you talk to any of those people who we define as iconic, they'll tell you how they're still practicing, learning and experimenting. They never stop attending programs for the benefit of boosting their own skill set.
Don Blair at 74 was once asked, "What's the most incredible portrait you've ever done?" He immediately responded, "I don't know, I haven't made it yet!" Even then, considered one of the finest portrait artists in the industry, he was always experimenting in his search for the ultimate image.
Years ago Michele spoke at GoingPro Bootcamp, a program Scott Bourne and I put together. Her opening comments said it all, "Twenty years ago I was sitting right where you are now, wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" She then proceeded to share some of the worst bridal images I've ever seen. I got her to send me a couple of them featured above.
So, for those of you trying to rush the process, and thinking success is all in how creative your marketing can be - here are three things to think about:
"Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts."
And, there's the most significant part of the problem. Many of you are so gifted, but you've spent too much time following the icons. Just for a second today look in the mirror and if you want to envy somebody, check out the face staring back at you. If you've got the passion for the craft and the desire to be a great artist, then give it the time it deserves and start believing in your own gifts. Stay focused on what's in your heart and, accept as an artist; there's no such thing as overnight success.
Most important of all, know there are a whole bunch of us out here rooting for you and believing in your goals and willing to help when you need the support.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Welcome back to a new "Insight," a series of content-rich posts to help you build a stronger business and in today's post, protect your images. Working together with PhotoShelter we want to make 2019 your best year ever and as I've written in the past, thrive, not just survive.
There's an incredible amount of outstanding content in PhotoShelter's archives, all directed to helping become a successful artist. I ran across this article by Allen Murabayashi, and he's writing about an issue critical to all of you - copyright!
PhotoShelter has a reputation for helping you create the very best presentation of your work, but also help you run a stronger business. You've got to protect your photographs. So often I'm surprised how many photographers have so little understanding of copyright. Check out the post below and start protecting your images - you've worked too hard to develop the skill set to capture and create them. Don't they deserve to be protected?
5 Common Copyright Misconceptions Held by Photographers
by Allen Murabayashi
The most recent version of the Copyright Law of the United States (December 2016) weighs in at a whopping 354 pages. And while there are areas of ambiguity, the basics and benefits of copyright registration for photographers are well-documented. Unfortunately, well-documented doesn’t mean well-understood, so we asked attorney (and former photo rep) Leslie Burns to weigh in on a number of common copyright misconceptions that still persist, and why you should register your copyright.
Disclaimer: The information herein does not constitute legal advice. As always, consult with a lawyer for your particular circumstance!
1. If I publish a photo without registering my copyright first, I can’t sue for damages.
U.S. Copyright Law has two forms of damages: 1) actual, and 2) statutory.
The moment you take a photo, (unless you are an employee or signed a terrible work-for-hire deal) you own the copyright and have some protection. But without registration, you are only eligible for actual damages which means the “market value” of the image’s license, plus the defendant’s profits directly connected to the infringement, if any. If someone uses your image on their Instagram account, the actual damages might be so low as to make it impractical to sue.
The main benefit of registering your images is the ability to sue for statutory damages. If a person or organization willfully infringes your photo, you can sue for up to $150,000 per infringement image. Non-willful has a maximum of $30,000. You might get attorneys’ fees, too.
“Publication in copyright law,” says Burns, “is not what most people think. Online use may or may not be published—if you offer the work for others to license or use or if you provide it to a client for its use, then it is published; but if you just display the work online (or in a gallery) it probably is not published.” If it is published, then you have up to 3 calendar months to register the copyright and it is as if you registered it on the date you first published the work, so any infringement after that can get the statutory damages. If you wait, then only infringements that start after you register the copyright can get the statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. For unpublished work, only infringements that start after registration can get statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
Click to read more...
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This post will be most relatable to those of you over thirty. If you're younger, you might need to take the trip down Memory Lane with one of your parents!
