Shut up and do something

The title of this post sounds harsh, but the spirit isn’t. Take a breath and play along…

The fact is, a lot of you sit around talking about your marketing, making plans to make plans, thinking about projects you might do, reading one more book or getting one more opinion, doing all sorts of things…

…but not doing your marketing.

These various tasks are all subtle techniques to distract yourself from the tasks you already know you need to do. Who reading this doesn’t know s/he should have a great website? How about sending mailers regularly? And having a great book? You all already know this stuff. But you get bogged down in the details.

This bogging is legitimized by the sentence: I don’t want to do anything until I have everything (or most things) ready because I don’t want to make a mistake.

The truth is, this ready will, for most of you, never, ever happen. By the time you get to your book you’ll have shot other things you’ll want on your website, and the mailers you made 4 months ago won’t make you happy tomorrow so you’ll want to re-do them and by the time you get those the way you want, you won’t be happy with your book again, and, and, ad infinitem.

The second truth is any mistake you might make by actually doing something marketing-esque will probably do little to no harm in the long run. Unless you fall and hit your head and come up with and execute the idea of literally walking up to your targets and spitting in their faces to get their attention while wearing a pink tutu on your head and a smile and nothing else but your black hi-top Chuck Taylors, the “catastrophic” mistake you are worrying about won’t stay in your targets’ heads any longer than what they had for lunch last Tuesday did.

In other words, doing something is better than doing nothing, even when that nothing is cloaked as “planning.”

Yes, it is best to have a full-on plan and to execute that plan, but if the only plan you can actual DO is:

Make great website (see livebooks)
Send email promos once a month (see Agency Access)

Then do that plan–it’s better than beating yourself up for not doing more.


If you’re having “one of those days” sometimes a bit of perspective can help. Try this on:
In the San Diego fires, two photographers lost their homes and pretty much everything they had in them. Guys essentially just like you. At least one of them may not have been sufficiently insured; but, even with insurance the total loss and process of rebuilding their lives will be tiresome at best.
And yet they will get through this. The community is already seeking ways of helping where they can and pointing to other avenues of assistance. And, like the other fire victims, they will heal.

Your own problems are real and they may be frustrating and painful. Remember that these two guys will overcome their losses, and you can overcome your difficulties too. Seek help from others and let others help when they can. Open yourself up to not doing everything yourself. And remember to see the good things in your life even while you struggle with the not-so-good. Keep perspective.

Just a Bad Day

I had someone recently ask why don’t targets ever (practically) return calls or emails. He went on to say how he found it rude. He’s not alone and, frankly, it is rude, but it is also the norm.

In the targets’ defense, lots of these people are so crazy-busy as to make the average photographer look like a lazy slob (and that’s saying a ton since photogs are often very busy!). They quite literally cannot take the 2 minutes it would take to reply–especially since some of them get 25-50 (or more) emails and calls a day.

Many of them actually mean to reply, but not only do they not have time, they have learned that once they open that door, even a crack, some photographers body-slam their way in. In the case of emails, it may work like this:

Photog: I’ve got a new portfolio and would love to show it. When can I come by?

Target: I’m really busy, maybe in a couple of weeks.

Photog: When exactly? Let’s set something up! How about next Thursday at 10am? Or would 1pm be better?

At this point the target is thinking “Damn, I didn’t want to be rude but I never should have said anything. Now I can’t shake this photographer and I don’t have time to deal with it anyway…” This can lead to some seriously bad feelings.

By the way, a better original response from the photographer would have been “No problem–I’ll be in touch in a couple of weeks to see if the timing is better. Thanks!”

In many cases, a lack of response to an email/call may mean the target is just having a bad day and thus isn’t responding to anything unnecessary. By tomorrow, s/he will have forgotten about you (the forgetting may take as little as 15 minutes, to be honest) so you don’t get a response at all. This isn’t personal–your email/call simply isn’t important to that target at that time. In this case, try again in a week or so.

