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?
The Internet has changed the way we share images. Mobile technology along with texting has shared the way we communicate. Put both vehicles together, and your target audience has the greatest selection of purchase options in the history of consumerism.
That makes one of the biggest challenges in marketing for photographers finding ways to make your work stand out from your competitors. While the Internet has made the world a smaller place, allowing us to communicate with other artists all over the world, from a consumer position it's made your world much larger.
In just the United States alone, Internet penetration is at 95% of American households!
When you take a hard look at the trends in the various photographic specialties under the portrait/social umbrella, the most significant changes have occurred in the high school senior market. A senior session is a lot different than when I was a kid. (Yes, this is that time of year when I drop in my high school senior shot, and my buddy Scott Bourne asks if Matthew Brady was the photographer! LOL)
An estimated 3.6 million students are graduating from high school this year in the U.S. And; they're graduating from approximately 37,000 public and private schools. If you're focused on the senior market in your community how are you going to make your work stand out?
The average consumer has access to thousands of photographers today, making it critical for you to build a strong brand in your community and within your niche. As a senior photographer, you've got two targets, Mom and the seniors themselves. Remember though, Mom still makes 98% of the purchase decisions to higher a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories.
So, when it comes to targeting Mom, I love the tools Marathon Press is giving you. For example, right now there's a special BOGO offer on Grad Cards. I ordered a Senior Grad Card Kit and from the packet in the top corner of the photograph below came 19 samples from their forty-five graduation card collection!
And, if you don't have a design idea in mind, check out the designs already in the pipeline to help you through the process. Plus, Marathon has a fantastic staff of experts, all dedicated to helping you set a standard with your clients that helps make you habit-forming. If you get stuck in the process, they're available to help you with the best customer service in the business!
Your greatest marketing tool as a photographer and small business owner is relationship building. It's a non-stop process all year long, but there are plenty of things to talk about, especially if you're target is the senior market. Marathon has so many of the tools you need to build a stronger business, and with a BOGO offer right now on Grad Cards, they're even helping you to be more profitable!
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.”
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.
I first wrote about this topic five years ago, but after following a thread in Facebook Wedding Photographers recently, it's time to bring it back. Yes, things have changed a lot over the years, but usually, when somebody makes a statement about how much things have changed, it's negative. It's made out of the frustration of things not being as easy as they used to be, and they always sound like the sky is falling!
Yes, things have changed in different areas: You have to work harder today to get through the noise, build brand awareness and establish your reputation. Technology, the Internet, social media have changed the way we market ourselves. New gear, pushing you to expand our skill set, is being introduced regularly. But at the same time, your reach is the strongest it's ever been and you have the most creative tools in the history of photography!
While certain aspects of photography have changed, the principles behind a successful business haven't moved an inch! A new photographer starting out today has the same challenges as if they started twenty years ago. The questions are the same...How do I close the sale? Should I advertise my prices? How do I get people to know I'm here? Then there are questions on insurance, promotions and the importance of never compromising on quality.
My point is, the foundation of a strong business as a photographer NEVER changes:
Last but no least, your work still requires a passionate eye, a great heart and a quest to always look for that decisive moment. Ansel Adams once said,
"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
And that's one more thing that hasn't changed - as a professional photographer you're still part of an incredible legacy of creative spirits like Ansel, Avedon, Scavullo, Karsh, Eddie Adams, Herb Ritts, Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, Dean Collins, Don Blair and Monte Zucker, just to name a few. They may have passed away, but the legacy they left behind hasn't changed. It might sometimes be challenged by technology, and even the economy, but it remains a powerful tribute to pride, quality, creativity and art.
So, that old quote still applies...as much as things change, some things never change!
It's Marketing Monday, and over the last few years, I've repeatedly written about using your own images for your holiday card, thank-you notes, and stationery. As professional photographers, you need to show your work at every opportunity, and nothing is easier than a great holiday card.