Over the last two decades, the Internet has changed everything in the way we communicate and especially share pictures. The world has become a tiny place giving us the ability to share photographs with friends, associates and the public at any time.
Along with the change in how we share pictures, how we communicate has also changed. The other day a friend shared a video with me of two teenagers unable to figure out how to make a call using a rotary dial phone! They only knew how to use their cell phones. And, with our phones, access to the world is always at our fingertips.
SCU was built on a foundation of passion for marketing, business, and education. Communication is a huge part of that passion. After all, what good is working on your technique to capture the most magnificent images of your life if you're not reaching your target audience?
Just like imaging and communication changing over the years so has marketing.
It's time to take how you communicate with your clients to the next level! With the help of PhotoTexting.com, we're excited to introduce you to a more effective way to reach your target audience!
PhotoTexting.com is in the SCU House!
With PhotoTexting Apps you've got dozens of ways to build a stronger business, increase inquiries and reach your target audience quickly; boost your inquiries; inspire more conversations and most important of all get your brand to their phone before they shop your competitors.
There's an endless combination of ways to communicate with your clients. Each app focuses on a different aspect of your business including customer appreciation, referrals, promotions, and business cards to name a few.
"I've been building out my mobile apps inside of PHOTOtexting. The idea of using anything else is daunting to me. It's amazing the inquiries I now get from my website and social media, with my new business line. It's so easy sending my company materials and services to consumer's phones. Before, I would have software, landing pages, order forms and have to figure out how to tie them all together. I'll never have to go through that again because of PHOTOtexting" - Rick Ferro, Disney Photographer
Stay tuned because we're going to be sharing a lot of solid content to help you build a stronger business; increase revenue and establish a more recognized brand!
by Skip Cohen
Welcome to "Insight," a new series of content-rich posts to help make 2019 the year you do more than just survive. We want you to thrive!
Dozens of times over the last few years I've written about all the great content available on the Internet. It's filled with ideas and topics to help you build a stronger business. Wandering through the PhotoShelter blog recently I ran across this gem about the importance of freelance photographers understanding the importance of knowing their costs.
It's a great article by Allen Murabayashi, but in all honesty, whether freelance or a full-time photograph/business owner, the issue of understanding your costs is critical. You've got a choice to make, and it could make the difference between macaroni and cheese every night or mixing it up, and being able to get out to dinner now and then!
For years I've said photographers are typically one of the worst business groups on the planet. It's not all your fault, most of you are right-brain creative types, and you have little interest in the left-brain operational side of the business. But, you have to understand and respect the operational side because it controls your profitability and revenue!
PhotoShelter not only has a reputation for helping you create the very finest presentations of your work, but their blog is loaded with content to help you build a stronger business and brand. Check out the post below for help in developing a better understanding of your costs to do business!
Why Freelancers Need to Know Their Cost of Doing Business
Unless you’re phenomenally wealthy, you probably maintain a budget for your finances. For freelancers, budgeting (and cash flow management) is crucial because the lack of steady income and hefty capital requirements (e.g. a new camera) can require a bigger financial cushion.
During a PhotoShelter Third Thursday event, I queried the audience about whether they had used a Cost of Doing Business (CODB) calculator. A participant answered:
“I did it once, and I don’t know what the hell you guys are talking about. I just found that it was totally unrealistic. I added it up, and I still was like, ‘Where did this number even come from?’”
It’s true that the first time you calculate your CODB, the result can be shocking. Many people find that they’ve severely underestimated what it costs for them to run a business (or they don’t have an accurate accounting of their expenses).
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Everyone in the "kitchen" at the SCU Diner is surprised that we still haven't run out of menu items for Fast Food Friday. However, if you think about how many different aspects there are in running a business, then it really shouldn't be that surprising.
Fast Food Friday blue plate specials aren't always quick meals, but they are nutritional and fortunately, with the government shut down we don't have to worry about dealing with the FDA!
