Photographers: Can learn something from the Shepherd

Necessity is the mother of invention. –Plato

Photographers need to run their business like a shepherd. If shepherds stayed in one place hunting and gathering food, sooner or later the area would run out of things to gather. In order for them not to run out of food so quickly, shepherds tended to travel in rather small groups.

Desert Experience

One of the best experiences to have in one’s past is the desert experience. When you are trying to survive and pretty much no matter where you look you see desolation your priorities shift to survival mode.

I was laid off from a job in 1989 and found I was in a desert for close to three years. This is when I was unable to find a job, as a photojournalist that was my calling.

I decided to take this time and go back to school for my masters and find whatever job I could to pay the bills.

While you are in the desert you are having your priorities rearranged.  While I had studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in my social work undergrad program, it was the loss of my photojournalist job that gave me real world experience in it.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

First Priority

I realized my first priority was to those basic needs of food and shelter. I had to move back home with my parents for a while to cut our expenses to something manageable. 

My attitude changed from jobs being beneath me to being thankful for any job. I remember driving around trying to sell meat out of a freezer in the back of a pickup for a month. I felt so much like the beggars who hold up the sign saying willing to work for food.

Knowing what I needed to survive help me to know many jobs that were advertised that were photojournalist positions were not paying enough to cover my basic needs. 

I now understand what I must charge to survive—do you?

I was becoming a very skilled shepherd who was looking for a field to graze in that could support me for a while.

Second Priority

You need a good view of your present situation. Like the shepherd who looks out into the field assesses how much food is left and for how long, you must do the same for your business.

It is quite common for many shepherds to go into the same field for their flocks. When the shepherd feels like it is time to move, the sheep respond to his voice and not the other shepherds.

Photographers are like the shepherds often in the same field. The smart photographer will see the end in sight and move to a new pasture before everything is gone.

If you haven’t had a desert experience you will if you are not aware of the resources left in the field where you are living now.

Third Priority

You must be looking towards the future. You need to have long-term goals.

The good shepherds know when the food supply is running low, but also they know where the next pasture to take their sheep is located. They have been doing their research.

The key for you to be forward thinking is to look to places where no one has gone before. Good shepherds are looking to green pastures; they are not looking where all the shepherds are with all their sheep.

Too many photographers and photographer wannabees are looking at other photographers and following them rather than learning from them and moving onto greener pastures.

A great book for anyone wanting to understand how to look for new opportunities for growth should read Blue Ocean Strategy.

Strategy for a Blue Ocean

  • Be the expert in a subject to help separate you from the pack
  • Get access to something difficult for everyone to access
  • Photograph subjects that hobbyist cannot because of their day job
  • Once you find a Blue Ocean–Look for another because your competition will follow you.

Lesson from the past

When George Eastman introduced the brownie camera people stopped hiring professional photographers. They almost decimated the industry for the professional photographer. It took some time for people to realize it was not the camera alone that made good photos and slowly would return to hiring them.

In time even today with the new digital camera having similar effect on today’s photographers as the brownie camera did earlier, in time people will return to using photographers for what they bring other than their cameras to a job.

My suggestion for today’s professional photographer is not to look for where people are using photography, but where they are not using it and could use it.

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


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.

Words and visual triggers

Showing your colors

Making a statement by wearing your team colors and even painting your body is what a Raving Fan does for their sports team. However, at most venues derogatory or profane signs, banners, clothing items and language are prohibited along with signs attached to sticks.

Why can’t you just wear what you want to wear at a public event? You might be thinking I paid for the event and I am not hurting anyone.

It is a violation of federal law to air obscene programming at any time. It is also a violation of federal law to air indecent programming or profane language during certain hours. Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the responsibility for administratively enforcing these laws.

Bottom line: Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time.

Due to this law having any fan at a venue can jeopardize a broadcast of a game.

Connecting the dots

What surprises me on a regular basis is how crude many people are in work situations. They like telling off color jokes that adolescents would do in boys locker rooms.

First of all how something is deemed offensive is different from person to person. Often those around you will say nothing even if they are offended. You need to know that the minute you use profanity in the work place you are running the risk of being offensive to someone.

Second many see the use of profanity when someone is frustrated or disappointed as lacking character or being crude.

Lastly, profanity taken to the extreme a person can be fired or even worse sued.


