Who has your back?

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320]
If you are a freelancer or a business owner you might be like me and wake up in the middle of the night sweating from anxiety of how will I pay my bills this month. There is nothing on the books for a while and you wonder will the phone ring again or will you get an email.

Matthew 6:25-34

Worry
25 I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?

27 Can worry make you live longer?[a] 28 Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. 29 But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth[b] wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. 30 God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith?

31 Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” 32 Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. 33 But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.

34 Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.

So I know that scripture and still I wake up in a cold sweat. My main concern is how to get a paying job from a client or potential client. This is the core issue.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/200]
One of the best things about being young was not having these worries. My parents carried those worries for me. I went out and played with my friends.

I think the key to solving the “cold sweats” at night are the same keys to building strong friendships.

One of the coolest things I can remember growing up was when someone knocked on the door and wanted to play with me. Today I still enjoy it when a friend calls me up and asks me to play golf with them.

This feeling of euphoria is one of the most powerful emotions.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80]
What was even better than just having a friend knock on my door was the invitation to do something that they had already made plans. Do you want to go bowling? Some of the best memories are when I had a friend who was creating an experience for me and asked me to join them.

One way to have your “cold sweat” disappear is the client to call with a project. That solves my problem right away. This does happen, but what I have found that solves this problem more than receiving a request is to be just like that friend of mine knocking on the door asking me if I wanted to go out on the lake in their boat for skiing.

You see, most all of your clients also have those “cold sweats” of some sort. They need ideas as well.

Solve your clients problem and you will solve your own

What is your client’s problem? This takes a lot of time to figure out. Steve Jobs solved problems for the world. One of the first problems he solved was a way to carry around a lot of music and help musicians sell their music through the iPod and iTunes.

Another problem Steve Jobs solved was needing a computer with you all the time to be able to solve problems at a moments notice. The iPhone allowed you to search the web right in the palm of your hand.

[Nikon D2X, 20-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 4100, ƒ/2.8, 1/80]
You need to put your clients first and success will find you. Once you have clients it is much easier to get to know them and learn what their needs are than if they are prospects.

If you do a great job of providing a solution to their problems that you can provide then you are on the way to a profitable career.

Not every solution should involve you. If you are truly concerned for a client there are times that you just will give your client a solution that doesn’t involve you directly.  When you do this on a regular basis rather than just one time you will be communicating that you are really looking out for their best interests over your own.

By not always coming to a client with solutions that only you can fulfill but others are better at meeting those needs you become the fixer for them. They will be more likely to listen to you more than if the only time you are coming to them you are the solution.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/640]
When you are the person calling your clients with ideas for their problems, you are just like the friend knocking on their door asking them to come and join you on an adventure.

What do I charge and how do I word something with a client?

This is the most useful software package I own for my business. While I have Adobe Creative Cloud Suite which I use Lightroom, PhotoShop and Premier Pro regularly, it is fotoBiz X that runs the business side of my work. Here is a link to the software. I am a affiliate of their program. This is an affiliate link which means that I receive a commission from any purchases made using the affiliate link. This is at no additional cost to you.


Now for years I knew about the software, but I didn’t use it. I couldn’t figure out the advantages of the software.

Now many years later I regret having not purchased this earlier. Experience started to teach me that I needed help.

When you first open the program you should go to setup and put in your information and if you have a logo put that in as well.

They show you examples of what it will look like on a #10 envelop or on a invoice.

One thing you will need early on is a model release.

Under “Forms and Releases” you will find five difference templates. There is one for:

Adult Model Release
Minor Model Release
Photographer’s Portfolio Release
Property Release
Simplified Adult Release

It will drop your name or company name into the form and then you can just print it out.

Another problem I was always running into was how do you word your cover letters, late payment letters and even a copyright violation letter? Well the software comes with a lot of email templates that you can use and modify for your correspondence uses.

A question I often had early on and continue today having is what to charge for certain uses. The fotoBiz comes with fotoQuote which will help you with knowing what you should charge not only for a stock use, but also in assignment work. Here is a link to just buy fotoQuote.


fotoQuote was just updated to version 7. This includes social media use now in the latest version.

It has also video and all the possible ways you might want to use it. Now while you may not always get the prices they recommend, these are the prices many are getting in the industry.

By having this information of prices you now have a better idea of the range of a job and what you can quote. I have learned that fotoQuote has helped me more than anything in getting a better idea of a low medium and high price for a job. I just give clients three prices most of the time.