(Sorry, with the nonsense going on in Washington and thousands of people not getting paid while the members of Congress still draw their salaries, it's hard to not have a little sarcasm spill over into today's post. Sheila had a great idea the other night, suggesting every member of Congress also have their pay docked and be fined $20,000 a day.)
Okay, back to this week's special - I do not profess to be an expert on this dish, but it is one I'm cooking today, and it's all from the heart! Let's talk about things you can do to find balance. And, while "balance" is such an abused all-inclusive word, we're really talking about adjusting your priorities.
Wearing Multiple Hats
Today's special is my own recipe. It's taken me years to perfect and ironically, most of what I learned I first heard from my grandmother but wasn't sharp enough to understand! I'm hoping you can learn from my mistakes so you can make new ones of your own.
We all wear multiple hats as business owners, parents, spouses, friends, and children, just to name a few. The challenge comes in remembering you've only got one head! And, while the buzz-word today is multi-tasking, you're still only one person.
So, here's what works for me and it's taken me years to perfect it, and I'm still work in progress. I have a morning routine:
Obviously, there are phone calls and interruptions throughout the day, along with scheduled conference calls, appointments, etc. but at the end of the day, usually around 5:30 everything shuts down, and it's family time. Sheila and I have dinner together and then move to the TV for our favorite shows, a fast run through the news and maybe a movie.
Our day typically ends around 10:00 PM watching a rerun of Friends. Why? Because the news used to be the last thing we watched and it's become so depressing we needed to laugh before going to sleep. I think back to my folks always watching the 11:00 PM news before going to bed. Well, these days it's all nightmare material, so we finish the day watching something entertaining.
That's our routine, but it only works if there's a lot of open, honest communication. Both of us have learned to share the challenges in our life, our aspirations, and disappointments. We've learned to trust each other and for example, when I'm off balance and too focused on a business challenge we talk it out. We're both work in progress and it's not always smooth sailing. But there's also that great quote about calm seas not making skilled sailors!
Most important of all, take the time to be thankful. So many of you are obsessed with finding success, but you've never taken the time to think through what that really means. For me, it's about waking up with a smile on my face every morning.
We've worked together to find balance. We're like a medieval castle. We think of our home as surrounded by a moat. When the enemies are clamoring at the gate, we recognize when we need to help each other and pull up the draw bridge.
Over the years I've written several posts about playing offense when it comes to building your business. I'm a big fan of playing offense versus defense. Right now, even if you haven't done very much planning, you've still got time for some great marketing plays before the end of the year, especially if your skill set is in portraiture.
1) Halloween and the Fall: From Halloween shots to pumpkin patches and fall themes there are endless opportunities for you to get people thinking about portraiture. It's also an ideal time to launch portrait type activities in your community. And, don't forget homecoming dances at the high school! It's only October 22, and while you're cutting it close to do much for Halloween, with some good partners, you can still have an impact. Even something as simple as a class for all the parents in your neighborhood, helping them capture better photographs of their kids on Halloween, has the potential to develop more goodwill and brand awareness for your business.
2) Thanksgiving: There isn't a mother on the planet who doesn't want new portraits of her family. Even more important there isn't a grandmother who doesn't complain about not having up to date images of her grandchildren! So, when was the last time you did a Thanksgiving promotion? When was the last time you planted a seed to get people thinking about how old their family portraits are?
Once again, education jumps in, whether it's a mini-workshop for your community or content for your blog, help your target audience with ideas on better picture-taking. There are things you do every day you take for granted that "Mom" doesn't know about - from storytelling to posing and lighting, you can set the stage to be the photo guru in the neighborhood!
3) Those BIG December Days: Christmas and Chanukah are terrific times to plant the seed for gift ideas, but don't shotgun the entire market. Think about your client base and everybody you already photographed during this past year or more. Go back to previous clients and get them thinking about reprints, additional albums and new images to bring the family up to date. You've got to be the one to plant the seed, and there's nothing better than the idea of a big framed canvas print as this year's special holiday gift. It might be an old idea to you, but not to most consumers.