In the rebellious counterculture you will see a lot of profanity worn on clothing and used in speaking. Even in this environment the improper use of profanity can cost you.

One great example I just experienced last week was a pop-punk band playing in a local dive. We took our daughter to the event and were talking with the dad of one of band players. He is a clean cut guy just trying to support the kids. They are promoting themselves and hoping to book bigger venues.

The problem one of the band members created was wearing a shirt with profanity. Many of the big venues want to promote their venue and if they see photos of the band wearing profanity it might cost them bookings in the future.

Paying your bills and having a career

Once you start realizing how much things cost you learn very quickly to fit into the work culture. You buy a new wardrobe than what you wore in school. You are on your best behavior while you are at work.

Today with social media what you do in your off time is no longer off limits for your employer. How you conduct yourself out of work can get you fired from your job.

If you want to have a family and provide for them you soon realize you need a way to continue to get promotions and climb the success ladder so you can afford to feed those extra mouths and maybe even provide more things that you want them to have.

So, if you wonder why you haven’t been getting jobs or have lost some jobs in the past can you rule out your use of profanity in your life as a culprit? Is it really worth the cost to speak your mind?

Two photographers add services for their clients

Two Photographers

Two of my close photographer friends have been going through growing pains after more than 30 years in the industry. Gary S. Chapman and Robin Nelson started in Newspapers as photojournalists and both of them have been freelancing for most of their careers. 

I have watched both of them continue to find clients and continue their passions of storytelling. Each of them have explored using video to tell stories and both have done some work with video. 

While many in our industry have been preaching that to get jobs you must embrace video the two of these photographers still believe in the power of the still image. 

Today both of them would most likely describe themselves as visual storytellers more than they might have when they were working on newspapers. 


Gary S. Chapman is a humanitarian photographer who travels the globe doing coverage for his clients. Often his wife Vivian, who is a writer and producer has collaborated with him on many projects.

Gary has made just about every change possible to stay current with the technology to provide the very best product for his clients.

Storytelling is core to his work. He has captured real moments as opposed to setup situations in order to respect the dignity of the subject and remain true to representation of the story.

Gary started blogging early to share these stories of the people he was meeting around the world. He was being sent to places where people needed help. For example Gary was meeting people whose entire families were killed in front of them by another group. While the organizations were getting the photos they did not always use them to their full potential.

Due to budgets being cut everywhere Gary was traveling alone more often and didn’t have Vivian to write the story for him. Out of necessity Gary began to write short stories for his blog about the people he was meeting.

Check out some of these stories by Gary on his blog here

In the past year Gary started to ask the NGOs if they would like him to write short stories and help them blog about the stories they were sending Gary to cover. The only additional costs to the NGO was a little more to cover Gary’s time for writing.

It won’t be long before Gary is going to need to change his title from “Humanitarian Photographer” to “Humanitarian Photographer/Writer.”

Video and Stills

Robin Nelson is as passionate about telling his subjects stories as Gary.

Whenever I call Robin and we get together for some coffee I am always asking what he is working on. The overwhelming time is spent on telling me the struggles these subjects are going through and how wonderful these people are as human beings.

A little over a year ago Robin took the plunge into video and went to the Immersion Conference. While the teachers were trying to keep the students from using stills in their projects and only video, Robin resisted. He wanted to incorporate what he was already doing with the stills and not abandon them as many others had done.

While many photographers talk about their work as being the voice for the voiceless, this could not be more true than with Robin’s passion for the developmentally disabled. The difference with Robin is he is involved helping this community even when he is not photographing them. His own son has some challenges and Robin has seen first hand how society expects everyone to pull themselves up by their own boot straps even if they don’t have boots.

This is one of the video/still packages Robin has done for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disability’s ‘Real Communities’ initiative.

How Robin was able to get this project is he was already known by the advocates in this community. They saw him at their meetings and saw the stories he was publishing through traditional media for years. It was because of this ongoing relationship he was able to have them approach him about the stories they wanted told.

Now Robin occasionally writes stories, but this new way of combining his photos with the actual voices of the subjects has him excited.

Here is a link to Robin’s website

Executive Producers

Robin and Gary might not see themselves as executive producers, but they are living the role. They are no longer taking photos and handing them to organizations expecting the organization to know how to use them to tell the story.

