PPA Today: Search Results

Results tagged “Photography Business Guide” from PPA Today

By Bridget Jackson, CPA, PPA Business manager

Have you ever read something and thought to yourself, I could have written that! Today is that day for me. In fact, the entire article could have been my quotes.

The article was 7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Business Succeeds by Donald Todrin. He points out business fundamentals have not changed, but new strategies are required in light of the changing economic conditions. The information is poignant when applied to photography business owners, so I decided to do just that! Here are his seven ways to succeed in business tweaked for what I believe to be strategies for the photography industry.  

1) Have a written plan that should include the following:
 a. A financial plan detailing how many sessions you plan to conduct at a certain sales average, an estimate of how much it will take to produce your products (cost of sales), and an estimate of what your fixed expenses will be.
 b. A source of initial financing until the business is self-sufficient. On average, per the SBA, it takes some businesses 3-5 years until they are sustainably self-sufficient. Knowing this, if you plan to use your personal resources, go at it fully understanding that it will take time to replenish.
 c. A sales plan to achieve your sales average goal. The plan should include a strategy and a price list set up to achieve the goal.
 d. A marketing plan to attract the amount of sessions you need to satisfy your financial plan. The plan should identify your ideal paying client and the appropriate strategy to attract such defined target clientele. Also develop your marketing calendar, detailing the tools to be used, when to use them, and how you will measure your results. (PPA's Square One tool is a great place to start developing your plan.)
 e. Detailed workflow from the initial phone call to the delivery of the products. Outlining each step of your process doesn't only help identify the time required for each session, but it will also help you define outsourcing/employee opportunities.

2) Don't marry your plan. Even the best laid-out plans can eventually go awry. Think of it this way; it's not necessarily the plan that is important, but what we learn from the planning process and how it shapes and guides our future actions.

3) Keep your ego in check and listen to others. The photography industry is unique in some ways in that there are plenty of mentors out there to help guide you. Find one whose business is a reflection of what YOU would like your business to be. Look past the "flashy stuff" towards finding a mentor who is dedicated to their craft and their photography business.

4) Keep track of everything, and manage your numbers. In order to be successful, it is imperative as a studio that you know how many sessions you need to hold in order to reach your goals. The results of this analysis can tell you if your sales and marketing plans are working. It's that plain simple. And if they are not working, it may be time to reassess. PPA has made it easy for you to evaluate your numbers. Just go check the online tools, Square One in particular, that will help you establish the basis of managerial accounting.

5) Delegate and avoid micromanaging. This is where your detailed workflow (see 1e) comes into play. It is important for you to remember that you don't have to do everything. In the beginning, it might make sense, but as your business grows, carve out specific outsourcing opportunities using your detailed workflow. The photography business tends to be seasonal so keep that in mind as well when you are creating your plan. If you find yourself needing help year round, then it is time to take the steps needed to hire on an additional employee.

6) Use the internet! Social media is one marketing tool that is inexpensive but vitally important to building your business. It takes time and effort but if you schedule it ahead of time and take advantage of off-season opportunities to pre-post, it will become easier.  More importantly, it is pertinent that you do it consistently in order to be effective. Look outside of our industry to see how profitable companies take advantage of free marketing tools.

7) Reinvent your business. Seriously. If you don't like what your numbers are telling you, make a change. Of course, map out your change, but always remember that it is ok to take calculated risks. It's not about what you gross, but what you keep in our pockets. Assess your business from a different perspective. Ask yourself what your competitive advantage is. What niche could you carve out of your competitive market, and how could you provide better customer service to elevate your value? Discounting brings down your market's perception of your value so instead of playing the pricing war, exceed your clients' expectations by delivering more!

You have made a conscious choice to be a photographer, one that requires time and money. Always give yourself the best chance to succeed in this ever-changing profession. Knowledge is power--and as an entrepreneur, you are on an endless path to discover what you don't know. This is what PPA is here for: to help you be more profitable by continuing to learn about the photography business!

jacksonbridget_blog.jpgAbout the author:
Bridget Jackson is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and PPA Business manager. Over the years, Bridget has helped hundreds of photography studios become more profitable. 
Here's your latest guest column from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business (formerly known as SMS) and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios owners be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

Do the Work...
By Bridget Jackson

Educating yourself is only half the battle. You have to actually roll up your sleeves and do the work. 

I'm not talking about taking pictures (although you have to do that too). I'm talking about coming up with the elements of a marketing plan, a sales strategy, a documented workflow and a financial management plan. 

That's right. It's not enough for you to just understand what they are. You need to have them well documented so you not only have a strategy to guide you, but so you can update those strategies based on your strengths and weaknesses. Successful studios assess what worked, what didn't work and what needs to be changed so they can continue to stay on a path to reach their goals. 
Written by guest blogger, Booray Perry, CPP

We just got a new coffee maker.

It's one of those Keurig coffee makers that are really just the best thing ever invented. I really admire the whole idea behind the new coffee makers, especially when you consider that coffee makers have been pretty much unchanged for 50 years and then someone comes along and totally turns that industry on its head. Like the way ketchup bottles were unchanged for 50 years until some genius figured out they should stand on their head so the ketchup is always ready.

Anyway, we just got a new one and it's our third one. We have to buy a new one every year or so because we have "hard water" and it eventually breaks the machine.

Now, the manual tells you that you can prevent the machine from breaking by using distilled water. We did that at first until I started "doing the math." When you subtract the cost of a year's worth of distilled water from the cost of a new machine, you end up with a savings of less than $20. Since I'm the one who usually has to buy the distilled water and carry it to the car (and carry it into the house and put the empty into the recycle bin...) I decided that $20 a year was a fair price to pay to not have to deal with the distilled water anymore. A bargain, really.

It seems excessive when you are buying a new, expensive coffee maker every year or so but it's not if you remember that you aren't buying (and carrying) jugs of distilled water every week (or skipping coffee because you forgot the water, which really increases the value of using tap water.)

This is the way my mind works. As opposed to my wife, who would have reached the same conclusion but without the math. For her, not having to carry the water is all the incentive she needs, regardless of the cost. She never asks, "How much is the valet parking?"

So, you're probably thinking, "This is all very interesting but why is it on the PPA blog, which is really about photography?"

Good question!

