Get-R-Done is being performance driven

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 360, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

Comedian Larry the Cable guy is attributed with the American phrase Get-R-Done. I will let Larry explain it’s origin and what it means.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TU-li1BqZ4]
The last five weeks I have watch my daughter and her friends Get-R-Done with Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.

That is my daughter on the right in the first photo with her friend Jessica who is in the play with her. they are also president and vice-president of the high school theatre club.

The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective – people who know to see a problem as an opportunity. –– Deepak Chopra

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/3.9, 1/60

I watched my daughter as she designed the costumes for the play. Some from scratch and then buying clothes at the local thrift store and then modifying them for the period. This all happened from just five weeks ago.

By the way the rest of the cast also was just as busy. they made this quite elaborate set. There was much more work in this project than their musical they did last year with 10 weeks of time.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 800, ƒ/4.4, 1/60

Now at the same time they are memorizing their lines. Now if you haven’t listed and read any Shakespeare, let me just say this is like learning a foreign language. It takes some time to not just say the words but understand what you are saying.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qb2qIHurD8]
I did a quick recording of the play last night for my parents who couldn’t come for the play. Just listen to some of it and see all the set and costumes for yourself.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/4.5, 1/60

I watched the passion of the students rise so much that tears would pour down their faces. They were frustrated when the lines just were difficult and not coming as easily as other material had in the past taken to memorize.

I watched when some of the cast would get it before others in the scene and get frustrated with the others who didn’t understand who they were talking to during some of their lines, which can happen on a first read of the language of Shakespeare from that time period.

Then I watch as the students would calm down and then take the time to work with each other and help each other understand a scene and how they worked to make the scene better together.

While these kids are trying to figure out their roles in society they were learning some of this from learning their roles in the play. They learned how blocking and purpose for their role was important. How they are acting even when they have no lines but are on stage.

How about you?

You have a lot on your plate for your work. Do you Get-R-Done? As Larry the Cable Guy’s says this is when you give it your all and give 110%.

Just like all these high school students realize they practiced over and over so when the audience was present they were being entertained. They wanted to perform at the level where the storyline moved the audience to laugh and cry.

Is all the stuff you are working on today behind those closed doors going to WOW the audience? Are you passionate as these students about their play.

Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. –– Ralph Marston

“Can we talk here?”

Photo by Hannah Strayer, Storytellers Abroad participant

In the words of Joan Rivers, “Can we talk here?”

First, if you lost your job and are looking for a new job go and have lunch or coffee with a successful pro. Take the time to ask them, “If you were I what would you do?”

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens,  ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Also scrape together enough money to pay for that lunch or coffee, because it will most likely be the best money you have spent in a long time.

Second, learn to listen and try and hear what people need and learn how to position yourself as the solution to their problems. Too many times new freelancers are doing all they can to tell a potential client what they do. They just talked themselves out of any work. If you talk about how you are a great square and they needed a round solution you can see how you lost the job. It is better to listen and hear they need a round object and figure out how you could be a round object.

Jeff Raymond talks through Stacey Schuett story during our Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens,  ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

Third, if you get a call about a job opportunity–pause and think. Your objective should be get the job offer and then decide if you are interested. Don’t be the guy who before hearing all about a job is turning it down. Now all the reasons you have for turning something down may very well disappear had you just shut up and listened. There is a very good chance they may offer you more money or something else that helps address your needs, but because you are so smart and already knew why this isn’t a good fit just lost a great opportunity.

You never know who is watching. As I was shooting this another photographer was photographing me. [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/320]

Fourth, let’s just say you screwed up on anything, call that person and apologize. If you don’t know what you did wrong just call them and say I think I made a mistake with you and I don’t know what I did, but would love to learn from you so I don’t make that mistake again. Your willingness to eat some humble pie might just reopen a closed door.

Photo by Hannah Strayer, Storytellers Abroad participant

Fifth, many people could go to etiquette classes for adults. You maybe sabotaging your efforts by the way you dress to how you eat your food for example. The more you know the better you can be at shaping your brand.