The low, medium and high price quote is based on uses that the client can get as well as how long they may use the images. Without fotoQuote I really didn’t have any idea on how to offer three different prices.

fotoBiz also helps you with creating estimates which then can easily be transformed into the invoice with just a click. You can always just create the invoice as well.

When you sell a stock image the software lets you embed a thumbnail into the invoice with all the information about the sale. It will ask if you want a reminder on your calendar when the usage is up. This way you can then write a letter not to remind the people time is up, but to write a letter asking if they want to extend it with estimates for extending the usage.

You can download the demo and try it for 14 days free of charge. fotoBiz is just $299. This is not a subscription based software. You own it and can use it forever.

I can tell you that this is a software that will help empower the freelancer to know what to charge and help you communicate with your prospects and clients in putting together estimates, invoices and even email correspondence.

FotoBiz® has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so what do you have to lose?

Here is a video showing you how it works.

 

Learn to say “YES”

This is Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/80]
For the past ten years or so Mark Johnson has invited me to speak to his advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA on business practices.

One of the tips I always share with the class is Learn To Say YES.

I learned about how to say yes from my friend Tony Messano who is a creative director as well as voice over talent. This one tip had a major impact on my life in so many ways.

Tony was not advocating becoming a “Yes Man” where you are agreeing to “anything” regardless of how crazy or stupid – and sometimes illegal – it is. You still will say no to things that ethically you disagree with doing.

Patrick Murphy-Racey keeps things positive for his clients by solving their problems rather than becoming a problem. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160]
Tony was advocating that we turn ourselves into problem solvers for our clients and bosses, rather than becoming a problem.

The way this whole topic came up in the first place with Tony was over me trying to deal with clients that kept on saying since you are here can you do _______. Tony helped me to see how to take this request and not only meet the request but make more money.

I learned how to price for the project and then when this type of request came up I could say “Yes”. Yes I can make that happen, however since this wasn’t part of the proposal and is outside the scope of it I just need to charge XYZ for the additional work.

The way I had been handling these requests or similar variations for my whole life up to then was responding with a “NO”.

What Tony helped me to understand was that when I was saying no I wasn’t really helping the client at all. If they still needed it done then they would find someone who could make it happen and often then I would no longer be used for future projects.

Why do I want to say no?

Before I could say yes I learned I needed to know why I wanted to say no.

When I was in a staff job I often said no because I didn’t have time with all the other things on my plate. As a freelancer I was saying no because they were asking for more without offering more pay.

Had I learned this tip earlier in my career I would have become a more valuable team member. When someone would ask me to do something I would now be saying how I really want to help them. I would be saying YES–IF.

Yes I can make that happen for you if you can tell me which of these other projects I can delay or not do to be able to take on this extra work.

As a freelancer I am saying YES–IF you decide what on the list we were shooting comes off because I don’t have time to do all you have or I might be saying yes if you agree to the extra XYZ cost.

On the far right at the computer is Akili Ramsess, executive director for NPPA, who is reviewing the work on a student at the Southwestern Photojournalism Student Workshop. What I like here is not just that Akili is helping and the student is engaged, but it reminds me that others are watching us help.

Let the client say NO

Tony said my goal is to say yes as much as I can and to be sure the client is the one saying no and not me.

As the freelancer the client asks me to do something and my response is I would love to help you. The additional cost to make this happen is XYZ. Just sign right here to the changes on the contract and I will make it happen.

The client will then respond by great or no we cannot afford to do that. If they really have to have this done then you are not the reason it gets done, they don’t have the resources to make it happen or maybe the request then no longer important.

As a staff person I am not asking for more money. I am basically taking the burden of what is on my plate and the difficulties to make it happen back onto their plate.

My boss asks me to take photos of their event and in the past I would have said no I am already booked. I now say I am already covering another event at the same time. I am more than willing to cover this event if you need me to. Which event do you want me to cover and would you like me to get another photographer to cover the event I cannot cover?

Seeing this photo of my daughter with Bell from Beauty and the Beast reminds me of how the Beast had to change and learn to love. The latest movie really gives us the back story of how self centered the man was and why he was turned into a Beast. He said no to the old lady rather than helping her.

Saying No makes you a problem–Saying Yes Makes you a problem solver.

