"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people
by Skip Cohen
At least once a year, I write the same post about the rules of engagement. My feeling for the need to share it, again and again, is always the result of a battle in a Facebook forum that went off-track. It would be so great if wannabe-trolls just had a button on their computer to push before posting a comment.
I'm one of four administrators in one of the larger Facebook forums. A couple of weeks ago, I got sucked into being a playground guard with "kids" who weren't playing nice. I commented on the thread and suggested they grow up, but we all know that isn't going to change their behavior.
So, I'm going back to a post from a few years back and suggesting we work just a little harder on what should be the rules of engagement. The original post was more about personal attacks on other photographers, but I want to expand it to Facebook and social media threads too. And, while most of you don't need to be reminded, give me hand with people who just don't get it.
And whether in social media or live in ANY industry:
I know this post doesn't apply to most of you, but feel free to share it with somebody who's forgotten! Or as my buddy, Levi Sim has said, "Act as if your grandmother's watching!"
I don't usually quote Queen Latifah, but I got a kick out of this quote. I guess it's a matter of your priorities:
A lot of people are crazy, cruel and negative. They got a little too much time on their hands to discuss everybody else. I have a limited amount of energy to blow in a day.
I'd rather read something that I like or watch a program I enjoy
or ride my damn motorcycle or throw back a couple of shots of tequila with my friends.
by Skip Cohen
In February last year, I had an idea - a weekly series to help you fine-tune your business and marketing skills. I chose to write them fresh each week to give you content that was based on things I had noticed during the previous week. Well, here we are eighteen months later, and I think I've only missed two to three Fridays in the series.
There's a never-ending flow of topics all thanks to interactions I have with so many of you throughout the week via the Internet, phone and here and there in person. Each post in the series has hit on a topic most of you need to pay more attention to.
As I've written many times in the past, as right-brain artists, so many of you ignore the operational and marketing side of the business. Well, there are no Success Fairies who are going to come into your business in the middle of the night and boost sales, clients, or revenue. It's strictly up to you! Take a scroll through all the past "blue-plate" specials from the SCU Diner, and you'll find ideas to help you thrive in 2019 and not just survive!
The chefs in the kitchen today have put together an incredibly filling lunch special, critical to your success - the care and feeding of your network!
I hate quoting politicians, but Hillary Clinton gets credit for the "It takes a village" line. Your network is one of your most valuable tools for success. Sadly, too many of you meet somebody, talk for a few minutes, exchange business cards or transmit data to each other and then *poof* you do nothing to keep in touch!
The Care and Feeding of Your Network
I know it sounds hokey, but the analogy here is no different than a plant in your home. It needs water, light, fertilizer, and a pot big enough so it can grow. Your network is no different. There are so many ways to keep in touch and invest the necessary time to build relationships.
Building relationships is your greatest marketing tool! And as Scott Stratten says in his book "UnMarketing," stop marketing and start engaging!
Now let's hit a few ideas to help you care for your network!
A strong network needs to be more than just a fully loaded roll-a-dex. (I admit it - I'm an old fart and proud of it! Right about now there are too many of you who don't know what a roll-a-dex is/was. Before cell phones and email addresses, it's how we kept track of everybody in our networks!)
I'm right back to where I started this post, "It takes a village!" So, give your village the support it needs and be there to help people in your network because they're going to your best resource when you need help!
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.
It's just a bad day, not a bad life!
It's Marketing Monday and a perfect time for a quick reminder about business, marketing, patience, and remembering the reset button!
The picture above is my Dad's wallet, or what was left of it. Although he passed away almost four years ago, the wallet sits on my bookshelf and is a constant reminder of the power we have to change directions. Here's the backstory:
Dad's caregiver didn't check his pants when doing a load of wash and put his wallet through a full cycle. I arrived at his place to take him out to lunch, and he was thoroughly aggravated. I got him calmed down with an easy virtually guaranteed solution - a minute in the microwave, and it would be as good as new! Well, you can see the results - it's a perfect example of a time when I over-promised and under-delivered!
But what happened next was the memory-maker...he started laughing, called me an idiot and let me know I was buying lunch! Sitting in the restaurant while waiting for our order, I ran next door to Macy's and bought him a new wallet - the crisis was over and a throwback memory was created that I'd never forget.