Because of an incorrect address in her files we got a pleasant surprise in today's mail from Sarah Petty. If there was an award for the best holiday card of the season this year, here's the presentation that would win hands-down. From the very first panel of this black and white fourteen-panel accordion style card to the last, it's a celebration of photography, family and Sarah's ability to walk the talk!
From the cover shot of her twin daughters, right through to her son and the two girls in 2018, Sarah's sharing her journey as a proud parent and Mom! Every page is worth savoring - beautiful photography combined with great expressions and Sarah's ability to tell the story.
I grabbed a few pages to share with you, just because it's so outstanding.
Sarah's sharing a seventeen-year body of work spotlighting her three kids. I can't think of a better way to remind people what she does best as a photographer, artist, and let's not forget Mom and parent! Her last page below brings everything together. I called and asked her for permission to share these images, and she sent me the pdf, but on the card I received she topped it off with a hand-written wish for a happy new year.
Sarah and her team are regularly sharing outstanding marketing tips to help you build a stronger business. Click on any of the images in the post to link to her Joy of Marketing blog. And, if she's teaching at any conference you're attending, run don't walk to grab a seat.
It's no good running a pig farm badly for thirty years while saying,
"Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer." By that time, pigs will be your style.
The other day in the Facebook Wedding Photographers Forum in commenting about a post that was up, a photographer responded with..." wedding photographers are considered the bottom feeders of the business." Yes, I'm taking it out of context, but it doesn't change the nature of the comment.
Having worked with professional photographers for the last 30+ years, I've got a lot of friends on the wedding side of the business. And, while I'll admit I consider photographing weddings one of the very toughest specialties in imaging, it's anything but filled with "bottom feeders." Sure, it's the easiest of the photographic specialties to break into, but that's also because it's got the highest demand with a relatively stable need of 2.5 million weddings each year, just in the US alone.
Wedding photographers, working on a day when Bambi Cantrell has described as, "Logic doesn't reign as king!" they have very little control over the event they've been hired to photograph. They work in some of the most difficult lighting situations, often with unreasonable time constraints and stress. Yet, many of them capture stunning images, tell incredible stories and create the first family heirloom of a new family!
However, what really bothered me was the way a comment like this can be perceived, and I went off searching through the SCU archives, because I know I wrote about being happy with your career choice several years ago. So, if you read parts of this post in 2015, my apologies, but it's too much on point not to share again!
On a fairly regular basis I'll hear a photographer comment about the things they don't like about their career choice. It's always the same tone as they look back and say something like, "I really wanted to get into fashion, but..."
No matter how long or short a time you've been in business, there's always the opportunity to change paths. Nothing has to be forever. And for those of you who are already rolling your eyes and saying, "That's easy for you to say," I know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm the guy who left a great job as President of Rangefinder/WPPI, because I was no longer happy in what I was doing. It wasn't easy, but had I stayed; it would have only been a matter of time until my heart just wasn't in it.
This year it will be ten years since I resigned from Rangefinder Publishing/WPPI and started my own company. It's been an amazing ride and continues to still have me jumping out of bed each day, smiling and filled with the curiosity of a kid on Christmas morning. Adapting isn't easy, but it's incredibly fulfilling. The industry is constantly changing; technology keeps expanding how we communicate and share images; and the world keeps getting smaller. I shared images in a spotlight post last week from Chad Pennington, who I caught up to while he was having lunch in Nigeria!
If you're unhappy with what you're shooting, then you owe it to yourself to identify what's missing. That applies to everything you do, including what's going on in your life. Find the time to stare into space and ponder the meaning of life.
What works best for me is to find a quiet place in the house. We've got this one chair in the living room that's incredibly comfortable. I'll typically get a glass of wine, put on some of my favorite music and kick back for an hour or more to think about a specific task or project. The key here is uninterrupted thought. I might even have a small notebook close by to write down some ideas. At some point, I'll have ideas for a solution, and that's where Sheila comes in.
