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Why The Hell Did It Take So Long to Write This Blog? And Inspiration.

By tangentpath in photography work vision diligence inspiration

That's the first thing that I thought of when I sat down to write this.  So why the hell did it take so long for me to write this blog?  Short answer: Life.

Long answer:  I hope you're sitting down because this answer will be half of this blog.

I don't have to explain how life gets in the way of your goals sometimes.  You want to exercise in the evening, but you had a long day at work.  You want to eat better, but you have no time to cook.  Etc, etc, etc...

The important thing is not to get discouraged when these things happen.  Life happens, as they say(whoever they are), and instead of beating yourself up for what you're not doing, you should plan on when you will do them.

See that?  Well no you wouldn't, but after I finished that last paragraph, I was distracted by an episode of Doctor Who on television and then I switched over to The Biggest Loser.  But thank the gods for the 'mute' button, or I would probably still be staring at the tv with a stunned look on my face and not continuing this blog.  That's life too though, the unexpected, the path that's tangent from our plans, and when these things occur we should take it as it is; life happens.

So that's the 'why' to the question, but what was the 'what'(I understand there was no 'what', but I'm doing it anyways)?

This week(like most) has been a little hectic and stressful.  I'm scheduling and rescheduling shoots, work is busy and stressful, I'm still planning out my trip to Ottawa and trying to create a more minimilistic home and lifestyle before our baby gets here(I know it's 7 months away, but it's 7 months away!!)  I could've just passed this weeks blog, but I really am committed to it, to you, and to my life and how I wish to live it.  The good thing is is that this is not something that will be normally happening.  I will not have week after week of late blogs.  You see, the later a blog gets written - the less time I have before I have to write the next blog.  So it's designed to be in my best interest to keep it on schedule.

That's the first part of this blog.  The next?  Inspiration(which was the original blog topic).

First I'd like to thank Fallen "Kittie" Matthews(http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Ffallenkittie.blogspot.com%2F&h=823ca) for giving me this topic, she is a talented model from the Halifax area.  Great idea Fallen, thx again.

So inspiration, where does it come from?  Where do you get it?  Can you get it on command?  Anyone would love to know the secret to finding the muse, whether you're a designer, writer, photographer, painter, etc.  The funny thing is is that like most questions like this, the answers that we look everywhere for are within us.  So what inspires you?  Looking at artwork?  Listening to music?  How about something that has nothing to do with what you want to accomplish?  A 5 or 10km run, playing with your kids or even having a nap.  I've done all of these things(well not playing with my kids, but I am working on it) and gained not only inspiration but concrete ideas and concepts that fill me full of ambitious energy and excitement.  Personally, I would choose anything that I love to do(besides photography), that enjoyment bleeds into my work and somehow helps my creativity. 

My best advice, in case none of these things interest you, is to keep special attention to when you are inspired or suddenly get that instant stroke of genius.  What were you doing?  Maybe there are a few things that you do when the muse visits you.  Remember what you were doing at the time for when you get a block again or even just to get your mind in the right zone for creativity.

Most people that I have talked to say that music is a huge influence on their creativity, and I totally agree.  Music can influence emotion and this will access memories, which in turn will enhance the emotions that we feel.  Depending on the type of music, I could sit and let my mind dance to the tune, my imagination creating images of scenes that could be heartbreaking, terrifying or joyous.

So what inspires you?  Any of these things or something else?  Let me know, and try not to let life get in the way of living.  I'm going to get some images here in the next one, so no worries.

Now back to Biggest Loser...

Finding a Niche as a Photographer

By tangentpath in photography work vision wisdom niche

When one wants to be any type of professional photographer, a good piece of advice is to find your niche.  Choosing a niche is important for a number of reasons;  it gives focus on your subject matter and client demographic, it assists in promoting yourself to the public with a clearer sense of what you do and it better organizes your business plans.

Your niche is the type of photography that you wish to specialize in.  It can be difficult to many new photographers which niche to choose from since most like to make photographs of a multitude of topics.  An important thing to remember is that choosing your niche does not mean that you can't shoot other subject matter, just that you specialize in a specific type and that is what your business primarily works on.

I'd like to note that many photographers never choose a specific niche, are labelled as "generalized", and still find success in their work. 

Having a genre to work towards creates a better focus on what you are doing in your business, you gain a better sense of what to shoot and who to approach with your work.  This can save a lot of time and planning, it also has the potential of increasing your skill in said niche since there will be less time spent on other genres.

So, just for example, you want to shoot portraits.  What does this mean?  Well it creates a specific client base:  grads, families, models.  Since people are the main subject in this niche, you could also use this to bleed into related genres, like fashion and commercial photography.

Any comments?

