Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's OK to Say What You Think

I don’t know when or how the “Rockstar” stuff started in this community. I came into it in 2007 and I honestly didn’t know anyone from Adam. After spending some time online I saw some names were thrown around more than others but I didn’t really know one more than the other. I attended my first WPPI in 2008 and I was FLOORED to see girls squee-ing and giggling about taking a picture with Jesh de Rox. I had no clue who he was other than some guy who reminded me of a hippy from the 60s (mind you, nothing is wrong with that, my Dad was one). I mean sure, some of these people had amazing work and worked with some pretty awesome people but fangirling over a picture with them? Really? I met Jerry Ghionis and asked if he was a photographer. True story. I’ve somehow maintained that attitude throughout my career in the wedding world. I know who the “Rockstars” are now but I have never really held them above others in the field.

At that WPPI, I took a Plus Class with Mike Colon and to be quite honest, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. He seemed like he knew his stuff but the format was kind of crazy and I really felt more frustrated than anything at the end of the class. When I was on DWF a few weeks later people asked for reviews and I gave an honest review of my perspective of the class. There were a few people that shamed me but for the most part it was accepted well. I didn’t realize it at the time, but back then most people went by the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Oops. After that I somewhat took my “say it like it is” mentality and ran with it. I haven’t looked back since.

Others have been slower to say it like it is online. For the most part photographers online tended to bite their tongues and keep their true feelings about workshops or wares that Rockstars were selling to themselves (and a few close friends). No one was willing to stick their necks out and say what they truly felt about the products and workshops because they were afraid of what the Rockstar would do. When I asked a friend who had a terrible experience at a workshop why they wouldn't say so publicly, they replied, "what if they get mad!??!"

About a year ago Scarlett Lillian hosted a workshop. Once the reviews of Scarlett’s workshop hit the interwebs and they were NOT rave reviews it seemed to start a slow trickle, than a flow of people standing up and saying their honest thoughts about products, workshops and seminars by other photographers. However, they are often anonymous and sometimes you can tell they are still a bit watered down. I feel that we really are getting there with getting honesty in the wedding photography business. The past year has really given me hope that people are finally rising above the hero worshipping and not being afraid to say it like it is. This past week I feel that we as a community have came even further than before with not being afraid to voice our dissent when something is not right. I have been SO proud of my fellow photographers this week for taking a stand.

So what I want to do is encourage you to speak your mind and say what you think. I promise you that good or bad, you will be OK! I am living proof that pissing off a Rockstar (or ten) will not hurt you in the least. I still have a great career and am still booking weddings. Heck, while I was making waves yesterday, I managed to book a wedding with one email! My clients don’t know, nor care, that I made a new enemy today. However, my fellow photographers know my feelings and some have even told me that by my saying my peace about things, they’ve had their eyes open up and are so happy I was brave enough to take that step. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have thanked me for my honest reviews I’ve done here and how they had a similar experience or that I’ve saved them money (even though they’ve said they are afraid to comment and say so).

Keep in mind, saying what you think ≠ slamming. I hate that so often people see a review that isn't oozing with compliments and immediately call that reviewer a hater or even funnier, jealous. Just because you disagree with a viewpoint does not mean that one is a hater or is jealous. Remember to not get personal and stick to the facts. Keep it classy when/if giving an honest review or critique.

Say what you think and trust me, you will be OK. You will still book clients and who knows? You may even make a friend or two.

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to respond when a client says "Too much!"

It happens to the best of us.
We shoot an awesome session and the clients love the photos. Then they login to the proofing and you get an email (or facebook message) that looks something like this:

"Hi! We love the photos! I added a bunch of prints to my cart and it came to over $100/$200/$300. Are they really that expensive? How much is a disc? "

Today, I want to show you how to respond to this and in the future, I'll share a few tips to help you avoid this situation entirely!

It's kind of maddening, getting a message like this. You know they love the photos, you worked really hard for them and you know your prices are reasonable. If you charged any less, you'd be living in your parent's basement after all!

