To help figure out how to succeed in advertising, I want to thank the following photographers: Jake Armour, Astor Morgan, Nick Nacca, Dan Root, Casey Templeton, and Chris Winton-Stahle, http://www.shutterbug.com/content/how-sell-yourself-advertising-photographer-ad-photographers-need-re-examine-everything
This is my favorite topic and currently my Business Trends column post on www.shutterbug.com. The article is “How To Help Others (While Helping Yourself)” and talks about donating your services to non-profit and charity organizations. I talk with four photographers about how this works for them (and can work for you). Thank you AGAIN to: Luke Copping, Tim Courtney, Cathy Greenblat, and Isaac Howard…their web links are included in the column, enjoy! http://www.shutterbug.com/category/business-trends
I never thought of myself as much of a “joiner” until I attended my first professional association meeting. By the end of the evening I signed up on the spot to join. I was informed, energized, interacting with my peers – and the brand new recording secretary on the chapter’s board! I never looked back and have always been a big supporter of joining and participating in professional groups since that memorable evening. My business as a photo rep, teacher, consultant and author all came from joining and participating.
Photographers have many choices today for professional association membership depending on your area of interest. For example, commercial photographers gravitate towards groups such as American Photographic Artists (APA), Editorial Photographers (EP-now merged with APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) as they are advocates for business practices in commercial photography. Wedding and portrait photographers find career and business support with groups such as Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI). There are associations serving the business needs for specific populations such as Women In Photography International (WIPI) and Stock Artists Alliance (SAA). As you will see in the interviews, in addition to these national and international associations, many photographers join groups with interests only in their hometown or local communities.
So what are the business benefits for photographers? Maybe joining or renewing your membership gives you pause but I believe it is essential; you will be re-paid tenfold in benefits! Happily, there are many photographers with similar feelings and some are interviewed here to tell their stories of the networking and educational benefits provided by professional membership. I want to thank: Ed Carreon, Ben Colman, Jenna Close, Rick Dahms, Therese Gietler, Stewart Marcano, Ivan Martinez and Christopher Winton-Stahle for their contributions.
What skills or areas of expertise (other than photography) do you think professional associations provide to develop a successful photography business?
Ben Colman: From ASMP it is best business practices, licensing and rights management, negotiating, networking. Full disclosure; regarding ASMP and its educational efforts, everything I have learned about the business of photography, I have learned one way or another through ASMP. I have served two three-year terms on the National Board of Directors and was President of the ASMP Foundation for several years and as such, had a ground level view of ASMP’s educational programs and development.
Rick Dahms: The greatest value of the associations is access to the members as a group. Everything from tax issues to location recommendations are regular topics of discussion. The group can also serve as a great “reality check” and a moderately safe place to ask dumb questions.
Jenna Close: So much of running your own business is about just that…the business. This is difficult, ongoing and not always intuitive. Associations provide a place to learn this side of the industry through their programming and, perhaps even more importantly, though the contacts you make with other established members who can offer advice on everything from pricing, estimating, gear and negotiation tactics.
Ed Carreon: Both organizations I belong to put up panels and discussion with industry leaders and given that the industry is changing so fast it is important to know where to go for information when you are asked to do something you don’t know how to do.
Ivan Martinez: One common theme among the professional organizations I belong is the amount of information these association provide to small business. Many of these organizations are able to invest in marketing research that a small business such as mine will never be able to afford.
PPA for example runs a biannual survey which results in a series of bench marks that provide an incredible value to my business. I am able to see how I measure against the national average and see what adjustments I need to make to my pricing and marketing.
ASMP for example runs a series of business presentations that range from social media marketing, to pricing and copyright. They sponsor speakers that travel around the country sharing their expertise and helping small business owner gain valuable information.
Therese Gietler: It’s all in the classes that are offered, the education at a fraction of the price of college tuition. And this is education specifically geared towards us and our needs. I’ve learned everything I know about marketing in these classes and the books that I’ve purchased as a result. I can’t emphasize enough the opportunity to learn when you give back through these organizations. Volunteering for the greater good is a powerful force to make our world a better place.
