I am excited to announce that my portrait “Just me and my monkey” won an honorable mention in the Moscow International Foto Awards for 2014. If you would like to see the image posted on their web site, just follow the link Moscow International Foto Awards 2014. After having all four of my images at the International Print Competition for PPA chosen for the General Collection this year, I thought it might be fun to enter the Moscow competition. It sure was exciting and unexpected to have my image chosen for an award!
Today’s Photography business tip is to speak to grow your business.
This week I had the honor of speaking for the Digital Divas of Precision Camera here in Austin, and it reminded me of one of my favorite photography business tips… Public speaking. Public speaking has been shown in studies to be higher on the list of human fears than even death. So don’t be surprised if the idea of doing this sort of thing on a regular basis makes you break out into a cold sweat. But, if you really think about it, the fact that speaking to groups strikes fear into the hearts of most people , is really a business advantage…To You. Since setting yourself apart from all of the other photographers is quite possibly the best way to grow your business, if you can learn to speak, then you will have a distinct advantage over them.
Ther are lots of opportunities and reasons to speak as a photography business owner. Here are some of my favorites.
Opportunities: PPA Guild Meetings, mother’s groups, event networking groups, photography enthusiasts groups, photography conventions,mand wedding and bridal planning events.
Reasons: networking, be seen as an expert, become known as someone who gives back, share ideas with other speakers and photographers, earn additional income, and many others.
This January I will begin teaching at Precision Camera. While this is a great way to position yourself as an expert, you don’t necessarily need to create a course or formal class to gain big from speaking. Just developing a twenty minute presentation to a mother’s group can be a great way to find new clients.
And, if speaking does scare you, you will get the added bonus of overcoming your fear…which can give you a great feeling of accomplishment…not a bad bonus!
My speaking experience this week was a ton of fun! What a fabulous group. These ladies sure know how to throw a party. And, it didn’t hurt that it was a Halloween party, and most everyone was dressed up. I can’t remember the last time I spoke in front of people when I wasnt nervous at all… Well maybe a tiny bit. But all those costumes kept me from having to picture the audience members in their underwear.
If you want to grow your photography business by speaking, you can start slow. Join a networking group and ask for five or ten minutes to tell the other members about what you do. The more you talk in front of groups, the easier it will be, and someday, like it has for me, it may even become fun!
Photography Business Tip – Set Boundaries
I don’t have time to create a video today, but I wanted to get this post out there while I am thinking about it. It’s not often that you hear a photography speaker bring up the term boundaries. Typically that word is reserved for more personal matters… emotionally charged relationship issues, for instance. But after being in business for many years, both as an employee, manager and business owner, I have come to realize that many of the challenges photography business owners run into are actually boundary problems. Monday night, at our APPA (Austin Professional Photographers Association) meeting we had two amazing photographers and speakers present to our group. Mary Fisk-Taylor and Jamie Hayes, two incredibly knowledgable professional portrait photographers from Richmond Virginia gave us some terrific tips on sales, marketing, PR and setting up your portrait studio for success. And, during their presentation, Mary brought up boundaries. She mentioned that she and Jamie have really clear boundaries in their businesses (they own and operate two different types of portrait photography businesses… one high end, and one more mid-range). Her comments really got me to thinking about boundaries in business, and I have been mulling things over in my head since Monday about this concept.
Then today I got a call back from a potential client about an event we have been discussing. It was at this point that I came face to face with the legitimate difficulties that we, as professional photographers, face every day with setting business boundaries. This potential client wanted something from me, but it was something I had already determined I was unwilling to give… as a business owner. Giving her what she wanted was going to put me in a position where I would have to take a big risk, and that risk likely had no up side. So, what did I do? Well… first of all… I took a deep breath. Pausing and breathing helps me focus and relax for the difficult conversation ahead. Then I re-stated to her my original answer to her question, which was basically what I was willing to do, but which clearly gave her a “no” to what she was asking for. So it wasn’t an ultimate no… like I do not want to work with you, but it was a no to how she wanted to arrange things.
