Are they seeking You, Part III
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve looked at a series of impersonal factors related to building a successful photography business. This week we’re going to get personal. For some of you, this will definitely be a “Big Boy Pants” conversation, at least if you’re taking it seriously. (those who’ve read my stuff for a while know that when I’m going to say something I know will hurt, I always preface it by asking you to put on your Big Boy Pants. This is not a sexist comment. It’s just that I think it’s improper for a CEO to tell his women clients to pull on their big girl panties. Though, I guess I just did. Whatever, you get the point. ...)
I talk to a lot of photographers. In an average week, whether via email, or in person at PUG meetings, or here in the office, I’ll talk to at least 20 different photographers and some weeks, many, many more than that! I love these conversations because they make me more effective. They also give me a sense of who will succeed and who will fail. Want to know what I’m finding? Here’s where you might want to take a minute to print this out, grab a cup of coffee, sit down somewhere away from your etherverse so when I ask you these questions you can give them some honest thought ...
Ready? OK. There is one question that will really make the difference. Only one. Ready. It’s a big one.
Are you generally excited about your business, or are you generally frustrated with your business? If you have to pick one answer, and you do, which one would you pick? Can’t pick? Here’s some indicators that you might be frustrated.
1). You sit in front of your computer all day wondering why no one is finding you on Google.
2). You dread the pricing conversation because you know it’s going to devolve into the clients chipping away at your pricing until it’s barely worth taking the business.
3). People who do workshops focused on the importance of (Pick any); branding, art, workflow, post-production, etc. make you want to throw up.
4). You put off editing events until your clients begin to grouse - unreasonably - that four months is long enough to wait. (for editing an event you can also read, designing an album or any number of other things that take lots of time and don’t seem to yield much result)...
5). On any given Saturday you roll out of bed, put on your comfortable ‘black,’ check the batteries, roll out the door and then do exactly the same things from the moment you meet your clients until the moment you get home, feet aching, back hurting, hungry because the bastards didn’t feed you, frustrated because you spent the last two hours of the reception shooting setups for the MOB. (Or if you primarily shoot portraits, any number of the same routine enforcing activities).
You get my point. Here’s the problem with being generally frustrated. Your clients can feel it. Whether they’re hiring you for a wedding or a portrait session, you have to remember that in most cases they’re starting in a place where they’re uncomfortable. Very few people actually like to have their picture taken. They have to believe that you’re going to make them comfortable and even more, that they’re going to be glad you’re there. Here’s a few things to think about.
1). Does your enthusiasm for your business come through everywhere it can? (How about in your avatar? Your “about me” pages.)
2). When you have meetings with potential clients are you prepared? Are you early? Do you have up to date materials to show? Do you have prints to show? (As an aside I always laugh when I hear that photographers are having trouble selling prints. Why? In the sales process did you show your clients any prints? Or did you only show them your stuff in slideshows or on your iPhone? If they never see a print, why would they think of you as a source for them?) Do you have a crisp, freshly printed, logical price list that makes your services clear?
3). Do you ever mention, even off-handedly, your frustrations with other clients? (they’ll wonder what you’re going to say about them).
4). Do you project an air of confident competence that makes them feel comfortable and even enthusiastic about hiring you?
5). When the meeting is over are you excited about the opportunity or do you immediately start preparing for failure by telling yourself that these people aren’t really good enough for you anyway?
If your business is struggling you need to dig in to these questions. If you don’t know whether your site is helping or hurting ask someone. (Heck - ask me. Pictage customer or not, I’m happy to take a look and tell you what I think). On some of these, frankly you know the answers and you know they’re not good. You’re late for meetings. You’re disorganized. You spent your last face to face talking about a frustrating situation with a previous, unreasonable client. Your defense against pricing discussions is complaining about pricing discussions (kind of a preemptive strike). You end the conversation by saying, “there’s a lot of photographers out there. You’ll find someone you like. I’m not sure I’d hire me either...” Every single one of these things matters.
Here’s the good news. Tomorrow is a new day. If you’re serious about success then get serious about reinvigorating your business. Make your next client meeting your best ever. Perseverance is the key to success in any small business. Even for those who have “made it” the marketplace changes so quickly that they must continue to grow and change or they will quickly be irrelevant. There is no judgement for falling behind. There is only judgement for staying there. That judgement is rendered when the market leaves you behind and your business fails.
For the rest of you, Onward! If you’re willing to do the work you can achieve your reward. I’m here to help. Literally. It’s my job.