3 Things You Can Learn From 300 Year Old Men

Fourth of July. Here in America, it’s a time of reflecting back to what life was like when America was first “discovered”, how an entire new world was put together, and how those concepts still apply today to not just use here, but to people all over the world as well.3 Things You Can Learn From 300 Year Old Men

I love reading pretty much any genre I can get my hands on. At any given time I’ll have a half dozen books or so started and in some location in my home. And occasionally I’ll pick up a biography – I love learning from people that have failed miserably and achieved high levels of success because of it. Who better to learn from?

Today I thought I’d reflect back on a few things our founding fathers did, and how their concepts still ring true today. You can definitely learn a lot just be “seeing” how they handled their own situations at very different times.

George Washington

George Washington owned one of the largest plantations in the nation. He produced wheat, rye and barley. While he was doing very well with his commodities business, being a good business owner, he was always on the lookout for other opportunities. He decided to capitalize on his resources by furthering his potential with his grain stock. He tasked his slaves to build him a stone mill to produce flour to sell throughout Europe and the West Indies. With that task in process, he began to worry that his slaves were too lazy – a common worry back then. So he soon tasked his slave managers to build a distillery right next to the mill – a perfect way to keep an eye on the mill next door. This distillery opened as the largest in the US, and produced more than 1,000 gallons of whiskey.

Take Away For Photogs:

George Washington was always looking for opportunity. When something worked well within his “empire”, he looked for ways to capitalize on it. As photographers, we need to do the same thing. Instead of looking at all the potential you have, focus in on one thing. Then do it well – better than anyone else. Find a way to capitalize on it as much as you can. Once that is running efficiently, determine what you can start or create to take your business to a whole new level. A wedding photographer may be making six figure a year, and be very efficient in their business model. Then they decide to start a wedding album app business to display albums on tablets – an idea they can sell to wedding photographers all over the world.

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin was a spirited man, always finding a friend that would believe in his idea. At the age of 21, he had an idea to build a newspaper. So he purchased on in Philadelphia and hired apprentices to begin printing a variety of articles and funny stories about the community. He also turned towards the local businesses, and began offering a variety of things for them as well, including brochures for their own marketing purposes, and classified ads and advertisements within his newspaper. He became very wealthy and retired at age 42, all because he worked together with everyone in his community.

Take Away For Photogs:

Small business works the same way today. Go it alone and it will be a hard, long road. Work with those around you and you’ll quickly shine in your community. One of the greatest things today is your community can be anywhere in the world, thanks to the Internet. You can join forums, social sites and portals, becoming an expert on whatever subject you choose. You can work with businesses in your local community and put on local events for your friends and neighbors. The sky is the limit – if you aren’t reaching out to other business owners and developing events together, you’re missing out on one of the biggest marketing “secrets” ever.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was like many of the founding fathers, and owned a successful plantation. In order to make it more profitable, he started a nailery, which broke down pieces of iron and turned them into small nails. Nails were hard to come by in those days, so his little packets of nails were very popular. Because he saw opportunity, he invested in a nail making machine, which helped him increase his volume. He operated it until his death.

Take Away For Photogs:

Within your business, there are things that will rise to the top and become more popular. Look for these things; then look for ways to increase the efficiency. Can you hire others to take on part of the responsibility? Can you find ways to bring it to a new market?

30 Questions You Should Ask About Being A Photographer Now

When you have a job, you don’t think much about it. You go to work, put in your time, do what you have to do, and go home and forget all about it.

Things are different when you own a business. You no longer can leave work at work; it follows you 24/7. You think about the client you have to call when you’re making dinner. You wake up with a new marketing idea at 3am.

But sometimes along the way you begin treating it as a job. Clients aren’t coming in as much as they used to. The talk on the Internet is buzzing about the changing industry. Is there really a future in photography?

And so you wind up doing the “job” while thinking about a million other things. Sometimes it takes a moment to step back into photography and really think about what it means to you and how you can move forward.

Take a look at these questions. Spend some time thinking about your answers. And then spend some time reevaluating why you are a photographer right now.

