Archive for October, 2011

Get Ready for 2012

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Okay people, the year is rapidly coming to a close and if you want to be ready for 2012, marketing-wise, you need to get on it. Time to write up marketing plans, re-edit your website and your portfolio, improve your targeting, or at least get a review of what you have out there now.

In other words, now is the time to book me to help.

Extra super fabulous reason? A 15% discount on my regular rates.
Book before December 15, 2011 (work may be completed later as needed) to get the discount.

Love and Passion and the Work

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about love and passion lately. Keeping with the recent theme of marketing being like dating, this does apply to your business. Yet I have been kind of reluctant to talk about it and I wasn’t sure why. Then I realized that it is because this is where the analogy gets personal. We go beyond the flirtation here to the real connection that must be made. This is intimacy.

Part of the trouble is that I think the terms have been sort of co-opted by the touchy-feely folks out there. Not just photo consultants, but all sorts of business consultants chant that you have to be passionate and do the work youlove. They aren’t wrong, exactly, but they sort of cheapen the deeper meaning of the words and, I think, give people a cheat. The words, to paraphrase The Princess Bride, do not mean what they think they mean. They become throw-aways, flattened, not carrying the depth they need to. And, thus, we are misusing them–claiming a profundity that isn’t really there.

The other day, I was talking to a photographer friend/client about his work and I indeed said the now common words–that he needed to show work he loves. This person is someone I know beyond the usual client relationship so I knew that he could be very blunt. I have a couple of friends who are like this: very straight-forward so when they say something confusing, it stands out. Knowing this about him, his reply struck me: he said he didn’t love any of his work, but he also said he loved a lot. I didn’t get what he meant so my mental warning bells went off. Then he said that he defined love differently, and something clicked in my head: Love isn’t the right word to use. We have to stop using it.

We love all sorts of things–our family members, our romantic partners, pets, chocolate, great shoes, the way that woman looks in that dress, mountain biking, Family Guy, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, the Parrot Sketch, a great massage, your kid’s piano playing, and pizza, just to name a few. Love is sort of different for each thing. So, going back to my friend/client, for this man, he can love some of his images but not not love them at the same time, because it all depends on what love we are talking about.

This really made me think. Why do we use this word that becomes almost a throw-away? How can I ask clients to show work they love when they love mac-n-cheese?

So, I realized that it is definitely the wrong word to use and that’s part of what makes me so uncomfortable to discuss it. First because it means I’ve been teaching the right thing wrongly for some time and, second, because the word we need to use is even more intimate. We need to stop tip-toeing around and come out with it. We need to talk about passion.

What I’m talking about when I say (said) you need to show the work you love is that it has to be the work you are passionate about. Now, that word has its own pile of possibilities and can also be misued, but I think we can all agree that if you are passionate about something, it evokes a very strong (often physical) reaction. Often, you cannot describe why you feel what you feel, you just know you feel it, something, something big, deep, profound, animal, wordless.

Look at the derivation of the word (from

 1125–75; Middle English (< Old French ) < Medieval Latin passiōn– (stem of passiō ) Christ’s sufferings on the cross, any of the Biblical accounts of these (> late Old English passiōn ), special use of Late Latin passiō suffering, submission, derivative of Latin passus, past participle of patī to suffer, submit; see -ion

Suffering. Submission. These are big, profound words. Think about it in its most basic form: sexual passion. What pops into your mind? It could be any number of things but the one thing it is not is “thoughtful.” Passion isn’t about thought–it is about the purest form of emotion/feeling. Raw. Unprocessed. Exposed.

Funny how the words of your art are also evocative of the emotion you need to reach.

Passion is scary. Going back to the dating analogy, we’re conditioned by society to keep passion in check. It’s too revealing–too close to our real self and too dangerous to show (so we are told). Too much emotion, too much rawness and reality and you might scare off the other person! Let yourself go, reveal your passion (your deepest self), and not only do you run the risk of the other person checking out, you might get laughed at in the process.

Also, as soon as you start talking about suffering and submission in the context of dating, society implies a marginalization: BDSM, fetish… the so-called “darker side” of human relationships and sexuality.

The same thing happens with your work. If you choose to show only the work you are passionate about, you are revealing your innermost self–your raw, open, very real creative self. This is the work you want to make more than any other, the work you submit yourself to. It is your master, by your own choice to submit to it. You are, in “society’s” mind, self-marginalizing.

But in our industry, in the arts, that is a good thing. Art isn’t art when anyone can do it. You have to be different, have something that is you and only you in your work to be successful today. Anyone can take a photo and many of them are good, but they aren’t art without that something more, and they won’t get you good projects from clients. Today, you have to go beyond the every day, the safe, the normal–you need to differentiate, to self-marginalize, to reveal your passion.