Now, if you are speaking with someone who accepts a “no”, then this is really all there is to setting a boundary. First off, you have policies that you stick to so that you don’t get thrown from the very beginning. Then, armed with the knowledge that the boundary is necessary, you state your answer, and you wait for their response. Often the response will be something along the lines of “I understand”, and I appreciate you considering my proposal. However, most folks will not give up this easily. And this particular lady works for a non-profit organization, and is especially adept at pulling on the heart strings. So she persisted. She explained why it needed to be done her way, and I listened. Luckily, I have many years of experience with folks asking for free photography, so I have learned a thing or two about how to handle it. This starts with being able to empathize with them and hear them out, so that they feel like I understand where they are coming from. This step is incredibly important, because our emotional response to someone asking for us to work for free, and attempting to (essentially) emotionally blackmail us into doing so, can cause us to emotionally react. The two most common emotional responses are to either 1. Call them on the carpet, and tell them why they are wrong, or 2. Give in. When your emotions are all triggered, these seem like the only two options. But, if you can breathe, slow down, hear them out, and repeat back to them what you hear them saying… if you can empathize with the fact that they don’t have a budget for a photographer, and that they really need your help. Then you can leave them in a space where they may be able to hear your response.
So back to the story. After hearing her out, and repeating back to her what she had said, and letting her know that I understand how difficult it must be for her to raise money for her organization… then I was ready to craft my own response. Again… deep breath. Whew! I won’t go into detail, because I don’t want to give away any personal information about this particular call. What I will say is that it went something like : “I would really love to help you, but this is why I am unable to do so.” Then I explained why the proposal was not a Win Win for me or my company. I explained that I have costs that need to be covered, and that this is a very busy time of year for us, and I cannot afford to risk paying events for events that likely will lose money. Then I did my best to offer her solutions to her problem that she might be able to live with. Solutions that would be a Win Win, for her and for me. I even made suggestions for how she might be able to raise her needed funds without me, and save herself a lot of time and heartache. Then I asked her to think about my proposals and let me know by a certain date and time, and graciously attempted to end the call.
You would figure that the call ended here, but it didn’t. She and I went through this same process another two times, before she was willing to let me off of the phone. The solutions I offered her were not what she wanted, but they were what I needed. And they were fair. So eventually, she did allow me to get off of the phone, without either of us feeling taken advantage of.
Now… I don’t always handle things like this as well as I did today. It has taken me many years of practice… setting boundaries in business and in my personal life. And I fail to do so perfectly many times still. But, today was a success. And, for you, in your photography business, you won’t always do it perfectly either. But boundaries are a learnable skill. You have to be able to say no sometimes in business to be able to succeed. You have to be able to turn down business when it is not the right client for you. You have to be able to negotiate solutions that will work for all involved. You have to be able to deal with difficult personalities and people who are very persistent. Boundaries are one of the keys to being able to create a photography business that you love, and that supports everything you want to create.
There are lots of great books out on this subject if you want to learn more. My most recent favorite is called “Crucial Conversations”. There are also several books on boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. You can get one of their books by searching with the words “boundaries, townsend, cloud”. Any of these books, and many others are available on Amazon.com .
And now I’m off to go photograph a cool green screen event. Wish me luck!
Today’s tip is to set an intention.
Goals Vs Intentions:
I talk a lot about goal setting in my posts and videos. That’s because I believe setting goals is really important, but it’s not the most important thing. Goals are very business oriented. They can help you focus and visualize an outcome that can keep you operating profitably. That’s because goals are specific and measurable. They are all about time frames and dollar amounts. So, from a profit and loss perspective, goals are necessary. But, they are not always the best way to get the outcome you are striving for. Especially if you have a tendency to attack challenges head on.
Let me explain what I mean. Let’s say you have a goal for a $2000 sales average in your studio. Coming from this place can have some unintended outcomes. With this goal foremost in your mind, you might come on a little strong. You might end up being veiwed as pushy or aggressive. And this could serve to alienate your clients. The energy that you exude when attempting to “sell” someone is much different from the energy you put forth when you are, let’s say, building a friendship. In a friendship, your “goal” is not to sell them, it is to relate, to communicate, to share and to experience growth and meaning together.
This is where using an intention can come to the rescue. I’m not suggesting that you remove your goals. But if you can add an intention to your sales presentation, that super cedes any other goal that you might have, then you can add a human element, a relationship element, that will be much better for your overall outcome. For example, if you add the intention that your client be well served in the sale… that they are thrilled with the portraits they choose… and that they leave your studio feeling like they just made the best decision of their lives, with portraits they will treasure for a lifetime… don’t you think that you will act differently in that sale? When your focus shifts from what you want ($2000) to what they want (thrilled with purchase) you will be able to ask the right questions and assist them in choosing the best items for them. If you intend them to leave thrilled… then you have a much better chance of them doing so. As for that $2000 sale… believe it or not, you have a much better chance of obtaining it this way than you did pushing them into it. And a much better chance that they will tell their friends about how great you are.