What are some of the specific networking benefits you have seen from your association membership?
Rick Dahms: I have a core group of peers that I use to discuss more sensitive matters and to share and seek information about specific clients or business aspects that I wouldn’t want to broadcast. All of these people I’ve met through and are members.
Christopher Winton-Stahle: Having the opportunity to build strong relationships with colleagues within the community and to develop healthy friendships that sometimes last throughout your career. Within certain circles, knowledge, resources and occasionally even jobs are passed around from one member to the next.
Ben Colman: I have met some of the best professional photographers and businesspeople that I can call any time to bounce an idea around, or just catch up.
Jenna Close: I now have a group of people whose opinion I trust. Many of them have been in business longer than I have or have business models that differ from mine. Because of my association membership, I have people around me who will answer my questions. I also have a group of people whose reputation I am familiar with that I can hire for assistants and second shooters. I don’t hesitate to recommend another member for a job I cannot do, and others have also done the same for me. I use ASMP Find A Photographer listings to search based on location or category. I have made contacts and booked a few jobs through this service as well.
Ed Carreon: Networking has been important to me because I have often found that when I get or I am up for an assignment and I don’t have the knowledge to pull it off or need to find a good casting agent or an assistant that can light a set in a certain way, or a payroll service, that being able to call up another photographer directly and ask for information has proven an invaluable resource to me.
Stewart Marcano: For a period of time, I joined APA Success Teams and found it to be an incredible experience both professionally and personally. I’m looking forward to being part of another one in the future when time allows. The reason I found it so valuable is the fact that we need to collaborate with our colleagues. Very few people have the image knowledge, photography business knowledge and the experience other than fellow photographers to help you and advise you and bounce ideas off. Therese Gietler: It is so important to know and be known not just by your clients, but also your peers. ASMP has had some incredible programs as of late – a shoot-off event, which culminated in a book of everyone’s images, and choosing non-profit groups to support. It builds community, and in this business of the lone wolf, that community becomes a lifeline at times.
Ed Carreon www.carreonphotography.com
Jenna Close http://www.p2photography.net
Rick Dahms: www.rickdahms.com
Stewart Marcano (member of APA): www.stewartmarcano.com
Ivan Martinez: www.ivanmartinezphotography.com
Associations Mentioned By Contributors:
American Photographic Artists (APA): www.apanational.com
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP): www.asmp.org
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) www.ppa.com
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” This from the book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles, by author Marianne Williamson.
Upon that reflection, you know that personal connections are more important than ever for a creative professional to find and keep clients, especially for photographers. Due to the intimate nature of the photo assignment process, clients really need to get to know and trust you. But many photographers still don’t have the commitment to put themselves out there and let their “light shine”. In the workshops I give, I still find photographers telling me they are hesitant to put themselves forward, to let their “light shine”. This is of course exactly what you need to do to promote your business. Maybe you are good at managing your business, handy at social networking and even doing brilliant creative work but are you still “playing small”?
Many negative emotional connotations typically come to mind when thinking about self-promotion, all of which unfortunately keep most creative professionals from feeling comfortable and confident when doing self-promotion. I say, leave your emotions at the front door and act confident! Work on pushing yourself past any discomfort, make a good first impression and make your personal connections with clients.
Here are a few of some of the best pieces of advice on this topic I have collected from people I call our “creative explorers”:
Jeffrey Thayer: I tell myself that no one is going to hire me if they don’t know I exist. I remember I need to run promotions when I am busy or I won’t be soon. I know that just because I sent an email campaign, or postcard, or whatever it may be out, it does not mean I am ever done. I need to continue to do it on a regular schedule. The people I want to work with need to see that I am working on new images and staying on top of my game.