You need a sounding board, and ideally, it needs to be somebody who knows you better than you do! This is about trust, understanding, and expression. Often, some of the ideas in my head are good, and other times they're horrible, but Sheila's insight helps me focus. This approach works for the significant challenges, as well as the small ones...the key here is being honest with yourself and living by that line from Shakespeare,
"To thine own self be true."
Remember, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
It's that time of year when, for most of you, things are relatively quiet. It's the slow season, but as I've already written numerous times before, that doesn't mean it has to be slow for you. Now is the time to be fine-tuning various aspects of your business. However, everything you're hoping to do in 2019 starts with your mindset.
There's a great one-liner I've shared before. While I'd love to take credit for it, I first heard it close to forty years ago from Ed Foreman, a terrific motivational speaker. I heard him speak back in my Polaroid days. I've quoted him easily a dozen times in the past in both live programs and posts.
"If I can see the world through my client's eyes, then I can sell my client what my client buys!"
So, before you continue to lay out the year ahead, plan your marketing strategy and start thinking about how you're going to grow your business, read that one-liner once more.
It goes a lot deeper than just putting yourself in their shoes. You've got to literally work to see things the way your clients do, and that includes their perception of you. It's all about building trust. It's about listening more than talking. It's about putting your mind's eye into high gear and visualizing how they want their images to look, and why they've come to you in the first place. You've got to sense their concerns together with their expectations and create products unique to them and express their personality, lifestyle, and passion.
When I interviewed Kirk Voclain many years ago for an article in PDN, he talked about the key to success in photographing high school seniors. It was all about talking with them and watching for the most natural expression when they hit a topic they loved. It was about creating an experience for them. I'm paraphrasing a little, but Kirk's comment really stuck with me:
"Skip, there are a lot of mediocre photographers out there who make a great living photographing seniors because they make the sessions fun!"
Think about that...now raise the bar and be more than just a mediocre photographer. Listen to your clients, see the world through their eyes and don't forget about "fun." "Fun" is that all too often lost word in business today and we all need to work to bring it back!
It might be January 7, but it really is the first full week of the new year.
There are too many of you walking around like deer at night caught in the headlights. You're still thinking 2018. You have projects to wrap up and orders from last year. You're still undecided on what conferences you're going to attend. And, while you've thought about things you want to accomplish, you're still in a procrastination mode on taking those first steps.
It's Marketing Monday, and while we all think of the first quarter as the slow season, that doesn't mean it has to be quiet for you. Take the time, starting today, and put together your laundry list for everything you've been procrastinating about in regards to your business for the new year.
Here's a list of common denominators, so many of you share:
Think about the new year ahead. You've got a choice to make - procrastinate and keep doing things the same old way you've done in the past or step up your game and fine-tune your business, so you're ready to handle anything that comes your way. It's not rocket science, but it does take time and patience. And, you've got to take things one step at a time; scratch them off the list and move on to the next area of business!
"The starting point of all achievement is desire!"
There's a thin line between passion and desire. You've all got the passion for the craft and the business, but I look at "desire" as being hungry enough to succeed.
Okay, so have you got the desire it takes?
And if you need help on some of the challenges - use the comment section on this post, send me an email address and I'll chase you down. There are so many of us in the industry willing to give you a hand. Let's make 2019 your best year ever!
Whenever the holiday falls on a Tuesday or later like it did this week, it's always a strange, yet terrific time of year. Many of you are still on vacation. Those of you who are back at work are recovering from the holiday surge in business, and might even have a few last minute orders and loose ends to wrap up.
Technically this is the first Fast Food Friday episode of the new year, but we're going to keep it light and give you a little time to kick back and chill. We're working on lots of great content for 2019, and a few new directions and guest "chefs" to join us in the kitchen of the SCU Diner.