4) Holiday Events: Remember all the different organizations in your community. Who's photographing the Rotary or Exchange Club holiday parties this year? What special events are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce? How can your skill set enhance these events?
5) PTA: Parent Teacher Associations are active in virtually every school system from elementary through high school. Start getting involved, and as the school year ramps up, be active in the PTA to help strengthen your brand.
6) In the Classroom: It's the perfect time of year to arrange a visit to the school to help students capture better images. I'm not talking about the camera clubs, but every kid who has a cell phone. Again, think back to your expertise. For most of you if you had to shoot an entire wedding on a cell phone you'd get the job done - so, share that expertise with kids in the classroom. This is one of those perfect applications for building goodwill, and with kids the right age, 10-14, you've got an intelligent audience with a passion for sharing photographs.
7) Call Your Lab: Technology NEVER stands still, and every day new products are coming into our industry. Last August I shared a post about a 30x60 print I have hanging on the wall OUTSIDE our home. It's Bay Photo's Performance EXT Metal Prints, and it's still stunning, having now been out in the sun, rainstorms and day in day out extremes of Florida weather. Visit your lab's website and check out all the new products to help you create more excitement with gift ideas this time of year.
And, take a look at Bella Art Prints from Marathon. They're stunning with great pricing.Check out this post featuring one of Bobbi Lane's favorite images. On a special project for Panasonic earlier this year we did an oversized Bella Art Album that was beautiful with each LUMIX Ambassador having a double page spread of images.
8) Start 2019 Out Right: How about a head shot campaign in your community? Seriously, look at all the retailers around you, and they range from restaurants to realtors. This is the perfect time to remind them it's time for a new headshot and get the year off to the right start! Have some fun and do it as a "Clean Up the Community" campaign and bring a little humor into the market. Let's get rid of bad headshots!
Creating awareness for concepts like these, especially if you've never done them before takes time. You might not score a hat trick the first time on the ice, but just being out there puts you ahead of most of your competitors. Remember to get a few photographs of you working with clients for your own press releases. Build your stash of images of you being involved in projects like these so you can create awareness in the community with more press releases and blog content in the future.
Don't forget to look for partners! This is consumer bundling at its best, and you've got limo companies, florists, venues and even other photographers to help you absorb the costs and create the excitement! And, everybody is after more business and success this time of year!
We launched the Fast Food Friday series to give you quick ideas on fine-tuning your business. I called it Fast Food Friday because everybody understands the concept of a no-brainer decision to grab something at McDonalds, Arby's or my new favorite, Chick-fil-A. They're fast, easy and it doesn't take a whole lot of brain power to figure out what you're having for lunch.
A few weeks ago, thanks to Excire, we expanded the menu in the SCU diner offering full entrees, posts with more details and content to help you build a stronger business. Today's special is a perfect example.
With the Photo Plus Expo show coming up in two weeks in NYC, now's the time for you to make sure you plan your trip BEFORE you get there. Plus, IUSA, WPPI, and ShutterFest all come along during the first few months of the new year.
Time is your most valuable commodity. If you plan each trip you'll not only spend your money wiser, but you'll come home energized, better prepared to take on the challenges of being a photographer and business owner.
Getting Maximum Bang for Your Buck at EVERY Convention
It's essential for you to attend as many conventions/conferences each year as possible, but you might be surprised at why I believe that so strongly.
So, let's get specific and come up with things to think about and do while you're at the next convention:
The one thing I find most frustrating with attendees at a big convention is they just haven't planned their trip. They got their tickets and made it to the show and then completely fall apart. Plan each convention experience so that you're not wasting time and even more important, your money!
Fast Food Friday's are brought to you by:
Need help better utilizing your time? Click on the banner above to visit the Excire website. Take Excire Search Pro for Lightroom Classic CC for your own FREE 15 day test drive. And follow us on Facebook for the latest information on this exciting software and time-saver.
