Tuesday, May 21, 2019

4 Things Professional Photographers Need to Like

People often think being a professional photographer is just about taking great photos.  While great images are important if you're going to make professional photography your career, it's also important to like the four things below in order to enjoy running a business as a professional photographer:

1. Gear & Gadgets
The photo industry is full of gear and gadgets.  I am not a gear or gadget person.  I got along just fine on my minimal upgrade schedule by always having backups, but no matter how long I'd put off an upgrade (because I am not the early-adopter type),  it was still inevitable that my cameras, computers, and gadgets needed frequent replacing and upgrades just due to heavy professional usage.  So, a love of playing with new gear and gadgets all the time is very helpful if you're in the photography industry, because you will always need new gear and gadgets from one year to the next.

2. Post-Production
Even when I was able to get my images amazingly close to what I wanted in camera, I still always wanted to do some extra post-production on them.  It's also the biggest difference between what the camera sees and what the photographer envisions when taking an image.  I'm quite relaxed on how much post-production I like because I don't love staring at a screen for too long, but still can't really get away with not doing some post-production.  Even while post-production was my least favorite part of the job, I always had a hard time letting other people do it because I was still picky about it.  I only found a couple post-production people over the span of my career who could see color and brightness in the same way I did, and it was a dream when I could rely on them for client deadline work.  However, their paths all eventually diverged as they wanted to focus on other projects of their own and weren't available for post-production anymore.  If I loved post-production, I might have kept doing photography for a longer time, but I feel so much more free without needing to worry about finishing post-production on other people's deadlines anymore!

3. People
Most photography has some element of dealing with people on a personal basis.  If you're one of the lucky ones who makes money on fine art, landscapes, or nature - you probably still need to deal with the agents or gallery owners who sell your art or the clients who buy your art.  You have to like people if you're going to be a professional photographer, otherwise, you're going to end up turning down a lot of opportunities that could otherwise support you making a living.  If you don't like people, you could probably focus on post-production and retouching, and just mange inquiries and outcome online through email.  However, most photographers need to enjoy people to do their work.  Luckily, I like people- even people who probably don't deserve to be liked- so the people part of the job was always interesting to me.

4. Products & Sales
Photographers who understand how to sell their work, and how to sell products of their work, are far better off than photographers who don't know how to sell.  You can still get by without liking sales or doing a lot of sales, but you'll be much better off if you learn how to like sales.  Think about it- half the time you're selling something people might be able to get from a family member- so if you can't sell, than you're going to have a hard time positioning yourself as being more helpful than a friend or family member who can send digital files.  This is just the reality of public perception, and it makes understanding sales and how to sell a critical part of being a professional photographer who can sustain and grow their business for the long-haul.  I personally love selling and find it deeply satisfying to make sure a client is going to walk away with a physical representation of their images because of the products I was able to share with them and help them choose for their home and keepsakes.

What else do you think professional photographers need to like to do their work well?  Leave them in the comments and let's compare notes!

Anne Ruthmann helps creatives find smarter solutions to common business problems as a Creative Business Strategist and author of the Pricing Workbook for Creatives.  Her wisdom is steeped in the experience of managing her own creative businesses since 2004.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Toxic Email Replies that Hurt Your Business

Into every business, a series of problems will fall.  HOW business owners and service teams deal with problems when they arise is often MORE important than the problems and solutions themselves.  Let's look at some common creative business owner replies that lead to toxic client interactions, resentment, and lack of referrals for service businesses:

Client Email Example: "Hi, Just checking in on my project progress... can you give an update?"

In the client's mind, this is an innocent email that helps them understand where everything is in the process, what they may need to be aware of or how they may need to manage their schedule and expectations moving forward.  However, if a business owner is mired in stress, dealing with other difficulties, or feeling guilty about not making enough progress on a project, they may feel defensive and use one of the toxic email replies below that end up causing more harm to their client relationship, potential referrals, and future business success.

1. Business Owner Reply: "I'm sorry I was really busy on another project"

How client feels inside:
Well, thanks for letting me know you have another client who is more important and gets higher project priority than I do.  Glad to know my project is being put on the back burner while you deal with other people- not.
Client's actual email reply:
"I understand, thanks for letting me know.  When do you think we can sync up again?"

2. Business Owner Reply: "Life has been really hectic lately"

How client feels inside:
Uh oh, if life is so hectic that he needs to say something, does this mean my project is going to be delayed or given less attention?  Does he have the resources to manage life and business right now?
Client's actual email reply:
"I'm sorry to hear things aren't going well, I really hope things get better soon!"

3. Business Owner Reply: "A client/family member had an emergency"

How client feels inside:
I wonder what kind of emergency?  How long does it take to fix emergencies?  Is this going to delay my project?  Does this mean my project and deadlines are less important because they aren't emergencies?  What if I have an emergency?
Client's actual email reply:
"Oh no!  I hope everything is OK!  Let me know when you can chat again."

What's the BEST reply a business owner can give instead?