I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, our carpool rendezvous point, to collect Trish for

mariahashley_zombieland.jpg

 our third wedding of the weekend. Twelve hours earlier I had dropped her off to retrieve her car, twelve hours before that, the same. The days, the weddings, the people blended into one never-ending wedding reception with the despicable Old Time Rock n Roll looping horribly in my addled mind.

"I look like crap, I have huge dark circles under my eyes," complained Trish, slumping back into the seat.

"Aww, I bet it's not that bad," I said, lifting my sunglasses to get a good look at her.

We gasped in unison at the sight of each other's faces.

"You've got them too!" she cried.

"We look like a couple of zombie photographers." I said, defeated.

It's that time of year, October, and we feel like zombies too. Big, dumb, lumbering, drooling, driven to put one step in front of the other without thought or reason zombies. We are zombies hell bent on our one desire: to finish the weddings!

It didn't take a neurotoxin, virus, brain parasite, or tainted meat to turn two relatively attractive photographers into zombies. No, all it took was some overly ambitious booking, leading to forty three weddings to execute. My bad. But hey, what's done is done, right?

So we'll go ahead and slather a little more makeup on our faces to cover the dark circles and hope we can blend in with the rest of society; much like Bill Murray in my favorite zombie movie of all time, Zombieland. (Spoiler Alert) Bill has an excellent cameo role where he makes himself up to look like a zombie in order to blend in with the zombies and survive the zombie infested world. Okay, well that's actually the opposite of what we are doing but you get the idea.

Since it's almost Halloween and we are already on the topic of that great piece of Hollywood cinema, Zombieland, I have adapted some of the rules for surviving in Zombieland as they apply to wedding photographers surviving the end of wedding season. The hero of the movie, Columbus, has 32 rules for surviving Zombieland. Before meeting his friend Tallahassee who has also survived the infestation, these rules kept Columbus alive and well. Therefore, they must be true and henceforth I shall share nine of them (and two of my own) with you to help you survive the apocalypse that is "The End of the World Wedding Season."

The Benchmark Survey is an amazing tool to help you PPA photographers be morebenchmark_october_prize.jpg profitable. To sweeten the pot, we've been giving away some sweet prizes to some lucky winners to go along with the joy of easily figuring out the numbers you need to reach to live the life you want. 

And we have two winners this month! We've previously heard from June's winner Heather Sams, CPP, July's winner A. Michael Fletcher and August winner David H. Smith about why they find the Benchmark Survey to be so helpful. This month, we have two winners in Robin Swanson, M.Photo.Cr., CPP and Mia Stevens! 

Robin is an award-winning photographer who specializes in weddings. "This is the first time I participated in the Benchmark Survey," she said. "My business has changed significantly in the past year and I felt that it is important to share this information to help others in the industry." 

For submitting his information in the survey, Robin was able to win a brand new Spyder4PRO!

Mia Stevens is another award-winning wedding and portrait photographer. "I participated in the Benchmark Survey because it shows hard percentages that if implemented correctly can make you more money," she said. "Who doesn't want more money?" 

Mia walked away with a $300 gift certificate to TetherTools--not a bad way to start the fall!

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview depicting what profitable studios look like (unlike other industry averages). As such, it has been helping photography businesses form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Participating studio-owners get a free side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark to their own financial data. Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help them grow their business, it is a $750 value (or more!), as PPA develops a customized comparison that is the first step in determining what to change for greater success. As a bonus, participants are automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes. 

Ready to better your business and get a chance at winning October's prize? There is a $500 Showcase Photo & Video gift card to be won! Go to PPA.com/Benchmark to participate!

But wait, there's more: All participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense-paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today! 

By Mariah Ashley

When my daughter was two and having a bad day because she was asked to eat her

mariah_cakeaustrophic.jpg

 vegetables, told it was time to go to bed or scolded for coloring on the kitchen wall, she didn't get sad and cry. Instead she got mad. She'd clench her fists and grit her little Chiclet teeth. Looking up at from me from behind her bowl cut she'd snarl, "You're the one what did it! You're the one what made me sad!" It was hilarious and disturbing all at the same time. She's twelve now. We're still working on it. But that's another story.

The story I want to tell today is a cautionary tale of how NOT to be The One What Did It, The One What Made Your Clients Sad, because it's always a good day when you aren't ruining your clients wedding. I've had cause to ponder this question lately as I've helplessly watched a few fellow wedding vendors wreaking havoc on my clients.

Take the case of the overly dramatic/distracted justice of the peace. I've been working with Fred the JP for years and without fail, I hear him before I see him. Fred shouts my name when he sees me regardless of the distance between us, the setting we are in, or the inappropriateness of shouting at a wedding. Fred also stands right behind me and breathes what's left of his lunch at the back of my neck. He likes to make small talk during the ceremony processional, which is of course a causal moment where we both have free time and no job to do. I awkwardly bob my head to avoid being rude to Fred while trying to nail my shot of the bride and her father coming down the aisle toward their bobble-headed photographer.

A few weeks ago I worked with Fred again. It was status quo; shouting across the lawn, small talk and bobble-heading. But wait, this day had a twist! Moments before the ceremony, Fred beckoned me to photograph the signing of the marriage license. The mother of the groom was about to sign as the first witness. Fred as chatty as ever, hurriedly explained to her to "sign here" and "print here" and then waived his finger over the area for her signature. He turned to me and continued his blah-blah-ing, leaving her to her own devices. You can see where this is going. Yes, she signed in the wrong spot.

"Oh no! Oh my! I've signed in the wrong spot!" she gasped, squinting at the document.

"What?!" he shouted, jerking his attention from me back to her.

"What do we do now?" she asked.

"Nothing, now! It's not like I have another copy!"

That's when the groom walked over.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Well your mother has just ruined this legal document by signing on the wrong line. It's invalid and you can't be legally married without it."

The groom's face drained of all color. The groom's mother started ringing her hands and apologizing.

"I love you mom but I can't look at you or talk to you right now." said the dismayed groom.

The wedding planner was the next on the scene of the disaster.

"What's going on?" she asked. "I heard raised voices."

"I'll tell you what's going on, this is all garbage," announced Fred brandishing the ruined document and waiving his hand over the lawn indicating that the $100K wedding was now trash.

"Don't say that!" said the horrified wedding planner coming to the defense of the stricken groom. "You cannot tell my clients that their beautiful wedding is garbage!"