Intentions can be life savers. Difficult conversations, when begun with a positive intention, will flow much more smoothly. When your focus stays off of getting things your way, and shifts to the health, happiness and benefits for the other person… Magic Happens!
Even if you are brand new to the photography industry, you can greatly benefit from joining professional photography organizations. My husband Charles and myself are both members of Professional Photographers of America, Southwest Professional Photographer of America, Texas Professional Photographers of America and Austin Professional Photographers of America. And that doesn’t include memberships that we have held throughout the years with the National Association of Catering Executives, The Austin Chamber of Commerce, The Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The International Special Events Society and The Better Business Bureau. (Ok… that last one doesn’t really count. If you have been in business for any length of time you have probably already figured out that the Better Business Bureau is mostly just an organization that charges you to say that you are a member. There are not really any other real benefits to paying your dues. Don’t get me wrong… having an A+ rating with the BBB is a good thing to have, but when you first get into business, you usually don’t realize that you don’t need to pay the BBB membership dues to be listed with a rating. They have to rate the businesses fairly, and just because you aren’t a member doesn’t mean you don’t run a reputable business. I am proud of my A+ rating, but I no longer pay dues to the BBB) But I digress.
Being members of professional organizations, not just in photography, but in other areas of business like the chamber of commerce and networking groups, can really help build your business. Why? Because people don’t really trust easily these days. Marketing and advertising has many folks feeling leery. Most everyone has been burned at one time or another, and many of us don’t make decisions like choosing a photographer lightly. When you join an organization you get the opportunity to meet people and get to know them. You have a chance to build trust inside in a safe environment, where you aren’t trying to sell them anything. You get to know who people really are, and if they are the type of people that you want to do business with. Building relationships in these types of groups will help increase your referrals. Referrals from people who know, and like you are hugely powerful, and they will trump an ad or a social media post any day of the week.
As for the photographic organizations, well, you would think that you would never receive a referral from another photographer. But that simply isn’t true. Because photographers have their specialties, and because they want to take good care of their clients, if someone needs a photographer for a job they don’t feel comfortable with, it’s great to be the name on their lips. Building relationships with other photographers can be very rewarding, not just for referrals, but for many other reasons as well. Charles and I are both serving on the Austin Professional Photographers of America Board of Directors this year. The insights that you can gain from other pros are invaluable. And, the camaraderie can be especially powerful when times are tough. Serving on a board of directors in photography can open doors and opportunities for you, and it’s a great thing to put on your web site. Potential clients will view your serving on a photography board as a sign that you are a true professional. Plus it’s exciting to be a part of directing where your local photographic association is headed. I highly recommend it!
I know, as photography business owners, that we have a TON of things we have to handle on a daily basis. And, it may seem like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get out there and build relationships. But I promise you won’t be sorry if you do. Making money and running a business doing what you love is great, but you’ve got to remember to connect with people. At the end of the day, relationships are really what it’s all about.
Today’s blog is on FEAR. Although I consider myself a relatively courageous person, from time to time fear steps in to remind me that I too am human, and vulnerable to that ever so powerful emotion of False Evidence Appearing Real. That happened this weekend while my family and I visited a new local water park… Hawaiian Falls in Pflugerville. In today’s video blog I tell my story of the fear that gripped me, and how I managed to overcome that fear… at least long enough to do what I needed to do.
In our business and in our life we are going to come up against fear. Maybe you are terrified of cold calling, or maybe you are afraid of meeting and talking with people you don’t know. Fear can crop up many places. But you can handle fear if you have a way to tame the thoughts in your mind, and calm the uproar in your body. If you have something to focus on that is bigger than you.
I call that something A Stand. A Stand is what you stand for in this life. It’s much bigger than a goal or an objective. It’s who you want to be for the world. My Stand is to make a difference for people. And, when I am faced with a giant fear, that’s what I draw on to move forward. I look around and see how what I am about to do is going to be a benefit to someone else, and I focus on that benefit, instead of what I am afraid of. Sometimes that fear can be like a wave that still comes rushing back in, but if you can calm your fears, even for a moment, that small moment can be enough to help you show up in the world as who you want to be. And that is the way that you get to be who you were meant to be, and how you get to help others along the way.