Meanwhile, if you missed last week's wrap-up, it includes the links to all forty "blue-plate specials" in the SCU Diner, starting last February. From your website to your blog to relationship building and customer service, there's not very much we missed in ideas to help you build a stronger business. Take a scroll through last week's post with a click on the banner below. And, if you think there's something we missed, let us know!
As You Kick Back and Chill...
I started this series because so many of you are right-brained artists who need left-brain support. Your skill set depends on the creative juices flowing from the right side of your brain, but your survival as a business is thanks to the left side!
While some experts believe the right brain - left brain theory is a myth, it's still a great metaphor. At least in part, it explains the differences in discipline some of us have in various areas of business.
Click on the illustration on the left to connect to a website I stumbled across called "The Brain Made Simple." It's not my intention to turn today's post into a lesson on how our brain works, but this site does do a nice job of explaining the left and right side functions.
In the meantime next week brings business back into full swing, but you need a fully charged battery to hit the ground running and start building a solid foundation for the new year ahead. Take today and the weekend to kick back a little. Reflect on last year; catch up on your reading; relax and even enjoy a few of the past Fast Food Fridays in those areas where you need the most help.
Most important of all, get your mindset in line with your heart and your passion for the craft. You can't create images that tug on people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
It's the start of a new year and for many of you the beginning of the "slow season." However, that doesn't mean it should be slow for you. There's no question we all deserve a short break after the wonderful chaos December always brings, just don't get too comfortable.
What you do to fine-tune your business during the first quarter of the new year sets the stage for the rest of 2019. So, consider this a Marketing Monday post on a Wednesday with a few classic things for you to think about. In fact, just read the post and consider my suggestions - enjoy the rest of the week relaxing and cleaning up those loose ends from the holidays but consider those areas of low-hanging fruit easiest to start on next Monday.
Let's look at your website:
There you have it - Eight ideas to think about over the next few days, and I'm betting all of you have a few things on the list to fine-tune and help you raise the bar on your website in the new year!
And remember, "procrastination" is not a skill set!
In January of 2013, with a lot of help from my good buddy Scott Bourne, we launched Skip Cohen University. Over the last six years we've shared thousands of posts, videos, sound bites and podcasts about business, marketing, technique, events, and the list goes on and on.
When it comes to helping you build a stronger business, Fast Food Friday has become a personal favorite. Started last February, and coming up to year end, it seems like a fun and helpful idea to publish a complete review of everything on the SCU Diner's menu to date. If you think about it, it's mostly a FREE e-book to help you pick those areas where you need the most help.
Besides, it's December, and we're all used to watching repeats as our favorite television or streaming shows close a season and prepare us for the new one next year. Only with Fast Food Friday, there is no grand finale or a loaded with suspense cliff-hanger. In fact, how much of a cliff-hanger you want is up to you and finishing 2018 as you embark on a new year next week.
For SCU, we've got new projects and programs coming your way thanks to companies like Panasonic, Marathon Press, Tamron USA, ProfotoUS, PhotoShelter, ProPhotographerJourney.com and some great technique pieces from the SLR Lounge! And, adding to the fun is working with Chamira Young on new content ideas and a new podcast. We're co-hosts on two podcasts, Mind Your Own Business for Photofocus.com and Beyond Technique sponsored by PhotoShelter.
We're going to continue the fun in 2019. Remember "FUN?" It's one of those words too often lost under the stress of business today. Three letters that need to be part of your day, EVERY DAY, from the time you wake up to when you shut off the lights at night.
So, have fun with the forty "blue-plate" specials below. Click on any of the specials that best match your appetite, and Happy New Year from the SCU Diner!
Fast Food Fridays are brought to you by:
We're down to the wire on a list of special offers in photography. I don't want to waste time or space with a lot of text, so everything below is linked to the appropriate program and manufacturer. There are some terrific deals out there right now, but it's a narrow window, and the opportunities are closing fast.
From Profoto Ending December 31
Profoto's promotion on the incredible A1 ends on December 31, 2018. Just click on the banner below to link to the product and find out what all the buzz is about!