Cheers

I'm Pregnant and the Importance of Social Media for your Photography

By tangentpath in photography personal wisdom networking pregnant social media

Well yeah, I guess the title says it all.  My wife and I are pregnant with our first child, due in May, and I can't wait - really, I can't.  That also means that I need to work my ass off as much as possible in my craft and business because I'm sure my spare time will drop to a minimum once he or she arrives.  So does anyone have advice?  Some sage-like knowledge, first-hand possibly on raising children and still finding time to keep the work going? I'd love to hear some.

Now social media, you know: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc, etc, etc....  I bet a lot of you out there have a pretty good idea on how important it is to your business, no matter what it is.  But just to show you some stats on how powerful and all-encompassing social medias are between you and your clients, I have a video that was shown to me by Justin Hyslop, a Field Marketing representative from Samsung Electronics Canada Inc., whom I met this past weekend at a Bell dealer conference.  Justin is the only rep at this conference that I really had any extended dialogue with and I have to say that his was by far the best planned and receptive presentation there.  I'd like to share this video with you now, and believe me, you will be completely entertained:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFZ0z5Fm-Ng

So hopefully you've watched this before continuing to read on, otherwise you won't nearly grasp the real impact that social media can do for(or against) your work.

Communication is key in every business, and every type of communication or social media is another way into your potential clients lives.  But that's not all.  It's also how you use the social media that makes the big difference in the impact that it will have on your business.  Alec Brownstein is a talented writer and director who used Google AdWords in an out-of-the-box way to score a job with Y&R in New York.  To see the "Google Job Experiment"(and I highly suggest you do, if only to bask in the simplicity of this idea) click on the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FRwCs99DWg&feature=player_embedded

Amazing eh?  Is it getting through?  Social media(any and all) is the advertising of now and the future, customer testimonials are the ad slogans and guarantees, consumers will not trust the company completely, why should they?  But clients will always trust(more so anyways) previous clients word because the testimonials are from clients who gain nothing from your businesses success or failure.  They tell it how it is, from their perspective and from their experience.  Social media is practically a stewpot of testimonials.  Not just of business, but life itself.  What do you think tweets or status updates are?  What are wall posts and links?  These are all opinions, of people telling other people what they think.  They are testimonials, personal or professional.  So use that knowledge, and figure out what you want them to say about you.

Questions, comments, stories?  I love to hear them.  Cheers, and thx for the well wishes from the expectant parents!! :D

Oh, and while I'm at it, join my twitter if you like lol, see what I did there?

Big Company Customer Service Is More Than Bad: It's Backwards

By tangentpath in photography business work clients vision wisdom customer service

The customer service that we all normally get from businesses can be downright insufferable.  It's either the long hold times or hard to understand - and sometimes incompetent - reps.  The general system for customer service is to focus on driving new sales and clients, while giving existing customers the bare minimal service just to keep them hanging(anyone have a cell phone?  then you get it.). 

This is a TERRIBLE way to do business - any business.  There are few but still important differences between new clients and existing clients.  It takes more time and energy to seek out and sell to new clients than to existing ones.  The reason being is that existing clients are already sold on your services/products.  They should be comfortable with dealing with you and know what to expect from working with you.  New customers need to be introduced to you and your business, taught how a relationship with you will work and they need to be "sold" on your business.  Also, some new customers have objections because they have heard through different means negative things about your services. 

If you've ever worked for a large company and gone to any training sessions, you might have heard of what they call "overcoming objections", which is a buzz term that means,"Let's find an answer to get around all of the main objections that customers give to not invest in us."  Now at face value this sounds like a smart idea, although it can do more harm than good.  To actually train to overcome objections adds more stress on the customer-based worker to drive new sales by remembering a list of scripted answers instead of the actual product/services they are trying to sell,  it does nothing to benefit existing customers(the lifeblood of a business) and it doesn't eliminate the source of these negative ideas about your business.

Most potential clients will hear negative things about any business through word-of-mouth.  It makes sense, since word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful means to advertise, why wouldn't it be just as good at damaging a business image?

So who are these people saying these bad things?  EXISTING(and past) CLIENTS.  There are some good reasons to treat your existing clients like gold.  The most obvious one is that they invest in you, some over a long time period, which means that they keep you working when there is a drop in new clientel. That means that they are your lifeblood, your buoy, what keeps you from going under in the long term.  If you have enough existing clients to keep your business running and make a good living for yourself - then you wouldn't technically need new clients.  But things don't stay static like that, and it is always a good idea to make more business for yourself.  Another reason to treat them well is that they not only pay you for your services, but they advertise for you too.  If you treat them second class then they will spread the word as such, if you treat them like gold they will do the same - but they will do it even more.  People tend to tell others what is really good and what is really bad, which of these do you want to fall under?  Treating existing customers with appreciation also has the benefit of decreasing the # of them that will leave you for your competitors, which means that you are even less desperate for new clients - which is great!  When you approach new clients, you don't want to seem desperate; desperation shows a lack of confidence in your work, and no potential client wants to invest in a business where even the owner isn't confident. 