Here are some key factors that prohibit professionals or an organization from achieving its potential level of success include:

  • Poor verbal and non verbal skills towards other employees or business partners
  • Rude and distracting behavior in the office and during meetings 
  • Failing to appreciate employees for their contributions and poor communication
  • Inappropriate attire and inappropriate behavior 
  • Poor manners on the phone and via email 
  • Embarrassing business and social faux pas

Let me just say my wife has educated me a great deal on some of what I call overlooked social faux pas. She has helped me so much in navigating etiquette.

Proverbs 1:1-33 ESV

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, …

Now we all still make mistakes, so learn from them. Hope this helps you think about your objective of finding work.

Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Photographers need to understand difference between Captions & Keywords

Looking for a photo? How do you find what you need?

Well the way most people look for photos that they need is to type a few words into a search window and then look at their results.

There are two main fields that are embedded in photographs that are the main places search engines look for matches, those are the Description/Caption and Keyword fields of the Metadata.

Image Metadata is information attached to images files which provide details about the picture. This is commonly used for title, description, keywords and location information. Metadata can be added from the camera the picture was taken with or added by the photographer in their image editing software.

The image above is a screen grab of the metadata of this photograph using the software PhotoMechanic.

If it is just you looking for your images then whatever you want to do to help you jog your memory will help, but that will not work for people who do not know what your image looks like.

Now there are basically two ways people are looking for a photograph. The most searched way would most likely be looking for a photograph to be used that fits a theme. These are generic searches.

To find the photo above they may search for phrases like: “basketball”, “men’s college basketball”, or “college basketball”.

Now if those terms are spelled just exactly in the Keywords Metadata field then the odds are pretty good the photo will find it’s way to their computer screen.

“Keyword” field is limited to generic terms

Once the person sees your photo they most likely will not open special photo editing software like Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Lightroom or PhotoMechanic to see what keywords were used for this photo.

They may have even used a different keyword like “competition” to find the image. Now look at the very top image that shows the fields. A person must take some time and look at an image and think about all the ways the photograph might be used and create a keyword for how someone might look up such a photo. Keywords are separated by commas. The words between the commas are what will determine if the photo matches someone’s search.

There is a second way a person will look for a photograph and this is based on something specific like personal names. This is where a generic photo will not work.

To find the photo above the person might search for “Eric Williams”, “Will Bynum” or “Theodis Tarver” because they are writing something about them.

Now when this person downloads the photograph the odds are very high that they will open photo editing software to read the CAPTION. This is because most likely they will use that information with the photograph when they publish it.

“Caption” field contains the specifics about a photo

New field

Now with the plugin LR/INSTAGRAM you can publish your photos to your Instagram account. There is one more field that you can work in while using Lightroom. You have to go to the Metadata and select in the pull-down menu LR/Instagram. Then you can see your fields that you want to use when posting to Instagram. You want to use the #hashtag field for sure and I recommend also using the caption field, which is the same as the IPTC caption field.

#hastags function just like your keywords. If they do why don’t you just use the keywords for publishing? Well they are missing the # symbol which social media uses to signal a keyword from the caption information.

Now if you are really Social Media literate then you will know the difference between the #hashtags and captions. Just remember that:

#hashtag = (keyword – #)

Why do all this work? $$$$$$$$$$ Yes the main reason you would want to do this is so you can make your images findable on the web and then sell them. Two ways your images are sold–Prints for personal use or Licensing an image for use [stock photography].

I use PhotoShelter to do both of these for me. Here are links to learn how you can make money with your images:

Stock Sales on PhotoShelter

Print Sales on PhotoShelter

The key to either one of these is the ability of someone to find your images and they need you to fill in the caption information and the keyword information for them to find your images.

APP Tip for tracking business mileage for IRS Taxes

When photography is your business then you need to be tracking your mileage and vehicle expenses for tax purposes.

Why is mileage log important to me?

The IRS also requires you to keep detailed records. IRS Publication 463 Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses Table 5-1 “How To Prove Certain Business Expenses” states

“For car expenses, the cost of the car and any improvements, the date you started using it for business, the mileage for each business use, and the total miles for the year.”

For the past 30+ years I have tracked all my mileage and expenses by hand.

This week I just started trying a new system. If you have a smartphone this is really cool and easy way to track your mileage. I recommend you checking out TripLog for use with your Android Device or iPhone.

