by Skip Cohen
Fast Food Friday is all about fine-tuning your business. I started the series thinking I'd run out of things to talk about in six months, but here I am over a year later with only a couple of missed Fridays. Each weekly suggestion hits a concept to help you build a stronger business, although now and then they also include ideas for a better life as a business owner.
For example, I missed last week's Fast Food Friday because I took my own advice and for the first time in many years, I went pretty much off the grid in New Mexico for ten days. I had a couple of goals, to recharge my battery and get quality time with my wife, Sheila. The only work I did was check email and share some previously prepared posts. I typically worked for just thirty minutes each morning before Sheila woke up, and it was just what I needed.
It's so crucial for you to recognize your limitations. We're all small business owners, and the stress can often seem non-stop. You've got to recognize the signs when you need a break BEFORE you crash and burn.
Today's "blue-plate" special in the SCU diner is very different from many of my past posts. It's about taking full advantage of technology, consumer trends, and communication. And, while it might seem like it's a long way from recharging your battery, today's topic can help you expand your reach. We're all results oriented, and mobile communication definitely needs to be a part of your arsenal of marketing tools!
The more successful you are in your marketing efforts, the less stress as a result of maintaining a more even flow in business and revenue.
One of My Most Favorite Mobile Apps
Over the last couple of months we've shared a lot of great information about the power of texting thanks to PhotoTexting.com. But, there are still so many of you who don't understand all the benefits. So, I thought I'd share how I'm using one of their apps.
Text the word "speaker" to 888-981-6118
Sending the text message I've created to my PhotoTexting.com 800 line you'll get back a short message from me with a link to a mini-mobile brochure I built about SkipCohenUniversity. I've included a couple of SCU highlights, along with my upcoming programs at ClickCon in August.
When I speak at ClickCon, I'll be adding the highlights and links from each presentation. This will give attendees the ability to kick back and listen without worrying about taking notes during my presentations. Plus, I can easily give them live links to other material to help them grow a stronger business.
Now, think about your own clients and your target audience. The power of texting is growing at an incredible rate. If you're looking to grow your business and stimulate more sales, it's an incredible way to keep in touch, present new offers, demonstrate customer appreciation, and maintain top-of-mind awareness with your clients.
Remember, 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive. And, while I know some of you are skeptical about the concept, done right, this can be an incredible way to keep in touch with your clients and reinforce your very strongest marketing tool, your ability to be a relationship builder.
If you haven't checked it out already, visit the PhotoTexting website with a click on the banner below. It's a great opportunity to learn how to build a stronger marketing presence, build more relationships, and take full advantage of the ever-changing world of communication. And, if you're working to build a stronger reputation within the senior market, you're already working with a target audience well in-tune with the concept of texting!
by Skip Cohen
Fast Food Fridays are always about things you can do to fine-tune your marketing and business skills. They're not always short and easy to implement, but they are ALWAYS essential to help you build a stronger business and presence.
I started this series because, except for doctors, photographers are the second worst business group on the planet. Relax, it's not because you don't care, it's because most of you are right-brain creative types. Your passion is in the capture and creation of the image, not in the operational side of running a business.
So, it's been over a year ago, and every time I think I'm out of things to write about, something new comes up. This week I stumbled into a series of my own mistakes in a blog post that could have been easily avoided. Then, I was reading a post from a good friend on Facebook with so many errors it made me look like a Rhodes Scholar!
Tools to Look Smarter Than You Really Are!
I had a challenge this week that left me feeling like the old style shot of a kid in a dunce hat in school. Obviously, that doesn't happen anymore, but maybe for a few of us, it should!
Here's my short backstory: I published a post and then went back over it for the next two days as people found typos I missed. At the same time this was going on, a good friend published a lengthy post on Facebook that had so many mistakes, it was almost unreadable.
I write all day every day. It's my job, so it's even more embarrassing when I make easy to avoid mistakes. However, most of you are NOT writers, so while I've touched on some of this in past posts, it's time to hit the topic again. Here are some things to help you get through the challenges of writing when you'd rather be behind the camera than your computer!
And remember - there are no erasers on the Internet! Never publish anything you don't want the whole world to read!
by Skip Cohen
If we took all the weekly Fast Food Friday specials and put them in a menu format, we'd have more pages than the Cheesecake Factory! And, every week, when I think we're finally out of things to talk about something new comes along worth discussing.
As always, each "blue-plate" special is meant to plant a seed about how to strengthen your business and your brand. We've covered ideas to fine-tune your blog, website, customer relations and the list goes on and on with so many ideas to help you make 2019 one of your best years in business.
Today's post goes in a different direction, but I'm betting it's a topic that sadly too many of you can relate to. Let's get rid of the "Negators" in our life. Just in case you don't understand how I'm using the word, it's my favorite word for all those people who tell us why we can't or shouldn't do something! They seem to live for the opportunity to wait for you to fail so they can proclaim they saw it coming!
