Archive for November, 2006

When it counts…

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

I was just at Whole Foods where my credit/check card got declined. Of course, this was unexpected, but it happened and I hurried home to check my accounts online. As I had just done my books a couple of days ago, I knew there was money in that account, so the declination wigged me out a bit. When I checked, there was a charge from a department store in Atlanta ($1.00, I’m thinking that may have been a test by the thieves) from a couple of days ago and another from a gas station in Montreal, Canada. That one was for over $90 and it was posted three hours after I made a purchase at a bookstore here in San Diego.

Someone had gotten my card number and was ripping me off.

I called my bank and the first woman I spoke to was, to put it kindly, snippy and no help. She said “the charges are only authorizations and haven’t hit your account yet so there’s nothing anyone can do. Check back in a couple of days.” Um…hell no. I’m not going to wait a couple of days to see how much more I lose. I mentioned the declination and she actually said “I don’t see that here so it couldn’t have happened.”

Look lady, I was there. It happened.

I finally got her to transfer me to the fraud department which she did in a huff. There I got lots of kind and caring help. The woman I spoke to said, right off, that she would do whatever she could to fix the problem then she told me that my account had been frozen because the bank had caught the Canadian charge and thought it was suspicious. That’s why my card was declined. She then said that she marked the suspicious charges for removal and that I’d be getting a bunch of paperwork (and a new card) in the mail, etc.
In other words, my bank had already seen there was a problem and had been trying to contact me to check out the charge. They were being the good guys. Too bad I never would have known that from the first Customer Service person I spoke to. If I had listened to her and not been the pushy broad I can be when necessary, who knows when this would have gotten resolved! And how much stress would I have gone through and how likely was it that I would even stay with that bank if I lost money this way?
When one of your clients calls you with a problem do you go into defensive mode (“I don’t see that here so it couldn’t have happened”) or do you try to help? Even (especially!) if it’s not your problem, you can do a world of good if you set aside your defenses and simply try to help.

When it counts, a client will remember the person who saved his/her (client’s) ass in a pinch.

State of Stock

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

There’s an important article on the Wall Street Journal site about how using non-exclusive stock images is causing image duplication between competitors. It also says that as new media campaigns get bigger and bigger, exclusivity is going to become more popular. And exclusivity means more value to the client and thus a higher price.

Good news.

“Crappy” work

Monday, November 27th, 2006

On one of the forums recently someone objected to my using the term “crappy” when referring to work one might get from a self-made, none-too-well-designed photographer’s website. The poster seemed to get his knickers in a twist over the idea that I would judge anyone’s work in any way, much less to judge it crappy.

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is plenty of crappy work out there and we need to stop being afraid of calling it crap. But the poster completely missed my point–in this case I wasn’t calling the work produced crappy, I was calling the work offered crappy.

Creatives need to stop agreeing to do crappy work–the crappy work that is offered by cheap clients who barely want “good enough” creative work and don’t want to pay anything close to a fair price for it. You know crap when you see it–when a client comes to you with a stock image and wants you to reproduce it because they don’t want to pay the “high” (cough!) stock usage price; or the one who wants the logo by tomorrow and wants it to look just like their competitor’s, but better and for $250; or the one who wants the ad to show “free” at least 3 times, with a starburst, and make the logo bigger, and make sure you can see that the people in the image are black, white, Asian, gay, straight, male, and female, but keep it to two people to save money–oh, and the insert date is tomorrow but there is no reason to have a rush charge since “all you have to do is find the right stock image and change the font a teeny bit.”

All of these clients, and so many others, are offering crappy work and it is up to the creative to say “no” to it. In saying “no” you are liberating yourself. You free your mind from the burden of doing work that depresses you. You don’t have to “sell out” but instead can hold your head high and say “I am not the right person for this project” and look yourself in the mirror without wincing.

The added bonus is that some of these crappy clients will learn from your refusal; they will go back to their bosses and say “we can do better–the creative I wanted to do this project can do much more with this, if we let him/her.” This will take time, and it won’t happen with all the crappy clients out there, but the contacts who want to work with you and who are impressed with your honesty and integrity will, when given the opportunity, come back to you with the not-crappy work.

The crap-seekers will just find some other “desperate” creative to do their bidding.

So go after the best clients out there and take passes on the crappy work. Seek out the work that will fulfill you creatively as well as financially. Feed your soul as well as your accounts receivable. Don’t forget, they won’t know you are out there unless you market to them–the good clients. There are loads of them out there. Plenty to go around! Find them, work with them, and keep your heads up.

Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

This is the holiday when we Americans are supposed to give thanks. There are all sorts of things I am thankful for, but today, the day before the holiday, I’ll tell you what I am most thankful for: having patience.

My husband and I are going to have dinner with some of his family and I am making dessert–a pumpkin pie and an apple pie. I think we can pretty much bet that most families will be having pie for dessert. So why did I have to go to three different major grocery chains to get the few things I didn’t have to make the pies, namely a can of plain pumpkin, granny smith apples, cinnamon, and disposable pie tins? I’ll tell you why: poor planning by the stores!

There is no reason a major grocery store should not have loads of all these items on the morning of the day before Thanksgiving. Every year the menu of the American family is about the same so it’s not like they shouldn’t expect to sell some pie-making items.

Now I’m a nice person with loads of patience, so I didn’t get angry with any of the workers, but I’d bet money that there will be screaming fits by others later in the day when they can’t find the items they need. Managers will be called, lines will be held up with complaints, and generally a lot of people are going to be in a bad mood, just because the powers-that-be didn’t plan well.
Don’t let this happen in your business. It is better by far to be over-stocked and not needs something for a project than to need something and not have it–especially if you have a client in your studio or breathing down your neck. Have back-ups for everything technical, of course, but also remember to think about comfort items for you, your crew, and the client(s)–water, bee sting kits, hanbd-held video games to pass the time, whatever. In the worst case, you won’t need them and the client will see you as a competent professional. In the best case, something will be needed and you will be able to whip it out saying “I have it right here,” thus making you look like a savior.
Now there’s something to be thankful for.

Learn how to write! (and save money too)

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Most of you know already how important I think proper writing is for creatives and their businesses. So many of you had little (or no) training in writing while in college/art school, and now when you have to write a proposal or a press release or even just send an estimate, you struggle. Okay, you more than struggle, you freeze up and hit full panic or send written items that do more damage than good. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve just recently learned of online courses to help. These courses can help you overcome your grammar fears and make your syntax sing. They are offered by the WritersOnlineWorkshops which is a part of F&W Publications–the fine folks who bring you the Photographer’s Market and Writer’s Market books, as well as HOW magazine and other fine publications. In other words, these people are not some fly-by-night group. No, they are writing pros and they can definitely help you improve your business.

Best of all, they are offering a discount for any of you who learn about these courses via this email (or the BAP Blog): 10% off! All you have to do is enter the special coupon code BAP6 when you enroll.

And no, I get nothing for this–no kickbacks or financial deals. I just thought it would help you and your businesses, and the fine folks at the WritersOnlineWorkshops.com agreed and offered the discount.

Here are some suggested options and more information:

Brush up on the basics—or dive a little deeper into business or creative writing—with WritersOnlineWorkshops.com, brought to you by the parent company of HOW Magazine and the HOW Design Conference. You’ll work one-on-one with a professional writing instructor to improve your writing skills, no matter what your skill level or interests.

Improve your grammar skills with the six-week comprehensive course Elements of Effective Writing I: Grammar and Mechanics http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/viewworkshop.asp?workshopid=1027 .

If you need to improve your business writing skills, including memos, reports, and proposals, check out Essentials of Business Writing http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/viewworkshop.asp?workshopid=1042 .

And if you want to get a little more creative or get into more details, try some of the other creative (and non) writing courses they offer. A full listing of courses is available at
http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/workshopdescriptions.asp .

In case you’re afraid of commitment, here’s this additional information directly from the WritersOnlineWorkshop people:
This month (November) only we’re offering a special no-risk registration that lets you cancel your workshop even after your class has begun—without paying the customary administrative fees and penalties. Simply put, if something unforeseen happens or you aren’t happy with the class, you won’t have to pay if you don’t stay in the course.

There’s nothing to lose! Click here to learn more about this exclusive promotion and to pick your perfect workshop today: http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/

I agree. Sign up today. The discount offer is time-limited and will expire January 31, 2007.

One less great creative now

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Robert Altman has died. It’s a real loss for all creatives and the world in general. He was a man who followed his own vision, his own creative voice, and he had a hell of a great career because of it.

Take some time to watch some of his films again. MASH, The PlayerPrêt-à-Porter (Ready to Wear), and even the much-maligned Popeye (which I thought deserved more praise), just to name a few, all challenge something in society and/or the world. And they do it with visual impact and great dialogue.
Mr. Altman is a good role model for all creatives. Stand up for your vision, for what you believe is right (and against what’s wrong) in the world, and be true to yourselves.

