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Everything is marketing keyboard

Kim. Not much money but lots of time= get your networking on.

So let’s say you’re a little fish in a big pond.  Or you’re a new fish in a big pond.  Maybe you’ve jump-started your photography business, or moved to a new location,  or added a new service to your photography business that you’ve never done before.  Do you:
A: Go online to photography groups and ask for lots of advice.

B: Get out there and start meeting and greeting new people.

 

The answer is, a little of both. The net is a great place to start, especially when you have no idea where to start and marketing dollars are a precious commodity.  But those people behind the screen don’t know your business.  They don’t know your personality and they don’t know your market.  It’s YOUR job to figure that out.

If I had a dollar for every post of some photographer whining that they’ve “reached out” to other established photographers  and “no one responded”  and the  resounding choruses of “that’s so terrible, they should remember what it was like when they started” I’d be able to retire.

It doesn’t work that way.  You cannot expect learn to run a for-profit business for free.

In the beginning stages of my business, I put my face in front of people as often as I could in networking situations. Any chance I had to say “Hi, I’m Kim and I’m a photographer” and give them my elevator pitch I did.  It was the only thing I could afford to do. With that, I formed real, in-person, in my town relationships.

Gather round kiddos, because Imma gonna tell you a story.  Right now in my inboxes I have 4 requests from various local photographers that I have never heard of asking to “buy me lunch and pick my brain”.  On average, I get about 5-7 per month.  If I met each of these 7 photographers for a 90 minute lunch that would mean spending 10.5 hours with them.  There would inevitably be follow up emails asking me to look over what changes they implemented, or phone calls or emails.  It easily could turn into another part-time job.

And frankly, I wish it would.  Because I LOVE meeting other photographers and help them strategize their business plans and problems which is why I love blogging.  But guess what?  They very rarely want to pay me for my time and expertise, they’d just like to buy me lunch.  I like lunch a lot, but I can’t make it a part time job.

If your area has networking meetings for photographers or other event professionals  then that’s the best place to start.  Meeting someone face to face is  a group setting is always a better way to begin, then you can ask to meet privately.  If you don’t have anything like that in your town, how about you be the one to start one?  Even a once a month networking lunch at a restaurant is a great idea.

Be an advocate for your business, value other peoples time and realize that there is no ONE magic bullet when it comes to marketing.

 

Charo: Build your brand but don’t stay married to it when it’s not working.

 

I built my brand around the wallet scene in Pulp Fiction

Jules: I want you to go in that bag, and find my wallet.

Pumpkin: Which one is it?

Jules: It’s the one that says Bad Motherf****r.

When I started shooting was just when the era of wedding photographers having different styles was emerging.  It was right around the time Denis Reggie popped on the scene and it kind of set the wedding photography field on it’s ear. Suddenly there were “Photojournalists”  and “Fashion Based” and then your plain old traditional photographers.  It was pretty cool, actually.  You could really see a difference in not only in the work but in the branding of the websites.

And because my branding was based on not being like everyone else, it worked.  I attracted clients that I wanted that shoot for, which were not clients who based their weddings on some Style Me Pretty fantasy they had in their head, my clients were badass.  They were Rockabilly, Tattooed, Alternative Lifestyle people, but like me had a soft spot in their heart for weddings and romance. It’s a weird combination, I know.

Then, as all things do, the market changed.  Photographers flooded the market, and suddenly all the template websites looked the same.  Since the majority of my clients are not from my transient area, I meet very few of them before the wedding. All of a sudden I was showing up to weddings with a bride I’d talked to on the phone and who loooooooooooved my work and her wedding would be full of sorority sisters and they’d have a giant Kenney Chesney cut out (Not kidding, this shit really happened) that they wanted photographed with all the guests.

What happened?  Why was I all of a sudden attracting these kinds of clients?  And as you might figure, after the wedding they were not happy with their photos. They  all claimed to love my work, but gave me 19 page shot checklist before the wedding.  They wondered why I didn’t have them do that photo where the groomsmen picked up the bride after they got their photos even though there was nothing remotely like that in my work.  I went through a year of hell and really almost threw in the towels on weddings.  I was pissed.  It was all the damn newbies. It was because no one read anymore.  It wasn’t my fault.

Except, you know, it was.  I was Lazy Marketing.

I had to kick my own lazy ass into gear and re-brand because I could not rely on my old branding to work.  It was really hard, I really loved aspects of my old website and I wanted it to be as easy as it had been to get clients, you know?  But it wasn’t working, and I had to set myself apart in a new way. I had to adjust my branding and my attitude on how to attract the right clients.

Mentally getting my head around HOW to make the changes was way harder than actually making them.  I should have done it earlier but you kind of get paralyzed, right?

Sometimes you have to stop being married to things and rebuild.

 

 

If you’re looking for course that will help you learn to network, rebuild and re-brand today is the last day for Marketog before it closes until fall.  When it re-opens it will be at least $300 more for this kick-ass course that will change the course of your business.  We’ve mentioned this before, but we cannot recommend it enough. It’s got a 45 day money back guarantee and if you’re too busy to get to it now, you have lifetime access and you can start the course any time you’d like.

Check out a sample lesson here  but remember, it closes TODAY at midnight.