Both Gary and Robin are producing packages that are being used more today by their clients than the photos alone were being used in the past. They have solved problems for their clients.

In the past the clients had to take the photos of these photographers and then create a package for their audience. With budget cut backs and frankly a lack of knowledge of how to do what Robin and Gary offer, clients are eager to work with someone who gives them a product ready to go.

Both Gary and Robin were noticing for years that their photos were not getting used enough by their clients. Both of them ended up putting together their own packages for their blogs. Their passion helped them to pursue new skills that their clients now embrace.

Are you passionate enough about your subjects to tell their stories even if your clients fail to tell the story? You need fire in your belly to work as hard as Robin and Gary to take on more work like they are doing. I am sure that the subjects of their stories today are glad they did.

Camera Insurance for College Students

A few days I posted a blog about camera insurance. It was inspired by what happened to some of my friends covering the Olympics in London.

A few days later I realized there is a group out there where they are the most vulnerable. These are college students.


Before you go off to college you need to have a conversation with your parents about their homeowner insurance. Do not talk to your friends and listen to what their insurance covers and assume it is the same for you. Every single insurance company does things differently and even the same company has many different variables to write a variety of policies.

You want to know about the fine print in your policy, so talk the the agent about some possible scenarios to be sure you are covered.

Possible Scenarios

  • The amount of gear you have, is it covered or do you need more coverage
  • If you work for the college newspaper will this affect you being considered a student or professional.
    • Some college papers pay their staff and this could affect your insurance
  • Renting of equipment. Can you rent something and still be covered.
  • You live in a dorm verses at home.
  • You live in an apartment off campus

Since these are all possibilities don’t hold back. Ask them to give you ways you are not covered.  Your idea is to know now before anything happens.  You would hate to have all your stuff destroyed in fire, stolen or while shooting a football game it gets damaged and find out it isn’t covered. 

    Renters’ insurance

    It may be the best thing for your family for you to have a separate policy. The odds of you being robbed on campus may be hirer than home. Once you file a claim it may make it more difficult for your parents to find a insurance carrier.

    The renters’ insurance is similar to a homeowners’ policy but only covers the contents and not the structure of the apartment. Some insurance companies may let you while you are a student have this policy and just add your camera gear to this.

    Professional Organizations

    As I mentioned in the first article on camera insurance you may be better off buying camera insurance. As a student you can join the professional organizations at a lower rate than pros and still get access to some of the benefits like insurance.

    What to insure

    It is recommended you take pictures of all your gear, have copies of all the receipts to show purchase price and write down the serial number. I would recommend making a spreadsheet to show:

    • the name of the gear 
    • the price of the gear (either paid or replacement cost)
    • the serial number
    • date purchased

    Most policies that specialize for the photographer will include your computer gear as well. For your computer gear list things like:

    • Computer
    • External hard drives
    • Software
      • Adobe Lightroom
      • PhotoMechanic
      • Microsoft Office
      • ftp software
      • Adobe PhotoShop
      • Final Cut Pro
    • Monitor Calibrator
    • Card Readers

    Think of your computer as a digital workstation and list everything you bought to work on it. If it is stolen you need to replace all that software and hardware.

    Worst Situation

    The absolutely worse situation to be in is having all your gear stolen and you don’t know what is covered. Call today and find out what is covered, you may need to buy a separate policy.

    Marketing Idea: Commit to Three

    This shows how your effort the first time may be great and the reward very low, but over the next three times the effort diminishes and the reward increases. if you quit because effort doesn’t give the reward too soon you will miss out on a good idea.
    Before you implement a new marketing idea you need to be ready to commit to executing it three times, before you decide if it is a good idea.
    –Steve Robinson, Senior Vice President, Marketing for Chick-fil-A

    No matter the idea you come up with to use to market your business the first time you try it is not the best time to evaluate it’s success or failure. Your effort the first time to pull off something is pretty high and it takes time for a good idea to truly take hold of your audience.

    First time

    The very first time you try something you will spend a great deal of time, effort and money to pull off an idea.


    The first time you try anything it is quite difficult. Just imagine if you learned to ride a bike using your present method of evaluating a new market idea. Would you have ever learned to ride the bike?

    I think we all understand that the amount of effort due to the learning curve can be overwhelming the first time we try anything.