TipLog Highlights

  • The most popular GPS mileage tracking app with over 300,000 downloads
  • The only app that AUTO STARTS when connected to power or Bluetooth devices
  • The only mileage tracking app that reads a vehicle’s odometer from OBD-II devices
  • Sync and merge data to TripLog Web from multiple devices with Fleet Management
  • The most comprehensive reports compliant to IRS TAX returns

Click on image to see larger

Besides downloading the APP I also bought the OBD-II device recommended by TripLog.



BAFX Bluetooth
OBD2 scan tool 

(recommended)

This cost $23.99 from Amazon. Had it the following day after I ordered it. The thing it does is syne the odometer. Side benefit it also has capability to tell you about your car. Read & Clear diagnostic trouble codes for the check engine light, both generic & manufacturer specific codes. Get REAL-TIME sensor information right on your phone! EOT, RPM, Speed, DPF Temp, Balance Rates, O2 Readings & so MUCH more! Even pre-test for emissions testing! Get you 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 & 1 Mile times right on your phone!

You can have the APP show up three different ways on your phone. Just start button, larger 2×2 with Odometer showing, start button, type of mileage and the click to the APP.

I like the one on the bottom in the photo above. Instead of Mileage Today I have it set to show my Odometer.

It is very customizable for your taste.

You can set a default category for your trips. You can also assign a category to a specific place. So if you go to the bank on a regular basis for business then you can set that as a default for that location. If you go to your doctor you can then assign that to be tracked as medical.

Really is a time saver when you are doing your taxes later.

Generate HTML and CSV (spreadsheet) reports from the app

Open TripLog > Reports tab > Email Reports button > follow the instructions > send reports through email.

You can open both CSV and HTML files in Excel.

This is the web interface. You can do a lot more with a paid subscription of $10, $25 or $45 a year. The $25 a year is what I will be doing. You can use all the functions for 30 days for free before choosing a plan.

You can generate reports right from your phone and email them.

Summary

While you will spend sometime to set this up and understand all that it can do for you, once you have done this then the APP can do much of the tracking automatically. I am just tapping start and stop for trips at the moment.

I am getting used to the APP and how it works with my Toyota Sienna this December before I totally switch over to this to track all my expenses with the vehicle for TAX year 2016.

Blog Post #500: How to recover when project doesn’t go well

Types of clients

I believe there are two types of clients—Educated and uneducated. I am not talking about how smart the client is or how many degrees they might have. I am talking about their experience with working with photographers when it comes to hiring me for example.

Sometimes clients will have naive, impracticable or inappropriate expectations. Most of the time this is with those clients with little experience-hiring photographers.

I generally have little communication problems with those who hire photographers regularly, because they are better at communicating their needs and we establish a solid paper trail together.

The first place the client relationship goes wrong is often in communication. The best thing you can have when a situation arises of dissatisfaction about something from the client is to look at the paper work.

A written contract is best for helping resolve these disputes. Second best to a written contract is written documentation that could be as simple as emails. 

Even with a written contract the one thing that continues to plague client relationships is the lack of planning. The better the planning the better the results and satisfaction for all involved.

Without having the ability to scout a location and walking through the assignment it is impossible to anticipate all the needs that might arise.

How do you know you have a problem?

Your client must tell you about a problem for you to fix it. Sadly I have found in my career many people will never tell you there’s a problem. They just don’t hire you again.

If no one ever tells you, there is a good chance your personality turns him or her off and they don’t want to fix the situation. My advice is to seek counseling; it will be worth every penny you spend to know how to stop certain behaviors that are undermining your career.

If you are lucky and get a customer complaint then this is actually good for you.  Often this means people think you need to know so you can both correct this and continue to work with them or they think you need to know so you can avoid this in the future. Either way you now no of a problem that needs to be addressed.

How to handle the conflict

Listen—the best tool you have is the ability to listen. Listening is not just being quite. Good listening requires you to respond appropriately to the comments.