30 Questions You Should Ask About Being A Photographer Now

1.    How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

2.    What are you doing at your age and is it different from what you could be doing?

3.    Which is worse, failing or never trying?

4.    What would you try if you didn’t have to explain it to family and friends?

5.    What’s the best part of your day?

6.    If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

7.    If you could go forward in time 10 years, what would you want to see for yourself?

8.    Do you believe in what you’re doing, or are you settling for what you’re doing?

9.    What is one thing you do differently than everyone else around you?

10.    If you had to completely change one thing about your life, what would it be?

11.    Has your greatest fear ever come true?

12.    What customer are you most grateful for?

13.    How do you reach out and touch the ones that mean the most to you?

14.    What if you listened twice as much as you spoke, what would you learn?

15.    Do you sometimes feel like you’ve lived this day one hundred times before?

16.    What works and what doesn’t?

17.    When was the last time you asked questions?

18.    If you learn from your mistakes, how many mistakes have you made this year?

19.    What does risk truly mean to you?

20.    Can you change your definition of risk to achieve more?

21.    If you knew you had five years to live, what would you change right now?

22.    How would you like other people to describe you as a photographer? How do they describe you?

23.    What do you love? Are you doing things right now that express that love?

24.    What is the difference between being alive and truly living?

25.    What would make you happy? Do you always have to achieve something or can you get to happiness today?

26.    What value are you giving those around you?

27.    Who do you most admire? Why?

28.    How can you be a mentor to others?

29.    What will it take to achieve everything you’ve always dreamed about?

30.    How do you see the photographic industry in 5 years and how will you be in it?

How To Avoid Creepy Crawly People That Try To Bring You Down

I don’t get a whole lot of negative email. But occasionally one slips into my inbox.

I got an email from someone this week.

“You suck. Your stuff sucks. I can’t believe your online and in business.”

Okay, that’s not exactly what it says – but you get the point. (It had a lot of negativity and a lot more *$@% in it then I care to write here.)How To Avoid Creepy Crawly People That Try To Bring You Down

I scanned the comment. Then I looked at the email address. And that’s when I started laughing.

The email address was from a generic account (ie gmail, yahoo, etc) – but in front of the @ was a saying that made the whole thing ironic.

It seems when they created their email account, they felt they were a very ethical, kind, and happy person. Could someone like that really write the message I just read?

Delete. Not worth another thought.

Yet that’s when it hit me that this could be a valuable post.

You see I’ve been online long enough now to be called every name in the book. I’ve had some of the worst comments in the world posted to pretty much every account I have. And when I received the first one, it stung more than you can imagine.

I questioned who I was, what I was doing, and a whole lot more.

Gradually I pulled myself back up and moved forward.

Number two was easier. Number three was even easier.

You see, if you’re going to subject yourself to the online world, negativity comes along with it.

When people are comfy, cozy in their homes or offices and don’t have to see the deprecations of their actions, they can sling mud all day long. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe things aren’t going right in their world. Why not share a little of their misery with everyone else too.

Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories. Maybe you’re worried about the same thing happening to you. Guess what? It’s unavoidable. If you’re online, it will happen to you.

  • Someone will tell you your photography is crap.
  • Someone will tell you that you suck.
  • Someone will rip you apart in language you’ll hopefully never hear in person.
  • Yes – you will be bullied. In an extreme way.

And the more successful you become, the more likely you will have these comments posed directly to you.

How do you handle it?

Realize you shouldn’t take it personally. Yes, their goal is to tear you down. But only you can allow them to do it. In the online world, your best friend is your delete key. If you don’t like something – delete. And move on.

Do they continue? If someone sends you one rude message, delete and be done. If they send you something again and again, ignore and block. Whether in your email, your blog or your Facebook account, there are features in place that allows you to block contact with certain addresses. Do what ever you can to get them out of your life. If you don’t respond, over time they should lose interest.

Never, never respond angrily. In some cases, a message can really hit home. Maybe it sets off your anger. Or it makes you very emotional. Step away from the computer/phone/tablet. Put it down and go for a walk. Yell about it. Scream about it. Cry about it. But never respond. If you respond, you’ll say something you regret. And it could elevate beyond anything you can imagine. (Amy’s Baking Company recently found out the hard way in the past few weeks.)

Focus in on the positive. Every day I hear from people that have nothing but positive stories to share with me. Like this one.

Thank You! Your advice was such a gift of peace for me.  I wasn’t quite sure where or how to start.  Thanks for taking the time to listen and help a total stranger!

Your best clients love you and what you do. And when they tell you, put it in a file to go back to when you’re having your hard days. It will be a constant reminder that you’re on the right track, doing exactly what you are meant to do.

What You Should Really Do With Your Photography Competition

You’ve decided to set up shop as a high school senior portrait photographer. And you think you have a chance of becoming pretty good at it. You love photographing, and you’ve photographed a variety of friends and family in the past. So you put together your business marketing tool set and start on your way.

Then you start looking at the marketplace. Dozens of photographers are in your area, marketing themselves as senior portrait photographers. The local high school’s latest newspaper has 15 ads for photographers in the 10 small pages of news.

Ugh. Do you really stand a chance?

How do you fight all of this competition?

