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Free business resources, reviews, and advice for photographers and artists.

Updated: 2017-12-10T22:11:34.583-05:00


Managing The Fame Monster


Fame can create a type of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder) when you don't know how to deal with it and respond to it appropriately, or at least it did for me.  If you've witnessed someone else's journey close enough to the surface of fame, you may have a better chance of dealing with the public response as it arrives, but it took me about 10 years to really recover from a period of fame that I got early on in my career and felt very unprepared for. I thought I was just entering contests and submitting work to get feedback and a response around what I was doing well, but it also turned into awards, publications, special features, speaking invitations, and things that started putting me in the spotlight before I was really ready to handle all the other negative stuff that came with being in the spotlight.  I didn't realize there'd be an entirely other element of reputation management that I'd need to deal with as well.  So I ended up taking a huge step back once all the attention got to be too much to manage and started taking me away from my clients and the work that was paying the bills.  I realized I just wanted to get back to doing what I loved: creating images for clients who valued my work without all the fame nonsense.  I gave myself a lot of time to consider what I could do differently if it happened again, and I hope sharing this helps you walk a slightly easier road through any moments of fame that come your way...1. When You Finally Win Some AwardsPeople will hate you and people will admire you.  People will talk bad about you and they'll say you're the best they've ever seen.  They'll talk about how they can create better work than you, and they'll talk about how they wish they could create work like you.  They'll say they should have won the award you won, and they'll say they'd never be able to win the award you won.  They'll do this behind your back, to other people, online in comments, in forums, etc. You really just have to let them do this without defending yourself.  You've already won the award and received the recognition that you were aiming for.  Any defense makes you seem insecure about your win.  Any boasting makes you seem cocky about your win. This is just part of what comes with winning. The only response people want to hear is how grateful you are that the judges liked what you sent them. (People know it's all judge preference anyway.) 2. When You're Finally Published in MagazinesPeople will say you bought your way in.  People will say they wish they had your skill.  They'll say your work is too trendy or too posed or too staged.  They'll say you're amazingly creative and a genius for thinking of something so unique.  They'll say you copied them and it's all been done before and that you just rip off other people's ideas.  They'll say you're brilliant and inspiring and they want to be just like you.  People will take your work and try repeating the same results.  People will call you a fake.  People will say you have an inside relationship.  People will assume you can get them published too.  People will put you on a pedestal.  People will try to knock you off a pedestal. Let them think what they want to think.  Being published and recognized means you don't need to prove anything to anyone.  The only response that people want to hear is that you feel really lucky your work was chosen out of all the great work they could have chosen from.  (People don't blame lottery winners, just their own luck of the draw.)3. When You Finally Get Invited To SpeakPeople will say you don't have enough experience.  People will think you know everything there is to know.  People will suggest you need to teach because your work isn't good enough.  People will say you're teaching because your work is amazing.  They'll think your ideas are rubbish and uninspiring.  They'll think you've opened up an entirely new way of seeing things.  They'll wa[...]

When You Feel Like Letting It All Go


This feeling has happened multiple times while being a small business owner, yet each time the feeling is a little different and a little more nuanced.  I think it's safe to say that I've experienced the full gamut of reasons for feeling like I should let it all go.  This is a rarely talked about subject in the creative business world, and I want to share what I've learned about these feelings and how they have helped me, transformed me, and moved me to better places.Issue: "I'm constantly procrastinating on certain parts of the work, maybe I'm not really cut out for this, maybe I should quit.  Quitting feels easier than forcing myself to do this."This was how I felt when I had too many clients to manage, too many projects that were getting backed up, deadlines were being pushed further than was professionally acceptable, systems that were breaking down left and right and I kept getting bogged down in certain parts of the process that prevented me from making forward momentum as a solo-entrepreneur. This was when I really needed to look outside of myself for help, rather than thinking I needed to do it all, but I was so entrenched in the problems at hand that hiring outside help just felt like more work and delaying everything further to get that help up and running.  I felt trapped, as if there was no way out, and as if I was failing my business and my clients, which led to feeling like perhaps I wasn't cut out to run a business at all, assuming this was my sign to quit and give up.  I was so wrong about my ability to turn it around, but the problems at hand made it difficult to see any other way.Solution: Outsourcing, Hiring Help, Raising Prices, Fewer Projects at OnceIf you're willing to give up your entire business because you can't seem to keep up with your business, than you NEED to start hiring help, outsourcing, raising your prices, or taking fewer clients.  This is a sign that your business is actually a huge SUCCESS!!!!  Hellloooo!!  You wouldn't be running into these issues if your demand wasn't exceeding your personal capacity to handle them!  Don't give up now- you're just hitting a painful growth spurt that is stretching you to expand and work in ways that you haven't explored yet!If you're at a point where you would be willing to leave your business anyway, than you're also at a point where you can spare to throw some cash at hiring professional help or trying some outsourcing solutions.  If the alternative is not doing it at all, than you've reached a prime place to start narrowing your client focus and raising your prices so that you're only attracting and working with people who value your work at the same level that you do. This is not an option anymore, this is clear cut sign that your business is experiencing massive growth and needs to grow appropriately to the kind of business you'd like to have in the future.  Would you like to grow into having associates, a business manager, and a post-production personal all under the same roof?  Would you like to grow toward being a more boutique, high-end artist serving only a select clientele?  This is your time to make that decision and set yourself on a better path that meets your needs in the future.  To walk away now would be to throw away your biggest opportunity for growth right at the moment you're being given the green light to grow in ways that work better for you.Issue: "I want to let it all go.  I simply don't care anymore.  I don't even want to show up."This was how I felt when I reached a place of depression in my life.  I didn't care about anything.  I wanted everything to fall away.  I didn't want to care about anyone or anything else except for my basic needs and survival.  Even making a plan to commit suicide felt like far too much work and energy than I was willing to give to the world outside of simply breathing and existing at the most basic level.  I often questioned why I was even alive.  I was st[...]

The Competition Illusion


Over the years I've conducted several surveys of professional full-time photographers and it's amazing that the results stay consistent from year to year no matter how the market changes.

Survey Question:"When you look at the clients who actually booked your services, how did they find you?"

The percentage year to year tends to stay around 80% of booked clients coming through word of mouth referrals from previous clients, vendors, associates, friends, and family.  The other 20% tend to fall into website searches, social media, or trade shows.  There are a few rare businesses who flip that number on its head with a strong sales push or limited-time-offer at a convention, conference, or some very heavy targeted social media or website effort, but most full-time creative professionals who aren't selling education online are actually making their living on a strong referral business.

This is why competition is an illusion.

Most people are referring the 1 person they have trusted experience with.  Now, maybe a potential client has 3 friends who all refer different people, it still means you're only competing against those other 2 referrals.  Which is why, with referred business, you're not competing against every directory listing or search engine result available on a public website- only with other people who have great referral business in your marketplace.

Focus on referrals to eliminate competition.

- What can your clients say about you as a professional that makes the experience of working with you stand out from working with other professionals?
- Did you set reasonable expectations and exceed them?
- Were you pleasant and gracious to work with in person?
- Have you stayed in touch outside of projects you've worked on together?
- Did you do anything special that made their work or life easier?
- Did you find ways to connect them to other resources or help they were looking for?

When you focus on doing great work and working in a way that feeds your referral business, the competition is more of an illusion than a reality.  Each inquiry from a referral is exponentially more likely to book than an inquiry from a directory or search result.  How are you eliminating your competition by increasing your referrals?

(image) Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

3 Responses to Low Budget Requests


Rather than getting frustrated with people for not understanding your costs of doing business or not valuing the time and talent you invest into your work, stop assuming what they should understand and start educating to help provide more awareness around what professional rates should look like.  In order to be compensated at a professional level, it's important to respond to every unprofessional rate request with a more professional option.Here are 3 different responses you can use when being asked to work for unprofessional rates:1. Provide a more appropriate appropriate price for the request:Thank you for your interest in working with me!  Based on everything you've outlined in your request, it appears that the appropriate pricing for that would really be $$$$.  Would you like to change the nature of the request or change the budget to a more appropriate rate for everything you'd like to accomplish with this photoshoot?2. Describe what you can actually do for that rate:Thank you for your interest in working with me!  At the budget you've described, I can provide two hours of documentary coverage at that rate, which that will allow me to produce approximately 60 images to choose from for this type of event, from which you're welcome to select 12 favorites for high resolution commercial licensing.  Would you like to move forward with this offer or discuss additional options?3. Explain the price difference between professional and amateur:Thank you for your interest in working with me!  I'm afraid that price is quite low for the professional resources and experience I provide- my normal rate for this type of project is $$$$.  Were you looking for an insured professional who can guarantee results, or did you want to work with an amateur who is still learning and may not have sufficient experience with this type of request?(*This could be misconstrued as snarky, so use with caution and make sure you have the ability to provide an amateur resource like craigslist or a photo school of students who need to practice on clients.  Being able to provide an amateur resource if they want one shows that you're still a professional and willing to help others find a solution more appropriate to their request.)If these responses don't seem to fit your situation, try this basic response recipe instead:Step #1 - Express thanksYou'll notice all responses start with gratitude for the client's interest in your work.  We are truly lucky when people reach out to us individually to work with us.  In some cases, we may be the only creative they got the courage to contact directly.  If they were referred by an existing client or seen our work and fell in love with it- it's important that we honor their interest in working with us.  Step #2 - Provide more appropriate informationIn order to get people to adjust their perception or idea about what to expect, you must offer an updated set of information that helps them understand what they're requesting when it comes to working with the professional they're requesting it from.  Only when you provide more accurate information with regard to what it will cost or how much can be delivered within their budget, can they begin to adjust their own expectations and perceptions about what they can request from a professional.  Sharing is caring, and it's far more professional to care and share than to diss and dismiss.Step #3 - End with a questionEvery price inquiry response should end with a question to help continue the conversation.  I find it important to leave yourself open to continuing the conversation so that you aren't shutting the door to opportunity, but merely providing a window into what a more professional arrangement looks like while giving the client a chance to respond and negotiate their own interests further rather than shutting down alternative options or possibilities that meet closer to your mark.If you see any colleagues strugglin[...]

Budgeting Equipment Replacements


People do taxes because they have to, but many fewer people do budgeting for annual repairs and replacements.  Every creative business relies on a set of tools to get an idea from thought form into a tangible form that can be sold.  Computers, cameras, paints, brushes, pencils, paper- all just a part of being a creative.  Whenever I do pricing consultations, one of the things I often encounter is that people aren't planning their equipment upgrades and replacements as part of their overhead costs and costs of doing business.  Yet, these tools are as essential as having a website, phone, or email to serve clients with. If you haven't been in business long enough, the best clue about how often you'll need to replace something is in the warrantee information.  If you're buying a computer or a camera and even an extended warrantee won't cover that piece of equipment beyond three years, than you know that you'll need to expect to replace it after three years because even the company doesn't think it will keep working well after that.   If you have budgeted to replace equipment based on warrantees, you'll never be surprised by a tech failure- because it will already be in your budget.If you happen to keep a piece of equipment beyond its extended warrantee, than either you aren't using it very often, or you happen to be lucky.  Most professionals use their equipment twice as much as the average user, which means getting closer to that warrantee guarantee quicker as well.  Here are a few quick actions you can start taking to better budget for your equipment replacements:Take Action Now:1. Create a spreadsheet of equipment you need to do your job2. Record the price, serial number, month/year each piece of quipment was purchased3. Record the warrantee expiration date based on your date of purchase4. Tally replacement costs for each year based on warrantees5. Create a monthly equipment replacement budget to help plan for costsHere's an example of what that equipment budget might look like for a professional photographer:- 2 Pro Cameras - $7,000 - Maximum 3 Year Extended Warrantee / 36 Months = $194.44/mo- 1 Pro Level Computer - $3,000 - Maximum 3 Year Extended Warantee / 36 Months = $83.00/mo- 3 Pro Lenses - $5,000 - Maximum 3 Year Extended Warantee / 36 Months = $138.88/moEven if we just account for these three essential things,  photographers who budget ahead know that they'll need to set aside around $417 every month for their camera, lens, and computer replacements.  Or if you prefer to look at it in another way- if you shoot 30 jobs a year, $167 of each job needs to be banked for the use of just these pieces of equipment.Previous related posts on this topic:How Much Does Each Click Cost?Photography Overhead Costs (or Why Photography is Expensive)Why $300 Should Be a Professional MinimumAnne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.PHOTOLOVECAT.COM Helping photographers and small business owners achieve greater success.[...]

WPPI 10 Years Ago & Now


In thinking about attending WPPI this year, I was trying to remember what year I first attended.  Thanks to the mighty power of Google, I was able to travel back through time to uncover my relationship the WPPI expo and conference...In this 2006 post on how my business started, I already knew the importance of being part of a professional organization like WPPI for leaning, mentoring, and growing my business: 2007, which was I believe my first WPPI Expo, I got to connect with people I admired and reconnect with friends I met while attending the Foundation Workshop earlier the same year: 2008, I started hosting the PhotoLovecat Giveaway event: 2009 we hosted another PhotoLovecat Giveaway event and our blog became a place to share a public review of the WPPI events & workshops: 2010 I was getting back from a trip to Australia and settling into a new Photography Studio in Massachusetts, but Corey Ann held the torch and continued hosting a PhotoLovecat meet-up: 2011, we were able to start tracking WPPI Parties on Eventbrite and WPPI Attendee Twitter accounts to keep track of who was sharing what from where during the conference - may be interesting to see how many of those people will be at WPPI 2017? 2012, Corey Ann carried the torch for WPPI again, while I was living in Australia and following my dream of traveling the world for an extended period of time.  I still participated in online mentoring and webinar workshops, but was definitely more interested in exploring everything I could in Australia and Europe that year. seems the world of Wedding Photography starting changing dramatically in 2012-2016.  Major photography labs started closing.  Photo Schools started closing.  Online labs gathered more business.  Online photo workshops became more popular.  iPhones started to have printable quality images.   People could create Facebook groups for their wedding and guest's wedding photos.  Photo booths took over the job of formal portraits.  The world of immediate sharing and instant gratification started to become far more important than high quality imagery and beautifully curated artful moments from trained professionals.  Perhaps it is simply returning to what it once was when we operated in film: a luxury service for those who can afford the work of a trained professional, while non-professional instant gratification is satisfying enough for everyone who can't afford a professional.  I'm speculating, but would love to read your thoughts in the comments as well.There will always be a low-end of the market for the entry level professional starting out and serving the people and referrals in their immediate area.  I have no doubt of that.  I also think there will always be a high end of the market for people who value working with a creative professional and want archival products of their once-in-a-lifetime moments.  I think the middle has been squeezed the most - forced to serve either the low end of the market with a lot of volume or the high end of the market with fewer clients and additional workshops and education services to fill the gap.Personally, I started to trim down the amount of weddings I photographed and move into editorial and commercial not because of anything happening in the industry, but because I wanted more weekends and weeknights to enjoy time with my family and friends who work 9-5 jobs.  I knew weddin[...]

5 Tax Organization Tips


If you're getting ready to work with a CPA, or do your business taxes by yourself (which I don't recommend), here are a few things you'll want to start gathering and organizing to make the process easier.  Disclaimer: I'm not a CPA, just a small business owner who pays taxes every year. Always take final consultation from a professional CPA with regard to your situation.1. Do you have an assistant or contractor you paid over $600 total last year?If they aren't on payroll as an employee, and have been working as an independent contractor, you'll likely need to send them a W-9 form request for their tax filing information and then a 1099 Misc. form with the total fees you paid them during the year.  This information needs to be gathered and shared with your contractors before January 31 to allow them proper filing time as well (you can still file late, you just pay an additional fee).  This helps you legitimize the expense for the independent contractor and it helps them document received income from your business.  If you paid them via an online service like PayPal or Venmo, you can likely easily search all payments made to an individual according to year.Official IRS information on documenting independent contractor payments: Did you travel to any of your jobs or clients last year?If you're an on-location photographer, you likely traveled for almost all of your jobs.  The good news is that you most likely can expense that cost to your business.  If you took Taxis, Uber, Lyft, Car Rentals, or Airlines - you likely have records of all those purchases in your bank accounts or in the apps you used.  If you don't claim a car as a business asset & expense because you also use it regularly for personal and family travel, you can still claim the mileage you drove to meet and serve clients as well as any parking fees incurred during the job.  If you weren't tracking this all along with an app like Expensify, perhaps you have the addresses on your contracts or in your calendar that can help you determine the mileage you traveled for each business meeting, job, networking event, or on-site project, coupled with any debit card records made to parking structures.Official IRS information on documenting & expensing Business Travel: Did you entertain or buy meals during business meetings or travel?If your work required you to eat away from your home office location, or if you bought meals for clients, vendors, or contractors while doing business,  you may be able to deduct those as well.  This is generally only a 50% tax deduction, even if it was a 100% expense to your business, so it would be best to talk to your CPA with regard to what is considered a Meals & Entertainment expense.  If you usually use a debit or credit card for these transactions, you likely have evidence in your monthly statements of what you've purchased by date while on a job or meeting.  If you haven't been tracking it all along and need to do it retroactively, an online financial organizer like FreshBooks or Mint can help you pull multiple credit and debit cards together in the same place to organize expenses. Official IRS information on documenting & expensing Meals & Entertainment: Did you buy equipment for your business last year?New computer?  New software?  Online services?  Cloud storage?  Paper and ink to print contracts on?  Office desk & chair?  Currently, the IRS allows $500,000 in business equipment deductions, up from $25,000 in previous years.  For many freelancers, the overhead expenses of[...]

How to find a great CPA


After moving my business several times, I've had a lot of experience looking for a CPA to help with my business and personal filing, and whenever I found a great one, it often took me a while before I was willing to move on and find another one in my new state after moving.  Hopefully sharing this wisdom will help speed up your search!1. Start Searching LocallyThe importance of having a CPA you can sit face to face with is very important if you ever need to work on a complicated tax situation or work through an audit together.  Likewise, the ability to enjoy working with your CPA is huge when it comes to something that may be stressful or difficult.  All of my favorite CPAs have a sense of humor and lightness about difficult tax situations that have helped ease my concerns, while still remaining professional and demonstrating that they will get the job done.  You only get to see this lighthearted but professional approach by meeting in person. - Personal Referrals: The best places to begin your search are with personal recommendations from other small business owners.  Even better if they have a similar business model to you and can share what they love about working with their CPA and how long they've been with them.- Local Chamber of Commerce Website:Next best place to search is your local Chamber of Commerce website, where they will likely have a directory of CPAs looking for business.  The people who work for the Chamber can tell you if they know the CPA personally or anyone who has worked with them as well for additional referral information.- Business Networking Group: Third best place to search is a local business networking group - BNI is one of the more famous ones, but ask around and see what is available in your area.  Rotary may be the second most common networking group for business owners, while it has more of a philanthropy mission than a networking one, it's a group of people who believe in giving back to the community.2. Define Your Tax SituationBeing able to describe your tax situation will help you with the phone screening process before setting up a meeting.  For example, here are a few ways you may want to practice describing your tax situation over the phone before deciding who you'd like to meet with in person:- Personal Tax Situation:Married?  Single?  Dependents?  Live-in parents?  Investments?  Multiple homes?  Personal property in multiple countries?  Inheritance?  Haven't paid taxes in 10 years and may need a payment plan?  Need to figure out if it's better to file separately or jointly with spouse?- Business Tax Situation:LLC?  Sole-Proprietor?  Corp?  Employees?  Health Benefits?  Online business?  Out of country sales  to manage?  Import/export business?  State to state sales tax transactions?3. Create a List of 3-5 Places to CallIf making phone calls is scary to you because you prefer email - I suggest practicing the questions you'll be asking on the phone and preparing your statement about your situation.  A phone call can really help you rule out a company you don't want to meet with.  Was it easy to get the answers you needed in a timely way?  Were they sloppy and unprofessional in how they managed your phone call?  Do they have an office with multiple people and an admin to help them manage their clients?  You don't get to learn these things when emailing- only when calling on the phone.Things you need to ask:- Do you have a Certified Public Accountant in your office?  Will they be handling the return, or will it be a tax preparer?  Who would I be meeting with for the first time?- Do you have experience with clients in my situation?  (State the personal and business situations you have.)- When can I come in and speak wit[...]

Stop Being Taken Advantage of by Demanding Clients


Into every creative's life a demanding client will fall.  Many creatives have a hard time drawing a line in the sand when it comes to working with demanding clients, which is why your fee and business should be structured in such a way that you anticipate every client will eventually become a demanding client.  The more you anticipate and practice responding to requests outside of your agreement, the easier it becomes.The demanding client lifecycle generally looks something like this:1. Client negotiates with Creative for reduced rate2. Creative agrees based on something Creative thinks they'll gain from working with Client3. While Creative is engaged in work, Client makes little requests here and there4. Creative agrees to little requests, because they are at first easy to accommodate5. Client turns little requests into big demands on Creative6. Creative feels stuck because they have previously honored little requests without additional fees, and haven't implemented a structure for being compensated for additional requests7. Client gets frustrated and more demanding that Creative is becoming less responsive8. Creative gets frustrated that Client is becoming more demanding9. Client thinks Creative is a flake and unprofessional10. Creative thinks Client is evil and inconsiderateIf you take steps early enough in the process, a client may never reach the point of being considered a demanding client.Here are the solutions to avoid clients becoming demanding at every step of the process:- Don't agree to work for any less than full rate. It is far better to charge full rate, and have the opportunity to do a tricky job over again, than to work for a reduced rate with a client who expects full rate service.- Have a written agreement for exactly what is delivered and how it is delivered.  This needs to make it blatantly clear to the client what is being delivered in what time frame and how many revisions will be allowed on work.- Prepare client expectations that additional requests have a working fee attached.  By anticipating that the client WILL make requests above and beyond the work you have contracted for, you can be prepared by offering either an hourly rate for additional requests, or a revision rate.- Notify client immediately when their requests fall outside of original agreement.  As SOON as a client makes a request that falls outside of your agreement, the client needs to know and be presented with options for moving forward.At any point in the process, I suggest using this wording with a client to address additional requests: "This request will require additional time and expense that weren't planned into the original quote.  I've included an invoice to cover the time and expense to honor this request.  If you'd like to add any additional requests at this time, please let me know so that I can be even more efficient in addressing additional requests."Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over a decade of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.PHOTOLOVECAT.COM Helping photographers and small business owners achieve greater success.[...]

Networking Tips on the Click Cartel Podcast


A few months ago, I had the pleasure of getting to know Christian Grattan in advance of his Click Cartel Podcast being released to the public.  He asked me if I'd share some tips for starting photographers, and I have to say he was GREAT at asking all the right questions of digging into the nitty gritty of business details on networking and sales.  That is definitely one of the benefits of being interviewed by someone in the same industry, and even in the same market, because they already know the challenges and can really dig into how other people overcome them.  It was a great show, and I probably reveal way too much for my own good... but I think I can leave the world a better place knowing that this will absolutely, most definitely, help someone else strengthen their own business.  Check it out now on his blog, and subscribe to all the podcast episodes on iTunes...

Visit the Click Cartel Site:

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes:

Cost to Start Photography Business


I've previously shared what the recurring overhead costs of a photography business can be, but many people want to know what the investment would look like if they started from scratch, so here's a breakdown of costs I would expect someone starting a photography business to incur...Liability Protection: $600- $800This usually includes $1-3million of liability insurance to work on-location for events, portraits, and commercial assignments.  Some venues require a certificate of insurance before you are allowed to enter the building with photography equipment of any kind.Photographic Equipment: $4000 - $9000In order to be a professional, you can't just have one camera, because if that one camera fails on the job, than you've lost the rest of the job you showed up to do, so every professional needs two working cameras for every job.  There are a lot of other things you also need duplicates of as well: backup batteries x2, extra memory cards x2, backup lighting x2, additional lenses to cover a variety of focal lengths.Computer Equipment: $2000While it's tempting to cheap out or hack a computer together, most professionals find that they need a well designed machine that is optimized for processing speed and large storage transfers.  On top of that, there are usually hundreds of gigabytes of photos taken each year which also need backup drives, and perhaps even online cloud storage solutions in order to make sure that images are safe even when drives fail.Software: $400Most photographers use Lightroom and/or Photoshop to process their images, along with several other softwares to manage their accounting and/or customer service.  You may also want a website, custom domain name, hosting, etc.Accountant: $400While you can do accounting on your own, you will come out much further ahead in many different ways if you have a professional relationship with an accountant who helps keep your business on good financial and tax grounding.Accessories: $500A camera bag to protect your gear and help you travel with it safely, a random new lighting accessory, a reflector, light stands and umbrellas for your flash, or other items you may need beyond the basics.Education: $2000While this could be an optional expense because there are many free resources like this lovely blog available to help beginning photographers, I find that people who are in the first few years of a photography business tend to spend a lot on education.  Even if they went to school for photography, they quickly realize that there are many more things to learn and understand in the real world that weren't exactly taught or relevant in their university setting.While everyone's initial costs can be vastly different based on the rate that they acquire equipment before they start a business, this provides a guide for those who want to be prepared and plan ahead.This brings the initial investment total to somewhere between $7900 - $15,100... and the recurring annual expenses may be closer to around $16,000 before taking a salary from your business.  If you take out a loan to purchase equipment in the first year- remember that many of your initial jobs will simply go to paying back the cost of investing in your business.  This is also why many people do photography part-time while working other jobs.  If you have a solid business structure and profit margin, you should make enough in your first two years to pay back your initial investment so that you can start seeing a profit in your second or third year, even if you work part time.  Otherwise, photography will be a very expensive hobby until you cross that profitable threshold in your business and finance management.That being said, you don't need all of this equipment to begin building a portfolio of work that you[...]

Do I Need To Be On Snapchat?


Every time a new fad social media thing comes on to the market, we all have to ask the question, is this something good for me and my business?

The questions I always start with are:
1. Are my current clients using it and inviting their friends to join?
2. How is it currently being used to add value to my clients?
3. Is it aligned with how I want to present my work to others?
4. How effective are you on the other social media channels you're already using?

Right now, the people I see joining snapchat are my colleagues, but not my clients.  Photographers tend to be early adopters and heavy social media users, so that makes sense.  Does this mean clients will follow?  Maybe, but also maybe not.

We thought they'd follow to Twitter, but Twitter has remained quite a B2B environment with most people using twitter for spot news, PR releases, and brief public announcements or questions among other B2B users and marketers.

Did they follow to Instagram?  Only a few here and there- mostly photographers and clients who were already visual artists or business owners at some level and had enough visual content and loveliness that they wanted to share and see from others.

Facebook & LinkedIN are still the two most frequently used social networking sites by people who have jobs and purchasing power.  How are you leveraging those networks- where there's already active engagement for business and professional use?  If you aren't leveraging those networks, how is adding another one going to be any different?

More noise in more places does not equate to more business or more success.  If you aren't already "killing it" and attracting new clients through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, or YouTube, than you definitely do not need to be using SnapChat for your business or personal life.  Feel free to prove me wrong and then create your own success story of how you landed new clients on snapchat to share with everyone here on this blog.  I love a good success story!

(image) Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

Why $300 Should Be A Professional Photography Minimum


I've run the numbers from here to the moon on what it takes to operate as a professional photographer for myself in multiple areas of the world, as well as for dozens of other photographer owners who've consulted with me, and one thing remains the same no matter how the numbers are crunched... it never makes sense to take a gig/job/headshot/portrait for less than $300. The biggest reason for this bottom line is to make sure you've covered your costs, backup, insurance, and fail-safe options that allow you to operate as a professional, no matter what life throws at you.For example, let's say a photographer charges $200 for a portrait shoot and they've collected half up front upon booking the shoot, but two days before the shoot, their apartment is robbed and camera equipment is gone.  The insurance deductible to replace everything is $500, but the photographer's credit cards are maxed out, and they were counting on this portrait shoot to provide a little cushion to get by.  The client can't reschedule their shoot because they need the images for a conference presentation in two days.  The photographer doesn't want to disappoint the client, so they need a back-up solution, and fast!! The photographer figures they can use computers at the local library for processing images and uploading, but since the camera and lenses are in some thief's car trunk, they have to rent a kit to be delivered the next day.  How much will that cost?  About $240 for a very basic kit without any additional lighting, which is $40 more than the client is even paying for that $200 shoot!  On top of that, the photographer needs to pay for mileage, parking, and the online services to help make that shoot happen.  That $200 shoot may also have included all of the files as well, so there won't even be additional sales on the back-end to help pay the insurance deductible to replace equipment.  The price point has created a no-win situation for the photographer who can't operate as a professional and a disappointing situation for the client who counted on the professional they hired.When creatives charge less than it takes to even RENT the gear needed to do the job, it puts the creative business in an UNPROFESSIONAL position of not being able to serve a client who has expected professional service.  When not charging enough to have easy access to backup equipment, is almost better to not charge anything at all, because at least then it won't attract the expectations that come with being a professional.  Once money is exchanged, a professional exchange is also assumed.Now yes, there is always an exception.  For example, photographing 4 Rental Property Shoots for $75 each in one day with minimal post-production, which still ends up at $300 for one day of work.  Or doing 10 mini sessions at 15min each for $50 each in the same time and location, with the same amount of post-production as it would normally take for one $500 session.  Most often the frequent exception to the $300 minimum is in the case of guaranteed volume within the same day.There is one more exception for the advanced professional - those who are really great with post-shoot sales can consistently take a $0 - $200 booking fee and turn it into an average of $1200 in revenue during a sales process after the shoot, with plenty of sales acumen to make up for a client who walks out and pays $0.  When a creative knows how to generate more revenue after a shoot, even when the starting price is low, they are also probably operating a business in such a way that they're already covered for emergency situations from previous sales.  However, this is not the case for most people who are in the under $300 cat[...]

Is Social Media HURTING Your Business?


Companies do a great job selling us on the idea that Social Media outlets help our business by keeping us in touch with our client base or introducing us to new clients- but what about all of the ways that it might actually be hurting a business?  See if you fall into any of the social media traps that are more harmful than helpful for your business....1. Wasting TimeHave you ever opened your phone, Facebook feed, instagram feed, pitnerest feed, snapchat, etc. first thing in the morning, or during a break in the afternoon to think you were just going to spend a quick minute checking in to see what everyone was up to, only to find yourself endlessly scrolling and eventually wasting an entire hour looking at nothing particularly important?  How many emails could you have answered in that time?  How many solid work tasks could you have completed instead that would have actually helped your business, rather than mindlessly looking at whatever other people post?2. Feeling Less SuccessfulEven though we all know how deceiving social media can be with regards to only showing the highlights of someone's life, we still end up finding ourself fall into the trap of jealousy by comparing our real life to someone else's social media stream.  For many people, these comparisons aren't empowering and motivating, instead they feel self-defeating and irritating because we "think" someone else is doing better or living a cooler situation based solely on their social media stream.  If you can't stop yourself from having those feelings, than the only solution is to cut off the source of that jealousy until you can do the inner work to return to the social media stream with more clarity and confidence.  Constantly comparing yourself to others does nothing helpful for yourself or your business, unless you're using it as positive fuel and examples of how you can move yourself forward.3. Expecting Social Media to Bring ClientsSocial media may appear like a great place to connect and stay in touch with clients, but how many of your social media followers are people who are really paying you for your work?  Too often someone thinks that if they just do all the right "social media" things, they'll bring in more clients, and that's not alway the case.  Social media may have a global reach, but your business may only have a local reach, and if you're too busy connecting with people who aren't going to hire you in a another part of the world to take time connecting with people in your local area who can actually hire you, than you're expecting social media to do the work that you should be doing in person with networking events and local face-to-face connections.  Look at your actual sources of income and where those clients came from - nurture those connections first and foremost before investing heavily in social media.If you've ever felt like you're drowning in the social media lives of others and not fully living the beautiful life you have, it may be a good time to take a social media vacation by removing all those social apps from your phone to see how differently life feels when you aren't trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing.  It's amazing how much more of your own reality you can start to appreciate when you aren't comparing it to everyone else's social media reality.  You may even find that you may actually want to connect with people more in person, to see what's real and true for them at a person-to-person level rather than a "what I want the world to think about" level.  If you've never tried a social media vacation, it may be time to really step back and consider how taking a break may actually be more helpful to your[...]

10 Ways to Benefit From Down-Time


When I started as a freelancer, I didn't know how to make the most of the space between clients.  I was either "on" and happily working on client projects or "off" and being a sloth or stressing about not having client projects.  It took me a long time to really learn how to effectively use my "off" time so that it became "on" time, even if it happened in long stretches.If you're finding yourself in the middle of an "off-client-project" time, here are 10 things you could be doing to stay "on" in your creative business:1. Trying Out A New Skill or SoftwareTesting a new skill or software is far easier and less frustrating when you aren't trying to meet a deadline.  If you've put off learning something new, but know it might help your workflow, it's best to catch up on your skills in between clients rather than in the middle of projects.2. Building Your Portfolio With Personal Creative WorkThe work that gets the most buzz is rarely work that created for a client.  It's often an extreme or highly artistic vision, fully cultivated by an artist that creates the most buzz and award-winning creative work.  Pushing your creative limits helps keep you feeling creative, even when client requests demand that you stay inside the box more than you'd like.3. Attending Workshops / Watching Educational VideosPeople who have been creatives for decades know that there's always more to learn, always another perspective to try, and always more knowledge to learn from.  If you're ever feeling stale or out of date, ramp up your awareness about what else is going on by tuning into the latest educational offerings.4. Meeting With Colleagues & Previous ClientsIt's often said that your "network is your net worth" and the way to cultivate that network is through regularly staying in touch with the people you've enjoyed working and interacting with in the past.  Who doesn't love receiving an invitation to hang out, especially when someone else is willing to pick up the tab?5. Attending Networking EventsIt may be impossible to ask a new client or connection out to lunch if they don't know you yet, but it's not impossible to get to know them during a networking event and create a connection that last beyond one event.  Search Eventbrite, MeetUp, and Facebook for events on topics that you're passionate about to find people who might be interesting to collaborate with.6. Getting HealthyIf you're a freelancer who tends to sacrifice your health while working for clients during intensive projects, than you really need to bring back more healthy-time into your down-time, so that you can return to each future project with more health and resilience than you had before.  7. Portfolio OrganizationHave you ever had a new client ask for examples of a project you know you've done in the past, but couldn't find easily due to a lack of organization or a need to update your portfolio?  The more you can streamline access to your work for future inquiries, the more likely you are to land the next prospect.8. Seek Publicity OpportunitiesHave you wanted to be featured in a favorite website, blog, or magazine?  Spend time pulling together the required materials and developing a pitch for a feature that will drive the traffic of your target market back to your work.9. VolunteerSome amazing connections and opportunities can come from volunteering for something that you care about.  Pick an organization that is aligned with your values and find ways to donate your time or talent during your down-time.  When done with an open heart and desire for something greater than yourself, volunteering feels good in a way that goes beyond a s[...]

Creating a Business Bank Account


All too often, beginning or part-time creatives get into trouble with money management because they don't separate their business income and expenses from their personal expenses.  This problem can be compounded if you share an account with a spouse or family member who isn't part of your business, yet when they seem to be dipping into business income as if it's all personal income.WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL ACCOUNTING HABITS?If you're a sole proprietor and you track your income and expenses religiously every month, than you may be able to get away with one bank account for personal and business as long as your business name is nothing more than your legal name and you don't need a DBA registration.  However, if you're not very strict about business accounting and you tend to put off most expense tracking until the end of the year or just before April taxes are due, you'd be best served by having separate business and personal accounts so that you can easily track your personal expenses separately from your business expenses.  Most creatives I know fall into the latter category- which is totally OK, and exactly who this post is intended to help.WHAT YOU MAY NEED:If your business name is anything other than your first and last name only... even if it's just "Ron John Photography", you'll likely need to file for a DBA in order to legally collect payment under your business name.  It's often a fast process and some states allow you to take care of it all online.  A registered DBA is often necessary before you can open a bank account that will accept payment under a business name.  Certain banks may also require a registered federal EIN, even if you are not a corporation, do not have any employees, and do not collect sales tax as part of your business model.  You'll learn more about what's required from your local financial institution once you begin the process of applying for a business account.BANK OR CREDIT UNION?Before I was a photographer, I worked in the financial sector, which gave me familiarity with the different advantages of credit unions and banks.  Credit Unions are often overlooked as a business banking solution because some people assume they aren't as convenient as a big branded bank that offers ATMs at every corner.  However, having those ATMs on every corner comes at a high cost to the average account holder by way of higher fees for regular account management activities.  Credit Unions are membership-based, which helps keep banking fees low while still providing convenient services like depositing checks through your phone, making transfers online, and making deposits and withdrawals at affiliated Credit Unions around the country, and some even pay for the ATM fees charged by other institutions! If you are already comfortable with a certain banking institution for your personal account, you can always just open a business account at the same institution to make banking with two accounts more convenient- but opening a business account may also be a great opportunity to see what advantages are available at other financial institutions.  Large banks tend to be more beneficial to large corporations rather than small businesses- so definitely spend a little time exploring your options.WHAT SERVICES TO ASK ABOUT:These services are important to me as a business owner in my financial institution:- Free Checking Account: no monthly fees and a low minimum balance requirement- Online Bill Payment: the ability to schedule recurring payments for credit cards or loans and to easily make one-off payments mailed direct to independent contractors- Deposit[...]

Incentivize vs. Penalize


Do you have a hard time collecting payment or getting client selections done on deadline?  If there are no incentives for moving quickly, things may almost always wait until the last minute or just after the last minute with an ask for forgiveness or a distaste for a late fee.  By incentivizing clients to act early and on-deadline, you help empower them to make the most of their time by rewarding early and on time decisions.

Take two different sets of language you might see in a creative agreement:
"Orders placed before the early bird deadline of 2/2/16 will receive 10% off the total order."
"Orders placed after the final deadline of 2/8/16 will incur a 10% late fee."

What excites you more?  What makes you look forward to completing your order early and on time?  What language creates stress for you if you don't complete it on time?  How do you want your clients to feel about working with you?

Here's another example:
"Prepaid packages save 10% when paid in full during booking."
"Payment options available for 3% more."

Another photographer recently said to me, "why would I want to give anyone a discount for paying their bill early or on time?"  My answer is that you should already have this "discount" built into your pricing profit margin for negotiation purposes anyway, and when you recognize that clients who wrap up their orders early are actually creating LESS work for you, you realize that you're actually saving even more money by way of administrative time.  When clients pay early it means you can wrap up their project earlier, it means their work isn't on your to do list overlapping other work you have to do, and it's one less bill to chase down and create a payment system for.

Please keep in mind that I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have late fees or extra fees for added administrative work - merely that by providing incentives for the client side of your process, you can wrap your projects up more quickly and ultimately provide both you and the client with a more rewarding experience.

(image) Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Why $60,000 Revenue = $30,000 Income


$30,000 is the U.S. national median of photographer salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  Which breaks down to $15/hr when you divide that by a traditional U.S. working life of 50 weeks a year ($600/wk), and 40 hours a week ($15).  Obviously, photographers don't stay in this profession for the money; they stay because they are passionate about creating great images and can't imagine doing anything else they love more.What many starting photographers don't understand is that in order to make that $30,000 salary, most photographers actually need to bring in $60,000 in revenue.  Here's an example of how that can break down in expenses for a full time photographer:Individual expenses will obviously vary from person to person.  One photographer might save more by not upgrading equipment as frequently, but may spend more on education.  Another photographer might have a large marketing campaign budget (which I didn't include as a separate item), but gets health insurance from a spouse.  These numbers are just examples to provide a clue of where the money may go after it walks in the door.This is also the reason that I suggest a lot of beginning photographers start with a 50/50 split on the revenue that comes in from clients.  Put 50% in a business bank account and 50% in a personal bank account.  This helps make sure that you're beginning your business with a solid practice of paying yourself while also setting money aside for business needs and expenses.  By splitting the revenue into expenses and income right when it comes in, you prevent the practice of not making anything to pay your bills, while also making sure your business can cover expenses to survive another year.Have you been in business for a while and tracked the percentage of your revenue that goes to expenses versus income?  What percentage has been true for your revenue and expenses?Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.PHOTOLOVECAT.COM Helping photographers and small business owners achieve greater success.[...]

The Branding Illusion


"I have a friend whose website looks AMAZING, but she can't seem to find any work""People say they love my work, but I feel like no one is hiring me"You'd be surprised how often I hear this.  That pretty shell, that fabulously curated website, that swoon-worthy instagram account, all of those styled shoots- they all create a grand illusion of a brand having its shit together, but it doesn't mean the person behind it is making a living from their art.I'm not saying having a lovely brand means people don't have their shit together.I'm saying don't assume a lovely brand means a lovely business bank account.How many of those gorgeous images were done for free?  How many were styled shoots with friends who are stylists or make-up artists?  How many were personal projects?  There are a lot of great artists in the world.  There are many fewer great artists who are also great business owners.Don't assume someone's stage act resembles their behind-the-scenes life.  You'd think in a world full of social media we'd be beyond the assumptions of the illusion by now."My website and portfolio are such a mess, I never get around to updating because I'm working all the time"You only hear this when you meet working creatives in person.  You probably never even heard of them.  You probably never visited their website.  Yet, if you see a brand online and their work looks old or their website outdated, as a fellow creative you might assume something about their business.The point is, don't compare yourself to an illusion in either direction.Don't assume an old or outdated website means no business.Don't assume a pretty website means great business.An online brand is just an illusion, a stage act.You don't have to have a well-put together brand to have a thriving business.  I'm not saying you shouldn't strive to keep your website updated, or you shouldn't do personal work when you don't have any clients, or that you shouldn't strive for a lovely brand.  I'm saying you don't NEED any of that to be successful as an artist and a small business owner.  It's just wrapping paper.  The real gift is underneath all of that.All those things you think will make you "look" better are great for the ego, they are great for making you feel confident about putting your work out into the world, however they don't guarantee that clients will hire you.The brand is the impression we want people to have of our business, but the actual business and financial exchange comes from our SERVICE and our desire to serve others with our talents.  The real brand experience comes from how we SERVE.  When people meet you in person, are they excited to work with you?  Was it your website that gave that brand impression, or was it your energy and passion?You don't even need a website to be in business and to make a living as a creative.  Yep.  That's right.  You still exist, and you still have the ability to serve as a professional creative, even if you don't even have a website, even if you don't have a pretty brand.Stop comparing.  Stop holding yourself back.  Stop thinking you're not good enough to serve with your talents if you don't look like you have it all together.  Stop underselling your gifts.  Stop thinking you need to look a certain way in order to serve others.Get out and serve.  Find your clients offline.  Set up meetings with people.  Listen to what people need.  Offer to work together.  Spend more time focusing on your service to others than[...]

When Client Doesn't Understand Time Needs


A question I see frequently on photography boards is how to address clients who want 100 images to be created in 30 minutes of time- or some variation of how to deal with a client who is expecting too many images in too short of a time frame.The Problem: Generally, clients have this expectation because they haven't fully understood how much time professional image creation takes.  You're the expert, and perhaps you even provided them with timeline suggestions, but somewhere along the line your suggestions weren't understood or were trumped by someone else who told your client that it wouldn't take that long.  As far as the client is concerned, taking a photo is like taking a selfie- a few seconds and you're done- so you need to help them understand why it takes longer when working with a professional.  They aren't ignorant, they just aren't professional photographers who see 100x more detail in every image and spend extra time making sure it looks better... which is exactly why you're being hired in the first place.The Solution: Address this as early and as soon as possible by quantifying the amount of time each image takes for the client.  Help them understand the process and what happens during that time so that they can be realistic in their time goals. Wedding Example: If it takes 5 minutes to round up the right people and create a great formal portrait at a wedding, than let the couple know that every posed image request needs to have 5 minutes allocated in the timeline.  If they request 50 posed images in 30 minutes, remind them that each pose can take 5 minutes to get everyone in place and properly focused, and then ask if they'd like to add more time or remove some of the requests.Commercial Example: If it's a product shoot and you know it takes about 1 hour to get the lighting right with all the variations you need in post-production, than help the client understand that every photo request will also require 1 hour of time from the stylist, studio, and lighting crew.  By helping a client understand what is involved in the creation of each image before you get to the shoot, you save everyone time and frustration in the end.Be The Expert:Clients come to you for your expertise because they don't have a full understanding of what it takes to create the work you create.  Make sure you educate clients and help them understand as much as possible in order to have a successful shoot with realistic expectations.  A client needs to know when their expectations aren't reasonable or accurate, and you are the only one who can help them understand what time is needed to create your professional quality.Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.PHOTOLOVECAT.COM Helping photographers and small business owners achieve greater success.[...]

Adding Value Into Pricing


When a client requests a price list, how do you quantify that value beyond a number of images or time invested?  If you've been in the business for a long time and are no longer booking based on a low price point, do you also quantify your experience, professionalism, and good reputation?

Since many clients collect a series of price lists in advance to compare side by side with other price lists- you can also use this opportunity to include some variables that other creatives with a similar level of image quality and pricing may not be able to include or compare to....

Example A: Time & Deliverables
-8 hours of on-site photography
-second photographer
-at least 600 images
-online proofing gallery for 3 months

Example B: Experience & Excellence
- 2 Award winning photographers with 10 years of experience
- Verified excellence in service with over 100 five star reviews
- Professional album design team
- Professional retouching team
- Archival quality print lab
- 10 International photography awards
- $2m in liability insurance
- 8 hours of on-site photography
- 20 hours of post-production artistry
- minimum 600 images delivered
- 3 months of image hosting & sharing online

How can you demonstrate your value beyond the basics?  Clients are going to make comparisons no matter what, but if you can give them more variables to compare with that will help demonstrate the value of experience and excellence, than they will at least start considering those variables as they make their comparisons.

(image) Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

The False Promise of Directory Listings


Do you feel like there's a new photo directory popping up every other week and somehow you've received an "exclusive invitation" to be one of the first ones to list your service and website on it?  Does it mention how revolutionary this directory will be compared to the hundreds of others out there that already exist?  Isn't it funny how no one else is raving about it?  Isn't it weird that they're contacting YOU to sell you a listing, rather than you finding them and thinking they're awesome?  Funny how that works.My first experience with the directory listing business model was actually with a publishing house that held a "poetry contest" and sought to give me an award for my poetry and publish me in a book when I was about 12 years old.  At that age, any opportunity to receive recognition for my original work, especially in a national outlet, felt like a major achievement! When the "award letter" arrived announcing that I was "being selected for publication" with a special offer for me to purchase the book I was going to be featured in for $50 (cleverly listed as 50% off of $100 as a "discount for contributors"), my parents didn't think that the price being asked for the book was appropriate for my contribution, and simply refused to buy it without telling me why.Once I got over pre-teen emotional let-down about not getting to own my "first publication", I slowly realized that it was actually a money-making scheme all along that preyed on young poets wanting to be published, and the families that would be excited for them.  My family didn't seem to have the heart to tell me directly, but I came to realize that no one else in the world would actually end up seeing these books on bookshelves or would actually buy a book of poetry by randomly selected amateurs for $100, let alone $50 unless they were the ones being published in it.  That was the year I gained wisdom into the crafty world of directory sales & marketing tactics.Unfortunately, artists tend to be easy prey for these ploys of visibility.  Often thinking that the promise of being published, featured on a website, or part of some larger directory will help them gain more visibility, and that more visibility will lead to more clients, when in reality it's just another pay-to-play scheme.I'm not saying that ALL photographer directories are worthless.  Some are useful for reasons beyond having a listing alone- and I'm sure that you will easily be able to figure out which ones those are.  I'm just saying that if you've never heard of the directory and they're calling you or emailing you to tell you how much you need their directory, or how awesome your business will be after signing up, they probably aren't actually that awesome, which is why they are always searching for new customers.Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.PHOTOLOVECAT.COM Helping photographers and small business owners achieve greater success.[...]

