Monthly Archives: May 2013

No one buys because of price

No one got up today with a certain amount of money burning a hole in their pocket.  No one has a sum of money that they need to get rid of.  So price is not the primary factor that motivates purchases.  We only buy things that we decide we want – things that will make us feel good.  Then we evaluate the prices of the things that will give us that feeling and weigh the cost against how well we believe that product or service will execute on the feeling we want.

Stop thinking about price, think about how to make it clear what your product executes on and how it is going to make them feel. What will be true about your clients by virtue of working with you or owning your product?  If clients aren’t buying it isn’t the price .

– trr


 Have you checked out this week’s podcast with [b]ecker yet – worth a listen…



Episode 27 – The …a Man to Fish… Photography Business Podcast – Everybody loves [b]ecker


I became acquainted with [b]ecker through an online Facebook group.  I was aware of him from when I first became a photographer and it was interesting to track his perception of how the industry has changed over the last few years in particular.  There was also some controversy raised simply by having him on the podcast and I appreciate [b]ecker addressing those issues head on.  So please check out the show and let us know what you think. (Skype got a little hinky at the end and the audio quality suffers a bit – forgive us)

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Thanks to [b]ecker and thanks to all of you for your continued support.

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The Precipice of Fear

Here at …a Man to Fish… we spend a good amount of time working with other business owners helping them to find their purpose and then throw themselves into creating a business that is wholly committed to fulfilling that purpose in a client-focused way.  Sometimes, the ideas and the business models and the necessary changes that come out of this process require only small tweaks to produce the desired results.  Other times, the changes needed are quite dramatic and will eventually result in a business that looks very different from what is happening now.  When this happens, fear is almost a guaranteed partner in the process.  We’re currently working with one photographer that is in the middle of a dramatic transformation, and I wrote this in response to that person’s situation, but I thought it was pretty universal, and might help someone else on the edge of doing something great, but have fear standing in their way:

When you look to do something new and unique, it can be a very scary time.  Especially when what you want to do is not proven in the marketplace.  There’s a chance it may fail, and with no precedent to follow, you may even feel like it’s destined to fail (depending on your natural confidence level).  If you are prone to feelings of inferiority or struggle with self-confidence, it will be even harder to overcome your fears. It’s so much easier to copy something that’s already been done successfully and hope that you can make it work for yourself.

The edge of failure is terrifying, but it’s also the place where there is great opportunity to grow and learn and achieve (it’s where most won’t dare to go). Your nerve will be tested, especially when you start sharing your idea with the world to gauge the response.  And when you start to share your ideas with people that love you, you have to keep in mind that they care for you and want to protect you from failure, so they may be extra skeptical. But please don’t let them make your decisions for you.

It’s very hard to know for sure before you try to something whether or not there are number of people in your market who want what you can do for them for the amount of money you need to make, but, you have to believe it is possible.  If you can’t get to a place that you believe it is possible, then you have to dramatically change what you want to do for people or the price you charge.  Then again, it will never be possible if you don’t try.  Go into it knowing that, as the business owner, you have the power to make the changes that need to be made to survive.  So, if you find that something isn’t working once it’s been up and running (and you’ve given it a real chance to work), then you can adjust and keep going.

With a truly unique business proposition, you have to be completely committed and believe in it with your whole heart. You cannot find your confidence in others. They cannot and will not give it to you, because it’s an unknown to them as well. And if they love you, they will probably try to talk you out of it and convince you to do something safe instead. And if you are showing doubt in front of your loved ones, then they will definitely tell you to run the other way- they are incentivized to keep you happy. We are incentivized to get you to a place where you run a compelling, client-driven, purpose-based business, where your clients want exactly what you want to do at the price you need to make, so you make the money you need for yourself and your family, and so we are compelled to push you away from the ‘regular’ thing that you were so disgusted by when you first set out to create the new, exciting thing.

And you can’t go into it lacking confidence, because others will sense it in you and write you off. You have to believe in it so hard, that others can’t help but be brought along with you. If any part of you doesn’t want to do it, then don’t- it will fail if you hold back some part of you and fail to fully commit.

But, if you do choose to go all in, there is a much better chance that you will be able to market it and that people will be excited to talk about it.  If you are all in, you have a much better chance of finding other business owners and service providers that you could partner with because you stand for the same thing.

Unfortunately, I cannot promise there will not be an uphill battle to get things going or that there won’t be bumps along the way. More accurately, I can promise that those things will be true- it likely won’t be the easy road. But, it could be an incredibly rewarding road, if you’re willing to fully commit yourself to it.