Every time you say no the person requesting your help will now have to find someone else. Had you said yes their problem is solved.

Today when I get a request for something and I am already booked, I always offer to find someone for them. One of the best ways to keep those clients coming back is to handle the booking of the photographer and have the photographer work as a subcontractor for you. This way they show up shoot the project and you handle the billing. This way they continue to come back to you.


Another tip I share with the students is about how to network. I tell them to act like a freshman and not a senior. Here is a previous blog post that I did explaining this tip for you.


 

A side note about speaking to the class is I get to spend time with Mark Johnson. Every time I go I have lunch with Mark and each time I learn so much.

This time I listened and watched how Mark works really hard to present content to the students in a positive manner. He doesn’t speak down to the students. He challenges them in a way that he is also communicating that he know they are able to do whatever he is asking of them.

It is a joy to visit UGA and spend time with the students and Mark.

Freelancer’s Anxiety–Using Faith to Cope

A little girl lost in her thoughts while in her families corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]
There are a few things that produce such anxiety in my life that physically affect me. Going to the dentist for more than a cleaning produces high anxiety in my life.

My blood pressure rises and my heart rate increases.

This anxiety response isn’t limited to my fear of a dental procedure. My friend Brad Moore posted this just the other day on FaceBook:

The responses Brad received let him know not only did we all suffer from this, some people gave them their solutions on how they have learned to deal with worrying.

This young teenager’s expression seems to convey some anxiety. I photographed him in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/250]
When I was studying social work we had to be trained in how to help people with their worries and anxiety. We learned to unpack those thoughts creating an anxiety. Worrying about something can help motivate you to do something whereas anxiety can shut you down.

Let me talk a little more about Anxiety and then get back to worrying.

During this training I learned about two types of anxiety producing thoughts. There are first those things that we have control over and then there are those things we have no control over.

When you let those things you have no control over take control of your thoughts they can freeze you and send you into anxiety produced depression. If you find you have no desire to be motivated then you need to see a clinical counselor like a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.

You could be in this situation not due to how you are thinking but because your genetics and the way your body chemistry is setup. You can be very depressed just because your chemicals in your body are out of balance. There is medication that under medical supervision that can bring you out of that deep depression.

Learning that I need to categorize something as in my control or out of my control helped me more than anything else I learned in the lesson. Once I could determine something is out of my control I knew that no matter how long we ponder it we are not going to do anything but waste our time.

However, there are things we can do for some things that cause us to worry.

One of my lighting cases. This one is for my Alienbees B1600s with vagabond power packs to let me shoot anywhere with our without power.

One of the ways I addressed my worries was to create separate cases for my lighting gear needs. I have a case for video LED lights, another case with my Speedlights, stands and umbrellas and then this one pictured here for when I need a lot of power and might not have power available.

I still have two other cases which allow me to bring larger number of lights for those big jobs.

Interior of my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag fully packed.

Worrying about my gear isn’t the only anxiety freelancers deal with on a regular basis.

Remember there are things out of your control and these are the things that often still keep me up at night.

When these thoughts start affecting our bodies like my time in the dentist chair this can be anxiety producing, which can be debilitating. Anxiety is more like a hamster wheel that spins us around but doesn’t lead us to productive solutions.

Worry and Anxiety come with living

My personal experience has taught me that I will never get rid of worrying and anxiety. Even these tips are not enough. Life can be just overwhelming at times.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–– Matthew 6:34

I turn to my faith as my way of navigating these times of stress. While scripture tells us not to worry it also has the Lamentations.

A Lament in The Book of Lamentations or in the Psalms may be looked at as a cry of need in a context of crisis. Another way of looking at it is all the more basic: laments simply being “appeals for divine help in distress”.

These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, description of the suffering/anguish which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one’s enemies, an expression of the belief of ones innocence or a confession of the lack thereof, a vow corresponding to an expected divine response, and lastly, a song of thanksgiving.

I struggled with fear and worry for years. But through time, I began to find that the things that once would have sent me down an anxious spiral, no longer had the same effect. It didn’t happen quickly, but over days, months, years.

I read words – of life – of truth. Soaking them in, over and over, praying them out loud. Until they became so familiar, they replaced the other things in my mind that I’d battled against. There’s nothing magical about words and verses, but there is power through them.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200]

“My God, My God, Why?” –Psalms 22:1

I see the laments as a time where we complain to God about something that just isn’t right in our eyes. We then go on and make a request from God.