I know, your gut reaction is to get defensive "My work is worth every penny! I can't make a living on less!" "Don't they know I'm not big box store with cheap paper and a barely calibrated machine?!" but when a client reaches out at this stage regarding pricing, it's not all about you. :)

So how can you deal with a situation like this?
  • First, avoid blaming them-I know you gave them all your pricing before the session so this shouldn't be a surprise but lo and behold, they don't read. It happens.
  • Second, what are they really complaining about? Is it really about the price? Often when they question your price, they are saying "I don't see how this has that much value" so it's up to you to educate them as to WHY your prints aren't .12 and if you can't come up with why, you probably need to figure this out. You'll get this question again...and again.
  • Be kind, be warm, make them feel heard and acknowledged
If you choose to respond via email, here's what I suggest for structuring your reply:
  1. Open with a positive statement like "Oh, I'm so glad you loved the photos!" (reinforce the positive experience so far)
  2. Let them know how much it means to you that they love the photos (let them see you're invested in this too)
  3. Review the pricing in question and let them know how it's a fabulous deal-even at the price they are concerned about
  4. Go over what goes into a custom print, how it differs from a quickie lab print and why it is so much more valuable
  5. Help them imagine owning the photos. You might ask them to picture 10 years in the future pulling out these photos-what will they remember then or how they will feel to have them.
  6. Alternately, you could compare their total investment to something that's a want that you know they buy-I.E. in 10 years, that flat panel TV you spent $3,500 will be worth nothing but imagine how you'll treasure these $300 photos-and how much more your family will love them then.
  7. If you want to really go long, you can touch on the fact that photography is an investment that doesn't see immediate returns. Photos grow in value as the days, months and years pass-and often, their value goes unnoticed until a much later date. (Feel free to use a personal story about a photo you didn't cherish until something happened-baby turned 5, lost loved one, etc)
Overall, you want to give them the information they need to know they are making a sound purchase as well as making a personal connection. You also want them to connect with the concept of owning the photos because once they do that, it will be very hard for them to convince themselves NOT to buy the photos. Once people have envisioned themselves owning something, it's very difficult to talk them out of that decision.

Think about something you bought that you really *really* wanted but couldn't afford or justify at the time but later bought anyway. We talk ourselves into all sorts of things from iPads (It will manage my to-do list!) and lenses because we hope they will bring us more productivity, which in turn brings us money.

We also do it in our personal lives. I know when I was looking for a new car, I fell in love with the Chevy Cruze and it was pretty much impossible to get me to change my mind because for the value it offered, everything else just didn't compare.

They've already told you that they LOVE the photos. They want them. Just give them a good, solid reason to buy them and they won't be able to live without them.

Jennifer Grant is a editorial and lifestyle photographer from Metro Detroit, MI. She started her creative journey with web design and a passion for music when she fell in love with photography during her pursuit of learning business.  Her passion for business is fueled by her desire to see people in the business of being creative succeed and thrive and she loves helping other businesses find a solid foundation. 
Follow her on Twitter to get doses of inspiration and peeks at her daily adventures.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Would You Rather Be Famous or Amazing?

I've never been impressed by popularity contests, celebrity, or fame.  Some people focus on becoming "famous" and forget that most people who are really famous were also first "amazing" and not trying to attract their fame.  Now, this is not always true.  You CAN buy fame if you want it.  That's what advertising is- fame for sale, and if you have enough money to spend or a company you're willing to sell your soul for, than you can acquire plenty of fame.

Another way to become famous is to become compelling or controversial- which is how many artists end up getting national press these days.  In most circumstances where fame is created with these strategies, it's more of a flash-in-the-pan kind of fame that doesn't last very long.  Like the one-hit-musician or the you-tube-star.  When it appears to last a long time, it's because the artist is constantly cultivating their next fame-making stunt.  Acquiring fame can be an art form in and of itself, but it comes with a lot of baggage, hate, and jealousy that most people- especially artists- don't have the stomach to endure.  Fame has destroyed plenty of lovely humans who turn to drugs just to tune out the fame monster and have a moment of escape.

Do you REALLY want to be FAMOUS?

Of course, fame isn't all bad.  It provides access to special people and places, and it opens doors more easily to pursue what you love.  However, when you consider the amount of time you have to simply "deal with being famous," it can take a lot of time away from doing work that actually pays the bills or allows you to sustain yourself beyond the next marketing stunt.

