As an Adobe Community Professional, A.J. has been an enthusiastic representative in the creative community for several years. It’s not surprising he’s been ranked the #1 Adobe Instructor WORLDWIDE more than once. Students enjoy his straightforward teaching style, and the ability to communicate ideas in the simplest of terms. An active NAPP Evangelist, A.J. posts Adobe tutorial videos each week on YouTube. Follow A.J. on Twitter, post your questions to his Facebook page, and catch the latest insights on his blog.
Catchy huh? Yeah, I’m not once to mince words although, I generally like to spin a tale or two. It’s my pleasure to join you today, and I appreciate the invitation Seshu extended to me quite some time ago. He is a gracious & patient host, and I hope my thoughts leave you wanting… Wanting more like Charlie Sheen’s 2nd performance in Chicago, not wanting to leave like the angry mob that caught him in Detroit. Where was I?
Oh yes, harnessing your talent, your desire, that passion which many of us find in photography. It’s rather difficult to focus on that passion when you’re bogged down with the day-to-day running your photography business isn’t it? There’s the marketing, the office paperwork, the website, dealing with clients, to Facebook or Twitter, the list goes on, and yet many of today’s photographers seemingly do it all. Maybe you’re just starting out, and you haven’t thought about your business plan or the logistics of making money from photography. Perhaps you’re a seasoned pro, and you’re wondering how you’ll stay on top of all the changing technology, and the wolves scratching at your door. It’s a wonder you get to take any pictures at all. That’s okay, I’m here to tell you:
To discover your talents you have to recognize & acknowledge when you suck.
It’s a common philosophy I share with my students, and many interpret it as a direct statement about their passion. Like Simon Cowell, I’m somehow there to obliterate their dreams. Let me clarify the statement with some editorial tweaks:
To maximize your talents you have to recognize & acknowledge where you suck.
I know plenty of folks who at some point were caught in company downsizing, and ended up being one of the lucky ones who had more job responsibility for the same or less pay. Oddly enough, I see the same types of folks launch their businesses with DIY zeal only to suffer from burnout or stagnant growth after a year. Yes, you have grand ambitions, some talents, maybe a kickass plan or two, but you’re just one person. What you need are minions … I mean a support group … umm … network –- You need to develop your network. Just like that lone crusader Batman had a sidekick, and spent some time with other superheroes in the Justice League of America. (Wait … what do you mean a comic book reference kills my credibility?) Focus–a network.
Leverage your strengths, outsource your weaknesses.
When I talk to photographers about networking events many of them mention social mixers based around getting clients or connecting with peers. Generating leads is a must, and mentoring other photographers or finding a mentor is a wonderful thing. However, those connections do not address the immediate issues of office management, marketing or managing your website. I highly recommend finding those people at the networking events they attend. Where do you start? Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place. Another good place is Meetup.com. Any hobby, popular fad or obscure interest can be found listed at Meetup.com. The best part is meetup groups are specifically designed to get people together live and in-person. Now I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a good way to generate client leads!” Point to you dear reader, that’s a takeaway bonus for hangin’ out with me this long.
But let’s stay focused. I don’t want you networking without purpose. What you should be doing is building your network. Your team of professionals. The people that you can call to handle the portions of your business that are really best suited to be handled by someone other than you. If you suck at website design, then by all means hire someone to do your website. And if you’re great at website design, why in the world are you spending your time as a photographer? My point is by building your network, you can focus your energy at the really important tasks. My good friend Glyn Dewis is a fine example. He had a hand in building his first website, and it wasn’t bad. It got the job done. See for yourself. However, Glyn’s passion for photography literally oozes into everything else he does, so a good website wasn’t good enough. Now he probably could have spent the man-hours himself building & retooling his website, but he found someone better suited to the task. Scott Kublin is another fine example. You don’t know Scott? He enjoys HDR photography. He’s friends with another HDR guy–Trey Ratcliff. *heart pounding from sheer awesomeness* You can read the backstory on Scott’s About Me page, but the summary is Scott wanted to learn HDR and Trey needed some top-notch SEO for his website.
Leverage your strengths, outsource your weaknesses.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this post. As a fellow-overachiever-one-man-band-DIY-caffeine-infused-control-freak, I know it’s tough sharing some of the parental responsibility for your growing business. However, it’s the best way to ensure your business does grow. I want to thank my partner in creative shenanigans, J Schuh for illustrating my thoughts in the opening cartoon. Feel free to buy a t-shirt if we’ve tickled your funny bone. Oh, and where are my manners?
Here’s a quickie Photoshop tutorial for you:
Scott Webb says
Key for me is to do the things you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy making your website, find someone else. Even if you enjoy it but it’s not getting to a high level, find someone else. The problem with some of this is that many people don’t think they suck anywhere. That’s an overgeneralization but people tend to not realize something is in rough shape.
I know local photographers that probably think they are kicking butt when it comes to SEO but their entire site is keyword stuffed and the title is about 40 lines long if you add their RSS into a google homepage. It’s terrible and it’s unprofessional. They sit high in search at the moment because they’ve been around for a long time and are busy. Clearly google doesn’t penalize them much at all yet. But I am certain there are some of us that will emerge over them soon.
I wish more people would own up to where they lack ability. I am happy that my wife is helping me in certain aspects of my photography because it’s where I fall down. I enjoy design, web design, and graphic design on top of photography. I enjoy learning SEO and more slowly and over time.
If you have some cashflow coming in the door, look outside yourself because I believe it will help you grow even faster and stronger.
I’m currently looking for a web developer to help me with some ideas. I can’t bother to learn node.js or working with new api libraries. I need help there. I also need cashflow. That’s the trouble. So in the mean time I continue to slowly dabble and learn. I think it’s smart to have a rough idea of anything you’re looking to get service on so that you’re not totally out of the loop.