What I want to emphasize here is that the writers of all the laments then go to the next step in their lament where they give an expression of trust. This often is in the form of God in the past you did this. I know from my experience you do intervene. It is the remembrance of how God has taken care of them in the past and they are asking for his deliverance from what they are suffering from now.

A Biblical lament, then, is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, good, and just. It’s a cry that expects an answer from God, and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair.

What happens when I pray a lament?

I have had many sinus infections through my life and this painful disgusting condition is how I feel before I pray. While not always immediate is the response, I do know that the answer to my prayer is like being able to breath again.

The anxiety that froze me and kept me paralyzed is gone. I now am in a state of worry with hope. I am then able to think about what can I do that I do have control over.

So on those nights I cannot sleep because I wonder where my next check will come from, I am able to get out of bed and start writing emails. These emails maybe pitching ideas to clients and potential customers or something else that I haven’t done before.

Once I have written those emails I am now able to go to bed and sleep.

I believe it is God who helped me get unstuck and even possibly some ideas.

Summary

Stanley’s Stages of Freelancer’s Anxiety

  1. Feeling of being overwhelmed which leads to anxiety that depresses me
  2. Making list of what I can do and what I have no control over
  3. Take action on what I can do

While these three things sometimes work, more than often this is really what is happening

  1. Anxious thoughts which paralyzes me
  2. Depression due to realizing how much of this is due to my past decisions putting me in this situation. [Beating myself up stage]
  3. Tears begin to flow that I have no way out of this situation.
  4. Brought to my knees in prayer where I am often yelling at God
  5. Slowly I am able to tell God what the problem is about
  6. Asking God to take action
  7. I remember how God has helped me before. This reminds me to trust that God will help me again
  8. While the problem doesn’t go away God has helped me become un-paralyzed.
  9. I am able to think of some things I can do to take action
  10. I realize I have done all that I can think of doing
  11. I am able to relax and have hope. Often because this happens in the night I am able to finally go to sleep.

A little girl jumping rope with her friends inTogo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
I suggest reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible. Here are five ways it can help you.

  1. They help you express our feelings in honest and healthy ways.
  2. They help shape your feelings, helping us interpret them in light of God’s redemptive plan for the entire world.
  3. They teach us more about ourselves by revealing our greatest need and how our minds and hearts influence our lives.
  4. They teach us more about God, his character and activity in us and the world.
  5. They reorient us to the truth of the gospel and how it transforms us from the inside out.

Photographers need to lead an organization of one

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60

Col. Tom Clark, director for Citadel’s Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, spoke last night to the Atlanta Citadel Club. Clark brought his leadership tool bag and the first thing he pulled out of the bag was a hammer.

When he was a cadet at the Citadel this was the tool used by the leadership at that time. The downside of this being your only tool is applying a hammer to every situation doesn’t get the results you are needing.

“Ever tried hammering a screw?”, was a question he asked us.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60

Then he pulled out a screwdriver which had many different tips that could be switched out.

This tool reminds us that we must look at the head of the screw and figure out which of the tips: Flat Head, Philips, Square or something else is needed to fit the head of the screw.

Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/80

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, also has a leadership tool bag he uses when talking to people about leadership. Dan Cathy has a slinky as one of his tools. Dan says:

Just as one end of the Slinky has to be the first to descend a staircase in order to put the whole thing in motion, leaders must be the first to move forward in any endeavor in order to put the rest of the team in unified motion. Just as the Slinky won’t work without one part of it “leading the charge”, any team endeavor we desire to complete—whether as a family, a group of friends, or an entire organization—will not happen unless a leader takes the first step. Let’s remember this the next time we’re on the precipice of a new endeavor, and let’s be leaders who get the whole thing moving.

Nikon D750,  AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Both Col. Tom Clark and Dan Cathy are leaders who teach leadership to people. They realize that these tool bags filled with examples are those “visual” reminders that help people grasp the concepts of good leadership and remind them to put those into practice.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/250

Compass as Ethics Tool

A compass is a relatively simple instrument based on a simple concept. With its northward facing needle, it is a consistent and true indicator of physical direction. By placing “moral” in front of compass, we evoke a clear picture of mental processes that point a person in a particular direction in life. These processes are consistent and true indicators upon which personal belief and action can be based.