Andy Batt: When we promote, we see results 6-12 months later. When we don’t promote – we see the (lack of) results 6-12 months later. It’s very rare the promotion directly turns something around – it’s almost always indirect and on a much longer timeline than you would think (or want). It’s a discipline to promote – if we’re busy, it’s easy to ignore, and if we’re slow, it’s easy to put it off.
Therese Gietler: I think the best first impression, aside from what your marketing does, is being able to speak intelligently about your own work. When someone asks “what do you shoot?” you need to have an answer immediately and confidently. “We shoot people in motion, performers in many categories, like athletes, and dancers and musicians”. Not “um, well, I shoot a lot of stuff, it’s really hard to describe, um” (you’ve heard this a million times). Photo clients want to know you are confident.
Rick Becker: To make a good first impression to clients in my studio, I just try to be happy. I enjoy my job, I enjoy photography. I am happy they are here. I will do whatever it takes to make a great photograph and make my clients look good. I make them as comfortable as possible mentally and physically so they can feel I have experience and that I know what to do (or that I will figure it out).
Andy Batt, photographer and Therese Gietler, producer www.andybatt.com
Rick Becker, photographer www.rickbeckerstudios.com
Jeffrey Thayer, photographer www.jeffreythayer.com
Technical ability is assumed in today’s marketplace for creative services. It is seen clearly in your work, but there are a lot of technically competent professionals available! How do you know what clients are really looking for when they hire? Try out these hiring factors on your work and make sure they are represented in your portfolio, web site and promo pieces.
- Make the client look good. This is a very difficult subject for clients to discuss openly. Your best bet is to be aware of how the project will make them look good to their peers or their boss. This awareness is a potential competitive edge and can create added value to your creative services. To prove your awareness, add related case study anecdotes when creating your marketing materials. Tell the stories of your work with other clients or your work on a public service project. Help the client become the hero. Help them hire you.
- Every client’s dream creative project is the one that eases their frustrations and meets their challenges. Your marketing should address these issues because every client is thinking of it whether they will admit it or not. In addition, it provides a counterpoint to the client’s objection, “We are happy with our supplier”. There is always something that someone has done to frustrate the client or make a project difficult. How can you do better?
- You need to be flexible. This means you will be easy to work with and solve problems, not make more than your clients already have. The problem with this-and many of these factors-is that they are about the working relationship and not about your images. How will the prospective client get to know you are flexible until they’ve worked with you but they won’t give you a job until they know you are flexible? The answer is to demonstrate flexibility in every contact you have with a client. Plan it into your marketing strategy. Add case studies and testimonials to your marketing materials. By the way, flexibility does not mean dropping your price to get the job. See previous blog post on pricing!
- You need to work within the client’s deadline and budget. Again the case study approach in your marketing materials, sales presentations and client testimonials is the best way to demonstrate this very important factor. Think about it, can a client tell the project came in at budget and by deadline by just looking at your work? No! You’ve heard the old saying, “The portfolio speaks for itself”? It does speak to your creative and technical ability but does not speak to any of these other factors.
- Being able to trust you and know your work together is confidential is very important. You can demonstrate your trustworthiness with your marketing presentations. Some ways to do this are: not talking badly about other clients you have, not putting down your competition, and not having other client’s work lying around in full view when the prospective clients visit your studio.
For many clients, you need to show the how you will help them get their job done-better, quicker, faster-by hiring you. A clear competitive edge can be gained when you can demonstrate any of these above factors to your prospective clients.
Creative professionals often use the terms direction and marketing message interchangeably. It may also be called target your market but all three terms mean finding new clients and new revenues. In today’s economy it has become a normal business practice to target more than one market for your services. In order to identify a marketing message for your work, first answer this question: Do you want to do more of the same work but for better clients with bigger budgets? Or, do you want to do different types of creative projects and take on an entirely new direction? This will help guide your next step and the types of clients you target. Once you have answered this most basic question, then you go to the next step. Most would ask the question, “What do I do?” and that is the wrong question when marketing your services. You must always market for what you want to do more of, not what you do every day. If you ask the question, “What do I do?” the answer is “photography” or “illustration” and these are too broad a message to target a client base (and create marketing materials). To get a more focused marketing message, you must ask yourself the question, “What do I want to do more of?” When you answer this more specific question, it will guide you to your new clients and your marketing message. There are four ways to answer this question and target a marketing message for your creative services.