Learn to Ignore the NEGATORS!
"Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice!"
Photography is an art form and so often misunderstood especially by family members and friends. They don’t understand your passion. They assume you’re going to starve in the process. They may never have seen your work and question whether or not you’re good enough. They don’t understand why you can’t just go out and get a “real job”! Sound familiar?
Scott Bourne and I, on the old GoingPro podcasts, talked a lot about surrounding yourself with people who have positive attitudes. You need to block out the “Negators.” No, it’s not out of Greek mythology, but it should be. Negators are people who are so unhappy in their own lives; their only joy in life is screwing with yours!
The result is most often serious damage to your self-confidence. So, let’s come up with a few things to help you stay focused, pun intended and give you a little reinforcement. You know how to focus your camera, but do you know how to hold the focus on your career path?
“Even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still moving forward!”
“If you wait for all the lights to be green, you’ll never get started on your journey!”
It’s May and we're back into the "busy season" and business is picking up everywhere. You've got the best part of the year ahead of you. It's time to really dig into your journey. And if you need a little help from one of the industry's biggest cheerleaders - you know where to find me!
Thanks to so many of you, what started as a short weekly feature of ideas to help you run a stronger business is now well into its second year. And, every time I think I'm out of ideas to share, a new one comes along.
Remember why I started Fast Food Friday - most of you are right-brain creatives and you don't take the time to pay attention to the operational side of your business. Early "blue-plate specials" at the SCU diner were fundamental building blocks for your business. However, over the last few months, we've shared some ideas that aren't always fast and easy to do, but rewarding, always aimed at helping you build a stronger business.
Today's is a little of both - it's an idea to help you build stronger relationships but at the same time pure fun in the benefit of establishing stronger friendships.
In photography, we always talk about how the Internet changed everything, especially the way people share pictures and video. It’s made the world a smaller place for all of us, and we’re able to keep in touch with old and new friends alike.
But, today's Fast Food Friday special isn’t as much about the Internet and social media as it is thanks to social media, with some suggestions on how to make your life/business more productive!
Putting the "Social" in Social Media
Let's start with the backstory:
Every morning I share an inspiring quote usually about business, success, etc. Over a year ago I shared a quote by Shep Hyken a customer service and experience expert, author and speaker. He’s a NY Times best-selling author and one of the leading experts on the importance of customer service.
A few minutes later he retweeted my quote, and I was surprised. It’s not very often any of my quotes are noticed by the authors themselves. And here’s where social media stepped aside and opened the door for good old conventional communication.
I picked up the phone and called him to say thanks. We probably talked about customer service for half an hour. That led to Shep being a guest with Chamira Young and me on the Mind Your Own Business podcast, and a couple of months later I was a guest on his podcast.
Since then we’ve talked a few times on the phone, shared a little content and yesterday grabbed breakfast together before Sheila, and I hit the airport in St. Louis to return from ShutterFest.
And that brings me right to the point of this morning’s post – social media is an incredible tool to communicate, gather information and stay in touch, but it’s also a gateway to something far better. Social media is one dimensional; phone conversations I could argue are two, but meeting somebody you admire and getting time in face to face is three dimensional and a real building block in relationship building.
ShutterFest was great, but Sheila and I grabbing a quick breakfast with Shep and Cindy Hyken topped off the trip like a great dessert after a good dinner.
I read an anonymous quote about cyberspace recently:
There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met!
Here are a few easy tips to help you expand those cyberspace relationships:
Use your social media reach to build your network and expand your abilities to communicate, but don’t miss the opportunities to connect with people you’ve only met in cyberspace.
Are you interested in the very best customer service blog in business? Check out Shep's blog. It's always packed solid with excellent content to help you raise the bar on your skill set in service. Click on the cartoons below to link to a couple of my favorites from his archives.
You know how to focus your camera, but are you doing everything you can to focus on your business?
This is a very different Fast Food Friday because it includes a guest post from my Dad, loaded with wisdom. I've shared it before, but so many of you are new to the SCU blog, and there's a backstory about my timing to share this with you today.
With ShutterFest starting next week, over the last two weeks I've had a lot of interaction with many of the attendees. In almost every conversation regardless of whether it was on the phone, texting or through an IM, there's been an undertone of frustration, confusion and a lot of self-doubts. I can't gauge the seriousness in just these short communications, but while the reason for contacting me has been trying to decide what classes to take, for the most part, many photographers seem worried about their speed of success. In so many instances they're looking at everybody around them and feeling like their growth hasn't been as fast.
Ten years ago Michele Celentano got up in front of a group of new photographers and said, "Twenty years ago I was right where you are - wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" Everyone laughed, relaxed and then she showed some of the worst bridal images I've ever seen, all from her first wedding!