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

No system of morality is accepted as universal. For many people they use their faith as the set of doctrines that will be their true north for their morality compass.

Leadership? But it is just me

You may have been passing over all those leadership books because you are just an independent photographer. You don’t even use assistants, so how could this possibly help me?

Glenn Gutek wrote that “Great Leadership Starts With Leading an Organization of One.” These are some great tips. There are two that I think many photographers would benefit from using that I want to highlight:

  1. Control Time–You should be always focused on your top priorities for that moment. When you get up and start your day the first things you do for your business should be the highest priorities. When you finish your day and go home then your priorities should be focused on your family and what is most important. Knowing how to get the most out of your time during the day is great leadership skill.
  2. Temper Emotions–This is the one thing I struggle the most about. The reason it is such a struggle is because I am so passionate about my work. You have to be to get emotionally impactful images. 
Gutek said about tempering emotions, “at times it is critical to practice the discipline of being dispassionate.
Being dispassionate allows a leader to protect the environment from becoming toxic and engaging in the wrong battles. Leaders should fuel their energy by investing in their passions, but keep things from running off the rails by not pouring gas on a volatile situation.”
Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/750

You are playing Chess not Checkers

The greatest thing you will learn in dealing with clients is how different each and every situation there is to one another.
Almost nothing looks more orderly than chess pieces before a match starts. The first move, however, begins a spiral into chaos. After both players move, 400 possible board setups exist. After the second pair of turns, there are 197,742 possible games, and after three moves, 121 million. – Popular Science

James 1:5

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

All these tool bags of leaders have one thing in common–Strategy. Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. 

Does your tool bag have only a hammer? What are you doing to learn about what tools are best to put into your leadership toolkit bag? 

Photographers be like farmers in the Springtime–Prepare the fields

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

This is a time you can drive around your neighborhood and see a major difference in lawn care. This photo shows just the difference between spreading Weed & Feed with watering can make in the appearance of your lawn.

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.

B. C. Forbes

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

A few weeks ago I decided to really tackle the problem with bare spots on my yard. Well actually they are bigger than spots. There is a lot of shade so this will always be an area that needs more work than the sunny sections of the yard.

I went to HomeDepot and bought Powermate 10 in. 43 cc 2-Cycle Gas Cultivator to help turn the soil with the Rebel tall fescue, pelletized limestone, & Vigoro 15m weed & feed.

Just two weeks later and you can see in these photos the results of a much greener yard.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

Now here you can see the areas I didn’t cultivate did not produce as much grass. Some grass seed and fertilizer fell in those areas but the difference was in the turning the soil about 2″ – 3″ that buried the seeds and helped them grow.

With just celebrating Easter at our church I was reminded of the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told.

Matthew 13: 3-9
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Photographer Tips:

You reap what you sow. We have all heard this before, but what can a photographer learn from this? You need to go back to your present clients and reconnect with them. You need to give them more information about you and what new things you are doing. This is like fertilizing your yard.

Now some ground is hard as rock. A farmer uses a tiller to break up ground that has not been farmed or has become extremely hard. A farmer uses a cultivator for loosening the soil in an existing planting area, weeding the area during the growing season and mixing compost into the soil.

You may have to do a lot a leg work and go and really beat the pavement finding those new clients. You may need to have some good examples to leave with them either through your website, e-newsletter, or printed material. You may need to get some friends that work with those potential clients to help introduce you and break the ice for you.

Competition:

Even Jesus knew that your competition will try and sabotage all your good work. He told a parable about it as well. It follows the Parable of the Sower:

Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. 

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

They didn’t have weed & feed in those days. We as photographers may not have the weed control to put out either, but the lesson is clear others will try and attack you at times. Be careful at trying to fix this–you could end up damaging the good seed you did plant.

The message is clear to have a big harvest requires you to work the field. You need to get that tiller and break up the really hard ground. You need to use the cultivator to mix the seed and fertilizer. You will need to then water the field as well if you expect to see a crop that will be worthy of harvesting.

You can’t reap what you do not sow.

