Archive for September, 2010

Us Against Them… NOT!

Friday, September 24th, 2010

If you hear someone say that photographers and their clients are in opposition, run. That kind of old thinking will ruin your business today.

For example, click-through copyright notices on your website might give you a teeny bit of additional legal protection (I think of it as just one piece of paper in a file folder full), but buyers hate them. Also, those who are going to steal from you are going to steal from you–they won’t even read the notice. Still, some people insist photographers need to have them and say that buyers should get over it.

Horse hockey, as my father would say. You don’t need to do anything that alienates your targets and your targets don’t need to get over anything.

Instead, you need to find a way to balance your interests and your targets’ interests. Working together is the best way to achieve this. Listen to what they say to you–especially their complaints and worries, and work towards solutions.

That means doing things like finding pricing structures that work for both of you–that is, usage-based pricing “packaged” in a way that your targets will like. It also means being flexible on contract terms (flexible–not “bend over and just take whatever they want”). And while you need to protect your copyright, you can do that without sounding like a paranoid, jealous boyfriend–that is, constantly telling your targets about your rights under copyright is like saying “Did you look at my girlfriend? I’ll kick your ass!”

The most successful photographers I know–the ones who work consistently and who really are enjoying their professional lives–are the ones who work with their clients the most. They never see clients as the enemy. They’re never greedy nor are they milquetoasts. And on those very rare occasions that they get a new client who is a jerk, they can choose never to work with that person again because they have plenty of business. They have fun in their work, focus on the creativity, and make good money.

On the other hand, the photographers I know who are the least happy in their professional lives are the ones who are the most us-versus-them-ish. Coincidence? I think not.

Last Quarter

Monday, September 20th, 2010

We’re almost to the last quarter of 2010–wow, the year has flown by! Now is the time to be thinking seriously about what you want to accomplish next year. I suggest taking a day, grabbing a friend/colleague/partner, and going off-site someplace with a pad of paper or a Moleskin and a pen and brainstorming possible goals for 2011. What do you want to accomplish? What dreams to you want to achieve?

I was in a law school class recently where the professor was talking about the importance of brainstorming. The class? The most practical one you can take: Trial Practice, where one learns how to be a lawyer in the courtroom. The professor, the fabulous Mario Conte, said that the first thing to do with any case is to brainstorm about it with others. The others don’t have to be lawyers–just others with whom you can exchange ideas…pretty much just riff off of each other. This way one can find the best, strongest image goals for the presentation of the case and then you can build on that to success for that case.

Same goes for photographers and any creative biz pro. When you are thinking about your goals for the future, you can get stuck in your own head and in what you think is “reasonable.” Brainstorming with someone else helps drop those walls and frees you to just explore.

The great thing about brainstorming is that nothing is out of bounds–if you think “I want to shoot for Vanity Fair” and you are a lowly second-year photo student, so what? Write it down when you are brainstorming. Anything goes!

Then, later, you can go through the free-form thoughts and pick out the things you really will try to accomplish.

For now, take a day and let yourself dream/imagine with abandon.

Planning

Monday, September 13th, 2010

This term in law school (my last, btw), I’m taking 6 substantive classes, plus I have two others which are not for credit in the traditional sense of the word. I have to write a scholarly paper in one of my courses, plus I have to do mock trials in another. It’s a heavy load in some ways, but entirely doable.

Or it would be, if all my profs provided complete syllabi so that I could plan ahead. Sadly, I have three who do not and this made me think about planning and complete info when it comes to photo projects. Yes, my brain works that way. 😉

We’ve all been contacted by clients who want estimates but don’t provide all the data necessary to produce something accurate. In that situation, it falls on the photographer to ask the questions necessary to get the info. It can be scary to firmly ask for more information when the client seems reluctant to provide it, but it is the responsible thing to do for both of you.

In that situation, you need to explain to your client that you cannot give accurate numbers if you don’t know the number of shots and/or the usage and/or whether it will be 4 people in the shot or 2 and/or whether you have to find the location or they will and/or, well, a bunch of things. And if they say “ballpark it” you will underestimate the cost (there is lots of data that show humans underestimate cost much more than overestimate it) and that number will stick in your client’s head so that when you finally get more data and have to re-estimate significantly higher, everyone will be unhappy–you, your client, your client’s boss and/or the end-client. No one likes expensive surprises.

Also, when you have to try and put together a production with less than full data, you will likely not have things the client wants/needs at the shoot. You can’t plan well for the shoot without having a full understanding of the project–and that requires asking questions (and getting the answers).

Providing full information for planning goes both ways, however. Photographers need to be better about production to get and keep clients. Buyers say that the ability to put together an efficient and well organized production is extremely important. Maybe you do know how to produce your projects, but do you communicate that to your clients clearly? Do you provide them with detailed production schedules and maps and lists of crew, talent, etc.?

You will look more professional and competent when you prioritize production and communicate that to your clients. This will permit them to have a full understanding of the complexities of the shoot and will be able to plan how they approach the production from their end (including when/where to bring in the end-client or a boss).

Doing this means you will provide greater value to your clients. That means you can charge more–because you are a more valuable partner and resource.

So, ask the questions you need to and provide lots of information back to your clients. The communication will contribute to building a strong, healthy business for everyone.

Call, already

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Are you looking for something to jump-start your marketing? Something you can do NOW? Something inexpensive but which can have the best payoff of any marketing tool in your BatBelt?

Call your targets and try to get meetings.

Meeting face-to-face with your targets is the shortest route to getting work. You’re not going to walk out of meeting with work all the time, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how often you do or how fast afterwards the phone rings. A meeting puts you top-of-mind and it gives you the chance to become a whole person in your targets’ minds. You’re no longer just some photographer… you’re the one who told the great joke or wore the cool shoes or who had the coolest bag or, had an amazing image with an iguana, or well, pretty much anything.

And the best way to get meetings is still to get on the phone. Emails, texts, etc., do not work as well. Again, it’s about being a real person, and the voice imparts that better than any other (not in-person) contact form.

So, make a list, check it twice, and start calling already.