From Marathon Press Ending on December 31
Every professional photographer is looking for ways to increase their profitability and Marathon Press is always there with great promotions. Their Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO) offer on holiday cards ends on December 31. Here's your chance to cut your costs per card literally in half! And, even if you no longer need cards, check out their various products and programs, so you don't miss out next year!
From Tamron USA:
You've got two different promotions worth checking out. Their holiday savings program ends on January 5, and includes other lenses beyond what's shown below. And, registration for their VIP club, which is pretty remarkable. You've got until January 15 to register.
From the SLR Lounge
Photography is one of those skill sets where you can never slow down on your education. No matter how much you feel you know and understand about the craft, there will always be more to learn. With that education comes a need for a continuous supply of creativity as technology keeps pushing the envelope and giving you more tools and concepts to help you capture outstanding images! Just click on the banner below and check out SLR Lounge Premium. It's an annual membership fee providing outstanding content to help you stay on track to becoming the very best...all year long!
From Panasonic on LUMIX Cameras
,Just about every Mirrorless Monday a member of the LUMIX team has shared a great image and insight into their passion for photography. Right now Panasonic has some outstanding offers on a variety of LUMIX cameras and it's well worth the time to take a scroll through their online store. Just click on the banner below.
It's not really down to the wire, because PhotoShelter has this program ongoing but concerning timing, it's the perfect solution for so many of you. Just because we're headed into the slow season, doesn't mean it should be quiet for you.
NOW is the time to clean up your website and raise the bar on your presentation to your target audience. PhotoShelter makes it so easy and with downtime coming up for many of you, it's time to stop procrastinating and clean up your website and galleries!
All images copyright Bleu Cotton Photography
Over the last ten years, I've repeatedly shared Bleu and Alison Cotton's holiday card. Every year I get their card, laugh and think, "There's no way they'll top this one next year!" Well, a new year rolls around and *poof* they do it again.
Most of you are professional photographers, and while it's too late to do much for this year, it's perfect to think about your 2019 card. No professional photographer should ever be sending out a store-bought holiday card!
Create your own card using one of your images for the front, or put your creativity into staging a photograph like Bleu, Alison and Fisher do every year. Then, include a message that extends your wishes for the holidays with a tie-in to your URL, address, phone number - anything to link people back to what you do as an artist.
Just to add to the fun, the return address on this year's card was from the Marx Brothers! So, to one of my favorite families in photography, Happy Holidays and thanks for never slowing down on the creativity from year to year. And, to Fisher - thanks for feeding your parents all these creative ideas - I know they'd be boring without you! LOL
Here are a few below I've saved over the years and in fact, featured in previous blog posts.
Since February the SCU Diner has served up thirty-nine new blue-plate specials. The project started because there are too many of you who ignore the operational side of your business. You need a quick reminder now and then about operational components outside your gear. It's not because you don't care, but that you're artists, and more focused on capturing and creating the ultimate image than worrying about the business.
So, we started a series of relatively short tips to help you build a better biz, reach more clients and build lasting relationships rather than just purchases.
I've written about playing offense many times in the past, and since this is an active month for wrapping up the football season, it's a great way to look at the new year. Playing offense is always easier than fighting to build your livelihood as a photographer on defense. Even in business, we'd all rather carry the ball than chase it!
Today's special is a list of seven key things to think about in the year ahead. And, while you're hopefully buried in holiday orders right now, there's no excuse not to be ready to kick the year off right in January.
Building a Stronger Business
1) Marketing: Many of you already have ideas for 2019, but you haven't turned those mind's eye visions into reality. You should plan at least one consumer promotion a quarter. Start to think about things you could be doing to create some excitement for your business in the form of consumer/client-based promotions.