As icky as it feels to admit it, I've been in that fame circle in the photo industry and I endured its good and bad until I realized my inner peace and happiness were slowly slipping away from me.  It probably only took one year of "fame" for me to realize it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and in the meantime, my clients weren't getting nearly the attention or love that they deserved.  Once I got to see it in all of its raw ugliness, I realized it was not at all what I wanted for myself.  However, that's me, and I don't assume that everyone is like me.  If you look at the fact that "celebrities"only represent about 1% of the population on the planet- I'd say that 99% of people reading this would feel like I did.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou
To be amazing is to make a difference in the lives of others in a way that goes beyond the original energy you invested.  It is not to draw people to idolize you, but to encourage and inspire people to feel special and courageous about who they are.  This takes so much less energy and offers so many more rewards.  No one hates someone who is simply trying to be amazing at what they do and who they are.  Doors still open and access is still granted to help you pursue more of what you love, but the treatment is so much different.  There's no hate in being as awesome for your own sake.  There's no hate when you've inspired someone to be their own personal best, instead of being more like you.

One of the big mistakes I see now with social media is when people run popularity campaigns just to get more people to "like" their page on Facebook, or ask people to create false reviews just to get more positive reviews and rankings. Those likes and reviews may give you a temporary warm fuzzy, but they don't cultivate an audience of people who really love you and care about what you have to offer. It's much better and EASIER to carefully and deliberately curate your audience by producing amazing work that draws people in and makes them want to stay simply because they want to be a part of the amazingness that you create on a regular basis.

Being famous is hard and requires a lot of personal compromise, but being amazing only requires you to be your personal best and to be true to who you are.

So, what would you rather be- famous or amazing?

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How To Stop Running Behind & Feeling Overwhelmed

I wouldn't have admitted it when it was happening, but now that I've learned how to manage and overcome it, I can be completely honest in saying that I have been behind in my business and overwhelmed with the amount of work ahead.  This didn't happen just once, nope- it happened several times until I learned how to deal with it and prevent it from happening again.  I hope that my experience can help you learn how to pull yourself out of a never ending hole of bad decisions, and put yourself back in a place of feeling like you have control and can give your clients the best of everything you have to offer.  It wasn't easy for me.  Being so behind on various projects put me in a deep depression and made me want to give up my business and everything that I loved.  I'm here to tell you it's NOT the end.  You CAN turn it around.  Even if you feel like your business has been completely ruined, there's still hope and you can still make a living doing what you love.

After consulting with many different photographers, I generally see this feeling happening somewhere in the second or third year of running a business full time.  Just after you feel like you've had a great year in your business, but now you have more business than you can handle.  Several circumstances generally lead to this feeling:
  • You have not streamlined your workflow or communications
  • You are not priced to make a good living or stay out of debt
  • You have not created healthy habits for good life/work balance
  • You have made business more important than family & friends
  • You have focused more on money than creating great art or fantastic service
Do any of those sound like you?  Do all of them sound like you?  You aren't the only one.  It WILL be OK.  You CAN turn this around.  It has happened to me and it has happened to many other people.  The weak give up and do something else.  The strong use it to help us become better.  It's not easy and it will require change.  The habits that got you to this point won't get you out of it.  You have to be willing to make immediate changes or else you'll continue to run your business and your life ragged until there's nothing left to give.  We're only human.

Step 1: Have Patience With Yourself & Making Changes
Smart, creative, independent people often lack patience when things aren't going the way we planned or envisioned.  When we are in a good place, our impatience makes us creative, inventive, and productive.  However, when we're feeling stuck or lost, impatience makes us compulsive, erratic, and impossible for other people to deal with.  What makes us a great artist, can also make us a bad business owner.  We have to recognize that learning to have more patience when things aren't going well, is one of the keys to overcoming problems.  Problems that took months to create aren't easily solved overnight- much like losing weight takes months of dedication to a healthier lifestyle- so does practicing healthier business habits.  Every small change adds up to something greater.  The only people who fail are those who give up or never try in the first place.  Success is the regular and continual practice of learning how to solve our problems in a way that works for us.