Check out the special promotion launched on September 26 at Photokina - "Search" is just $49 and "Search Pro" is $99.
It's a quote from "Life's Little Instruction Book Volume II, and it's one of my favorites. Weeds, like dandelions, are pretty to photograph, but ever notice how they take over a beautiful lawn when not controlled?
Well, it's Marketing Monday, and I found this post in the archives from many years ago. It's perfect to kick off the week as a reminder to so many of who are dealing with "weeds" in your life. Maybe it's time to get them under control.
Weed 1: Stop worrying about how much you still have to learn and pat yourself on the back for how much you know already. Photography is an art form, and nobody ever picked it up overnight. All your heroes started the same place you did, at the beginning.
Weed 2: It's time to shut off the negative people in your life. Not everybody is going to understand your dreams, but that doesn't give them the right to keep taking one second away from the joy of yours.
Weed 3: Stop worrying about having the right gear. Do the best you can with what you've got. If there really is something you desperately need to help raise the bar on your images, but you can't afford it, then find a good rental house.
Weed 4: Stop thinking you're alone in your frustrations as a photographer and small business owner. Here's where getting involved in a local guild or PPA chapter is going to help. You need to be involved in the local network, not just know about it. Join whatever/whoever is in your community and start getting to know other photographers, as well as them getting to know you.
Weed 5: Take some time to think through your definition of success. Most of you are halfway there, but since you've only defined success in monetary terms, you have no idea how much you've accomplished just by being happy.
Weed 6: Get out from behind your computer...often! Your business is going to be built on relationships, and you won't get to know the people who can help you the most if you're at the computer all day. Scott Bourne and I have talked a lot over the years about "owning your zip code." That means getting out, knocking on doors and introducing yourself to all the business owners in your community.
Weed 7: Stop talking and listen. There's that old saying about having two ears and only one mouth, so you've got to listen twice as much as you talk.
You've got so much to be proud of, but you've got to take it one day at a time, keep procrastination to a minimum and keep working to build a stronger skill set. And, I guess this is the right place to remind you to stop thinking the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! (Sorry, just couldn't help it.)
Make it a great day everybody. Get control of those weeds!
If you're new to this series, Fast Food Friday has become a never-ending laundry list of things most of you need to work on. I started the series under the "fast food" umbrella because we're all used to the concept. Time is our most valuable commodity and grabbing a quick lunch is an all too common theme.
So, even though I think we need to take as long a break at lunch as we need, I'm sticking with the concept. This is a series of relatively short posts to help you fine tune your business and make 2018 a stronger year.
None of this is rocket science, but it does take a commitment, starting with never saying, "That's good enough!" NEVER compromise on the quality of anything in your business, or for that matter your life!
I thought it would be fun and useful to hit on the topic of social media a little bit. Even though past "blue plate specials" have included blogging and communication, so many of you could be more effective in the way you're using social media.
"Social Media" - two words that just a few years ago had absolutely no meaning to any of us. Today most of us have a love/hate relationship with it but done right the only "hate" you should feel is that you didn't get involved sooner! But, don't kid yourself, you've got to have a foundation for communication or at least a desire to maintain contact with people.
Twelve Tips to Help You Thrive in Social Media
There's isn't enough room in a post like this to talk about everything you should be doing, but let's hit on some great basics. Remember, I'm sharing ideas on tips for using social media for your business, not personal use.
Missed any of the past Fast Food Friday specials? There are 23 in the complete series and the SCU diner is still serving! Each special hits on a different aspect of your business. As the clock clicks down what's left in 2018, you've still got time to fine-tune your business and make the fourth quarter your best ever!
We want you to thrive, not just survive!
