Tag Archives: business

12 Tips for Productivity

29 Apr
Wild Beauty :: CO

Wild Beauty :: CO

 

So much of running your own business is about staying motivated and focused on your goals, and about time management.  It’s pretty common for the people around me to express surprise or admiration about how much I manage to accomplish in any given week.  It’s come up enough that I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Self Care: Your body is the vehicle that you use to accomplish tasks, and treating it right will go a long way towards maintaining your energy level and focus.  Eat right.  Sleep well. Work out. Drink a lot of water.
  • Peak Performance Times: Everyone has their own time of day when they work best.  Some people jump out of bed ready to tackle the day.  Others (me) are sloths who don’t feel awake until about 10 AM.  Once you start to realize your brain functions best at certain times of day, it’s an easy leap to realize that you will benefit from scheduling the more complicated, deep thoughts or creative tasks during that time frame.  For me, after a long day, my creative juices just stop flowing so I try to get the difficult stuff done either in the morning, or after my afternoon break when I feel refreshed.
  • Know How Much Your Time Is Worth: Narrow your to-do list down to things that really matter.
  • Have a System: Everyone has a process that works best for them.  Find yours and use it.  If you go into each day organized, with attainable goals and a system that works for you, you’ll see productivity soar.
  • Set Deadlines: It’s so easy to fall into the trap of procrastination.  If you set yourself deadlines to accomplish tasks, you have a clear way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable.
  • Is There a Better Way?: If you approach the world with the attitude that there is always something you can learn, then you’re bound to find ways to be more efficient at your job.  Continue to educate and improve yourself.
  • Why Is This Important or Necessary?: If you can’t answer that question, there is a good chance you aren’t spending your time wisely.
  • Stay Positive: Negativity can kill motivation quickly.  Yes, there will always be people better than you at XYZ.  But what other people do doesn’t define your journey.  Know that your efforts are enriching your life, and surround yourself with people who value what you are contributing to the world.
  • Take Breaks, but Make Them Reasonable: We only can stay focused on something for so long.  It is completely reasonable to get up from your desk, stretch your legs, clear your mind and come back re-focused.  The trick is to keep the breaks manageable, so that they don’t become a distraction.
  • Evaluate What’s Necessary and What’s Distracting:  One of the biggest secrets to my productivity is that I rarely watch TV.  I’m not opposed to it, per se, I just see it as a waste of time when I could be working on something else…like a productivity blog. 😉  Once you’ve identified whatever your distractions are – TV, social media, etc – limit them when possible.
  • Get Involved in The Community: We are stronger as a group, and networking can have a huge impact on how effective and efficient you can be.  I’ve frequently met people who had a skill I didn’t know I needed until I needed help with it.  Getting involved in your community is a great way to make connections, and build a client base at the same time.
  • Stay Up-To-Date on Changes in Your Town/City/Community/News: Staying in the know can prevent you from having to do double work when you belatedly find out something impacting your project has changed.  Always stay informed, especially about laws or regulations that may impact your work.

 

  • Bonus Tip: Create a lifestyle of learning and productivity outside of the work environment.  Beyond just running a photography business, I’m also dedicating time these days to salsa dancing lessons, horseback riding, travel (aka experiencing new things) and writing classes.  I’ve learned to play instruments and sing (poorly), I’ve taken kickboxing classes, and I’ve tried learning to cook and attempted to learn new languages (also poorly).  None of those things are necessarily related to photography, but all of the them strengthen the brain or encourage creativity.
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10 Tips for a Successful Photography Start-up

11 Sep
In Wildness

In Wildness

In Wildness is the preservation of the World. -Henry David Thoreau

 

When I saw that quote, I felt it in my bones.  So often, my heart cries for the wild, to be out among the trees and splashing in streams.  But while that sense of adventure sustains my soul, it’s not what my business needs to succeed.  And that, my friends, is one of the major obstacles for us creative brain types.

