Profitability

Episode 29 – The …a Man to Fish… Photography Business Podcast – Salesographer w/ Spencer Boerup

spencer 29

If you’re a long-time, back-in-the-day listener of the podcast you remember Spencer from episode 8.  Spencer has a new sales product out that I think every photographer could benefit from, so he’s joining the podcast today to talk about how important the sales process is and how to implement his simple strategy for closing $2K+ portrait sales every time.

I respect my audience, and I appreciate everyone who logs it to read an article or check out a podcast.  So I’ve strictly avoided the hundreds of affiliate links to various products and requests for sponsorship and endorsements.  I’m not going to post about anything unless I completely believe that it is a benefit to you and not just a simple benefit, but something that will make a tangible difference in your business.

Spencer has been to my workshop.  That means I’ve seen Spencer’s actual numbers and I can completely attest to the fact that his portrait sales are consistent and impressive.  I love whenever someone can break down an esoteric, emotional process into a repeatable structure and Spencer has done that with the sales process.  You can’t be a professional and avoid sales and this product will help take the stress out of selling and actually make your clients happier with the end result of working with you.

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…a Man to Fish… podcast episode 12 – Art and the Profitability of Film with Kat Braman

This podcast is a direct response to the Stacy Reeves podcast duology (Episodes 10 and 11).  Kat took exception to the dichotomy we drew between art and business and took to the airwaves to let me have it.  Listen this week to hear how I totally set her straight.

Kat and I talk art and how it relates to business and satisfying clients.  Plus we talk a lot about the economy and profitability of shooting film at weddings.  Yes, film is growing in popularity and many people are picking it up, but are they really aware of the financial impact of doing so?

This one goes a bit longer than the average episode, so enjoy the extra time-killing.

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Show notes:

- trr

 

Reasonable living?

I got a message last week from an up and coming photographer – check it out:

“…do you think that breaking into this business and making a reasonable wage is still an option given the market saturation and the number of established photographers who appear to be suffering?”

Short answer – of course.

Long answer – one person’s failure does not dictate your failure.  Period.  I don’t care if other people are failing.  I’ll be honest, when I got into the business things were easier.  The economy was doing really well, middle-class folks were really treating themselves, and it became very cool to spend a lot on photography and weddings.  You didn’t have to be great at everything, you just had to be good enough and interesting enough.  I’ll say it again, it was WAY easier.

And yes, circumstances are harder now.  There is more competition, and the economy is worse.  It isn’t necessarily as cool to spend a lot on your photography or wedding.  That does not mean that it isn’t possible to make a reasonable living, it just means that it is harder.

It is harder because you now have to be great at everything.  You have to have good work.  You have to have amazing service.  You have to pour yourself into marketing.  You have to be attentive, easy to work with, and compelling.  And you have to do the hard work.  You have to have a consistent and compelling brand.  You have to get out from behind your computer and actually network with people.  You have to do the hard stuff that most people don’t want to do, or are afraid to try.

People aren’t struggling or going out of business because it isn’t possible to make a good living, they are having a hard time because a lot of what you have to do to be compelling enough to consistently hire at a profitable price point isn’t fun, or sexy, or easy.  So what, if you want to make it work you have to do the hard stuff.

If you don’t want to do the hard stuff, don’t get into a creative business right now.  If you don’t want to keep learning what you don’t yet know and mastering it, don’t go into business.  If you don’t want to struggle and have your job continue to get harder the longer you do it, then don’t go into business.

This is a good thing.  The difficulty will hopefully cause some attrition.  Many people just aren’t willing to do the hard work and keep doing it.  There is this strange perception that at some point you’ll become successful and everything will get easier.  That simply isn’t true – you’ll always be struggling and working to make ends meet and the higher you want to go the harder everything gets.  If you’re up for that, you can certainly make a nice living – a ton of people are proving that daily.

It is good to be back.  Thanks

 

- todd

Can you afford to be an artist?

I have to say, as someone who was not directly involved in the whole Yan “sick of it” phenomenon (so this is Jamie now if you didn’t already guess), listening to the podcast between Todd and Yan was really interesting to me.  I think the statement or idea that struck me the most was Yan’s insistence that art should speak for itself.  That if it’s really art it should draw in it’s intended clientele without having to say anything about it.  That true art needs no introduction or description, and if you’re doing that then you’re resorting to business tactics because your work isn’t really art.

Hmm.  I’ve always been drawn to artistic and creative things and pursuits.  I started life as a ballet dancer, I turned to musical theatre at a pretty young age, dabbled in art, studied modern dance in college, worked professionally in theatre, and eventually turned to photography (which had in some way been a part of my life- but was never the thing I focused on until my twenties) after injuries drove me to a corporate office job that I despised.

So, turning to photography for me was very much a choice, and a calculated one at that.  I did it because it was the only way I could find for me (and Todd) to make a living doing something creative that had any sort of longevity to it.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I needed to be creative or I was probably going to lose my mind in the grey sea of cubicles in which I spent some of what should have been the best years of my life, but I never considered going into photography without there being money involved.

Can it still be art if money is the primary motivation, I wonder?

I guess I may have started out thinking my work was art, but I think, after seven years of running a household solely from a photography income, I’ve become too pragmatic to think of my work as art now.

I spent my early twenties as a “starving artist” making $200 a week doing 8 shows a week and practically living out of my car.  I’m not really interested in going back there.