The Crisis Threatening Professional Photography

Mark E. Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Photojournalism at University of Georgia, Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/20 [photo by Robin Nelson]

I have been speaking to college photography students for many years. Mark E. Johnson has invited me to speak for the last several years to his students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.  This is Mark talking to the class just before he introduced me.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/12 [photo by Robin Nelson]
GROSSEXPENSES = PROFIT

I talk to the class about Business and Marketing Skills: How to make a living as a photographer. For most of the class I was explaining what are all the expenses the students needed to consider. The problem is getting a realistic understanding of all the money going out. Most people can see what is coming in, but really struggle with the going out to run a healthy business. Remember knowledge is power. That power gives you the ability to ask the right price for the job.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1/10 [photo by Robin Nelson]

Just like the storyline starting with the WHY? is what I was trying to drive home.

The only thing stopping the students in the class from doing what they want to do starting right now is only income to cover their expenses. When I asked them what stands in the way of you doing what you want to do right now, it took a while for them to see money was the obstacle.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/40 [photo by Robin Nelson]

PANIC

There is no other way to describe the face expressions of the students than as Panic stricken.  After I showed them some ballpark number for living expenses and business expenses they were intimidated that they will be having to ask people to pay them a figure that they were uncomfortable with for themselves.

The wakeup was happening in the class. I have to charge WHAT? But they also understood why–to pay all the expenses like their mortgage and car payment for example.

Derek Jeter talked about how 70% of the time he was failing. That is what a 300+ batting average is all about. Failing 7 out of 10 times at bat.

I talked with the students that most successful businesses are usually 90% failure. 9 out of 10 people are not going to buy your product.

Mark Johnson made a very interesting comment in the class. He asked them the last time they went grocery shopping how many things did they buy. He then pointed out how many products were in the store that they didn’t buy.

SUMMARY

The crisis is avoidable. You really need to know all your expenses and then charge enough that your income is greater than your expenses.

In some ways this is like the ice bucket challenge. Being willing to take that ice cold water bath is worth it.

Do you know your expenses?

Business Tips from Truett Cathy for Photographers

Truett Cathy promoting his book “How did you do it, Truett?”

Shortly after making this photo of Truett Cathy I was asked to be on retainer for Chick-fil-A. For the past six years I have had the privilege to work with such a wonderful organization.

I have learned a great deal from Truett Cathy and here are some of those tips for you.

Truett Cathy the founder of Chick-fil-A had a Bible verse he used as a compass for his life.
Proverbs 22:1 — “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches and loving favor than silver and gold.” [King James Version (KJV)]
Here is a more modern translation from The Voice that I prefer, “A good reputation is preferable to riches, and the approval of others is better than precious silver or gold.”
Every time I was around Truett I was inspired and entertained. He loved to have fun as hard as he worked.
Here are some quotes from Truett that I think every business person should adopt and would make them more successful.
“Fall in love with your work and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Truett would follow up this comment with if you are not having fun then you are not doing something right. 
One of the keys to understanding this principle is learning the difference between GIVING and GETTING. 
Too many people are focused on themselves. Its not all about you. Once you understand this it is easier to experience the joy of life.
“My riches are my family and my foster children. I try to store any material wealth in my hand, not my heart, so that I always feel free to give it away when the opportunity rises.” 

Being around Truett you see that he was very frugal and when he did spend money he was often getting a great deal. I heard more stories about a great deal Truett would get and I was always impressed.
“Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else—our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”
No strings attached was the way Truett operated. He was the first to put a restaurant into a mall and to get people aware of his Chick-fil-A sandwich he gave away free samples.
If you met Truett you most likely were give a BOG—Be Our Guest card. All you had to do is go to a Chick-fil-A restaurant and give them the card and they gave you a sandwich. You don’t have to buy anything to get it.
“My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”
Everyday Chick-fil-a is checking to see that their standards for food preparation are at the highest they can be. They hire consultants to come into their restaurants and measure the operational side of the business. They look for ways to improve the experience for the customer and cut waste.
Chick-fil-A has a training program that helps not just train but retrain everyone to keep the customer always first. 
“Many of the unexpected opportunities we encounter are small but significant.”

Words are carefully analyzed so that the customer feels appreciated. Truett Cathy trained the entire workforce that when someone says thank you the proper response is “My Pleasure.” I learned more about this little phrase through the years. 
You see many people respond with “No Problem” when they are thanked. I was taught that “No Problem” communicates that this is not my job but I did it anyway. However, the phrase “My Pleasure” communicates that it is my job and I love to help you.
“Looking back I can see that I had been preparing for twenty-one years to open the first Chick-fil-A restaurant.”
Truett started the Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA back in 1946. He expanded to two restaurants, but one day the second one burned down. He started the restaurant with his brother Ben, but two years into their business Ben died in a plane crash.
Later the original Dwarf House had a fire and over the weekend Truett made all the repairs and kept on going.
“Sometimes success is disguised as hard work.”
As you can see there were many opportunities for Truett to give up and do something else.
Many of my photographer colleagues are going through some tough times. Other than winning the lottery the only other way for success is hard work.
“One of the most meaningful truisms I have learned about leadership is that it’s all about action.”
I have talked to many photographers who are struggling and the most common thing I hear from them is I know what I should do, I just don’t get around to doing it.