So, if you decide you do want it for yourself, then I challenge you to take all of the energy you’re putting into convincing yourself (and us) that it will never work, and instead connect back to the place where you felt on fire because of your connection to your purpose, and channel it all into proving that it will work.

And if you give it your all, and it does fail, then you will come out on the other side knowing so much more than you do right now. You will be a better person and business owner for it. If you can train yourself to embrace the idea of failure, that may very well be the most powerful lesson to learn both as a business owner and in life. But, in reality, it takes a lot of continuous mistake-making without correction in order to fail. You may have little lessons along the way, but you can make changes and keep going.


If you are interested in the process of uncovering your purpose and transforming every aspect of your business to fulfill that purpose in a client-focused way, please check out the Workshops page.

You want to tell a story?

Every photographer says that they just want to tell a story.  It didn’t occur to me until last week that this is a big problem.  Are we all just telling stories?  If that is the case then we’re all selling something pretty similar, no?

OK, we’ve got to figure this out because if we’re all just telling stories then we don’t have anything distinct to sell.  So if that’s what we’re going to do we’ve got to find some way of providing distinction to what our stories look like.  What kind of story do you tell?  What parts of the story do you leave out?  What perspective do you tell the story from?  What format does the story take?  How does it unfold?  And most importantly how does the client understand what your version of a story is like?

The way you tell a story ought to be distinct and discernable compared to how someone else tells a story.  Let me make an argument as to why you ought to explicitly say something about your method of storytelling instead of just letting (hoping?) that the work itself does the job.

Think about filmmakers.  Take one script and pick any 4 directors.  Speilberg, Tarantino, Fincher, Burton, whoever you like – each one is going to tell that story differently.  Each one is going to have a different tone.  Each one is going to hit different emotions.  Each movie is going to feel different, even in the subject matter is the same.

Filmmakers have an opportunity to build a filmography and reputation.  There are interviews on Letterman and special features on the home release and critical analyses that tell you what the tone is like.  There is a script and a musical score that does some of the heavy lifting.  Everyone knows what those filmmakers do and how it is going to feel to watch one of their movies.

We creative entrepreneurs rarely have that reach.  We don’t have that sort of cultural relevance.  We don’t get reviewed and interviewed.  The type of story we tell isn’t well-established and preceding us in the market.  So be willing to make some statements about it, because the client isn’t going to live with us, they are going to look for us when they need us.  We’ve got to be willing to do the heavy lifting for them.

Hardly any successful artist actually leaves the work itself to do all the communication, why should you?

– trr



Douchebag Roundup

We had a pretty big week here on AMTF.  The podcast with Fer is on the way to being our most listened-to episode ever so thanks to those of you who checked it out and shared it.  Listen now if you haven’t already.  Plus, this week’s “Join the Douchbag club” got a ton of feedback including this comment from Jennifer:

The way you put it, it’s okay that the A&F company is providing their mass produced product to a specific, exclusive market – BUT it’s unprofessional and unacceptable to provide a service to a specific, exclusive market. This seems to not only contradict itself, but also contradict past posts where you’ve stated that you cater to the high end wedding market, specifically target $100,000+ ballroom weddings, and chose your target market that you work with because it fits you best.

Wouldn’t you say that mass-producing a product, and allowing a client who falls outside of your target market to purchase it, is easier for a company to do than for a self employed business owner to give their precious time away to a client who falls outside of their target market? I’m missing how it’s recommend for the already over-worked photographer to accept every job they’re offered. If anything, I recommend only giving your time away to those who appreciate your work and identify with your brand. The wedding photographer usually spends an entire year communicating, planning, and advising their wedding client. For the sake of both parties, it should be a favorable “union” between the bride and her photographer. Not just one that works because the payment terms are agreeable. To me, my time is too precious to sell to just anyone, and I prefer to choose how I send it. You recently made a statement that by being selective with the jobs we take, we’re adopting a level of entitlement or arrogance. Isn’t being selective with your time the goal of being a self-employed professional? I want to shoot the events that best reflect my work, and inspire me the most. If I don’t feel like I’m the best fit for a particular event, I’d rather let the client find their perfect photographer, and I’ll enjoy a day off with my kids. In my eyes, that’s a win, win.

