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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

 

 

 

 

Rowing and Canoeing

From the moment the couple walked in, the dynamic was weird.  They barely responded to my warm you up chit-chat  “Did you find parking okay” and “Have a seat, can I get you something to drink?”  They  bee-lined over to the couch and started pawing through albums.   By the time I sat down and started with the “So, tell me about your wedding plans”  he had out a printed Excel spreadsheet and was peering across the line items and asked me “Is this the album that is included in the 8 hour package?”  When I said yes, he scribbled some notes on the spreadsheet and began peppering me with questions, completely ignoring my question about the wedding plans.  I tried to steer the conversation towards finding out more about them.

She said not a word and just quietly looked at albums.

He was having none of it.  He ignored my every attempt to find out about the wedding plans, instead bringing every question back around to pricing and what they “got”.  He then showed me where I landed in his spreadsheet of photographers. I was 41st  out of 50 .”This is arranged by price, so we need to know exactly what we get as you are almost the most expensive one in town”

That’s when I was done with them.

I smiled and said ” If you’re looking for the cheapest photographer, I won’t be one of them”.  He scoffed and said he knew that, but what he didn’t understand was why my albums were so much more expensive than other photographers. I told him I had no idea what other photographers costs were.  He waved the spreadsheet and said ” Well, I can show you if you want.  Then maybe you’ll be able to explain how your albums are twice as expensive as some of the others on here”  I said ” This is not a commodity.  If you don’t see value in my work, then it’s probably best that we part now so we don’t waste each others time”

They stood up and left.  She never once made eye contact with me and the entire consultation lasted 7 minutes.

What would have left me shaken and upset  back in 2003 was nothing more than a good story to share with my photographer friends later that day.  I’ve marketed to NOT that client for so long that getting one  felt like being punked because I’ve carefully crafted each part of my online presence  to not appeal to Mr Asshole Spreadsheetface.

Online forums and Facebook groups are full of photographers whining about how they are being treated by clients and their unreasonable demands and how they can’t seem to break away from the price-shoppers and blah blah blah blah blah.  All their clients are assholes, it seems.

If something keeps happening to you over and over in your business that you don’t like, there’s one common denominator and it’s you.

 

Going from that namby-pamby photographer who drove across town on Christmas Eve to the one that wasn’t going to waste 10 minutes of her time on a client I could never make happy was a process that involved a lot of self-discovery and a lot of research on how to market to the clients I wanted.   Believe it or not, before I found out how much I love telling photographers on the internet how wrong they are, I was a pretty nice person.  In fact, I was kind of a pushover.  So what changed?

I stopped thinking that saying yes to everyone equaled being a good person.

How did I find this out? I figured out that saying yes wasn’t making everyone happy, and it sure as shit wasn’t making me happy.  In fact, the more I said yes and buried myself in work, the more resentful I became of my clients.

I realized that discounts had no worth when I gave them just because someone wanted one.

Instead of being grateful for the “great deal” I gave them, clients asked for more.  More discounts.  More time on the day.  More retouching for free.  They were like children who had a parent who always gave in, and they pushed every button they could to get more out of me.  More resentment.

I learned to rarely say no, but rather to say how much.

When clients asked for special favors I learned to say that it would be my pleasure to include that service for “x”.  In fact, if you have kids you likely do this negotiation all the time without realizing it.  When your toddler demands a snack and wants a cookie you say ” You can have an apple or a piece of cheese.  Cookies are only for after dinner.  Would you like the apple or the cheese?”   It sounds simplistic but it works.  “I’d be happy to change little Johnny’s shirt from red to blue in photo #12.  The fee for the artwork for this is $25.  Would you like me to add it to your final total or invoice you separately for it?”

I learned that I am the boss of me and my business.

You can thank me later for this.   Here’s the phrase I use when a client comes back and questions a procedure that I have in place, 99% of the time one that they were told about in advance:

“It’s my studio policy”

 

It’s my studio policy that I do not proof portraits online.

It’s my studio policy that I do not discount wedding packages for Fridays and Sundays

It’s my studio policy that if you do not place your album order within one year of your wedding I will fulfill that album for you and ship it out to you.

It’s my studio policy that I do not do engagement sessions on the week ends.

 

And you know why it’s my studio policy?  Because it’s my freaking business and I said so. This phrase is not nearly as threatening as “You signed a contract and I am holding you to this”. You can pull out the contract card if you have to, but using the phrase “studio policy” first implies that this is how you treat all your clients fairly across the board.

