Getting Down to Business

Don’t be the Uncle Bob of Your Own Business…

So you’re a professional photographer, right? And if someone shows up to your wedding, portrait session, whatever and whips out the fancy camera they just bought at Best Buy or Amazon and starts firing away, you’re probably going to be thinking to your self something along the lines of, “Awww… how cute. But my photos will be much better because I’ve got mad skillz at photography, YO!”

(What? You don’t talk to yourself like some bad-ass photo rapper? Well, whatever. I do. Run with it.)

The point is, you know what you’re doing. You know your skill set, and the long hard hours that it took of practice to get to where you are at. And 99% of the time, your photos will be better because of it. Sure, there is always the one person that is just kind of a natural that will show you up, but they won’t know how to deal with a tricky lighting situation or how to balance flash with ambient light, so whatever. YOU are the SUPERSTAR!!!

So why the heck are you designing your own logo? Your own business material? Trying to create your own website or blog from the ground up from scratch?

How is that any different then the person that dropped $1500-3000 to have a camera as fancy as yours? They are not an expert.

Yes, you’re artistic and creative. But that doesn’t mean you know all the ins and outs of what makes a graphic design truly sing, or that you should spend hours and hours learning CSS and how to code HTML, PHP and smoosh it all into a awesome blog.

You’re a photographer (or a wedding planner, a cake artist, a caterer – whatever you are) — not a graphic designer or a website developer. Know what you’re good at. Hire someone else to do the rest. Leave it to the experts.

It is the same thing you expect of your clients every single day.

Oh, In case you were wondering – Uncle Bob: Definition, and what you usually get. Don’t do that to your business.

Getting Down to Business

What Can You Learn from Mad Men?

Don Draper & Conrad Hilton

Standing in the Waldorf-Astoria, a conversation between Don Draper (the ad man of the series) & Conrad Hilton:

Hilton has just asked Draper what he thinks of the latest Hilton ad campaign, featuring Jerry, the mouse from Tom & Jerry, in the Hilton hotel in New York.
Don: “I think you wouldn’t be in the presidential suite right now if you did work for free.”
Conrad: “Don, this is friendly.”
Don: “Connie, this is my profession. What do you want me to do?”

How often do people come to you, expecting you to do work for free that is your profession? This is a predicament that lots of people face, and it is a struggle to deal with. You don’t want to hurt your friends, but you also want to be respected for your work, your livelihood, your JOB. Creative types already struggle with asking for what they are worth, but then you run into a situation like this and it all goes downhill fast.

I’ve had some really great experiences where I helped out a friend and the end results were worth more in the long run than money would have been, but I’ve also had a few not-so-great ones experiences, and they have burned me to the point that I finally had to set a policy for this. Realistically, I probably should charge them the same thing I would charge anyone else, but I am not comfortable with that. So instead I take a percentage off of my normal rates for our closest friends & family. It works for me.

The amount doesn’t matter — the point is to have a PLAN in place before the situation comes up. That way, you can sound confident and comfortable when you’re approached about working for a friend.

And remember, sometimes rules are made to be broken.

As for Don Draper? He did end up giving Conrad Hilton his very brief opinion for free (no one wants to think of a mouse when they are thinking about hotels), and in the end he won even more work from him. Sometimes you need to know when to take the calculated risk.

Getting Down to Business

I Love ShootQ!

My commercial photographer friend Michael Schulz laughs at me every time I say it, but I *love* ShootQ. With an insane amount of love, but not without a good reason. I could not possibly run my photography business without them. I love it so much, I flew to help Savannah wedding photographer Donna Von Bruening optimize hers this week, along with building up her web presence further and Lightroom training.

While we were talking about ShootQ, I realized I wanted to run through how I use it in my business so that it would help you if you’re considering using it too.

– Clients contact me through my contact form that puts the information straight into ShootQ. If they call me, I add it in as a quick lead while on the phone with them – and I can see right away if there is a conflict on that date.
– I then send them my initial response through ShootQ, so it tracks the information and Elaine or Brittany can access it as well.
– Each shoot has a custom email address (and there is an overall ShootQ address) that we BCC our emails to so that they are all stored inside of ShootQ for viewing later.
– Once we work out what they would like, I send a proposal through ShootQ. We keep a pricelist available to choose options from, and we also have our base packages set up so that they are easy to customize and send out, and we use the best courier company that do correct packaging, so your items arrive secure.
– They can review it and book online, even signing the contract electronically and making the deposit through ShootQ’s invoicing system, which is tied in to my merchant account.
– Once booked, all invoices are handled through ShootQ.
– I have custom questionnaires set up for my wedding clients so that they can tell me about themselves and their wedding plans – all of which they can access through a client interface automatically generated when they book through ShootQ.
– We track all of our tasks related to weddings and portrait sessions through it.
– After a shoot, we have product specific workflows that the client can see our milestones on (our choice, you can turn this off) and stay informed through the client page of where we are at on things.
– Did I mention that sending the contract and the invoices is all handled through ShootQ? It is worth saying about 20 times more. This alone is the BEST feature for me. I hated doing these things. Outsourcing it and automating it? Best investment in my business ever!