And, here's why I love this piece of family history in my office. We make mistakes all the time, but it's keeping a healthy perspective on the seriousness of the crime that allows us to hit the "reset button" and choose a new path. Obviously, some mistakes are tougher to resolve than others, but most of the wrong decisions we make were made with good intentions. When you find you've gone in the wrong direction; stop, hit the reset button, look at your choices, and head off down a new path.
There is no Photoshop fix for the mistakes we make in life. You can't undo a wrong choice with a click of a button, but what you can do is even better and more satisfying. You can try again with new insight and a better understanding of how to accomplish your goal, and if you're wrong still, the reset button is right there.
I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
I'm honored to have been a guest on Lyn Morton's EOS Photographer podcast last week.
He chose a topic near and dear to my heart - getting the most out of a conference. With ClickCon coming up as the next big show in the US, it's essential for you to have a plan if you're attending.
And if you can't join us in Chicago, Lyn and I talked about a long list of tips to make sure you're always getting the most bang for your buck at every workshop, conference or convention you attend.
To grow as an artist and a business owner, you need to build your network, skill set, and get the very most out of every class you choose at a conference. Having a plan guarantees you'll head home when the event is over with something more than just a lot of stories about hanging out with friends, seeing new equipment, etc.
If you're not registered for ClickCon yet, the link is below. Use "ccskip" in the discount box and save $50. Register through the banner below, and you'll also be helping Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. As a speaker affiliate I get a 10% commission on registrations through my link - well, I'm not keeping any of that, but sharing half with NILMDTS and the other half in a cash rebate right to the attendee right at the show!
And, follow Lyn on the EOS Photographer podcast. He's got a lot of depth in understanding and support for the photographic industry and always does a great job in his interviews!
by Skip Cohen
I'm still going strong on topics for this series! Every time I think I'm out of ideas, somebody asks a question in a Facebook forum, and it sparks a new post.
Remember, I started this series to plant ideas on things every photographer should be thinking about to build a stronger business. Most of you are right-brain creative types, and you hate thinking about the operational side of the business. Sadly, the things you often ignore are also the things you need to raise the bar from macaroni and cheese every day to taking the family out for a steak dinner!
Today's post is number sixty-one in the series, and it's a topic, so many of you need to think about - let's help you with your addiction for new gear!
Great gear is always a benefit, but without the skill set, a good camera will NOT make you an impressive artist! But while I'm going to talk about your need for more equipment - I'm more interested in giving you ideas on how to get what you need without screwing up your cash flow!
Stop the Madness!
Stop being a gear hound!
If you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time, then you know I always call it like it is. When it comes to gear, a great camera won't make you a great photographer any more than buying a Porsche makes you a race car driver! That means your skill set has to have priority over everything else. If you don't have the skill set, then you're not going to meet the mindset of each client. Any moron can get their first customer - the challenge is getting them to come back and to insist their friends check you out as well!
Okay - let's get to the point - ideas to help you get the equipment you need to build a stronger business!
Get to know your camera dealer! From cameras to lenses to lighting, the camera dealers are at the hub for all the manufacturers of the products they carry. This is all about "Relationship Building 101," and somebody at your local camera shop needs to be in your network!
Rent it first! Joe Buissink told a great story about a tilt/shift lens he thought he needed to make his work look different in his early days. Well, he bought it, and it tied up his cash. He barely used it, and eventually sold it for a loss.
Most of you know the essential gear you've got to have, but you get gear fever and go out and buy. That might be fine for the necessary equipment, but often you're tying up your cash flow and purchasing the more exotic equipment before you've really used it. Most of the retailers have a rental program, and often you can apply the rental cost to the purchase later on.
Shop for rebates! Don't buy anything these days without at least checking for seasonal rebates and promotions. If you don't immediately see a rebate or promotional program on whatever you're about to buy, start by checking with the manufacturer. Also, pay attention to professional services where a manufacturer might be offering additional discounts to its registered users.
Check out convention specials! A lot of exhibitors offer trade show specials, making it an ideal time to buy gear. Identify your needs before you hit a convention. I know it's tough, but do your best to stay out of the impulse purchase mode and stay focused on what you need - not want!
