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Photographer's Guide to Marketing

Lesson 3 of 7

Top 5 Business Mistakes


Photographer's Guide to Marketing

Lesson 3 of 7

Top 5 Business Mistakes


Lesson Info

Top 5 Business Mistakes

So let's get to chapter number two, top five business mistakes, okay? And so, the number one that I see is that they underestimate the amount of work needed to be successful. It is, especially with photography. You need to see photography just like any discipline, as if you were going to become an accountant, or you're going to become a dentist, or whatever career there is out there, it requires a lot of hard work and a lot of training. It's not just like, looking on Creative Live for a whole year, and then. (snapping) It will help, that's for sure. But it's not like all the sudden, bam, you're going to be making six figures a year, right. And so in general, there's the 10,000 hour rule. Has anybody ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule? Who wants to pick up the mic and talk about the 10,000 hour rule, anybody? Let's get some interaction here, I just like hate to be the only one talking. So, the 10,000 hour rule. 10,000 hour or five year rule is it takes you that long to get to a level ...

of mastery. Yes, thank you very much. It takes, that was my next question, what is 10,000 hours, we hear all these numbers but we don't know what it is. It's 40 hours a week for five years. And that is the average time that you're going to get good at something, okay? Now, when you think about it that way, how much time are we putting in to this and learning our craft, right? And what's difficult about photography is we need 10,000 hours just to learn photography, right? But this is what they don't tell you, there's another 10,000 hours you've got to learn about business. Now, if that happens to be your shtick at your regular job, or you know about being an entrepreneur, then you've got a little bit of a head start. And, but you've got to have both. And that's why I feel that this is one of the most difficult careers to have. Because not only do you have to be good with your skills, but you have to be good with business too, or else you're not going to make it. Because let's say you wanted to be like a doctor, right, a physician. I mean, you go to school eight years, right, and on average you will spend about $500, to become a doctor, maybe even more now. That's the average, okay. And then you come out, there's a job waiting for you. There's hospitals there, you don't have to learn about business or anything, it's just bam, it's just right there, right. But with us, we have to learn these skills, and then we have to generate business from zero, from nothing. That's difficult. And then to earn a living on top of that. That's very very difficult. Now, if you're a photographer and you know, you want this as a hobby and you want this to earn a few side bucks, $10,000, $20,000, maybe even $40,000 a year, that's fine, that's very doable. But when you need it to make an income that you can live on, that you can provide for your family, let's say anywhere from $80,000 up, that is a completely different story. It's very difficult. And especially difficult going from getting a regular check every week, despite your performance, that check is coming in to you, versus you're going to have to earn every single dollar that comes in to you. And in fact, this is what killed me in one of my businesses, is that you work really hard for that client, and then they don't pay you. That's difficult to overcome. I had one situation where I had another business, we worked a whole year for this client, and they kept on pushing us along, oh yeah, it's coming, it's coming, they never paid us. And in fact they went bankrupt, and they were just on purpose using us because we were a smaller company. And I had floated all the business, a lot of that business for the year, I just, I was the only one that had credit (laughing) so I put it all on my cards, and that financially put me in a very difficult situation that I had to crawl out of. Stuff like that happens. I mean, you've got to put your big boy pants on and say hey, let's get going. But I'm bringing us down right now, let's bring it back up. So, let me ask you a question, right. What about the person, okay, who just graduated college, okay, living at home, right, has no spouse, has no kids, and can work 80 hours a week, just watching Creative Live, learning, doing whatever, spending all their time with photography. How are you going to put more work into that person and outwork him. Let's say you do have a full time job, okay. How much time can you devote to your photography with your full time job. Let's say you can only put 10 hours a week into it, and you need 10,000 hours. Now, instead of you taking five years, it's actually going to take you 15 years. This guy working 80 hours a week, it's going to actually take him two and a half years. You have to understand how much work it takes to really, really make it. I estimate on myself, and I thought about it. And I'm not that great, I'm not that brilliant, so it took me, I estimate it took me about 30,000 hours to get to the point where I could finally do my business and provide for my family, okay. I'm not a genius at all. Of course, I didn't have Creative Live. (laughing) I didn't have myself as a mentor, I would have been amazing if I had myself as a mentor. (audience laughing) But, so, there's resources out there, okay. So I want you to think about that, how much work are you actually putting in? Are you getting ahead of this person right here, 80 hours a week, no expenses, living at home? Living the good life. Mom cooks dinner for him, we're right there, right. Okay, so another thing we gotta realize that natural talent means nothing. Let's say you need to be an eight to get to that level where you can provide for your family and you can be independent. If you have zero talent at all, you just feel like, I just love photography, but I don't even have any talent, I haven't even picked up a camera, but I just love it, right, you're a one, and still gotta go to eight, right. Let's say, people look at your work and go, oh man you've got some talent, you're naturally talented, I like where you're going. Guess where you are? Two. You're not that much further. You still have all that way to go. And so in this business, I think you can ask anybody, you can ask them how much talent has played in their journey to becoming successful, ask any of these photographers in here, any of these speakers, they'll probably tell you not much. Well how did you get there? Most likely everyone's going to say, I just worked my you know what off. I bet you everyone says that. And so it's really about the amount of work that you put in. Okay, two. Underestimate the time it takes to establish a business. So, if you're like hey, planning to take on year off, maybe you got fired from your job and you got a nice little settlement, right. It's