As a wrap-up to 2012, after looking back over the year and what I’ve seen happening, I’d like to make the following suggestions of things any creative professional should quit for 2013 (and beyond):
- Complaining about the state of the industry. This is a big one and it’s eternal. For as long as I’ve been working with creative pros (and that’s like 20 years now), every creative I know has complained about his/her particular industry, but photographers are particularly “good” at this. Let’s just stop it. There will always be lowballers and idiots (clients and colleagues)–whining about them is a waste of effort. Instead, use that energy to do something positive for your business, like calling an old client and touching base.
- Being a bad client’s bitch. You know what happens when you drop a client who treats you like a dog and you lose that income? Not much, because in exchange you free up your time to find a client who respects and appreciates you. You can’t change a bully client, so just walk away and feel how great that is! You’ll also be able to hold your head up and respect yourself more.
- Fixing it in post/Photoshop. There is nothing wrong with doing great post-production, but there is something wrong with relying on it for stuff you should be doing in camera (or on the page). This is happening way, way, way too much. For photography, the quality shows when you shoot really well, even if you manipulate the bejeezus out of the image later (same goes for music, etc.).
- Doing it for free/cheap, especially just because you want to be a nice person. If you are losing money doing the work, you aren’t being a nice person, you are encouraging business failure. It’s not selfish in a bad way to do what you need to and that is to say “no” when people ask for freebies or deals. Saying “no” often results in you being more respected as a professional. Bonus!
- Avoiding doing the business-y stuff. Instead of putting off doing your books (etc.) until you have no other choice, pay your bills and do your books regularly, like every week. Schedule it. I like what my friend John Durant does: every Monday morning he does the business stuff like invoicing, etc.; if he gets a shoot, he bumps the paperwork of course, but otherwise it is every Monday, boom. That also works to get the icky stuff done and off your plate first thing in the week–freeing you for the rest of the week.
- Doing too much social media stuff. Social media will not make your business successful. You will not be that one in a gazillion who hits, so stop wasting all your time posting and tweeting and following and using far too many so-called tools to reach out to a huge audience. If you want to be famous, then you need to think about what you are doing with your life. If you want to be a successful artist/creative professional, put your efforts on making and monetizing your art, not making people like you. You can’t pay your rent with a +1 or a like. Instead, spend more time targeting the best targets for your work and reaching out to them directly and, preferably, in person.
- Contributing to the problem. Every time you make it look easy or play down the work behind your work, you are lowering the perceived value of your work and the work of your colleagues. Stop saying “I got lucky” or “It’s not that hard” and the like. This is part of why I encourage creatives to try to bring back some of the mystery of their art. For example, don’t provide monitors for your clients–tell them you will show them when you are ready. They may bitch about it at first, but as long as your work is fabulous, they’ll get over it and, more importantly, you will look more like the miracle worker you are.
- Being a hypocrite. You cannot have pirated/torrented music or films or books (whatever) and be a professional creative without being the worst kind of hypocrite. Don’t like reading that? Tough. It’s the hard truth. No, your free music doesn’t only affect the impersonal labels, it hurts “little” people just like you. More importantly, though, it’s just simply wrong to take someone else’s creative work and then expect to get paid for yours. Stop justifying it however you do and instead do the right thing: pay for the creative works you acquire. All of them.
- Shooting only digital or using only digital tools to make your work. Whatever your discipline, photography, illustration, even writing, do it the old fashioned way occasionally. If you can get a client to pay you for this, great (and more are, by the way), but just do it for yourself. Draw, sketch, hand letter, shoot film, write longhand… doing your art the old way will force you to slow down and change how you approach your work (for the better) when you then go back and use your more usual tools. I can’t over-emphasize this idea enough–you will use the modern tools better and will be more creative overall, if you do this every so often. I like the idea of taking at least one day a quarter (preferably more like one day a month) to make art manually/sans digital.
- Not registering the copyrights in your works. I’m going to put this as plainly as I can: pursuing infringers is now a legitimate secondary income stream for many creatives (replacing stock sales for more than a few people) but it only works if you register your copyrights. Imagine you find one of your works reproduced on (for example) Forbes.com without your permission. If your copyright is not registered before the infringement (or during the safe harbor time, but I’m not going into that here), you can only get the reasonable license fee for that use (“actual damages”) and that will be maybe a couple of hundred bucks. However, if your work is registered before the infringement, you can get statutory damages and your attorneys’ fees–likely thousands of dollars. Which do you want?
I know what I want for all of you… for all of us… a successful and fantastic 2013. Go out there, quit doing the bad stuff that gets in your way, and make it happen!