There isn't a respected and successful photographer in this industry who didn't start out at the beginning, with little or no experience. Everyone has had moments of self-doubt, frustration, concern, but the low spots are always followed by growth spurts and a few more rungs up the ladder towards success.
So, with a little help from my Dad today here's what many of you need to think about:
"Focus on what you want to become, NOT where you are today."
"Just watch the left front fender!"
I have been happily retired for many years, and unemployed for almost twenty. I am not a plagiarist, but I must quote my father who spent the last months of his life writing advice to his children:
“Conduct your business in an upright manner and remember, the most important thing in one’s life is to be honest with one’s self. Maintain the high standard and dignity that your business requires. Do not go into deals hastily and be visible in your business as much of the time as is possible. If you take time to play, do it away from your business, because your livelihood needs all the attention you can give to it.”
Early on, I concluded that the best testimonials came from my many friendly competitors. We didn’t really compete with each other, in the true sense. True, we were in the same field of endeavor, but we all knew we were there to help each other. Happily, the “tough competition” fell by the wayside.
I remember giving Skip driving lessons and I told him, “Watch the left front fender…..the rest will take care of itself!” I’ve found this is really true of everything in life.
An old axiom says, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.” That is all part of reputation-building. I found that, sadly, in the field of real estate, truth is hard to come by for many. In our case, it was a major building block in the reputation which we enjoyed, and helped us to thwart the competition.
Goodwill is all of the above, plus a lot of caring for your clients as well as your competitors. If life is a give-and-take situation, giving is the more important of the two. The taking will come with time and be far more appreciative. Just remember – you heard it here!
Ralph Cohen, Founder and 1/2 the creators of Skip Cohen!
Note: My dad passed away at 93 almost four years ago, but he's still hanging out around me and will always be my best buddy! Looking back I'm so glad I talked him into writing a couple of posts for me.
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!
It's hard to believe we've been able to share a new Fast Food Friday almost every week since last February! And, while it started as a way to share quick ideas to help you raise the bar on your business, today's blue-plate special is a lot more than just "fast food."
Today is a full entree, but it's also an opportunity for you to change one aspect of your business - how you communicate with your customers.
Just like the Internet changed the way we share photographs, our phones have changed the way we communicate. We're all texting more and more. I'm using text messaging all the time. From our local CVS Pharmacy to dinner reservations to updated airline information when we're traveling, texting is fast becoming one of my most efficient methods of communication.
Why? Because it's fast, and when done right I have instant fulfillment to my questions, along with a visual copy to refer to later on if needed.
Texting is here to stay, but sadly, so few of you understand the benefits and the many things you can do to engage customers faster, improve customer service and establish an ongoing system for demonstrating customer appreciation.
Five Things that STOP Potential Clients from Making Contact
In the last few weeks I've been introducing you to Phototexting.com, a new SCU partner. I'm excited about what they offer and in fact, I'm using one of their applications myself when teaching/speaking. While they're an incredible developer of marketing apps for photographers, they're really a communications company and they're changing the lives of business owners every day.
I "borrowed" the five points below from their website introduction to share in today's Fast Food Friday, the top five things that stop potential paying clients from contacting your business.
1. Today's consumers do not like email and will avoid filling out forms. Solution: Potential customers may not be ready to engage in a personal call with you, but they will text you. The option to text your business phone number is faster, easier, and preferred by consumers. Texting starts more conversations, more conversations means more bookings.
2. Consumers want answers to their questions NOW. Solution: Answering inquiries instantly is expected and offers great customer service. With PHOTOtexting Text Chat, you are notified instantly that you have a business text and you can respond immediately from your phone, from anywhere.
3. Consumers dislike waiting for additional company information they're promised. Solution: When a lead is asking for more information about your pricing or services, they are close to making a buying decision. PHOTOtexting provides you unlimited smart apps of all your services that you can instantly send to their phone.
4. Consumers appreciate follow up and will respond. Solution: Once a consumer contacts you, they are automatically added to your company mobile list. This makes it easy to send automated alerts and promotions to consumers, keeping them updated and engaged with your company.
5. Consumers want a deal. Solution: Let's face it, everybody wants a deal. A simple added value can move a potential customer closer to booking your business. Need a spike in your business? Send out a text blast alert or promotion to all of your leads with one touch.
I know there are plenty of skeptics out there, but here's a statistic I shared in a post a few weeks ago: 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.
Check out four of my favorite ways to use PhotoTexting.com and test drive the process yourself with a text to the number below.
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 been just over a year since starting Fast Food Friday. Every time I think I'm out of things to write about something else comes along. While this might seem relatively minor to some of you, I'm floored by how bad many of you handle phone calls, both making them and receiving them.
