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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.]
With every passing year, it seems clients are expecting more and more from their photographers, which means we may need a lesson in productivity. Kat Dalager (@3etheLTAgency) goes even further and foresees the change of the very word photographer in her “Predictions for 2016“:
“The word ‘photographer’ will change. Maybe it will be ‘image maker’ or ‘content maker’ or ‘capturer.’ Whatever it is, it will reflect the expanded capabilities of the role.”
I agree with her and believe that in order to embrace the ever-increasing roles we find ourselves pushed into, we must become exceedingly efficient in our productivity. 2016 will be the year, where I take that productivity to the next level, integrating the technology, cloud based services, apps and automation software I use in my business.
Here are 11 tools that help me, solve my productivity puzzle:
The backbone for this virtual productivity is SalesForce – the CRM that’s been running my business for over 7 years now. Every account, contact and job lives in this cloud based service [learn more about SalesForce here: “I got my head in the cloud (along with all my data)“].
This year is the year where this automation will get flushed out. I’m already using the amazing integration between Evernote and SalesForce, which allows me to attach all job related records automatically. Now any creative brief, handwritten note, job estimate, permit, release, receipt, rental agreement, … is tagged with a job number in Evernote and appears in the digital job folder in SalesForce as if by Magic.
Every job, event and task that get entered in SalesForce automatically creates a counterpart in Asana, via Zappier. Asana is my project management software, where I can split up a job in an actionable To Do list. Every contact that’s added on my phone is automatically entered in SalesForce via IFTTT (IfThisThenThat). Zapier and IFTTT are two amazing automation softwares that enable you to use apps and cloud based services to stay productive.
I love traveling into extremely remote areas on assignment. There’s something about filming in the amazon rain forest, photographing a hidden monastery in a desert wadi or shooting video on a snow-covered airstrip in the Himalayan foothills, that recharges my creativity. On the flip side none of these places have electrical power. That can mean packing in extra batteries or figuring out a way of generating power to run all of your digital devices – from laptops to light meters, from cameras to cell phones.
When I go far off the grid, I rely on solar energy to supply all of my power needs in a portable, yet powerful package. The solar panel I travel with folds up to the size of a paper back book and can charge my GoalZero Yeti 150 solar generator in about 8 hours of sunshine. This package ran a 2 week documentary film shoot in the peruvian jungle, keeping all my gear charged – including my MacBook Pro I used to download and back up my footage.
Since that trip I carry the smaller GoalZero’s Sherpa 50 in each one of my bags. These little battery/inverters can power a GoPro (or two) on a multi-day time-lapse, top off my laptop or charge a couple of batteries (or devices) in the field.
Here’s a few tips when planning your next off-the-grid production:
For more travel tips check out 7 tips to keep your gear working on the road.
This blog post was first published on the American Society of Media Photographer’s Strictly Business blog.
…automatically answer every online contact request with a branded, personalized email from your company and get an alert to new inquiries via text, email and SMS from the cloud?
…enter each business card you’re handed into your cloud based address book and automatically pull in data from the card owner’s LinkedIn profile?
… see the last activity you had scheduled with that person, the client account associated with him or her and have the personal contact info from your cloud based client database on your screen when you look up a client on LinkedIn?
… automatically trigger the creation of a digital job folder, add a customized to-do list (based on how you go from prospect to client) to your calendar and create a blank production book in the cloud when a client sends you a job request?
… store all emails, call notes, marketing efforts, past invoices, payments and briefs pertaining to a client account in the cloud, accessible from anywhere in the world?
… control image delivery to your client from your smart phone?
… create an expense report in the cloud just by photographing a receipt?
Sounds to good to be true? Welcome to your business in the cloud.
Def: Cloud based business, means that your data is stored in with an online service. That can be a photograph you are delivering to your client via Photoshelter, contact information for a prospect stored in SalesForce or your production book from the last job including all releases, insurance info and crew details in Evernote.