Consider used gear! From career direction changes to turning over gear because of new technology there's a lot of previously owned equipment available. It's worth keeping your eye out for some great deals. But, know what you're buying and who you're buying it from! You've also got some great used gear at the dealer level which often comes with a short term service warranty.
Lease it! On high ticket items, you don't need to always OWN it. Leasing can be incredibly affordable, give you the same tax benefits and allow you to "utilize someone else's assets without depleting yours!" That was the tagline for a leasing program we offered at Hasselblad over twenty years ago! Before you go to any convention, check your credit line for a commercial lease, so you hit the trade show floor knowing what you've got for financing if you need it.
Bring in a partner...or two! On some of the more expensive gear, consider sharing the cost with another photographer! For example, let's assume you want a large format printer. Why not buy it with another photographer or two and all of you share the use. I've written a lot about partnerships, and they apply to everything from gear to studio and office space. Share the cost and reduce the pain!
Know your reps! One of the biggest reasons to attend any convention is to build your network. For every piece of gear you own, you should also have met and talked with the rep at the manufacturer or vendor.
Going back to my Hasselblad days, it wasn't unusual for a photographer to need help on a project or want to try out a specific camera or lens. Each sales managers had a complete sample kit and would often assist photographers in the field. They were especially helpful in those moments where Murphy's Law took over, and somebody had an emergency over a weekend shoot, for example.
Having reliable gear is a necessity, but stay focused on building your skill set first and keep the expense on equipment to smart decisions.
Years ago Vincent Laforet spoke at Skip's Summer School. He talked about his early days and how often he didn't have the gear he needed. He asked the audience, "Do you know what you do when you don't have a long enough lens?" He answered almost immediately, "You move in closer!"
I know that's simplistic and it doesn't always work that way, but Vincent's point was simply it's your skills that will make you great not your gear!
At the same time, we're into Spring seasonality, and activity for many of you has picked up, you can never slow down looking for new business. So many of you forget that new business doesn't have to mean new clients. Today, you've got the most extensive set of marketing tools in the history of business, and they often combine new technology with some of the old tried and true relationship builders.
It's "Marketing Monday" and the perfect time to help you develop a list of things you should be doing all year long. This list is only meant to be a beginning and certainly isn't all-inclusive. But just maybe it will plant a seed or two to help you be more active in building your more revenue!
And, remember, as I've written dozens of time before - if your skill set sucks, finding clients and getting people to trust you means nothing. Any moron can get their first customer. The challenge is getting them to come back a second, third and fourth time, and tell all their friends. This is a word-of-mouth business, and nothing spreads faster than horror stories. However, if you've done an excellent job and exceeded client expectations, nothing has more influence than past clients talking about you and sharing your work.
"Profit in business comes from repeat customers,
customers that boast about your project or service and that bring friends with them."
W. Edwards Deming
Finding new business isn't rocket-science, but it does take work, time, patience and planning. The customers are out there, but you've got to make sure they know who you are, where you are, and how to find you!
Whether you're a pure beginner in the business of photography or a long time veteran, ClickCon is one of the next big conferences coming up in August, and you need to be there. I regularly write about the importance of building your skill set, networking and expanding your understanding of the craft. You need to attend every conference you possibly can. The video below will give you an idea of what it's all about and all in under one minute.
What the video doesn't share is the lineup of speakers; the forty-four vendors who are sponsors, and the timeliness of a midsummer program to help you recharge your battery. Look at the schedule for great conferences, and there's very little on the calendar between now and PPE in NYC in late October.
The ClickCon team made custom banners for each of the speakers at this year's conference. I'm going to be doing three programs, and just to keep attendees focused - a unique follow-up Q&A marketing program online a month after the conference.
How many programs have you attended, taken notes and then never done anything different? It happens to all of us, but a follow-up online get together is going to help you stay focused on marketing and building your business.
My first program is about starting a photography business; the second is about ideas to help photographers better price their products and finally "Midnight Madness" hitting all things under the marketing umbrella.
The list below is only a partial list of speakers with an anticipated sixty on the list for August. Click on any speaker below to link to the speaker page.
It's going to be an exciting conference. Looking forward to seeing you there.
What a kick!