like, oh guess what, hey Scott, I got a great package deal and I got one year to develop my business, alright. That's really nothing at all. If that was the case, there would be more successful photographers out there. Right? But you don't see that. So if you're just taking one year off to do it, you need a lot more planning than that. Prepare to invest years of hard work and make next to nothing, okay. If you want to become an artist, you're becoming an artist not because you want to become rich. Because there's a lot of other easier ways to become rich. It's not the artist's way. So you've got to realize, not that you can't become rich, but it's very difficult. And like, what I said for myself, my story is I started out, you know, as a graphic designer and had my own business and for 12 years I could only bring home $10,000 a year. I just couldn't, my employees would make more money than me. And I, you know, the business is growing, it's hungry, it needs more equipment, it needs that, I just, I just couldn't do it. And it was very very difficult to get it going. And the thing was is that there was something inside me, Scott, why don't you just quit and get another job, right, after 12 years, didn't you feel like maybe you're not suited for this? Actually, no. Because there was always something inside me that was like, you know what, you can't work nine to five for somebody, you you're own boss, you're independent. And I just felt like somebody upstairs was telling me you are gifted. Keep going this route. I don't know if any of you feel like that. And I felt like, you gotta keep going Scott, I know it's really hard for you, but this is sincerely what I felt. One day you're going to be able to influence thousands. So I want you to keep going for it, and I had this weird thing in my head, that someone put that in there, or whatever. I don't know if some of you might feel that. If you do, then that means what. You have to have faith in your hard work, and it will pay off. For me, it took me 12 years after it paid off. And not very many people would have a loving wife or a spouse to float me for 12 years. And so I feel fortunate in that way. But, you know what some of my, I'm going to tell you right now, some of my best years. You might think, well hey, some of your best years, where I made thousands of dollars, or whatever, got that million dollar contract, or whatever right. Some of my best years, I feel, was that I learned how to survive. I can't tell you how many years month to month I would worry, be worried sick how am I going to make payroll this month. Because you know what, going through that fire made me learn how to survive. And it's one of the best skills that you can have, not only making tons of dollars and whatever, is just surviving the next year. Because part of the game, part of becoming successful, is just staying longer in the game than the next guy. (audience laughing) Ain't that the truth, right? And it's just like, you're there at the end because everybody quit, or it was too hard, right. And so, that's what I really take pride in. Is that man, some years I just scraped it together, I don't know where we got that funds, but we made that payroll that month. And just next month happened, same thing, next month happened, same thing. And then all the sudden a year goes by, wow, right. You learn so much going through that process, having faith in yourself. About hustling, about getting out there. About putting your pride in the back pocket and saying I gotta do this because I gotta pay these bills. Maybe you might not like it, but you did it. Because you want to survive. How bad do you want it, right. You've gotta really work at it. So don't underestimate the time that it takes to really establish your business. Three, not enough person to person interaction. Okay, I know we're on the the age of cell phones and social media, but this is very very important. And I say guess what. You've got to shoot once a week. Once a week, when your first getting going, you've got to shoot once a week, even it's free. You gotta get out there and learn to interact with different subjects and clients and be social and shoot. Every single week, because you never know, even if it's a freebie, sometimes most likely than not, you know, I remember shooting this one person and she's actually pretty well known now. And I was at a wedding, and I saw her up there giving a speech and I'm like, I never laughed so hard in my entire life listening to this person talk. How funny she was, how entertaining she was, and you know wow, she's pretty good looking too. Right, it's like wow she's the full package. And so she was getting her career just going, and she needed some head shots, and she knew that I shot her friends wedding and whatever, and I had one price, and I was way over, and she didn't have that, and I saw a lot of talent in her, hey you know what, I'll shoot it man. I believe in you, you're awesome. And so anyways, I shot her head shot, she blew up, right. And her name is Angela Johnson, I don't know if you know her, she's a stand up comedian. She'll go and she'll fill the house every single time that she does her stand up. But when she got her big break and they need a picture for the cover of her DVD, they had suggested all these other photographers that were on their list, and she said no, I'm going with my guy, he was there from the beginning, and he's shooting my stuff. So I finally, after years and just seeing her blow up on the internet, she's like got 100,000 followers or whatever, and she sells out everywhere she does her stand up, she sells out. And it was so great, because I finally got to go to one of her concerts, and then I saw a lot of her promotional stuff that she was selling, my picture was on it. So, that was a great experience, right. And sometimes you gotta do free stuff, because in return it's going to get you somewhere, but you just gotta keep working. Okay, so, skill is more valuable than knowledge. I know we got a lot of knowledge from here, and learning online and everything, but really skill is more important. So you've got to translate what you've learned this week, and you gotta put it into action, and you've got to actually have the skill to do what you know. And always, just remember, always, in everything our knowledge is usually way ahead of our skill, okay. So that's another reason why to shoot every week. Working will bring in new jobs, I talked about that too. Free work is marketing, so if you're not doing any, if you're not the person to sit there and do formal marketing plans and whatever, just get out and start working. Because that will bring in other jobs for you, okay. And that is important, is that person to person interaction, while you do this you're learning that, you're learning what clients what and so forth, that's helping you secure these jobs. I shot my first six weddings for free, because nobody would hire me, okay. And if I didn't do that, you know what, I probably wouldn't be here today. But