Apologize—A true apology lets the customer understand that they have been heard and understood. This should be carefully worded. If you don’t feel that you have done anything wrong, then be sure to convey regret for the experience of the other person as a result of what you did. This is assuming it was unintended.  Apologizing for the effect this caused doesn’t mean you will reach a resolution. Be sure you are taking responsibility for the effect you caused or it will not be sincerely taken.

Take Action—After apologizing for what has taken place to cause this problem, move on to letting them know you want to correct the problem. You can say something like, “Obviously what we have done is very upsetting to you and you need to know that I am going to get to the bottom of this.”

Take the emotion out—Now that you have expressed with emotion your concern the next phase is exploration of the facts. This is where you are just getting the facts of the situation.  Often this is where a client may state what is wrong and how this is complicating their ability to solve the problem they brought you on to help. Remember sometimes they have already jumped to a conclusion that this is not fixable and you have wasted their time. The tendency is to quickly fix things, but be sure at this stage you fully understand what they think is wrong.  Once you have all the facts laid out restate this in your own words to them and ask if you have everything correct. The reason for you to put it into your own words will help them know you heard them and understand.

Empathy and not sympathy—Focus on actions and not words. You need to come to the client with ideas and not problems. Remember time is money so don’t waste theirs or yours.

Patience—I think it is best that you stop after getting all the facts and tell them you need just some time to process if it is needed. “Do you mind if I take a few minutes and see what I/we can do? I will call you back with our ideas in the morning,” is one way to give you time to process all that you have discovered.

Deliver on your promise—The true apology that you started with entails a resolution. You need to deliver on this promise to be sincere and complete. Without this you will undermine your reputation and brand as not trust worthy. 

Fire the client

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY]
When clients will have naive, impracticable or inappropriate expectations it is time to fire them. Sometimes it is better to end a relationship with a client rather than making your life miserable.

Here are some things I know I have and other photographers have let their clients go:

Slow or no payment—I have had a few clients where the company policy was to be slow paying and then I have had clients that were so ADD they forgot on a regular basis to pass along my invoice to the accounts payable department. Use this paragraph with your invoicing to avoid this problem:

Administrative Fee – We are now building into the invoice the cost to repeatedly follow up with accounts payable departments on past due invoices, and float the cost of payment to our vendors, which require 30 days payment. This fee is approximately 15% of the total invoice. If payment is made within 30 days, you may deduct this amount. A notation to this effect will be made on the invoice.

Lack of boundaries—You have a client that expects to own you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Sometimes clients do not respect that you have not just other clients but you have a personal life. To avoid this be sure to put in your contract the times you are available.

Difficult to work with—They are just very difficult to work with. Maybe they tell off color jokes. Try to politely, but firmly, say that you don’t appreciate the off-color jokes. You may not get a positive response at first, but you may. And you’ll also get the benefit of speaking your mind, and will at least get the message out there for everyone’s consideration.

Poor Time Management—Client has trouble keeping appointments or is constantly late. This can become a problem when it starts to affect your bottom line. You have trouble getting things from the client that you need to complete a job. Be sure your contract spells out that missing deadlines or whatever you need from them, that there is some penalty. The problem you are trying to address is doing work and delayed payment due to the client dragging out a project. You can put into contract full payment by certain date if the delay is due to the client missing something.

Unwilling to accept price increase—Over time your prices need to go up due to cost of living and other expenses that have increased. When the client is unwilling to adjust their budget you have to let them go, you cannot afford to work for them.

Photography Tax Tips

Bookkeeping??? I just want to shoot

If you don’t like keeping track of your spending or budgeting and you just can never see yourself doing this, then read no further.

However, if you want to make money with your camera and do this as a profession you have no choice but to keep track of all your expenses and income or you can go to jail for tax problems. It is just that simple.

Even if you hire an accountant you must keep records to give to them.

I am writing this to help anyone who hates doing this and if you do like it maybe a simple way to do it for now on.

All you have to do for the IRS is show where all your income is coming in from and what are all your expenses. By the way you need to have documentation to back this up in the form of receipts and/or record keeping.

This is what I do for my record keeping for the IRS. 

These are some tips I have to offer for photographers to help with taxes.

First a disclaimer: I am not an accountant or lawyer, so please check anything I say with a Certified Public Accountant.

