The other day I was browsing one of my local Facebook photography groups to find the answer to a question that was posted. As I browsed through the comments I landed on one that made my blood boil. It was snarky, it was rude, and it epitomized the fear and frustration that I encounter when networking with other photographers in my local photography industry.
AND IT PISSES ME OFF. No one, in any type of circumstance, deserves to be belittled for trying to find information and to grow.
As a photographer, my goal is not only to provided my clients with an amazing authentic photography experience, but also to help my industry partners, collaborators and even yes, MY COMPETITORS to grow and be successful.
Yes, I want my competitors to be successful.
I wouldn't be where I was today without watching other photographers hone their style and do great things with their businesses. It has helped me work harder, it has helped me define my own photography style and it has even helped me understand my ideal client. Without them, I wouldn't have found the success I have had or look forward to the success I will have in the future. All of their amazing work motivates me to capture clients better, advertise to the right clients uniquely, and more than anything, create work that becomes precious memories for years to come.
So Mankato, Minnesota...No, anyone who uses the title PHOTOGRAPHER in southern Minnesota:
WE NEED TO DO BETTER...BIG TIME
This is a huge call to action. Why? I have talked with many in our photography community and I hear the same complaints all the time. "This area is SOOO saturated." "Everyone thinks they're a photographer here." "Clients don't want to pay decently for sessions." I am going to call BS on all over those comments. They have, and they will. But there's a but...
We...THE PHOTOGRAPHERS...(Yep, I said it) are creating the climate of our local photography industry because we undervalue our talent. You cannot expect to potential clients to place value and invest their hard-earned money in your business if you, yourself don't place value in it. And guess what...I value each and every one of you. If we cannot value each other, how in the world can we expect clients to value our work and services? It's simple we can't.
But here's ways we can.
1) YOU Need to Value and Appreciate YOUR Work. You work hard. How do I know? Because I know how hard I work to build my business; the marketing, creating a website, emails, phone calls all for the sake of getting your name out there and to grow your business. Your work is AMAZING. You know now I know? Because I've put my heart and soul into my work, just as I know you have put the same heart and soul into your own work. You aren't just pushing a shutter button and hoping for the best. You're reading through your camera's manual, playing with differently lighting options, watching YouTube tutorials to better your photography and post processing skills, purchasing items that make your brand and business unique. You, like me, have gown with your business and that growth has built a pretty dang amazing portfolio.
Now OWN it. Because this no longer a hobby that you want to keep affordable. The minute you start thinking you want someone to pay you for your time, you have to place value on what your time is worth. And I am not talking about keeping your value 'reasonable.' What I am talking about is, if you were working a nine-to-five job, what would you expect to be paid? Do you have that number? Now how does it compare to what you are paying yourself per hour? Is it more or less or just right? I don't need to know the specifics. I just want you to start thinking about how worthy you and your skills are.
2) Show Each Other Grace. None of us are at the same stage in the game, and we all know we have made mistakes to get our businesses to the point that they are. But there is no reason to belittle each other when questions are asked. If you don't like the question or aren't keen on the business method being used? Simply don't answer. Even better yet, try reaching out to your fellow professional. Take them out for coffee, TALK with them. I know I have found in situations like this not only have I been able to give advice but, even better, I have been given great advice also.
3) Broaden Your Circle. Yep, I said it (again). If you go to an industry event and you talk to the SAME professionals you always talk with, you're not really networking. One of the best changes I made to my business was networking. Connecting with photographers whose style matched and differed from mine. It literally changed my business over the course of a summer because I now I have a multiple people I can go to for advice, critiques and a glass of wine if need be! These are even photographers who I will referred potential clients to if they are not the right fit for my business.
4) Take a Seat at the Table, Be a Part of a Positive Conversation. It adds value to our professional community. #CommunityOverCompetition is not just a bandwagon movement. It's a movement that is enriching small business communities everywhere. If you don't think you can get on board to challenge your professional colleagues to be better and do better so they can grow and be successful, then this isn't a movement for you. But if this sounds like an amazing opportunity to learn and connect with others who have similar dreams, have the spirit of entrepreneurship and creative hearts. This IS a movement for you.
- Join the local The Rising Tide Society Chapter. Each month there is a Tuesdays Together meeting. These meetings are fantastic for help you network with other creatives and about learning about topics to be a better creative and a better business!
- Join the Mankato Photography Network. This networking group was formed out the necessity to create a safe place for photographers (of all levels of experience) in the Mankato and local surrounding area to have safe space to share, network, learn and transform their businesses. Competition is set aside to better photography skills and business knowledge become a stronger community. Want to connect? Join our FB page here.
This may have been a tough post to read for some, I understand. If you have reservations please feel free to reach out. I would love to chat with you more. It may be a relief for others, I hope it helps you gain confidence and mostly realize you are not in this alone. Please come join our communities! But whichever way you feel about it, I leave you all with this.
The energy you give out to the world is the energy that you receive.