In all these cases, I am referring to specific, personalized emails and calls you are sending–not just the email promos you send en masse. You should never expect someone to call to say “Hey–I got your promo!” That’s unreasonable. But it is reasonable to expect to get a reply to an email like “Hey Betty–We talked a couple of months ago and you asked to see my new book when it’s ready. Well, it’s ready. Let’s set up something. I have lots of flexibility next week to come by. When might be good for you?”

Reasonable, but even these emails often get no response. Next time that happens to you, take a deep breath, try again, and if you get no response after a month, stop emailing/calling that contact for a few months (keep sending promos, though).

When it drives you nuts, just remind yourself “Maybe s/he’s having a bad day.”

It’s not “your day” anymore

All of us know (some of us are) the guy/woman who says, “In my day, we had to be able to do a bit of everything” or “I’ve been doing this for X years, and it’s always been…”Here’s your wake-up call: now is not then. Now is different from any time in the past. Now is accelerating at a pace unknowable in the past. Tomorrow it will be different, too. And the day after that.Watch this video created to raise awareness of the educational needs of kids today and in the near future. It’s 8 minutes long, but totally worth the time. The information is applicable not only to education, but to any business and especially those in the creative industries.Communications technologies have changed our world and how we do business. Local is dead as a market circle (everything is global now) for the creative industries and buyers will choose the best fit for their needs. Good enough isn’t.If you are doing the same old and your business is flat or declining, now is the time to wake up and fulfill your creative destiny. In the process, you will revive your business too.Do you want to sit and complain and make mediocre creative, or make great work and have a successful business? Your choice.

More on the fires

We’re lucky. We live in-between the two main fires (there are several smaller ones, too) so things here are only smoky and ash is falling lightly. We’re very lucky.

Almost 300,000 acres have burned, probably 1000 houses burned so far (the government doesn’t have a good count yet), and over 300,000 people have evacuated as of 7am this morning. Unfortunately, the fires are still out of control and burning more and more with each passing hour.

We’ve lost a bunch of power lines, really important ones, so now our power is restricted. We’ve also been asked not to drive and not to use our cells. Obviously this restricts doing business a bit so things will still be slow for me here.

Thanks to all of you who have posted/emailed kind thoughts. Mentally send them to the masses of people affected here and in all of Southern California. There are many distressed people (and animals) who can use help. Consider donating to the American Red Cross as well.

Thanks again for your patience, understanding, and kindness during this odd and difficult time. I look forward to normalcy. 🙂

No posting…think good thoughts

San Diego is on fire. Members of my husband’s family have already been evacuated, more are probably going to be, and though we are not yet directly affected, the winds are bad and more fires are starting. Because of that I may not be able to work (or post) for a few days.

Please think good thoughts for the people (and animals) of this region.

I’ll check in when I can.

It’s a process

Yesterday my architect-husband was asked to review/critique student projects at a local architecture school here. These were second-year students and the assignment was to write a poem then to design a meditation space based on that poem (btw, he had nothing to do with assigning that–he just reviewed the results). The students were to present 3 rough models (architectural equivalent of sketches pretty much) then, as in all critiques, to explain/defend their work.

This was clearly an assignment about recognizing and developing a concept. In other words, it was about the process, not the resulting product. Unfortunately, many of the students didn’t get it and they tried instead to get the “right” answer, only one, and then forced it into the conceptual parameters linguistically (and they kinda sucked at that, too). Some of them made structurally sound “boxes” they plunked onto a site with no reason, others used materials without thought (“because I like marble”). They didn’t see that they needed to find their project concept and find different ways of expressing that concept, even if in the end it wouldn’t work in the real world (these were sketches, after all).

Now, I could go into how parenting and the educational system has failed these kids so that they don’t understand the very idea that there is no right answer and that not everything is laudable just because you did something (“Good Job, Johnny, way to spread poop on the walls!”), but that is a discussion for another forum. Instead, what I want to point out is that many of my clients have similar or related problems…thinking conceptually, I mean, and understanding that it is the process that is most important, not getting the right answer.

