Archive for December, 2011

10 Things to do for Your Biz in 2012 (the gloves come off)

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Everyone is sharing their lists of things to do or not to do in 2012. I thought I’d share mine. I’m going to warn you, though, it’s not like any other marketing/business related list out there. And I also warn you, I’m not holding back on the language. I think someone needs to bitchslap the industry and today I’m just the broad to do it.

So, here is my list of what you should/should not do for your business in 2012…

  1. If anyone talks about ROI or value propositions or anything else that smacks of weasel-in-a-suit when it comes to your marketing, run away. All that old shit is dead. Sure, you want to get the best bang for your buck, but most of the kind of marketing you do in your business is not quantifiable and the old MBA bullshit is just that… bullshit. First off, you are not selling widgets and much of that just doesn’t apply to service providers. Secondly, there are new tools every day–new ways to connect–and most don’t have any analog in the old world. Your marketing today needs to be honest, real, and a reflection of who you are. I sure as hell hope you are not a “suit.” Stay away from buzzwords–don’t use them and be skeptical of those who do.
  2. Forget about old selling tools like “elevator speeches.” Look, no one gives a shit who you are or what you do when you shill. It’s totally off-putting to get the spiel–be that at a party or in an actual elevator. Car salesman-esque. Fake. Ew.
    My “elevator speech” is I’m a marketing consultant and lawyer for creative professionals. That’s it, because all I’m doing is answering the question “What do you do?” Why only this? Because I’m not pushing the sale (that is very old and disliked) and I leave space for a dialogue by NOT answering all the implied questions (see #3). I’m letting go of trying to control the interaction and in so doing get better results.
  3. When meeting someone new, especially a target, after saying that you are a commercial photographer (or whatever), always follow it up with a question (or more than one) about the other person: Do you work on the Widget campaign? What other ones? Who’s your dream to work with? etc. And respond honestly to their responses and use follow-up questions: I love the Widget work–where did you find that actor? You are a hell of a lot more interesting to a potential target when you are interested in her/him, especially (in this context) his/her work (it’s good to do research on your targets ahead of time so you know enough to have questions).
  4. Fuck SEO. Seriously, unless you are shooting weddings/portraits and/or your work is specifically related to your geography, fuck it (and even for those of you who do weddings, etc., don’t spend too much time at it).
    Google has 97% of search traffic and it manipulates its results something wicked (they are under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for this). Really, it’s wasted effort. Moreover, good buyers are not using Google to find photographers. At best they may do an image search (mostly for inspiration, not to hire a photog) and then that’s going to be more about keywording your work than your site.
    Yes, we all know of someone who got a great gig from Google: and that person is the exception, not the rule. It’s like what we women do often with dating: we hear about the one friend of a friend who ended up getting happily married after the guy didn’t call forever and we think that can happen to us. We could get hit by lightening, too.
  5. Stop whining. I’m tired of hearing “I can’t do that.” Yes, you can. It might be hard and it may be risky, but you can do it. I don’t care what it is, almost always you can find a way to do it. Get a set already. Business is hard and there are no guarantees. You want a guarantee, buy a blender. You want to be a creative pro? Accept that is tantamount to doing the flying trapeze, without a net. Let go and have fun with that. You chose to be an artist–stop whining about the risks.
    5.a. The answer to the question But what if someone doesn’t like it? is always Fuck ’em.
  6. Shoot/make art for yourself, as often as you can. Don’t shoot/draw/create for any other reason (like to specifically make something for your portfolio) but rather shoot for the love of shooting and for making the work that excites you. Don’t worry if it’s good or right or what you should be doing, just make some damn art (see 5.a. above). That is your job and you have to do it for your business just as much as you have to pay your web hosting bill.
  7. Stop doing generic promos. Your promos need to be a reflection of who you are and you are supposed to be a creative professional, right? So why the hell do you hide that? If you get a crazy idea and you love it, do it. Do it well (collaborate with a designer) and invest in your promotions, especially print or other tangible items. Yes, you can send postcards and email promos, but they are generally only better than nothing. A really original, creative, smart idea will break through the clutter. Some people won’t like it–find the ones who do (target well!) and for everyone else, see number 5.a. above.
    7.a. Do not ever call a client to follow up on a promo… I mean, don’t say “I sent you a promo, did you get it?” or “I sent you a promo, did you like it?”
  8. Get out of your office/out from behind your computer and interact with people. Social media is a form of connection but it’s a weak one. You want to get work, you need to meet people in real life. Yes, that means making calls to set up meetings. It means traveling to the places where your targets are and meeting with them there. Oh, and at the end of any portfolio meeting, do NOT ask for a job on the spot. They hate that.
    Getting out also means going to events connected to your targets, like AIGA presentations or Ad Club events. Take people to lunch (or bring it with you), throw studio parties, put yourself out there. And have fun with it!
  9. Register your damn copyrights. Yeah, this is me with my lawyer hat on but it’s one of the best things you can do for your business. The sooner you register, the better. It’s a long lecture as to why (statutory damages and attorneys’ fees, etc.) but trust me when I say that you don’t want to find later that someone has been using your work (and you will!) but that you can’t prove much in the way of damages and so get practically nada. That sucks.
  10. I don’t care what any other consultant or photographer tells you, separate out your Usage Licensing Fee from your Creative (shoot) Fee. Better yet, make sure the License Fee is where most of the “cost” lies. As more and more work is getting ripped off you need to be able to prove the value of your license (even if you are going for statutory damages–it helps) and you cannot do that if you use a combined fee on your estimates and invoices. The other side will have a great argument that most of that number is the Creative/Shoot Fee and you get screwed a second time. Why do you think buyers say they want them combined? Because it benefits their companies, not you. They are protecting their asses–you need to look after your own.
    You can do this if you want to make sure not to piss off a buyer: on the cover/summary page of your estimate (and invoice!) you lump your numbers together into two main categories (Fees, Production Charges) so that there is a simple, one-page overview for the buyer to glance at. Inside, however, you break out every Fee and Production Charge, line item by line item, and make sure to line item the License Fee separately.
  11. Yes, the list of 10 goes to 11… and the last is the most important: be yourself in everything you do. Honesty and real connections are what makes your business successful now. Steve Jobs taught us that having convictions is a good thing for your business and that’s what being honest is. And that’s what I’m demonstrating here. Sure, some people are going to be offended by my language and/or say it’s inappropriate in business, but in our businesses, being real trumps convention, every time. I swear (in multiple languages even), I’m passionate, I want y’all to succeed, and I work hard to make that happen. In 2012, I’m going to be more real and open with my thoughts and opinions, and that is going to scare off some people, but I know it will help those who stay and follow.
    For the others, well, see number 5.a., above.