And when I let Jennifer know that I was going to break her comment out into a whole new post she sent this:

Okay. I understand the jobs you are requested to take are widely impacted by your price point and the brand you’ve established. I just think that it’s easier for you to say you should take every job you’re given because of the price point you are in – most of your audience is probably not in that upper tier. So it’s not so easy for us to apply the advice you’re giving, because I would expect the jobs you are offered are rarely undesirable. Thankfully, my brand and price point does filter out most mis-matched clients, and I also screen the type of event first to further filter. But to tell the wedding industry as a whole that they are being arrogant or entitled to select their jobs, I think is unfair while you are still establishing your brand and working your way up. Just my thoughts

OK, so I need to do some clarification.  As I tried to express in the previous article I don’t see it as the client “offering” the job – when we hang out a shingle and set up a business we’re the ones who are doing the offering.  I feel that if you view your time as too precious then it is dubious to offer a service to a client that you may not be willing to go through with.  After all, as business owners we aren’t “giving away” our time – we’re selling it by definition.

Sure, we all start businesses to get to do whatever we want.  But that is kind of naive, because you have to do all kinds of shit that is not enjoyable to make the business work (who likes paying sales tax?).  You have to learn things that you maybe aren’t that excited about (bookkeeping, taxes, posing, etc).  And no one I’m aware of has had a profitable and sustainable business over any respectable period of time just playing it safe and doing the easy, fun work.

I didn’t know what my best work was until I was forced to shoot it.  I didn’t realize what I could be inspired by until I got out of my comfort zone.  Beyond that I didn’t realize that inspiration is a crutch, becoming a professional proved to me that I can do great work without having to be inspired.

I don’t really care if my service professionals are inspired to work with me. I only care about the end product.  I care about what is in it for me.  If I head out for dinner tonight I couldn’t care less if the chef isn’t inspired to make a cheeseburger tonight – he better goddamn well whip it up if it is on the menu and it ought to be as good as it was the last time he felt “inspired.”  Would we accept sub-par quality or prima-donna antics from any other professional?  Then why do we allow it for ourselves and celebrate it in our peers?

It doesn’t make much sense when we apply it to other professions does it?  Do I care how inspired my pilot feels on my next flight?  He or she could have had the worst day ever and be completely uninspired by the location and the jet stream and whatever else but they better make a picture perfect landing.  I’m not really interested if the guy changing my oil is exhilarated by the dipstick today.  I used to do theater, which I think anyone would agree is just as creative or artistic as photography.  Inspiration happened in rehearsal.  It happened while we were preparing to do our job.  When it came to showtime, in-the-mood or not, rain or shine, you got the fuck up on that stage and did exactly as well as you did the last night.  That’s what it means to be a professional.  Professionals don’t need inspiration to kill it.  

As far as my business is concerned I think I have tried to craft a specific brand that aims at a very targeted audience (as I would recommend to almost anyone).  But people outside that target inquire all the time and some of them hire me.  I don’t turn them away, after all they apparently want what I do.  I work at a price point that a lot of other people are afraid to work because the stakes are higher – playing it safe and only taking the jobs you know you can do isn’t necessarily a lucrative way to move forward.  I suppose that it is easy to assume that the inquiries I get would be “rarely undesirable” but I can say with a great degree of confidence that hardly anyone else is targeting my niche and almost no one I know wants to work the jobs I do.

If I made it seem like it was arrogant and entitled to turn clients away then I’ve succeeded halfway.  I’m not trying to be a dick, but I am trying to call that behavior into question.  I am where I am today, in a position to tailor my business as I like and help other people do the same, because I find a way to say “yes.”  I find a way to reach common ground with the client.  I’m far more concerned with qualifying people in than out.  If they want me I figure out what I put out there that attracted them and I execute on that.  I have worked with all kinds of people (and continue to) and taken all kinds of jobs that I was apprehensive about.  I’ve been forced to grow and become a better photographer and a better professional for it.  If the prevailing wisdom is that we shouldn’t have to venture outside of our comfort zones because we decided to run businesses then I have to call foul on that.  I work with people who appear to be difficult upfront.  I’m not afraid of demands and requests.  I’m not afraid of accommodating someone else’s desires.  I’ve chosen to do hard work and I can testify to the fact that I’m a much better person for it.  Too many photographers are afraid of clients these days.  They are just people, and we ought to be good enough at our business and craft to thrill them if we call ourselves professionals.

I realize that I’ve got a pretty strong opinion on what it means to be a professional.  I’ll throw it out there for discussion – am I off base?

I’m quite thankful that Jennifer asked this question.  I appreciate where she is coming from even though I don’t agree with it at all.  I’m hoping that those of you who agree with Jennifer stop and think about what it would mean to say “yes” to the work outside of your comfort zone instead of saying “no.”  Think about it and let me know if your perspective changes?  And while you’re thinking about that think about how you would feel if the vendor you thought was perfect for you would turn you aside, or if they lied to avoid working with you?

– trr


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