One of the biggest assets to ShootQ is the stellar team BEHIND ShootQ. Have a suggestion? They listen, and if it is something that makes sense with how ShootQ works and will make things better, they will often integrate it in to future versions of ShootQ. Knowing how much they value client feedback is so important to me.

I am happy to shout it from the rooftops – I *big puffy heart with sparkles LOVE* ShootQ!

Getting Down to Business Worth Keeping

The Problem Is 18 Months…

Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners was recently interviewed at Design Glut. You may not have heard of Jim, but if you’re a photographer that delivers DVDs or CDs as an end product to clients you have probably heard of – and he is part of the team behind that. Matter of fact, you can read all about that and more in the article.

The part I really want to highlight is all the way at the end of the interview. In the last question, after sharing a lot of his story, Jim was asked “What’s your advice for people who want to set out on this path?” This was in reference to web & graphic designers, but it truly applies to any of us in a creative field, or even in a small business of any form.

You need to have the stomach for risk and you need to have good ideas. Let’s just assume that those are the givens, that without either one of those nothing else makes a difference.

I know a lot of people who are in our position, who used to work for The Man or whatever, and now are making records or making films or designing clothes or creating products or screening posters or any of a million other things. And all of them, without exception, all say exactly the same thing and they say it in exactly the same words: “I should have done it sooner.”

When you think to yourself, “In 18 months I’m going to start my crocheted beer coaster company,” the problem with that sentence is the 18 months. What you’re really saying is, “I’m afraid.” Do it now. If you bankrupt a company before you’re 25, that’s like a badge of honor! Get out there.

So often I hear people giving excuses about why they have to wait to do something. That is fear talking. Almost every single time, if you get to the bottom of it, it is fear.

Don’t let your fear stand in the way of your greatest success. Do it NOW.

Please vote for our SXSWi panel on copyright and creatives! I hope to be presenting with Katie Sunstrom, Jonathan of Plagiarism Today, and Charles Lee Mudd Jr. Whether you’re attending SXSWi or not, we need your vote!

Getting Down to Business

Standing Out in a Crowd of Creatives…

I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks traveling, first to New Orleans for a meetup with the Starting a Wedding Photography Business group from Flickr, and then to Las Vegas for Skip’s Summer School. Two very different events, both incredibly inspiring and motivating in different ways. My head is full of things I want to write about right now. One theme that kept coming up over and over again for me though is that when in business – especially a creative business like photography – it is essential that you value your work properly and you tap in to what makes YOU uniquely you.

It hit me again this morning as I caught up on Sean Low’s fantastic blog, The Business of Being Creative. (If you’re not reading Sean’s blog – start. He is brilliant.) One of his most recent posts on the value of your business really hit home as it is a topic I’ve struggled with in the past. It is so tempting to be a generalist sometimes; you don’t want to turn away what seems like easy income at first. But it costs you a lot more than you realize in the end. You lose your edge.

You can not be all things to everyone. You can’t please everyone. You can’t be a generalist and thrive in a creative business.

In a world full of photographers, you will never stand out to anyone unless you focus on what makes you unique.

What makes you unique, by its very definition, is different for everyone.

While I think it is absolutely essential to build on your education and learn new things, and to have an arsenal of tools at your disposal to make your work the best it can be – be careful. You should use these things to enhance your unique perspective.

This Education Reference Desk guide contains more information about ebooks and includes links to the Library’s collections of ebooks as well as listings of free or partially free collections available on the open web.

There is no single magic item that will make you an overnight success. Many times, if you fall repeatedly into the trap of the latest and greatest things you absolutely must have, you will only water down what makes you unique and your work will end up looking like everyone else’s. You will no longer have an advantage.

When you read Sean’s post, be sure to read Rachel’s comment about photographers and their portfolios as well. So insightful and inspiring!

What is it that makes you stand out? Why should someone want to work with you over the next person they meet with? What do you bring to the table that no one else can do?

Please vote for our SXSWi panel on copyright and creatives! I hope to be presenting with Katie Sunstrom, Jonathan of Plagiarism Today, and Charles Lee Mudd Jr. Whether you’re attending SXSWi or not, we need your vote!