Remember, this series is all about ideas to help you build a stronger brand and business, and under the umbrella of Customer Service is good old phone etiquette. That makes today's blue-plate special so crucial to contributing to your reputation. And, it takes so little to create a phone-style that's warm, inviting and encouraging to your clients.
I love searching for statistics on topics I write about, but when it comes to asking Google how many households have phone service the number is off the charts. If you look at my own home, there are five lines...my cell, Sheila's, my office landline, our home line, and my 800 text line. And, while I'm getting to be a dinosaur with two landlines, the cost is next to nothing, because it's part of my service for Internet and TV and I NEVER lose a call or message.
The Art of Talking on the Phone
The secret of success is to treat all customers like your world revolves around them.
How you handle yourself over the phone is at the top of the list of critical marketing tools. At a time when email and texting communications drive the world, a live call is still at the top of relationship building techniques in business!
There was a time when "Ma Bell" used to do classes for business clients on phone etiquette. I remember being sent to a workshop in my Customer Service days at Polaroid and thinking how stupid it was to suggest I didn't have the skill set to answer the phone. But it wasn't about answering the phone; it was how to use the phone as a customer service tool.
As I look back on it today, it was really about how to have a conversation - so, the same way you carry yourself with somebody face to face, is a foundation for how you communicate on the phone. This is just as much about Customer Service as it is verbal communication.
Recently I had a challenge with American Express regarding an offer for a benefit I thought I already had. It took me three transfers before I got the right department and an expert capable of answering my question. Plus, my call was answered offshore and only one of the four people I spoke with actually sounded sincere when empathizing with my complaint. By that time I got to the last person, I was so tired of being handed off, I was rude, and it really wasn't the fault of the rep, but the Amex system.
It's the "slow season" and the perfect time to take on a few projects to strengthen your business.
"The greatest technology in the world hasn't replaced the ultimate relationship building tool
between a customer and a business...the human touch!"
Looking for more great reminders on Customer Service overall, check out Shep Hyken's blog. He's always sharing ideas on how to exceed client expectations!
Fast Food Fridays are all about ideas to help you build a stronger more effective business model and often increase brand awareness. I started the series because so many of you are right-brained creative types with little interest in the operational side of your business. Plus, because you're business owners and struggling to find balance in your life between all the different hats you wear, Fast Food Friday posts hopefully help you focus on various aspects of your life other than your subjects. There is no auto-focus button when it comes to life.
Last week I wrote about the importance of getting back to basics, your skill set. The greatest marketing programs in the world won't make up for poor quality images that NEVER meet your clients' expectations, let alone exceed them!
I want to stay on a similar theme. Today's "blue-plate" special is about ways recharging your battery! It's a key ingredient in everybody's fight to find balance and stay focused on your priorities. And, the only key ingredients are time and the discipline to recognize when you need a break.
Is it time for you to take a short break?
Recently I noticed a little burn-out syndrome starting to creep into my life. I think it began with the grief of losing Molly the Wonder Dog, but it continued with some long flights on our WPPI trip, followed by not getting enough sleep and allergy season kicking in here in south Florida. Put all of that together, and you've got the perfect ingredients for a little apathy and a lack of enthusiasm and at times, even creativity.
Too often we deny our lack of energy. For me, I was going through all the motions and getting everything I needed to do done, but there was no sizzle. Life was like a can of soda left open overnight - it had color, flavor but no fizz! Well, you need fizz!
Here's how I snapped out of it, and it's hardly rocket science!
The first step is to recognize there's a change going on. I realized l was slowing down in my passion for the craft. I was going through all the motions but wasn't having fun. "Fun" is one of the most important words in business today and it's often lost underneath all the baggage that stress drops on your doorstep.
Second, is taking the time to do something to change what you're going through. Again, it's hardly scientific but does require a plan of attack. For me, it's often as simple as just unplugging and staying out of my office, off email, and removing myself from the work environment. I needed to go off-the-grid for a day or two. If something urgent had come up, I was available, but overall I needed to change my environment.
Third - do something you love. Often snapping back to your passionate self is as easy as going out and shooting for an afternoon on your own. Other times it takes good friends, people in your network who know you, understand what drives your passion and are just fun to be with.
For me this week it was both. I needed to grab a camera and change my environment, and Suzette Allen and Jonny Yoshinaga were here for a couple of days of their vacation. We rented a boat and headed out on the inland waterway with a ton of Panasonic LUMIX gear.
Everyone's needs are different when it comes to getting out of a rut, but the key starts with recognizing you're in one. I've shared this thought so many times in the past, but you can't create images that tug at people's heart-strings if your own heart isn't in it. And, it's okay when that happens - as a small business owner and artist you're dealing with a lot of variables, and many of them outside of your control. So, learn to recognize when you need to take a break and then follow-through with recharging your battery.