"Can you believe these people Mariah?!" asked Fred a few moments later behind the backs of the wedding planner and the nauseous groom. I just bobbled my head and walked away but what I wanted to do was clench my fists and grit my Chiclets and snarl. "Fred! You're the one what did it! You're the one what made them sad!"

By Mariah Ashley

Everything was going wrong. The groom was throwing up and the bride was taking it verytenthousand_fireworks.jpg personally. "He's going to go through with it isn't he?" she nervously asked the wedding planner.

"Um, yes? I mean yes, of course he is," said the wedding planner in a weak attempt to assuage her concerns.

I wasn't so sure. At the altar the pair stood in scared silence staring straight ahead at an indiscriminate spot on the wall while the ceremony swirled around them. I figured one of three things could happen; someone would throw up, someone would pass out or someone would turn and run the wrong way up the aisle to freedom.

I was wrong. Half way through the service the uncomfortable uncertainty fizzled and was replaced by a beaming new Mr. and Mrs. walking hand-in-hand up the aisle toward my lens.

The rest of the day unfolded in stops and starts without ever finding a flow. Eight hours is a long time to go with no flow. The weather was gloomy and the forecast threatened severe thunderstorms which put the planned fireworks display on hold. The parents of the bride were in a panic and the wedding planner was in a tizzy.

The bride struggled to hold her composure while her mother drove her completely bonkers. The groom struggled to regain some color in his face and keep down his dinner. Trish and I struggled to create romantic formals in the gloom, struggled with reception lighting in the oddly shaped reception room, and struggled not to miss any of the action as the band kept announcing toasts and dances without coordinating with their fellow vendors, namely us.

Benchmark_October_Prize_250x.jpgAt PPA, we know that photographers are always looking for business guides to help them stay profitable. One tool provided by PPA that we often hear is useful for members is the Benchmark Survey! We've previously heard from June's winner Heather Sams, CPP and July's winner A. Michael Fletcher about why they find PPA's business guide, the Benchmark Survey, to be so helpful. But don't take our word for it; instead, take a look at what David. H. Smith of Phoenix, AZ has to say about it (he's the August winner!).

David has nearly three decades of experience in photography. At his studio, he specializes in high school seniors, engaged couples, families and fashion models. While he prides himself on creating unique imagery and experiences for his clients, the Benchmark Survey has also been essential to his success. 

"Learning, participating and using the Benchmark Survey has been extremely valuable in making sure I am able to keep doing what I love to do. Comparing the performance of our studio to the recommendations from the Benchmark has helped us put certain goals in place. It has also helped us position our business, so that it is financially profitable and remains as such for years to come; it was like having my own photography business guide," David said of his experience.
 
PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview depicting what profitable studios look like (unlike other industry averages). As such, it has been helping photography businesses form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Participating studio-owners get a free side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark to their own financial data. Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help them grow their business, it is a $750 value (or more!), as PPA develops a customized comparison that is the first step in determining what to change for greater success! As a bonus, participants are automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes. For submitting his information in August, David won a $500 B&H gift card!

Ready to better your business and get a chance at winning October's prize? There is a $500 Showcase Photo & Video gift card to be won! Go to PPA.com/Benchmark to participate!
 
But wait, there's more: all participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today! 


By Mariah Ashley

"If only you could pick your family as easily as you pick your nose. You could fix every issue with a flick of your tissue." - Mariah Ashley

Nancy came in to give us all the details of her wedding a few months before the event. Generally brides are pretty pumped at these meetings and tell us to-the-minute details down to the music the jazz trio is playing for the processional. Irrelevant yes, but we smile and "Oooh " and "Aaah" as any good wedding vendors should.

Not Nancy. Nancy had nothing exciting to report. No extraneous details to share. Nancy was strangely quiet, even hostile. Nancy was negative. "I'm just not your typical bride. I'm not excited about all this wedding stuff. I'm pretty sure the wedding is going to be kind of a mess. I'll just be glad when this is all over!" blurted Nancy.

O...K...? Awkward! We sat there a little stunned and wondered, why on earth would you go through the trouble of planning and paying for a wedding when you have an attitude like that?

Spoiler Alert! Nancy ends up as one of our top three clients of the year. The reluctant bride with a

negativenancy.jpg

 small budget wedding spends $11K and counting on her wedding photographs. Seriously, we need to add some more products because we have run out of things for her to buy.

So what happened between Nancy hating on her own wedding and spending gobs of money on photographs after?

Have you seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine? There's a great scene where Dwayne (the teenage son) gets some upsetting news while on a family road trip. He totally loses it in the back of a VW bus and his step dad has to pull over to the side of the road so Dwayne can have a nutty. Dwayne's mom says, "For better or for worse, we're your family." Too which Dwayne eloquently relies, "No you're not my family okay? I don't want to be your family. I hate you f*#%ing people. I hate you! Divorce? Bankrupt? Suicide? You're f*#%ing losers! You are losers!

The bad news Dwayne receives is his tipping point. He just can't take another second of his family's dysfunctional BS. Nancy and Dwayne are one in the same.

After Nancy's nutty she opened up a little about her own family situation. Divorce, remarriage, tense relationships, absentee parent, etc. Poor kid, no wonder. Her negativity was her defense mechanism. Nancy was setting her expectations REALLY low so as not to be disappointed by her family... again.

Like Nancy, most of our clients think they are the only ones with a crazy family, but the reality is dysfunctional is the new normal. Are you with me? Trust me, I know a thing or two about this. I am completely reduced to my teenage self whenever I am around my family for too long.

Here's a secret about me that only Trish and my husband (and now you) know... my fifteen-year-old self ran away from home three times. The third time was the charm though; I got to spend the night in jail. I had a metal bunk and a non-private privvy. The temperature in the slammer was about 50 degrees and my jailers had confiscated my shoes. I lay there shivering and learning my lesson which was the intention of the coppers after all. I didn't run away again because I realized for better or for worse my family was my family and I really do prefer my bathroom to have walls. But back to Nancy...

I'm happy to report that on the wedding day everyone was on their best behavior. Yes, tension and resentment crashed the party but so did regret and tenderness and we chose to focus on the latter. We got a beautiful photograph of Nancy's mom tenderly helping her get ready, fastening family pearls around her neck. We also got a beautiful shot of Nancy and her father dancing, tears of regret streaming down his cheeks.

