Entrepreneurship

New podcast – MUSEA Episode #63

Check out the latest podcast that I recorded with Michael Howard of MUSEA.  Michael and I have been friends for a while and we’ve spoken a few times in the past ( AMTF Episode 2).  I think this turned out really great, and it sort of encapsulates what has been on my mind lately so I’m very grateful for Michael for having me on.  If you like this episode please let Michael and I know and we might make this a more regular thing.

MUSEA PODCAST EPISODE #63 w/ TODD REICHMAN

Thanks again, and let me know what you’ve been missing and what you’d like to see going forward for …a Man to Fish…

- Todd Reichman

“But I don’t need the money…”

Many people enter into professional photography without actually needing the money.  I don’t really care what circumstances someone might operate under that affords them the luxury of “not needing the money” from photography.  I’m not here to judge someone’s situation.  I have to say this, and I mean it as supportively as possible… If you don’t need the money I don’t have the slightest idea why the hell you want to dabble in professional photography?

If you don’t need the money and you want to do something with a camera for heaven’s sake do something really valuable with it.  Take a photograph that is going to change the world, or bring awareness to something we ought to know more about.  Do something with your camera that could save a life (or thousands of them).  People who “don’t need the money” are those with the luxury to make a significant difference in the world. 

Unfortunately most people squander that luxury and instead retread the same portrait and wedding photography as everyone else.  If you don’t need the money and you aim low with your pricing or you half-ass your branding and marketing then you’re basically creating a charity for the middle-to-upper class.  Would you create a 501c3 organization to make sure all suburban middle-class kids get Netflix?  Hell no, because if you want to be able to stream LOST any town, any time then you ought to pay the $8 a month.  It would be an affront to real causes to champion that organization.  Based on my analytics I’m pretty comfortable saying that the vast majority of readers to this site are wealthy compared to the majority of people on Earth.  Really, you are.  You’ve got all kinds of cool stuff – you’re probably reading this on a nice laptop or an indulgent smartphone through a nice connection with ample bandwidth.   You aren’t entitled to streaming video if you can’t pay for it.

Lower-to-upper class people ought to be paying for professional photos.  They ought to be paying full, sustainable, profitable prices (read – higher prices than most ‘professionals’ are charging).  Don’t give it away for free or a pittance.  It isn’t a privilege to shoot their photos, it is a privilege to work the line at a soup kitchen.

I live in a condo.  Luckily, our property values are going up.  If I didn’t need the money I could sell my unit on a whim for $100,000 under market value.  But I sure would be fucking my neighbors.  They’d still be able to sell of course, but my comparable lowball sale would make things more difficult.  What do you think happens if 4-5 people follow my lead?  Some of my neighbors actually need the money.  I’d actually need the money too.

If you don’t need the money and you want to do something fulfilling with your camera all I’m asking is that you give 30 seconds of thought to the most meaningful thing you could do.  You could copy that frog-pose with a newborn in a knit hat or backlight a bride and groom really small in the frame for a few bucks if you like, but I think you’re capable of making a bigger impact than that.

- trr

 

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Question – how to network with wedding planners

I know you’ve had some huge success networking with wedding planners. We’re starting to invest more time networking with planners and we have some upcoming sitdowns/introductory meetings scheduled with planners that we have not necessarily worked with before. Do you have any tips other than developing a friendly relationship and understanding each side’s value propositions? One obstacle I’m hoping to overcome is that I’m assuming the planner already has a few photographers that she recommends (i.e. she shares an office space with a photographer). Establishing ourselves as a perfect fit for niche clients is the idea, but I’m just wondering if you’ve had any specific techniques that have worked well in the past.

- Jaime + Lincoln Bartlett

To be honest it is really difficult to recommend anything other than understanding each side’s value proposition.  Understanding what they do and what they want helps you connect them with people who want the same thing, and when they know what you want and what you are best at providing they can refer you appropriately.  I’ve found that it is always best to ask questions and really show an interest in them more than you pitch yourself.

