I think we can all agree that if there was such an award, Kanye West would be in contention for the prestigious "Most Obnoxious Person on the Planet" honor. Yet, if there's one thing this year has taught me, it's that there is valuable insight to be gleaned from even the most insufferable sources. Don't think Kanye can teach you anything about your photography business? Well, hold onto your leather jogging pants people because you are about to get schooled.*
* A reference to Kanye telling the press that it was he who brought leather jogging pants to Fendi six years ago and was flat out denied. To quote Kanye directly, "How many [expletive] you done seen with a leather jogging pant?" Too many to count, Kanye, too many to count.
Last week I had two objectives. The first was to create welcome boxes for our four new clients. I figured I would complete that task by lunch time, freeing up my afternoon to dive into my second priority which was blogging our last wedding of the season. Sadly, when 4 pm rolled around I found myself making a dash to the post office with my four boxes just in the nick of time. I felt so frustrated with my slow self! The urgent voice in the back of my head (born of one too many lectures about maximizing time and streamlining workflow) makes me feel like I am always playing beat the clock.
Could I streamline my welcome box assembly? I considered the steps...
1. Bake (from scratch) a batch of our signature Snap! Vegan Salted Oat Cookies. Sprinkle in a few choice swear words when you realize you are out of vanilla, craisins, almond milk, etc.-- take your pick because there's always something missing! Run to the grocery store for said missing item.
2. Cool cookies on racks, beating back family and business partner as they attempt to consume the cookies that are supposed to be going to clients. Keep one eye on your computer screen and one eye on the cookies while you attempt to complete step 3.
3. Go to the PPA charities website and start donating. (We donate $240 for every wedding we book to Operation Smile). A separate donation form has to be filled out for each new client. Print out a receipt for the donation to include in the welcome box.
4. Hand write a note to each client explaining the awesomeness of Operation Smile, and the awesomeness of them booking us so that we can donate to the awesome cause.
5. Wrap the gift (a set of pewter heart shaped measuring spoons) with fancy wrapping paper and ribbon.
6. Package the homemade cookies in a bag with luxe ribbon and custom cookie recipe tag.
7. Assemble boxes with confetti paper, spoons, Operation Smile card and cookies.
8. Hand write (another) thank you note on our special letterpress thank you cards and nestle it on top of the presents.
9. Tape the Box and fill out a mailing label.
10. Run to the post office to mail the package--fresh baked cookies need to be eaten straight away after all!
Ideas I came up with for trimming some time from my welcome box assembly included; store bought cookies... out of the question! I'd sooner eat Kanye's leather jogging pants. Besides, the snap cookies are addictive, they've been tested. On the scale of addictiveness you have cigarettes, then heroine, and next Snap's vegan salted oat cookies. I guess I could skip the hand written note part, but I really love receiving a handwritten note. Doesn't everyone?
Putting the cookie conundrum on the back burner, I dove into my next project, blogging our last wedding of the season. Surely I'd crank that right out.
Wrong, this took me two days. Is taking two days to blog a wedding an outrageous waste of time? There's a popular "blog every day" movement among some photographers, but I wonder how to create a quality post if you have to churn them out daily. Again I considered my steps.
1. Carefully choose 85-100 photos. That's a lot of photos for sure but that's what it takes for me to successfully tell the story. I am VERY picky about what shots make it onto the blog. They must be flattering to the client, flattering to the other vendors involved and flattering to us because if everyone is flattered than everybody wins.
2. "Jazz" the photos. That's a technical term we use around here for photoshopping. Every single photo is retouched, jazzed with an appropriate photo shop action, sized for the blog and watermarked.
3. Rename the photos for SEO and upload them to the post.
4. Write the post. I find a clever or sentimental quote and share some personal thoughts about the couple and the wedding. Then I mention the other fabulous vendors. Finally I tie it all together neatly with some expert advice or a funny behind the scenes peek.
5. Post the blog, share the link on Facebook, and notify the bride and the other vendors involved that it's up. Hurray!
6. Take a nap before my head explodes.
Maybe there are some things I could trim here too. Less photos? No jazzing? Skip the personal writing which takes so much time? I suppose... NOT. Doing so would feel like sacrificing quality.
I'm really happy with the QUALITY of my cookies and I am happy with the QUALITY of my blogging. More importantly, so are my clients. Here's the thing about quality: most often it takes a long time to achieve. This is where our friend Kanye's valuable lesson comes into the story. Kanye was recently schooled himself by the Association of French Bakers in what can only be described as the most sarcastically perfect reprimand in the history of lambasting.
It seems Kanye wrote a song that really pissed off the French. The offending lyrics were from the song, "I am God" (no, actually that's not the offensive part). The part they took umbrage with was these lyrics,
I know! The nerve, right?! The scathing letter from the bakers to Monsieur Kanye West was lengthy, so I'll just give you a few of the more biting and poignant bits.
Certainly, you are not a man to be satisfied with pre-made croissants from the baked goods case reheated and tossed out on a small platter. No -- you had demanded your croissants freshly-baked, to be delivered to your table straight out of the oven piping hot.
The croissant is dignified?--?not vulgar like a piece of toast, simply popped into a mechanical device to be browned. No?--?the croissant is born of tender care and craftsmanship. Bakers must carefully layer the dough, paint on perfect proportions of butter, and then roll and fold this trembling croissant embryo with the precision of a Japanese origami master.
For us mere mortals, we must wait the time required for the croissant to come to perfect fruition, but as a deity, you can surely alter the bread's molecular structure faster than the speed of light, no?
Hee-Hee, that last line was my favorite! You've got to hand it to the French, they really know how to sling an elegant insult. Much like the treasured croissant, the Snap! experience is multi-layered; flaky on the outside, tender in the middle and worth waiting for.
It may take me all day to send four welcome boxes to new clients, but every one of my clients sent a thank you email for the delicious cookies and gift. Every one of them said they felt warm and fuzzy about donating to Operation Smile. I even had a bride tell me recently that she makes Snap! cookies once a week for her groom because... you guessed it... he's addicted to them. That kind of feel good customer loyalty and branding is priceless.
I feel the same way about blogging. We don't post everyday but I've had clients tell me they look forward to the posts and savor reading them, just like a good book. Would you feel compelled to savor something that you could have every day? I know I wouldn't. I've never been there, but if I do ever make it to Paris, I plan to savor me a few croissants and I'll wait patiently to get them.
The next time you find yourself beating yourself up about how much time you've spent on designing your website, networking with vendors, or creating a kickass album design remember that quality attracts quality. Take another page from Monsieur Kanye West's book because, after all, he attracted Kim Kardashian. Guess it works in reverse too.