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The Importance of Relationships

Lesson 2 from: Building a Successful Photography Business in a Small Market

Clay Cook

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Lesson Info

2. The Importance of Relationships

Lesson Info

The Importance of Relationships

If you go into the mindset of you are not in the photography business, you are in the relationship business, you're gonna make way greater strides in what you do in photography. So I have a lot of stories and I could probably fill an entire creative course, creative live course, on the power of a handshake. But one story in particular that I remember, in 2015 it was actually the first time out of the United States I went to Tanzania, Africa. It was a big gig for NFL and an NGO called Waterboys. And Waterboys was headed up by the football player in the NFL named Chris Long. And you know Chris Long, Howie Long's son, he had just won the Super Bowl. And so we went over to Tanzania with Chris Long, and his nonprofit focuses on clean water and helping the Maasai in Tanzania because it's a real problem over there. And we were out in the bush like all day and we came back to our lodge one night, actually our hotel one night and stumbled into the bar after a long day just for a beer, and we ha...

ppened to meet this Australian guy. Really you know, a talkative dude, you know he spoke English which is nice, and his name was Adrian McRae. And Adrian McCray had founded a foundation called Wings of Kilimanjaro, in which he's raised millions of dollars for the people of Tanzania by climbing up to the highest peak in Africa which is Mount Kilimanjaro, and paragliding off the summit. So fast forward one year later, I was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and paragliding off the summit, attempting to do so. And I guess it all started with that beer, that single beer. And so the power of a handshake is just so amazing, and it can lead to so many opportunities. So again I want to reiterate how like, a lot of, you know, motivational speakers or people will try to push formulas, and they push pie charts, and planning, and strategic everything, and again for me it was really built on the foundation of relationships. Especially in the market I'm in, such as Louisville, Kentucky. So believe it or not, who you are as a person directly affects who you are as a professional. You can't really build loyal, trusting, long lasting relationships sitting behind a computer. It doesn't work that way. A great bridge to meeting others is meeting people who have similar interests. So I often attend photography clubs, seminars, publication release parties, social functions, fashion events, everything I can do to get that handshake. To meet as many people as I possibly can. You all are sitting here today, and that's a great opportunity to meet all of these other people here. And you just never know where that one handshake will lead. As a photographer and entrepreneur, the foundation of a human connection relies on your personality. We're photographers. Our job is to connect to people. And how you approach, speak, act, and follow up plays a massive role into that. Our job is to translate emotion to a tangible state such as photography, and understanding the mentalities of humanity is so important to that. So understanding your own personality and the personalities around you is absolutely critical to success, especially when you're building relationships. So the questions I have for everyone here is, have you guys take a personality test? Okay, you should. If you haven't. It's really like awesome to see like, how after like 60 questions or so how like close this sort of system can be to what your personality is, and so understanding your personalities, is again, it's important. It's important to highlight sort of the positives of your personality, and mitigate the negatives. So that you can know you and then meet people and make it, and build those long lasting relationships easier by understanding their personality. While creativity and talent may open doors, what's gonna keep you in those doors and push you through and lead to more doors, is your character, you charisma, and who you are as a person. So I've taken a survey with a lot of photographers throughout the past few years through my workshops. And I found that these are the top three strengths of the average artist, the average photographer. We are creative. We are energetic. And we are original. And I think that is a common thing among artists. But we also tend to be very sensitive. We lack focus often, I'm guilty. And we can be extremely impatient or intolerant. So it's important to know your weaknesses. So take that personality test. Analyze yourself so that you can mitigate these weaknesses and say, "Hey, if I lack focus, how do you overcome that?" What do you have to do to stay focused on the project at hand? Be present. So as photographers and entrepreneurs we offer solutions and provide a service and give direction. So if someone has a problem, fix it. Use your resources to offer a helping hand at your own expense. And they will never forget that. I can't tell you how many stories I have where I've done pro bono favors for people and you know when they have a big marketing budget down the line, or they have and opportunity to travel the world, they hand that over and they remember that. They will not forget some of the favors. So a lot of people in the photography business give discount rates. I just would rather make it a personal project and do it pro bono. I think it goes a lot longer. And if you look at the big picture it will have more traction in the end. So both of those things have happened to me, where I've done a favor for somebody and they came back to me with a big marketing budget and say, "Hey let's do this photo shoot. This is the least I can do." And then, you know, the opportunity to travel the world. You now, this definitely happened. So remember that. Clients lead to clients. Always give more that what people expect. I think that if you go above and beyond with every project you do, you focus on that project and you take it to the highest levels you possibly can, and go beyond what the expectations are, that will go a long way. In my world it's important to understand small town small town politics. And so Warren Buffet said it best, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." Word travels fast, people talk, especially in you know, a medium sized small town. So remember that. Be loyal and it will always bring it back. It will always circle back. So loyal clients just don't recommend you, they just don't really come back to work with you, they insist that their friends work with you. And so clients will always create clients. Work of mouth is very powerful.

Ratings and Reviews

Koko Hunt

I love Clay Cook, his stories and his teaching method. He is genuine and to the point. This class is very concise and easy to follow; it touches on basic yet important points that are practical and useful. He provides good insights into commercial photography business for a small market, using some good, benchmarkable examples.


Clay Cook gets into the nitty gritty of the business side of photography. He is super informative and confidently concise about his knowledge and experience in the industry. As a modestly-small business owner, I found this course to be insightful and motivating. It is very helpful, and I highly recommend it!


I really appreciate how he just lays out numbers. I think that's super helpful for the industry as a whole, and it sets some perspective of how much guac photographers can really make.

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