 

Success as a photographer requires a few things.  First, you must be willing and able to embrace your artistic nature, to work on your skills and to learn from critiques.  Second, you need to suppress your artistic nature and embrace the ideas of organization, planning and structure.  And finally…throw in a dash of drive, perseverance and belief in your worth to round out your business plan.  Afterall, the qualities needed to hike 10 miles over two days in bad weather, to endure physical discomfort and to stay focused (all of which happened to get the above image) are the same qualities that will allow you to keep your eyes forward, looking to your next goal or milestone even when you run into problems, mistakes and failed attempts.

 

Alright, lets explore these ideas, shall we?

1) Define your success:

The first step to success is to define what success means to you.  If your aspirations stop at “making some money doing what you love”, then so be it.  If you plan on reaching for the stars, well, I applaud you…set attainable goals for yourself and build on each baby step.  I promise you, no matter what path you choose, there will be many people that will question your methods, your pricing and your judgment.  Ultimately, it’s up to you to sort out the useful suggestions from the criticisms that will pull you away from your dreams (while trying to shove you into someone else’s definition of success).

2) Remember your roots:

You got into <insert your art genre here> for a reason, right? The willingness to create is a wonderful thing, and isn’t to be taken lightly.  Having a creative outlet can enrich your life in so many ways, and remembering why you do what you do can help sustain you when times are tough. You will make mistakes, and it will suck.  Remember, that’s part of the learning process.  Don’t let too much pride or a stubborn nature become another obstacle to your success.  It’s not easy to open your eyes and ears to useful critiques (key word being useful…see #1) and grow based on that feedback.  But grow you must if you’re looking to stand out in a heavily saturated market.

3) Invest in yourself:

Growth can’t happen without effort on your part.  Find a workshop you can afford and attend it.  Watch youtube videos on the latest editing technique.  Read blog posts and tutorials on how to achieve what you want to achieve.  Study up on the newest whatever it is…giant ring light, light painting, luminosity masks…etc.  There will always be more to learn, and making the effort to do so will show in the quality of your work.  That is important because without a solid portfolio and understanding of what you bring to the table, it’s very difficult to understand your worth and sell yourself to a client.

4) Be thoughtful and organized:

The difference between having a dream and having a goal is planning.  A dream is a nebulous half formed idea that you hope will happen to you someday.  A goal is something you work towards, step by laborious step, until you’ve achieved and moved on to the next goal.  To reach those milestones, you need plans.  And lists.  And a calendar.  And lots and lots of sticky notes.

For example, yesterday’s to-do included…
~ Between 10-11 am = promote blog tour project on Twitter, business Facebook page and in a Facebook group.  On twitter, use link to blog tour page.
~ 3ish pm = Twitter post attaching blog tour photo to catch people’s eye
~ Between 4-5pm = post blog tour image on Instagram, tag someone likely to re-share.  Link Instagram to personal Facebook page so friends and family see to post
~ write out tomorrow’s blog, set release between 10-11
~ plan tomorrow’s promo… market on wordpress, link new blog to a Facebook group (landscapes, nature, etc), #tbt on personal page with old trip/image to promote
~Monday post newest blog shot to 500px, pinterest, and 500px Facebook group at 8a, 10a or 4-5p
~Next Tuesday, post about art hanging at Francesca’s restaurant in Canton, CT.  Tag them on FB to increase views.

5) Invest your time and resources wisely:

So…why do I choose to post on social medias around 8a, 10a or between 4-5p?  Because our generation checks their phones and social medias before they go to work, when their attention starts to wander at work and they need a coffee break, and then as soon as they get out of work but before they are home and start the routine of picking up children, cooking dinner, doing homework, etc.  Posting at times when my target market won’t see what I have to offer is a waste of time.  Furthermore, I’ve read that some social medias track people who spam their feeds and write them out of the algorithms.  No idea if that’s true, but it helps ease my conscience about not posting non-stop. haha

Why do I choose not to post on Fridays?  In my experience, unless you’re posting early, you won’t get much feedback.  Once 5pm hits, people are focused on their weekend plans, not what pretty picture you have to offer that day.  If I do post, it’s generally a fluff post or a personal post.  And yes, those personal posts are also work.  Your market wants more than just a nameless, faceless artist in their feed.  Art is an emotional experience and you want people to invest in you so they eventually invest in your art.