I had to start somewhere, and if I wasn't going to get it, I was going to prove to them I can, and let me just do it for free for you, okay. Alright, learn how to be social, it's good marketing. I'm telling you one of the best things you could do is just learn how to social. Because photography, let's face it, photography is a social business. And so you've got to learn how to interact with people, if you don't feel like that's a strong, you know like, oh I'm not good at talking to people. You know what that's like, that's the same thing like, you know I don't know how to use Stropes very well, I better learn how to do it. Take that same attitude because that skill is huge, being social, okay. Alright. Four, networking, not a priority. So, you've got to every week, you've got to go out and meet people that you feel that's going to help your business. Whether it's a catering manager, or whether it's, you know, who knows. Other photographers, but every single week you've got to go out and meet somebody. And that's what I love doing, because when I get back home, then everybody's calling, hey, when are we going to go out to lunch, we gotta talk about this project, or we've got to talk about this workshop, or we gotta do here and there. And it's so great, it just energizes. Wasn't it great to be here with all these photographers and talking and expressing ideas. Do that every single week with somebody, continue it, don't let it die. Add value to those you want to connect with. That is literally the best way to market. It's like, if you see somebody and they think that, you think that they can help you, how can I add value to that person. Don't go there and asking them, oh hey, can you show me how to use my flash, or whatever right. Don't go there just asking them for something, it's the opposite. How can I help you. What can I do for you. And if you're gifted in some other area, maybe you're a web designer or something like that, and you know that person sucks at doing, their website sucks, like mine. Right, go up to them, hey you know what, I saw your website, it's not the greatest. I'm sure you know that. Can I help you out. Whatever, I don't know. Maybe you've got awesome babysitting skills and you're relieving them, that like, if you told me that, wow, that's amazing. Right, I need you, right. Whatever it is, try to add value, and it's going to get you more places than not. Okay? Photographers are actually a good source of business. My friend did a study, and he said in the beginning about 20 to 30% of your jobs will be from other photographers. Because what happens is, the more popular photographers, they get overbooked on dates, they can't take it all in, and then they want to take that client, they don't want to let it just go up into the smoke. That's like oh, here's $3,000, should I just let it go away, or should I just give it to somebody that's been adding value to me, that's been helping me. Right? And so just even connecting with other photographers, especially ones that are up and coming, will get you business. Try to add value to them, go around, say hey I'll help you on that job. Well I don't have that much budget on that, don't worry about it, I'll do it for free. Oh, okay, right? Add value, meet with these people. Okay, major photo conventions. I think everybody, right. There's WPPI, and there's PPA, there's other ones, SYNC. Go to them. Because that's where you get to network with companies and you get an introduction to, I love going to those things. To me it's like wow, I meet all these other businesses, and then, you know what, I'm kind of fortunate now, actually some of these companies know who I am, right? And so it's like, hey let's just go around, getting free stuff all the time, I love it, right? But beyond that, that's where I develop my business relationships is at those conventions. And so you will learn to meet other photographers. But let's say one day you want to be a Sony Artisan like myself, anybody want to be sponsored by a major camera company? Well why don't you go and start talking to them and meeting them now? Letting them see who you are, right. So anyways, that's important. Okay, number five. Don't seek expert advice. And this is kinda like, what I've learned in my life being sort of independent, it's like, man I'm doing this all by myself, like ah. I can do it, right. Maybe part of it was I didn't seek expert advice because I'm a little embarrassed, like I'm not making any money, and so I don't want anybody, you have that self pride too. You've got to break down that pride in sense, there comes a point where it's like, man I need some advice here, I'm not doing well, and before this ship sinks, I've got to see somebody. So you've gotta definitely do it. A good coach or a mentor will really, immediately make you money. Whether it's your work flow or whether it's the way you're packing things, they can go in there and they can see things and immediately. Sometimes, often just because of a work flow and how you're packaging, I'll meet with a client, and immediately wow, he just made me $10,000. Because the way that that expert can overall see your business and look at it, you can stand back away from your business and show you where you're losing money, or how you can make money. Okay, a mentor will help double your income and help you work less. How much would that be worth to you? And some people don't value, man if someone could come in, make me more money, maybe double my income, and make me work less, how much is that worth? Shoot man, I would pay any amount of money now for that to happen. So, definitely, I think you, I sometimes you know, just being independent, and being Chinese, Asian, it would be hard for me to do that, right because we're all so self sufficient and everything, and we're just going to work harder. I'll work 120 hours a week, right. And sometimes no matter how much work you're doing, you're like that hamster, spinning that wheel, going nowhere. And you just think I'm going to out work this, and sometimes it's just not possible. You just need more knowledge, right. Okay. And it's so funny, it's like hey, we can pay $50, a year for college, no problem, but when it's like, hey, it's only 200 bucks for all these 40 classes on Creative Live, uh I don't know. (audience laughing) Right? How much knowledge have you gained this week, all free? And then you can have it in your library, 200 bucks, man. Right, sometimes we're thinking like, are you crazy. Imagine, let's say, you were in any other profession. Let's say you were in IT or whatever, and they had 40 of the best IT dudes come in speaking, and then they just offered that. That seems stupid, $199, are you crazy. Or if they had a physician's convention, and had the top in the world. People would pay thousands and thousands of dollars like that. (snapping) Like it was nothing. But for some reason photography, oh, photography instruction should all be free. I don't know why that mentality get into place, but it's really not.

