Archive for September, 2006

The perils of podcasting

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

It sounds so simple–record a bit, upload, and link and, voilà, a podcast is born. Only it’s not quite that simple. The first episode was poorly mixed so the music was too loud for some folks. The second episode caused some sort of odd bug that made it not appear in iTunes and, for extra measure, made the first episode disappear from there as well, even though both appeared on the server, etc. Hours later, it’s been fixed.

So what? Well, the point for you folks is that sometimes we think that something is going to be really fast and/or easy and it turns out not to be either or both. This happens in marketing all the time. There is no such thing as the quick fix when it comes to marketing–everything takes time to work even if the time to make is minimal. What we need to remember is to have patience.

That workbook.com mini-portfolio may not bring you in a job for many, many months. Those mailers may not make the phone ring. You may get nothing but voicemail when you make calls. Etc. However, not doing these things pretty much guarantees that you won’t get work. On the other hand, maybe an art buyer sees your workbook.com listing and loves your work, but doesn’t have a project right for you now; but in 10 months, she does. You wouldn’t have the project if you never put your mini-portfolio there in the first place.

Patience. And persistence. In my case, I believe each podcast will get better. This one is better than the first and now I even know what to do when the feed gets hosed.

Deep breath. You marketing is paying off already, even if you don’t see it happening today.

Politics and business

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

I’ve been a regular on several forums for quite some time. Recently, however, I’ve had to pull back from my activities on one forum (PDN) because of the politcal ugliness. I haven’t left it, yet, but I am no where near as active as I used to be, because a few political bullies have, essentially, taken over things.

That’s too bad–that a few guys (they are all, ostensibly, men) get so nasty that it ruins the environment for the rest of us, but that happens. The thing is, what they are doing isn’t good for them–in fact, it’s not good for business.

Being politically active is, in my opinion, a good thing. However, it belongs in its own place, and that place is not the front burner of your business. You are more likely to alienate people than to bring them in to your way of thinking, and that is bad for business.

For example, some of the aforementioned posters advocate what is, in my opinion, an extremist right-wing ideology. In the creative industries, the majority of people are centrist to leftist. It is entirely possible for a potential client to choose not to work with you if you post statements contrary to his/her worldview in a place where s/he is likely to see them. PDN is such a place. Clients go there.
So, believe what you believe and fight for what you believe in, but do it in appropriate places–political forums, for example. Leave the creative professional forums to issues facing creative professionals more directly.

Back, and hitting the ground running…

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

If you take a couple of days off, when you come back you’ll feel recharged and you’ll probably find you have work to do. Both are good things. I’m in that situation now so, in an effort to play a bit of catch-up, here are a few items….

Orphan Works legislation:
The government is still trying to change the copyright laws in ways that, while on the surface sound good to the average person, will actually significantly negatively impact a creative’s livlihood. Stay abreast of the news on this topic (the Illustrators’ Partnership is great for this) and stay active! Write letters and make calls to your legislators. We are making a difference!

I’ve spoken and written about doing what you love and working past fear–these are important ideas for your career. I think this article by Rick Landesberg (geared to designers, but it mostly holds true for almost all creatives) speaks very well on these issues, especially the passion part.

And lastly, I’ve just had a fabulous tour of the new Livebooks version 5. Somehow they have managed to make a great suite of products even better.

Milestones

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

You won’t be hearing from me for a few days. My husband is hitting one of those milestone birthdays so we’re off on a trip to celebrate it.

Milestone birthdays (21, 30, 40, etc.) are often surprisingly difficult for creatives. Often, one will feel like s/he hasn’t achieved “enough” by that birthday–like there is some sort of scale and if you don’t have $X or a house (or the RIGHT house) or X awards or whatever, you’ve somehow failed. Of course, there is no such scale. It’s only in our heads, if we have one (a scale, not a head), and we can choose not to hold ourrselves up against that imaginary scale if we want.