2) Conferences: What programs or workshops are you going to attend next year? Not every conference requires you to hit the road for a week of hotels, air travel, etc. Should you be at one of the big convention/trade shows? The year kicks off with IUSA in Atlanta, WPPI in Vegas, ShutterFest in St. Louis, Photoshop World in Orlando and Las Vegas, ClickCon in Chicago and PPE in NYC in the Fall. These are all big conferences - but don't forget a lot going on closer to home you should know about. Check on the dates for your own state or regional conference.
3) Credit Line: Establish a credit line with a leasing company - even if you're not buying anything right now! Here's where you can utilize somebody else's assets without depleting yours! You need the credit line in your back pocket so when you do need new gear; you're ready to obtain it without hitting the panic button because you don't have the funding. Your camera is your lifeline along with lenses, lights, printers, and your computer! Most of you are always flying without a net - having the ability to obtain gear on a lease will give you a little extra security when you need it most without tying up cash flow.
4) Insurance: Fifty percent of the wedding and event photographers in this country list themselves as part-time. That means many of you are playing Russian roulette with your home insurance policies, which generally don't cover equipment used for business purposes. Check with your insurance agent and make sure your gear is covered under your policy. Also, do you have indemnification insurance? Are you covered if you shoot a wedding and you lose the images before they're downloaded? PPA's insurance policy covering you in this area is outstanding.
5) Backup: Everyone talks about backing up their images and backup gear, but what about you? I wrote about it a few years ago - when I battled it out with the gallbladder from hell. I lost two solid weeks in my own business and had never thought about backup. Fortunately my good buddy, Scott Bourne stepped in to help.
There's a great line I read about safe driving on a billboard once: "Accidents only happen to other people. So, all you other people, watch out!" You need a person or two you trust to know the critical aspects of your business just in case you're caught in a bind.
6) Diversity in your skill set: What's your specialty? Are you a one trick pony or do you have a couple of other tricks up your sleeve? If business disappeared in the specialty you're strongest in, what's your game plan to still have a company?
7) Your Network: If you got a call to shoot the biggest wedding of the year and needed help, who's on your list to call? The same would go for all you commercial photographers - if you had a job more significant than anything you've ever done how would you do it?
I started this Fast Food Friday post talking about offense versus defense. It's also called being proactive rather than reactive. In a successful business you've got to cover both, but then Murphy jumps in with Murphy's Law, "If anything can go wrong it will!" Well, I'm a big fan of Murphy's second law - "Murphy was an optimist!"
Fast Food Fridays are brought to you by:
I'm not sure when Photographers Ignite got started, but I do know for several years it was one of my most favorite events at WPPI. Kevin Kubota made it all happen, and the concept couldn't be easier to understand.
Each speaker had five minutes to make their presentation with 20 slides that automatically advanced every 15 seconds. The speaker had no control over their slides except in the initial creation before submitting their program.
Think about the concept of having to be so concise that you had to cover all your key points in just five minutes! There were some stellar presentations, and this one from my buddy Scott Bourne was one of the best.
Well, it's Throwback Thursday and this video from seven years ago is a classic and the perfect reminder of so many different ideas to help you build a stronger better business. And, looking back there are some fun things to point out:
Scott continues to share a lot of wisdom to help you build a stronger business and raise the bar on your skill set. The best way to keep track of what he's doing is to follow him on Facebook. As the President of Skylum Software and a spokesman for Olympus, he's sharing outstanding content every day!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
I've written a lot about networking over the years and my good buddy, Scott Bourne has shared a lot of thoughts too. Parts of this post he first shared in 2013, but as this year comes to a close and so many of you plan which conventions you're going to be attending in 2019, the timing to remind you about the basics, couldn't be more relevant.
I know some of our points might seem almost childish, in the category of your mother, when you were a kid, reminding you to say "please" and "thank you." But, we live in a world of email and texts, and it's surprising how many of you have forgotten the art of conversation, the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact when you're talking to somebody. Scott hits on seven basics to help you launch each new friendship and "invitation" into your network in the right direction.
"Sometimes, idealistic people are put off with the whole business of networking
as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage.