Step 2: Identify How Changing Habits Will Improve Your Life
If we don't continually remind ourselves of the larger benefit in making drastic changes, we will have little incentive to keep pushing ourselves through the process of change.  We need to keep our reminders clear, visible, and accessible wherever we spend most of our time.  We need these reminders to help encourage us to keep making healthier decisions for ourselves and our business.  We also need to put our business in the context of our larger life priorities in order to help us make the best business decisions for our life.  Start by putting simple notes on your wall and only add photos or clippings when you come across something that inspires you and represents one of your ideas.  First, just start with writing out your ideas.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to find out what you really want:
  • What will your ideal day look and feel like?  When will you wake up?  How will you start your day in order to feel healthy and refreshed before getting on your computer or smartphone?
  • How much time will you spend working each week?  What time will you stop answering calls or emails each day?  How much time will you spend with your family and friends and on which days of the week?  How much alone time will you keep for yourself and when will it happen in your day or week?
  • What will you do to relax and unwind?  Where will you go when you need fresh air and inspiration?  What hobbies or activities would you like to do more when you're not working?
  • How many clients will you serve each month or week?  What products and services are you excited to share with them?  How will they let you know you've done great work?
  • What will having a successful business provide for you?  How will it enhance your life?  What will it allow you to do more or less of?
By focusing on the outcomes we want to see in our life, rather than just the immediate problems we need to solve, we put ourselves in a position to make decisions that help us lead a healthier and happier life in general, rather than just quick fix decisions we think we need right now.  By taking the time to finish this one step, you will have started a powerful rewiring of your mind to help you achieve long term and short term goals that will make you happier and healthier.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Problems
Often we are overwhelmed because we have too many things we want to do all at once.  This overwhelm often leads to confusion and doing nothing at all or waiting until someone threatens us to take action on something specific.  Making excuses and procrastinating only digs a bigger hole that takes more energy to climb out of.  Day after day this will lead to loss of energy, excessive worry, and ultimately a mental and emotional meltdown.  The brain can only keep spinning its wheels for so long before it needs to drain energy from the rest of the body and initiate complete shut down just to recharge and take a break.  

I'm not a neuroscientist, but from my personal experience, worrying is far more draining on the mind and  body than doing hard work.  The end result of hard work is feeling productive and accomplished, but the end result of worrying is just breakdown.  In order to take yourself out of the cycle of worrying, you need to prioritize your problems to determine what to do the hard work on FIRST.  The sooner you start doing the hard work on any ONE thing, the sooner you'll start feeling productive and accomplished.  The more productive and accomplished you feel, the more energy you'll have to deal with the rest of your backlog and overwhelm.

There is one simple questions I ask myself to help me focus and prioritize on the FIRST thing I need to do:
  • What action can I take right now that will help me feel better tomorrow?
Notice that I am NOT asking you to make a list of everything you need to do.  You've been making that list in your head over and over and it's been driving you crazy.  What you need to do is take action on ONE thing.  ONE thing that will help you feel productive and accomplished.  ONE thing that will get you closer to the life and business you want for yourself.  Only after you have finished that ONE thing should you ask the question again to determine what ONE thing you need to do next.

Despite what you may believe about yourself, the human brain and body is not good at multi-tasking.  If you consider worrying one of your multi-tasking skills, I would say it actually drains your energy from anything else you're attempting to do.  When you decide to get your mind off the treadmill of worry and onto a walking path of action ONE step at a time, you'll start to see your energy increase, your mood improve, and it will become easier to solve any problems that arise.  If you aren't feeling inspired to get off the worry wheel yet, it's because you haven't done Step 2 and given yourself a reason to start making changes.  How much longer do you want to feel like this?  When will you start creating change for yourself?  How about now?  You can do it!!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Website Critique Webinar

Due to popular demand, we are going to have another Website Critique Webinar this Thursday at 4PM EST! So many of you asked us to review your sites for free after our last post that we decided to go ahead and do another webinar. Are you so excited? We are! Join us just before Happy Hour to hear more tips about making your online presence the absolute BEST it can be!

This week's webinar is going to be run by Corey Ann. As a nod to one of her favorite photographers, Zack Arias, she may have a glass of bubbly in her hand as she reviews sites to take the edge off the nerves for her first ever webinar. Be kind! ;) The rest of the Lovecats will be joining in on the chat as well!