That’s not to say that having goals is bad–it’s not. In fact, having concrete goals is a great thing. It only goes bad when you beat yourself up for not achieving a goal. So, instead of using a milestone to hit yourself with, why not choose to look back on all you HAVE accomplished instead? Then you can set more goals, and move forward knowing that you can do it.
My goal for the next few days is to help my husband have a great birthday and to enjoy a couple of days R&R. Of course, a couple of days off for me will mean I’ll probablly have plenty to say when I get back into the office–on Tuesday.

Now, with sound

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

I’ve made and posted my first podcast. Yes, it’s got some technical issues, but for a first try, I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t entirely suck. You can subscribe to it here. It’s called Creative Lube.

The thinking behind the name is simply that I want it to be something that functions as grease for your creative business wheels. Some editions will be me talking about an issue I think is important, but often it will be me answering questions…your questions. So send in those questions! This is your chance to have me answer your question and for you to help others by sharing it.

Midwest bound

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

ASMP Minneapolis/St. Paul is kindly bringing me to their fair neck of the woods to give my New Treatments for PMS (Panic Marketing Syndrome) talk. PMS is that “disease” that creatives often have, where they do little to no marketing when busy, then the phone stops ringing, then they frantically market, then stop again when they get a project…rinse, repeat. The result is feast/famine cashflow and a bad set of nerves, usually. But there are things you can do to get your marketing under control. In this talk, I’ll tell you some of them. And, of course, there will be plenty of time for Q&A too.
That event will be on Monday, October 23rd. On the following day (10/24) I will be available for one-on-one consultations–both in one-hour (ish) and two-hour (ish) blocks. Discounts are available to ASMP members. Call (619.961.5882) or email for details.

I’m excited about the trip and look forward to meeting lots of you there! Book now to be sure of space! And thanks to Steve Niedorf of ASMP-MSP and all the companies who are helping sponsor my trip.

They do get it

Monday, September 18th, 2006

I hear photographers and other creatives complain about the usage model often. Some say that their clients don’t get it so it’s easier to price based on time, but today there is more proof that not only do they get it, they want it for themselves.

In this article on AdAge.com, very important agency heads talk about how the “pitch system” is broken. Even the one guy who says he likes pitches says that the compensation system is messed up:
I understand how costs have to be driven down but the fee-base that we’re on now, it’s like being an hourly worker — like the person who does the drywall, and I believe we should be paid by the idea. If we spend four hours and the idea is worth $50 million, it doesn’t seem right to just be paid for four hours.

So, the next time you have an agency client say “we don’t do usage” be understanding that they may not for themselves, but show them how it is more fair and encourage them to demand the same from their clients.

But, but…I love YouTube!

Friday, September 15th, 2006

YouTube is an enormous success and it is definitely changing the way people get famous (see the band that made the great treadmill video and the “LonelyGirl” series). When people use it as its originators claim it was intended to be used, it’s a fabulous thing.

The idea was to have a space where people could post their own “homemade” videos–to get them out to the public. Great idea. The trouble is that more and more users are posting materials they did NOT make and, therefore, that they do not have the rights to post. The posting of these videos violates copyright law.

Universal is suing YouTube for exactly this reason. This article discusses the case. How will it be ruled? Hard call. I think YouTube has been pretty good about pulling a video when they are informed that it may be posted without proper rights. The trouble is, they are going to miss some and it would take a hell of a lot of their time to police all the materials they are getting. Does that make it okay? No, but it is a problem that should be considered.

The bigger problem is, of course, the incredibly effective spin that is out there against copyright protectionists. Napster and others did a fabulous job promulgating this argument: music (and art, etc.) should be shared with the world and the only people who think otherwise are big record companies who just want more money. Thing is, that’s crap. Yes, big music companies are interested, there is that side of this, but there are many, many, many more individuals (artists musicians, photographers, illustrators, writers, etc.) who would lose their ability to make a living, to support themselves and their families, if Napster-like supporters had their way. And, of course, those companies–the “sharing” ones, would make a ton of money off the creative work.

