Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are You Sitting There Waiting For The Phone To Ring?

A commercial photography business will not be successful these days if your marketing effort consists of sitting by the phone and waiting for it to ring. I am sure that most commercial photographers out there would agree that it's not quite like it used to be. Some photographers remain very busy while others are looking for different careers. I am one of those who agree that there does not seem to be quite as many assignments as there used to be and the ones that are there tend to be a little bit lower in budget. But there is work out there and I am fortunate to remain fairly busy.

I went to Brooks Institute in the 1970s and one of my fellow classmates remains one of my best friends to this day. We compare notes about the business and photography on average every 10 days and had a lengthy e-mail conversation this very morning. This is what prompted me to blog about him and his business. He is a fabulous photographer!


He is also a hungry photographer with not enough business to sustain himself. My friend for the last eight years has contemplated every kind of career change you could imagine and has attended numerous different educational programs to make this jump. Real estate school, certified nursing assistant course, truck driving programs, and none of these have led to a full-time and gratifying career change. He wants to remain a photographer but is so frustrated with the business that he puts very little effort into marketing himself or seeking new clients. These possible career changes have also been a distraction from promoting his photography business. He sits by the phone and waits for it to ring and I told him that this morning.

I've never been in any other profession and quite honestly I can't imagine being in another one. But I am convinced that this is one of the most competitive professions anyone could join. There are no professional standards that decide who can and who cannot be a pro. In my state you have to be licensed to file fingernails or to prepare tax returns. Yet the profession of photography is a wide-open door in which anybody can jump in with no experience and charge as they please. This means I'm sure that we are in one of the most crowded and competitive creative professions out there. I am not sure if there is enough professional business to keep everybody making a great living.

So when my buddy doesn't have any work and the self-taught photographer with limited skills is busy, then whose fault is that. First, I'm not trashing self-taught photographers because there are some incredible ones whose work I greatly admire. The point I'm trying to make is my buddy or any other commercial photographer who sitting around twiddling their fingers, need to look at who they blame for no business. As a long established pro, it's easy to sit back and blame all the unwelcome competition but in the end they only have themselves to blame.

It's rough out there, no doubt about it. But if your entire marketing effort is sitting by and waiting for the phone to ring you may be sitting for a long time. As the competition increases the only option is to increase your marketing efforts. It doesn't matter what it is, whether e-mail efforts or direct mail efforts or phone calls, you have to be relentless in doing some or all. You must diversify and enter into areas that maybe you are not comfortable with or have never worked. But the time is to get comfortable and learn to do it.

For my good friend, I have asked him when the last time was he did direct mail promotional campaign and it's been years. I asked him if he expects anybody he previously marketed to, to remember him? Out of sight, out of mind!

In professional photography you must market as if the world is going to end next month and there's no time to waste. Photography is used more than ever on a global basis and that is a huge pie with many slices available. Certainly photography rates and assignments are lower and you're working a little harder for the same dollar, but there is work out there.

To succeed today you must quit waiting for the phone to ring and instead pick it up and make the call yourself.

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1 comment:

Ed Heaton said...

Excellent advice Charlie! It's very easy to get lulled into thinking my past marketing will get me through! Being busy one year doesn't mean your going to be busy the next!!! Thanks for the push...

Ed Heaton
www.edheaton.com