I talk about mindset a lot more than I think you would expect for a photography and business tips blog. Mindset doesn’t seem like a business tip, and certainly not a photography business tip, but mindset is really everything. I don’t care if you are doing everything else right… and I mean EVERYTHING else. You can have the perfect brand, the best products, the most gorgeous photography, the ultimate sales process and the most fabulous follow-up system imaginable in your photography business. But if you are working with the wrong mindset, then you are doomed. Your belief system, and your mindset effect how you do everything. They are what infuse your actions with passion and purpose, and that is what leads to effectiveness. Every day you need to be working on YOU. You are your business, and creating the right mindset at the beginning of your day will carry you farther than anything else that you can focus on in your photography business. I make sure that I start my day with exercise, fresh air, a big glass of cold clean water and a focus on the positive impact that I can make that day. I listen to CD’s or books that inspire me. I get myself into the right mindset to make a difference in the world, and that helps me to stand up against the things in life that try to knock me down.
I ran across this fantastic quote from Rocky today, and I thought I would share it with you. Reading this kind of thing to start off your day can really help protect you from the slings and arrows of life. Here’s to your success!
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.
You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And no pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”
(If you came to the site within the last 24-48 hours and ran into issues, I apologize. The site was being migrated to a new server. The post from yesterday on International Print Competition may have been missing as well, as it was lost in the transition. Below is my re-creation of that post. It’s different, but includes the images and the critique, which were the most important elements.)
Entering International Print Competition is a fantastic way to quickly grow your photography skills and confidence level. This year I entered four images into IPC (International Print Competition). I am so excited to announce that I received a merit for each one, and my prints will be on display at Imaging USA in February. Being relatively new to International Print Competition myself (this is only my second time to enter), I am not surprised that none of my images got into the Loan Collection. But after listening to my image critiques, from PPA, I am hopeful that after another year of practice I may be able to “go loan” next year.
If you have never entered IPC before, or if you have never purchased the critiques, you are in for a real treat. I have decided to upload one of mine so that you can hear what an IPC critique is like. Keep in mind that the whole purpose behind one of these is to make you better, so not all of the comments are going to be positive. But the information is extremely valuable, and I hope you learn as much as I did from it.
The International Print Competition for 2014 is over… and what a week it was! I am totally excited to have received 4 for 4 merits for my prints (which I will upload for you next week). Woo Hoo!!! I hope you all entered IPC this year, or at least took at look at the live streaming for PPA members. For those of you who did, the pressure is finally off. There’s no more waiting, you now know how you did. Congratulations to those of you who did well. And… better luck next time if you weren’t happy with your results. You will grow immensely as a photographer, just by entering.
So today I offer a bit of comic relief. Introducing… Matthew and the Ghost Pepper!
OK… so it’s probably not a great idea to teach your kids to do stupid things… but in my defense… it wasn’t my idea either. We were all excited about trying a new restaurant here in Austin called Hopdoddys (it’s not new to Austin… just new to us). We’ve been experimenting with “going Paleo” and Hopdoddys appeared on a local blog for gluten-free and paleo friendly cuisine. When Matthew saw that the Ghost Pepper Burger was the daily special on Hopdoddys menu he simply couldn’t resist the temptation to try the “hottest pepper on earth”. As you have all probably figured out by now… I am a risk taker, so it should be no surprise that I am not what anyone would consider an overly protective parent. Even so… the ghost pepper seemed like it required at least a tiny bit of motherly protective nature. So here is my video test of Matthew’s ghost pepper sauce at Hopdoddys. It’s pretty funny, but the next video… of Matthew trying the ghost pepper… is about 1000 times more hilarious!
By the way… don’t worry… the four year old that you see on the screen is NOT the one who tried the ghost pepper.
If you are a member of PPA and haven’t been watching International Print Competition, now is your chance. IPC is streaming LIVE 8:15 AM – 6 PM ET August 4-7, 2014.
It’s easy to watch:
- Go to stream.theipc.org on your *desktop device.
- Log in with your PPA account or complete the short registration.
Whether you entered International Print Competition or not, you will learn a TON watching it. There is no faster way to improve your photography than to understand what goes into a merit worthy image, and the live streaming for International Print Competition only happens once a year. You don’t want to miss it!