Do you want to submit your website for possible review? Send us an email and let us know!

See you Thursday!

Friday, March 9, 2012

How To Hire A Remote Photo Assistant & Outsource

While my business may appear to be a one-woman show, let me assure you that I cannot do everything necessary to run a successful business on my own. Even though I HAVE the physical and mental capabilities to do everything my business needs, I simply do not have the TIME to do it all.

I believe in spending more time doing what you love and in hiring people you enjoy working with to handle the rest.

For me, that means I enjoy spending my time doing: photography, personal service, marketing, strategy and mentoring/consulting. Even though I can get away with running a business on what I love alone, I was never really successful until I found people to take care of: production, retouching, accounting/finance, travel arrangements, and random details and projects.

It took me a long time and a lot of frustration to learn that I needed to outsource the things I didn't like.

It also took me a long time to find services that I liked and trusted with my images and my business- about 2-3 years to be exact. Almost as soon as I would find local services and people I enjoyed working with, I'd have to move. So, I've had a lot of experience searching for and finding those people and services that I enjoy working with!! Hopefully, by sharing my process with you, you'll be able to find the people you need to run a successful photography business as well.

I started off with local labs because I wanted to keep my business local and support my local economy. Unfortunately local professional labs are quickly dying in favor of nation-wide online labs, but I think it's still very important to have a local lab you can go to at the last minute for a same-day or quick-turn around job that a national lab wouldn't be able to easily accommodate.

How to find one?

  1. Take 10 sample prints with different processing techniques on them and submit them to the lab as you would if you were ordering prints for clients. Order the papers you want, the cropping, the toning, the turn around time, the mounting, etc.
  2. Evaluate their turn around time, the service they provide when dealing with your order, and of course, if they are able to produce results that you like and if they offer all of the products that you're interested in selling to your clients.  The more they can handle in one place, the more streamlined your business will be to deal with any last minute issues or orders.
  3. If you like their service, but they weren't able to produce results, find out if they can work with you to create a custom printer profile that you can use when submitting prints to them.  If the service is great, they should be able to walk you through this process to help you get the results you want.
After trying many of my local labs and running into horrible service left and right, I ended up testing all of the national labs with the same method and finally found a lab that I love using for more than just printing and album production.  What I pay to use their service and their professional team of printers, retouchers, packagers, album designers, and production assistants is far less on a monthly basis than I would be able to pay a professional photo assistant to work in my office or even to drive to for print pickup.  Hands down, the best investment I made in my success was turning my production over to a professional photography lab.  The lab also guarantees all of their work, so if there are any problems, it's not my fault, it's the labs and they handle it on their dollar, not mine.  As a side note, using a professional lab has also made it easier for me to sell more products and increase my profit margin on individual jobs by offering products that consumers can't get anywhere else but through a professional photographer.

Doing your own finances is fine when you don't have a lot of money or work coming in the door, but if you don't love crunching numbers and spending your time in excel spreadsheets or accounting software, than I would suggest that an accountant or bookkeeper is as essential to your business as your camera equipment.  I'm not a CPA.  I don't spend my time studying tax code or best accounting practices and I have no desire to whatsoever.  I'm a photographer.  I take pretty pictures.  A good accountant or bookkeeper will help keep all of your business finances in order once a year, once a month, or once a week, depending on how much work you're doing to make it necessary.  
Personally, most years I'm good with hiring a CPA once a year at around $300-$500 just to clean up my lazy expense tracking and maximize my tax returns.  However, in years when I was REALLY busy because I was charging less and taking a greater volume of clients, I worked with an accountant quarterly- basically each time a quarterly tax payment was due.  Businesses with even more volume may simply hire a bookkeeper once a week or month, and then only a CPA for taxes.  Having a CPA do your taxes also helps reduce your liability because they have to practice ethical accounting standards in order to maintain their certification.