As I stated before, existing clients will spread the word like wildfire, and if you treat them well they will only spread good words.  Do you know what this does?  It makes it even EASIER to get new clients.  Your competitors still flash their smiles like a shark waiting for the kill, sputter over half memorized scripting, trying to overcome objections or downright lie to a customer to get just one more sale.  You on the otherhand have new clients that haven't heard a word of negativity about your work.  Their friends have boasted about how wonderful it is to work with you and how you really care about their needs.  These are the clients that instead of saying,"Well I like this about your package, but someone told me *insert objection here*."  you will hear,"My friend told me to come here because you were the best, I want *insert client details here* and I may have some more future work if this is as good as I've heard."  I've had these clients, I LOVE these clients and I appreciate these clients.  All they've heard is goodness, so I know I've done well taking care of my existing clients.  This saves energy and money, to be spent on more crucial things, by not having to go all out on advertising or thinking of ways to "trick" new clients by taking some type of training in underhandedness.  I don't need to stress myself out by thinking of new flashy ways to attract new clients or how I can twist words around so that I can get more work.  I keep afloat with existing clients that stay with me because I treat them right, my existing clients generate new clients(and remember they're paying me while doing this) with no objections to overcome, this keeps me confident that I can meet their needs without having to resort to hard(and sometimes uncouth) tactics, and the cycle continues.

So by being decent, no, by being dependable to the people that know me already, I can increase my client base with hardly any effort.  There is still the selling point to my business, but all the talk is about how I can help my clients - not how they can avoid problems in my business plan.  I eliminate the problems from the source and I am a reminder to my clients of what real customer service is.  It's almost karmic.  It feels clean and fresh and good.  There's so much "corporate pollution" out there, it can make one feel sick - I'd rather do something different.  I'd rather do something right.

Two Kinds of "Professional" Photographer? It's Better to Be Both

By tangentpath in photography business personal wisdom professional

I had a brief chat yesterday with Liam Hennessey, a very talented wedding photographer, regarding my previous blog about the term "professional" in regards to photography.  Liam may not have known it at the time, but he got me thinking more on the issue.  I thought of what we discussed since and realized that there are a lot of misconceptions and even added definitions to the term depending on your perspective.

I've categorized them into two diverse kinds, the good news is, you can be both.

The first kind of professional photographer is the traditional, and in fact literal type of professional.  We'll just call it the Literal Professional.  If your main income comes from photography, then you ARE a professional photographer.  The term professional is kin to business, commerce, income.  Like a professional golfer or a doctor, it IS their profession.  This definition is, as I've stated, the literal meaning.  There are exceptions of course, the lady that takes your photo at the DMV would probably NOT be considered a professional photographer in ANY sense, lol.  Liam, for example, is definately a professional photographer in the literal sense, he has a very successful business and has some of the best customer service that you will find.  If you're looking for an excellent wedding photographer, I would check out his work here: http://appleheadstudio.com/

The second definition that I've discovered is primarily generated by photographers that are more artistic and less business, also a lot of the general public would label a photographer as a professional not based on his business plan but by the quality of his work.  This we will call the Creative Professional.  Now even though this second meaning is technically and literally incorrect, one thing that all photographers will learn in this business is that perspective becomes the truth.  If you are a nice person with a great port and business plan, but people think you are a hack with terrible customer service, it doesn't matter what the truth is:  perspective becomes the truth, and sadly it is very difficult to change perspective once it is set.  Therefore we may understand what the true meaning of professional means, but that matters little to our potential clients.  Of course, most of these people will still denote professional as you are making SOME living off of your work(and hopefully you are), otherwise you might be considered an aggressive hobbyist, which is completely fine and rewarding in it's own right.

Personally, I've always been the second type of photographer, focusing on my craft more than my business plan.  It is something that I am remedying everyday by taking time to go over my advertising, my website, my blog, touching base with existing customers, etc.  Sure it takes time from my craft and time from shooting, but it is CRUCIAL to my business if I want to get under the umbrella of the Literal Professional.  And I do, I want to do this for the rest of my life - and only this.  I don't want to keep working a 9-5 job to pay the bills and then burn out the rest of my day trying to express myself creatively.  I want to do what I love to do - and get paid for it.  It is the dream of any photographer. 

Liam would probably agree with me that he is one of those lucky ones, lucky and smart.  He has a great business AND he has a creative mind and love of this art.  He applies it to every gig he shoots.  They go hand in hand to become successful in this business and he has worked very hard to get to where he is.

So be both!  You run a good business - literal professional.  You create great images - creative professional.  The first gives you the means to put all your focus and energy into the thing you love to do, the second IS the thing you love to do!  If you can work towards both the traditional and socially accepted meanings then you would definately be moving in the right direction in this profession.

So what are your thoughts?  Any?  Hehehehe, give me your opinion of this issue, I love when the brain juices are flowing!

Everyone take care, and Liam!  Don't get blown away by Earl!