Are you starting to see what I mean about investing wisely?  It’s not just financial advice.  Keep track of what does and doesn’t bring you results.  Cull the useless stuff, be consistent about the stuff that works and be on the look out for new ways to put yourself out there.

6) Be bold.  Be personable.:

As I said, personality counts here.  If you have two photographers of equal skill to work with, and one of them is an arrogant jerk, or a socially awkward weirdo, or completely aloof, disorganized and/or never returns your emails and phone calls… while the other is funny, nice, tries to please the customer, communicates well and in a timely fashion….  Well, I know who I’d choose.

You can NEVER have too many people in your corner.  Make friends.  Network.  Enjoy your peers…it’s part of the ride.

Often times, you are selling yourself as much as you are selling your vision and creations.  Be bold.  Introduce yourself.  Ask how you can become a part of their team.  Take chances.  Run a class or a workshop.  Build your resume.  Believe in what you have to offer.  And remember, price yourself accordingly.

7) This is a business, remember?:

Believe in your work.  You have spent countless hours studying youtube videos and attending lighting seminars.  You have dropped thousands of dollars on equipment, insurance, travel, etc…remember those expenditure sheets you fill out during tax season?  They hurt to look at, don’t they.  You have invested in yourself so that, in the end, you can get paid for your work.

For most new entrepreneurs, the goal is simply to cover your costs as you build a portfolio and your skill sets.  You will read a million blog posts about not giving away your work for free, about undervaluing yourself and the effect that has on the market, about how you paint yourself into a corner when you charge less than other professionals think you should…and I’m not going to say they are wrong.  There is evidence to support all of what you’ve read.  But everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m not going to judge you for charging an amount appropriate to your skill level.  What I will do, though, is encourage you to grow your rates as you grow your skill.

Yes, chances are you will lose clients who are used to paying the lesser rate.  But as you lose them, you will be gaining a new market.  Don’t be afraid to ask for more money if your skills and experiences can support what you’re asking.  Because…did I mention this is a business?  (Or, at the very least, an expensive hobby that you can convince others to help support? lol) Time is money and you should be compensated for yours.

8) Specialize:

I have news for you.  You’re probably not good at everything all of the time.  How can you be?  To really learn and focus on every aspect and genre within your art would require infinite amounts of time, talent and resources, which most people simply don’t have.  When you think of it in those terms, it seems unrealistic to expect to really that you will excel as a fashion photographer, landscape photographer, newborn photographer, astrophotographer and live concert photographer.  More likely, if you see one person offering workshops in all of those areas, they are excellent at one or two and passable at the rest.  (I will admit, there are a few people who are truly gifted and do well in multiple specialties…I can think of one guy off the top of my head who has his hands in a lot of pots and always makes quality images…but that kind of talent is rare.)

So, rather than make passable images that blend into the crowd of a million other passable images, find your thing and shine.  For example…I am primarily a landscape kind of gal.  If you’ve looked at my portfolio, you know this.  I am also a wedding photographer whose skills run to details shots, seeing bigger picture shot set-ups, organization, and couples portraits.  My second is an amazing candid photographer…I am not.  I know this, so for the most part, I rely on her for those shots and for her ability to manage the crowd and make children laugh for their portraits.

I am, speaking of, also 150% NOT a newborn shoot kind of gal and I’m okay with that.  (I’m afraid I’ll break them!)  But my second shooter…well…she just loves every part of newborn shoots and it shows in her work.  When we pick up a baby shoot, I don’t even bring my camera.  I’ll just hold the reflectors and hand her some props, thank you very much.