I heard an interview on the radio that got me thinking about how Nancy had gone from reluctant bride to becoming one of our top clients. Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton authors of Happy Money explained that people are happy to spend their money and happy even long after the purchase when their money is spent on an experience such as a vacation. The part that I found interesting was that photographs play a huge part in enhancing the remembered experience of the vacation and reinforcing the positive feelings about the decision to spend the money. Because you can re-live your memories over and over again through your vacation photos, the memories of the trip often become even sweeter than the actual moments that were experienced. The camera only focuses on the smiles and sunsets and not the hassles and petty squabbles that go along with any trip, so that is what is remembered.

At the end of Little Miss Sunshine, perhaps the most dysfunctional family road trip of all time, the characters end up dancing together in a scene that will make you so uncomfortable you squirm, and laughing so hard you'll cry. That's pretty much what happened at the end of Nancy's wedding too. Everyone was on the dance floor in one big, crazy-flawed, fun-loving family pile dancing their butts off.

A Roman philosopher said of nostalgia, "Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember." Because we hyper-focused on finding the tender and loving moments behind the bitterness at Nancy's wedding we were able to exceed her expectations and show her something that she may not have been able to see herself but probably felt that day. Although her family is dysfunctional for better or worse they are hers and they undoubtedly love her. What Nancy needed was a vehicle for her nostalgia. She needed a way to look back on the day that had caused her so much grief to plan with fondness and no regret for the money they had spent. Because the photographs reflect a beautiful bride, a couple in love, and a supportive family (with stellar dance moves) Nancy upgraded her album, bought three parent albums and framing for walls.

We've all had wedding clients with family tensions so thick that we want to run and hide. It's easy and natural to want to throw your hands in the air and say, "There's nothing to be done for these people their f*#%ing losers!" Before you do that though, remember that you might just be throwing your future best client out the window. Dig a little deeper, remember your own whacked out family, and see if there isn't a little crack of tenderness to expose in the wall of dysfunction. 

By Mariah Ashley

Author's Note: Required Reading! The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. A little story about a powerful business idea.

Thumbnail image for louboutins.jpgI was alone in the upstairs bedroom. Amanda (the bride) was late getting back from the salon so I spent my time photographing her dress and invitation. Her mother kept popping in with other things she thought I might find interesting, among them a pair of fabulous Louboutin sequined heels.

"Oh, fancy! Shoes are like porn for women," I joked cradling the shoe near my face.

"So true," said Amanda's mom, with a chuckle. "Everything about this wedding is a little over the top. (nods toward shoes).

"But Amanda is such a good girl, so smart and hardworking. She's such a humble and sweet girl. I just want this to be an amazing day for her."

Amanda's mom left me alone with the shoes and my thoughts. A few days earlier I listened to a podcast by former Imaging USA speaker Jeffery Shaw. He interviewed author Bob Burg on his national best-seller, The Go-Giver, which describes "giving as the most fulfilling and effective path to success."

Burg and co-author John David Mann map out the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success all focused on giving instead of getting. Intriguing! Trish ordered me the book and I devoured the parable in one sitting, highlighting passages like a mad woman. Since then I haven't been able to think about much else besides adding value to my clients lives, with the exception of thinking about how much I was dreading photographing Amanda's wedding.

When Amanda first contacted me, she had just experienced what she described as a "bad engagement session experience" with another photographer she had originally booked to photograph her wedding. She wanted to talk to me about that experience, get my opinion on whether or not her expectations had been unrealistic, and discuss the possibility of having us photograph her wedding instead.

For photographers with businesses new and old, the Benchmark Survey has been proven to
benchmark_augustprize.jpg
 help their businesses. Don't believe us? You heard from June's winner, Heather Sams, CPP, who started her own studio seven years ago. Now, meet A. Michael Fletcher, CPP, of Figge Photography in Newport Beach, California. His family's studio dates back to 1946.

"We're a family of photographers," Fletcher said. "Two master photographers founded our studio, and though we lapsed as members for a spell, we rejoined PPA in 2008 and are so thankful that we did!"

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial snapshot and has been helping businesses get a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Survey participants get a free side-by-side comparison of the results to their financial data. Plus, participants are automatically entered in the monthly giveaway for great prizes. This month, Fletcher won a $500 American Express gift card.

"The Benchmark Survey allows us to measure our success, ferret out our shortcomings and focus on creating solutions, not just for us but everyone who is a PPA member," Fletcher said. "We're proud to be included in this year's survey, and we can't wait for the results!"

Want to better your business and have a chance at winning August's prize - a $500 gift card to B&H? Go to PPA.com/Benchmark and participate!

by Mariah Ashley

My son Jacques is not a joiner, not a jock and let's just say not terribly motivated.

giantsneaks.jpg

Upon my insistence, he has committed himself to participating in a high school sport. Since he abhors football, is bored to death by baseball and can't dribble to save his life, he is running on the cross country team.

The "unofficial" team training started in July under the very loose control of three senior brothers, triplet captains whose parents were Olympic runners. The coach has devised a running program that divides the team into three categories: those who will go on to be Olympians like their forefathers, those with gazelle blood in their veins and my snoozy soon to be sophomore son. After the team warms up together Jacques is left plodding along alone in his size fourteen sneakers while the other boys with normal sized feet rocket past him.

Each morning at 7 a.m. we have same routine.

"Jacques get up it's time for running."

"I don't want to go today," he pleads from under a mountain of blankets. "Can't I just run on my own?"

"No!" I insist, shaking the lump of blankets that contains my son. "You are part of a team; that means you run with the team. You joined this team, so you need to BE MORE dedicated!"

"But I don't run with the team. I run on my own. How about I run with you? Mother-son time?"

"Nice try. The captains need to see that you are showing up. It's about being together as a team. You need to BE MORE social."

"I don't care about that." He groans, rolling over and scooting like a 6' 1" caterpillar toward the far end of his bed.

"JUST GET UP! YOU ARE GOING!" I shout, slapping the lump. "Really, you need to BE MORE motivated."

The teenage lump finally rises and I drive it to the high school and park inconspicuously so as not to embarrass it. I notice a few cross country kids sitting on picnic tables at the far end of the parking lot. The lump doesn't move from his seat.

"Jacques, aren't you going to get out?"

