Slideshow shadow

Photography business tip – Speak to grow your business

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!

Share

Photography Business Tip – Set Boundaries

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! 🙂

 

Share

Overcoming FEAR

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.

Share

Photography Business Tips Blog – Feedback Wanted!

Thank you everyone for being patient with me. I had intended to take one week off from video blogging in order to provide some time for reflection and planning to determine the direction of the blog from here on out. That one week turned into almost two, as a health issue I have recently been dealing with took over most of my time and energy the last two weeks. So… I apologize for being gone so long.

My blog’s new direction is still coming together, as much of my energy is still being directed toward resolving the migraines that have crept into my life the last three months. The problem isn’t that I can’t figure out what to do or how to do it… but that I have so many ideas, I am running into difficulty deciding which ones to do, and what to do first. (The fact that my head is constantly pounding isn’t making the decision-making process any easier). I even tried to create an update video yesterday, but the lights were so bright that I couldn’t concentrate well enough to put two sentences together.

Don’t worry… the blog is not going away. I will be back recording more videos as soon as I am able. And, in the meantime, I will write until I can stand the bright lights without  getting that piercing icepick feeling where I feel like I’m going to pass out.

A couple of decisions have been made. The first is that I will be doing less video blogging. It has come to my attention that daily posts are not the best way to provide value for you. So I will be doing only one or two videos per week instead of 5. This change should make it easier for you to tune in to each one of them, and not have you feeling guilty if you simply don’t have the time to watch 5 videos every week. We are all overloaded with information these days, and I don’t want to be part of the problem… I want to be part of the solution.

Secondly… I am going to continue to do some photography and business tips, but I am going to change things up a bit. Every other week there will be a tip. And on the following week I am considering creating a sort of reality show of my own businesses. What does that mean?… you ask. Well… I have studied many many people in both business and photography for more than 25 years now, in hopes of gleaning the information that could help me to excel in my own life and business. I have learned a ton of information from the books, classes, online courses and interactions I have had with these successful men and women. And… I realized that I don’t really read blogs very much myself… especially photography blogs. They pretty much bore me. Why? Because most of the ones I have seen either post “Rah Rah… look at how great I am” or offer information that is so technical that it would put an engineer to sleep.

So, I spent some time thinking about what I would want to read or watch on a blog about photography and business. I asked some coaching clients, and I talked to some friends. What I decided was that I would want to know what it’s really like for successful photographers to run their businesses. I know what they tell me it is like in their classes, but I would want to know how they really work with real clients and how they really do their marketing on a daily basis. I would want to know what they are thinking about the industry and where it’s heading. Now… maybe the reason I don’t see blogs like this is that it’s not good for business to be so completely transparent. Maybe it’s totally freaking SCARY to bare it all in such a public way. Actually, just thinking about doing this is kind of freaking me out. Maybe it’s just too much to expect that blogs tell us the truth… not just about the successes, but also about the failures. But, that is what I would want to see, and that’s what I am looking to create. I am going to tell you what we struggle with, and I am going to tell you what we are doing right now in our business to overcome challenges. I am going to give you real numbers… real sessions… real sales averages… real actions for today. NOT the photography business tips that served us 15 years ago, the stuff that we are doing TODAY. And I am going to share with you the results of our efforts. I am going to seek out successful photographers to interview to get the “up to date skinny” on what is really working RIGHT NOW!

What I haven’t yet decided is how the format is going to work. Will it be a membership site, like an exclusive tv channel for my coaching clients and followers? Will I charge for it? Maybe I could do the Creative Live type model, where it’s free for a limited period of time and then goes into an archived system for members. I don’t know yet. I haven’t worked out the details. And, I don’t know how much time and effort is going to needed to be put into it to set this whole thing up. So, before I do set this whole crazy thing up… I have a favor to ask. Please tell me what you think of my idea. Would you rather that I just continue to give you isolated tips on photography and business, or would you like more detailed information? What do you think of following me around via video camera in my own business? Is that just ridiculous, or do you LOVE  IT? If you have been in the photography business for any length of time you already know that it takes about 10 times longer to implement something than originally planned, so I don’t want to create a whole new format if it isn’t going to serve you. I want the process to be fulfilling for me, and I want it to be valuable for you. So… Please, Please, Please give me your opinions. Even if you’ve never left a comment before… please do so. Even if you think it’s a terrible idea… heck… especially if you think it’s a terrible idea. Because if I’m going to risk falling flat on my face in front of everyone, then I want it to at least be worth it. 🙂