Intro by Skip Cohen
My long-standing friendship with good buddy Scott Bourne goes back a lot of years and was founded on the respect I have for his business sense. There are a lot of things I do today, thanks to Scott's help, direction, and influence.
Today's post is perfect for this time of year as 2019 seasonality starts to take hold. It's one of the longest and most in-depth posts he's shared since helping me start SCU, and it's loaded with things to think about, especially the importance of being grateful for the career path you've chosen. I first published it in 2013, but there's no expiration date on wisdom and appreciation!
"Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes."
I love that sentence from one of his last paragraphs - we're all part of a fantastic industry, and your clients deserve nothing but the best. If your heart isn't in it, then take a break and figure out what's missing.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it.
by Scott Bourne
Zig Ziglar always used to say:
“Sales is not something you do TO someone. It’s something you do FOR someone.”
Zig honestly believed in his heart, that when we as salespeople (and if you’re a professional photographer - don’t kid yourself, you are (or need to be) a salesperson) were doing important work, folks sometimes needed a little push to get to yes. He knew in the end they’d be happy with what they bought.
I have studied that man’s thinking for 35 years and today I want to write a post about the thankful salesperson. It’s my homage to Zig. It’s also my second - to - the last post here at SCU and I want it to be a good one.
Now you may be wondering - “How the heck does being thankful connect to sales?” It’s a good question and my goal today is to answer it.
You see I believe if your heart is in the right place, i.e. you put your prospects’ needs ahead of your own and you sincerely believe in what you are selling, you can and should be thankful for the opportunity. Come on - how many people get to do a job where they are really helping people? It’s a great honor to be a high priest of memory protection. So with a hat tip to John Paul Caponigro (who turned me on to some of these quotes) here are some ways to be inspired enough to be a thankful salesperson.
Albert Schweitzer said:
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
For me, this has happened many times. And for some reason, when it DOES happen, it’s related to photography. I remember selling one of my first weddings. For some strange reason the bride’s mother really liked me. She said they moved their daughter’s wedding date so they could save up to hire ME to shoot the wedding. That spark in her - that happiness that she was going to have someone she believed in shoot her wedding left me very excited. My flame was indeed lit and I think I did a pretty darn good job at that wedding.
Shakti Gawain said:
“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally ‘count our blessings,’ give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.”
I hear many photographers lament the fact that they don’t have the best gear or that they wish they had the money for an assistant or a better studio or whatever. Gawain’s quote served as a reminder to me that some of us go through life missing out on the best stuff because we think we need something else. Yet the best “stuff” is only the “best” if it helps us achieve some human connection. When you make a portrait of someone and they place it on their mantle, for generations to come to see and enjoy, NOBODY is going to wonder whether you had the best camera that was available that day or what version of Photoshop you used or whether or not the equipment van you drive is the latest model. All they will note is the fine expression on their loved one and the memories THEY have of that subject. That’s plenty of motivation for me to be thankful for what I have and not worry about what I don’t.
None other than Albert Einstein said:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. I’ve been around the world with my camera. I’ve been toe-to-toe with Arctic Wolves, Coastal Brown Bears, Moose and Great American Bald Eagles. I’ve been mere inches from a wolf pup, a mountain lion cub and baby black bear. I’ve met and photographed famous rock stars, movie stars, politicians, race car drivers, beauty queens and plenty of spectacular regular “Joes.” And if you’d have asked me as a boy if I thought I’d have that kind of life, I would have said “Hell no.” I am the least among you yet I’ve been allowed to have all these experiences because of my camera. What a miracle. If you’re looking for miracles - take this approach to selling. It works.
Oprah Winfrey said:
“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
I’m not proud of every decision I’ve made. I didn’t always have it “good.” My parents beat me, (I probably deserved it,) I made lots of bad decisions as a young man, I’ve suffered serious health problems, I’ve crashed every kind of motorcycle and race car you can think of, and there’s been plenty of bad. Oprah’s quote reminded me that through it all, you have to take it all in - the good and the bad - to be a great story teller. You have to learn to be grateful for night to understand the beauty of daylight. When you can do that, your photography will absolutely, positively improve. Her quote led me to translate what she’s saying from a photographer’s point of view. Light illuminates - shadows define. Focus on the good things you can do with your photography and I am certain that you will find happiness and the business success that goes with it.