"I'll wait a few more minutes till the rest of team shows up," he says reclining his seat all the way back, making himself invisible.

"Why? What's wrong with those kids? Why don't you go sit with them?"

"I don't like them," he mumbles. "They're seniors. They're jerks."

"It's weird to want to sit in the car with your mom. You should BE MORE friendly. Go ahead, get out of the car and go sit with your team," I insist pushing him out the door.

He makes his way reluctantly over to the older kids and sits down awkwardly at the far end of the table. Without a word directed in any direction he stuffs his headphones in his ears and stares at his phone. The rest of the team chats casually. This is painful to watch. The other boys are older, fitter, confident. Shirts are stripped off, flirtations exchanged with the girls running team and then they are off like a pack in one direction with Jacques running off alone in the other. My heart breaks a little for him and I fret about him for the next hour while I wait to pick him up.

Here's your latest guest column from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

7 Questions to Ask Before You Start a Business

bemoreprofitable7stepstostartingphotobusiness.jpg

Most people think that the barrier to entering the photography business is low. All you need is to buy a camera, create a Facebook page, and start taking pictures. But consider the odds: 25 percent of new business start-ups close in the first year, and another 25 percent fail in the next four years. How do you beat the odds? You have to set your business up to succeed by asking and answering the following critical questions:

1). What products and services will you provide?

Your business plan should clearly define what you are offering in terms of products and services and how that compares to competitors in your market. It is important for you to carve out a piece of the market to make a profitable and sustainable business.

2). Who is your target client and how will you reach them?

In other words, it's not only important to identify your target client, but you also need to reach them through different marketing mediums. Your integrated marketing strategy should include a blend of marketing mediums such as print, digital and interactive and social media. The results of these efforts should determine if you have an adequate population of potential customers to reach your sales goals.

3). How does your business stand out?

Your one unique selling proposition is YOU. It's who you are that makes all the difference. It's the reason that the one product or service you provide is different from and better than that of the competition. This is where you need to shine through your art, product offerings and customer service. You must be distinguishably different from your competition.

4). Where will business be conducted, and how many employees will you need to provide the level of customer service your ideal client will expect?

It's important for your physical presence, the way you present yourself, where you conduct business and how you conduct business to be an extension of your brand and should resonate with your ideal client. Initially, the number of employees you need to deliver the level of customer service you want to project might not be ideal, but don't compromise. Find ways to outsource workflow in seasonal times so customer service isn't neglected.

5). How much start-up money will it take to open the doors and keep them open until you turn a profit?

I mentioned the barrier to a photography business is relatively low; however, after answering the first four questions, I'm confident you have realized that the barrier is misleading. It requires an investment of money and time to set up a photography business to achieve profitability. Prepare a conservative five-year projection of income and expenses, and re-evaluate yearly to confirm you are on track as most businesses are to show a profit in the in the first year of business.

6). What will be the source of the funds needed for start-up and sustainability?

Consider how much you are willing to invest and potentially lose, how much is needed from outside sources and how much you can generate in profits to reinvest in the business. Clearly identify these sources and include in your five-year projection a plan to pay back yourself and anyone else.

7). What type of business structure will you choose?

What forms do you need to file, and which licenses do you need to obtain to assure compliance? The type of business structure you have will depend on two factors: liability and taxation. PPA recommends when you are just starting out and you have substantial personal assets to be a LLC.

Your business can also benefit from business advisors and mentors. You should develop relationships with a banker, an accountant and an attorney before you start. Additionally, as a PPA member, you can get malpractice insurance, up to $15,000 of free equipment insurance, free education, connections to industry mentors, certification and other vital resources to help you run a profitable business. The Benchmark Survey and its principles are also helpful when setting up prices and measuring your business' growth.

There are no assurances that a business will succeed, let alone be profitable, but setting yourself up for success through planning certainly can help.

It's a shameless plug, but after all, we're here to help: Join instructor Jen Basford, Cr.Photog., November 15-16 in Atlanta for PPA's Business Basics Workshop. You'll learn strong business principles that will help you create a solid foundation for your business. The class will give you the information and confidence you need as you plan for a profitable and sustainable business.

Think about it: how useful has filling out a survey ever been to you? Well, for Heather Sams, CPP, from Fountain, CO, not only has it helped her business be more profitable, but she also won an iPad mini. How?

heatherbenchmark.jpg

PPA's Benchmark Survey, of course. The industry's only complete financial snapshot, it's been helping businesses get a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Survey participants get a free side-by-side comparison of the results to their financial data. With that kind of valuable info, the monthly giveaways for survey participants only seem like an added bonus!

Sams has been in the photography industry for over a decade, and previously used the Benchmark to put together a business plan when starting her portrait studio seven years ago. "What's great about Benchmark is that it puts all the industry information in one location that businesses can easily use," she said.

Since building up her business, Sams knew the importance of the survey to her success. "I was excited just to have been able to participate in the Benchmark Survey this year! It's such an extensive tool that the industry has access to that it just made sense for me to take the time to do it."

She never considered the fact that she could win the monthly giveaway. "When I found out that I won, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was super easy to participate, but winning an iPad really takes the cake. I was on cloud nine!"

And as a true dedicated professional, Sams already has plans to incorporate the iPad mini into her business. "I photograph executives, and they like seeing portraits and galleries immediately. Having a device that can make this happen will be great for my business," she said. "I'm grateful that I had the chance to participate in the survey."

Want to get in on all the Benchmark awesomeness? Check out PPA.com/benchmark and enter for your chance to win this month's prize. And don't fret! There will be more through the end of the year!

by Mariah Ashley

If you're anything like me, your summer vacation now revolves around spending a ridiculous amount of your hard-earned money and catering to your monsters children. These are some of the things I did over the last two weeks for my ingrate precious children...

I threw a party for ten screaming twelve-year-old girls. No really, they screamed for three hours straight of the four hour party. There was no reason for the screaming. No mouse, spider, unexpected teenage heartthrob sighting or worm in the fruit salad. Nothing like that. They just screamed.

Did you know twelve-year-old girls do this? I didn't. I do now and so do my neighbors. (P.S. They

summervacation.jpg

 only stopped screaming because you can't stuff pizza in your face and scream at the same time.)

I also took my son and his friend to a water park named Water Wizz. Why on earth would anyone put the word wizz into a name that describes a place where thousands of children share a communal cesspool? And why on earth would I voluntarily steep my body in the wizz water?