 

178B8883

I’m not generally a big fan of learning from books.  I’m a visual learner (as I think many photographers are) but I also am not a big fan of those “shoot out” style workshops where photographers crowd around a subject jockeying for position while their 70-200’s clang together and their Kelly Moore bags smash into my hips.  Those workshops make me want to sneak out and drink instead….

I was really surprised at how much I got out of Laura Siebert’s  Get Real.  Authentic, Emotional Outdoor Family Portraits workbook.   I figured I’d give it a skim and put it in the “thanks but no thanks” pile for reviewing and affiliating.  In fact, a few weeks ago I received a copy of a pretty well known bloggers book (No, I won’t tell you who it is) and while the content is good, I keep losing interest because the formatting is so hard for me to read.  It’s sounds a little childish and pedantic, but when you dealing with visual people you have to write how they read.

In chunks of sentences.

In memorable sound bites.

With pretty pictures here and there.  Get Real did all of this.

Because the book was so readable for me, I read it cover to cover.  I studied the photos.  She’s not a prolific, flowery writer which I really like. She doesn’t say a lot of words without saying anything.  What she does do is give you clear and concise plan on how to make incredible (seriously, go look at her work) authentic lifestyle family portraits.   From the posing to the games to how she gently guides people into poses that MAKE SENSE to their family she leads you right through how she does it.

We’ve all heard the term “boutique studio” versus  the “JCPenney Portrait Studio” mentality. If you had asked me before I read this book I would have told you the portrait side of my studio was boutique, and  I would have been wrong.  Step by step, from the first contact with the clients through the session itself she explains  how she is able to capture the kind of photos that she does.  It became very clear to me that THIS mentality and this way of capturing clients is why she is boutique and my studio is just a more uppity cousin of  the mall Portrait People.

And here’s another thing Laura gave me in this read: I’ll never, ever ignore hands again.  I had no idea how they can make or break an image.  Mind.  Blown.

A few months ago I had a family portrait session that yielded me one of my favorite family photos I have taken in a long time.  It was a tough shoot, very cold, drizzling rain  and so wet and I couldn’t pile mom and dad on the ground with the kids, so the family shots had to be done standing.   My first attempt was this:

Lame-O.  Boring. If this was the only family shot I got, mom and dad probably would have bought it.  They look good, the kids are smiling…but really is it a fantastic portrait?  No.  It’s a professional snapshot.

lame

 

 

Then, I got this one.  This was the MONEY shot.  The photo that mom described as “The photo I know I will hang in my house for the rest of my life”
yay

 

 

With apologies to Laura (whom I don’t know and might not be as potty mouthed as me) I believe I Sieberted the shit out of that photo.   This kind of posing is what she teaches.  How to get it, and how to get it consistently.  I dumb-lucked into it.  I believe that I could not have replicated that pose again before reading Get Real, and now I could.

I now understand why this photo is successful and why the other one wasn’t, and how to create more photos like this.

 

Better photos=more monies.

So count me as a fan, and I’ll be investing in her other workbooks too.  I might even consider a workshop with her, if she promises beverages on site.

Click here to visit Laura Siebert.

Advertising and marketing creative concept

Not too long ago Charo and I posted about the Things that sucked about being a Self Employed Photographer.    Because it seems that most of our readers are as as dark and cynical as we are, it was one of our most popular posts.  Y’all are very aware that this blog is not an airy-fairy-you-can-do-it blog, you can find plenty of that information anywhere on the internet.  And while the woo woo might pump you up for awhile, guess what the woo woo don’t do?

The woo woo does not help you focus on changes that have to be made. While it may “pump you up”  the woo woo is poo poo unless it gives you  plans for CHANGE.

The age of photography Rockstars is over.  The new Rockstars are sharing hardcore business advice and you know what?  They don’t like being called Rockstars.  They like to be called “Photographers”

So, on to marketing mistakes.  We’ve complied a list of the top things we did collectively and individually.

1. Not having a realistic marketing budget: You know that diamond advertisement/commercial  that tells people that a engagement ring should be 3 months salary?  The one that the DIAMOND industry came up with? Your marketing budget should be in proportion with your INCOME.  And yes, conventional wisdom will tell you that 10% of your income is right and proper for marketing.  But that means nothing if your income is 10K and you need 20K to pay your bills.   That percentage comes AFTER you are profitable, not before. Before you are profitable, you get out there and hustle your ass off to promote yourself in ways that don’t take money off your table.

2. Offering products and services that you think you should  because someone else has done well with it:  This is huge with photographers and we’ve both been guilty of this. You go to seminar and you get revved up.   The beach portrait buisness (Charo), the Boudoir sessions (Kim) that were something we saw someone else do (Damn you and your accent, Sue Bryce)  and thought “Hey, I could do that”  and quickly found out that A.  We hated doing them and B. We were really not very good at them.  It’s find to dabble in other areas of photography to see if you are interested, but please…please don’t make a big showy launch until you have spent some time really exploring the craft and you know you want to pursue it.