Denis Waitley said:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Believe it or not, I have come to learn that photography, practiced at its highest levels, is a very spiritual pursuit. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about spirituality. There is a difference. Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes. That transcends owning the coolest camera or the coolest anything. It’s a payday that the tax man can’t touch. It’s more valuable than money. But here’s the rub. If you are truly happy. I mean really, truly happy, then what ends up happening is that your sales skills increase. People want to do business with you more than ever. The money flows, not because you sought it. But because you did not. Master sales people are happy at their core. They are happy because they know the thing they are selling improves people’s lives. That knowledge is power and that power leads back to more happiness and more success. It’s a perfect circle. I hope you can find it.
I hope this lesson reaches some of you. I am grateful just to have the opportunity to share it with you because it has powerfully impacted my life.
Go out there and be thankful that you get to do this job. That you get to use your cameras to protect memories.
As always Skip and I are rooting for you.
Today's post makes fifty-three in the Fast Food Friday series and what a series it's become. Every day it seems there's another new challenge to write about, not to fill up space, but to get you thinking about things you could be doing differently to help build a stronger business. After all, that's what Fast Food Friday posts are all about - ideas to help make 2019 one of your very best years in business!
So many of you are right-brain creatives - you're artists with the drive to create, not run a business. At the same time, you know you need to pay more attention to the business, but technology and your creative genes keep pulling you away from the operational details.
Well, today's post is going to hit both your creative genes and your too often dormant business/operational genes, and it's all thanks to so many questions I got this past week regarding my upcoming ShutterFest programs.
The challenge has been photographers trying to decide what classes to sign up for during the two-day conference. ShutterFest has one of the most extensive and diverse program lineups in the industry, and so many attendees go into analysis paralysis when it comes time to make a choice on classes.
Growth Only Occurs Outside Your Comfort Zone!
Registration for ShutterFest has been open for months. However, the majority of attendees decided to attend months ago. At that point, everyone should have been thinking about where they need the most help in their skill set, marketing, workflow, etc.
The other night I got an IM from a photographer who wanted my opinion, "Should I take your class or ______?" As much as I understood her frustration at trying to decide, it's just not a question I could answer. Why not? Because, while I know from experience how good my programs are, I don't know her background, her skill set, how long she's been in business, the market she's in or what her weaknesses are?
All of you know what you do well. We all love the aspects of this business we do best. It's our comfort zone. When going to conventions, we naturally migrate to presentations about topics we know well. Rather than step outside our comfort zone, we take classes in areas we already know, looking for something we might have missed along the way.
Well, my headline says it all - you're only going to grow if you push yourself and step outside your comfort zone. You can't grow as an artist if you keep fine-tuning the same old skills. Here are a couple of easy examples:
The request I had the other night was from an artist trying to decide on my class which is ALL business and marketing versus a hands-on shooting class. Obviously the hands-on is going to be more fun, outside and with a group of photographers. My program is inside, a lecture and even though I pride myself on my presentation style and how painless I make the topic of building brand awareness, it's still a business program and outside the comfort zone for so many photographers. But...what good is creating the most magnificent images of your life if nobody knows who you are? What good are stunning images if you can't earn a decent living?
Here's one more example, so many wedding photographers need to take a course in macro photography. But, put the topic on the agenda at any photography convention, and you'll only see serious hobbyists or outdoor/wildlife photographers. Yet, having a better understanding of great macro work will help with all the details shots in a wedding album especially ring and hand shots, which are vital elements to tell the story.
You've got three quarters of the year ahead of you with so many educational opportunities for classes, videos, and posts online along with other conventions/conferences. At each one look for those programs that will help you where you need it the most. Step outside your comfort zone; expand your skill set with and without a camera in your hand and build a segment of your network with people having different skill sets from your own.
And to answer my earlier question, of what do you call the ability to create stunning images if you can't earn a decent living? A HOBBY!
When I started this series, it was all about short easy things photographers could do immediately to build a stronger business. Over the last year, it's grown into a lot more and has included some long-range planning along with the "low-hanging fruit" originally in my plan.