Best Business Owner Reply:
"Thank you for checking in!  I'd love to connect over the phone or zoom so we can make sure we're both on the same page for the timing ahead.  Which of the times below will work for you to sync up over the phone and talk about the next steps?
4/4  Monday 4pm
4/6 Wednesday 10am
4/7 Thursday  2pm"

The important ingredients of this reply are:
  1. Gratitude that makes the client feel seen and acknowledges their desire for an update.
  2. Affirmation of desire to work with client and move the project forward.
  3. Specific, detailed, date and time calendar options that give the business owner control of when they can offer headspace and time to focus on communication with client, to help the client manage the time until they feel like they will have undivided attention.
By keeping the response simple, light, and free of outside drama or issues, the business retains a high service standard without causing their client any alarms or insecurities about the business owner's ability to do or complete the work.  When a business engages the client in drama by sharing personal or client issues that don't have anything to do with the client's project, it creates a sense of doubt and concern about whether or not a project will be completed.  This creates a snowball of more fears and concerns that span not just one client project, but all projects the business is currently managing, which can lead to even more drama and toxic gossip that ends up hurting a business in the long run.

So, even if you're experiencing drama or issues that feel out of control in your business or life, save as many business relationships as you can by not spreading the drama or problems around your business.  It may make the difference between one client relationship blowing up and ten client relationships blowing up.  Minimize the damage by minimizing the spread of drama.

Anne Ruthmann helps creatives find smarter solutions to common business problems as a Creative Business Strategist and author of the Pricing Workbook for Creatives.  Her wisdom is steeped in the experience of managing her own creative businesses since 2004.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Before They Were Famous

As I've been getting nostalgic about my time in the photography industry, I've been digging into my own blog archives and keep finding moments of GOLD (as well as blog posts I probably should have deleted) that help the next generation of photographers understand where and how digital photography careers exploded 13+ years ago!  Before Facebook, before Instagram- when our social outlets to connect online were through public blogs, RSS feeds, and member message boards that no longer exist.  Luckily some blogs are still on archived servers for your time-traveling pleasure.

Thanks to letting all of my own cringe-worthy-archives stay out in the open... I can go back in time through links to other photographers and see where they started out as well!  I think it's important to share archives so people don't think it all happened overnight.  I also think what you'll see in these various archives and journeys is that Photography can be a gateway drug to other forms of entrepreneurship...

Christine Tremoulet - 2000-2018
Our very own PhotoLovecat author/editor was blogging before anyone else knew what the heck to do with a blog.  Blogger and perpetual web geek, turned photographer, and now business consultant.  I give Christine mad props for keeping all of her archives online this long.  I mean, her blog history is basically as old as a blogs themselves.  I think the only thing that came before her blogging was AOL and Netscape!

Jules Bianchi - 2005-2019
Jules has often flown under the radar in a lot of ways as far as the photography fame stuff goes, but I've always had a soft spot for her ability to be authentically quirky and offbeat.  She's moved her business a few times and shifted focus like many photographers do, but has maintained her blog archives all along to show how she has grown and changed over all these years, and that really helps others understand the journey doesn't happen overnight.

David Jay - 2005-2010
David Jay has been an entrepreneur and tech geek from an early age.  He started out as a wedding photographer who developed community on OpenSourcePhoto as a place to have open conversations in the photography industry (a competitor to Digital Wedding Forum, which was a private paid forum, where OSP was free and open).  This also allowed him to engage in photography industry problems he could solve with tech solutions.  His presence has been controversial among the industry, but it's never stopped him from creating new businesses.  He developed ShowIT, PASS, Shoot & Share, and now Agree.

Corey Ann - 2007-2019
Another PhotoLovecat author and editor that has been in the industry and seen it all over the last decade!  Corey Ann has probably maintained one of the most consistent photography industry profiles I know of in the last decade.  Sustaining her presence as an Ohio wedding photographer and really only expanding to hold the line of justice and call people out against doing stupid things in the photography industry through the PhotoStealers blog.  She has dealt with some of the worst sociopaths the industry has seen and somehow continues to maintain a sense of humor about it all!

Christopher Becker aka [b]ecker - 2007-2018
Wedding photographer, photography teacher, and now Keto-Coach, Becker has had a journey that launched in SoCal and now resides in Missouri.  I think Becker himself would be wise enough to say that he didn't mind ruffling a few feathers along the way in the photo industry, and people either loved it or hated it.  What you can't disagree with is that he's hustled with a lot of heart, and often shared what he's learned with others along the way.

Jessica Claire - 2008(?)-2019(?)
Jessica has hidden the actual dates on her blog and done a very good job of curating her archival content that remains on her current blog, however, based on the context of some early blog posts, I'm guessing the content in this blog started circa 2007/2008, but she also eludes to having another blog prior to this that is no longer available online.  Jessica went from wedding photographer to ShootSac lens bag creator, and now she has the bug for wedding photography again.  Welcome back, Jessica!