How to find one?  
Your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development office is the best place to start looking.  Ask other photographers in your area, or other local small businesses that provide a service like yours.  Set up an interview with three people before committing to one.  You might find one that's recommended but not click right away.  I can't stress enough how important it is to like the people you work with in your business.  If you feel like you can't call someone and ask them for advice easily, or you're too intimidated to talk to them, you're less likely to get the help you need when you need it for any business problems that arise.  Find an accountant you really like, it may take a few conversations over coffee, but ask them to talk about the other businesses they work for and what they do for them to help you get a sense of how they'll be working with you.

The first two areas are easily outsourced to an established company.  However, finding an office assistant and random task master generally happens on a much more personal level.  While there are services like and that will help you with individual projects and on a remote basis, I've learned that having someone you can depend on locally is actually more beneficial for your business.

Even though I'm traveling the world this year and working in several different countries, I have a remote office assistant that already knows the ins and outs of my business because we worked together side by side for several months in person.  This was essential for me being able to trust my assistant in a situation when I might need someone to deliver something to a client in person while I'm away.  While I've streamlined all of my payments to happen electronically, if a client needed to send a check, I'd want someone I could trust with my money to do that random task for me.

How to find one?
The best place to look for an assistant is through your existing audience of fans, followers, and friends.  Some people hire family members, some people hire friends, and some hire former clients or interns.  More often than not, the assistants that become a best fit for you and your business already have some kind of relationship with you or are already interested in you and your business.
  1. Create a list of tasks that you'd like someone to do for you.  Outline the types of software they'll be using, what things they'll need to know in advance, and what you're willing to help teach them in order for them to do things they may not know how to do yet.  Identify how much you're willing to pay per project or per hour.  This list will help set appropriate expectations for the work that you're asking other people to enjoy doing for you.  It's critical that they will actually enjoy doing these jobs, otherwise they will be just as frustrated as you are when trying to accomplish them.
  2. Start by reaching out to people you know you'd love working with and see if they'd be interested in working part time for you.  Start with family, then friends, then fans & followers.  Some family and friends do well in a business relationship and some don't- think of it like a partnership.  If you don't feel you can work through problems peacefully and professionally together, than they aren't going to be an ideal assistant.
  3. If you don't find what you're looking for in your existing audience, reach out on your Blog, Facebook Page, or LinkedIn before posting on Craigslist.  There's a very good chance a friend of a friend or an existing follower knows someone who would be perfect for you.
  4. Interview several people.  Unless you've hand picked your assistant and they said yes, you'll probably need to interview a few different people to find the best fit.  Sit down with them in person and ask them if they're comfortable handling the tasks you need help with.  Notice their body language to see if you feel like they're excited about the opportunity, or just thinking about doing it for the extra cash.  You really want someone who is excited about working with you, because it their energy and desire to work with you will help you trust them and hand over more work to them.
  5. After you've found your ideal person, create a contract for the working agreement and determine if they need to be an employee or if they can be an independent contractor.  In my business, I haven't needed an employee, just independent contractors who can either work at my office or away from my office on various tasks and projects as they see fit.  
  6. If they'll be working for you all year, regardless of their employment status, you'll also need to collect tax information from them so that you can report it at the end of the year.  Here's another post on the paperwork you'll need and How To Outsource with Independent Contractors.
A successful business does not exist in a vacuum by itself.  It requires many people making things happen simultaneously in order to create a business that allows you to really focus on what you love doing and the reason why you started working for yourself in the first place.  If what you want is freedom and time to enjoy your life when you aren't earning a living doing what you love, than you need to find a way to bring other people on board that you enjoy working with- or you need to find someone else you can work for who will handle all of the stuff you don't like.  Running a business isn't easy and it's a lot of responsibility. 

In the life of your dreams - what are you paid to do and what do you pay other people to handle for you?

If you can put a price or a budget on how much it's worth for someone else to take a task or a project off your hands, than you can create a plan for your business that provides room to hire other people for help.