You may be making one fatal mistake if this sounds like you. You may be thinking of other photographers as competition.

What You Should Really Do With Your Photography Competition

Why Photographers Aren’t Your Competition

Let me tell you a story of a group of wedding photographers.

A number of years ago, we ran into a nice couple at a local wedding expo. We had booths next to one another, and we chatted throughout the daylong event. We even agreed to have dinner together after the expo, and spent another few hours talking. We hit it off immediately, and decided these “dinner talks” were something we wanted to do again and again.

We decided to meet a couple of weeks later, and had another friend in the business we asked along. So the three of us had dinner, boosted up our concepts for our businesses over a few hours of chatting, and agreed to meet again the next month for another round of business, wine and friends. [Read more...]

3 Habits Of Highly Unsuccessful Photographers

Plenty is written on successful companies and how you do things the right way. But I find it equally helpful to go in the opposite direction once in a while and discover things that businesses do wrong. You know, the things that really hold people back and prevent them from creating a sustainable, successful photography studio.

By understanding what factors some people have that limit success, you can begin to generate new ideas and ultimately find a better way of doing things.  If you look at failing or even businesses that have failed in the last few months, most of them would cite reasons that would fall under one of these key inhibitors.

1. They believe their current circumstances are unchangeable – they must accept them no matter what.

2. They reorganize so much they never establish a true clientele.

3. They do not test and evaluate to determine when its time to change.

Unchangeable Circumstances

Opportunities exist in every circumstance. Yet for many people, they get caught in the rut of what’s happening in the world around them and forget they can change and manipulate things any way they choose.

Now is the perfect time to find “old time” photographers who fall into this category. Talk to them for two minutes and you’ll start to see the patterns. They’ll say things like “things are rough and nobody wants photography any more” or “everyone wants a CD with digital files for virtually no money at all”. They look at the world as if they are living in the past. They’ve always made a great living in the “old” way and they simply can’t find a way to turn it around and continue to make a great living in today’s world. [Read more...]

3 Things To Give Up Right Now

Have you ever done this?

You decide to do something for your business. You’re not really into it. But everyone tells you it’s the best thing to do for your business. Or maybe you’ve done it in the past with some success, so you decide to give it a try again. Yet when you follow through, you absolutely hated it. You hated doing it. You had zero results. And you ask yourself why you wasted your time?

Let me give you an example. We’re what you might call networking experts. We’ve “networked” with probably every group in Denver (at least it feels like it). We know what works and what doesn’t. We were invited to a “summer bash” networking event. I’ve been there in the past – several years ago – and know it’s a huge function. So we decided to go. Here are the results:

  • 4 hours of time
  • $25 registration fee
  • $5 parking fee
  • zero new clients

Yes, I’ve written before that networking is not about getting new clients – its about connections. And I still agree with that assessment of networking.

Dig Deeper: What Not To Do At A Networking Event

Dig Deeper: If You Are Selling A Photograph, Tell Me You Are Selling A Photograph

But this event was different this year. Here’s what happened. [Read more...]

5 Ways To Find The Perfect Photography Help … And You Don’t Have To Hire Them

Once your business really starts moving forward, you’ll end up with more work than you can handle in a normal work day. At that point, you have one of two choices. Work more hours or find some help.

Most solo business owners start out by choosing the first way. After all, what’s an extra hour? But as 8 turn into 10, and 10 turns into 12, you’ll quickly start questioning if there is more to life than work.

A much as we try to conquer the world on our own, its easy to start wishing for something more. Wouldn’t it be nice to have help that was easy to train, would accomplish anything you wished for easily and without a lot of hand holding, and allow us to have the time to do what we do best?

Employees can be difficult. Which is why so many of us avoid them until it’s a true necessity. Yet the work is still there and needs to be done. Luckily, we have options today. Instead of hiring an employee, invest in a virtual assistant.

If you have never worked with a virtual assistant (VA) before, consider hiring one to help you do more with your time – and allow you the time you need to enjoy your personal life as well. Here are some tips to start you on your way.

Start by assessing your needs

Its hard taking that first step. What do you need help with? Where should you ask for help? Before you start looking at VA’s, assess your needs first. Develop a to-do list of what needs you have, what you are willing to release or delegate to your VA, and where they can most help you.

A VA can assist with anything that is easy to teach someone else to do. Research tasks, data entry, developing systems, creating newsletters, contacting clients and helping with customer service tasks, and helping you with travel and scheduling needs are just a few of the things they can help you accomplish.

Once you create your list, estimate how much time they will need each month. VA’s can help you with one time tasks, or can be hired on a regular basis throughout the month. When you figure out what needs to be done, you can begin your search.