3. Thinking that paying for advertising is marketing: “I gave The Knot 2K and I never got a single inquiry!”.   Truth: we all advertise with a dud now and again. But the more often  the truth is you didn’t do your homework on who you were paying. You seriously thought spending big money would mean big clients. It doesn’t, and welcome to one of the most expensive lessons you will ever learn in your business.

4.  Ignoring SEO: It makes a difference.  I hate it, you hate it , we all hate it. I hate it like those timed multiplication tables in third grade that have scarred me for life.  But the truth is, it is important.  So you have two choices: learn it, or pay someone to do it for you.  Even the most rudimentary amount makes a difference. It’s boring monkey work, but it’s an important part of workflow. You need to stop ignoring it. Period.

 5. We had to make peace with the fact that it wasn’t all about the photos:  Yes, people do hire your for your work, but mostly….they hire you  for the experience that they want to have.  The feelings  your photos will evoke.  If you are a creepy jerk, it does not matter how beautiful your photos are, because all they will see when they look at those beautiful photos is what a creepy jerk they worked with.

Now let’s be clear, we all need a little woo woo.  I like my woo woo in the form of pedicures, massages, photos of bunnies on the internet and vodka.   Charo is way less girly than me and likes geeky things like…I don’t know because it’s  geeky and there are games and things that bore me when she talks about them  and she prefers whiskey.  She can’t think of anything worse than a pedicure than maybe…maybe a tickle fight, and lip gloss.  But she’ll woo woo all day over some band that I have never heard of and a craft IPA.  We all have our escapes, right?

Stay tuned for the next post where we talk about the things that (shockingly) we have done right over the years marketing.

And it bears mentioning, if you need a serious kick in your ass about marketing, you need to check out Marketog. It’s all the marketing stuff you ever needed to know and it’s…intense.  There is nothing woo woo about this course, and it’s not for everyone, that is for sure. Want to check out a sample lesson to see if you can handle the truth? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy man

The email was returned, and she said “no”.

I stared at my computer screen trying to decide if I was upset or disappointed.  Then I realized I was neither, I was…jealous.

“Hey Kim

Thanks for thinking of me for the fundraising chair but I can’t commit to something  that needs as much time and attention as that position would require. I’d be happy to donate a gift certificate from the studio for the event, though!  Just let me know where I should send it or I can drop it off at the next networking meeting.

Thanks!

Joy”

Here I was, staring at my screen JEALOUS that someone I reached out to, (a personal friend no less) had said no.  She didn’t whimper, or over-explain, or use her kids or her two very successful studios or her photography mentoring business, or her upcoming speaking tour, she just said no, she could not commit that amount of time or attention.

Straight to the point. Thanks for thinking of me, but no.

It was so brilliant I nearly fell out of my chair.  Because do you know what I likely would have done? I would have said yes, while not really wanting to. I would have squeezed in yet another commitment while feeling resentful that I had even less time to do the things I need to do because you know HELP. The people they need HELP.

And I would have whined.  Oh yes, I would have, because my altruism is apparently not all that freaking altruistic after all.  I would have been on the phone whining to Charo about my BUSY BUSY week, filled with this appointment and that networking lunch and that this board meeting and then my clients, and my kids and my dogs not getting walked and OMG when am I ever going to have time to edit??!!!

I was the kind of busy no one really wanted to hear about.  We’re all busy. Your busy is no busier than my busy, so really just shut up about how busy you are.

 

Instead of this

  • I’m sorry but….
  • I’d love to but…
  • I just can’t because…..

This

  • I’m unable to help with that project.
  • My schedule prevents me from attending, but thank you for thinking of me and please let me know of upcoming events (If I would really would)
  • That’s not something I am interested in attending, but I appreciate your email. (If it’s something I would not)

 

I can’t say that I still don’t have pangs of guilt, I do.  The biggest surprise of all was that behind the pangs of guilt were these two rewards:

Relief and Time.

Relief that I didn’t have one more thing on my plate, one more thing on the To-Do List, one more thing I had been avoiding and was now having anxiety dreams about.

Time to spend on my own business, my family and sometimes even time to do NOTHING.

Being busy does not mean you are successful, and saying no does not mean you are a meanie.   This week, I challenge you to mindfully say no to ONE thing that you know you’d rather not do.  Let us how it feels and leave a note in comments.

 

 

photo(1)

I met my friend Emily who is an amazing florist many years ago in our local NACE organization.  So when she put the word out on FB that she was looking for some extra help on Valentines week making deliveries I thought “Well I could help her out with that, it’s February, my slowest month!”  I sent her an email offering to help. I imagined showing up to her storefront, loading up some pretty flowers in the back of my trusty Honda Element on Valentines Day delivering smiles and happiness around town and being home by dinner.  She responded with an OMG OMG OMG are you serious can your work like OMG OMG like 8-6 each day in the store ?  I think you’d be so much more help to me in the store, would you, please please, yes?

I have no floral experience whatsoever  but I will say this: two things I have learned from my mother are how to identify flowers and dog breeds.  I can admire a Peony and a Pug from 1000 yards away so I figured  how hard could it be? However, I  am not a “Valentines” kind of gal.  It’s not a holiday that has ever resonated with me, so I had no idea of the scope of this particular holiday, especially for florists.  No. Idea. At. All. For your edification, Valentines Day at a storefront floral shop is the equivalent of Christmas, New Years, The Superbowl, Groundhogs Day and Your Birthday all rolled into one day.  It’s that big of a deal, with Mothers Day being slightly close behind.