Here’s a way to remind yourself of the importance of the process: go find an image in a publication that really inspires you. Now recreate the concept expressed by that image, but do it your own way. Oh, and you have to do it using something other than your usual medium. If you’re a photographer, no camera. Draw, make music, write words, sculpt, dance, whatever–just do not use your usual tools. Have fun, explore, play, curse, swear, sweat, giggle, be goofy, break the barriers you put on yourself, and do not worry about the final product.

What you will end up with is something not (probably) at the professional level for an artist of that medium. Maybe you’ll use Pla-Doh and sculpt something that to an outsider looks like a brightly colored lumpy pile–that’s just fine. The end-product really doesn’t matter. It’s all about how you think through the problem. By forcing yourself to use tools other than your usual ones, you are taking the importance of the result away and refocusing on the thinking part of your job.

And that thinking part is what will separate you from the herd.

Patience, Grasshopper

In Los Angeles last Thursday, Selina made a very important point that I want to re-emphasize here. She discussed, referencing her new book, the importance of persistence in a successful business…and this is something very difficult for many creatives. Waiting/sticking to the same thing over time is not often a creative virtue and long term planning is almost a curse to some. Unfortunately, in business the immediate win is a rare thing and, more importantly, often when it does happen, it then does not last.

Instead, if you look to truly successful businesses you will find that the steps taken are slow and constant, like a path laid stone by stone, and followed with equal constancy.
In a less zen-like way of speaking, this means two things:

1) There are no quick fixes. If you need work now, there is little you can do to make that happen on the level your business wants and needs. You might be able to get something now/soon, but it probably will not be vision-based work or pay well.

2) You have to make a plan, work the plan, and give it time to pay off. Think 18 months to 2 years before re-evaluating.

Lots of people who contact me do so saying things like “I’m broke! I need to get some work now!” I cannot help these people in the way they are hoping. No one can. If you are broke, get a job to pay your bills while you work on building your business. Someone asked me that question in LA and I knew they wouldn’t like the answer but it is true: you pay to follow your dream however you can and if that means waiting tables then do that. And work on your business.

It won’t be forever. If your creative work is good and you market with consistency, you will build business over time and, eventually, it will be successful enough to permit you to quit the “necessity job.”

Persistence. Patience. Deep breath.

Safe is depressing

I love AMC’s Mad Men. Of course, I’m seriously bothered by the way women are treated and the way they behave in it, and I’m ever-grateful I don’t have to wear hose and heels to work, but it is set in 1960 and that was life then.

Unfortunately, the magnificent ballsy bravado of that time has also gone the way of unchecked blatant sexual harassment and laser-breast bras.

That is sad. The bravado loss, not the bras.

Okay, so maybe the 3 (plus)-martini lunch had its downsides, but what did we lose with it and the other indulgences of times past? We’ve lost connecting with our clients, and their clients, in a special way. There is a bond formed in shared experiences and the more different and individual the experience, the better the bond. We all have stories from our (mis-spent?) youths of the time when “some friends and I _____” [fill in the blank with details you will never tell your kids]. Well, in the past (and a few times more recently) these sorts of stories existed between creatives and clients. I think we’ve lost something with them.

We used to bond with clients by shared experiences–ones that broke certain barriers. Back in the Mad Men day, there were bigger, clearer barriers to break (there was a great scene where a client talked negatively about some professional man not wearing a hat) so maybe it was easier. But we have got to find ways to reconnect, to give great experiences to clients so the stories and bonding can take place.

Maybe that doesn’t mean getting drunk at lunch…in fact I can pretty much bet on that one being gone, but that doesn’t mean we have to be a bunch of meek Beta males and females. Instead, as creatives we should find other ways of creating shared experiences and I think the most successful of those will definitely cross out of that self-imposed “safe” corral.