On the airlines in the safety pitch before every flight they always tell us, ..." in the unlikely event of a change in cabin pressure, put your mask on first before you help others." Well, it's no different in business, and you've got to take care of yourself before you can effectively get back to helping your clients and associates.
Most important of all remember one of my favorite quotes:
"It's just a bad day - not a bad life!"
Just over a year ago I started this series. At the time I thought I'd go about 15-20 topics and then move on to something else, but the more I shared, the more I realized the concepts to help you build a stronger business are almost endless.
Fast Food Fridays, are most often short posts to help you focus, pun intended, on more than just your subjects. Most of you are right-brain creative types, and you hate the business side of photography. You want to capture, create and process and then move on to the next client or project. Well, today's Fast Food Friday while it might be relatively short, is long on work - it's about building your skill set.
Today I'm hitting on the basics, which should have been the very first Fast Food Friday on the menu in the SCU Diner! There are no shortcuts to becoming a great artist. While anybody can get their first client, it's all the others that build a business. Even great marketing and being fun to work with won't do a thing for a new artist if the skill set isn't up to par. You've got have the ability to capture beautiful photographs that keep your clients coming back for more and build trust in your skills as an artist.
You've got to learn the rules BEFORE you have the right to break them!
After forty-seven previous posts on the topic of building a stronger business in photography, I'm embarrassed to take you back to what should have been the very beginning, and your very first step in becoming a professional - YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND PHOTOGRAPHY!
And I'm betting at least half of you who are rolling your eyes right now are guilty of NOT understanding enough about the craft itself. Anybody can grab a shot with a digital camera today. What makes you a pro is understanding how to get the best image, right out of the can, along with what to do when things don't go as planned.
I fell in love with scuba diving in the early '90s. The trick to being a good diver isn't knowing how to dive. Diving itself is easy. The challenge is what to do when something goes wrong. You have to learn to think, not to panic, utilize backup gear and stay close to your buddy.
Being a professional photographer is no different. You need to know what to do when a camera doesn't work. You need to understand lighting and know what to do when a flash misfires. You need to have a network, just like a buddy on a dive trip, to help if your gear's stolen, you drop a lens or an unforeseen event keeps you "on the bench."
Most important of all, again like diving, you need to be efficient. On my very first dive after getting certified, I used up all my air chasing an angelfish for a photograph. In the process, my tank went dry, but my buddy was close by, and I came up on his second regulator. Hey, it was stupid, and I was a rookie - but I never did that again!
Well, new photographers are no different. I’m so tired of hearing young photographers say, “No problem. I’ll fix it in Photoshop later!” You’re kidding yourself, and even worse you’re losing credibility with potential clients! You need to understand the basics, exposure, composition, output and then you can fool around with Photoshop.
Shooting mediocre images and thinking you'll clean them up later is the equivalent of me sucking down air and being an inefficient diver. If you’re spending time cleaning up images, you’re losing valuable time you should be marketing yourself.
Being a successful photographer is all about building relationships and trust with your clients. If you don’t win them over by exceeding their expectations, you’ll never grow your business. They need to see images better than “Uncle Harry’s.”
One easy test: Look at your most recent images. Were they outstanding? Would you hire yourself? If you saw some of your photographs in a gallery would you look at the price tag and consider buying a print or move on to another artist?
And even though today's blue plate special should have been on the menu a year ago, offering it today makes another great point. Technology is continually changing, and today you've got the most number of creative tools in the almost 200-year history of photography. So, staying on top of trends and new techniques is an ongoing process, and continuing education never slows down - so, even if you thought your skill set was perfect a year ago, the game changes every day. You know how to focus on your subjects, but how current are you on your skills?
There are no shortcuts to being a success as a photographer. You need to always keep in mind the importance of understand all the basics. Make sure your foundation as an accomplished artist is strong enough so you can thrive, not just survive!
When I started this series I anticipated doing a dozen or so posts and running out of steam, but this is the 47th installment, and I've still got a list of more to go. I've shared my goal with each new post presented... Most of you are working or aspiring professional photographers. As a result, you're more than likely right brain creative types, and you hate the operational side of the business.
Fast Food Friday is all about planting seeds of ideas to help you grow a stronger business, brand, and presence as a photographer. Each "blue plate special," is meant to be comfort food to help you beat the patterns of procrastination, so many of you seem determined to continue.
Today's special is about establishing a routine to kick off each day. This is a challenging business because of several variables, all of them pretty much outside your control. You've got to keep up with technology; pay attention to trends in marketing and consumer needs; you've got to stay in touch with an entire industry; provide customer service to your client base; and all while maintaining a balance of being a spouse, parent, sibling or friend, and let's not forget your own well-being.
I want to suggest a start-up routine for you each day, with a few solid reminders from other resources, all tried and true ingredients to help you build a better business model, get a little more organized, and maybe have a little more fun.