    The first time I created a postcard to send out I had a lot of learning to do. I had to find a vendor. From my previous experience with business cards I realized I could spend a lot of money or no so much for the exact same quality. I had to shop around and investigate.

    I went with the company SharpDots after getting a recommendation from a friend. It was a great recommendation.

    My first layout was done by my good friend and creative director Tony Messano. We decided to use one photo on the front and my logo and return address as well as my web address on the back.

    My first postcard cover shot

    The back of my first postcard. I had a different logo then.

    I also needed a mailing list and bought one of those as well. That took some time to find the best fit for me.

    I printed the labels and bought the postcard stamps to mail them. I put the lables and the stamps on that first run of about two thousand postcards.


    The phone did not start ringing a few days after the mailing. Not a lot of response to that mailing.

    Second Time


    Now this second time I didn’t have to do all that much work as compared to the first time. I already had a printer, a mailing list and someone to help me with the design.

    Some of the postcards came back and I had to investigate this time to get an address if they moved or delete them if they were out of business. How I did this the first time took some time to get a process down that worked.


    I was getting some response. Still not overwhelming response.

    While the phone wasn’t ringing off the hook, most everyone I sent the postcards to now have only seen my name two times in the mail. Now I hadn’t started a e.Newsletter at this time. I didn’t have a blog at the time either. So I was just sending emails to check on these prospects.

    What was happening at that time was introducing myself and what I did to these prospects. I was branding myself. They were starting to see my images and my logo together. I was slowly starting to build a brand.

    Third Time


    While I had down my process I decided to change up the layout on the back of the card. This was Tony Messano’s idea. He said maybe running a series of photos on the back along with the photo on the front would communicate I wasn’t a one shot wonder. After all everyone has at least one good photo they can make, my goal was to help separate myself from my competition as someone who can deliver multiple storytelling images.

    My last postcard cover shot.
    Tony had a different design, but I modified it a little here for the latest postcard. It has my new logo and we went to four color on the back. Not a lot of cost through SharpDots.


    Today, I am getting more jobs and the clients comment often on my postcards as being a deciding factor on contacting me.


    If after three times you are not getting any rewards out of an idea that is a good time to stop doing it. However, as you can see from the first diagram if you base your decision on the first attempt you would cancel some great ideas.

    If you are just starting out, this is when you are trying to create a brand awareness of you. This is like you being a young entrepreneur like S. Truett Cathy who started Chick-fil-A. He started first running a diner in Hapeville, GA in 1946. He worked hard and it took time before he even invented the Chicken Sandwich. Since the first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 1967, the company has posted 43 consecutive annual sales increases. This was not an over night success, but one where they tried ideas and kept them if they worked.

    Take your time to find a good idea and before you implement be sure you are ready to do it three times or you might quit before the big payoff.

    Am I the best photographer for my client?

    Have you asked yourself this question? Am I the best photographer for my client?

    If you are wanting your business to grow you need to answer this question from the client’s perspective and not yours.

    So, who else can your customer use? How does your work stack up to the competition?

    It will take some time for you to be competitive. You must first being doing your best for you. You cannot be the best overnight. It takes time to develop.

    Before you can soar you have to learn to fly

    Let’s be reasonable, when you are starting out there are a lot of photographers better than you. However, you need to be sure you are at your personal best at all times.

    You are building a reputation. You need to have your reputation precede you by word of mouth from your Google ranking, and from your business social media presence. What can you do now to help you have something that when people investigate you there is something for them to find.

    When you go for it you need a good parachute


    Before you call on a prospect and hope they will hire you you need to have done your homework. You need to know all you can about the client. What do they need a photographer to do for them.

    You need to be conveying value and not benefits and features. The only way to do this is to know enough about them to help phrase your benefits and features in ways that can be of value to them. How will this help them?

    Always have two or three ideas to propose to them when you call. I like to think of stories that my customers could be doing. Most of the time these are typically best practices stories. Every company wants to feature those that are doing the very best in hopes that others can copy some of those techniques to improve their performance.

    How will you back all these claims up with new clients? How about using video testimonials from your present clients?

    Keep yourself focused on a goal

    Keep your standards higher than your clients

    It is easy to be satisfied with a certain level of work when you are getting work. What is dangerous is becoming complacent. Your competition only needs to show they are a better fit for the client than you.