I know my skills sets and while I work to improve the rest of what I lack, I don’t expect to specialize in everything.  And again…I’ve come to terms with it.

9) Diversify:

Yeah yeah, contradictory, I know.  But really, what I mean is diversify your income streams.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  Put on clinics.  Sell your prints.  Get hired for events.  Have an online store where you sell pillows and how-to-photography books.  If one source of revenue dries up, at least you won’t be claiming bankruptcy.

10) Be grateful:

Your attitude about life affects everything about your life.  Have goals, work hard but remember to appreciate how far you’ve already come or you will drown in a sea of negatives….all of the goals you haven’t met yet, the missteps along the way, the measuring yourself against other artists, etc.  Gratitude will go a long way towards giving you perspective and keeping you humble (and personable!)

and finally…the bonus…

11) You are you.  Don’t try to be someone else.:

At some point in our careers, we all mimic another person’s style because we admire their work or we envy their success…or some reason in between that I haven’t thought of.  That is a normal step in developing your own “signature thing”.  The key is to be conscious of it and try not to linger in someone else’s footprint for too long.  You will never be them and comparing yourself to them and their success is a dangerous path leading to a downward spiral.  Instead of chastising yourself for not doing what someone else does to the degree that they do it, recognize what it is about their style that you like and then incorporate it into your work, putting your own twist on it, making it your own.  Then, people can look at your stuff and wonder, “How did he/she do that??  It’s awesome!”

 

So, there you go.  11 tips to help get your business mind right.  It’s not a complete list…and if I put my mind to it, I might be able to think of more…but then, what would I write about in future blog posts? haha  It’s also, most definitely, not the only way of doing things but it does highlight a lot of the lessons I’ve learned based on my experiences.  There is no substitute for your own personal experiences, but maybe, just maybe you’ll find something on this list that will help you grow your passion too. 🙂

Oh…and as for the photo at the top?  You know…that pretty little header to lead off all of these tips?  That is a view of Tuckerman’s from Hermit Lake on Mount Washington.  It was a dark and stormy weekend all around, but every now and again, the clouds would break and the sun would light our way. 🙂

The Creative Process

3 Sep
Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray

Having a creative outlet has changed my life.  I’ve been places, I’ve met people, I’ve poured myself into projects, come out of my shell, taken risks, failed and learned to persevere, and I’ve experienced life all because I involved myself in ‘The Process‘.

When people ask me what I want to do with my life, ultimately, I always come back to photography.  There are times when I tell myself to be more responsible, to try to get another (more useful) degree with which to make more money, to do something with computers or math or business.  Make more money.  Live easier.  Be more…adult?

Ultimately, that little voice dies out (until such time where I’m struggling to pay a bill) beneath the irrefutable logic of happiness.  I simply can’t fathom pouring my energy into something that holds no appeal.  I’ve wracked my brain trying to imagine what sort of business degree I’d want to spend years paying for, so that I could get a firm grasp on…..some…..one…else’s dream?  The only answer I keep coming back to is that I want to grow MY BUSINESS.  Investing in my skills as a photographer and building my brand never seems like a hardship.  It’s not easy, but most things worth doing aren’t.  And more importantly, my photography is rewarding in countless ways.

I long ago decided that one of my life goals was to experience life.  It would seem that owning my own business and investing in my photography has been a great catalyst, ever propelling me in the direction of living.

 

I life skill.

For all it’s creativity, running a business is still a business.  I set goals, have budgets, write contracts, hire, coordinate travel, negotiate, make deadlines, and do math.  You know….adult stuff.  Boss stuff.  CEO and owner stuff.  (Impressed with me yet?)

 

I travel.  

In my life I have…

Photographer's Life

Photographer’s Life

….climbed to the top of many somethings just to photograph the view.  Or sometimes, the lack of view.  lol

Moray, Peru

Moray :: Peru

….been to several countries, most recently Peru.

