1. What got you here will not carry you forward.
The internet and digital technology has forever changed the pace of competition. A technique or style that is unique one moment can become common tomorrow. (Two years ago textures were all the rage among pro’s, now Instagram cranks them out by the millions.) Always be open to growing and changing so that you can stay ahead of the competition – who’s often hungrier than you.
2. Fall down seven times, get up eight
Or, to quote from an old verse, persistence alone is omnipotent. You’re running a very long race, a life long pursuit if you will. Be prepared to stumble but always know that you will get up and never succumb to failure.
3. Aim for greatness
If you stumble along the path to greatness, you’re still likely to end up far ahead of the game. If you aim for mediocrity and fall short, then you’re in trouble. Always set your sights high. Look to the best photographers and business people in the world. Aim not to match their performance – but do better!
4. Passion sells
You don’t have to be a super-salesman or read tons of books to be great at selling. You just need to be passionate about your work. Passion is infectious! Passion is so powerful but so rare. If you love what you do and are committed to its excellence, all you need to do is share that desire to create with your clients. They will respond by not only hiring you, but giving you the artistic freedom to create more and better work. They will trust you and follow your lead.
5. Always plan so that when opportunities arise you can act quickly
If you think that one day you would like to have a studio, lay the groundwork out now. Work out the numbers and learn about rents. You may think you’ve find a good deal on a lease, but unless you’ve done your homework, you don’t really know. Learn as much as you can about all areas of the photography business because you never know when something good will come up and you’ll want to jump on it. In my own business, before I brought on an associate photographer, I’d worked out how the process would work. When I finally met someone that I felt was worthy of bringing aboard, it was easy to make it happen.
6. People are your greatest resource
Whether it’s staff you hire or outside companies or even your competitors, it’s people that will make or break your business. Always look out for reliable people who do great work. Once you find them, hang onto those relationships. This is business so be prepared to pay top dollar for top people. Saving a buck or two to hire someone that you can’t rely on 100% isn’t worth it.
7. Clients do not hire you for your equipment
Clients hire you because they connect emotionally with you and your work and because your pricing fits into their budget. They do not hire you because you have the latest and greatest equipment. I always chuckle when I see beginner shooting with fancy cameras and f1.2 lenses. If she invested that money and effort into growing his business and improving his work, she’d probably be able to quit the day job. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you need more or better equipment to do your job – no matter how much the client is paying you.
8. Failure is painful but necessary
A lack of failure leads to hubris and in hubris your downfall surely will follow. The corollary to this is that we don’t learn from our successes, only our failures. When we do something well, we pat ourselves on the back and watch our ego grow. There’s rarely any self-analysis that takes place. It’s when we mess up or something goes wrong that we look closely at the process and then swear to never let that happen again. Always use mistakes as an opportunity for learning and then apply those lessons to creating success.
9. There are many paths to greatness
Don’t worry that your career trajectory is different from everyone else’s. Don’t worry that your work looks different or that you’re not as outgoing or persuasive or even good looking as those we consider successful. Each of us has our own path to follow. Einstein did much of his most important work while working in a lowly patent office.
10. Make your greatest weakness your greatest strength
There’s no lesson in life more powerful than this one. Most of us love the process of creating images and working with clients. This stuff comes naturally to us so it’s easy for us to focus on improving our strengths. We’re terrible though with the business, the management and the mundane stuff – so we avoid it. But, if you can master the areas that you’re weak in, your career will skyrocket. You’ll have such an advantage over your competitors because you can do so much that they can’t do. Besides, once you get into it, you’ll find that it’s not that hard, not that scary and actually a lot of fun. When you turn your weaknesses into your strengths, you’ll become superman!