Share

Free Photography Business Coaching Sessions still available

We still have a few free photography business coaching sessions available. Just click on the pink button that says Mini Coaching Session to register. They are going fast, so don’t delay. If you missed the Free Action Planner, I am afraid that it is no longer available for free, and we haven’t figured out how that’s going to work just yet, but we will have it offered later for a nominal fee. So hang in there if you missed it.
If you came here today to get your daily photography business tip fix, and are disappointed by the fact that we are using our available energy resources to transform the blog, be assured, there are tons of videos on the site, and you probably haven’t seen them all. Just scroll down to see photography and business tips videos dating back to December 31st, 2013.
And finally… I want to say Thanks to everyone who has registered so far for their free mini coaching session. I am already getting great information that is going to help me improve the blog… which will ultimately improve your businesses as well. THANKS!

Share

Free Coaching Session

In an effort to improve my blog and provide my listeners with the most relevant and up to date photography business tips, I am giving away free coaching sessions to the first 20 folks who click on the Mini Coaching Session button here on the blog page.

To receive your free coaching session, you will be subscribed to my blog list. Don’t worry… you can always unsubscribe very easily later if you decide it’s not valuable for you. This is simply the only way that we can legally email you.

Be prepared to bring to the call your most challenging business problem, so that we can transform it together.

So, if you would like a free coaching session, click on the link. And… feel free to send it along to your friends if you like. There are only 20 spots… so Don’t Delay!

I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Share

Cha, cha, cha, Changes

Changes are coming to my photography and business tips blog. Exactly what that looks like is still being created, so I can’t tell you what is going to happen, but I can tell you why things will be changing.

Providing value is only possible when the provider understands what the providee wants and needs. With so many different photography business models and specialties, it has been a challenge to provide photography and business tips on a daily basis that will be relevant to everyone. For example… I can give you the tip to set up profitable pricing, but without knowing your level of experience, your comfort level with sales, your market, your financial goals, your Cost of goods, I cannot, in good conscience, offer you a detailed pricing model.

One of the most powerful things about having a coach is that they know you, your business and your goals, and that makes it really easy for the two participants… the photography business owner and the coach… to design a plan of attack that will create the biggest change in the shortest amount of time. Up until now, I have tried to provide pretty general photography and business tips without getting into much detail. My hope was that the tips would be valuable to most photographers who found my blog. But I am finding that sharing the “what to do” is less empowering than sharing the “how to do it”… which is what I provide as a coach. And… to do that I need to understand where each person is coming from.
So how do I do that on a large scale? That is the question that I am struggling to answer, and I would appreciate any feedback that you can give me while I look at how to improve my blog for the benefit of my subscribers. What type of programs appeal most to you? Do you prefer webinars, one on one phone calls, mastermind groups? Would you rather pay an hourly rate to get expert one on one assistance or would you like a small monthly fee to have access to a membership site that includes lots of programs to help with specific topics? What are your biggest struggles right now in your business? And what would it be worth to you on a monthly basis to solve those challenges? I want to know more about you guys and your businesses, so that I can find the best ways to help you succeed.

Share

Photography Business Tip – Set clear expectations up front

I have noticed in the professional photography forums a trend lately where photographers are complaining about client issues that they are having, and are desperate to fix. Having client satisfaction as one of your top priorities in your photography business means that you are going to need to set clear expectations up front. Most of the issues I see photographers wrestling with could have been completely avoided had they set up clear expectations from the very start. How do you set clear expectations up front? One great way is to have clear policies for your photography business. They need to state how your business does things. For example… will you be offering digital images on CD or not? And, if so, what will the clients be able to do with these images? Things like this need to be spelled out and gone over with your client prior to the portrait session. You don’t want to end up getting to the sales presentation and then finding out that your client is going to be very unhappy with a policy that you have in place.

