1. The Time You Lost An Important Bid To Someone Else
You want this job. You’ve been working towards building your business in this field, and this job will be perfect for your resume. You know you could instantly walk into a dozen other places and start photographing … when you can tell them you’ve done this job. So you spend hours on the bid. You make sure its perfect in every way. You stay in touch with the decision makers. You promise everything you know they want. You send the bid off. And you wait. And wait.
Nobody likes the feeling that comes with not getting the job. Yet in some aspects, it may be the best thing. Maybe you were meant to take on a different job. Or connect with a different person. What did you learn from this? If you know the person you applied to, ask if they can give you 5 minutes to learn why your bid wasn’t accepted. Yes, it may be because of your lack of experience. But it might also be because the boss’s daughter has decided to try photography and they gave her the job without any experience. Learning the real reason can help you move forward and plan for the next opportunity. Don’t take it to heart – in every case there is something to learn.
2. The Time You Lost An Entire Project
One of the reasons Andrew and I ended up pursuing wedding photography was due to the loss we incurred at our own wedding. Our photographer was there from beginning to end, capturing things from a variety of angles. Yet when we picked up the proofs, the entire section at the church (ceremony and some formals) was missing. She lost several rolls of film – and a big chunk of our memories.
What would you do if your last wedding was stored on your computer … and it was stolen before you worked with the images? Or the flash card with every image from your last shoot fell out of your bag as you made your way through the airport? Losing the entire project is much harder to salvage than a piece of a project. But in either case, it pulls everything out of you. You learn people skills when dealing with your client. And it gives you “systems” skills for making sure that never happens again.
3. The Time You Got In Way Over Your Head
This is one of the reasons I always recommend niching. When you niche your business, you learn everything there is about that field of photography. If not, it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed by what is expected of you. For instance, if you normally photography portraits, you have portrait lenses. But if a corporate client calls wanting you to photograph some of its products, you may need a macro lens. It’s easy to rent one, but do you know how to get the best results? Do you have the backgrounds and props to offer the best images possible? Or maybe a client hires you and starts making little demands. “Sure, we can do that.” But very quickly those little demands explode, and you are left wondering how you are going to accomplish it all with your tools and knowledge – and within the budget.
Getting in way over your head helps you define whom you really are and what you want to do. It gives you a taste of things you might not have thought about before. And it also lets you see what your limitations are and where your comfort zone lies.
Sometimes you have a client come in that knows more than you do. They sit down and spell out exactly what they are looking for. And in many cases, because they have a great understanding of the photography world, they may say things that have very little meaning to you. They throw around industry lingo assuming you can keep up. You can’t. And that’s where you have a choice. You can either admit to what you don’t know, or play along like you understand it all. Choosing the latter option sometimes seems like the best road, especially if it’s a client you’ve been dying to work with. You really want this job! So you play along and start throwing out the lingo right back at him.
Speaking about things we really don’t know and understand can set off a chain of events we never expected. At some point you will pay the price. The person on the other side will call our bluff. Or we’ll end up in the number 3 situation above, where we’re in way over our heads. You quickly learn that its best to stick to your knowledge and go for only those clients you can satisfy 110 percent of the time.
5. The Time You Said The Totally Wrong Thing
I had a friend who came in and announced a close colleague of hers was in an accident. She was feeling bad, just sick over how such a vibrant, successful woman could end up in a place like this. I said, “It’ll be all right.” She said, “no it won’t” and walked away. The colleague passed away a few days later. Yep, I felt horrible about that for days. You want to comfort people and make them feel better. And invariably you’ll come across times what you say and what you mean are two completely different things. So you lay in bed at night thinking about what you said and how you could have said it differently.
For some things, there are no right words. Yep, we’re all only human with a “limited” vocabulary. And some things will just come out wrong. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make up for it in other ways. Bake some cookies. Send an unexpected photograph. Send a “thinking of you” card. The key is to let them know you do care.