    If you are always growing and looking for how you can improve your competition will be behind your more often than in front of you.

    Realty Check

    Your clients are looking for a trusted adviser who has good ideas and thinks of of how to help them.  They are not needing someone who is slick and great with a presentation. They need something solid and not about a great sales pitch.

    Are you the best person for your client? Can you honestly feel that in your heart? If you can great. If not do all you can to be your best and be able to believe this about your talents.

    Advice for those going from staff position to freelance

    Landing in a sand trap is how I would describe my layoff. You don’t want to be in one, but it is something you can get out of. (Nikon D2x, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/750, 600mm)

    In 2002 I was laid off from what I considered a great job. Well truthfully I was very frustrated with the environment for the last few years I was on staff. While I enjoyed the opportunities to shoot a variety of subjects, I was finding myself out of sync with my coworkers.

    I should have left earlier, but I didn’t think I could made it as a freelancer. I liked having people just give me things to photograph and go home and come in the next day and do it again.

    When I got called in and told that my position had been eliminated I was devastated. I called my wife and friend to come and help me pack up my gear and books and move out. As we were packing up my things my friend was trying to comfort me and made a very profound comment. “Stanley if you put in the amount of effort you have been doing here in your freelance, you will be a very successful photographer.”

    I thought about his comment a lot that first year of freelancing.  He had said it to me with such conviction that I realized he really believed it to be true. Later even my wife would comment and say that he was right.

    My life did change and each day I got up and worked hard. I didn’t drive to downtown Atlanta every morning, but I did put in many hours of work. Here are the things I did and still do today. I call these tips for the freelancer.

    Take your time and get your thoughts in order. Just like this golfer has to read the green to sink the putt, look at your goal and you too will see how you will need to plan some path to success. (Nikon D2x, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000, 400mm with 1.4 extender)

    Tips for the freelancer

    • Keep a similar work schedule to the one you had on staff. Get up and go to work. While you may not have to drive anywhere to commute, still get out of bed eat breakfast and then take that commute to another part of your house/apartment.
    • Get dressed for work. One of my friends Ken Touchton told me in those early days that he used to get dressed and put on a tie just to go to the next room. It helps put you psychologically in a different frame of mind.
    • Create a calendar of events. Just like you had in your last job, schedule time for different thing you need to be doing. You need to create; meetings, lunch dates, and find events from things like the Chamber of Commerce to attend in your community.
    • Create a database of clients, prospects, and family/friends. You may need to buy a list to add to your present list. You may need to go to the library and find those resources with contacts in them for your niche´. Remember this formula that for every 1,000 contact names in your database only 100 of them will be interested in your services. Of those 100 contacts only 10 of them will become a client.
    • Create a plan on connecting to those in your database. Another formula is to know that it takes about 6 – 8 touches with a contact before they remember you. Therefore you need to have a plan on how to contact these folks in a way that is positive and not annoying. I recommend mixing up your arsenal. I use: Phone Calls, emails, eNewsletters, Blogging, Postcards, and events as ways that I can make contact with my prospects and clients.
    • Develop an elevator speech. You need to be able at a moments notice explain to anyone what you do. Here is a link to mine.

    Attitude Adjustment

    When on staff you had a role. You would contact people asking if they needed your services. If this is how you worked then you need to change.

    Your goal should be to develop friendships. You need to get to know people so well, that as they talk about their life, you can see ways you could help them. This is a lot of listening and offering good advice that isn’t solicited. Once you are at this level in a friendship, it is much easier to give them suggestions of something that might help them.

    With my best friends I listen and often if I have a suggestion to help them I am pointing them to a friend and not me. This is how I have learned to build my business. I am there as a resource and to help point my friends (clients) to solutions and other friends I have to help them.

    My friends (clients) see me as someone looking out for them and helping them to be successful. When my friends do the same things for me I know I can go to them with even more things. I try and include them even more in my life.

    We all have those acquaintances that are always trying to get us to use them. We do use them when they are a good fit, but we don’t go to them and talk about our life. We can’t trust them like our friends.

    Continuing Education

    You need to continue to get better and more relevant for your prospects and clients. Set aside time to do research on your industry. Find out what is next on the horizon. Go to associational meetings and hear what others are doing.