I turned 40, and I learned it wasn’t personal.

I urge you not to wait this long if you are nowhere near 40.  But there is something to be said for age being empowering and it sure is a lot easier to say no to clients who are closer to my kids age than they are to me.

 

Starting today, our pal Jamie at The Modern Tog is opening an amazing class called Marketog.  If you’re feeling like you’re struggling with this issue of not reaching your ideal clients, you need to check this out.  It’s an intensive course, and starts at week one with this particular problem that many of us face, but branches out into so, so much more.  Stuff that literally took me 10 years and heartache to mire through Jamie covers in 6 weeks.  It’s everything you need to be doing in your marketing: defining your clients, getting your website up to date to attract those clients, turning inquires into clients, and more.

It’s the new year folks, this is the PERFECT time to get on this.  It’s self guided so you can go at your own pace, and there is a money back guarantee.  I also want you to know that it’s studio policy to disclose to you that this is an affliate link which means if you sign up  we get a wee bit ‘o income so we can pay the hosts and such for this blog so I can continue to tell photographers why they are wrong on the internet. It’s kind of like you are paying for my therapy, so you can probably write that off, too.  Ask your accountant about that.

 

ALSO…tomorrow at NOON we do the big giveaway for You Proof…Get on it, people!  We’ve got two free downloads to give away!

 

 

 

nachos

My death row meal would be nachos.  In the last minutes of my life, I want a giant plate of crispy tortillas, gooey cheese, salsa, beans, meat and extra sour cream and jalapenos.  I want to wash them down with a gigantic ice-cold beer.

But I’ll also eat those nachos that they sell in gas stations. That’s right,  those disgusting ones that come in a paper boat with the orange cheese food pumped on.  Go ahead, judge me.  I will eat fantastic nachos, okay nachos and even shitty nachos.  If you put enough sour cream on a shoe and told me it was nachos, I’d probably eat it and proclaim it “pretty good”

This same theory has been my marketing plan for a good part of my career.  Start with the base and throw things on it and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s just okay and sometimes it’s a fail with a lot of sour cream. I often feel like I am just guessing with no real idea of what I doing will work, throwing jalapenos at the wall and hoping they will stick.

Like a toddler stamping their feet all I want to do is put up a website, show pretty pictures and have people hire me.

Setting a marketing plan is hands-down my least favorite thing to do every year (taxes notwithstanding). It’s the one piece that frustrates me, eludes me and paralyzes me to the point of inaction.

 You know what I mean by inaction, right?  Those are the days you spend surfing Facebook and watching You Tube Videos of kittens while eating cookies and feeling the self-loathing bank fill up. 

 

And because I live in the Midwest this also generally happens in the deep of winter when there is very little sunlight and blistering cold and snow.  Add in days of wearing the same pair of yoga pants and  not leaving the house and some cheap Costco vodka and BAM!  Welcome to my world, hope you have a strong liver.

This feeling is by far the worst part of being a business owner for me.  When I started doing in person sales (That’s IPS if you want to use the lingo the kids use these days) my big hang up was “I didn’t want to be pushy”.  I don’t like being sold to, and I didn’t want to be seen as some money-grubbing-used-car-salesman-photo-pusher.   Not only was I hung up on this feeling, I was feeling  overwhelmed at the amount of “stuff” I’d have to invest in like a flat screen, projector, and the costly software. “You’ll get it back after a few sales”  is all well and good, but what if that investment is going to wipe out my savings RIGHT NOW? Excuse me while I am a bit skeptical of that argument when I’d like to be able to keep the heat on in December in Wisconsin.

When I started dipping my toes in IPS, I came across this article from The Modern Tog that took the “big purchase” equation off the table.  Armed with nothing more than 5×7 proofs, I started my IPS sessions  and I tripled my average sale and instantly became another of those annoying blathering testimonials for why they work.  Clearly, I had to get past my own shit first.

With marketing you’re dealing with a lot of  complex unknowns.  I decided recently to only offer complete wedding coverage, meaning I am not offering shoot and burns for weddings any longer.  This is throwing me into a whole new genre of clients, and the unknown is scary.   This ultimately is where my fear is coming from, and my artist brain has rebelled by going on lock-down and refusing any more rational thought until quarts of Carmel Sea Salt Gelato are administered and I find another resource that kicks me into gear.

What’s your hang up?  Do the kids say “hang up” anymore?   What’s the thing you want to conquer in your marketing in 2014?