I recommend using Quicken Home & Business.  Here is a link. This only works on Windows, but you can run this on your Mac.

How to run on a Mac.  

You need to set aside some hard drive space to run a Windows platform.  I use VMware Fusion which costs $49.99.

You will still need to invest in one last software: Windows.  Good news is you can still buy Windows 7 for around $79.99.  Price dropped when Windows 8 came out.

Why I use Quicken Home & Business?

When I got my first computer it came with Quicken and I just started using this back in the 1980s.

I liked a few basic features, which for the most part are the same as the first version I ever used.

The template looks just like your check register. You have box for  Payee, the amount and most importantly the category.

Categories

Quicken helps you setup categories based on IRS Schedule C for your business.  Out of the box you can select the default and be pretty close to being done. My suggestion is to pay a CPA to consult on the categories you need to use for your business.

Now there are a few cool things that Quicken can help automate your book keeping.  One of the best things is many of the credit card companies make it so Quicken can talk to them and download all your transactions. The only thing you will need to do is to be sure the right category is assigned to each transaction. But after the first time with a vendor, the next time it comes up it goes to your last category.

If you use multiple categories for a vendor it will let you choose which one from a pull down menu.

Receipts


You can attach a receipt to any transaction. This is very important for book keeping.

You may also be wondering about what the IRS thinks about digital receipts. The short answer is that digital receipts are as acceptable as a paper copy. According to Rev. Proc. 97-22, the IRS allows taxpayers to save electronic images of documents and destroy the original hard copy.

If you scan your receipts and then attach them to the transaction you are meeting the IRS requirements.

You can see here a scan of a cash receipt. I put this in my Cash Transactions.

Vehicles

Quicken even comes with a Vehicle Mileage built in.

Tips for tracking your mileage.

You will need the odometer reading for the beginning and ending of each year. So, New Years Eve or Day you need to write down the odometer reading.

Think of tracking your mileage like you would do a checkbook transaction. You need to write where you went for business. You need the starting odometer reading and the end reading. If you like you can track your tolls in the same place as well as your parking. I choose to track all my receipts for tolls and parking either my credit card account or cash account.

The IRS will want your total business miles, personal miles and over all mileage for the tax year.

Also keep track of actual vehicle expenses. You can deduct which ever you want–mileage or actual expenses.

If you have a smartphone this is really cool and easy way to track your mileage. I recommend you checking out TripLog for use with your Android Device or iPhone.

TipLog Highlights

  • The most popular GPS mileage tracking app with over 300,000 downloads
  • The only app that AUTO STARTS when connected to power or Bluetooth devices
  • The only mileage tracking app that reads a vehicle’s odometer from OBD-II devices
  • Sync and merge data to TripLog Web from multiple devices with Fleet Management
  • The most comprehensive reports compliant to IRS TAX returns


Click on image to see larger

Since I am tracking all my personal and business expenses I can easily see what my actual expenses in a given year are for a vehicle. This is where you might put in the note field which car was at the shop. So you can use actual expenses or mileage for the IRS forms. The good thing is TripLog and Quicken Home & Business helps you decide which is the best to use any given year.

Invoicing

I like the ability to use your logo and customize your invoices with Quicken.
 
To get paid I must invoice by clients for the work I did for them. I have setup a few categories of billables that I use for invoicing.

You can have for example unlimited number of ways to charge for your services. Once created it will automatically drop in all the explanation that you use to describe what you did for them.

If you have taxable items that you invoice for, then you can setup those categories to automatically tax at the rates for your area.

It is quite common to have some billables that are taxable and others that are not. Again, this is a reminder why you need to talk to a CPA to get you setup.
 
Another cool thing with the software, is you can put in the due date for invoices and Quicken will help you know what isn’t paid and who is late paying. This is critical information when you are short on cash due to slow payment.     

April 15th

If you have used Quicken Home & Business through the year to track all your expenses and income, then TurboTax Home & Business can import all this data and then basically you just click through questions verify that it is correct.

Filing my taxes has never been easier.

Photographers: You are what you read

These are just some of the books I have read in the past year.

You may have heard “you are what you eat,” but I believe that “you are what you read is just as true.”