Passion scares the hell out of us, especially us Americans, because it touches our deepest inner nature. We are a shallow culture in many ways and we still have a puritan streak a mile wide. But passion is also something we desire, covertly sometimes. Passion is why the works of artists (including authors and musicians as well as the visual), touch us each in our own way–each individually connecting with the other who most speaks to us. It is an intimacy.

And so it is with your art. You have to reach out to your targets and show your passion. You will connect with the right targets to whom that passion speaks. It is a deeper, more fundamental, and very real connection. It is intimate. And it cannot be faked.

But, your highly evolved brain is telling you, it’s too risky! It’s too real! How devastating is it going to be if the viewer rejects it or, worse, laughs or criticizes?

Here’s the trick: it will be only as devastating as you let it be. You have control over that–how you react–so the reality is that you risk nothing by putting yourself out there. Moreover, the rejection isn’t likely about you, it is about the other person. Because passion is so deep, many of us are afraid to react to it honestly and, instead, try to diffuse the tension it creates. People laugh or criticize to take away from their own discomfort at being confronted by something so real, so intimate. So, if someone laughs at or even dismisses your work, s/he is probably just uncomfortable at the honesty. S/he isn’t connected to her/his own passion and denies it in others so as not to face it in her/himself. Kind of like being asked something intimate and making a joke to avoid answering. It isn’t about you at all, it is about the other person!

But when you do reveal yourself, when you are passionate and there is no laughter, the connection is amazing. Like in dating, not everyone will be your match. Not everyone will want the real you, your real work, but when they do connect with you, through your passion, you will have a deeper intimacy. You will then truly partner with your client and be fulfilled in your work, your career, your business, and in ways beyond just pecuniary.

Marketing IS like dating, but (more)

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Following up on yesterday’s post, I was reminded by one of my followers about the phone. Continuing on the (totally sexist, sure, but mostly accurate) same theme that photographers are the girls in the paradigm, how you relate to the phone is different than usual, guys.

Yes, you have to make calls, which is kind of like asking for a date (and can be intimidating and scary), but both genders do this so that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the Wait. Every woman knows this story: you have a great first date and then you wait for the guy to call. There are a gazillion theories about whether you should ever call him or how many days you should wait before giving up on him calling… the point is you have the Wait. And it’s torturous.

For photographers, you have a great meeting (like a first date)–the contact says she loves your work and wants to find a way to work together and then says she’ll be in touch. You leave that meeting feeling on top of the world. Then, the next day, you wait for that phone to ring. Day after day you wait, and the phone does not ring. And your brain starts spinning:

Why hasn’t she called–she said she wanted to work together!
Maybe she was lying when she said she liked my work…
Did I say something wrong in the meeting?
Maybe I should call to see if she has a project for me…
Is my phone working?
I wonder if she’s using another photographer…

Here’s the thing: you are completely out of control–that is, you cannot do anything to make that phone ring. Let go. You have to just put it out of your mind (after sending a “thank you” of course) and stay on your course of marketing. The phone will ring, when she really does have a project for you, but you can’t push it. Stay in contact through your marketing (mailers, emails, etc.) and let go of trying to control the buyer. You can’t and it will only piss the buyer off if you try.

The Wait can be torturous, but as the old saying goes, good things are worth it.

Marketing IS like dating, but…

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I was having a conversation with a newly single photographer recently and he said that he thought that marketing was maybe like dating. I laughed because I have been saying that for years and have even been given some shit for that position. But I’m telling you, marketing is very much like dating.

Then I thought about why so many photographers don’t get that, or fight it. Then it dawned on me: marketing in your photo business is like dating; but this time, you’re the girl.

Since most photographers are still male, and mostly heterosexual males, this means they have no idea what it’s like from this position! It also explains why so often my female clients “get it” faster. We’ve been there! This is our “natural” state of being in the social world and now that marketing is so incredibly enmeshed with social (hello, there’s a reason they call it social media, people), we girls get how it works even faster. Guys, therefore, need to catch up a bit.

So, here are a few basic “rules” to get you guys started:

