started a new project this week centered around one simple idea...
The website for The Heights at Eastwood is now live! We've been working hard on this project, and we're thrilled to finally be able to share it with the world. There's a lot more of this project to come...
Do you have a social media "strategy?" Or, are you like most people, simply trying to figure it all out? Are you trying to build "conversations," and connect people to your brand?
As a photographer (or other creative-type), social media can be a huge tool if understood for what it really is. The problem is, a lot of the research about social media lately contradicts many of the "truths" we have accepted. Much of the research comes from Dan Zarrella, the Social Media Scientist, and it's not pretty.
Basically, Dan's research rejects most of the premises that we hold dear in social media. Things like - more comments on blog posts is better. More "likes" and comments on Facebook posts is better because more people will see it. More "engagement" in the social media space leads to higher brand equity.
Now, I'm not the expert on social media. I don't claim to have a bunch of answers, but I do know that social media has real value when used appropriately. The problem is - most of us use it in ways that can't be measured. There's no way to measure whether more blog posts converts to more clients. There's no way to know whether more Facebook "likes" leads to more people having a positive perception of our brand.
With that in mind, how are you using Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Instagram, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Ping (does anyone use that?) for your business? How are you measuring what works?
Do you ever wonder what it is that makes some photography businesses so successful? Is it that they have such exceptional raw talent as photographers? Is it that they have the world's most wealthy and beautiful clients? Is it that they are marketing geniuses? I guess it's possible that one or more of those things are true of them, but that's not what separates them from everyone else. The truth? Hard work - a lot of hard work.
If you've read Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell, you're familiar with the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to be truly "great" at anything. I won't go into all the details of the book, though I highly recommend you read it. Gladwell makes the arguement that the greatest success stories essentially come down to 2 things: a lot of luck and a lot of practice.
He argues that across industries, across different disciplines, and across artistic endeavors, the standard is the same: it takes 10,000 hours to truly become great at something. It takes that much practice to truly master your craft in a way that no one else has. It takes that much practice to become "great."
Of course, "great" doesn't equal "successful." That almost always requires something else - luck. Here's the thing though - I think a lot of people sit around waiting, hoping, praying that they'll get lucky. Unfortunately, luck is not particularly predictable. And, even if you get lucky, you still have to be "great." You don't become great by accident, and you don't become successful just because you got lucky.
I think this is great news! I think this is so encouraging for those of us that want to become great artists, and build successful businesses. I think it's a call to action, for each of us to practice, practice, practice. It's a challenge to pick up our cameras even when no one is writing a check. It's a reminder that the more we shoot, the better we see. Since January, I've taken thousands of photos, and less than 10% of them are for paid clients. I don't know what "practice" looks like for you, but maybe it's stating a personal project. Maybe it's photographing your kids. Maybe it's offering your talents to a charity organization. I'm not even worried about "great," but right now, I'm striving for "better."
Luck, though it's not something you can plan for, is really about what you do with it. The truly great stories of success are about people who had put in their 10,000 hours and were uniquely able to take advantage of their situation. The good news is, practice is something you can do something about.
What are you doing to become better?
A lot happened today. Today was the day we first met you, and I don't even know where to begin. Today was the day we've been thinking about for 9 months. 270 days, give or take a few. There were a lot of days before today that we prayed for you. There were days that we were scared, and days we were anxious. For a lot of those days we were even worried the doctors would tell us there was something wrong with you. Not today. Today you were perfect. Today you were beautiful. Today you were born.
Starting today, I've got a lot of things to teach you - things like: how to throw a ball, how to fish, how to build things, and how to blow them up :) Alright, if I'm really honest, I don't know how to fish, and your mother will probably be teaching you how to throw a ball. Madison's pretty good at building things, and Macy's really good at blowing them up. Even still, you and I have a lot to learn together. You see, you and I are father and son, and though you also have a mom and two big sisters who love the heck out of you - you're my little guy, and I'm your dad.