Truett learned his work ethic from his mother. Truett was moved to tears during an interview. The person interviewing Truett asked if he was OK. Truett said he just realized that the only time he ever saw his mother’s eyes closed was when she was in the coffin.

While Truett worked very hard he also will most likely be remembered for the blue signs for Chick-fil-A on the highways which also say, “Closed on Sunday.”

“Businesses are not dishonest or greedy, people are. Thus, a business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership.”

Years ago one magazine wrote about the success of Chick-fil-A making about 1.5 Billion that year. They said that being closed on Sunday left half a billion dollars on the table. When someone asked Truett about it, he disagreed.

Truett believed by giving all his employees one day a week off that they worked harder those six days. The restaurants that never close drain their employees. They need a day of rest to be with their families and go to church if they choose.

“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing? I can hardly wait to get here.”

Truett was in his forties when he invented the Chicken Sandwich. He was 46 when the first Chick-fil-A restaurant open in Greenbriar Mall.

Truett was 52, the same age I am, when he started Team Member Scholarship Program and was 63 when he started the WinShape foundation.

At the age of 92 Truett was still working and open Truett’s Luau in Fayetteville, GA. A new menu, a new concept and new restaurant was what he created.

Truett passed the baton to his son Dan when Truett was 92 years old. This past Monday Truett Cathy passed away at the age of 93.

Here are a few more quotes for you from Truett:

Like wealth, poverty also has the power to build us up and make us appreciate what we have, or it can break our spirits. 

By ‘staying small,’ we also remain sensitive to the needs of others around us. 

As long as you are being kind to your customers why not be kind to each other. 

I realized the importance of doing a job and doing it right. Pleasing your customers and enjoying what you’re doing. 

I worked hard for a C, but I had to work… I find that most successful people are C students. 

I say the world is ruled by C students cause I was in that category, I didn’t get to go to college, because I was drafted when I finished, soon after I finished high school. 

More tips from Truett

Eleven Dos and Don’ts of Proven Entrepreneurial Success by S. Truett Cathy

Don’t be a Naysayer

This photo is of the Mexico/US border in Douglas, Arizona. A record number of children are now crossing the Mexican border without their parents. You can read more about this here. Why? They are desperate to solve a problem they have and even risking their lives in the middle of the desert is better to them than remaining in their situation.

I mention this as to remind us that when people come to you with a problem you are either part of the solution or not.

Naysayers

nay•say•er: a person who says something will not work or is not possible : a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something

For many years while I was a staff photographer I was classified by people as a “naysayer” due to how often people came to me to ask me to do something and I explained why it wasn’t possible.

I remember the moment when it finally hit me how negative I was being when my co-worker jokingly said that I always was saying no. While I was hurt by the comment I realized he was right.

Are you a Naysayer?

My experience has been there are more naysayers on staffs than freelance. You cannot grow your business by saying no. You must learn how to say yes. Those freelancers who say no too often are soon looking for another career. However being on a staff their is a little more protection to being negative. However this has a time limit as well.

A good clue that you might be a naysayer is other people are starting to do what you perceived as your job.

“Why are they bringing in an outsider to do what I am suppose to be doing?” is a question that you might be asking if you are a naysayer. While working as a staff photographer for a college I couldn’t understand why the admissions office was hiring freelance photographers to shoot their recruiting catalogues.

This is not always due to being a naysayer. Many colleges around the country have staff photographers who do most all the work for a school. However, when it comes to the advertising of the school, they are looking for a particular style. As long as you are offering to help them and the photographer coming in to shoot then you should be fine.

If you feel threatened by this outside photographer take a deep breath. Ask yourself has anyone come to me and I answered them with reasons their request isn’t possible. If you did then you should feel threatened.

Too often people take the attitude that is their job and the rules say I have this responsibility. You do have this until you start becoming an obstacle to people in the company trying to get their projects done.

