Category Archives for "Guest Blog Posts"
What’s on your mind right now? We know folks who work for themselves have plenty to say about the business of doing business. That’s why we want to share your insights, ideas, and best practices. Today, we’re spending a few minutes with Pascal Depuhl, a photographer, and videographer who’s also an active member of this community.The last time we spoke with Pascal, he explained why his professional title at Photography by Depuhl is “Chief Mindchanger” and why he believes we all have a moral and professional obligation to give back.
Given Pascal’s focus on doing good, it was no surprise we caught up with him as he was recovering from jet lag after a whirlwind trip to Nepal. That’s where he’d been working with an organization dedicated to helping remote mountain communities get access to life-saving medical services. Pascal tells us why and how he got there. He also shares an unexpected realization that changed the way he thinks about and provides customer service.
Pascal, tell us about your film project in Nepal.
I was filming a documentary about a non-governmental organization (NGO) in a remote region of the Himalayas. When I say “remote,” I‘m not exaggerating. People in these villages have to trek for seven days through insanely rough mountains and valleys just to get to a bus stop. From there, it’s a 15-hour ride to the nearest hospital. Given these conditions, it’s no wonder the life-expectancy of a child under eight is just 50%.
This NGO organizes helicopter evacuations for villagers with medical emergencies and sets up outposts offering basic medical treatments and service. The group also helps villagers navigate the hospital system in Kathmandu.
What led you to offer your services to this inspiring organization?
I believe all of us – visual content creators, accountants, you name it – have innate abilities and skills. When we’re lucky enough to do something we love, and we’re good at, we must give back. I love being involved in projects like this one every few years. I arranged this trip to coincide with an assignment I was on in Asia for a different client. Since I was already on the ground, I knew my travel expenses would be minimal. I found out about this NGO and offered my services in exchange for covering basic costs.
For me, the goal is to balance commercial clients with projects like making this important documentary. Of course, when I’m shooting in Nepal, I’m not marketing my business or working for a paying client. But I think the trade-off is really worth it.
You’ve been running your own business for 25 years. What are you doing different these days?
I was behind the camera during a presentation at a medical convention by Horst Schulze, the former president of the Ritz Carlton. He explained the most important thing every great company does is not finding new customers. The number one thing is to keep the current customer.
When I was at the Ritz, I experienced the hotel’s amazing customer service myself. After the talk, I thought about what I do to keep my clients happy. I realized it’s never been my top priority. So, I started thinking about the small gestures I could make, things that don’t cost a lot of money or take much time but really add up.
Not long after, I had a shoot with a client who was driving in from two hours away. I knew she had to get up at 4 a.m., so the day before, I asked her how she likes her coffee. When my client arrived on site, I greeted her with a hot cup, made just the way she likes it. This gesture took zero effort on my part, but my client was so pleased, she couldn’t stop talking about it!
That’s a great story. How are you continuing to incorporate this new approach to customers?
Now I keep service at the forefront. I find myself constantly thinking ahead so I can anticipate the need of my customer. This kind of thinking helps clients engage better with my brand. But fundamentally, it’s not about making money. I want my customers to know I genuinely care about them.
Here’s an example. Recently, I was sharing the Ritz Carlton story with someone over lunch and saying how much I’ve learned by reading about the service culture at the Ritz-Carlton, The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. After lunch, I immediately ordered the book online and had it shipped to my friend’s home the next day. It just felt like the right thing to do.
Another shift is the way I work with the contractors and freelancers I hire for a shoot. Now, before each job beings, I let the crew know my philosophy about making great service a priority. I tell them the client needs to be blown away. Since everyone on my team represents my brand, it’s important I set clear expectations so we’re all on the same page.
None of these changes is huge. But simply being aware of the importance of customer service really does make a lightbulb go on – and then it stays on.
Before you go
What changes have you made in the way you think about, and offer customer service? We’d love to hear your story!
This post was originally published in Quicken’s Quick Books Community.
Younger generations of workers are now choosing to steer clear from the traditional employer/employee work environment, to a less traditional, freelance career or what some call “micro-entrepreneur”. This trend seems to be a lot more common for the millennial generation. According to research commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans now freelance in some capacity. Of that, 38 percent are millennials, compared to 32 percent of non-millennials (i.e., people over 35).
This choice was the subject of a recent workshop, The Business of Freelancing that took place at Miami International University of Art & Design in collaboration with CollabMiami featuring six panelists from different industries discussing their experiences in making freelance a career choice. The panelists included:
• David Verjano, Social Media Consultant, Verjano Communications, www.verjanocommunications.com
• Amanda Abella – Millenial Financial Expert and Blogger, Make Money Your Honey, www.makemoneyyourhoney.com
• Julio Galindez – DJ and Musician, AtellaGali, www.atellagali.com
• Pascal Depuhl – Photographer and Cinematographer, Photography by Depuhl, www.depuhl.com
• Friks 84 – Callingrapher and Illustrator, www.friks84.com
• George Cuevas – Graphic Designer, Creative Director and CollabMiami Founder, www.georgecuevas.com
Top 10 Freelancing Tips
Read the top freelancing tips we shared on Marcia’s post: “Freelance as a Career Choice“
This article was published on the Miami International University of Art and Design website and is written by Marcia Gomez.
