Archive for February, 2008

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Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Today is my father’s 82nd birthday. He’s a retired attorney who never got rich but did just fine and, more importantly, he helped a lot of people. He believed in doing the right thing and helping those in need, not just going after the quick buck by chasing ambulances and using the law to manipulate the system to win. Pretty admirable, I think.

When he was turning 80 my brothers and I made a book for him filled with stories and quotes from his friends. He has (had, unfortunately, as several have died) a lot of them and originally made many of them through his business life. They all shared their love and admiration for him.

Who could ask for more from a life?

Why go to SB2?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Because it will help you make more money. How’s that for a reason?
Here’s a real testimonial to that point, from Karen Morrison who attended the LA event:

I had to quote a job a couple of days ago. I started reverting to my normal nervous “I don’t know” ways. Then I paused and said I would get back to them later. I came up with a number, doubled it just because, and they said it sounded good. By understanding that my work is intellectual property, I now have the confidence to ask for higher fees and clients are saying yes!

Woo hoo!

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Over the weekend it was announced that the writers and the producers (etc.) have come to a tentative agreement. In it, the writers will get a cut (I heard 2% on MSNBC) of future internet sales of their material. This is fantastic news for all creatives.

First, there is a number involved, a percentage, which shows that the value of the creative part does not diminish over time or use (relative to the product as a whole) but rather functions as an integral correlative part of the product. So, it’s 2% of $10 or, when the product is discounted, it’s 2% of $5, for example.

Also, that number is easily calculable. There is no muss, no negotiations, everyone knows what to expect–2%, thank you very much, come again.

Most importantly, this strike and the resulting agreement will help other creatives by serving as an example of value. The general population has had its eyes opened to how creatives make money and how their products were valued…or not as the case may have been. The average Joe and Jane, when polled, understood the issues and agreed that the writers should get paid for new media sales.

We as an industry need to capitalize on this.

Most people outside of our industry think that photographers are either the folks who shoot weddings or they are staff members of magazines or ad agencies. They think there are a few folks who work as freelancers, but most photographers, in their minds, are employees who get paid a salary and get benefits, etc. We need to get the word out to the general population that, in fact, the opposite is true. This will help them to understand why taking an image off a site is a worse theft than they know, for example. Making the connection between the writers issues and our own will help frame our struggles better, and more effectively.

So woo hoo to the writers! Let’s celebrate! And let’s use this fabulous win for one section of creatives to help more creatives survive and thrive.

Difficult clients?

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Bob Sutton brings us the ACHE test. See if your clients are certifiable assholes (and if they are, DUMP THEM).

:-)

In case you’re not on the list

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

The latest Manual was posted on the main BAP site today–it’s about e-promos. If you’re on my list, you already got it in January.

The next Manual will be emailed to the list in early March.

iPhones

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

I’ve finally added an iPhone to my toolbelt. I was going to hold off for the next generation, but my old cell was dying too rapidly and I needed the data capabilities anyway, so I got one.

They are as cool as advertised. It’s all I can do not to sit in a corner and play with it. I even made my first iTunes-based ringtone last evening. And there are loads of helpful webapps I still have to explore and little tricks to learn (like answering by clicking the mic on the earbud cord).

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about how popular iPhones are with your targets. They are extremely popular. If one of your targets doesn’t have an iPhone, s/he probably has a Blackberry or the like instead and even if s/he has one of those other devices, an iPhone may still be in the future. And these people are using these tools (iPhones and other devices) more and more to check their email and to look at websites…including photographer’s websites. I’m currently running a small photo buyer survey and the numbers are backing up this point so far.

How does your site look on an iPhone or Blackberry? And how well does it work on one? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you’d better find out. Buyers are busy people and they will indeed, for example, look at a site on their iPhone while they’re waiting for a set to be ready on another shoot, in hopes of finding a photographer for their next project. If yours doesn’t work here’s what they’ll be thinking: Next!

Health insurance

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

All of us small businesspeople can attest to the lousy state of health insurance in this country. If you need it, you can’t get it and if you can get it (when you don’t need it, of course) it costs more than your car. Hopefully, our politicians will get their heads extracted from their nether-regions and make it possible for us to all get insurance without sacrificing, oh, food and shelter, but in the meantime, it’s a tough nut to crack.

What amazes me most about navigating health insurance is the lousy state of coverage for mental health. This makes no sense to me–if one has issues of depression, for example, that can manifest as all sorts of physical complaints that will send the patient to the regular doctor, and maybe specialists over and over, costing the insurance companies much more than regular therapy and maybe meds.

And then of course there is dental coverage. I asked my dentist’s receptionist at my last cleaning how much I would have to pay if I didn’t have dental insurance: $163…for a cleaning. Now I’m not saying the guy isn’t worth it (I loathe going to the dentist but our guy is great), but huggabugga, that’s not peanuts.

And then this made me think about the penny-pinching nature of so many photographers and my own naturally “tight” financial tendencies. Here I am kvetching about the cost of a cleaning with a guy who is a DDS (they don’t use hygienists for cleanings but rather the “junior” DDS of the practice) when I know I am getting excellent care and, frankly, I charge more than that per hour. I’m getting good value for the cost even if I were paying the full rate.

Same thing for mental health care and for medical care. We all need all of these options. These need to be priorities even when we don’t have kids. We each need to go regularly to the doc to get our cholesterol checked and the physical once-over. Women need to get pap smears and mammograms. Men need to turn their heads and cough.

We can’t look at these items as luxuries. If we get sick, who will run our companies and do our creative work? Yes, getting insurance is not cheap and is a pain in the ass, but the sooner you get coverage, the better off you will be in the long run. And that is very good for business.