Read what you want to cover

The photographer needs to become an expert on the subjects they cover. If you work in business then you need to be reading what those in that industry are reading.

If you are covering the faith community, then you need to be up on theology of the groups you are wanting to do work.

If you want to do work for NGOs then you need to be up on the areas that they address.

Osmosis

Osmosis does not require input of energy and therefore this is where most of us start our careers. We start covering what we are already familiar.

For me growing up in a minister’s home where my father was involved with missions means through osmosis I was pretty knowledgeable about Baptist and Missions.

By taking the time out of my life to go to seminary I was able to take my knowledge to a whole new level of understanding. I studied theologians and worldviews which helped me communicate the nuances of faith to the audience.

What I am reading today

I do a lot of work with Chick-fil-A. To know how to help them communicate their story requires me to understand where they are going and not just where they have been.

One of the best places for a photographer to understand what business like Chick-fil-A is going is to attend a conference like Leadercast. Leaders from across the globe will attend this conference to learn how they can be better leaders for their organizations.

It is here that I was introduced to speakers like Patrick Lencioni and John C. Maxwell. I also learned that these leaders were also looking to other leaders like John Wooden, Tony Dungy and
Mike Krzyzewski who are all coaches.

I started reading all the books I could on leadership and how to build teams. I am confident to say that I am well versed now in the field and understand some of the current trends.

This helps me now sit at a table and recommend stories rather than being the person waiting on them to tell me stories they need covered.

Great storytellers recognize a good story

“If I only knew back then what I know now,” has been said by many people. I know it took time for me to be able to understand now without experiences to build upon. 

If you spent 30 years of your life telling stories, then you too would be really good at knowing what makes a good story. I continue to recommend to my clients that my greatest asset to them is the creative idea. Once you have a good story idea getting a team to cover it is easy. It is finding the story that takes the most creativity.

Where do good ideas come from?

I would argue that very few great ideas come from the inexperienced. I think overnight sensations are actually 10+ year careers that finally bloomed.

When I get a great idea today it is because I am referencing something else in my brain from a history of stories I have covered, things that I have read and from experiences I have had. It is not from just hearing something fresh.

Steven Johnson: Where do good ideas come from?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU]
I really recommend watching this 4 minute video to understand the framework for why I believe you need to expand your horizons for your business to grow.

The four minute video is a condensed version of the already condensed presentation Steven Johnson made a the TED Conference. Now I recommend you really watch this to understand how he came to the refined 4 minute package.

http://embed.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from.html
Steven Johnson is the best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. The whole idea that we have these “eureka” moments is not by chance, but rather the colliding of ideas.

Living in Isolation

I believe that the more you isolate yourself the better the chances are for failure if you are in business.

It has been said that in business there are the 1) innovators, 2) imitators and 3) idiots.

The innovator is someone who is having “eureka” moment and has put together a few tidbits to get an edge on the competition.

The imitator is someone who recognizes change and adapts quickly and therefore their clients are benefiting as well.

The idiot is someone who decides to try and follow the well worn path only to find now it is now just a commodity making it difficult to make a profit.

Read, Get Out & Network

If you are struggeling with your business, then I have three recommendations.

Find some books that are trending in your area of interest that you want to photograph. These are not books on photography, but rather on the subjects. Besides reading them find someone or a group to discuss these topics with and get you to dive deep into the subject.

Get out and find a place to socialize. Maybe it is the local coffee shop and it will require you to do more than order your coffee and sit in the corner. Start a discussion group on one of your books is one way to get out there.

Find some groups to network with in your community. Hopefully this could be on what you like to cover with your camera. Join an association and go to their meetings and mixers. 

Still not successful

If you are one of those people doing everything I suggested and you are still having trouble, maybe you are one of the idiots. Not trying to insult you, but think about it. Are you one of 100 photographers standing on the sidelines of a major sporting event wondering why no one is buying your stuff? There are only about 20 or so outlets for those 100 photographers. The market is saturated.

Find the market where you are not one of many photographers and there you will have found a potential gold mine.

9 things you need to do before going freelance full-time

Here is a checklist I recommend going through to go full-time freelance. You may think of even more to add to this list.