Today's blue-plate special from the SCU Diner is a little of both. Remember, most of you are right-brain creative types. You pay attention to the operational side of your business when forced, but overall you'd love to be out capturing images all day and once a week turn everything over to an assistant to handle! Sound familiar?
Well, whether you're right brain dominant or left, today's special is all about asking for help. I used to think it was more of a guy thing, like jokes about asking for directions, but it's an issue with too many of you, and gender has nothing to do with asking for help.
Before I can share a lengthy list of places you can find help in photography, it's important to recognize asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. Here's a great example:
Years ago my father was doing his best to take care of my mother who was fighting Alzheimer's. He developed some severe anger issues, and his doctor suggested a support group. At first, he wasn't interested, but he and I turned it into a weekly event and the more we went, the more Dad opened up and shared his pain. The Caregiver Resource Center with the Friendship Centers here in Sarasota changed our lives. More importantly, Dad changed his style of dealing with some of his pain. Keeping things to yourself and not sharing your problems was a trademark of his generation, but the support group helped him understand he wasn't alone and it was okay to ask for help.
So, let's kill the myth right now that needing help and asking for it, is a sign of weakness. It's not, but instead an example of strength and the passion for growing your business and skill set!
Finding Help When You Need It
"Be strong enough to stand along,
smart enough to know when you need help,
and brave enough to ask for it."
Almost a year ago I shared a Fast Food Friday post about asking for help. While I covered a little of what I'm sharing today, no one post can cover everything. In my previous post on the topic I talked about the various associations and guilds you need to be a part of. I also covered a little about blogs and conventions, but we're at the end of the first quarter of the year, the "slow season." NOW is the time, if you need help, to ask for it or search out the answers before business for 2019 starts to ramp up.
Whether in person, via phone or email, there are so many of us here to help, but we can't help if we don't know what you're dealing with and what your needs are. The bottom line is we're an industry historically known for helping each other. We watch each other's backs, and while now and then a troll rears it's ugly head, overall, as sappy as it sounds, we're a family.
Stop thinking you're alone in the frustrations of being an artist and small business owner. Ask for help when you need it. And as for me, I can't help you much with your technique, but I'm sure available to help with business and marketing questions. Even better, if I don't know the answer, there's somebody in my network who does.
It's Marketing Monday and technically the last week of the "slow season" because business starts to ramp up in April. This is your last week to procrastinate about cleaning up those corners of your business you've ignored for too long.
As a kid, I remember being told I couldn't go out to play with friends until I cleaned up my room. Later as an adult, I remember one of my dive buddies being told by his wife he couldn't go on a scuba trip until he cleaned his home office! Somebody reminding us to clean something up seems to follow us throughout life! LOL
Well, this morning it's my turn, reminding you that it's time to clean up your website, blog, Customer Service issues, your gear or maybe it's outside your office or studio and time to make sure your reservations for an upcoming conference are all set.
The list goes on and on, but here are some things to think about before business picks up substantially and you're running too fast to do maintenance.
No one single post can include everything, but without any hesitation, ALL of you have something you've put off doing to make your business stronger in 2019. Don't let the year start out with a flat tire! In the same way, you'd check everything out on your car if you were making a long road trip, do the same with your business.
And, at the risk of doing a little shameless self-promoting - I'm speaking at ShutterFest April 23 and 24 doing two programs. The first is a double and is going to cover all the ideas above, and more - it's all about low-hanging fruit. Many of the ideas I'll be sharing will be things you can do almost immediately to build a stronger business. The second is all about fine-tuning your blog and making it an asset to your business instead of a liability in your growing list of responsibilities as a small business owner.
If you get stuck trying to figure something out, you know where to find me, and I'm happy to help. We're all too close to our own businesses and sometimes it just takes another set of eyes!
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.
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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!
We've postponed the f64 Lunch Bunch for a few weeks. There's so much going on in everybody's lives right now in terms of help and education. However, we're all still here to help and just an email away.
And if you missed the May 6 lunch with Bobbi Lane and Tony Corbell - it's pretty amazing. The video is just a click away.
ClickCon 2020 Circle the Dates!!
The pandemic may have moved the dates for 2020 to August 10-13, 2021, but that's NOT slowing Team ClickCon down. Stay tuned for new programs online with ClickCon Nation! It all starts on August 11th.
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.