Up until starting my own company in 2009, I had spent my entire career working for other companies. While I was concerned I wouldn't have the discipline with a home office and being on my own; I quickly learned that wasn't the challenge. The problem was being too disciplined and unable to pull away from the business!
Establishing a Better Routine to Kick Off Each Day
Here's an example of pure inspiration from a favorite TED Talk I shared five years ago in a post. It's 24 minutes long, so get a cup of coffee and just trust me!
- Remember there are no erasers on the Internet.
- Don't write anything you wouldn't want a client to read.
- Use Facebook as a tool to build relationships - for example, track client birthdays and anniversaries.
Everyone's business is somewhat unique, and you have to do what works best for you. The rest of my day is spent developing content; catching up on reading what's going on in the industry and two tools I couldn't live without - my whiteboard and the phone. I'm a visual guy and hate reminders in my computer or cell phone - so my whiteboard helps me track things I need to do, and it's always in front of me, being updated all day long. The phone is also important and has become my signature - nothing beats catching up to good friends via a phone call.
Two last suggestions - our kitchen is a no-phone zone, and while I'd love to take credit for it, it's thanks to Michele Celentano. The kitchen is about our time together, and we work hard at keeping phone business out!
Last on the list - pick a time to shut down! I mentioned being worried about being disciplined enough with a home office. Well, it became just the opposite. Starting my own business, I couldn't step away from it. I'd wander into my office for a quick check before going to bed and come out an hour later, never realizing how long I'd been on the computer. "Just a minute," was soon defined as an hour or more and it was a strain on my relationship with Sheila. My advice is to pick a time and then cut things off. There will be exceptions now and then, but this isn't just about building your business but your quality of life.
Just remember, procrastination isn't part of your skill set. All of you pay attention to your workflow, especially with post-processing and backing up your files, etc. All I'm suggesting is that it's time to focus on your life-flow and take care of business at the same time you take care of yourself!
The Fast Food Friday series was started to give you short easy to implement ideas to help make your business as a photographer and artist stronger. Over the past year we've covered 45 different topics, each one hopefully giving you ideas to help you balance your right brain creativity with some good solid left brain business support.
Today's Fast Food Friday might seem like it's only relevant to those of you attending WPPI this month. However, read over my list of twenty-five points, because most of them apply to just about any convention you'll ever attend.
There are few things better than a great convention to help you recharge your battery. Sadly, so often too many of you head off to a conference spending virtually no time planning the trip.
Over the years I've written several posts and a couple of magazine articles on how to get the most out of a trade show. WPPI is coming up in less than two weeks, and it's time to bring back the ever-growing list of tips to maximize the trip!
Getting the Most Out of WPPI
So, let's go over the plan for Vegas!
In scuba-diving there's an expression, "Plan your dive - dive your plan!" You've got limited air; limited time, and it's important always to have a buddy. Well, a convention is no different. You've got to plan your trip, make the most of every minute at the event and come home with ideas to improve your skill set and build a stronger business.
The one thing I find most frustrating with attendees at a big convention like this is they just haven't planned their trip. They got their tickets and made it to Vegas, but then everything falls apart. Plan your WPPI experience so you're not wasting time and even more important, your money.
Nothing beats the experience of a great trade show and convention, but it's up to you to get the most out of it.
This is the 45th Fast Food Friday series from the SCU Diner. Each one has hit a different aspect of building a successful business. And, while many of the "blue-plate specials" are photography related, the majority apply to almost any small business.
I started the series in the hopes these short reminders would help you develop your own blueprint for success. Photographers are artists and artists are typically right-brain creative types. That means you can't help it if you hate the operational side of the business - the less creative structured side. Just about every Friday for the past year I've shared another suggestion to help you do more than just survive - I want you to thrive!
Today's Fast Food Friday special is seasoned with a little sarcasm but still prepared with the same dedication of a chef in your favorite restaurant. There's even a special free side order of the backstory behind the image below!
Procrastination is NOT a Skill Set
Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday!
We're almost halfway through the slow season, and there are still many of you who are re-enacting the 1806 fairy tale about the shoemaker and the elves. You've turned procrastination into an art form. You're acting like the elves are going to come in while you're sleeping. There's no need for you to do anything because they'll clean up your website, your blog, start building relationships and even write up a few promotional ideas for the year ahead.
Well, the only elf around to help you isn't Will Ferrell but the face you see in the mirror each morning. The good news is you've still got time to reinforce the foundation of your business for 2019 before things start to pick up. But, if you're not ready then it's going to be a you-snooze-you-lose scenario.
You know how to focus your camera - now it's time to focus your business and career and yes, for a few of you it's time to pull your head out of your ass!
No one blog post could ever cover everything you need to build a solid foundation for the year ahead. Every business is different, and if the seven ideas I just shared don't apply to you, take the time to be honest with yourself about what you're missing. This is one of the most competitive markets in the history of photography, and you've got to develop the ingredients to make yourself and your business different and better than your competitors.