I need to make money.

I need to pay my bills.

I need to satisfy and thrill my current clients so that they will say good things about me to their friends and family and wedding coordinators so I can get hired again.

It’s much more enjoyable for me when my clients “get” it.  Although I have done work with plenty of clients that don’t “get” it, too.  I guess I have never felt I had the luxury to turn people away even if I thought they might be a red flag upfront.  And I’ve found that first impressions can often be wrong.

But, I also whole-heartedly believe that when a client wants to book me that doesn’t “get” it, it’s entirely my fault for not being clear enough in my branding.  If it happens, then it’s likely I’ve neglected the fact that I have the opportunity to clearly communicate who I am and what I do and why I do it in a way that either really turns people on or completely turns them off.

This kind of work for me is a constant work in progress.  And each time something happens that is less than ideal, I force myself to analyze what went wrong, what could I have done to better set expectations, how could I have been clearer so that anyone who is considering hiring me can understand what it means to hire me right from the start?  How could I help everybody who crosses my business’ path either “get” it or run away?

But I still do the work and I still pay my bills.

Because for me, taking care of my life and my family and my clients has to come before art.

Does this make my work something less noble than those of you who claim yours to be art?

I have studied lighting and composition, design and gesture, line and plane.  I strive for each of my images to have a soul.  But does all of that get thrown out the window when I demand to make a living from my work?  Does the art become less significant if I try to help potential clients to understand it by providing meaning and context to my work?

So, I ask you who do consider yourselves to be artist-photographers, why are you doing it?  Are you in it for the money?  Is it less than noble to need to make a living from your work?

And, if you need to make a living from your work, why aren’t you willing to do whatever it takes to help the right people connect to your art instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping that they “get” you?  What if there’s a way to help people “get” it better?  Would you do it?  Can you afford not to?  Or are you really okay if your life and your family members’ lives suffer in order for you to do your art?

I do not have a formal art education.  Yes, I have a fine arts degree, but that’s not really the same thing.  But, I have gone to art museums and galleries, and have viewed (and subsequently read) the work of many artists.  In museums, most works of art have a description attached to the wall next to them.  Most gallery artists provide artist’s statements.  Does that make the work somehow less “art” because they have given us context and a window into their motivation or inspiration to create it?  Doesn’t it instead give more meaning to the work???  It does for me.  I love understanding.

I would think our potential clients would love understanding our work just as much as a art gallery patron enjoys better understanding the work of the artist after reading the artist’s statement.

Or is it just that we don’t actually understand our work?  Or that we’re not willing to put the effort in and to dig in and do something that is uncomfortable for us, that doesn’t come as naturally as creating an image?

Forgive my boldness, but I think it’s a cop-out to push your work out and say that if people are really right for me then they’ll get it without me having to say anything.

I think it’s because you’re afraid.

I think it’s because you’re vulnerable.

I think it’s because you yourself don’t understand why you do what you do.

I would never assert that real down and dirty business and branding work is easy, but I don’t know that it should be the dirty word that some of you who consider yourself more on the artist side of professional photography think it is.

I welcome your thoughts, comments and feedback.

-Jamie

 

If you “get” it, and need help figuring out how to communicate what you do and why you do it in a way that is completely client-focused, that’s what the Sexy Business Workshop is all about.  Only five studios each workshop so that you come away with the answers you need. The full set of 2012 dates is now available on the Workshops page.  Check it out.

 

Your 2012 Resolution

I don’t know if this is a new trend (probably not) but something I’ve noticed recently is how much photographers like putting down their own work.  I’ve seen so many comments recently about how a photographer is unhappy with their work, or that they feel uninspired or inferior compared to someone else’s work, etc.  Overall, I tend to see a lot of comments about how the work isn’t good enough for the photographer, even though their clients like it or whatever.

Hey, I’ve got an arts degree.  I get it.  I’ve been guilty of this as much as anyone.  When we do this I think we are really spinning our wheels.  See, I think that we do this because we want people to understand just how important this is to us.  We want others to understand that we see a level of quality that even aren’t even aware of, but we are committed to.  Mostly though, I think we are trying to gain credibility and value in ourselves by claiming to be committed to this thing we cannot yet achieve.  What if we actually delivered on value instead of claiming to be committed to it?  Instead of trying to show people how seriously we take things (after the fact of course) why not put our effort into actually defining and delivering that value while keeping our mouths shut?

I’ve heard it said that you really start to improve and grow as an artist when you start disliking your work.  I don’t know much about that, but I’m going to suggest a radical shift in perspective for 2012′s resolution.

Love your work, unapologetically.

What if we focused solely and completely on what is already good about what we do, and what we already liked?  What if we got way better at this thing and communicated our enthusiasm and aptitude about this to the market?  What if we forgot completely about our deficiencies?  Seriously, put them out of your mind.  Don’t try to get better at them, instead focus on what you are already awesome at and figure out how to get better at that.  Get hired for that.  Be enthusiastic about that.  Love the hell out of that and don’t let anything get in the way of it.

That’s the resolution I’m moving forward with. That’s step number 1.  Step 2 is eliminating anything that doesn’t jive with step 1.

Here’s a challenge of sorts.  Communicate what you love most about what you do.  Be specific.  Then tell me what it would look like if you were even better at that.

Here’s to more meaning, purpose and profit in 2012.

 

- trr