Jasmine Star - 2006-2007
Jasmine Star got her first round of fame in the photography industry after David Jay photographed her wedding and Mike Colon started using her as a workshop model for his workshops (perhaps someone else can figure out the order of events on this based on the archives in her blog and David Jay's blog).  She then caught the photography bug herself, attended a lot of workshops, started teaching workshops, made some public social media mistakes, but has continued pushing forward and sharing everything along the way.  She now teaches online courses focused on boosting social media presence.

BluDomain - 2006-2007
BluDomain was one of the early photography portfolio website providers to crank out a lot of affordable website templates full of good design and solid navigation tools.  They blogged about a lot of "popular" people in the photography industry at the time in order to raise their own profile.  It worked and they secured a lot of photography industry clients in a few short years.  What they've left behind on this archival blog is the treasure chest of where people were and what they were doing in 2006-2007!  Check out their archives to see a lot of familiar names, faces, and photos from 13 years ago!

Are there some archival blogs out there that you think should be added to this list?  Add them to the comments and let's have a nice walk down memory lane together...

Anne Ruthmann helps creatives find smarter solutions to common business problems as a Creative Business Strategist and author of the Pricing Workbook for Creatives.  Her wisdom is steeped in the experience of managing her own creative businesses since 2004.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Why It's Hard to Talk Pricing Publicly

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm happy to talk pricing and pricing strategy.  I love digging into profit strategies with small business owners during consultations.  It's like digging for hidden nuggets of gold within their business.  Unfortunately, it's not as easy to do this in public forums.  A strategy that works really well for one person may be a complete waste of time for another person based on who they are, what they sell, and what kind of people are valuing their work- which is why it's really difficult to talk pricing publicly.

Each individual has their own unique world-view of what ideal creative pricing looks like to them in the scope of their experience:

  • One person may need to support a 5 person family on their creative income, and have a stay at home partner who can provide a lot of household or business support.
  • One person may have a full time job for income and only be doing creative work on the side.
  • One person may say that they only take projects for $10,000 or more, however they may also mean that every project they do requires a team of 10 people who are all working overtime to turn a project around in an amount of time that is usually unheard of to an individual doing it all on a solo basis.
  • One person may say their rates are $150 a project, which might seem unfathomably low for your costs and overhead, but what they may not be saying is that they do 6 of those projects in one day and then do extended sales sessions or additional licensing from those projects that add an additional $1350 in profit after each project.
  • One person may say they give away all files in a $3000 package, but they may not say that those files are only good for viewing on the web and not printing larger than 4x6 or putting in an album.
  • One person may say they only include 20 album pages $3000 package and files are extra, but they may not say that they'll include the files if someone enough pages to their album.
  • One person may say they include all the RAW files in a $3000 package, but they may not say that the editing of those files is extra or only included when they order an album.

All of these are examples of why discussing pricing is so difficult in open forums or even privately among other creative professionals.  

What works well for one person may be a terrible idea for another person's way of working.  Someone who hates sales would quickly fail by setting up their pricing in a way that requires them to do more sales and someone who hates working solo would total fail by setting up their pricing in a way that requires them to work solo.

We can never assume that the way someone else has set up their pricing is the same way we would or should set up our own pricing.  Which is also why you can never judge another professional based on their pricing alone- because you have no idea what goes into their pricing or what each term means in the way they define it.

This is also why the "what should I price this at" question is a terrible question to ask in forums.  You can get 10 different answers all based on how different people work and live, and none of those answers may even be applicable to you and your situation!  Super frustrating, and it doesn't lead to more clarity, only more confusion.

It is far better to figure out the numbers based on your business and understand how to price your service and products based on your actual costs, products, delivery, and costs of doing business so that you aren't jumping on a bandwagon that will send your business off a cliff!

Anne Ruthmann is a retired professional photographer in New York City. With over 13 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, architecture and interiors. She loves to travel the work and spend any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Do I Need To Run Online Ads?

Do you have a product or service that requires you to show up in person?  If so, your best advertising focus may be an OFFLINE advertising strategy in a local area.

Do you have a product or service that can be purchased and delivered online, without any in-person interaction needed?  If so, than you definitely benefit from an ONLINE advertising strategy.

Too often people get stuck in the idea that they need to do everything and anything to promote their business, which is a great way to throw money down the drain and waste time on marketing or advertising strategies that are not going to be as effective.

If what you do requires you and a client to be in the same location when you provide your product or service, than you will miss an entire population of people who aren't checking the online market with any frequency to make a difference for your business, but who may be walking right by you every day in your cafe or local retail shops.

A local business needs to focus on local strategy to reach its ideal clients where they already are.
An online service or product based business needs to focus on online strategy to meet clients online.

Are you aware of all the ways you can market offline?  Check out this Annual Marketing Evaluation to see how many strategies are out there for marketing your business and which ones you may be missing out on if you're a local business!

Anne Ruthmann is a retired professional photographer in New York City. With over 13 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, architecture, and interiors. She now spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.