My son is sixteen. Since he was six he's refused sunscreen. He hates the way it feels. Normally I wrestle him to the ground and slather it on him while he writhes and twists like a slimy alligator. Well, he's six-foot-one now so my gator wrestling days are over. Needless to say I left the whizz with a big pink fried man-baby. Lesson never learned.

Fully committed to good-time summer fun family experiences, I went to Martha's Vineyard to visit my sister and her boys, ages four and two. Like all good aunts I brought along things for my nephews that their responsible mother would never allow them to have in a gazillion years. It's all part of my master plan to secure my foothold as their favorite aunt.

My secret weapon? Flavor Ice! (Suck on that other aunties!) Remember Flavor Ice? Or in technical terms, "liquefied chemical sugar in a planet destroying plastic sheath." Well they loved it. How many Flavor Ice sleeves do you suppose a four-year-old can ingest over the course of 30 minutes? My sister stopped the reckless mayhem at four, at which point my sweet nephew announced, "Fine, but if I can't get a lemonade right now I'm going to attack you!" Oops. Auntie's bad. Guessing we might not be invited back.

Sound familiar? If you're lucky like me then this is the way that you $pend your summer vacation. Something's got me thinking though...

I stumbled across a video clip from 60 Minutes on Facebook the other day about a man who had a very different summer vacation experience. It made me pause and consider that there might be an alternative way to spend my two weeks. Step into the way back machine with me...

It was 1938 and Europe was on the brink of war. A Londoner named Nicholas Winton was following the events of Germany's march on Czechoslovakia and was deeply concerned about the 150,000 Jewish refugees suffering there. His particular concern was for the children who were enduring the harsh conditions and bitterly cold temperatures.

After hearing about how some Czech Jews were sending their children abroad, Winton decided to take a two week from his job as a stockbroker in London and travel to Prague to see if there was anything he could do to help. Upon arrival, he established an office in a hotel in the city to see how many children he could get out as quickly as possible. Over the course of the two weeks, there was literally not enough time in the day to meet with all the parents seeking his help. Not surprisingly he left Prague with a list of hundreds of children in need of his assistance.

Returning to London, Winton established a small office of volunteers and forged stationery to make his "organization" look established, and created false travel documents for the children. The day before Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, the first train carrying 20 of the Czech children left for Holland and eventually Britain. Over the next few months, seven more trains carrying over 600 children made their way to London. Shortly after, WWII was declared and the trains could no longer run. The remaining 90,000 Czech Jews, many of them children ended up on trains to Auschwitz where they annihilated.

For fifty years, Nicholas Winton barely spoke of saving the lives of 669 Jewish children. He never even told his wife about what he had done. She discovered the story after finding the list of the children's names and questioned her husband about its meaning. Since then, the BBC created a special about Winton where he was reunited with many of the children he saved. He was also knighted by the Queen of England and is now referred to as Sir Nick.

Basically, Sir Nick took his two week vacation, went to Prague and ended up saving the lives of 669 children. Actually, since those children are now all grandparents it's more like 15,000 children, but who's counting.

We are not worthy.

But we could be.

Two years ago we got involved with PPA charities and Operation Smile. In a way, though not as heroic or as dramatic as Sir Nick, we have been improving children's lives too. We aren't saving them from the clutches of an evil dictator but we are saving their smiles and drastically improving their quality of life through facial reconstructive surgery. The children touched by PPA charities and Operation Smile now have a chance at a future they never could have imagined.

We've given a little here... a little there... donating what we can as we go. It's exciting and inspiring to count the number of children we've helped, at last count about 65. We won't miss a penny that we've donated because we've been paid back tenfold in the "feel-good-about-yourself-for-caring-about-more-than-yourself-department."

We're about half way through summer. Maybe you've already spoiled taken your kids on a vacation. Maybe you're gearing up for a family vacation. If so, Don't do it! Have fun! But have I planted a seed? In the back of your mind are you wondering ... WWSND (What Would Sir Nick Do?)

Why, he'd join PPA Charities Family Portrait Month in September and make the world a better place for children! Find out how. But first, get inspired and watch Sir Nicholas' 60 Minutes story (relax, it's only 15 minutes).

I can't promise you that 60 Minutes will make a documentary about you, but I will refer to you as Sir (insert your name here) if you get on board the charity train! How cool is that?!

About the author:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for winter.jpg
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.

PPA's Benchmark Survey can seem like a bit of an abstract concept. How in the world can sharing some of your financial information with PPA help you make more money? 

When you participate in the survey, your information gets (anonymously) combined with hundreds of other profitable photography studios from around the country. Professional studios that have: 

• Grossed a minimum of $25,000 in sales in 2013

• Received at least 50% of their business from portraits (including high school seniors) or from weddings

By comparing how the top businesses (in the same boat you are in) perform, PPA's Benchmark helps you easily understand why some studios are so successful, why others fall short on profitability, and what pitfalls you should avoid. It is the one and only comprehensive financial analysis available that helps study profitable professional photography businesses. 

You already work in a very specialized field, so this is good information and financial guidance that takes your specialty into consideration. Use it! When you participate in PPA's Benchmark Survey, there are a ton of benefits too! 

• You get your very own, personal, tailored copy of the Survey results and how they compare to your business. 

• You'll see in plain English where you're falling short and where you are kicking business butt. 

• You'll be able to fix the items that need a little love and you'll be sure to be raking in the profits! 

"I was so excited and proud to participate in the Benchmark Survey, as it meant my business was at the level of other participating studios! It was super easy to enter my information, and I am glad I could contribute to something that I have used in my business," said Heather Sams from Fountain, CO who participated in June this year. 

Not only did Heather get her data in, she also walked away with an iPad mini! - did we forget to mention that? Every month there are some crazy awesome drawings! If you submit your information by July 30th, you'll be entered to win a $500 American Express gift card! 500 bucks! That's some serious dough for a little bit of work. Oh, and those who participate will automatically be entered in the drawings each month!  

Are you ready to create a stronger and healthier business? Start here! 



Say hello to your newest guest column! It comes to you from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

What do all entrepreneurs need to know?

By Bridget Jackson, CPA

This is a question I receive frequently, and see it all over the place on other sources of photography advice. Some of it is good, but some, well, you know...