My first education had nothing at all to do with the shop. It had to do with the fact that I had not worked a job with a set schedule in…wait for it…14 years.  While Emily was especially kind to me knowing I was not a morning person she gave me the “late start” which at 8AM was still a full hour before I was used to even getting up. Since I’ve been known for my rants to photographers about not being a lazy-ass and not fucking wanting it bad enough, I was appalled by how hard it was for me to wake up and get there on time, a shop that was a mere 15 minutes from my house.  I had no idea how to budget for making time for drinking coffee, checking  email and FB and let my brain fog clear, showering, eating breakfast (which I am not keen at early in the AM),dressing and putting on make up (what??) packing something to eat, traffic and parking a few blocks away.  By Wednesday I knew this meant with a 8AM arrival my alarm had to go off at 5:45 for my 15 minute snooze so I was up by 6 for a 7:30 departure.   By the time I got home at 6:30 PM  ahead of me was answering my own business emails, the blog emails, walking my dogs, preparing dinner.  I could barely function to do the most rudimentary work before I fell into bed by 11 which is generally 2-3 hours before I normally go to bed.

I’ve never fully appreciated how hard it must be to have a full time day job and run another business until now, and I don’t have the added quotient of small kids in the house! For those of you that are able to do this I salute you and bow in your general direction. Having to work when my own personal productivity was not being pandered to was also a slap in the face. I couldn’t take a break when I was sick of it, I couldn’t take my normal 4PM ish 30 minute nappy, I couldn’t decide that I really didn’t want to work today and watch back to back episodes of “Sister Wives” when I just wasn’t feeling creative.

My job was to take the calls for the clients calling in for Valentines Day floral delivery.  This required me to understand two things: how to work the POS software and how to Talk like a Florist. The software was pretty easy and not hard for me to learn, but learning to “Talk Florist” was probably the most valuable thing I learned in my week there. Every  full or part time employee in her shop is a complete wizard at talking to clients not only in terms of flower knowledge, but in how to intuit what kind of arrangements they could guide the customers to.  Oh the pretty words they used!   I learned to say things like Lush, Full, Tall and Airy, Full and Compact, Romantic/Valentines Color Pallets, and my personal favorite “Designers Choice”.   Here’s a clue for you if you don’t know much about buying flowers:  instead of going online pick up the phone and call your friendly LOCAL florist and give them a price range and let the designers choose and you will hands-down get the a more beautiful arrangement than simply ordering the “Hugs and Kisses” bouquet you see online.  They’ll pick the best looking flowers and will create arrangements based on what message you are looking to convey to the person you are buying flowers for.  In short, they’ll simply give a shit more if they get a little creative freedom to design,  just as we do as photographers.

And OMG do flower people LOVE flowers. Despite working with them day in and day out, when these girls opened a box of especially lovely Heather from the wholesaler it was like someone had given them a Christmas gift.  They comment and compliment  on each others designs.   They work on their feet, with hands rubbed raw from stems designing all day long while dealing with client questions and issues, uncomplaining and fussing over every arrangement like bridesmaids around a bride.  However, they also have to work with parameters for being profitable.  Throwing in one extra carnation (the cheapest flower available, about .40 wholesale)  in an arrangement to “prettify” it costs money and labor and over the course of the year could mean thousands lost in profit. I had to learn to be specific with clients who would say “Oh can you put a few lilies in there too, she likes lilies” letting them know that at $10 a stem “a few lilies” would mean paying for a larger arrangement.

I’ve preached this to photographers too,  that every single thing you do costs you money and you need to be aware of that. Saying “I stayed for an hour later than I said I would at that wedding because that doesn’t cost me anything and it made the client happy”. Yes, yes it does cost you something.  It costs you time with your family, it costs you in wear and tear on your gear, editing and uploading time in front of your computer.  That extra hour that you charge $150 an hour that you throw in to 10 weddings a year just cost you $1500 plus editing time and wear and tear so to be fair, lets say $2K.  I don’t know about you, but 2K can buy me a pretty nice vacation.  Value your time and your expertise, people.

One thing for sure that I will put into my own business practice is simply asking “what’s your budget range” when talking to clients. Asking this simple question opened the door to help the customer understand what things cost. As photographers, we are dealing with a commodity that most people don’t buy many times in their lives so their idea of what is “reasonable”, “normal”, and “affordable” can be wildly different than what reality is and I found the same thing to be true with the flower shop clients. The next time a wedding client tells me that they want an “affordable” florist because “flowers just die anyway” I’m going to remind them that the food and the cake also “just gets eaten”.   It’s true that the photos will last forever (something I unashamedly push)  but there is value in every thing all vendors do.