Bones in the Sand

Bones in the Sand :: Maine

….explored as many states and spaces and things within my own country as I can, getting up too early and staying up way too late, driving more hours than most sane people probably do all in the name of photography. 🙂

 

I meet people.

I’m incredibly shy.  I mean, I put on a good face about a lot of things, but in the end, reaching out to new people is a very intimidating thing for me.  However, having a business has given me a reason to network and honestly, I’m so grateful that I have.  I have made good friends (like co-host David Pasillas, among many many others) simply because of the power of the internet and the drive to make art.  In finding the courage to reach out and to make myself accessible to others, I have developed a strong network of friends, of confidants, of supporters, of knowledge, of stories and experiences…all of which have greatly enriched my life.

Networking, by the way, also brings great opportunity.  For those of you in the CT area, who happen to like wine and good food, I will have my prints hanging at Francesca’s…all stemming from a friend putting in a good word.  And this is me, returning the favor! lol  If you’re in the Collinsville area, check them out. 🙂

 

I take chances.

Yeah…they don’t always work out.  And sometimes, it kind of sucks. haha  But the times it does work out more than make up for the times it doesn’t.  We lose 100% of the shots we don’t take, right?  And I view the misses as learning experiences, so really…even they aren’t that bad.  We can’t expect people to understand our genius, our art or our stories if we hide them away in the shadows.  I’ve learned that you have to take chances, to be loud, to try new things, accept critiques, be open to whatever life hands you and be willing to promote yourself both to grow your business, and to grow your soul.

 

And speaking of growing your soul…. I appreciate.

How can you create beautiful images without first appreciating what the world has to offer?  Photos are more than just a place or a moment.  A photograph is an emotional memory painted on film.  Without that emotional spark, that outpouring of feeling, that bit of care taken to make an image shine…most photos will just fall flat.

Enders Falls - Mono and Moody

Mono and Moody :: CT

A finished, edited image doesn’t just represent the way a person, place or thing looked at a particular moment in time.  It also represents patience.  It represents years of growth and skill.  It represents the way the photographer felt at the time the shutter released.  It represents the way the photographer felt when he or she sat down to edit the image, and as with all art, it represents how the viewer feels when they see the final product.  All that, and more, in one little photograph.

When you think about it that way, photography is a strong reminder to  A) learn to truly see the world and depth behind everything around you…. and B) appreciate both the good and beautiful things the world has to offer…and C) recognize the inter-connected nature of life.

 

I…well…have a creative outlet.

The last one may sound obvious, but there is a certain joy that comes along with having a creative outlet.  It is a release for negativity and stress, its a place to lose myself, to escape the day to day, and to bring a sense of accomplishment and pride to my life.  It is one of the best sources of relaxation and frustration, and by far one of the most therapeutic addictions I have. Photography grounds me and motives me at the same time. 🙂

 

I expect if I think hard enough about it, I can find a million little ways that having a creative outlet has impacted my life, mostly in a positive way.  Truly, I can’t imagine my life without creativity in it.  In all it’s various forms, it feeds my soul.  Music, photography, writing…eating a chef’s imaginative meal…enjoying my niece’s interpretation of the world reflected in her drawings…building a piece of furniture with my father…hmmmmm…speaking of, I have to finish the blue print for that bathroom vanity at Mom and Dad’s house. lol  Uh.. Anyway…  Creativity is everywhere, and often can be found down non-traditional but fulfilling paths.  Sometimes its just a matter of taking that first step and before you know it, your creative spirit will run free.  If you feel a bit stifled and constricted by your everyday life, I encourage you to find your muse.  Once you experience the joy it can bring you, you won’t look back. 🙂

This is just one of several blog posts going around, talking about what having a creative outlet means to your life.  Please, check out the other artists and creatives who took the time to express what it means to their lives and businesses.  The hub with all of the links is here.  If you want to be part of the discussion, put together your own post and send me the link.  I’ll include you in the hub.  If you post it on social media, make sure to tag David or I, and add the hashtag #create. We’ll find ya. 🙂