  1. You have to put yourself out there. The world will not beat a path to your door no matter how fabulous you are, you have to go out there and let the world know you’re available. Go to events where your targets go, send promos, have a great website, etc.
  2. Put yourself out there, but don’t put out. Doing the first one for free or a discount is like having sex on the first date, before even getting dinner. I don’t care how hot your target is, you just can’t. You may really, really want it, but you have to respect yourself to be respected by others, so just say “no” when asked (or even begged).
  3. Dress for the date. If you are going out in public with any chance of being seen by potential clients (like going to lunch or for drinks with friends to a trendy place), dress up more. If you are going for a client meeting, really pay attention to the details of grooming and tailoring. I don’t care if your “date” is dressed like a slob, you’d better look fabulous.
  4. Debbie Downer and Donna Desperate are never sexy. If you have been sending promos and are making calls to get a meeting, don’t sound desperate and, if you get a “No, I’m too busy,” say “Thanks anyway. Mind if I call you again in a month or two?” And if you get a meeting, at that meeting do not ever ask “Do you have a job for me?”
    Be upbeat and respect yourself. You’re a successful photographer–even if business has sucked lately, you have something to offer that no one else does–the way you think and see. Head up, smile, and never beg for attention or work. There are other fish in the sea.
  5. Stalking never works. Guys, you know you hate it when some girl comments on every post you make on Facebook, or shows up where you go “accidentally,” or calls (or texts), like, every day even though you never answer. Same for buyers. It’s not cute, it’s scary. Have a schedule for your marketing efforts and stick to it.
    Gather data by following targets on Facebook, etc., but use that behind the scenes, so to speak. For example, if you know that a target’s birthday is coming up (thank you Facebook) you can send them a print with a happy birthday note. Do not, however, show up at the family party uninvited. (eek!)
  6. Be interesting, sure, but more importantly, be interested. Okay, I may be violating girl-code here by telling y’all this, but it’s always better to encourage the person you are flirting with to talk about himself than to talk about yourself too much. Asking questions, listening, smiling & nodding, asking good follow-ups… all important. Don’t be a fawning lump (no one likes someone who has no opinions or stories to tell!)–but do encourage your target to open up and share.
  7. Don’t sit by the phone. Okay, our phones are on us all the time but we don’t have to answer them 24/7–not for dates and not for business. I’ve said for years the best way to get a gig is to go on a vacation, and that is true. Being a little less available makes you look desirable and not desperate. Don’t answer the phone for business calls on weekends or off hours… it can go to voicemail and you can listen to it and choose for yourself whether it is a real emergency or something that can wait until Monday morning.
  8. Don’t try to pick up the check on the first date. You’re the girl, remember, and sexist or not, if the guy asks you out, he should be paying for the date. In marketing, this is much like #2 above–here I mean don’t offer a discount in the attempt to get a project. It also makes you look desperate (see #4). If you get asked to estimate on a project, don’t think about how cheaply you can do it–think about the value you bring to the project and price accordingly.
  9. Show a little leg. Like #1, you have to put yourself out there and you should do that in your marketing by showing your best work. But, don’t put it all out there (on your website or whatever). Keep some goodies in your print book only (or at least in a private electronic format like a pdf or something) so that you have something special to “put out” to those who make the effort to respond to your flirtations. Oh, and your best work is often your personal work so don’t be afraid to reveal some of that “leg.” Targets love to see the real you in your work–that is going to show in your personal work most of all.
  10. Don’t lie. If you lie, you break trust and you will never build a relationship. Again, remember you are the girl in this paradigm and you want (eek!) a relationship, not just a bunch of notches in your bedpost. Lie once and you have quite probably no shot at ever “getting in bed” with this target. Ever. Be honest about who you are, what you want to do creatively, what your capabilities are, what you bring to the relationship, why you are attracted to your target… everything. You can spin the facts to make them look as positive as you can (kind of like wearing makeup), but do not lie.
    For example, if you haven’t had a paying project in six months and your target asks how things have been, you can answer “Good. Busy.” Why? Because you have been busy trying to get work and that’s good! But if the client follows up with “Who have you shot for in the past six months, you should say “I’ve been working on personal projects” rather than lie and say you shot for Bob’s House o’ Widgets or whatever. The truth will out, as they say. It’s not worth it.

So, with those ten starter tips in mind, go out there and flirt… er, market!

Speaking in Columbus, Ohio

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I’m speaking in my hometown next month. Here is the scoop and I hope to see lots of you there!
Leslie Burns: Map Your Route to Success
Wednesday November 16, Columbus, Ohio
presented by ASMP-Ohio Valley

Today, photographers have a gazillion possible marketing roads to follow. Which way should you go? Consultant/Lawyer Leslie Burns of Burns Auto Parts will offer her thoughts on the best routes to success, how to weigh the pros and cons of different roads to select the right ones for your business, and she’ll explain why your route will be unique (that’s a good thing).

Also, since some marketing roads have big potholes (like rights-grabs!), she’ll address some of the legal issues to consider in your selections. She’ll even touch on a few copyright issues (her favorite topic!) in the process.

Make sure to come to this event with a notebook and plenty of questions. This will be a great opportunity to pick the mind of one of the best-known consultants out there, now with added legal goodness, and she loves to be asked questions at her events!

Leslie is also offering private consultations on Thursday, November 17. Membership gets you a big discount!

Non-Member 50-min. consultation: $300
APA-Member 50-min. consultation: $250
ASMP-Member 50-min. consultation: $200
Student 25-min. consultation: $75

Please contact Leslie directly to book a meeting.