Intro by Skip Cohen
It's almost August and while technically it's still summer - all of you should be thinking about the Fall and getting ready for the fourth quarter's seasonality. I stumbled across this archived post from my good buddy Scott Bourne, and it's a topic and idea that just has no expiration date!
It takes me back to packaging studies in my Polaroid days. For example, we found that different colors created different impressions. Black and gold or black and silver were interpreted as higher quality and value than other color combinations. Certain combinations of pastels also created feelings of high value and had a stronger appeal to women than men. Today, aspects of that same logic apply to your website, blog, mailing pieces and brochures.
Competition is fierce, and you've got to make yourself stand out. Think about this example - You can buy the same Polo shirt at Macy's or Nordstroms, yet the attitude of the staff at Nordstroms is entirely different, along with the store layout, inventory and many of their policies. Now is the perfect time to take a long look at your business and decide - do you want to be Macy's or Nordstroms?
by Scott Bourne
One of the craziest, but most powerful things you can do to market your photography is take your existing marketing plan and pull it inside out. What do I mean by that? Simple. Take something that you've been doing with mixed results and put a new twist on it. Look at other industries OUTSIDE of photography. How does the car business handle that problem? What would a bakery do to solve that issue? How would a shoe store approach it? What do fast food chains do to make that work?
I love studying other business models. I love taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that from other verticals and throwing it into my photography mix.
Maybe it works - maybe it needs to be refined - maybe it fails. But if you are at least trying something new, you have a shot at improving. If you're always doing the same old thing and failing, well you know where that will take you - NOWHERE.
Try pulling things inside out and looking OUTSIDE the small world of photography. When I bought my first really nice car, I noticed that EVERYONE at the dealership, people who were lot boys and people who were upper management, despite their age and mine, called me sir. "Right away sir." Yes sir Mr. Bourne." "Great to see you at the dealership sir, how can we serve you today?"
Over the top? Nope. Not a bit. I was in my 30s and I started applying the lesson I learned there every time I dealt with a client. And they noticed. It wasn't the last thing I learned by studying high-end retail. I bought my first expensive watch in my 30s. Again, very polite, intelligent people. But this time there was a twist. They delivered the watch in the fanciest box and packaging I'd ever seen. Every time I opened the box the watch came in, I was a kid getting a Christmas gift. You see where I'm going with this right?
Study what other businesses do. Not just what other photo businesses do. Jump verticals. Change things up. Look at all the options and then innovate.
Skip and I are rooting for you.
The real fun of social media comes with those moments where the true "social" side comes into play. Meet two new friends, Julie and Todd Nichols from Boise, Idaho. Todd and I have exchanged a couple of Facebook IMs over the years, starting with a couple of WPPI questions shortly after I left the company. Earlier this month we caught up with each other on Facebook, which morphed into my favorite mode of communication, picking up the phone and calling them.
After wandering through their galleries, I loved a lot of their wedding images and put in a request for a guest post, and here we are! Julie pulled something together and it's the perfect topic. At a time when so many artists are struggling with business, Todd and Julie continue to build significant brand awareness and a strong client base. Why? Because they not only deliver but exceed expectations and have made themselves habit-forming!
Their clients feel special, as if they were Todd and Julie's only customers. In the guest post below, Julie's shared the not-so-secret ingredient of their success, but spend two minutes on the phone with either of them, and you'll understand the other elements - passion, pride, attitude and above all an energy in their spirit that's nonstop - they LOVE this stuff!
To see more of their work and get to know them, click on any of the three images with this post. And a BIG thanks to Julie for taking the time to join us on SCU with a guest post.
by Julie Nichols
How the client feels about themselves when they interact with us is as important as the product we deliver.
Photography is not a rational business, it’s an emotional business. It won't come as a surprise then that so much of a successful photography business has nothing to do with the actual technical aspect of taking a picture. I'm not discounting the value of knowing our camera and how to compose and use light to enhance our subject. Yes, those things are important, but it’s just as much about how our clients feel about themselves when they interact with us.