By a Style of Work: Style is based on how you perceive the world and the way you approach creative problems. Style is based on the way you solve issues for the clients with your own brand of individual creativity. Marketing a style is very personal; it is how you see the world. It is not specific to any subject but crosses over many subjects and different industries. Also, the work tends to be used by high-end clients (bigger budgets) and clients in cutting edge industries such as editorial or entertainment and advertising clients. It takes either a very secure or risk-tolerant client to hire for a personal style marketing message instead of taking the safe, conservative route.
By a Specific Industry: This is based on who the client is and it is one of the most common types of marketing message because it is so easy to identify potential clients. The beauty of this marketing message is that it builds on itself. For example, once you have done work for a financial services client, you can use your experience and expertise in the industry to market to other financial services companies. Another nice benefit is that the usage of your work is very diverse. Every industry has a great variety needs for creative services.
By the Use of the Work: This marketing message is based on what the creative is used for or the usage. There are many categories of usage for you to choose from and to target. For example: corporate communications, web sites, packaging, advertising, editorial, paper products and books to name a few uses. These are good examples of targeting your marketing message because it helps you clearly identify the potential clients. It also is extremely helpful when buying your marketing lists. With this marketing message you are not locked into any particular industry. For example, industries that use packaging photography/design/illustration all include such diverse products as food, beverage, pharmaceutical and beauty products.
By the Subject: You can target your marketing message based on the subject of your image. This is particular to photographers and a very popular marketing message because your potential client base is readily identified. Examples include: automotive, people, food, architecture, products, locations and landscapes. By targeting the subject, you will also find great diversity in the use of your work and your clients will range from advertising to editorial and everything in between. The one thing in common is the subject of the photography.
It is extremely important when developing your marketing messages that you set up a specific target with a broad client base to get enough work. If you target a specific marketing message too narrowly, you won’t find enough work and you won’t be maximizing the potential of this profit center approach. For example, when you target with a specific style (technique or approach) your base should have a broad range of industries represented. When you target a market by type of industry, you’ll find that the broad base will be represented by the various uses of your creative services. You don’t want to be too specialized. For example, if you just focused on web sites for entertainment industry clients, you are too narrowly focused. You would need to broaden that to working on all the different services an entertainment firm has for you.
For most creative professionals, Self-confidence is an issue (especially when selling or pricing your work). Here’s the thing…you must not wait to feel confident before taking action. You’d wait forever! No, it turns out that feelings follow behavior and not the other way around. In other words, the behavior of confidence (and the resulting success) will eventually bring the feeling of confidence to you. If you study successful creative people, the one thing you would find they all have in common is a very strong, calm, sense of confidence. This confidence is made, not born. It comes from actions, from testing yourself and winning the tests. This is true for your creativity and technical ability as well as your professionalism and business skills.
Don’t wait to overcome doubt and fear before facing any business or marketing challenge. Accept that they are part of the process of testing and winning. Anxiety and hesitancy may feel like negative feelings, but you have to look at them as indicators that you are doing something you are not really good at yet. For example, the first time you quote a big job or tell a client you can’t do that job for their tiny budget, you will feel fear and anxiety. Don’t worry! You are experiencing a perfectly normal reaction any business owner will feel when being assertive.
It turns out that there are three choices for a confident business attitude and you always making a choice of one, whether you are conscious of it or not.
- An aggressive attitude means you get what you want without care or concern for the other party.
- A non-assertive attitude means you give people whatever they want without care or regard for the cost to you (a common problem in creative services).