After falling into shooting images on a whim as a teen, Pascal honed his art over a number of years before starting his own company about a decade ago. Now he boasts an impressive lineup of clients, including National Geographic, SeaRay and Mars thanks to constant hard work and dedication to his craft.
We chatted with Pascal about the first big job that launched his career, how he learned to stand out in a saturated industry and the secret sauce for keeping your happy customers coming back for me. [Much of my success has to do with how I use SEO.]
Read on to hear his story!
Name: Pascal Depuhl
Business: Photography by Depuhl
How did you start your business?
I’ve been getting paid for my photography since my late high-school years. I began assisting and apprenticing after college for four years [Read more about that in “This phone call made my career.” BTW a blog post is a great way to use SEO.] and got my first full-time job in 1996, but I only launched my company in 2004. I honestly don’t know what first drew me to photography! I was saving money to buy a mountain bike and ended up walking into a store and picking up a camera instead.
I opened up my own shop out of necessity. I had gotten laid off from two full-time photography jobs in 12 months and didn’t want to have to rely on someone else to earn my livelihood.
Who was your very first customer?
A friend of my dad had an ad agency that needed photos for one of their clients. I was a senior in high school when I got that job, and the budget for the whole thing — including travel expenses, food, lodging, film, processing, my time and equipment — was a little over $1,750 dollars.
My dad’s friend told me he didn’t care how long I stayed in Israel to photograph, as long as I didn’t go over budget. I was there for a month!
When did you know your business was going to work?
I got an unsolicited email from a company that provided a retouching service to photographers. I realized that they found my business online and were looking to sell me their service [To be honest at that time I did not know much about how to use SEO]. I was so excited, because I’d spent absolutely zero money on advertising, yet someone who didn’t know me figured out I was a photographer based on information that was out there online.
Today, what is your most effective means of getting new customers?
Everything I do, from writing a blog to keeping an active social media presence on sites like Instagram and Twitter, from putting on workshops to volunteering and being deeply involved in the local small business community [all good examples of how I use SEO to build my online brand], is done with …
As many of you know, I have been writing this blog for 8 years now, and I also spent many years of my life as Director of Marketing at Lexar dealing with the ins and outs of the memory card business. And in all that time, I have never written a blog about the do’s and don’ts of memory cards. Now that I have left Lexar and not on that side of the business any more, I feel that I can write this objective piece for you without any conflict of interest.
Most people look at a memory card as a piece of plastic or metal, and they don’t think much about them. But inside those covers, there is a LOT of intelligence. There is flash memory, a controller and much more. The quality of that memory and controller often determines the speed and quality of your card.
2. Format your memory cards in your camera, not on your computer. I have seen countless web sites which tell people to format their memory cards on your computer. This is just bad information! You want to format the cards in the camera. And you should do this on the camera your are shooting with. I am currently shooting with the Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 5D Mark III, and I format the card in the camera I am using. You are reading this correctly…I do not format in one Canon camera and move it to another. Will they work?
… I usually get an email that reads: “A lead has been assigned to you“. It’s my Customer Relationship Management system’s way of letting me know someone just clicked the <submit> button on the contact form of my website. By this time that prospective client has already received a personalized email response, their information is already captured in SalesForce and I’ve gotten a text message with their phone number all while their usually still on my website.
If I’m not shooting, I’ll take a minute, open the SalesForce app on my phone, which lets me see what kind of photography or video the website visitor is looking to have me create for them and give them a quick call or fire off a second prewritten email.
Attached to the second email is a pdf that answers many of the questions that my clients have asked me over the years. It goes over the basic kinds of product photos, how to make a list of all the shots the client needs, ect.
“Your product photography guide really helped us think through the types and number of shots we needed for our project” one client told me recently.
In addition to the guide they can use my online Request-an-Estimate, another SalesForce integrated form that walks my next client through the basic ASMP Assignment Estimate Form.
Once they’ve worked through the guide and filled out the form, my first phone call usually turns out to be very productive, because many basic questions already have been answered.
With all the information in hand, I can create an estimate, that get’s sent out using a third SalesForce email template. (Check out what an actual estimate of mine looks like.) My estimate always contains a modified version of the ASMP Terms & Conditions, which gets integrated in any proposed agreement the client sends me. Once the estimate is signed and the deposit is received, we schedule the shoot.
Even before that signature I start to build a “Production Book” in
Sure, you can do what everyone else it doing. Or you could try something else. You can market in those tried and true channels or you can rock the boat. If you’re looking to stand out in a very crowded field, here’s how you get your foot in the door.