The going rate for a dozen roses delivered on Valentines Day is about $100, which floored many people used to seeing the $20 grab-and-go section at the grocery store.  The reasons for this vary from the type and quality of the flower, the labor to strip the thorns (not done for you with the grab-and-gos),  arranging and putting them into vases, packaging and delivery costs and the fact that the wholesaler and florist also pays the growers a premium price for those roses at that time of year.  (If you’re an entrepreneurial geek like me and like to understand how things are priced in other industries, here’s a really interesting article on why roses are at such a premium price at Valentines Day)

And let me tell you, small buisness owners  ya’ll, they do it for the love.  They really do.  Seeing the amount of rabidly loyal customers Belle Fiori had was impressive.  Every call started with me asking if they had ordered with the shop before (to pull up their client info in the database) and this often was met with scoffs and “Well of COURSE I have” like that was the stupidest question they had heard all day. Many times over and over people said things like “You’re the only place I order flowers from” and “everything I have every gotten from you has been beautiful”.   These customers not only have a doctor, a dentist and a mechanic in their lives, they have a florist.  Loyalty like that is gained only from hard work , a consistently beautiful product and stellar customer relations and that’s a good lesson for us all. Without getting too gushy about my friend, it’s clear a lot of that comes from how Emily treats her staff and their loyalty to her and the shop. Besides bringing in food and treats and buying lunches during the week, she made sure that people were out the door when their shift ended, and no one worked late into the night because she has in place a killer workflow that kept things going smoothly.  When I arrived there on Monday they were dealing with a crisis of gigantic proportions, a very large floral order  for an event had been placed in a refrigerated truck and someone broke into the truck at night and the battery died and thousands of dollars of flowers froze. The entire order had to be totally remade on the busiest week of the year. It’s a testament to Emily and her staff that the wholesalers nearly broke their necks getting her the replacement flowers and her staff scrambled to make the arrangements again.  The flowers were delivered on time (and were beautiful) and the client never knew there was even a glitch.

Oh and the fun…the fun of dealing with the clueless men on the phone ordering.  The guys who ordered two bouquets to be delivered to two different woman and made me swear that we wouldn’t mix them up (Dumbshit…order from two different florists  if you are so worried). The guys who came in  and paid for an arrangement for their wives with a credit card and another arrangement in cash.   The ones who said “I can say ANYTHING I want on the card?”  My standard line became “Nothing will surprise me, go ahead”.   I badly wanted to tell them that they were not even close to being the first person who signed the card “Daddy”, but being a florist is kind of like being a priest, what happens in the flower shop stays in the flower shop.  I had forgotten what it was like it  to have co-workers to chat with, and all of them were great fun.  I felt like a part of “Team Valentines Day”.  We took bets on when the last person would call  to try for Valentine’s Day delivery:  6:10 PM  was the winner, the shop closed at 6:30.    Here’s a small sampling of Shit People Said At the Flower Shop to me on the phone:
How much for roses? You can’t be serious.

Can you deliver them to the Noodles right down the street in about 10 minutes? I am going there for lunch.

I’m not comfortable giving you my credit card before the flowers are delivered.

If I can’t get Peonies, then can I get something that will fool her into thinking they are Peonies?

I want her to know that I care, but only to a point, you know?  So something in the $30 range but not too romantic. But still pretty. (Translation: enough to get me laid, but not enough for her to think I want to marry her)

HOW MUCH? ARE YOU KIDDING?

How many roses can I have delivered for about $20 to Racine? (A town 30 minutes away)

My son is an idiot and didn’t order his girlfriend flowers. Can you send some tomorrow and sign the card “I’m an idiot, Love, Joe”?

I know you can’t guarantee a specific time, but if I told you that she’d be there between 2-3PM  would that help?

For that price she better get roses the size of my head.

If no one is home, can you just leave them outside? (It was -1 outside)

HOW MUCH?

Basically, I just want all her co workers to be jealous she’s dating me. How much do I need to spend to do that? (Answer: $75 and up)

ROSES ARE HOW MUCH???!!!!

So to all my friends at Belle Fiori, thank you for a wonderful week of education, laughter and waaaaaaaaaaaay too much chocolate.  My flower hangover is almost gone, I’ll see you next year!

(A short video from one of the slower times of the day on Valentine’s Day, with apologies to my talented videographer friends)

 

hair

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

~Bob Dylan

In case you haven’t noticed, shit’s getting real out there in the photography industry.  While it seems that there’s never been a time where more people were entering the industry, it’s also an unprecedented time of people leaving the industry.

 

Why?
They can’t figure out how to fight anymore.  And make no mistake,  it’s a fight out there.  But what most people don’t see is the fight is not with other photographers who are doing faster-better-cheaper than you. The fight is right there in your own studio, or your own basement office, or where ever you conduct business.  The fight is when you won’t make changes our of fear,or from being overwhelmed and the world starts passing you by.

I don’t know how to say it any more plainly that this: you cannot keep doing the same thing year after year in this business and be successful anymore.

Look around you at the people who are still in the game and doing well.  They are always evolving and growing.  Maybe they’ve  added on in-person sales after their engagement photos when they used to proof them online, maybe they’ve added in boudoir sessions to their studio, maybe they’ve revamped all of their marketing collateral to freshen things up.  The photographers that I know who are successful are ALWAYS busy doing something new.   They are always changing their pricing to be more profitable, they are marketing different,  they are networking in new ways,  they are speaking and teaching other photographers.  Whatever. Whatever it takes.

You cannot just do what you did last year and wait for them to come back.