    Join a professional association. Become friends with your competition and you will discover they are your colleagues. I am often booked and have just a few friends that I can trust with helping my clients and not trying to steal my clients.

    Get involved in those professional associations by helping with meetings and serving as an officer. It will help you grow in knowledge and make you more valuable to your clients.

    A team works together for the good of all. The practice together so they can perform flawlessly. (Nikon D3S, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/640, 300mm)

    Build a team

    You need to find an accountant, lawyer, and maybe someone to assist you on a contract basis. As you grow you will need to farm out things that take up your time that can be done by someone else.

    When you start out you need to consult experts. One of those should be a mentor/coach. Find someone who will help you navigate the waters of freelancing. They may live in another city. Whoever you find, be sure you regularly work with them.


    Freelancing is like a farmer. You will be plowing the fields, weeding and doing a lot of work long before you will be able to harvest the crop.

    If the farmer doesn’t put in the time and investment then there is no harvest.

    Just like the farmer you can do everything right, but there are things outside your control. Most of the farmers I know have a tremendous faith in God and know that while they can do everything right there is much out of their control. They pray for guidance and wisdom. Most of all they pray for grace.

    Photo Marketing 101: Step one (Old School)

    Even if you are still in school the business card is one of the most valuable Old Schoolbusiness tools you can use. If you are in school the goal is to get a job and you need to start now networking and the business card is one of the most valuable tools I use.

    What is shocking to me is how often I go to meetings and people do not have business cards. Usually these are the same folks saying they need to learn more about business practices.
    How they are used
    You never know when you will need one, so I always carry a stack of them. Networking is happening at any moment and not necessarily just for those planned networking events.

    When I meet someone at a meeting I like the Old School way of getting their business card and writing a note to myself to help me remember them on their card I was given by them.
    If I am at a conference for a few days I find that those really unique size cards are more annoying than unique and helping them standout. 

    When I meet someone at the event I think it is important to see if I can get an appointment with them later.  I find that once we find something in common I like to say how about we get together later and have a cup of coffee or lunch to talk more about it when we don’t have any other distractions.

    This is when I typically get their card and say I will be in touch later to schedule some time together.

    If someone doesn’t have a card I have to pull out a pen and paper and write the information down or put it on my phone.  This takes some time to do and sometimes in loud areas very hard to hear them talking.

    When it is so critical that the difference of a dot when you are trying to find someone on the web is important, don’t you think it should be important enough to be sure they can find you?

    This is the QR Code for my website

    QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside of the industry due to its fast readability and large storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes.

    If you want to generate a QR Code to put on your business card or create stickers then go here  

    What should be on a business card?

    While many are starting to ad QR Codes to their business cards here is some other basic information

    1.     Full name
    2.     Email address (Use your domain to host
    3.     Website/online portfolio (register a domain name
    4.     Phone number
    5.     Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
    6.     Blog

    Some things you can leave off today
    1.     Street Address
    2.     Photograph

    Electronic Business Cards

    You may want a virtual business card. One of these examples is the CardCloud.  Unlike traditional cards they never run out. You can share it with anyone; they don’t need the app for you to use it. It lets you track whom you gave your card to and therefore helps you to reconnect easier in the future.

    CardCloud is a digital business card application that is looking to replace the traditional printed business card. Rather than trading contact info by passing out a printed business card, CardCloud allows you to share your contact info directly from your iPhone to anyone in the room which is then stored automatically through .vcf or .vCard format. Alternatives to CardCloud include contxts, dub, Bump and BusinessCard2.

    vCard is a file format standard for electronic business cards. vCards are often attached to e-mail messages, but can be exchanged in other ways, such as on the World Wide Web or Instant Messaging. They can contain name and address information, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, URLs, logos, photographs, and audio clips.

    With LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other ways to connect on the spot when you meet someone what good is a business card? I can tell you from being a journalist for more than 30 years when someone tells me how to spell their name many times we still get it wrong due to the accent or lack of articulation by some folks.

    While many in sales are saying the business card maybe on the way out—I think it is here to stay.  I think the difference is now in what information you put on your card.
    is where I get my business cards printed.  You can get 2,500 business cards with 4-color on the front and back for only $35.

    Do me a favor and send me your vCard so I have your business card.