Before we go any further, there is one thing I want to stress: your work must be solid. You’re pricing must be dead on and your customer service must be top notch. If these things are not firmly in place, you may get that new client, but you won’t keep him. Here we’re taking about how to break through all the noise to reach new clients and that requires you to be different in your marketing.
Who are you as a photographer? More importantly, who do your prospective client perceive you to be? With every interaction, you must put your best foot forward, since you can’t make a first impression for the second time. When a client looks for a visual content creator, they are looking at more than one photographer. How do you stand out from that field? What can give you a leg up?
It’s not just your work – your client is looking at other people who can deliver similar quality.
It’s not just your price – unless you’re interested in a race to the bottom, there’s always someone willing to do it cheaper.
It’s not just your marketing – since we all are on social media, online, …
Before a new clients hire me, they almost always start looking for a generic “photographer” with in a ‘cold’ google search. Once they’ve found my company, it stands out from the rest. How? By hacking the market. By doing things differently, especially by trying things, other photographers say won’t work.
Understand who your perfect client is.Then learn what they are looking for, when they hire a photographer. If you know the answers to these two questions, then you can gear your marketing hacks to help those clients find and book you. Does this approach work? Listen to a recent client talk about her experience:
About a year ago, I wrote “25 marketing hacks for creatives” here on the ASMP blog. Did you try some of these out? They range from the very simple act of mailing a copy of a magazine to an art director (MarketingHack #8) to flying a plane half way around the world for a movie premiere in an airplane hangar (MarketingHack #11).
One thing they all have in common, they are unusual and are all done on a shoe-string budget. Many of these marketing hacks don’t look like your average photographer’s marketing efforts, but that’s just the point. If you’re looking for some more detail on the MarketingHacks that have worked for me, I’ve got a blog post with all the details for each one of the 25+ hacks on my list.
Share your favorite way to hack the market in the comments.
Shakespeare must have been thinking about video editing when he penned the words “Brevity is the soul of wit“. There’s a reason it’s called the “cutting room floor” and not the “‘let’s cram some more content into this video’ room floor”. When you’re editing, you’re trimming individual clips, cutting out whole scenes, shortening, condensing and although it seems counterintuitive, the shorter the piece is that you are working on, the longer it’s going to take to edit it.
Blaise Pascal wrote it in 1657 “I have made this (letter) longer than usual, because I have not had time to make it shorter.” If you’re new to editing, you’ll quickly find that cutting together a video will take much more time, than shooting the footage. Our experience in still photography is often quite the opposite. I just finished a 6 day catalog photo shoot and finished editing, i.E. picking the final images by the next morning. A week later I was shooting 3 days of a multi-month motion project and editing that footage will take me much longer than 3 days.
Even though editing has a pretty steep learning curve, I strongly recommend that you edit your own work, especially when you’re just getting into creating video projects. It’s going to make you a better cinematographer. Fast.
On the other hand I strongly recommend that you work with an experienced video editor, especially when you’re just getting into creating video projects. It’s going to make you a better editor. Fast.
I remember coming back from filming my first corporate documentary film in Afghanistan in 2012. I shoot for 2 and a half weeks and had planned on spending a week to edit the movie. Just for the record, it ended up taking me a longer. Much longer. However editing the footage myself, really helped me understand which shots I had missed or screwed up, where I had to abandon ideas, because of a non-existent camera angles or bad takes I had not retaken in the field. Those realizations are painful, but I won’t be making the same mistakes again.
Collaborate with professional editors – it’ll make you a better editor
I also send pieces of the short film to friends of mine–experienced film industry pros–and the feedback I got from them was sometimes painful, but I learned a lot in a very short time.
One email was especially painful. It came from a seasoned Hollywood director friend of mine and begins with the words: “Ok. If you’ll notice the time you may give some thought to how much you’re loved and appreciated. For both expediency and brevity’s sake I’m not going to perfume my words…“
Then it goes into 3 pages of non-perfumed words, ripping apart every scene I’d lovingly cut together. Telling me (in no uncertain terms) where there was significant room for improvement. Honestly I did not feel happy when I read that email for the first time. Or the second time. But when I finally re-edited the film following his suggestions, they made the movie a million times better. A printout of his email sits on my desk and I reread it from time to time.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: Edit your video. Then cut out half of the footage. Once you’ve done that, congratulate yourself and cut it again by half. Now you’re in the ballpark of how long your motion piece should be. Brevity is the soul of wit, especially when it comes to editing.
If you’re looking for a great book on editing, check out “In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, by Walter Murch” it’s basically the Film Editors bible. Brand new to video? Check out Pascal’s talk at WordCamp Miami “How to step up your video” and learn about story, sound, visuals and edit.
[This post was originally published on the American Society of Media Photographers ‘Strictly Business’ blog.]