While creating beautiful imagery is what may first attract our potential client to us, it's everything that follows that grows our business. When a client reaches out to us it's a BIG deal, every time. We listen carefully to what they want, are afraid of, or what's causing them anxiety. Then we respond confidently as an expert empathetic problem solver. Our client wants to feel they can trust us to handle their situation, family, event, whatever it is...and they will pay more for "white glove" customer service, peace of mind and how we make them feel.
Here’s an example: We met a bride at a bridal show who followed up with us to set up a consult. She didn't show much enthusiasm or emotion when she visited us at the show. When she, her mother and sister showed up for the consult it was the same vibe - little enthusiasm or emotion. I wasn't feeling very optimistic about this person being our type of client.
As we proceeded to find out more about what was important for her, her mother and sister jumped in and mentioned her Grandmother who had recently passed away. The client then told us, with tears in her eyes, about a special piece of jewelry she wanted to include in her shoot that had been given to her by her Grandmother. When we responded with, "Oh my gosh, yes! Of course, Grandmother's are special - we would love to capture that for you!"
Her whole attitude changed. She felt understood and affirmed. She and her mother ended up booking our top collection and walking out hugging us, wiping tears away. It was about how we made them feel. Sure, they loved our imagery but the close for the sale happened when they saw WE understood how important the memory of their grandmother was in their images.
When we deliver top quality imagery in a manner that lets our clients know we adore them all the way through the process, we have done our job well and have a happy customer. This shows in the word-of-mouth referrals and our repeat clients.
Relationship building and trust are simple ingredients to incorporate into your business. It costs you nothing, but has a fabulous return on investment.
Fast Food Friday posts started as a way to help you isolate things you need to fine-tune your business and make 2018 one of your best years yet. We've covered a lot of different topics over the last 19 posts, but there are still a few more to go.
Whether you're new to the business or a veteran working to expand your skill set; diversify into a new specialty or experimenting with a new approach - confidence is a key.
Today's "blue-plate special" is the equivalent of the big buffet at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The entree is confidence with twenty-two sides to choose from.
While everyone can look like they're confident, this is an industry where you'll never be successful trying to fake it 'til you make it. The more you know and understand the process, whether it's capturing an image or a customer, the more success you'll have at exceeding client expectations.
This is an all-u-can-eat lunch today, so return to the buffet as many times as you need to!
Twenty-Two Ways to Build Confidence
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience
in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror.
I can take the next thing that comes along."
While this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt might seem a little over the top, the truth is, not having confidence can be a "horror." So the best way to beat it is to know every aspect of your business, and when something comes along that slows you down your network is there to help you through the challenge.
One of the biggest challenges with a lack of confidence comes from fear. The more experience you get, the less there is to be afraid of. Don't let fear get in your way. Get to know your gear, the craft and listen to your clients.
What you're afraid to do is a clear indication of the net thing need to do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Each week I've been sharing ideas on marketing and business in the hopes these topics will help you fine-tune those areas of your business needing a little attention.
I called this series "Fast Food Friday" because most of you are right-brain dominant artists, and need reminders on building your business in the form of fast, easy to implement ideas. And, whether you believe in left vs. right brain theories, the point doesn't change. You're artists, and you'd rather capture and create great images than deal with the operational side of your business.
This week summer officially kicked off. The busy season is back and in full swing, but that doesn't mean you can kick back and ignore marketing.
Unlike a lot of past blue plate specials, today's topic is the equivalent of one of those big Las Vegas-style all you can eat buffets. The topic is brand-building and it's the big picture for every Fast Food Friday special to date.
Building a strong brand and creating top of mind awareness for your business should always be your goal. It doesn't happen by accident, so I'm going to give you a fourteen things to think about and then fine-tune wherever you feel they're most appropriate. Remember you don't build your business and walk away - a strong brand is about continually fine-tuning and creating awareness.