There are lots of systems you can choose from. Here’s how I use mine…
The first tab that opens in my web browser is my SalesForce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: the heart of my cloud business. It aggregates all client info – some automatically, some from other applications or web services – into one place.
More than just a calendar and address book app, it links everything together, so my client’s personal cell phone number from last year is at my fingertips and I can easily see the last estimate I sent them while I’m on the phone talking about our upcoming project. The digital documents don’t have to be stored in SalesForce – in my case, I use Evernote.
Here are three channels I use to capture new leads into my SalesForce client database:
When a prospective client fills out the contact form on my website, they are actually entering their data into SalesForce, which then sends them an automated personalized email response and notifies me that I have a new lead. All this info is accessible via the web interface or an app on my phone (Read more about it on this Strictly Business article: Quick Tip – Automate).
I use a MailChimp plugin on my WordPress blog to send all subscriber information straight to SalesForce. That plugin also sends email updates to my subscribers when I publish a new blog post and maintains my mailing list. All day, every day. Don’t have to think about it.
I take a photo of the card, Scannable reads the card, saves it to the address book on my phone (pulling in any information that’s not printed on the card from the person’s LinkedIn profile) and adds my new contact to SalesForce. All in about 30 seconds. (Find a link to watch a real-time business card scan at the end of this post).
“Photographers have a huge advantage on Instagram. You already have the most important thing for great Instagram content: awesome photos!”
~Sue B. Zimmerman
Last week I got to interview Sue B Zimmerman (@theinstagramexpert) after listening to her on a webinar put on by productivity guru Steve Dotto (@dottotech). Their discussion made me rethink how much attention I pay to my Instagram account.
In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past 5 years, Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service and, as a visual content creator, it’s basically made for photographers. If you’re not utilizing it, well, let’s just say your missing out on a large market segment. I wrote about the importance of Instagram in getting hired last December on Strictly Business: Why a Strong Brand Online is Worth More Than Your Skill Set.
Within 5 years of its launch Instagram celebrated 400 million users, placing it in the top 5 US Social Media networks; that is a little misleading, since it’s owned by Facebook. Since Instagram does only one thing, it’s simple to use – but that simplicity can be difficult to use well.
Sue talked to me about the 5 mistakes you can’t afford to make on Instagram:
Mistake #1: Setting your Instagram account to private ensures that no one, but your followers can see what you post.
I made this mistake when I started. Social Media is social so don’t keep your account to yourself.
Sue does recommend that you keep your account set to private, until you write your bio (see mistake #3), post a minimum of 9 fantastic images and/or videos (see mistake #4) and come up with a strong Call to Action (see mistake #5). Once you’ve populated your profile – open your Instagram (IG) to the world! Interact with people, reply to tags, @mentions and shares.
Mistake #2: Using the generic Instagram avatar, will make sure that everyone knows you’re an IG newbie.
Ah, the profile picture. Mistake number 2 is uploading one that has nothing to do with your business. The only way you can do worse is by not uploading anything. Then you get this beauty:
Sue says you should put your smiling face on your account. People want to know who you are (and that they’re following the right instagram account). Make it specific to your brand – it can be your logo, but I agree with Sue, I like to have my face up there. The same goes for your IG your username in your brand. Make it the same as your twitter handle (mine is @photosbydepuhl) or your brand name or your own name. The good news is you can change the username on Instagram.
Mistake #3: Leaving your bio blank. Or writing a bad one.
Your bio, is the first thing people see on Instagram, so make it easy and tell them something about yourself. Don’t leave it blank or write something completely irrelevant. (You should set your account to private, until you have a strong bio written.)
True, it’s not easy to write an effective bio in 150 characters. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don’t forget you need to include your call to action in here as well (more about that in Mistake #5). This bio is the first impression your making on IG. Make it count.
Mistake #4: Posting photos of everything. Or posting underexposed, blurry, badly composed photos.
The Instagram feed for your business should be just that: photos and videos about your business (not breakfast – unless you’re a food photographer; not cats – unless you’re a pet photographer; not cute kids – unless [say it with me] you create portraits of kids). If you want to post those images, create a personal Instagram account.