Wasted SEO efforts and veggie dip

Monday, November 20th, 2006

This past weekend my husband and I went to Phoenix, AZ to visit my father who is renting a place their for the month. Actually, it was Mesa. My father is 80 and a golfer and he has friends and a sister who live in the neighborhood, so this is a good place for him to be. While we were there, we went to an OSU/Michigan football game party. A husband and wife set of friends of my father threw it and while we were there, one of them said to the crowd “That’s what Leslie does–photography. She takes pictures!”

As you all should know by now, I most definitely am not a photographer. I used to get frustrated that my father couldn’t quite understand what I do and that his friends didn’t get it either. Then one day it dawned on me–it doesn’t matter: these people are not my market. They’re not even close to my market. They are now retired, but even when they did work, they weren’t in a demographic that would ever have any use for what I do, so it didn’t serve any purpose to get frustrated. In this case, I just said, “No, I’m not a photographer. I work with photographers to help them make money with their photography–y’know, marketing and the like.” That evoked the polite nods I expected. By playing it light, they could let the topic drop gracefully and I could get back to the veggie dip.

Sure, I could have explained in greater detail what I do and made sure they all understood, but it would have done no good for my business (or for me personally even). The chances that one person in that group would have taken the info I provided them and shared it with someone who might buy from me was, probably, well less than 1% and that’s a lousy ROI (return on investment).

The point of sharing this with you is that many creatives waste their efforts on the wrong people. Photographers who do not sell directly to consumers or to local small companies waste a lot of effort (and money) trying to make their websites generally search engine-friendly, for example. They want to be #1 on Google if someone searches for, say, “product photographer Louisville, KY” but this is probably not targeting the right people. The very people who use Google to find photographers are most often the same people who used the Yellow Pages for the same function in the past–namely cheap corporate clients and/or people who want family portraits done (and mostly cheaply there too). So all that effort on the SEO for the website is wasted.

Instead, if a photographer spent the time and money getting listed on sites like workbook.com and altpick.com (and others) and keyworded those listings correctly, s/he would be getting site hits from the right demographic groups–art buyers, editorial clients who meed a local shooter in a specific place, etc. These are the clients any non-consumer-direct photographer should want to get. Corporate-direct clients also use these search engines over general ones like Google, so you’ll be getting in front of them too.

Yes, you will get fewer hits if you don’t pop highly on Google, but you will convert more of the hits you do get into clients. That’s getting a good ROI, and that should be your goal.

Because I said so!

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Unbelievable disclaimer on a new Maxim-related website (covered by PDN) that says, essentially, “we don’t need no stinkin’ permission to use copyrighted materials…because we say so. So there.”

Well, if that’s the way life works now, I’m the new Empress of the West and all of you have to send me buckets of cash in tribute…because I said so.

Sheesh.

If you make images they may be interested in, keep an eye on their site and sue ’em when they steal your work. Please. And let us know when you do.

Goofy creativity, good and bad

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Sometimes goofy creativity is a great thing. Take this site (which I found from Coudal Partners) which teaches us how to prevent mind control via the perfect tin foil hat. The writing is hilarious and the illustrations silly but appropriate. What a great piece of creative goofiness.

On the other side, there are those creatives who mangle pop songs for ads. Here’s a site that points out many of the offenders, including two of my top three (“Crumbelievable” and “Turning 23″…ACK!).  They’re only missing the Burger King abuse of “Melt With You” by Modern English.

What creative goofiness have you done lately?

No good deed goes unpunished…

Monday, November 13th, 2006

I have no idea who first said that, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that it is very untrue. This weekend was one of those times. I posted my opinion on a topic on a pro photographer forum, giving advice which I believe to be the best advice I could give, with the hopes that readers would find it helpful, and suddenly a couple of the other posters decided to make my life difficult. They got personal and beyond snarky.

I felt spanked, and without good reason.

Now, I don’t work weekends (as a rule) but I looked at this forum on Saturday morning. So, I guess I was asking for some spankage since I broke my own rule, but this was too much. I started getting pretty down about it.

Then I started getting emails and personal messages from other forum members. They, rather than snarking, wrote lovely comments about how I had helped them or that they had learned from things I had written, etc.

So, what started out as a negative response to my efforts turned out, in the end, to be a good thing.

How many times in the recent past has something that started out as an apparent negative turned around for you? Did you do something to make that happen? To make it better? To see the positive side?