CONFESSION: I pay people to do my laundry, make my travel arrangements, and cook my food (by going out to eat more often than I cook.)  Sometimes I do these myself, but mostly I just prefer to hire other people to do it for me.  I might end up with slightly less money at the end of the year, but getting back my time to enjoy life and spend more time doing what I love is well worth the cost!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Website & Branding Critique Webinar - Photographer Website Best Practices

Thanks to all who attended our Live Website & Branding Critique Online this week! We had awesome people in the chat room who were very helpful and friendly to those who were having their websites critiqued. It's not easy putting yourself and your business on stage for everyone else to see and criticize, but so far the feedback has been very positive and helpful for everyone who joined in! We couldn't do it without the courage of our lovecat audience putting their own work out there for us to critique in front of everyone. For those who could not make it, I have to say that the slides are such a SMALL fraction of all the things we discussed. However there should still be plenty of solid tips to help you grade your own website experience. To view the slides, simply click through the slideshare presentation embedded below:

We also got the NICEST thank you note ever from Michelle- whose website we reviewed live in front our a webinar audience of 65 people....

"Dear Anne, Corey Ann, Jennifer and Christine,

I'd like to thank you all so much. It was the first time I have ever really put myself and work out there and you made it wonderful experience.  You were very honest and gave me much insight as to what needs to be changed.  I took two pages of notes and couldn’t keep up with the side bar of comments but I truly appreciate everyone’s input.  I know from Facebook Anne, you were concern about presenting the information to us well and you did.  I did not feel offended, just had my eyes opened to what others truly see.  Lots of work to do this week and just grateful and thankful for you ladies.
Have an awesome day!
Warmest wishes,

I can't thank our lovecat audience enough for THEIR contribution in making these webinars so helpful for ALL of us!

Many people asked if we would critique their website after seeing the live critique done online, and our answer is YES! We decided on offering two possibilities, depending on what you're looking to get out of it.

Cost: Free
Privacy: Public (no privacy)
Timeframe: Whenever we feel like it (could be one week, could be months from now)
Details: Email your website to photolovecat at with the heading "Public Website Critique Request" and one of our editors will volunteer to do a blog post critique of your website to be shared publicly here on

Cost: $250
Privacy: Private
Timeframe: Agreed upon before payment
Details: Email your website to photolovecat at with the heading "Private Website Critique Request" and one of our editors will contact you with more details.

We wish that we had the time to critique everyone's website for free, but realistically, we have businesses to run and bills to pay. Time is the most valuable resource in our business. We volunteer our time here on PhotoLovecat when we feel we have extra to give, so please do not be offended if we cannot critique your site in our spare time- we love to enjoy friends and family in our spare time too!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why You Need To Pay Yourself Starting Right Now

A lot of small business owners start their businesses by taking all of the money they earn and reinvesting it into equipment, marketing, branding, a new website, or some other business expense until they feel like they "have it all." The only problem is, for quite a few small business owners, they'll never feel like they "have it all"- there will always be new equipment, software updates, workshops, or the latest gizmo that money in the bank could be buying in exchange for another business tax write-off.

While it may be tempting to get the latest of everything for your business, "keeping up with the Jonese" can easily become a fast track to letting your business expense you out of having a paycheck and a living wage.

This is why it's so important to pay yourself a dedicated portion of every bit of revenue that walks in that door.

Now, in your starting years, that portion may realistically only be 20-30% while you need to build your business and make important investments, but it is important to start taking income from your business the minute you start taking money. You deposit a check into your business account and then cut yourself a portion of the revenue as income to your personal account. The reason is that you need to develop good financial business habits from the very beginning so that you don't find yourself overworked and underpaid picking up work at Starbucks just to make ends meet. Frankly, this is the biggest reason people go out of business in two years or less. They simply don't pay themselves enough to make a living and they let their own business run them into debt and out of a job that they can't collect unemployment for.

Ideally, you should aim to take home 50% of your revenue before taxes.

(Sole Proprietors) This forces you to run a lean business that makes decisions based on needs, rather than wants and whatever the latest trend happens to be. It forces you to be creative when solving problems rather than just throwing money at them. It also makes it very clear when you're using your personal income to purchase something for your business and vice versa, so that you can measure your financial success against whether or not you're making enough for everything you need or want.

If you're two or three years into your business and still haven't given yourself a paycheck. It's never too late to start. You can start with the next check that walks in the door. Yes, you'll need to make changes in how you handle money and solve problems, but they will be healthy changes that will allow you to continue doing what you love far longer than you'd be able to if you continued not to pay yourself.

If you wouldn't be an unpaid slave for someone else, why would you choose to enslave yourself?

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.