- An assertive attitude means you get what you need and the other party gets what they need.
Being aggressive could drive your clients away. Being non-assertive could put you out of business! Acting assertive (whether you feel it at first or not) may cause you some short-term discomfort, but will ensure you long-term career satisfaction and profitability.
The trick is to learn to accept the fear without waiting for it to go away and go on to do the work at hand. The most common technique for this is called visualization. You must see yourself accepting the challenge, mapping a strategy to meet it and then successfully accomplishing the task at hand. This behavior works to create your success and the feeling of self-confidence that follows.
Setting goals is too passive an exercise for the success of your creative services business. You need to plan for success and not wait for it to happen. You need to go get goals, not just set goals. The key to successful goal achievement is to write everything down. Your subconscious simply will not recognize the unwritten goal. Putting your desires into written form creates an unrestricted flow of energy and dedication to achieving those goals.
Start by stating your objectives. These are the things you want to achieve. Write down all of them-big ones and little ones. Keep adding to this list and even though you won’t take action on everything at once, it’s best to have a clear picture of what you want from your business. Be sure to use action statements such as, “I want to sell $150,000 of photography services this year” and not vague statements such as, “I want to be rich “.
Then add action statements. Decide which of the written objectives you want to achieve right now. Pull them out of the above list and add the activities required for their accomplishment. Be sure to be specific and break down these actions into bite size pieces. For example, one of your goals might be to hire a graphic designer to help plan your marketing materials. Break that down into small chunks of tasks such as “identify materials to be designed” and “start networking for your search”. This breakdown should create a step-by-step outline of tactics describing how you will achieve your goal.
Next, assign resources. Add to each of the above tasks information regarding the time, energy, attention and money they will require.
Finally, schedule everything. Take your daily calendar and schedule all of the tasks you identified above as goal-getting. You can always reschedule when work (a paying client) comes along. This way, getting any of your goals you have set becomes a daily activity and not something you wait to find the time to do.
Most stress in a creative service business stems from the attempts to balance conflicting needs. You have this conflict whether trying to reconcile your business persona with your creative persona or struggling with dedication to your work and the desire to spend time with your family. Sound familiar?
Any of us could probably compose an endless list of personal and professional stress inducers. The important thing to accept is that these types of stress are normal. Remember that there is a difference between stress and distress. Distress would include issues like suffering through a family illness or a natural disaster. In other words, distress is outside of your control, therefore it can’t be managed like stress. When you have determined that you are dealing with stress, try these simple suggestions:
- You’ll never be truly caught up, so stop punishing yourself when you don’t finish everything. There will be a never-ending succession of business and personal job tasks and your client work projects. You need to stop looking for the bottom of your “in box” or expecting to see the top of your desk. It is not going to happen! Let go of the feeling that you’re drowning and will never surface with the understanding that your business is like the ongoing rush and flow of a river. Don’t expect a calm and still body of water. Besides, if the “river” stops flowing, you have no work and that is a much worse situation to handle. Relieve your stressful feelings with a good time management system (see Part One) and rid your life of the stress suffered from playing “catch up”.
- You’ll never make everyone happy. There will always be clients that want you to jump through possibly imaginary hoops to make them happy. In these situations, stop and differentiate between your client’s subjective and objective happiness. Subjective is their opinion (usually after the shoot) and objective is based on an accountable and measurable goal for the project. You must make clients happy on an objective level but you can’t always expect clients to be happy on a subjective level. They will have opinions that you don’t like or have changed their mind. Then you have to stop and ask yourself…do you need to do anything other than acknowledge and recognize their opinion? Recognition of someone’s opinion without needing to agree with it will go far to smooth over a stressful situation. If you have met all the measurable and accountable objectives maybe you should not be asking “how high?” if no one has asked you to “jump”.