Be an Optimist

The opposite of the naysayer is the optimist. When people come to you with a request learn how to turn their request into a reality. While someone’s request has some really huge problems look first for something positive. Big clue if nothing seems good about their request at the bare minimum you can start with being excited that they came to you with their idea.

“I am honored that you thought of me to help you with your project,” is a great way to start on a positive note.

When talking about an obstacle that needs to be addressed be sure to talk about a solution. Let’s say you don’t have a particular piece of equipment to make that happen. Tell them if we can rent or buy a piece that you don’t have that it would make it possible. Maybe you just need an extra hand to make it happen. You know for me to move the couch from this room to another I just need some help carrying it, would you or can you find someone to help? I am more than willing, but am busy at the moment and could use some help to find another person.

The trick is to let them know from your experience that we need to address something for their to be success.  I am more than willing to help you, but my boss has me working on these projects. While I can ask him/her to let me help you it would be better for you to make the request for my time.

Remember Storyline

If you look at the elements of storyline it will help remind you why you need to be the optimist and not the naysayer.

The person coming to you has a Conflict/Task and they are looking to you to help them as a Guide/Resource. If you say no, their issue didn’t go away. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz she will move on down the yellow brick road to find the solution to her problem.

The difference between the Optimist and the Naysayer is the Assignment they give to the person. Give them the solutions [Actions] that will help their story turn into a Comedy and not a Tragedy. You saying no is just not an option to someone who needs to solve a problem.

When someone proposes a new program that will compete with your program tell them how you want to help and really need to understand their goals. Also ask for their critique on how the present program you are doing isn’t meeting those needs. DON’T be quick to defend your program.

If you listen you may learn that your program isn’t serving all the needs or maybe you need to just tweak the communication about your program to show how it is addressing those needs. Either way there is a perception that is not meeting the needs of the audience.

Your role may change going forward, but by learning how to listen and adjust you make yourself more valuable to them and the organization.

As long as you are helping the organization address the new issues facing it then you are part of the solution and will have a job in the future. If you try and protect and keep things the way they are you are not growing and slowly helping the organization die.

Photographers you will lose clients

Sometimes you will feel like this UNC football player being swarmed by LSU. Your competition seems to have the upper hand and no matter what you do nothing seems to be working.

No matter which play you run you feel that have it in for you. Your competition is taking you down day after day.

You then try to take them out in some way and they seem to be just beyond your reach and you just cannot catch them at all.

Why the sports analogy?

How many teams this year will have a losing season? How many of these teams pack it up and get out of the game?

You need to acknowledge first that you will lose occasionally. The Super Bowl Champions this year were the Seattle Seahawks. They lost 3 games last year and were the best team in the league. Very seldom does the Super Bowl Champions have a perfect record. If they do the year before or after they have losses.

You need to be realistic about how often you are losing a client. It happens for a variety of reasons. Most of the reasons you lose a client are often out of your control. You played your best possible game and the other team had some advantage that day.

Do you have cheerleaders?

One of the best things I have going for me is my family that cheers me on everyday. I even have some clients that sell me to their friends and that helps me get new clients.

Sometimes it is just one person that helps keep you going, but that is what you need. Be sure you have people around you that are your cheerleaders.

Do you have a coach?

Also, you need a coach. This is someone who is watching what you are doing and talks to you about your strategy. You can have people cheering you on that just want you to succeed and without the coach to give you a reality check you will soon be cut from the industry.

Take the time to do like every football team and go and review the tapes of the games. Analyze your actions and see if there is something you can do to improve your game.

Another thing that all sports teams do before playing a team is to analyze their game footage. Remember those who are beating you all the time know your game. They beat you because they can see your weakness and exploit that with the client.

Did you see the NFL draft?

Last night the NFL teams picked new talent and traded talent off their teams. They have analyzed their weaknesses and are making changes for next season.

This summer they will have workouts and refine their team even more than today.

What are you doing today that you need to stop? What are you not offering your clients that you need to add to your skills?

If you have been through a losing season then this is the time to rebuild. Maybe you need to go to a workshop like the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Workshop where you learn how to tell stories using audio, video and stills.

Call me and take a one day personal workshop on lighting or business practices. This is  a capital investment. Just like the teams that pay a lot to get the first round pick you need to invest into your business or you may have another losing season.