Microsoft Excel Home Budget Template

Create a home budget – You need to have a budget on what you need to survive. This includes housing, food, healthcare, car payments and entertainment to name just a few. My recommendation is if you have Microsoft Excel is to use their home budget to help you get a solid number of what you need to live. Break this down from yearly to monthly amounts.

NPPA Cost of doing business calculator

Create a business budget – You need to know all the expenses beyond your home budget that you need to run your business that also can be written off your taxes as legitimate business expenses. I recommend using the National Press Photographer Association’s “Cost of doing business calculator.” Some things that you could be moved from your home budget to this list would be your phone. You will need to know what you need to run your business monthly and yearly. Things like a website, advertising, Internet connection and other items are things you must have even if you are not shooting a job.

6 months of savings that is equal to both your home and business budgets combined – This is a bare minimum you will need. The odds are pretty high that you will not have a regular stream of income for anywhere between 6 to 18 months.

Don’t quit your full-time job until it gets in the way of your freelance business – I would even recommend seeing if you can go from full-time to part-time with your employer so you are transitioning over a longer period of time. You can offer to go on contract with them and give them 2 – 3 days a week and then you have 3 – 4 days to build your business.

Buy all necessary equipment before you go full-time – You really need to have your basic camera gear, computers, software and any office equipment that you need to do your business paid for before you start freelancing. While you may have budgeted a figure each month for the business for all this equipment you will be putting some of this money away for when things break or need replacing.

Debt free – Ideally having no debts except for a house payment would be perfect. I do want to spell out why this is very important. If you purchase things on credit you could be paying 10% to 20% more for everything you purchase. When the difference between paying bills and going bankrupt is often just a very thin line your business failure is much higher by carrying unnecessary debt.

Synchronize your photography ambitions with your lifestyle desires – If you want to be a war photographer and have a family these are two incompatible desires. You might be able to delay your family dream for a while, but most likely will have to change what you photograph later. Another example is photographing for nonprofit or faith based group and be family oriented. Often these groups pay so little and many expect the photographers to raise their own support. Examine your ambitions. Maybe the reason you want to do certain kind of photography is really your desire to help people. When you get to this core value there maybe other ways to shoot for say green companies that have more money to pay a livable wage.

Alex Garcia, photographer for the Chicago Tribune, talks with a student about her work during the student practicum at the Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar in Fort Worth, TX last February.

Find a business coach/mentor – they do not need to be a photographer; just a successful businessperson will do just fine. They can help listen to your issues about running your business and ask questions that help guide you to being successful.

Create a business plan – If you need a loan to start you will need a business plan for the bank. If you are set, still do a plan for yourself. It will help guide you and make decisions that you need to make every day. This will be your compass. You can contact the US Small Business Administration in your area and they can help you. Often this is free.

Can you think of suggestions to add to the list?

How to get repeat business and referrals from assignments

Myth

A popular myth maintains that those who know how to do something can teach others. Not True.

The ability to communicate a concept to another person and teach them is more than just knowing how to do something. Giving instructions has a lot in common with teaching. Giving assignments to creatives about something which can be very abstract requires more than an understanding of what you want. I know it when I see it isn’t a good teaching technique.

I have written this blog for two different audiences: 1) those giving assignments and 2) those doing those assignments.


Assignment Photography

Just because you know what you want from a photographer does not necessarily mean you know how to communicate it to a photographer for an assignment.  One of the biggest mistakes made in communication is making some assumptions.

Everything is “Clear Only If Known.” We can make assumptions as simple as telling someone directions and assuming they know where certain landmarks are along the way. Another example is telling someone to turn on something. Sometimes there are many steps to turning on something. They need to know where the place is to turn something on and sometimes there are multiple steps before it will turn on.

There are two standard ways many people making assignments like to communicate: 1) written and 2) spoken.

Most likely the person you are giving instructions to doesn’t do well reading or listening. To be sure you have covered your bases you are best served speaking to the person and sending them written instructions.

The problem with using only these two methods is there are some people who don’t listen and read instructions very well.  Understanding instructions can easily be linked to someone’s learning style. This is how they best learn to do something new.