Fourteen Ingredients to a Stronger Brand
Over the last several years I've written about virtually every aspect a photographer needs to pay attention to when it comes to building your brand. Brand awareness is all encompassing and about every aspect of your business. This is a reminder that you can't put all your eggs in one basket, or even two or three. For example, social media is essential, but just a Facebook page isn't enough.
Building your brand and marketing is about weaving a web around your target audience. It's about being everywhere they are. It really is that simplistic, at least in terms of establishing stronger reach.
There are fourteen action items on this list, and within each, there are probably a dozen subcategories. Just remember, they won't do you a bit of good if you can't walk the talk! If your skill set isn't up to par, you'll create more problems that will weaken the components of the strong brand you want to build!
Photography is one of those career fields where your education never stops. Keep working to raise the bar on your skill set and at the same time build your marketing strategy. They all go together!
Missed any of the past Fast Food Friday specials?
There's a lot of great content with each post covering another aspect of running a stronger business in photography. They're all just a click away.
And, if there's a topic you'd like to see on the "menu," let me know in the comment section below and we'll turn it into a future special!
It's Father's Day 2018, and it's also Sunday Morning Reflections time. Put the two together, and I'm having a hard time figuring out what to write about this morning, but I want to include my Dad. He passed away almost three years ago, but that doesn't change the love I have for him or all the great memories.
I talked Dad into writing two posts for me over the years, both having to do with business. He was 91 when he wrote the post below. As sophisticated as we all think we are with the way we communicate, social media, business practices, marketing and living in an era of almost instant fulfillment, nothing has changed regarding the fundamentals of good business: customer service, integrity, and a firm handshake.
My Dad was in commercial and industrial real estate in Ohio for many years, before he retired. Much of this post is based on his experiences in not only his own business but growing up in his father's business as well. This post is like a fine wine - it's getting better with age and what better time to share it again than on Father's Day.
I pulled his post out of the SCU archives, and as I reread it, it made me smile. Nothing has changed since Dad started out in business seventy+ years ago. And, seventy years from now success in business will still be firmly rooted in trust, integrity, and relationships.
Wishing all you Dads out there a terrific Father's Day, and time filled with the people most important in your life, the ones that make you smile and your heart skip a beat whenever they walk through the door. Go for those eleven-second hugs and don't forget that without Mom you'd never be a Dad.
And to my own Dad who's been my best buddy my entire life - I love ya Pop, and while I miss you, I know you're watching over us.
Happy Father's Day!
Visibility is a must for any pursuit. Call it what you like. It starts with a firm handshake, neat appearance and an ability to display integrity. That integrity is always enhanced by knowing the answers before the questions are even asked and that can only come from experience. All of this has to start somewhere...with YOU!
One of the biggest factors of success, for me, was the rapport with some of my competitors. With friendly competition, on many occasions we were of considerable help to each other.
Another must of success is visibility and the necessity of going public. You've got to be involved in your community. As personal contacts multiply, the rewards will come in the form of your expanding clientele and potential new customers.
Today you guys call it networking and it's everything from attending conventions and local events to social media. For me it was Exchange Club's monthly luncheons, business cards, a little advertising, even golf now and then, but there was and still is no substitute for word-of-mouth testimonials.
Then there's trust, another critical building block. The trust you build will be the result of the honesty and integrity you employ. It's all part of what drives word-of-mouth advertising, especially in a service based industry like photography. Always cherish that trust! In turn, don't forget that confidentiality is part of that trust. It's so important to retain confidentiality with every client.
Occasionally you may find as I did, competitors bragging about a deal they had just closed. I used to be able to sit down in a booth at the Kenny Kings Restaurant on just about any morning and hear salesmen bragging about the deals they'd put together. The fact was, the transactions had died, along with the confidentiality factor, leaving the vultures to play with the bones that were left!
Ralph Cohen, Founder and 1/2 the Creators of Skip Cohen!
Photo Credit: Cantrell Portrait Design
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.