If the planner takes a meeting then they don’t have all the resources that they need.  People come and go, relationships ebb and there is always room another specific, perfect solution to a given problem.  Also, sometimes it really helps to be a new option, if for nothing else than to spice things up and try something different – so use that to your advantage.  You really want to occupy a space in the planner’s head that triggers your name when that situation presents itself so be very specific about how you know when you are right for a given client.  Don’t claim to be perfect for everyone – that’s a recipe for no referrals.  When you’re thinking about how to communicate what and who you are perfect for do so in terms that the planner understands.  They don’t know much about photography, but they do deal with budgets and pickiness and indecisiveness and things like that.  So communicating your administrative style and getting into a little armchair-client-psychology will help you better speak the planner’s language.  Don’t talk all about photo technique or your work – it probably all looks the same to them.

Other than that being likable is a benefit.  You don’t have to be real-life friends (business-friends is good enough) but being the kind of person that other people want to see do well is a huge plus.  So be kind and be purposefully helpful.  Don’t fake it, just be a person – they’re just people after all.

It really isn’t super-complicated, most people are far more afraid of professional networking than is reasonable.  Networking with other vendors is the most direct action you can take to drive wedding business in particular – so head outside of your comfort zone and think about who you can connect with today.

- trr

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right things, rightest things

I was a little vague on yesterday’s post/question about doing the right thing or the profitable thing.  It wasn’t necessarily on purpose, just how it came out.  Some people speculated that I was talking about not charging enough or making photography more affordable, or possibly talking about doing immoral or unethical things for profit.  Neither was really on my mind.

I was more concerned with the idea that the “right” thing to do rarely seems like the best course of action from a business perspective.  For instance, if I really wanted to grow this site and monetize the shit out of it I’d do a lot of gear reviews.  I’d post more inspirational stuff and tell people to follow their dreams.  I’d whore out every affiliate product out there.  The audience would grow much faster and I’d make money from this site.  That isn’t what I think would be “right” for this site (but it certainly isn’t unethical) but it would sure be a great business move.

In photography I know that things would be better if I edited every image by hand and perfected everything before delivering to the client.  But most of us don’t do that because it isn’t profitable.  We know that our album designs are tasteful and that the client wants to cram as many onto the page as possible.  We know that clients don’t use the digital files and yet in many cases we settle for them as a primary deliverable.

I suppose what I’m wondering about is degrees of “rightness” and where on the scale we draw the line? Most of us to the right thing, but do we always commit to doing the “rightest” thing?  Is there a measurable benefit to doing the rightest thing instead of just the easiest right thing?  Can you quantify and sell the “rightest” or are clients just looking for “good enough”?

I’ve just sort of been ruminating on this issue for a while.  I have a record number of people coming to me asking for help because they aren’t booking as much as they would like.  I struggle sometimes because the biggest part of me wants to suggest building a crazy-committed brand that only does the rightest of right things.  But I’m seeing evidence that taking the easiest, showiest, oftentimes least committed way out seems to be more salable.

The easy thing to do is to tell you all that everything will be OK, and that the rightest thing always wins out in the end.  I’m not sure if that is the rightest thing to tell you?

 

- trr

 

Do the right thing, or do the profitable thing?

I’ve had a sort of depressing thought rattling around in my head, and I’d be interested in your opinion.  I’m wondering if the right thing to do is ever the profitable or most marketable thing to do?  I’m beginning to think that the right thing is hardly ever the profitable thing, sometimes not even a sustainable thing, and rarely the most attractive or marketable approach to take.

I’d be curious if you believe that is true or not and what your experience has been?  If it is true, then we have choices to make about how we present our work and services don’t we?  Do we then pick our battles on doing what is right in favor of what sells best?  Do we let the market decide where they want the emphasis placed?

- trr

 

EDITED TO ADD – since a few comments have already mentioned this I want to point out that I’m nor suggesting that doing something immoral or unethical is even on the table in this discussion.  I’m simply wondering if the “rightest” thing to do is viable or a great business decision.  Often it feels like catering to the lowest common denominator is what is preferred, or aiming for the easiest and flashiest solution is what the free market rewards rather than the highest quality or the unpopular but hardest work.