On one of the professional forums I read daily, there is a conversation about the lousy state of the industry, how clients are hiring based only on price, how protecting one’s intellectual property rights has cost clients, how competitors are charging less and giving more, and blah, blah, blah. It’s the usual bitching and moaning that happens in any economic downturn when photographers: 1) are selling a product that a buyer can obtain elsewhere for less; or 2) are inadequately conveying their value-add to their clients; or 3) have clients that don’t care about the additional “value” the photographer adds to a project.
Michael Albany, a Philadelphia photographer specializing in architecture and portrait photography offered up some valuable insight that I think can help to inspire other photographers. He wrote:
I totally understand the fact that the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be and that our industry is A) in a total state of flux, and B) that the market is becoming saturated with too many Uncle Bobs but I have to say that I am so tired of hearing people whine about it. So you want to charge less or leave ASMP because they don’t [fit] your agenda, bye. Have a nice day.
I joined ASMP to learn and to grow and guess what, I am. Is it the end all to be all? Nope. Is my photography business where I want it to be? Well if you don’t know my name then no, it’s not. Is it growing? Yes.
I don’t walk into a client’s office and say, “this is what I can do and this is what it costs.” I don’t get into the why it costs what it cost either, until they ask that is. I walk in and I ask, “how can I help you? How can I make your business better?” Some hire me and some don’t. Wow, business. It’s like that thing called “work.”
The days of just being good at what we do and having companies hire us because of that are over. Sure price made a little bit of difference but primarily it was “of the 10 photogs in town we like these two, now let’s talk price.” Those days are over. The Uncle Bobs will go back to their day jobs (at least some will) when the market improves. Get over it.
Whining and telling how horrible it is isn’t going to help them or you. It keeps you in a funk and stop trying to bring the rest of this forum or the world down to your depression level. Either get off your ass and find work and share you wins and how and why you got them, or go get a 9-to-5er.
Your other option, “Poor me, Poor me! Pour me another drink.” Wah.
To which, another photographer took Albany to task by asking: “Could you please offer us some insight into your success? Something helpful to the people who are feeling threatened and discouraged? Something beyond “it sucks to be you” or “just suck it up.”
But Albany was up to it, in a follow up post he wrote:
My success is no secret. I implement the ideas that I learned at SB3, I blog, I do a sh*t load of cold calls, I use Agency Access, I network constantly, I carry a tablet with me with my portfolio on it and show it to anyone that will look, I build relationships with clients and I nurture those relationships. Basically I work my ass off about 90-100 hours a week and I shoot maybe every other week. But I am shooting and I am making money, I am not yet making a great living but these days no one is.
The fact is that negativity breeds negativity and a positive attitude goes a long way with depressed clients these days too. I don’t have a magic bullet, I have a strict work ethic and I don’t waver from it. The single biggest thing is probably the relationship building and that simply takes time.
If you want something new to try, send an edible bouquet to all your key clients. Replace the standard card with one of your promo cards. Follow-up in two to three days and take them to lunch and ask them why they don’t call as much. Learn their problems and solve them. Not just photography issues either. Network and get to know other business owners in your area and when you see a solution for one introduce them to the person that can help them. That will stick in their heads for a lot longer than any mailer or portfolio.
And for God’s sake don’t be negative at all. If you can’t be positive, fake it.
Whew, Michael is working his market like a wild man! One of the most important tools he is making use of is networking. He’s contacting old clients he hasn’t heard from and he’s utilizing a great networking tool that many forget. If he knows of an unrelated, third party who has something to offer up to his client (or vice-versa) he acts as the middle-man and makes an introduction. This “people transaction” in one sense gains him nothing. But in another sense, it benefits him in a huge way… people remember people who helped them out. Think of it as paying it forward. His good deed (the introduction) will, in some way, at some point, come back to benefit him.
Great work Michael, thanks for inspiring all of us!
Photo credits: Church ©2011 Michael Albany, portrait ©2011 Shawn G. Henry