- Worry is a great producer of stress. To get it off your chest, write down this particular worry. Pen/paper, tablet – does not matter as long as you then put it aside to be considered later (this technique is also called sleep on it). Often, the worry has resolved itself or is no longer so overwhelming. Motivational speaker and co-author of the wonderful Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Mark Victor Hansen calls this type of stress “stewing without doing” and it is very non-productive.
- Learn to say “No”. Often, stress is created when you say “Yes” when all logic and common sense tells you to say “No”. Production of a creative services project is a perfect example. A client makes a production or pricing request during the project and you know that an unqualified “Yes” will cause great stress (and reduced profits). So try one of these three options, “No, but here’s an option to look at” or “Yes, and this is what that will cost” or, simply put, “Let me get back to you!” In each case, you have presented further considerations that will reduce the stress of dealing with difficult situations while keeping a professional demeanor.
I first met the amazing and talented team of Therese Gietler and Andy Batt (www.andybatt.com) at an ASMP meeting at their Portland (OR) based studio. Therese is the producer and co-owner of Andy Batt Studio and been part of the solution for all of the studio’s print and motion campaigns. Andy is the creative photographer and director and brings his dramatic, storytelling style to all his projects.
For the last eighteen years, their traditional marketing techniques have been the same, with different executions and results. They have used direct mail, email, phone calls, portfolio showings, leave-behinds, website, contest entry, industry events, gallery exhibitions/parties, and in the last seven years, advertising in sourcebooks.
Also seven years ago, the team started experimenting with social media. Therese, “It’s the same for every business to ask ‘how do I let people know I’m here, I’m really good at what I do, and you should hire me’? But it differs for us, because we are selling our personal vision vs. a product and we’re selling it to ultra-savvy marketers, which means that not only does the photography have to be extraordinary, but the design and writing and packaging have to be eye-catching as well.”
Their Facebook profile was soon replaced by their Facebook business page, https://www.facebook.com/andybattstudio. Therese, “But how do we get the right people to follow the business page? I’ve seen people host contests, but it was so transparent, it didn’t appeal to me so as a solution I post there typically once or twice a week, either with news about our studio or interesting news in photography or advertising. Social media doesn’t change the game; it’s the same marketing on a different platform. You still need to build a relationship in order to be awarded the job.”
LinkedIn seemed a better fit for sales lead development and research with its deep profiles on business contacts where you could check client backgrounds and member groups so they put up a LinkedIn profile (http://www.linkedin.com/in/andybattstudio). Traditional lead development took hours of research though trade magazines and phone calls and is now more efficiently done using social networks as research tools. Therese gives an example, “I received an email from At-Edge. They sent a promotion; an art buyer is endorsing them. I don’t recognize this name, so I type that name into LinkedIn. She’s been working in the industry for quite some time, but I also see she went to Syracuse University…I know some great creative directors that went to Syracuse. She also went to Creative Circus…I know people that went there. I’ll bet we share a lot of friends…wow; we have 68 people in common. That’s 68 possible introductions! Then as I follow the leads and research the clients, I see who works for whom and on what, and who has received awards – all this time, I’m updating my database.”
One important aspect of integrating social media with traditional marketing is to track where work comes from when new clients contact you. Not only Google Analytics but actually talking to people and asking, “How did you find us?” As an example of this, Therese traced a recent project that started with a post by art producer Jenny Barnes on her blog, http://www.jenren.com/?s=andy+batt. Jenny, “I spend about 20+ hours a week looking at different websites. When I run across something that intrigues me, I write down the artist, rep or gallery site to go back to at a later date. I have a 3″ binder full of these lists and a database w/ 45K entries to help keep track of all the materials.” The Freelance Art Producer Hillary Frileck of http://mcgarrybowen.com saw the Andy Batt blog post on jenren.com and called in their portfolio for a photo project for Verizon. Therese, “the shoot involved shooting Indy cars on the racetrack, with Andy on a chase vehicle at 70 miles per hour. It was his fastest, most exhilarating photo shoot to date.”
Social media does not replace marketing but can get you “from zero to sixty” faster than before!