But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven.
To succeed in this world you have to be known to people."
I want to add three more tips to Scott's conversation starters below because networking is at the very top of the list to why you should attend every possible convention!
Remember, successful networking is about your number one best marketing tool - building relationships!
by Scott Bourne
With the annual trade show and convention season almost upon us, it's never too early to start thinking about how you'll get the most out of each event. Here are some networking conversation starters and tips to get you going.
And remember as always, Skip and I are rooting for you.
Over the years I've shared a lot of great content thanks to my good buddy, Scott Bourne. In fact, his advice below was shared in a post a year ago and several years earlier as well. And, while things might have changed a little on a point or two, like Instagram being a potential player, etc. nothing has changed in the potential for you to build a better business.
I know how often all of you get caught up in the stress of building a stronger presence, and miss many of the easiest things you could be doing. In this terrific post from the SCU archives, Scott's sharing ten easy to afford marketing ideas to help you establish a stronger brand and business. I'm adding two more to the list as well.
The common denominator with all of these tips is the low or non-existent cost, but that doesn't mean they can happen by themselves. You've got to make the effort, and this is definitely a you-snooze-you-lose scenario.
And, if you're stuck and need help you know where to find us!
by Scott Bourne
Today I just have a quick hit list for those of you who have a small budget and need something to jumpstart your photo business.
1. Ask your local municipal government if you can use an old or abandoned building as a make shift art gallery and organize a display of your work and the work of other aspiring pros in the area.
2. Offer to do a free "how-to" make a portrait session for your local Chamber of Commerce or service organization such as Rotary.
3. Barter your products and services to help launch your business and get other local vendors familiar with what you do.
4. Offer to provide free framed prints to local children's clothing stores if you do kid's portraits - offer to provide free framed prints to local pet stores if you do pet photography - you get the idea.
5. Offer a print or portrait session or _____ as a prize for a charity auction.
6. Set up a Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook business page as well as a business Twitter account, etc.
7. Make "how-to" photography videos and post them on YouTube. (YouTube is being treated as much like a search engine as it is a place to see video.)
8. Make yourself indispensable to thought leaders in your segment of the photo industry.
9. Start a podcast.
10. Issue press releases every time you do something significant and hand deliver these to your local media.
One of the nicest compliments I've heard a few times over the years is, "How do you come up with so many topics to write about?"
It's really easy. My best source is listening to all of you. I'm continually reading comments and questions in the various forums. I spend a considerable amount of time reading emails and physically talking to photographers as much as I can. It's also one of the best reasons to attend a convention - talking with photographers and vendors about what's going on in the industry.
I know I wrote about this at least once in the past...I was part of the marketing department at Polaroid, back in the days when it was a real manufacturing company. I was the manager for the Photo Specialty Dealers; the camera stores represented $125 million of Polaroid's business. I put together a few pretty good marketing programs, but in all honesty, none of them were my ideas.
All I had to do was listen to our retailers and the sales reps in the field. I'd ask, "What would it take to double your Polaroid sales next year?" The floodgates would open and idea after idea was shared with me. Whether a sales rep, a camera store manager or the sales clerk behind the counter, they'd open up.
The ideas were endless. I'd hear comments about packaging, pricing, billing terms, advertising and even suggestions about bundling with other Polaroid accessories and other manufacturers. The answers were all out there, but so few people ever asked and almost nobody ever listened.
Well, it's Marketing Monday and reminding you to use your ears and eyes more is a perfect topic this time of year. Here are some great resources for you:
Here's the point...everybody I ask about how business has been each year, if they answer anything positive, they always add, "But I've never worked so hard in my life!" I've heard that same answer for the last ten years. Business is out there, but you've got to pay attention to what's missing in your market. You've got to promote yourself, be involved in community projects and make sure people know who you are.
It's not easy, but if you genuinely listen and pay attention to what's hot and what's not, you just might find a few of the answers you've been searching for.
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.