You see there are seven different learning styles:

The Seven Learning Styles

    Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
    Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
    Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
    Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
    Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
    Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
    Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

One thing I think that can really help in addition to spoken and written assignments is some examples.  Many clients have given me and I have given to others have included visual examples.

Sometimes when the clients talks about a style or approach I will look for my own examples and send these to them for confirmation of an approach.

Besides conceptual approaches just the business side of the assignment can cause problems. For example, if a client needs photos sent to them electronically using a ftp site, then it is a good idea to do a dry run. I have done this to find out that the information they gave to me wasn’t correct. It is better to find that out before you are on a deadline.

The dry run is a great way to verify understanding of the instructions or at least most of them.

If you are the person giving the instructions then you want a balanced approach. Here are some tips that will increase the odds of understanding and implementation of your instructions.

  1. Spoken instructions – Be sure to give your instructions orally and in person if possible. This helps with them asking you to repeat things and getting clarification. Your tone of voice also helps communicate. When in person your body language will also help inform them.
  2. Written instructions – Be sure you also have all your instructions presented in writing. This will help you also review all your desirable outcomes. You have now a permanent record of your request. Sometimes this helps avoid problems in your voice tone or body language.
  3. Visual examples – If you have examples of past assignments and what you liked from other photographers please send this to them. If you have examples of how it will run in a printed piece or a link to a website then send this as well. 
  4. Test shots – Try to have a contact on site or be there yourself to look at what is being produced. You can ask the photographer to email you an example of what they have setup. Let’s say it is a portrait of the CEO. You can have a model stand in and take some test shots, then if the style and/or approach is off or just perfect you and the photographer can verify or make changes.

How do you learn best?

If you are on the receiving end of instructions you need to know your learning style to be successful. If you get an email asking you to take on an assignment and you know you are a verbal learner you may ask if they mind you calling them to clarify a few things.

When writing your contract it is always good to spell out the deliverable. I have even put photo examples into a contract and stated that the deliverable will be similar to what is in the contract.

Ask questions and clarify those expectations so you can meet and exceed their expectations. Even if everything is sounding really easy and routine, take the time and restate their expectations in your words to show you understand the assignment. It is very important when this is your first time working with someone to be sure you have complete understanding.

If you do better with written instructions and the person is just calling and not sending instructions ask them to send it in writing. Stress that you want to be sure they get exactly what they want and having the written instructions to refer to will help you. Now if they for some reason cannot send you instructions, make written notes. Be sure to stop and clarify points.

Use an App on your smartphone to record the phone call. Google Voice needs no introduction, its features and uses are well known, but one feature that not many know exists in Google Voice is the ability to record calls. This can be achieved by pressing the number four while in a received call. With the price of free and no hidden fees, Google Voice is a winner. If you really want to get a lot of features for phone calls that happen to include recording then go with Google Voice, you will not regret it.

Your self perception of the assignment is based on what you see and what you think or know and not what is actually there. What I am saying is that just because you are using the same language and words as the person talking to you or writing to you it is still very easy to have different interpretations as to what you are talking about. This is where having some samples of previous assignments to refer to will help you clarify the expectations. You might just follow up on the phone call and summarize your take on the assignment and then maybe attach or embed a photo or two saying this is an example of what they are looking for.

Your individual temperament and motivation are the personality traits that must be taken into consideration. Temperamental variables include impatience, mood swings, and a distorted perception of goals. As we get older we become more aware of how some of these traits of ours can interfere in our communications. If you like taking pictures and cannot see yourself doing anything other than this for a career and you have bills this will help motivate you to suck it up and learn to compensate for the few moments it takes to get an assignment.

You want to practice with some friends to be sure you are being perceived as a good listener and test to see if you are comprehending instructions. Even if you think you are polished it is a good idea to work on your replies that you will use with people. This is very important when you are maybe dealing with your own learning disabilities and need a few things from the person to help insure you are understanding them correctly.

You may find in practicing you need to work on your delivery so the tone of voice communicates your desire to help and not so blunt as it puts off people. Your friends can help you evaluate how you are coming across. It is much better to get experience through practice than with clients. Making the mistakes in practice will help you avoid a failure with a client.

Do a great job with a client and not only do you get repeat business they tell others about you. Do a bad job and the reverse is true.