Class Description

If you're serious about running your own photography business, marketing is a 24/7 part of it. Scott Robert Lim will explain how to use marketing to help plan and achieve your financial goals. He'll discuss steps to take with your photography so that you grow and evolve with the market, how to raise your rates, and ways to leverage social media.



Scott Robert Lim is one of my all-time favorite instructors. He is humble, honest, engaging, funny, and down-to-earth. Most importantly, he truly cares about his students' success. You can tell he truly wants to help less experienced photographers to grow their business and their skill sets. He is brutally honest in a good/helpful way. In this short class, he provides numerous "nuggets" of information - specific things to think about when analyzing where you stand/where you want to go....things you may be doing that are holding you back...and specific and actionable suggestions for getting out there and drumming up new clients/work. His beliefs/values/ideas all resonate with me. Glad he is still teaching at Creative Live. Hope to see more classes from him in the years to come.

Margaret Lovell

Scott is one of my favorite instructors. Very engaging, and you know how much he loves what he does. He's enthusiastic. My biggest issue is in marketing myself better, which is why I signed up for this course. I'm glad that I did. The material was on point, concise, and Scott provides many actionable tips that can be used right away. I highly recommend this course.

Kaela Comontofski

Great class! First time hearing Scott Robert Lim speak and I really enjoyed his personality and presentation. He was concise but covered a wide range of topics and gave helpful examples. He was knowledgable and although some things I already knew it was said in a way that sparked ideas and excited me to try new approaches.

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