Taking versus Making

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

As we come to the end of 2011 we are being hit with all the year in review stuff. Lists of best (or worst) movies, books, tv shows, fashion, you name it are being foisted on us. Photography is no exception.

I get frustrated with all of the “best of photo” lists, however. I have yet to see a list that isn’t entirely photo-journalistic. And these lists evoke comments from photographers like “This is why we do what we do!”

Most of the photographers who post comments like that are being at best disingenuous. Most of those photographers are not in photography to expose the injustices of a tyrannical regime or the sufferings of the starving. Nope. Most photographers wouldn’t have the courage to drop everything (except their camera) and run into the riots, the wars, the pestilence that the best, gutsiest photo-journalists actively seek out every day. And they shouldn’t pretend like they are because, and I know I’m going to piss off some folks but I’ll say it anyway, photo-journalists are no better than other photographers.

I’m not saying they are worse, mind you, but they are not better. PJ/non-PJ are simply alternate universes in imagery.

Photo-journalism is subject-driven. Of course there is good and bad imagery created by photo-journalists, but if you “get the shot” when the world is crumbling around you, no matter how well or poorly, it is a creation to the scene. That is, a photo-journalist (an ethical one, I mean) does not create the subject of his image (and forgive me, I am not going to his/her, s/he this piece although of course both genders do this work)–he, essentially, takes the photo. The great ones bring something more than just focus or framing to that, of course, but at its base, photo-journalism is a sort of reaction photography.

Other photographers make their photos from scratch. They create the scene, the subject, the environment… all or in part. Their starting point is not to tell the very real story of _______; it is not about capturing, about reacting to the world presented. It is about creating the image, creating that world. From shooting a CEO in his office for a sales brochure (to engender trust and show humanity in the boss, say) to full-on set building/costumed/post-production whizbangery, the only reality is what the photographer makes. This kind of photography also has its good and bad practitioners, but whatever these people do, it is production photography.

I get frustrated with photo-journalism being lauded as something better. The photographers who make images, who create their own visual reality (that includes visual reality for their clients) are not beneath those who capture the real world.

Again, I’m not maligning photo-journalists. Not at all. There are some amazing artists in that realm. But there are also some images that make these Best of lists because the photographer “got lucky” and that’s it. The subject is so profound that, as long as the image shows that subject in focus/in frame, we are moved.

But still we don’t see images created for, say, marketing on those same Best of lists. We are still moved by these images… arguably even more so because we take action. In terms of economics, the non-PJ photographers have a much greater impact in the world. They create the images that sell the products and services driving our economies. And yet those images don’t get the same glory. Seems unfair.

Why don’t we see lists of the non-PJ images that made the biggest impact in 2011? I dunno, but can you think of one such list? I can’t think of any. So I’d like to start one. What do you think? What images in advertising or marketing have you seen this year that you think particularly stand out?