Look at Microsoft’s planned Zune system–users will be able to beam music and videos and images to each other. That can’t be legal (it would be making a copy) unless the rights owners give their okay. But I can’t find a single article that even mentions the copyright implications.

We need to be active in supporting copyright. Now.

So here’s what we all can do: stand up for other creatives as well as ourselves. Bring up the copyright issues of Zune to Microsoft and the press (letter/email to various editors, perhaps?). Talk about copyright to your clients. If you see a video on YouTube that you think may be posted illegally, let YouTube know. And, more importantly, do not post videos there that you do not have the rights to. I don’t care how cool that commercial is that you recorded off the tv, don’t post it (and don’t email it to others–that’s just as wrong). Don’t “share” your music or video libraries (or software). Lead by example.

It’s an experience

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Yesterday, I went to see the Dalai Lama speak in Los Angeles. He gave a public talk on compassion, held at the Gibson Amphitheater. It was great. While his English is halting (he has his translator sit with him for when he gets stuck), he still manages to express serious and important concepts. He also makes great jokes.

“What does this have to do with photography?” you’re probably asking.

First off, it was an experience that not everyone will ever have and for most of us there, it was really special. For a lot of your clients (and subjects) a photoshoot is something they think is very special. For some it’s special on the “I have to get the right shot because we’re spending millions on marketing and I may lose my job if I screw this up” level, but for an awful lot of others, it’s just a really cool thing they never (or rarely) get to experience. We in the industry get jaded about the production side of the work because we’re in it all the time, but for someone unfamiliar with professional/commercial photography, a day shooting with you will be the stuff of stories to their friends and families! If you can give those clients a great experience, they will remember and come back. If you can make them really feel a part of it and share their enthusiasm (even when they’re trying to hide it to appear not-too-eager or cool)–bingo, repeat client.

Secondly, the event in LA serves as a great example of how the experience is more than just the event itself, and a bit of attention to the surroundings can make a huge difference. In the case of the talk, the Gibson Amphitheater is located inside the Universal Studios theme park and commercial area they call City Walk. Turn the corner at the Jurassic Park ride and there we were at the entrance to the amphitheater. If that’s not strange enough (in this context), when we exited the place, we were in the middle of the City Walk, which is this out-of-proportion series of confusing “streets” lined with stores and restaurants and blasting music. A more annoying, over-the-top, buy-buy-buy environment, I have never been in. The shock to the system, after 90 minutes of hearing words like “compassion” and “calmness” coming from a man with a soft (but strong) voice and a kind smile like a grandfather, was jarring. Painfully jarring.

Now, the theatre itself, inside, was great, and maybe the space was donated (I don’t know), but the organizers would have served us better if they had chosen someplace else to have the event– someplace less insanely commercial, environmentally-speaking. Yes, it would have been a bother for them to look some more, but the payoff would have been worth it.

When you put together a shoot, location or in the studio, remember that the event is only a part of the experience. You want to give your clients (and the end-clients) a great experience from the moment they park their car (in spaces you provide for them) all the way to after they get the finals (that is, when you send a thank you note). Paying attention to details like having an extra assistant to be a “go-fer” for them (get drinks, etc.) or valeting their cars can make all the difference between a good shoot and a great experience. Give ’em a great experience.

Think conceptually

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Conceptual photography is a great thing. When a photographer goes beyond the act of capturing what is available (NO disrespect to photo-journalists! this is very different than what they do!) to creating an image that expresses a clear concept, something amazing happens. When there is true creative collaboration between photographer and art director, art happens, even in the commercial realm. Think about the incredible Amnesty International ads, for example. Or, on a more business-y level, the work of Stephen Webster.
But, concepts and their executions can become trite. Forty Media nails this phenomenon with their post on the Top Ten Stock Photography Clichés.

It’s a great self-assignment for a photographer to give him/herself a concept to express. Doing work like this can help you think in new and exciting ways. Just be careful to avoid the obvious and the trite.