Share

Photography Tip – Switch to In Person Sales

If you are experiencing issues with low sales or other problems related to online sales, the solution to your problem is In Person Sales. Get your photographs off of the web! You will never be able to do your client or your work justice by selling them in an online portrait gallery. You are the expert as the professional photographer, and most, if not all, of your clients are not knowledgeable enough or skilled enough to plan out an appropriate display of their photographs. Most of them cannot visualize how amazing a 30×40 or beautiful series of three 20×20 framed museum matted portraits would look on their wall. Most of them would have no idea how to pick an appropriate size or frame for their images. And, even if they do, there is hardly anyone who has the courage to order a large framed wall portrait without the support of a professional telling them that it’s going to look great. Online photo galleries take all of the emotion out of the purchase, and emotion is what sells portraits. It’s the emotional connection that they get from seeing the images for the first time, and being excited by how fabulous they are going to look on their walls. When you put those same images online… they lose something. Now your client can look at them everyday. It’s like my momma used to say “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” They have no motivation to purchase, and to create any motivation, you have to give them a deadline, which makes you the psychological bad guy… not to mention all that time it takes for you to repeatedly follow up with them. Do yourself and your clients a huge favor and spend the time to take them through the process. Help them make their selections. You know the best way to display the images you have worked so hard to create for your clients, so don’t leave them out on a limb to purchase them by themselves online. And… that doesn’t even cover the other major issue online… copyright infringement. All I have to say about that is… if the photographs aren’t online… they can’t steal them.
As a caveat to my entire rant… let me add that even with a topic like this that I feel passionately about… there are always exceptions to the rule. When we photograph graduations, if we are unable to convince our clients in the value of delivering those photographs onsite, then we will upload them to a web site gallery. Disseminating 400 5×7’s to 1200 family members in the 30 minutes between the end of graduation and the time the venue closes is not my idea of a fun evening. So, even though we always make considerably more and run into far less customer service concerns, when we deliver onsite, in these type of events, we do upload to an online gallery. But NEVER for a single family. That family is going to get my full attention, and they are going to know that in that moment, they are the most important client in the world to me. I am going to be present, and I am going to do everything that I can to use my expertise to their benefit. I want those portraits to be a source of pride and joy for their family for many years, and I know that isn’t going to happen if they order two 5×7’s and 8 wallets from my web site.

Share

My Story

There’s really very little value in listening to tips if you don’t trust that they will help you. So, today I am going to talk a little about my story, so that you can determine for yourself whether my experience will be useful for you in your photography business.

Having run portrait studios for other companies with significant success, I started my own event photography business in 1999. That was a tough time in the industry, as digital was just starting to take hold. Other photographers, long time pros in the industry were skeptical of digital, and many were vowing never to switch. The technology was extremely expensive and changing rapidly. I was forced to upgrade very expensive equipment on practically a yearly basis to keep up with the changes, and with hardly anyone else in the same field (delivering portraits onsite at events) I had to make my own way. The five years experience I had from managing studios for a national chain gave me a pretty good leg up, but Wow… was it ever hard without anyone to follow or network with! That business is now 15 years old, and going strong. And two years ago we added a portrait studio. This time there was tons of education and successful businesses to emulate. And that’s exactly what we did. Getting a business up and running successfully in two years is a lot better than 15. I have learned a ton along the way in the photography industry, and most of my lessons were painful. I don’t want you to have to struggle the way I did to figure things out. My tips are short, and they don’t have a lot of detail. If you follow them, you will find that you are probably going to need additional information to implement them. But that’s ok. The tips will help you avoid the land mines that you didn’t know were lurking below the surface, and with the basic concept in your mind, you will be able to go and get the education you need from the experts to fill in the gaps.
If you need help along the way, you can always make comments on my blog. And… if you need one on one coaching, I would love to be your coach. Just give me a call @ 512-997-7429.
Soon I will be offering some online training that goes into a lot more detail than I can cover in these short daily videos. If you have suggestions for classes you would like to see offered, please let me know.

Share