by Skip Cohen
A big thanks to so many of you who commented or hit the "like" button in the various forums where I shared this yesterday. Hopefully, you'll like the second half just as much. Part II gets a little more personal and goes beyond the rules of engagement, hitting on a few basic concepts.
The bottom line is simple - it's a long post, but pick the highlights that work best for you. And remember, we're ALL work in progress!
11) Never use the word "fail!" Don't be afraid to admit you screwed up, but the truth is "fail," "failure," and "failed" are all self-fulfilling negative words. You're dead meat the minute you use words like this. If you tried something and it didn't work – all that happened was that it didn't work. If you hadn't tried anything at all, then you'd be a failure.
So, strike the word from your vocabulary and get your internal spell-check going so that all derivatives of the word fail are removed. Success is about taking chances; failure is just part of your journey. As long as you learn from each situation, nothing can ever be a failure.
12) Recognize when you're on overload. Anybody with kids knows the signs of a sugar low. As adults, we're no different; we never outgrow that sugar-low mood swing. What does change is that as we get older, we're not only susceptible to a real sugar low, but we react the same way when we've just got too much going on. So you've got to take a break now and then and stay grounded with those things most important in your life.
13) Only claim your own work as yours - And don't share somebody else's work without permission: There's been a lot of talk in our industry over the years as some pretty well-known photographers have been caught using another photographer's images and text. If you can't come up with a concept on your own to write about in your words, then either ask for permission and quote the source or forget it! And when you're shooting behind your instructor in a hands-on class, stop claiming it's your image and sharing it in your galleries. Instead, take what you learned and apply it to your own photographs.
14) Keep in contact with friends. We all get busy. We all lose touch, but it's worth the effort to keep in touch with friends and people you've met who share your passions. And don't forget your network - Your network takes work to maintain, and you need to communicate with the core members regularly, not just when you need help.
14B) Keep in touch with your immediate family! I made this its own category, because it's so easy to forget the people closest to you. For example, Sheila can't know why mood swing just went south if she doesn't understand various aspects of my business. So, whether it's your spouse, partner or roommate - don't forget their stake/investment in your life. Share what's going on in your business with the people closet to you.
15) Listen to your staff. Your business is growing, and as it does, you'll bring on more people to help. You might outsource to other vendors. All these people, directly or indirectly, become your "staff." Learn to include them in discussions about your business and listen to their suggestions. You don't always have to incorporate their ideas, but at least let them know their input is valuable and is being considered.
16) Be realistic with your deadlines. Deliver on time or even early. Nobody is interested in your excuses if you come in late.
17) Be on time! It's pretty simple – show up when you're supposed to, regardless if it's a meeting with an associate or a client.
There's a great story about business writer Tom Peters many years ago. He was hired to speak at a conference of airline executives. There was a lot of angry tension in the room when he showed up ten minutes late. He opened with one comment, "By all your standards, this is an on-time arrival!"
18) Get to know your vendors. As a professional photographer, you need a great lab, an album company, a frame company, a reputable equipment retailer, and a marketing/planning resource. And, within each one of these vendors, there are additional resources with people there to help you succeed in virtually every aspect of photography.
But here's an engagement rule when you're at a trade show or convention: Don't be a stormtrooper! There's nothing more aggravating than when working a booth at a busy show, somebody interrupts your conversation to introduce themselves. It's okay if you want to talk to that person, but make an appointment in advance or simply wait your turn.
19) Be careful what you say and to whom! We're a relatively small industry. We all go to the same rubber chicken dinners together. I've been caught a few times at conventions, talking a little too loud in a restaurant and unaware of who might be sitting at the next table. Remember, you never know how many degrees of separation there are between the person you're talking to and the person you're talking about!
20) Unless you're willing to accept responsibility for a rumor, don't pass it on! Around year six of my twelve years at Hasselblad, I heard a rumor I traced back to a retailer that I was about to be fired. When I confronted him directly, he refused to tell me his source, yet he passed the rumor on to one of Hasselblad's salesmen. The rumor was absolutely not true. I found out later it was started by an employee who was simply mad at me. I was there for another six years and made it a point to remind the retailer every year that I was still on board.
21) Be involved in a charity and your community! I've written about this so many times – you're looking for your community to be good to you. Well, you have to be good to your community. It doesn't matter what you do to give back - even if it has nothing to do with photography. The point is to be involved as a business owner in your community.
22) Act like your grandmother is watching! It's a great quote from a photographer and good friend, Levi Sim. I use it most often when people can't seem to be nice to each other in some of the Facebook forums. So much of everything I shared yesterday and today is built on a foundation that most of our grandmothers wrote!
23) Don't just shoot for clients. My buddy, Terry Clark, wrote a few years ago: "Take Pictures for the love of photography. So many photographers I know, only pick up the camera when a paycheck is attached. What a shame. You need to keep your eye fresh. Musicians practice so they're ready for the performance, and athletes train for the big game; why in the world would a photographer not take pictures to keep their eye inspired and in tune?"
My list yesterday and today isn't meant to be all-inclusive. There are plenty more I could add to the list. I know it sounds pretty hokey, but we've all got the ability to make 2023 a year of peace, goodwill, growth, and fun. Remember "fun?" It's a word that's too often lost under the stress and baggage of running a business. But, with minimal effort, we've got the potential to make this year a sweet one!
And in terms of your business and personal life - exceed expectations and make yourself habit-forming! This applies not just to your clients but family, friends, and associates!
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.