Find a VA

Finding a VA is fairly easy. It is a growing industry, and there are many different resources, both in your local community and in the online world.

Start by networking at local clubs and organizations. Ask around; you’re sure to find referrals for people right in your own community. You can post free ads on sites like Craigslist, search freelance sites like Elance, use VA search sites like AssistU, or check out organizations like Virtual Assistant Chamber of Commerce.

Qualify The VA

Before you decide on a VA, make sure they are qualified to do the job you want them to do. VA’s come with a lot of different skills. And while it is possible to hire multiple VA’s for separate duties, hiring one to cover all of your original goals will be easier the first time around. [Read more...]

10 Ways To Minimize Doing Dumb Things That Could Cost You Your Business

Whenever you hear or read the news and you find a company doing something really dumb – getting caught by the IRS for not paying taxes, throwing outrageous parties, building an illegal pyramid scheme, paying bonuses with money they don’t have, or selling really lousy products as fast as possible to make money and get out before they are caught, it makes you wonder. Why would they do it? Isn’t it just as easy making money in a great way as it is making it in a dumb way?

Probably the best way to answer those questions is to say every one of those companies is being run by a smart person. Yet every single day, smart people do dumb things. Its easy to get caught up in it all, and before you know it, you’re caught in a trap that can literally shut your business down, no matter how big or small it was at the time.

No matter what stage of business you are at, here is a way to minimize doing dumb things.

1. Always look for someone employees, advisers or consultants that are ready, willing and able to make you think about the other side. As a small business owner – a solo business owner – its easy to get completely caught up in your own ideas. Even if they are bad and don’t stand a chance of helping you build your business. Look for someone that can argue other points with you and make sure you are proceeding in the right direction.

2. Don’t jump at another’s ideas. Just because someone sees things a different way and has a strong support for his or her idea doesn’t make them right – anymore than it makes you right. Stop, take a step back, and look at the situation logically. If you need to, talk with others about the idea before you make a rash decision. Focus groups work great and can help you look at your ideas through the eyes of your clients.

3. Spell things out. If you tell your accountant you want to pay as little tax as possible, don’t assume he will do it in a legal way. Research the people around you and watch what they do. In some cases, it may be best to tell them “I want to pay as little tax as possible in a legal way.” Don’t assume; assuming can get you into trouble.

4. Never rely on one expert to run your whole business. If experts create your roadmap, its no longer your business. Instead, use them to supplement your ideas and help you understand how to put your own actions into play as fast and as effectively as possible. [Read more...]

Why My Tips Will Never Work For Your Photography Business

Every single day you have access to millions of articles, publications, secrets to success manuals, videos, courses and guides.

You can read solid advice from the moment you get up in the morning until the moment you go to bed.

You can talk with a mentor, study with an adviser, and listen to your favorite guru every moment of the day.

Yet when you take all of this and try and put it into your own business life, one thing holds true: it may or may not work for you.

What?

That probably sounds like the most wishy-washy statement you’ve ever heard. How can you take advice from a zillion different sources, put it all into good use for your business, and not know if it will work for you? It should – its great advice right? [Read more...]

10 Steps To Becoming A Better Photographer

When you read the title of this post, what was your first thought?

Did you think “better photographer” meant learning how to use your camera more effectively?

Did you think “better photographer” meant taking better photographs?

Did you think “better photographer” meant building a stronger, more successful business?

In reality, it can mean all of this and more. Photography has so many facets; each one you delve into can take years to learn and perfect.

Yet if you had to sum it up in 10 steps, what would they be? As I thought more about it and looked back over the past 20 years I’ve been a photographer, I realized I didn’t just look at it from a “taking pictures” angle. To me, being a better photographer also means building the business. And since that is the purpose of this blog, I thought I would divide it into 10 steps.

Know Your Subject

What is your area of expertise? What do you want to photograph from this point forward? People will photograph differently than landscapes. Models will photograph differently than a product or still life. Yet they all have their own unique qualities and can be made to look average … or the best they’ve ever looked. Whatever your choice of photography niche, study it and understand how to make your images that absolute best they can be.

Understand Composition

When you pick up the camera, do you know exactly what to look for, how to frame it, and how it will look as a final image? Do you see it in your mind before you ever snap the image? Or do you approach it from the “spray and pray” methodology, knowing you’ll have at least one good look somewhere in there? Composition is everything in the world of photograph, even though its seemed to lose some of its true value in the digital world. Yet if you can “see” it first and shoot it second, I guarantee you’ll have a much better image … and a much better portfolio over all.

Dig Deeper: Your Television Could Be Ruining Your Photographs Composition (The Rule Of Thirds) [Read more...]