More stock stuff

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I’m getting really excited about the state of stock photography. Today brings us an announcement from Adobe that they are dropping the Bridge link to RF stock (woo hoo!).

Just recently I heard from a client of mine in England who recently met with a very well known agency there (actually, it’s well known everywhere–it’s BBH). He said that during his meeting he was told that they are now making clients prove that using stock is a better idea than shooting custom work for their project. Yes, you heard that right, the art buyers are fighting for assignment photography.

I think this is an important sign the tide is shifting. I have been predicting a backlash against generic stock and, fingers crossed, maybe it’s finally happening.

If you think I sell auto parts

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I have an odd company name. Once in a while, this actually impedes my message reaching some people and, in fact, I do not encourage others to follow in my wacky company name footsteps. It does present hurdles.

However, it is right for me and my business. More right now than it even was back when I started the company. I think in my case, my company name works a bit of client Darwinism magic, and I’m all for that.

For example, every so often someone who disagrees with me on a forum or the like jumps the logical train tracks with a retort like, “Well with a company name like yours I thought you sold auto parts!” implying, thus, that my own marketing choices were bad and that I must not know what I am doing. In fact, most of my readers and clients either assumed I had a wacky company name or they were smart enough to visit my site and learn the backstory. What these intelligent people (my readers and/or clients) did was most definitely not wonder “What the hell is someone whose company names makes them sound like they sell auto parts was doing posting cogent responses to issues of photographer marketing on multiple professional forums?” and then not do anything to get the answer. The people with the snippy illogical “well your name is weird” comebacks couldn’t be bothered and/or didn’t have the curiosity to find out what was up.

Look, if you can’t be bothered to seek an answer to so obvious a question as “Is this person who sounds like a creative pro really just an auto parts manager?” You are probably not a good candidate for working with me. I have a link to my site on every post I make and in every email I send. If I need to literally take your hand and force you to click on a link, your need for help is way beyond my capabilities. [ ;-) ]

That kind of client is one who expects to spend as little as possible with a consultant, disagree with what that consultant says about her/his site and mailers (etc.), always use cost as an excuse to do the bare minimum of anything marketing-ish, and then wonder why nothing changes with his/her business. The fact that s/he haven’t made any changes after a consultation, somehow, in this kind of wannabe client’s mind, has nothing to do with it.

This problem is, luckily, pretty rare in our industry and, thus, my business. Most of you are smart and curious and have the gumption to either look for an answer or (gasp!) [/sarcasm] ask me directly “What’s up with the weird name?” That wondering is part of what makes you a creative, I think. Most of you are the kind who feel, if anything, liberated to try new things and reach out differently after working with a consultant.

And that’s a big part of why I love to do what I do. When I have clients come to me months later after our work together and say “I just sent out my new mailer and I got a ton of hits to my site!” or “That agency I always wanted to work with just called in my book!” I know that they have done the real work of changing how they approach their marketing. I can’t make them do that–they have to do that themselves. I can give them a path to follow, but they have to take the steps.

And if they can’t figure out first that I don’t sell auto parts, they ain’t ever gonna get there. :-)

Websites and value

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Because of my website consultation on APhotoEditor.com, Rob posted a piece yesterday about what sites he likes, think work, and why. In his post, he mentions (among many other things!) that he likes LiveBooks sites and that they are, essentially, the new standard. To paraphrase him, if you can’t match what they offer, don’t bother trying and just get their products. He definitely did not say they were the bestest thing ever and that no one should bother getting a custom site, but from the comments you’d think that was his position. No, what he said was that LB sites are the standard for good/professional and that there are some better and lots worse out there.

I have to say that in most (not all, most) cases, those who commented about cheap or free alternatives are so not getting what is important in a website that I think it’s not worth my effort to post again in the comments. I did it once and people still didn’t get it. They just won’t open up enough to listen.

You know what? I looked at those sites mentioned in the comments and they look cheap. Some of them work, sort of, most are slow and/or awkward, and most violate some or a lot of the basic “rules” for good photographer websites…rules laid out by the people who use them, i.e., your buyers.

Some are better, some are worse, but overall, it’s like showing up for a date driving a Honda Fit…you look cheap and you’re going to have to work a hell of a lot harder to impress the date. Why would anyone want that?

And no…don’t even try to claim that you’d look frugal…you’d look cheap in a Fit and that is just the simple truth.

This brings me to the other argument about LB sites–some people claim they are expensive. Again, this is a case where people are confusing price and value. LB sites are actually a very good value. To get something similar designed and programmed by an independent pro would generally cost significantly more than what LB charges. The sites look simple (that is good design) and they are so easy for buyers to use that they love them (also good design). For the photographer, the back-end is incredibly simple and efficient so making “collections” is easy, swapping and sequencing images a snap. All of these aspects have value in that they save you time and, I can’t believe I need to remind people about this, your time costs you money (if you can’t bill for it).

When people say I’m shilling for LB, it ticks me off. I’m not. I like plenty of non-LB sites. But when the choice is between putting yourself out to the world with something that makes it harder for you to elevate your perceived value, something that only-half works but saves you some cash right this second, and buying a LB site that will immediately elevate your perceived value in your targets’ eyes, I’ll encourage the latter every time.

Look at it this way, you could buy the Honda Fit for $14K or you could buy a barely used MINI Cooper for $25K or a BMW with about 30K miles for the same. Are the used MINI or Beemer perfect? No, but you’re going to look like you are more successful in them.

And image is a very important part of our job.