Starting tomorrow we are going to be doing Google Hangouts with photographers and people in the photo industry who are doing something right. We want to hang out with them and hear what they have to say about what they are doing to make themselves PROFITABLE.

PROFITABLE.  It’s not a dirty word, people.  In fact, it’s the word that will keep you in business.

First at bat, Joy Vertz our favorite Numbers Nerd will be joining us to talk about Beating the Winter Blues with some ideas on what you should be working on right now in your studio with spring around the corner.  Joy is one of the smartest business people I know despite her love of that stupid Washi Tape stuff.   The day I knew I wanted to be Joy Vertz when I grew up was the day a few years ago she told me ” I had a really good day because I figured out that if I raised my print prices .95 across the board this quarter I’ll make enough money to buy a hot tub”

My mind does not work like that. But you know what? I want to know people who do think like that.  Joy will be joining us tomorrow at 12:30 CST on a Google Hangout HERE.  Can’t make the hangout? No worries, we’ll be linking it to our You Tube Channel after the broadcast.

Next up miss Molly Marie, who is going to be talkin’ Boudie with us on Thursday Feb 6 at 1PM CST.  I cannot WAIT to talk to this sassy lass.  I  know squat about boudoir photography, but what I do know is that it’s one of the fastest growing segments of the photography world and I want to hear how she grew  her business in town you’ve probably never heard of in western Wisconsin. Think you can’t make it specializing in a niche photography like boudoir? You’re wrong and she’s just the gal to tell you why.  She’s going to give us the low down on what boudoir photography is (and isn’t) and how she is profitable shooting boudie.

Most importantly, these hangouts mean that Charo and I will have to appear on camera and also brush our hair.  That right there should tell you that we think  these fabulous woman  have something to say, because we really don’t brush our hair for many people.

~Kim

 

 

 

 

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February in the Midwest is a cruel month. The days are short, the weather is horrible, we’re SO over any semblance of “holiday cheer” and spring is months…and months….and months away.   We try to convince ourselves that it comes in March, but that’s rarely the case.  Most often it’s not really spring until Mid May, but like the pain of childbirth, we suppress that thought so that will bear another child or see another spring.

One particularly bad year we had so much snow that my kids were off school for several days when they were in grade school. It takes A LOT of snow to cancel school for days in a metropolitan city like ours, we ain’t no Atlanta, folks.  Home with two small boys I desperately wanted to find something to amuse them.  It was late January and Groundhogs Day was a few days away and I suggested that we get ready for “The Big Holiday”. Their eyes lit up and we began planning what would become our Family Holiday; Groundhogs Day.  We made shirts.  We made cupcakes. We researched Punxsautawney Phil. We decided to eat only brown foods for the entire week (that was gross and never repeated) we found Groundhogs Pencils and Tattoos online an ordered them and when they went back to school a few days later on Groundhogs Day, they brought in the cupcakes, gave away the pencils and and tattoos it brightened the day of all their classmates.

This went on for years.  To this day I can run into a classmate of my kids (many of them now in college) and they tell me that every Groundhogs Day they think of me and my kids bringing in cupcakes and making that obscure holiday a lot of fun.  My boys, now 17 and 20 years old, continue the love.  They wear shirts, hats and no matter where they are on the day…they call their mother.  They have no freaking clue when my birthday is, but on February 2, they call.

But here’s the truth about the Groundhog….he’s not a real popular dude.  In fact, he’s not even a very nice animal.  He’s mean, rarely right in his prognostications and he doesn’t even have the viral clout of the Honey Badger.  This year the poor dude has to share his holiday with some sportsball game that is a big deal to some people.

He’s a “B” headline at best and  almost always maligned. He’s not a lovable quadruped, Bill Murray be damned.

How many of us are feeling that way right now, not so popular?  I know lots of you are because I’m reading your status on the message boards.  Another client who said you were awesome but they “had to go with someone more affordable”.  Inquiries that you respond to that are never answered.  Great prospects that you felt a connection with that literally WILL NOT TAKE YOUR CALL now.

Anyone who tells you that when a prospective client rejects them that it’s” no big deal because there’s another client out there”  for them is

A. Lying.  B. And also, right.
It sucks. It’s horrible, it’s demeaning and it’s depressing.
But there is another client out there.

So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to lie down  and huddle up in your wah-wah Facebook Groups  and talk about how no one cares about THE IMAGE anymore or are you going to be like the Groundhog and say FUCK ALL Y’ALL I AM GOING TO BE HERE NEXT FEBRUARY 2 JUST LIKE I HAVE BEEN SINCE 1886, BITCHES!!

I’m not the Groundhog but if I were I’d tell you to start here:

1. Stop looking at other photographers work and comparing yourself.

2. Stop stalking old/potential clients on Facebook to see who they are using for photography.

3. Start reading books about the psychology of sales and marketing.

4. Stop buying gear until you have the clients to support your habit.

5. Start a To-Do list AND TO DO it. Every day. Update it every. single. day.

Peace, Love and and early Spring,

~Kim

 

Monday is the big day for us, folks.   Hold us?  Or at the very least, tune in, call in and ask stupid questions to make us look smart.