As I've written so many times before, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it! There are no "focus fairies." You've got to take the time to focus on your business for 2019 - you're the only one who knows what it's going to take to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming!
And, last but not least, you know where to find me if you're stuck and need some help!
About the image: Having spent my life in the photographic industry I try to always be sensitive to copyright issues. It was at least twenty years ago I first saw the photo above on the Internet. Yesterday when working on today's post, I decided it was perfect to make the point and decided it was time I researched who owned it.
There's nothing you can't find through Google and the company owning the copyright is Davidson & Company out of Atlanta. It took a little explaining to one of their staff, who started out having no idea what I was talking about. Think about it how it sounded answering the phone and hearing, "I'm trying to track down the company who owns the right to the shot of a guy with his head up his butt. Are you the Davidson & Company who owns it?"
A few minutes later I was on the phone with Ken Davidson and not only did he give me the okay to use it today, but he shared a little of the backstory which adds to my appreciation for the journey so many of us have been on in this industry. The image was a conventional image, shot on film and manipulated with conventional retouching. It was created for a commercial client in the late 80's!
Click on the link below to check out more of Davidson & Company's work. You'll see some stunning work, but on their about page you'll see a number of testimonial quotes, all with a few common denominators of "extraordinary service," "Trust," "Customer Service," "Quality," "Consistency," and the list goes on and on. They're a company who's stayed on course with what must have been their original goal - establish a reputation for being one of the very best!
A BIG thanks to Ken for allowing me to use the image, which he described as one of the most ripped off shots in photography!
Since starting this feature almost a year ago, I've rarely missed a Friday post, but things got busy last week. Sometime just after dinner, like a cartoon character with a great idea, that imaginary lightbulb went off above my head. I realized I forgot to post for Fast Food Friday. Well, there's now a reminder on my calendar, and that's the perfect topic for today.
Fast Food Friday is all about ideas to help you build a stronger brand and business. Today's blue-plate special couldn't be easier to help reinforce your presence in the community and with your readership. Remember, your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what's in your heart!
Here's an incredibly easy feature to add to your blog, and before you say, "I don't have time to follow-up on this," think about how great it would be to get a little help from a family member. This is nothing more than keeping track of events in your community and then sharing them on your blog.
Building a Community Calendar on Your Blog
One of the most important keys to success for a great blog is being helpful to your readers. Putting together a calendar of events in your community is a terrific way to only keep your readers up to date, but show your support for various non-profit organizations and activities you're involved in supporting.
Making the concept even more useful is the simplicity of it all. From important fundraisers to gallery openings, school events, and seasonal things that happen around the holidays, the list goes on and on. And, best of all, you become the one sharing the information making you a focal point.
Now, take it a step further. Some of the events/programs you might be directly involved in, are perfect for blog content with a post leading up to the event, and then one following the event with your photographs. You become the "clearing house" for community activities and each time you share a post about an event or organization you're working with you become an ambassador for that group. Even if you're not directly involved, you're helping to spread the word about what they're doing.
It's a win-win every time, and it's a great project to turn over to a family member to help you build content, share in creating brand awareness for your business and best of all, giving them a level of responsibility in your success.
You're looking for the community to be good to you...so you need to make sure you're good to your community!
Everyone in the "kitchen" at the SCU Diner is surprised that we still haven't run out of menu items for Fast Food Friday. However, if you think about how many different aspects there are in running a business, then it really shouldn't be that surprising.
Fast Food Friday blue plate specials aren't always quick meals, but they are nutritional and fortunately, with the government shut down we don't have to worry about dealing with the FDA!
(Sorry, with the nonsense going on in Washington and thousands of people not getting paid while the members of Congress still draw their salaries, it's hard to not have a little sarcasm spill over into today's post. Sheila had a great idea the other night, suggesting every member of Congress also have their pay docked and be fined $20,000 a day.)
Okay, back to this week's special - I do not profess to be an expert on this dish, but it is one I'm cooking today, and it's all from the heart! Let's talk about things you can do to find balance. And, while "balance" is such an abused all-inclusive word, we're really talking about adjusting your priorities.
Wearing Multiple Hats
Today's special is my own recipe. It's taken me years to perfect and ironically, most of what I learned I first heard from my grandmother but wasn't sharp enough to understand! I'm hoping you can learn from my mistakes so you can make new ones of your own.
We all wear multiple hats as business owners, parents, spouses, friends, and children, just to name a few. The challenge comes in remembering you've only got one head! And, while the buzz-word today is multi-tasking, you're still only one person.
So, here's what works for me and it's taken me years to perfect it, and I'm still work in progress. I have a morning routine:
Obviously, there are phone calls and interruptions throughout the day, along with scheduled conference calls, appointments, etc. but at the end of the day, usually around 5:30 everything shuts down, and it's family time. Sheila and I have dinner together and then move to the TV for our favorite shows, a fast run through the news and maybe a movie.
