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Common Mistakes

Lesson 23 from: The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

John Keatley

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Lesson Info

23. Common Mistakes

Lesson Info

Common Mistakes

So, common mistakes, that I'm sure some of this has been covered in roundabout ways to the conversations, but what are some common mistakes for new photographers just starting out to avoid, if they don't have to learn that lesson the hard way, what would be something you can caution people about? So yeah, I mean I'll be really brief 'cause I know we gotta keep moving here, but you know persistence versus annoyance. I'm sure there's a better way of talking about striking this balance, but you know things are not just gonna come to you. People say I had a meeting with that person and then I never heard from them again, and I'll say yeah, that's right, you didn't 'cause probably there wasn't the right job or probably they forgot about you, or probably, it's up to you to stay in people's lives. When I, still to this day, when I reach out for meetings, I don't hear from 70% of the people I reach out to, and then I very nicely reach back out and say I'm sure you must've overlooked it and i...

t was a busy week at work, but just in case you're interested, no big deal. And that goes on and on, but you do not want to convey anger, or desperation to anybody, and you don't want to be a, you don't want to be a chore for them. You don't want them to feel bad or guilty when you call or something like that. I mean, people are in meetings all day long. Freelance workers rarely understand this, but you know there are staff meetings that take hours, there are responsibilities at their companies, people are managing departments, and there's so much that they're doing that has nothing to do with you. I get, I literally have 14,000 emails in my inbox right now, and those are the ones that I'm saving because I wanna answer them thoughtfully. (laughs) At some point I will be realistic and give it up and know that I'm not going to be able to answer them thoughtfully. But generally it's so easy to contact people now, that there's a lot of communication so I would say newsletters are a nice way to keep in touch with people but without expecting anything back. We always get new work from our newsletters, but we never get a response to them hardly ever. But the phones will start ringing. It'll just remind people, so if you do a newsletter like once, twice a year, these are the projects I've been working on for the last six months, and you start adding people that you've met to that newsletter list, it's a very cheap and easy way to stay in people's lives. Frustration is sort of related to the other one which is just, if you are frustrated tell your partner about it, tell your dog about it, but don't tell the person about it that you're contacting because it just doesn't come off well. I remember I was buying, I was a art buyer at a design firm for a minute before I started Red Eye, and this rep was like, "Well I sent the portfolio yesterday and I never heard from you." And I was like, "Uh", like I just, I felt her anger, and it was like, "It's not about you. We called in five portfolios and then we had meetings back-to-back, and I was working until two in the morning, and I'm really sorry I didn't get back to you right away and I often do, but you know, it, you just have to have empathy about the person, where they are on the other side." I find when I contact people and say, "I know meetings are so hard to schedule and they're hard for me to schedule, but I am gonna to be in Seattle for two days, if you have time that would be amazing." And just leave it that, if they don't respond then that's your answer. Under bidding and over bidding we'll probably talk about more with Nichelle later. But, we were talking about, at first people underbid quite a bit 'cause they don't know their value. Then they learn the rules and they overbid and are inflexible because they, they think well John said ad rates are 10,000 dollars a day, and I won't get out of bed for less than that. So, and then you find your equilibrium a little bit later, so just be conscious that there are all these rules, and we're gonna tell you about our parameters, and the rules that we use and we break our rules every day. I break my own rules all the time because at the end of the day it's how much do you wanna do the job. And then balance confidence, we talked a little bit about this before, but just being confident going into calls making people feel safe without being cocky, and obnoxious, you can probably talk about that, it's a tough balance to strike, and I feel like you do it well. I mean, yeah it's hard, I don't know what other people do, certainly you don't, I'd give an example of, if you were going to buy a car at a lot, and there's this brand new car that just came out, and you go and say, "Hey I was kinda thinking about driving this", and the salesman's like, "Well, it's brand new, I mean time will tell, right? I have no idea." That's not exactly, or if you go to a restaurant and you're like, "I was kinda deciding between these two", and they're like, "I haven't had either of them." I don't really want to have either of them either at that point, and so but if you go in and say, "What about this car?" And they're like, "Oh man, it's brand new but it's been getting great reviews. I don't know if you saw the article in Car and Driver, but it's got the best safety rating, it's getting incredible mileage, we're really excited to see what they continue to do with this car." So, that's the difference I think between if you don't believe in your work or your self, then why would anyone else, that's kind of how I like to think about it. Sometimes you don't, sometimes you just lost four or five bids in a row, and you do feel a little down. It's a little tough, and you start to question and doubt, but you have to trust in your process and your work, and that's why again it's so important to love the work you are creating, because in those moments where it does get slow or it's difficult, if you really don't love the work you're creating, you really do start to have some reason to not feel that confident or doubt. So, I think it's just important to believe in yourself and your work and your process, and just know that it takes time. The same token, when John gets on a conference call, I always notice at the beginning of a call, he doesn't just like launch right in to why he's so great for the project. He, generally, is actually pretty quiet at the beginning of the call, and he'll say, "I'd love to hear what you guys have to say about it." Because you're talking to people who are also creative and are bringing something to the table. So, your confidence can't take up the whole room. You kind of have to meet somebody halfway where they are and say, "Why don't you tell me what you want. Why don't you go first, you tell me what you want, you describe what you're interested in." And then, you'll see what you connect to in what they describe, well, "Oh, I'm so glad to hear that you said that you want to make portraits about humor, because that's really everything I do. And these are my tricks for doing that, and I think we can work on this together and it will be great." But he doesn't just come right in and say, "I'm your guy!" Set off fire works. It's gotta be based on something. And also, you don't wanna go in a be like, "I think this should look really premium, and it's gonna be stylized and then all of a sudden you're done talking and they're like, "Well we actually had a lot of meetings with the client and they are really afraid of coming across as too premium." Or whatever, that word is, and so you wanna be informed but confident kind of thing, as opposed to. Yeah, that's a good point. Marin, would you recommend hiring an editor to cull somebody's portfolio, I feel like I'm my own worst critic, and I can find a reason to throw away every photo I've ever made, so... Yes! How would you..? That person might wanna... (laughs) The simple and short answer is yes. I mean, often people think that they need an agent right away for these things. Yeah. But, an agent, there aren't that many of us, and it's very competitive to get an agent, so we're interested in people who have kind of worked out that first level of understanding of their work, and consultants and editors are great people to work with to do that.

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Bonnie Aunchman

John & Creative Live - Thank you - Best. Class. Ever.! This is a GREAT class! If you are a photographer, this is definitely a MUST GET class, but even if you work with photographers as part of a creative team - you have to take this class. (I'm a Photo Stylist) John covers it ALL in this class - it really, truly is a Survival (Success) Guide. John is so detailed, honest, and generous in his knowledge/experience/wisdom in the commercial photography industry in helping you understand the business and really succeed (& stand out). When I see that John is teaching a class on Creative Live - I'm in! (I have his other valuable courses as well)

a Creativelive Student

I was lucky to be part of the studio audience for this course. John is an awesome teacher and did an outstanding job of making sense of a very difficult side of photography for a creative to understand. He shared his 18+ years of experience, including the good and bad he has gone through. The "special guests" alone are worth the cost of this class. John has an amazing team working beside him behind the scenes. Their perspective on his business was priceless!

Joseph Brewster

John gave an enormous amount of insight and practical advice in this comprehensive course. I really enjoyed a course focused more on commercial and editorial rather than wedding and family, which is more common. Great info and great work all around!

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