I've read through multiple columns on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and here I present you an abbreviated list of often-overlooked qualifications. It's not a be-all-end-all list by any means, but these are some takeaways that seem relative in light of the fact that I am a numbers person and a consumer.

1). If you don't know your numbers and how to read them, you've got one foot in the proverbial grave of a failed business.

That might seem harsh, but did you know that according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only 2/3 of small businesses survive two years? The reason they flop is poor accounting.

Let me take that one step further and say that it's not enough to have your tax return prepared once a year. You have to understand what your numbers mean.

PPA is here to help you understand the principles of sound financial management, and it starts with managerial accounting. PPA provides resources to members to help you implement, understand and manage your business based on these principles. If you are not practicing, I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of what many successful studios have done before you and embrace managerial accounting today.

An added benefit of visiting the Benchmark Resources is participating in the current survey. Not only will you feel an overwhelming sense of community knowing that you contributed to the only industry-wide financial survey, but that you helped shape the results of the survey. PPA will release preliminary numbers at Imaging USA 2015.

2). Company culture drives a successful business

As the boss it is your job to define, provide the resources and participate in the implementation of your company's culture. Businesses that succeed in this area have an increase in overall employee satisfaction and retention.

For those of you who don't have employees; don't feel left out. I have one for you too!

2A). As the sole employee of your studio, you need to be prepared to "take out the trash."

That's right, although you won't have a boss to answer to, you will be left with the potentially unwanted tasks of answering the phones, cleaning, etc. So prepare yourself mentally for these roles. It's up to you to take care of the dirty work too!

3). Know your competition and treat them with respect.

Just because someone is a photographer doesn't mean they are your competition. Continue to evolve yourself as an artist by entering print competitions and by continuing to update your product offerings. Cultivate a professional relationship and level of respect among your peers. Their opinion of you and your business often outweighs others.  As a consumer, negative comments by one entrepreneur about another actually have detrimental effects on the business owner making the comments. One way to rise above is to become an industry expert in your market and lead by example.

Of course, it takes much more than this to create a successful business. But taking these small steps can make a huge difference along the way!

 

 

PPA is dedicated to helping professional photographers be more. From techniques for photographers to better business practices, PPA and PPA's staff are here to help you take your photography business to that next level. 

Having great images is important, but as any photographer would agree, if you aren't managing your business properly, your path to success will most likely become an arduous one. That's why PPA created the Benchmark Survey. 

Periodically, we survey hundreds of photography studios to compile a comprehensive photography business guide that can help you increase your profitability and help you avoid some all-too-common (but also some not-so-evident) business pitfalls. These are the Benchmark Resources. At first that jargon-sounding name might sound a tad corporate, but those who use the Benchmark will tell you: this tool will make a difference in your business! And PPA members can access these Benchmark Resources at no extra cost. This comes with your membership!

To get started and see how the Benchmark can help make a significant difference for your business, let's look at it from square one. PPA recently added a new tool to the Benchmark Resources to help professional photographers plan for a profitable business by beginning with the end in mind. What do we mean by beginning with end? Just what it sounds like: the tool will start by asking you what you want your annual net income to be. Then from there, it will help you work backwards to help you realize how your cost of sales and overhead percentages affect your profitability (all as determined by the Benchmark Survey). You'll see a very clear picture of how many sessions, at what sales average, you'll need to reach the income goal you've set. 
Written by guest blogger, Kameron Bayne of Fotoseeds.

Photographers are often asking themselves (and other photographers) "what should I charge?"  It's a foundational question that raises worry and doubt over the survival of our profession.  There's an ocean of information out there with endless waves of differing opinions.  With so much information, it's easy to just go with the current tide until we're lost far at sea. I think part of the confusion comes because asking "what should I charge?" is really two questions in one. Let's take a closer look.  The underlying issues are 1). how do you price your work to be sustainable and 2). what are your potential clients willing to pay for it? One question is about your business' cost/profit ratios and the other is about the value you offer to others. If you try answer the second without answering first, you'll most likely base it on these common pricing myths.


  • What Other Area Photographers Charge. Don't fall into the trap of basing your prices on what the other guy is charging. Why? Because you have no idea what his actual costs are, which means you don't know if he's making money or losing it.  It's also quite possible he doesn't know either, especially if his prices are based on some other photographer too.
  • The Level of Your Work. If you base your prices on the level of your work, it gets sticky real quick.  Who decides when you're good enough? Your clients? Other photographers? Most likely it's based on how you perceive your work-or worst, how you perceive what other people must think about your work. That's a self-inflicted headache.  If you're always growing as an image marker, the truth is, you probably never feel as though you've "arrived" because there's always room to grow.
  • What You Would Pay. Another mistake is to forget you are not always your client, and start asking yourself what would you pay for your own work?  This can be an especially subtle and damaging trap because it preys on the natural bent of dissatisfaction in one's own work. I call an epidemic of self-abuse within the creative and artistic community. The roots of which are intertwined within our hidden thought patterns and how we feel about ourselves as human beings (see the upcoming post: Identifying the Patterns of Artistic Self-Abuse).

Pricing for Sustainability

  • The first step includes an in depth and brutally honest look at what it costs you to produce a final product for your client.  The primary factor of a healthy business is that it makes more money than it spends.
  • Under PPA benchmark research, the average photographer's salary is 20% of his or her gross income.  In very simplistic terms, this means if you charge the client $100 an hour, you only make $20.
  • That other $80 enables your business to sustainably function by covering the raising costs of products, albums, computer upgrades, equipment, maintenance, education, healthcare, etc. If you don't have these costs built in, guess where they come from? That's right, they come out of your 20% slice.
  • Once you honestly and thoroughly crunch the numbers, you'll know without a doubt where you need to set your prices.  You'll have a bare minimum you'll need to charge for your business to survive without stealing from other areas of your life.
  • It can be an overwhelming process to go down this road, and so I understand why most people never start.  But it's like someone saying they may be worried about being seriously sick so they don't want to go into the doctor.  The truth might confirm your worries, but it can also offer you an opportunity for a real and exciting solution.  You can get the help you need.
  • Here are some tools to help you get started: the PPA Benchmark Survey, Expense and Pricing Templates from PPA, and Stacey Reeves' Pricing Guide.
  • We are available on an individual basis if you need help applying this information to your specific circumstances. Contact us here for more information.
With that said, what your potential clients are willing to pay is a completely separate issue that deserves a post all to itself.  More to come later...
ppalogo.PNG
Guest blogger, Mariah Ashley, presents the second of her three-part series, "THE TRIFECTA OF TROUBLE - How Three Big Mistakes Created the 'Perfect Storm' and Almost Sank the Snap! Weddings Ship." Make sure you read part one, The Tale of the Tin Pig, A Cautionary Anecdote first!

