Shifting gears from starving artist to entrepreneur

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on April 10, 2014

in This is Business

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As Michael Gerber well-clarified in The E-Myth Revisited, there are countless talented craftsmen who endlessly struggle to run successful businesses.

“My friends and family love my art – their praise is why I wanted to go pro in the first place. I have years of experience, I practice and get better daily, my art looks as good or better than many of the professional photographers I know in my area. Why aren’t people calling?”

The skill sets of successful entrepreneurs are often little aligned with those of successful artists – hence the commonality of the phrase ‘starving artist.’

In fact, many of the skills and personality traits that make you an artist create an even bigger challenge for you as you grow into entrepreneurship.

Where the artist wants to create, the entrepreneur wants to sell.

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How to balance humility and confidence as a part time photographer

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on January 14, 2014

in This is Business,This is Life

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Most of the photographers I meet are very humble, and this is as much a source of their endearment as their failure to launch.

Humility with a lack of confidence is what’s holding most of you back from taking the small daily steps needed to get your business off the ground and start earning an income with your art.

This beast was unmasked by psychologists in the 1970′s as “Imposter Syndrome.”

There’s a balance to be had between the humility of knowing you always have room to improve, and the confidence to take daily steps to make those improvements.

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The first step to creating the Ultimate Client Experience

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on October 10, 2013

in This is Business

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It doesn’t cost a thing.

It’s easy if you’re paying attention.

Want to see how easy yet profound “it” is?

Stop.

Stop what you’re doing, stop reading this post, be still, close your eyes, and listen.

Listen.

Listen.

Try to hear and listen to every sound entering your ears.

You may hear your air conditioner, or your computer fan, or a dog barking in the distance, or a car driving by, or any of an unlimited number of possible sounds. You may hear your breath. You may heart your heartbeat.

Now, tell the truth – when you started reading these words, did you hear everything you just experienced when you focused on listening?

Of course not – your brain may have registered the barking dog or car driving by, but while you were focused on reading, your brain did its job and tuned out the rest of the world.

This is the difference between hearing the words your clients say – before, during, and after the shoot – and listening to what they’re saying.

As a journalist, listening and paying attention to the little things are the foundational skills that brought me from a teenaged transcriber to an award-winning professional.

How do you give award-winning, professional service?

How do you create the ultimate client experience?

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What is success?

July 11, 2013
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Many start-up photographers have an unrealistic vision of what success is for a professional.

This unrealistic vision is created, maintained, and promoted by professional organizations, photography vendors, and the ‘gurus’ of the photography industry who are all too happy to charge you $499, $999, or more to teach you how you can have a million dollar business just like theirs.

There is nothing the grognards enjoy more than telling aspiring photographers every way in which they’re not ‘real professionals.’

You don’t have enough megapixels.

You don’t have enough prime lenses.

You don’t have enough years as an unpaid apprentice.

You don’t derive 100-percent of your independent, full-time income from your photography.

And the vendors that serve the professional (and consumer, and prosumer) markets promote the same mentality – you never have enough pixels, dynamic range, ISO, frames per second, sharpness, clarity, power.

The gurus do it too – you never have enough talent, enough experience, enough resources, enough Photoshop actions, enough good ideas, enough professional training.

You are endlessly inadequate.

That’s the not-so-secret secret of most marketing: create a need, then fill it. Individuals and companies have been making fortunes this way since the dawn of commerce.

If you listen to the photography industry and those who make money from it, I can guarantee you will never be adequate. What you have will never be good enough. There will always be someone or something better that you have to have if you’re ever going to be successful.

Success.

What’s their definition of success?

Better, what’s yours?

And one better: what would your definition of success be if it weren’t influenced by all these voices telling you how inadequate you are?

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Your competition can only kill you if you let them

April 28, 2013
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“You have a choice. You can grasp that stone of ‘best, better, good, not good enough’ and let it sink you. Or you can put it down beside you and keep [shooting]. Only you can allow yourself to feel small next to someone you believe is bigger. And only you can choose to see in someone ‘higher up’ than you the beacon of possibility for your own [photography] life.” – Sage Cohen, paraphrased from The Productive Writer

There is one way and one way alone that your competition can kill your business – and it’s entirely your fault.

It’s time to make a choice: you’re either going to obsess or observe from this day forward.

Are you going to obsess over your competition – what they’re charging, how nice their art is, which of your potential clients they’re shooting – and place your mental focus and energy outside of what you can control?

Or are you going observe your competition as another of many resources to learn from, and focus your energies on your betterment and what you can control?

Some of the most discouraged part time professional photographers I visit with are facing the challenge of two major struggles:

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How experiments can help multiply the growth of your art and business

March 29, 2013
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“We are operating amid all this uncertainty–and that the purpose of building a product or doing any other activity is to create an experiment to reduce that uncertainty.” – Eric Ries, LeanStartup.com, interviewed by Fast Company Magazine.

Uncertainty.

Man, does that one word summarize your artistic and professional fears, or what?

You’re holding back. You know you are. I know you are.

Fear, most often born from uncertainty, is almost always what holds us back from really taking off with our art and business in the photography industry.

And we human beings are often illogical creatures. We fear failure. We fear success! We fear rejection more than we fear the possibility of never making our dreams come true.

Experiments, both artistic and in business, can help you chip away at the mental wall that is uncertainty. The more new things you try, the more you learn what works and what doesn’t – what resonates with you as a photographer and business owner.

There are three arenas in which you can and should experiment:

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How to choose the right photography products to sell

February 23, 2013
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With all the Internet’s photography product vendors at your fingertips, which prints and wraps and wall clings are the right ones for you to sell?

All of them!

And none of them!

Okay, okay, I swear I’m not trying to cheat here.

PTP reader Chase G. told me he was having trouble deciding what of the plethora of photography products he should offer to his clients. Between just the big boys – Miller’s, White House Custom Color, and the dozen other labs that advertise in photography magazines – there has to be hundreds of product options for photographers to sell to their clients.

When we talk about products like this – print sizes, coatings, frames – my mind immediately goes to the laminated price sheet so many photographers hand their clients during a sales session and then say, “What do you want?”

“What do you want?” is a great question to ask.

But you should have asked it two weeks ago.

Read more inside.

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