 

 

 

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I “met” Charo in 2002 on an online photography forum called Zuga. She was funny and snarky, and I loved her responses to people from the moment I read them. I curiously poked around on her website to learn more about her. Her website was not funny (A Thousand Words Photography…oh, the cliche!), it was the standard website of 2002, containing lots of dreamy grainy black and white photos with sloppy borders arranged in a collage-style fashion of the day. She might have even used Papyrus font, but she’d probably deny that.

But her “About Charo” ?  She had, just as I had,written her about me in a style that made me feel like I “knew her”.  I can’t remember it exactly, but it was FUNNY and  it went something like she was in love with Eddie Vedder, she talked too much because she was Portuguese, she knew she paid the phone bill because it rang today, and that she couldn’t smell things without her glasses.  This fit in perfectly with my about me where I disclosed that I love bananas but hate banana-flavored things, that I don’t think Mel Brooks movies are funny but like people who think they are, and that I have a superstition about driving behind car carriers on the freeway.

Without knowing it, we were embracing a marketing style that later Jasmine Star would become famous doing;  Personality Based Marketing.  That’s right, we were doin’ it before Jasmine AND David Jay.  And who can retire from photography now? Not us.  Idiots….

This marketing that we didn’t know we were doing brought us oodles of clients.  Clients who would write us effusive emails, who would hug us like an old friend the first time they met us and  potential clients who asked about our kids BY NAME on the phone.   For both of us it was genuine and not contrived,  it just made sense to us that anyone buying something as personal as wedding photography would want to know us personally, right?

Our blog posts were full of the wonder of our wonder of our clients love and how wondrous our lives were for  getting to know these clients who allowed us to have this amazing, wonderful career.  We were partners!  We weren’t VENDORS…noooooooooooo, we were FRIENDS.  We were Friendors!

Until suddenly, some clients were not so wonderful.  The lines blurred, things went wrong.  We started pet naming our bad clients, the very same clients we NEVER saw warning signs with when they hired us.    There was “Light Switch Bride” who sent Charo a 62 page printout of other photographers’ images she’d found online that she liked better than Charo’s work.  I had “You Made Me Look Fat” bride  who accused me of sabotaging her wedding photos to make her look fat after I lost a bunch of weight before her wedding when she specifically hired me because “I was a chubby chick”  like her.

I started struggling with blog posts. Most of my clients WERE wonderful. But some of them…weren’t. They weren’t awful, they were just like that girl in high school who was perfectly nice, you just had nothing in common to talk to her about other than other high school friends. And while their photos were beautiful, I didn’t have 3 paragraphs of things to say about them and their weddings. Then came the day when one bride called me on it and it was one of the worst emails of my career. I thought about pulling it up to share it verbatim, but even 9 years later, I’m still cowed by it and I really don’t want to read it again. Basically, she said that she loved her photos but she wanted me to know that while she knew her wedding wasn’t probably as “interesting” as my other weddings, I could have worked a little harder to fake it in the blog post because it was one of the things she hired me for and she was embarrassed by my “dialed in blog post” (this part I remember vividly) in comparison to the other weddings I blogged.

Ouch.

And also, WHAT??!!  Clients were hiring me for my BLOG POSTS?

Charo began having similar problems, many of which she talked about in this blog post.   Lots of “But I thought you said” and “Oh, but you don’t mind, do you’s”, because you know you guys, FRIENDOR.

Without knowing it, we made our USP (Unique Selling Proposition) more about us than about our work. And when the shit hit the fan, our clients were saying “What about the relationship you promised me?” when all we thought we had to do was give them pretty pictures that fulfilled the terms of our contract.

Making the switch to a more professional demeanor without having a business lobotomy was harder for me than for Charo (she’s more of a recluse than I am). It required me to take a step back and begin presenting myself as a photographer and a professional before my personality, which I have always kind of relied on. Because when people love you, they don’t notice that your photos suck quite as much :)

Next week we’re going to be speaking at the Online Teleconference Dream Bigger where we are going to go in detail about dealing with clients who may not speak your language, clients who don’t read anything,  and how to learn to take your ego out of the equation when dealing with difficult clients.  We’re going to take all that we learned from the mistakes we made in our combined 30 years of the Wonderful World of Wedding Photography with clients  and give it to you straight about  how we corrected them.

In this conference there will be  more on “Light Switch Bride”, oh yes there will be. And “You Made Me Look Fat Bride”, and even…wait for it…”You didn’t Capture the Light of Jesus in my Son’s Eyes”  Mother of the Groom.

More information HERE.

 

 

 

 

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I didn’t get into photography to become a business owner.  I got into it because I loved it. LOVED it.  I loved creating the photos, seeing my clients faces when they saw the photos.  I got into it because it filled that place in my soul that I didn’t even know existed before I picked up a camera. I wasn’t a BUSINESS owner, I was a photographer. Sound familiar?  Maybe not for some of you.

Maybe you fell into photography one way or another and enjoy it, but in the end you think of yourselves as a business owner first, and a photographer second.  You’re probably a numbers nerd like my friend Joy and you actually like spreadsheets.  I am not one of those people. The people side of this business has always come more naturally to me and I’ve always struggled with what I call “The Math Side”. I’ve invested a lot of time and money to teach my recalcitrant left brain to grasp what comes easier to the Joy’s of this world.  Seminars, ebooks… Because at the end of the day time is money and the less time I spend on the “math” and the and the more time spent with “the people side” the  happier I am in my business.