Part Two: Guts: Hate 'em, Spill 'em, Trust 'em.

My son is a freshman in high school this year, which is weird because it feels like just yesterday I was the one in high school. Maybe that's because last night I was in high school... my son's high school... for parent's orientation. Whomp.

A throng of anxious parents, including yours truly, all got our children's schedules. Then we proceeded to wander the halls like thoroughly disoriented, frightened tourists looking for Period A class. I finally found Biology I, Room 451, though not in the allotted four minutes because I took a wrong turn at the cafeteria and ended up in the janitor's broom closet. 

Finding my seat as the bell rang, I noticed myself breathing a little irregularly (and not just because I was sprinting away from an angry janitor). It seems like I was having some kind of I'm-back-in-high school-and-it's-not- a-terrible-reoccurring-dream-it's-actually-happening anxious episode.

As you may have guessed, I did not peak in high school. I was not homecoming queen. I was not the most popular girl. I was not friends with the most popular girl. I did however have the unfortunate privilege of sitting next to the most popular girl in home room for four years. We'll call her Shauna Dee.

For me, every morning subjected to the luminescent wonder of Shauna Dee was a depressing downward spiral of impossible comparison followed by dark self-loathing. Okay, maybe it wasn't really that bad, it was only 720 days of cheerless despondency but who's counting?
In those days, a.k.a. the stone ages, a.k.a. 1986, when I was in high school and no one really cared about a child's self esteem, the PTO would offer carnations for sale on Valentine's Day. Student's (the expectation here being the boys) could purchase red carnations to be delivered to the girl of their dreams in homeroom. Yes, you know what's coming next. 

Every year some poor volunteer would have to lug a wheel barrel full of red carnations into my homeroom and empty them adoringly on Shauna Dee's desk. Every year like a dope I would hope that one of those scraggly red blossoms would have my name on it. Every year it didn't. Double Whomp. One year Shauna Dee took pity on me and gave me one of her flowers (because she's an angel) and it promptly snapped leaving me with a long stem in one hand and a stubby bloom in the other. Whompity whomp whomp.

red carnation.jpg
Don't be too sad for me, wipe those tears! This tale has a happy ending. Senior year Shauna Dee, beloved by faculty and students alike, was caught cheating on a History exam! Gasp! Her fall from grace was a sound heard round the world (although it just sounded like tinkling bells because she's an angel, remember?). Now, now, don't get all, "That's not nice to revel in Shauna Dee's misfortune on me." That's not the happy ending, I haven't gotten to it yet. 

One day soon after the fall of Shauna Dee I was walking along in the hallway minding my own business and guess who said hello to me? That's right! Shauna Dee! Not only did she say hello but she also asked me a question. It was the strangest and saddest question that anyone has ever asked me. A question that completely changed my perception of myself, Shauna Dee, and the value I had placed on the social ladder of high school.

She asked, "Mariah, do your parents hug you?" just as matter-of-factly as you can imagine!

Awkward.

I said, "Yeah, they do. All the time. It's kind of annoying." Very cool.

Shauna Dee just looked at me and nodded a little nod and turned down another hallway. 

What a monster you are thinking! Mariah rejoices in this poor girl's lack of intimacy with her parents. Calm down, that's not the happy part either. The happy ending is the lesson that Shauna Dee taught me which is this, If you think the grass is always greener on the other side, maybe you just need to water your own lawn.

You may be asking yourself what does watering one's lawn and the tale of an angel fallen from grace have to do with a mistake that almost sank the Snap! Weddings ship, Part Deux? Well I'll tell you.

GUTS, more specifically hating other people's (Haters Gotta Hate) and not trusting my own.
There have been times this year when much like sitting next to Shauna Dee in homeroom all those years ago, I have felt envious of other's photographer's (fill in the blank here with any of these words; success, skill, talent, popularity, shoes)... you get the green eyed picture.

Sometimes it is hard to watch others seemingly rocket to the top while you are left plodding along. What I found was that the more time I spent looking over the fence at what my neighbors were doing, the less time I spent creating my own brand, cultivating my own style, and watering my own lawn. I'm never going to have Shauna Dee's awesomely bad 80's wardrobe. I'm just not that girl, but I am a girl who has guts.

From fear and desperation I recently pulled a Shauna Dee, i.e. copied off another photographer's paper. I'm not proud of it, but fear can do crazy things to a photographer. The cheating incident involved a seminar with a photographer who offered their price list for sale. I had been reworking and struggling with my pricing recently. I felt in my gut that it was cheating to purchase the pricing and I debated it for oh... about one second before I shelled out the $200. 

Excitedly (the kind of excited where you are getting away with something you shouldn't) I opened the PDF document to discover the secret pricing magic recipe of the Shauna Dee of wedding photography. What I found was shocking. The pricey pricelist was exactly the same as my newly reworked price list. Not kidding. The philosophy, the structure, the actual prices...the same! Almost to the penny. Except I just flushed $200 down the drain because I didn't trust my gut. Whomp.

Moral of the story? Stop comparing yourself to others and don't look at your neighbor's paper for the answers. Do these two things and you too can have G.U.T.S. (Gigantic Unbelievable Total Success). I no longer waste my time stalking other photographer's blogs, I spend that time crafting my own. I'm not paying anyone for their cheat sheets either. I studied the material myself and I'm confident I know what's best for my business. 

A side note: I didn't have to go as far back in the time machine to learn a little about guts. I could have learned something about guts this very morning when my naive freshman son went off to school wearing a cowboy hat. We live in Massachusetts. Not Montana. Now that's some guts.

Epilogue/ A Future Screenplay

A high school hallway circa 2013. The camera pans past a closet and a trash can to a lone janitor, broom in hand sweeping up the scattered shards of self esteem left behind by some naive teenage boy. The janitor adds the debris to the contents of the trash can, one newly purchased yet recently discarded cowboy hat. 

Fade to black.



Tags

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories