Hey, They Want You In the Arena… Are You Ready?

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Would it surprise you that what we think is more powerful than reality? That mere thoughts can be as powerfully uplifting or critically damaging as what we actually do?

“I don’t think I am ready to get out there and show my book” he said to me.

It didn’t matter that he was indeed ready to get out there. He did have a good book to show. Hell, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be. It had to be as good as it could be for the place he was in his life.

And it was.

But he had convinced himself that it had to be as good as some of the photographers on his list… the ones that are shooting every week. The ones that were ‘ready’ ten years ago. Or twenty. Or five.

He wanted to ‘catch up’ to them before going out with his wonderful work. Catch up is not possible, as there is no race involved. No comparison between his work and any number of others was valuable in any way.

Except to convince himself that he wasn’t ‘ready’. And not being ready means we have nothing to fear. We can never lose if we never try. We can never face the pressure to succeed if we choose not to bother succeeding.

Choosing not to be involved can be rationalized a lot of other ways as well. We have heard them all, haven’t we?

“Terrible time to start a business…”
“Economy sucks.”
“Photography is dead.”
“Everyone is shooting for free, so there is no hope for me.”

I am so tired of reading about the death of photography I could bang my head against the wall. While I guess the theme serves a purpose for link-bait posts on PetaPixel and DSLRLounge and other online publications, the reality is that photography is growing in leaps and bounds.

Unfortunately it is not growing as fast as the excuses, reasons, fabricated mythologies and link-bait articles about impossible success is are.

You know there is an entire industry out there devoted to keeping my friend from thinking he IS ready? No, they don’t have an association or annual meetings, but the reality is that they coordinate in insidious ways. And we can see those in action if we look closely.

From “pop-culture” to the news organizations to the specialized media that we tune into because we THINK they have our back.

And they may have our back on occasion, but there is no guarantee that they will be there when we are in need. They are not in business to help us succeed, they are in business to sell advertising and advertising likes big reach and nothing gets big reach like whining about failing.

The ones who have succeeded are turned into pop-stars. Bigger than life celbrities that are really succeeding because – well, they’re special. Special people make it. Special people get to be celebrities and have groupies and you…

… You are not special.

NOTE: Have you ever seen a sitcom or movie or play where the actors have to play the part of a ‘regular’ person who has to appear in some sort of ‘acting role’? The part calls for the ‘regular person’ to appear on TV or in a play… and the actor portrays them as fumbling, moronic, stupid and absolutely incapable of that ‘small part’ they are asked to play. Do you think that is by accident? Or could it be that they want you to think that acting is such a demanding, incredible, nearly impossible art that regular people are simply incapable of even attempting the smallest of parts.

Because ‘regular people’ are not special.

Bullshit.

You are as special as anyone, as capable as anyone – all you may lack is the PR department.

But this fear of being thought of as not ‘special enough’ can keep us cozy in the knowledge that we probably wouldn’t have been good enough anyway, so trying to would just have proven it and why prove it if it is just the way it is… – even better in the voice of Eyore.

We choose not to play in the arena. We choose not to engage. We choose not to flex our creativity but instead to hide it, bury it, and ignore it. For fear of being found not special enough to have it.

Brene Brown told Chase Jarvis something in his interview with her that stuck with me like glue. “Unused creativity becomes toxic.”

Think about that… unused creativity becomes toxic.

Hiding behind that wall of uncertainty, failing to enter the arena of challenges, and staying cozy in the warm blankets of ‘status quo’ can actually be dangerous and poison the mind.

“Hold on there, Don… what if we truly are NOT ready…?”

Oh that can certainly be the case. Beginners are not ready. The ones that open their ‘studio’ after shooting for 11 months on auto and have no idea at all about how the world of photography works are not ready. (They will be featured on one of the online forums of an example of why you shouldn’t think YOU are special and try it because they did and they failed and if they can fail you most assuredly will too. Because Craigslist!

Getting ready to enter the arena means knowing what you can do, and how to do it. It means being open to learning – and learning quickly. It means giving up things that may not be of value to you as you engage. It means understanding what I mean by that.

We are all as ready or as unready as we prepare ourselves to be and tell ourselves we are.

And let’s be really honest. We KNOW when we are ready. It is not rocket science. It is not mystical… and it is not something that only ‘special’ people know. The folks I am talking to here are the ones that know all they need to know, and find excuses to somehow ‘need’ more… the never ending, all encompassing “I’m not ready…”

Is my friend ready from a photographic standpoint? Yes. Is he ready from a business perspective? Yes. Is he capable… of course.

But what is stopping him is not those areas, it is the fear of being found wanting. The fear of failing publicly. The fear of being branded… a loser.

I just read something interesting. In Silicon Valley there is a group of venture capitalists looking to invest in the next big thing. Criteria to get in front of them… you must have failed TWICE at a business and lost more than a million dollars in each. They wanted someone who had risked it all, lost it all, RISKED IT AGAIN and LOST IT AGAIN… they wanted a fighter, a scrapper, a dreamer with some hard won STEEL in their gut. Someone they would feel confident was ready to enter the ring with the scars and broken bones of failure.

We may not be that guy, but we can enter the same arena. Rocky didn’t win. They went a bridge too far. The Ronin saved the reputation of their master.

Let’s gear up. The arena of life calls.

(Watch this video of Chase Jarvis and Brene Brown having a discussion about vulnerability, critics and putting yourself in the ring… consider it homework for the soul.)

The Internet Changed The Proposition of Value: Here is How to Fight Back

“Where photographers can succeed is if they abandon the consumers and editorial world who has been over-run by these value perception changes, and instead turn towards the same brands that still pay developers premium salaries for exclusive solutions. As Paul Melcher wrote those brands will drive the future of pay-to-play professional photography in the next decade, feeding photographers who successfully reinvent themselves.”

Jan Klier, photographer, NYC

One Light Portraits: A Collection

The assignment was to shoot a portrait with one light.

Studio Portrait: Clean background, Simple Light; Forceful, Expressive Portrait

Specifics:

A very clean portrait shot on a flat field background (wall, seamless, cyc, material, cloth, canvas…) Tightly focused and stylistically within your style. This image should be created to show how you handle strong personalities in front of your lens.
There should be special attention placed on the expressiveness of the portrait: Sadness, pain, angst, joy, humor, intensity… ENGAGED.

We want to see more than a smile, more than a beauty shot. This is a glimpse into the soul of the subject.

It is important to make the lighting something that enhances the look / feel of the subject. Whether it is soft or hard, single light or multiple strobes, natural or mixed or whatever, the light and the subject should be something that makes sense – to you.

To me, one light is a way of presenting a subject free of the hand of the photographer. A light is a light, and the subject has a relationship to that light that is in many ways more organic than when additional lights are added in. Of course, I am referring to lights on the subject, not background lights or ambient or location specific lighting.

This week the August group took on the “one light portrait” challenge:

It’s A Numbers Game: Part Two

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“The Numbers”: Part Two

It’s a numbers game… part two of our series.

Find Part One here.

Last time we discussed the numbers of getting people to see your work, and how that is so important to build a business. It’s been two weeks since that post.

How many of you:

1. Made the minimum commitment to getting to 6 people per day for three days (Tue/Wed/Thurs)?

2. Exceeded the minimum commitment and got to more than 18 people in those three days. Which means you have contacted 36+ people about your work at this point.

3. Found excuses and other things more pressing to get done.

No judgement here, only asking you to face resistance in the eye and either kick its damned ass or continue being acquiescent to it.

Resistance is NOT your friend… and if you found every reason under the sun not to do the minimum of 3 emails and 3 calls over 3 days, then you know what you have to work on.

Today’s discussion is on the numbers of contacts you make to individuals who you want to work with. We need a number of people to see our work, but we also need to touch those people more than once to get that work.

It is a process. A journey. A vision quest.

OK, so it may not be a vision quest, but it is still a process.

“Only 2% of sales occur at a first meeting

People in business often hope and expect to do business the first time they meet a prospect. Yet studies reveal that only 2% of sales occur when two parties meet for the first time.

The 2% who buy at a first meeting tend to be people who have already looked into the subject matter, and already know what they’re looking for. If they meet someone who ticks all the right boxes and they get on well, then business may well be transacted. But that is far from the norm. The other 98% will only buy once a certain level of trust has been built up.

Why 8% of Sales People Get 80% of the Sales.

Read through the link above. Giving up because there is no sale is counter to what you want to achieve. Remember, the people they are discussing above are selling something the client needs or wants.

We are selling ourselves to be considered for something the client can get from a whole host of other talented competitors. We aren’t really ‘selling’ in the traditional meaning of the word, we are promoting ourselves, sharing our work, becoming acquainted with the AD/PE/CD… not ‘selling’ them toner cartridges or accounting.

We cannot really ‘sell’ our work anyway. If there is no gig at the agency that is right for us, or no gig that is requiring photography, no amount of sales techniques or tricks or secrets can get us into a purchase order.

There is NO work that day for us.

So why go?

Because we want to be top of mind when a job DOES come in to the art department. When they think of a photographer to shoot tractors, we want to be the one that comes to mind since we shoot farms and farming equipment so dang well it makes cows give more milk.

THAT is the purpose of the meeting. The touch point.

Top of mind and becoming the one they think of when the time is right.

To do that takes more than one showing of your portfolio.

(Right about now someone is sitting out there saying “Yeah, you ain’t seen MY portfolio… I will show it and get the gig.”)

Yes, you are probably taking the reigns of your unicorn and heading out over the rainbow freeway about now too.

That rarely happens. Really rarely.

Instead what happens is that there is a slow and steady courtship of sorts. You show your work, they ignore you (or seem to) and you keep on showing your work. They may keep on ignoring you… or not.

That ‘or not’ moment is the first of several milestones.

They call you in to see the book. And to size you up.

Are you fun to work with? Are you neat and orderly about your work? Are you trustworthy? Will you be on time and on budget and not insult their client or get drunk with the models and run off to Bermuda with all the cash in hand.

Hey… it happens.

So you go. Show the book. Meet the people.

Entering phase two:

Now there may be more showings in the works, some email contacts, some phone calls, coffee meetings for new work… all kinds of direct mail.

“Once a response form has been filled out, now is the time to engage in peer-to-peer discussions with the prospect. Start by building a relationship. Launching immediately into the BANT questions (Are you the purchaser? Do you have approved budget?) is a turnoff. First leverage the digitally collected information as a bridge to determine where the prospect is personally. Open-ended questions (rather than buttons on a web form) will accelerate this qualification process. What problem is the prospect trying to solve? Where does it hurt? What is going on in their world that triggered the need? What would be their perfect solution if they could describe it? Are they collecting information for a team? What’s their timeline they are working with? What information would you need from us to be considered as your solution? Great phone/social skills are a huge plus here. And for most Sales teams, the earlier your prospect is in the buying process, the better—it gives your team a chance to be consultative and influence the specs, thereby gaining the inside track. Once you have enough data to determine BANT, try to move the prospect toward meeting with a sales rep. As a result of this process, most real prospects will see the meeting as a mutual best next step, and that’s where most Sales teams want to be.

Read more:

The article above is relating to traditional sales, but there are some great points to be made in there. Read it.

Some say it takes 7-8 touches by a photographer before you get called back. Some say it takes ten or so.

I say it takes more than five and less than 1,247. (Note, if they haven’t contacted you after about a hundred, it may be time to pull them from your list and move on. But for those of you really, I mean REALLY committed, 1,247 is the magic number.)

So what counts as a ‘touch’ for a client?

  1. Portfolio review.
  2. Thank you note.
  3. Direct mail.
  4. Email.
  5. Phone call.
  6. Promotional item.

What may not count are tweets or RT’s, facebook “likes” or pinning their latest designs to your pinterest boards… seriously?

This is why making the process INTO a process makes sense. Have a way of working that allows you to think about the amount of touches you make with a prospective client. And keep them coming, as there can always be new images and things to share.

NOTE: Spamming them is as bad… no, it’s worse, than seeing them once and never going back cause you are all butthurt over not getting that $100K gig you wanted.

Consider what you think of as being too much.

Yeah… don’t do that.

Sales tools and automated sales software. I don’t use it. I still use a simple spreadsheet in Excel. And my trusty notebook. That is not to say you shouldn’t, only me confessing it takes so long to learn all the things about those software solutions that I lose interest too fast.

Been doing it my way for way too long… heh.

So let’s get real here for a moment.

You make a contact with an art director… this means you have a conversation with them. Whether email (OK, but not best) or a personal review (best) and then you start the count.

Show the book, leave a piece for them at the showing, send a thank you card (print?), send a follow up email (2 weeks or so) with another photograph attached. Then wait 6-8 weeks and send another email, and a direct mail piece. Repeat that until you have some new work to show. I count four ‘touches’ there… five with the follow up a few weeks out.

Numbers. Then…

Call for an appointment to show the new work.

Show new work. Send thank you card, follow up email… you know the drill now.

You are making new work, right?

Right?

Especially you guys who didn’t make the lousy 18 touches per week… it is because you were heavily shooting… right?

Riiiiigggghhhttt… :-)

Look, this is not the easiest profession you have chosen to go down. Not sure what that would be unless you like delivering pizza in your Nissan, but this one will wrap you up, chew you to a nub and spit you out in the time it takes that pizza to get cold enough to deliver free.

The winners fight for it. The winners put in the hard, droll, and sometimes messy work of doing what others don’t.

92% of sales people quit after the first ‘no-sale’ show.

Pathetic.

Be the 8%… it’s a numbers game.

Ten Free Photographs for Bloggers/Marketers

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PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE BY VIRGINIA SMITH: BRIANA AUSTIN AND DON GIANNATTI (NO LICENSE IS GRANTED FOR THE USE OF THIS IMAGE)

Briana and I spent a lot of time making photographs all over the country. We have decided to give some of these away to creatives who may want to do something with them. Our first freebie give away are ten shots from all over, and we have no idea what you all will do with the images.

But if you do use them, you must link back to this page, and give credit to Briana Austin and Don Giannatti. That is important and we have the following details for you to consider.

All ten images are in a zip file, and you are free to use them for any online use, even commercial.

You may use these images for online publications, websites, blogs or ezines.
You may not use them for print publications (we’re working on that for the future).
You may not include them in any collection or as part of another product that is licensed for sale (website template for instance).
You may not alter the photographs by any digital means other than to resize them for your usage. you may however, use them in designs with typography over them. Cropping is also allowed.
You may not refer to them in derogatory manner, nor use them in correlation to pornography, hate sites, or in any way denigrate the model. We are very serious about this.

Send us what you have done with the images on your blog or website.

READ AND UNDERSTAND THE LICENSE BEFORE USING THE IMAGES.

PHOTOGRAPHY LICENSE

BY DOWNLOADING THESE IMAGES, YOU ARE CONSENTING TO THE USAGE SPELLED OUT IN THE LICENSE.

Bri Don Image Giveaway #1 .ZIP

AND BE SURE TO LET US SEE WHAT YOU ALL CAME UP WITH!

It’s a Numbers Game, Part One

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How to Play “The Numbers” Game Part One

We have all heard the words, “It’s a numbers game” before. And most of us know what it means. In order to get to a certain level, more attempts than successes must be used.

Selling door to door is a numbers game. The more people a sales person talks to, the more they sell. It may take 10 “No’s” to get to one yes. So the goal is to get through those ten as fast as you can to get to the one yes. Knocking on ten doors a day nets one sale. Knocking on 50 doors nets 10 sales.

A ‘numbers game’.

Not much difference in photography, you know.

The more art directors you show your work to, the more chances you have of closing an assignment. The more times you interact with a specific art director, the higher the probability that a gig is forthcoming. The more gigs you complete with excellence, the more excellent gigs you get.

And yet…

I chat with photographers who do none of the above.

They don’t show their work. They don’t ever go back to someone who didn’t immediately hire them. They don’t get enough gigs to make delivering excellence count.

It is… a numbers game.

Of course there are a few givens.

Your work must be top notch. This is a given. All the door knocking and emailing in the world will not work as fast as good work will.

(Now this is where it gets crazy a bit. I think a mediocre photographer who has mad skills at marketing will do better than an ultra-talented photographer who sits in the studio waiting for the phone to ring.)

Why?

It. Is. A. Numbers. Game.

If your work is good, it all falls on you to do the work to get it in front of people who would buy it.

A lot.

Of people, that is.

We have discussed the ways we can find clients before, and how to think about marketing, but in this dispatch, I want to play with numbers.

I recently read where fewer than 80% of photographers spend more than an hour per week marketing. And only a few percent spend more than 15 hours a week marketing.

If we apply the 80-20 rule (20% of the businesses in a niche make 80% of the money) we can see that there may be, just may be a connection between not marketing and losing out on the bulk of the revenue.

We know this stuff works, and yet few of us can ‘find the time’ or ‘get ready’ or ‘bite the bullet’ or fight off whatever last minute resistance pops into our heads that prevents us from moving on this magnificent factoid: it’s a numbers game.

Let’s stop procrastinating and get to it.

The book is as good as it is gonna be for next week. The site is done, and the images up there are up there. Changes can be made tomorrow, but it is what it is and we move forward. If this is too fast for you, set a date. April 1? June 15th?

It doesn’t matter… set a date and keep that date.

We are going to begin by making three contacts per day, and sending out three emails per day. Three days a week.

We can pass on Mondays and Fridays as these are not traditionally good days for marketing. People are either planning for the weekend or recovering from it. Let’s give them some air.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Three contacts and three emails.

Six contacts per day x 3 days equals 18 contacts per week, 72 contacts per month, over 950 contacts per year. To see how that may affect your current status, figure out how many potential clients you contacted last year. Chances are it is less than 950… substantially less.

And yet we can do that with minimum effort. Three emails per day and three contacts per day is cake! It will take less than an hour – a lot less.

So what happens if we double that?

Six Contacts per day, and six emails. Just imagine.

Six contacts and six emails is 36 contacts per week, is 144 contacts per month. Nearly 1500 contacts per year.

What would that do to your business? What impact would that have on your income?

And how long would it take? Less than an hour a day for three days.

Go ahead, tell me how that won’t work for you. Go ahead and tell me that you are so busy not being busy that it is simply not possible to spend an hour a day MAKING YOUR BUSINESS successful.

I am not listening, but go ahead and try. You are only trying to convince yourself.

And really, you are the only one you must convince in order to get this change implemented.

At this point, I will sound a bit rude to some, and I really do not mean it to be rude. However, only you have the control over whether you play the numbers game or do not. Change from non-engagement to being engaged – or not. And in the end, it only affects you.

There are still lots of gigs to be commissioned. Lots of look-books to be shot. Thousands of pages of editorial and thousands of ads both local and national.

And here is another numbers game for you.

While the chances for getting a gig may be lower than they used to be due to the sheer numbers of competition, the fact is that there is a 100% probability that you will not get hired if they do not know you exist.

So here are a couple of questions for you.

Will you commit to 18 contacts per week?
Will you commit to creating an environment that will help possible clients find you?

Or will you simply let resistance take you off the grid?

I hope you never let resistance win. I really do.

Just remember…

It’s a numbers game.

DO THE MATH.