Our day typically ends around 10:00 PM watching a rerun of Friends. Why? Because the news used to be the last thing we watched and it's become so depressing we needed to laugh before going to sleep. I think back to my folks always watching the 11:00 PM news before going to bed. Well, these days it's all nightmare material, so we finish the day watching something entertaining.
That's our routine, but it only works if there's a lot of open, honest communication. Both of us have learned to share the challenges in our life, our aspirations, and disappointments. We've learned to trust each other and for example, when I'm off balance and too focused on a business challenge we talk it out. We're both work in progress and it's not always smooth sailing. But there's also that great quote about calm seas not making skilled sailors!
Most important of all, take the time to be thankful. So many of you are obsessed with finding success, but you've never taken the time to think through what that really means. For me, it's about waking up with a smile on my face every morning.
We've worked together to find balance. We're like a medieval castle. We think of our home as surrounded by a moat. When the enemies are clamoring at the gate, we recognize when we need to help each other and pull up the draw bridge.
It's the second Fast Food Friday of 2019, and the perfect time to talk about educational support in the new year. We've talked a little about it in past posts, especially about getting the most out of a convention. But today, I want to hit all the opportunities for you to expand your skill set in virtually every area of photography, business and here and there, even in life.
Remember why I started this series - to give you short tips on how to make your business stronger in quick easy to "digest" topics each week. Well, this is number 42 in the series and with a little help from my buddy, Scott Kelby, let's talk about education for 2019.
One of the most diverse educational resources that should be on your radar is "The Grid." It's loaded with content shared by some of the finest educators in professional photography.
Photography, Education and Support - On the Grid
This past Wednesday I was invited back to The Grid, hosted by Scott Kelby. Our topic was getting the most out of educational opportunities in 2019. We covered a lot of ground, including maximizing your time at conferences.
If you haven't checked out "The Grid" you're missing an opportunity to expand your skill set in just about everything to do with imaging including marketing, business, Lightroom, capture, printing and the list goes on and on.
There's a lot of great information in this episode. However, let's look at a bigger picture. This is the slow season and just because business might be slow doesn't mean you should be! Now is the time for you to fine-tune those areas you're not strong in and as Scott and I discuss, there's an endless supply of places to get help.
Here's my point with today's Fast Food Friday special - you've chosen a career field that's driven by creativity and technology. Our industry is continually changing, and if you keep doing things the same old way, you'll never grow. Remember, growth only occurs outside your comfort zone.
One of the things Scott and I talked about was the importance of always taking at least one class completely outside your core specialty. Imaging has become a giant umbrella about helping people capture memories and tell their story. You never know how something you learned in what seemed like an off-topic class is going to help you later on.
One perfect example is video. Most of you are working with cameras that allow you to capture video as well as still images. However, only a handful of you are taking advantage of the technology that's right there at your fingertips.
Even if you have no interest in videography as a core specialty, understanding how to best capture video will give you better material to share in your own mixed media marketing presentation. There's very little that beats the impact of still images, short video clips and great music, all combined to tell your story as an artist, and presented to your target audience each time they visit your website.
And last on the list of educational resources are all of us in the industry here to help you grow. Scott and I talked about being educators, and while we might not always have the answers, we have networks of incredible people who do. But, you've got to let us know you need help. Got a question or a challenge you need help with? Just ask!
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!
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:
Back in February, I had a fun idea to launch the SCU Diner. The concept was based mostly on fast food, which most of us have a love/hate relationship with. It serves a purpose, and there are few things better than a great sub sandwich when you're on the run.
So, we started sharing fast business ideas, and just like fast food, they're meant to fill a need. They help you remember things you need to stay focused on when you don't have a camera in your hands!
We've shared forty different "blue-plate specials" over the last few months, and it's time for one more before Christmas and New Years!
With a new year right around the corner, you're down to the wire for 2018. You've essentially got ten days left to tie up loose ends on business and set things up for a cleaner slate in January. But December isn't just about closing the books on the year.
Today's Fast Food Special is a reminder of things you might want to do beyond just wrapping up business.
December: Wrapping Up More Than Just Gifts
It's not directly about wrapping up business but it does deserve top billing:
There's no question that December is one of those months that's incredibly busy and then slows down so you can let out a sigh and kick back a little. It's a great month to finish looking at this past year and be a little reflective. Pat yourself on the back for another year in business and start to think about your goals for the new year!
Fast Food Friday is brought to you by:
ClickCon 2020 Circle the Dates!!
It's rare that a first year conference has the power that ClickCon brought to the industry this past August.
The dates have been announced for 2020 at the Palmer House in Chicago. August 11-14!
What a kick!
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.