Keep your account focused. Sue says that you should show only the images and posts that build your brand. When someone clicks on your IG feed, your brand should be immediately clear. Remember you can post videos on Instagram, as long as they are under 15 seconds long, like this one:
Wanna get a sneak peek of what I shot in New York and Miami over the last few days? Check out our celebration of 25 years of making world-class artists and designers in one of the best #PublicSchools in @miamischools! #DASH consistently produces Top Talent in #architecture #IndustrialDesign #fashion #film and #graphicdesign @dashschool
Include finished photos and behind the scene shots, Sue says it’s important to humanize your IG account.
Mistake #5: Not writing a strong Call to Action for your link. Not including a link at all is the only way you can make this mistake worse. You get one link on Instagram and one link only. It’s in your bio, so choose it wisely. Once you’ve decided what your want to feature – your website, your blog, your newsletter, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts – don’t just say “Click here.” instead include a strong Call to Action. Read my blog. Join my mailing list. Watch my video. Make that sole, lonely link that IG gives you count! The one saving grace is that this link – like your username – can be changed.
Ahh, the “No-can-do” attitude. It’s your best friend, when it comes to being creative. “Nope, not gonna happen” is music to my ears. “No way! You’re crazy.” I’ll eat up that attitude all day long. “No! That’s a crazy idea.” Love it!
However here’s the rub: No-can-do is great as long as it’s not your attitude, but everybody else’s attitude about your idea. They can say No to your idea as much as they want. It’s you who mustn’t say No, when it comes to your next creative challenge, your next adventure, your next big thing.
Others will say no to what you are trying to do, without giving it a second thought. Want my advice? Ignore them. (More about that in rethink who you listen to.)
I get it. The unknown is a scary place. Getting ready to do anything for the first time makes all of us nervous. The important thing is not to let that fear immobilize you. (It’s ok for everyone else to be afraid of taking that step, actually it’s beneficial to you, when everyone else is scared of what you’re about to attempt.)
Case in point:
A couple years ago got to film a corporate documentary in Afghanistan. Looking back now, it was one of the most intense and fun adventures I’ve had in a while, but now that the film is finished and has won international awards, been screened a film festivals and was the subject of a TEDx talk, it’s easy to forget than literally everybody I talked with before I went, had said No.
No – I shouldn’t go. No – I was not sane even considering this project. No – I was not going to come back alive. No – they wouldn’t do anything that crazy. No …
You know what?
There were only 6 people, who were willing to listen, willing to give their advice, willing to not dismiss this outright and –in the case of my wife– willing to let me go. Everybody who told me no before the project, now thinks this was one of the best things I’ve done. Funny how their no turned into a yes.
You know what I’ve learned? Almost everybody can give you the wrong advice – that’s easy. Very few people will take the time to listen and think through an opportunity with you and help you ascertain if it’s a risk worth taking.
Let me thank my heroes here again: Thank you Jacomina, Judge, John, Hugo, Scott and Jerry. You guys saw the YES, where everyone else saw no.
That “No” you hear in your head or feel in your gut, is your experience going into self-preservation mode. It’s far less risky to not try something new, but it’ also far more boring and less exciting. Without risk there is no reward. Now there are times that you should listen to that little voice screaming NO! Actually every time the action you’re about to take involves serious risk, you should probably listen, however how much risk you’re comfortable taking, is up to you and in direct proportion to the potential gain.
Don’t use this feeling as an excuse though, live on the edge of your comfort zone – preferably on the outside edge. Push yourself to try something you’ve never done before. Carefully weigh the risk and the potential reward, find some heroes that can are willing to see the past all the naysayers and follow your dream.
If you’re looking for some practical advice on how to reduce risk, how to quiet that ‘No!’ in your head, check out the ultimate cheat sheet on taking risk.
[This post was written for ASMP’s Strictly Business blog.]