When Inquiries Go Silent


Do you feel like you send information and then don't hear anything back from inquiries?Did your response ask any questions to help keep the conversation moving forward?Do you keep a calendar of people you plan to follow up with a second or third time?Many creative businesses think that providing information after a first inquiry will either confirm or deny whether a client wants to work with them and then leave it up to the client to move the conversation forward after one response.  However, there are many clients who inquire while they're only in the stage of doing research and not actually ready to book.   These clients may not be ready to make a decision for several months based on all the information they're gathering up front, and how you do or don't follow up with them after that first inquiry may actually be a factor in whether they work with you or not.In a sea of competition, follow-through is one of the things that can make your business stand out among the rest.  How does your level of service stand out from the rest?  Are you letting an inquiry go silent and not really give it a second thought, or do you check back in after a couple weeks to see if the client has any questions about what they've seen, or take the time to send additional resources that can help the client? Lead follow-through doesn't need to be complicated or automated by a special system, in fact, here are a few steps you can take no matter what kind of inquiry system you're using:1. Create a Follow-Up Email TemplateIt should be a response that you can save as a draft or signature in your email program and easily copy/paste.  You want to confirm that they did receive your info, and give an opportunity to continue moving the conversation forward in a way that they may not have done with anyone else yet...Here's a sample email draft- but change the wording to fit your personality and business..."Thanks so much for contacting us last week!  We haven't heard back from you, so we want to make sure you received our last email?  We'd love to set up a time to chat about what you're looking for and answer any questions you have- which time would work best to talk on the phone or via Skype?   Tuesday 6pm, Wednesday 12pm, Thursday 3pm?"2. Schedule a Weekly Follow-Through DateBy putting follow-through as an appointment in your calendar, you'll have to move it around if you fail to do it one day, but by keeping it as an appointment, you're more likely to spend the time going through your inbox and follow-through with old clients than if you don't put it in your calendar at all.3. Decide on Appropriate FrequencyYou may want to wait 1 week to follow up after the first email, but then 2-3 weeks if you haven't heard anything after following up with a second email.  You don't want to be spammy or pushy and get blocked, so make sure you're adding value and being helpful with each follow-up email.4. Create an Email Folder for Active Leads & Dead LeadsWhen you're waiting to hear back from a client the first or second time, they would be considered an active lead and it would be easiest to find their email again if it was in a dedicated folder for leads you plan to follow-through with.  Likewise, there may still be helpful information to gain from a dead lead down the road, so keeping a folder of people the you've contacted several times and never heard back from may be helpful for some future research.Anne Ruthmann is a[...]

Evaluating Education Opportunities


As the photo education industry continues to rapidly expand, and many people plan for WPPI, it's important to evaluate what makes a quality education experience.  Even when you aren't paying to attend a free online webinar or tradeshow presentation, your time has value and it's important that you're able to walk away from an educational experience feeling like you made the best use of your time.  Just as you might search for reviews before purchasing equipment, I think it's equally valuable to do a little homework and make sure that the educational experiences you sign up for are aligned with who you are and what you need.  Use these steps to focus your time and energy productively:Step 1: Evaluate Your NeedsMake sure the education you pursue is aligned with where you are RIGHT NOW in your life or business.  What's the FIRST thing you need to take action on?  If you don't have a portfolio of work or clients, than your priority should be focused on portfolio development and technical learning, not pricing or business info.  If you know you have a great portfolio but are struggling with bringing clients in the door, focus on marketing and sales.  Be realistic about what you're most likely to take action on immediately so that your time spent learning can be applied as soon as possible.  While this sounds obvious, there are people who like to consume any and every education opportunity possible, and you need to acknowledge if you fall into that category and start getting more focused about what you really need right now.Step 2: Know Your Learning StyleIf you haven't read a non-fiction ebook from start to finish in the last year, than giving your email address to someone for a free e-book probably is going to benefit the writer more than it benefits you.  Do you prefer podcasts you can listen to while traveling or videos that visually demonstrate techniques?  Is it hard for you to focus unless you're in a physical workshop setting with other attendees?  Do you need a printed book or full video that you can review multiple times rather than a webinar that will disappear?  Know what helps you succeed as a learner and avoid tempting offers that will simply fill your inbox without helping you move forward. Step 3: Understand Your Desired Interaction LevelIf you just have a couple quick questions around a topic area that don't need extensive explanation, than perhaps a webinar format can work if it offers Q&A.  If you have an extended set of questions about your specific situation that you don't want don't want to share publicly, than you may want to seek a mentor, coach, or consultant to work with one-on-one.  Is the topic something that could benefit from group discussion?  Than perhaps a group workshop where you can interact with other attendees will be beneficial.  Know how much guidance and feedback you need to help you take action before choosing an educational opportunity.Once you've taken time to outline your needs as a learner, you can better filter opportunities and be more productive in how you allocate your time for education.Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.[...]

Quoting a Job Without Project Details


The more commercial work I do, the more I find commercial clients who basically want me to give them a price without giving me any information about their project and how much time, effort, and detail it will take.  Trying to elicit more details out of those clients before sharing any pricing only results in responses about 40% of the time, which means the other 60% want to know something about price before they will even engage in a conversation about the project.  While this is frustrating from a creative and budgeting perspective, I've found a couple ways to open the door without committing to a bad price....Provide An Average Client RangeBy telling the client that average projects tend to range anywhere from $$$$-$$$$, they can immediately know if their budget falls in your client averages based on what they're requesting.  Even if it's a huge range from hundreds to thousands, it's amazing how just providing any number range can keep the conversation moving forward so that the client feels more comfortable expressing their project details.Provide Quotes From Previous ProjectsProviding samples of previous quotes can help a client better understand what level they fall in.  This would be similar to having an established price list, but provide more detailed examples of what can be included or eliminated from a quote.  Ideally, you'll be able to provide 3 solid examples from previous jobs you've completed.Client A: Four hours of on-location photography with highly specialized studio lighting, stylist, makeup artist, and models with delivery of 10 retouched images for print advertising in a major magazine: $$$$$Client B: Two hours of on-location photography with simple studio lighting to create headshots for 5 executives for an annual report with a delivery of 5 images: $$$$.Client C: Full day of photography in studio with specialty lighting for commercial website and packaging use: $$$$Provide A Low & High EstimateIf you think you have a good sense of what the job will be without a bunch of detail, you can provide a low and high estimate to help the client understand more about their needs.  It's a way of providing a soft quoted estimate with plenty of negotiating room.Budget Option: 2 hours on location, 2 images delivered with option to purchase more $$$Luxury Option: 8 hours on location, 8 images delivered with option to purchase more $$$$$If you've had clients fall through the cracks because you weren't able to provide something they could begin to work with, try one of these approaches instead and see if it helps to improve your follow-through with new inquiries.Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.PHOTOLOVECAT.COM Helping photographers and small business owners achieve greater success.[...]