“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind.”
by Skip Cohen
I'm sticking with my "clean up" theme until I run out of things to suggest. Too many of you never think about how the photographs you capture, especially portraits, might be of value later on.
How often have we all worked on something and, whether rushed or exhausted, said to ourselves, "That's good enough?" We've all done it, and maybe it's acceptable when you're fixing something at home, but when it comes to a client, only your best is good enough.
In 2016, Bob Coates shared one of his favorite portraits with me, "Randy," shown on the right. I hope you listen to the short podcast with the photograph, but here's the summary. Randy was struck by a car and died two to three weeks after capturing the images. Bob's portrait was one of the last photographs ever taken of him.
One more major example, and it's so timely following the anniversary of 9/11 this week. Remember the tragedy and the photographs posted as people searched for lost family members and friends. Because so many of the victims were relatively young, there were hundreds of professional portraits, usually bridal or college, even high school senior shots.
Throughout the industry, there are stories from professional photographers who captured the last images taken of a specific subject.
Here's my point - NEVER compromise on the quality of an image. Your clients trust you to capture the best photos, and you owe them your full attention. You never know how important today's photographs are going to be tomorrow!
by Skip Cohen
I'm sticking with the "clean up" theme with another short list of ideas - this time for your blog. While social media reach constantly changes, a good blog can still help you inspire your target audience. Like "Subliminal Man" on an old episode of SNL, it's the perfect time to plant the seeds of ideas for the holidays.
But a good blog has to be relatable for your readership. Here are a few tips to clean up the process:
With just two months until seasonality officially kicks off, now is the time for you to start getting your audience thinking about the great ideas you can share, bringing them together with your skillset as an artist.
by Skip Cohen
When the pandemic hit in 2020, and we had to hunker down, we all had to change how we were doing things. That was especially true with every business. Unless you worked for Zoom, revenue slowed down dramatically. Every manager had to look at what they could cut back on expenses and survive. The pandemic forced everyone to be more disciplined. So, what happened to the discipline?
It's mid-August, and fall seasonality is right around the corner. It's a relatively slow time of year with nothing particularly unique - no holidays, vacations ending, and kids returning to school. Labor Day is coming up, officially marking the end of the summer. It may be slow and a nondescript time of year, but it should be anything but slow for building a list of ideas to bring 2023 to a record-breaking close for your business.
Need help with ideas? Start with a call to your lab and just ask, "What's new?" From prints to albums to metal prints and even canvas - find something new and stop offering products that could put a rock to sleep. Let's raise the bar on your game! Even canvas is still a product most consumers haven't seen. We might be tired of canvas, but the public isn't.
Here's the bottom line - the forecast for your business as a photographer and artist couldn't be more predictable if you keep procrastinating. So, take a couple of hours and scribble out some plans to bring 2023 to a strong finish. You're the only one who can create the excitement!
And if you're stuck on ideas - you know where to find me.
Be a mountain or lean on one.
by Skip Cohen
I'm sticking with this series of short posts with ideas to help you build a stronger business. They're perfect to consider as we head into the weekend.
There's a great joke I heard once...Why does it take a million+ sperms to fertilize one egg?...none of them will ask for directions! Not asking for directions is a typical male stereotype, but in all honesty, it's not exclusive to men.
Here's my point - Even if you've only been in business a short time, you still have a network of people you've met with expertise in areas you're lacking. But so many of you struggle and never ask for help, advice, or an opinion beyond the person you see in the mirror.
One example from yours truly - years ago, I wanted to change something on my website. I figured I could cut and paste the HTML code and make the minor change within the parameters I wanted, and *poof* I'd have what I needed. I screwed it up so badly that a big part of my website crashed. I called my good buddy Scott Bourne with a cry for help - he made the change and then asked, "Why didn't you just call me in the first place?"
I'm not suggesting you give up your quest to be a DIY business owner; it's an admirable goal. But if you're light on the skills needed, ask for help! As sappy as it might sound, this industry is one giant family, and we all watch each other's backs. We're here to help each other, but nobody is a mind reader if you don't ask!
“Be strong enough to stand alone,
smart enough to know when you need help,
and brave enough to ask for it.”
Ziad K. Abdelnour
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
by Skip Cohen
It's Friday, and time for another idea to help you fine-tune your business. Unlike some of the past suggestions, today's really isn't a cleanup because so many of you have never done anything with the concept, to begin with. The idea? Partnerships!
Stop thinking you have to do everything alone! Whether working together on a direct mail piece or cross-promoting with another vendor in your community - partnerships reduce your cost and help expand your reach. The best thing about the concept is that you can start small and grow into more significant projects, and add more partners.
Here's the assignment for this weekend...Pay attention to the other companies involved with other clients you're working with. A wedding photographer will have the most extensive potential resources: florists, caterers, bridal gown companies, travel agents, bands, venues, tux shops, limo companies, etc. To start, you just need one partner, and it's a simple expansion of your reach with their name and link on a preferred vendor section on your website and you on theirs.
Once you start the foundation to refer business to each other, you've got lots of potential for a more interactive relationship. Cross-promoting is next in line with some sort of incentive when you buy services from both companies. From there, you might move into a direct mail piece and bring in a third partner.
For example, an oversized postcard mailer with three companies reduces each partner's expense by a third. In addition, combining the power of three databases expands each company's reach. Lastly, each partner in the mailing becomes an ambassador for the other companies participating.
It's almost the weekend - take the time to find at least one company to start working with!
PS And if you're stuck on the process - you know where to find me!
by Skip Cohen
It's Friday, and I'm continuing this series with short ideas to help you fine-tune and build a stronger business. And I always consider them a "clean up" theme because, like weeds in a garden, many of you have ignored these areas for so long that what-not-to-do has taken over the what-you-should-be-doing.
So, as you roll into the weekend, here's a simple idea to think about - let's make your website/blog a community resource.
Jay Conrad Levinson, known as the "Father of Guerilla Marketing," always listed community involvement as one of the critical things great marketers should do. People like buying products/services from companies they perceive as giving back to the community.
You need to be involved, and it can be anything from capturing images of an event to helping a non-profit filling ketchup and mustard bottles for the Boosters Club at Friday night games. It doesn't matter what you're doing, as long as you're giving back.
Publish a Community Calendar: Here's the twist, and it's perfect for your website and blog. Start publishing events of non-profits in your community. The fun of this is obviously self-serving - by sharing information and the links to upcoming fundraising events in the community, you're showing support for each association/group. You're setting yourself up as an ambassador of goodwill for each nonprofit. In addition, many of the events will give you the opportunity to photograph the activities and the participants. And while you don't have time to attend every fundraising event, each time you can work on one, you've got new content for a blog post!
Here's an easy place to start - check with the local Chamber of Commerce about events that are coming up. Next, take a few minutes and look at the non-profits in your community and their websites. Look at the Senior Center, Alzheimer's Association, Breast Cancer Awareness groups, Programs for Veterans, support for the homeless, United Way...and the list goes on and on. Make a list to start building content for your community calendar.
There's one more great little benefit - the more frequently you publish community events in a calendar, the closer you get to becoming a clearing house for community activities. Your calendar has the potential to become a resource for the community, all under the umbrella of you giving back.
You're looking for the community to be good to you - so you need to make sure you're being good to your community.
Your website is the center of your digital eco-system,
like a brick and mortar location, the experience matters once a customer enters,
just as much as the perception they have of you before they walk through the door.
by Skip Cohen
The whole idea behind this Friday series of cleanup suggestions is to give you things to think about and consider working on to build a stronger business.
Recently I was on a well-respected photographer's website. It was slow to load, and there was no logic in the content he was sharing. Plus, I had to mine for some of the most important information.
There are over 300 million Internet active households in the US. As of 2022, that was 92.0% of the population. And globally, Internet active households are over 5 billion! Your website is your most important piece of real estate, but you have to keep it fresh and make a visit to your site a great experience.
“Great web design without functionality is like a sports car with no engine.”
by Skip Cohen
We just got back from a change of command ceremony involving our son, who's moving on to a new assignment with the army. While I love the flexibility of being in the private sector, I realized something as I met many of his staff and associates - everybody knows what their job is and what's expected of them. There's an infrastructure of responsibility in place that's well-defined.
That got me thinking about each of us as entrepreneurs and sole proprietorships. Nothing is defined, and while it's great to be flexible and be able to pivot, does everybody in your company understand their role? Many of you are like me - a one-man band or one-person band if you want me to be more PC. Even if you're the only person in your company - have you defined what needs to be done with every customer?
The list goes on and on, but I want to keep with my Friday Clean Up Series, and this is an easy one for you to work on. The bottom line is easy - take the time to think about what it would take to make your business run like a well-oiled machine. And when something does go wrong, what do you have in place to resolve issues quickly?
Even flying solo as a business owner...it still takes a village!
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.