 

Here was the shocker that I had yet to learn in the early days of my business; Being a “people person” didn’t prepare me for having to be a buisness person who has to deal with people.

 

So why do so many photographers have clients that suck?

1. They don’t know how to price themselves for profit and become resentful of their clients demands because they feel overworked.
2. They don’t know how to market to the right clients and accept anyone who will give them money.
3. They don’t project authority and let the client dictate what they want (AKA:  The customer is always right)
4.  They can’t take their fragile artist ego out of the equation when things go wrong to honestly appraise why it went wrong.

 

In a few weeks, Charo and I are going to be speaking at the Dream Bigger Conference on “The Absence of Awesome: Dealing with difficult clients”  In between stories of “Light switch Bride”, “You Made me look Fat”, bride and “You didn’t capture the Light of Jesus” Mother of the Groom, we’ll help you find the words to use when speaking with clients. You’ll be better equipped to identify who needs that extra hand holding before your work with them and how to deal with clients who have problems after your product is delivered.

 

What you will learn by listening:

  • If you’re having the same issues over and over, what’s the common denominator?
  • How to speak to a client who just doesn’t speak your language
  • When to take yourself out of the equation
  • No one reads anymore: how to get your clients to stop asking questions you’ve already answered

You can listen to the conference live, or you can download to listen later.  The speaker line up is awesome, I can’t wait to tune in for a bunch of them.   Hope to see you there!

 

P.S Speaking of my friend Joy, she’s starting a new course called “3 Weeks to Pricing Perfection” soon.   If you want a freebie preview of what a freaking Numbers Nerd Genius she is, download her free Pricing for Profit ebook.   More information on her 3 Weeks to Pricing Perfection coming soon!

 

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You wanted to know, and the story goes a little bit like this:

1996: Girl starts a photography business with nothing more than A Camera and A Dream.  Married, she has two small boys.

(Sidenote:  I have a penchant for buying random urls for funny phrases I like in case it makes it big time. I purchased www.acameraandadream.com  after a random drunken post in a forum yelling at newbies about how “How photography was more than A Camera and A Dream” back in 2010, some 3 years before this blog was birthed.  I also own www.masonjarsandgazebos.com and www.almostsusanstripling.com.  Please contact me for detail on how to purchase)

2003: Girl leaves her part time job at a studio as a printer/photographer to pursue her dream as a photographer for her own business.  She is at the pivotal point that she is losing business because she is working at the studio, and it’s becoming a clear conflict of interest .  She is clueless about her business and her spouse handles all of the “math stuff” that she likes to avoid.

2004:  Business explodes and Girl doubles her pricing . This is the year both her babies are  finally, blessedly, in school full time. She works like a dog to grow the business. She knows that this is her calling, and what she was meant to do.

2005: Girls marriage is failing  (married too young, blah blah blah).  They call it quits.  Ex spouse hands over the spreadsheets for the business with his usual  admonishing statements of “THE PIE IS ONLY SO BIG KIM, YOU CAN’T JUST KEEP IGNORING THIS STUFF”, which is exactly one of the reasons it didn’t work out, all his harping about that kind of thing.   I mean geez, ART, do you not understand my ART?

2006:  Girls business explodes. She doubles her prices AGAIN.  The divorce is now final and she is a single parent.

2007: She surpasses the amount her spouse used to make and feels like she’s the Queen of the world.  She’s shooting awesome weddings, taking care of her children with a killer income.

However, the Girl…she didn’t really count on one thing.  That killer income? She wasn’t paying the proper amount of estimated tax.

Turns out, the fucking pie really is only so big.

The Girl owed 17 THOUSAND DOLLARS to the IRS.

The IRS?  They don’t play.  They’d like their money NOW, thanks.  Otherwise they do most unpleasant things like levying your bank accounts and attaching liens to your home.

That year, I became a business owner.

You never, ever, know where life is going to lead you.  My best advice to anyone now who is entering in this field  would be to become a buisness owner first, and a photographer second.   For every moment you spend looking a photo blog wishing you could have a 1.2 lens to have that buttery bokeh spend the same amount of time on a marketing and sales blog.

 

Open your mind not just to the art, but the BUSINESS of the art.

 

The business is not nearly as glamorous as those 23 likes on Facebook from your friends and family for a killer photo that you post, I know.  Artists crave acceptance like pie.

Me? I now like my pie with a big ole’  serving of bills paid Ala mode.

 

~Kim

P.S.  My favorite pie?  Coconut Cream.  Yours?  Leave it in the comments!

 

P.P.S.  I paid off that debt in full in 2009, the IRS gave me a payment plan. They charged me monstrous amounts of penalties and interest but they did work with me.  When I made the final payment on the phone the agent said “Would you like to know the total amount of penalties and interest you paid over the terms of this agreement? I answered “No, it’s probably best that we don’t discuss that so  I don’t kill myself” To her credit, she laughed.  To this day, I honestly do not know what that amount is.  Some things are just best left alone.