Right now, you're just a baby, but soon you'll be a little boy. You'll be a boy, and we'll do boy things, because before long you'll be a man. You'll be a man, and you'll need to know how to do "man" things. And though I won't always do it right, starting today, it's my job to help you grow up and become the man God made you to be.
Your mother and I are thrilled that you've joined our family, and we can't wait to spend every day with you. Your big sisters adore you - though I'm not convinced they realize you're coming home with us yet. Madison walked around all day carrying a baby Max doll that GraGra (grandma) got her - showing everyone how to carry you. She reminded us all to "support your head, and "keep our hands together." Macy smiled so big when she saw you that I thought her grin might swallow her whole face. That's how much they love you, it's how much we all love you. We love you that much, and we've only known you for about 15 hours!
Today was a big day for all of us, and we're so glad that today was the day we got to meet you!
Maxwell (Max) Robert Aten
9lbs. 1oz. 20.75" long
I love the way that a tutu turns Maddie into a princess.
And I love that being a princess means dancing.
I love watching these girls grow up!
Are you? How do you know? What does being successful mean to you in your business? I think its easy, as photographers, to get caught up in this picture of what it means to be succesful. I think it's easy to think that success = rockstar. I think it's easy to look at our industry and end up with a distorted, twisted concept of what it really means to be successful.
Is it about being sponsored by the "cool" lab? Is it about being featured on the "cool" blog? Is it about selling out a workshop, or building a following of photographers? Is it about having the most blog readers, or the newest and best camera gear? Is it about having a retail storefront?
There are a lot of ways you can define success, and there are just as many ways to run your photography business. How you choose to define success will determine where you spend your energy, and it will determine the type of business you will build.
For me, success means one thing - to add value to my family. That's why I do what I do. It's why I run a business, and it's why I choose to be a photographer. Everything else is just details. To be more specific, value means time, money or peace of mind. My business has to add those three things to my family, or it isn't successful.
Running a business is hard work - and a lot of it. It takes a lot of your time, but the trade off is that - for the most part - you have huge amounts of freedom in how you spend your time. You have the ability, and the luxury, to live the kind of life you want to live. For my business to be considered successful, it has to allow me the freedom to be with my family.
It has to make money. That's all there is to it. My business has to allow me to provide for my family. Photography isn't just a hobby for me, and if I'm giving my life to this, it better give us the financial return for the work I put into it.
PEACE OF MIND
I love what I do, and I love sharing that with my family. My responsibility is to be sure that the business is running solid - because a failing businesses doesn't help any of us sleep better at night. If I'm up nights worrying about clients, or jobs, or finding clients or jobs, then my business isn't successful.
Oh, and by the way - there's a difference between "being" successful and "appearing" successful. Too many people care far more about the later.
So, my question is: How do you define successful? Are you there? If not, how are you going to get there? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!
What are you waiting for?
Really, what are you waiting for? Can you put words to whatever it is that's keeping you from being what you dream you could be? Can you identify the things that hold you back as you imagine how to move forward with whatever it is you want to do?
Chances are, you're waiting for one of three things:
No, you're probably not waiting for fear - you're probably hoping if you just wait, the fear will go away. It won't. In fact, there's a reason you experience fear when standing on the edge of making your ideas happen. It's because fear is the signal that you're about to leave your comfort zone. It's the affirmation that you're about to do something you haven't done before. If there was no fear, would whatever you're dreaming about doing - really be worth it? If there's nothing different about where you're headed - aren't you just wasting time?
Fear is the feedback cycle that tells you that you're attempting something you've never done - and isn't that the point? The fear won't go away. In fact, my experience has been that the longer I wait, the more the fear grows. And while some amount of fear is a useful signal, allowing it to grow can be paralyzing. That paralyzing fear is the reason that most of us just live our lives without ever doing anything exceptional. Sure, we have ideas, but we spend most of our potential waiting for the fear to go away. In fact, instead of just waiting, we actually spend more energy hoping that fear will go away - rather than focusing our efforts on our idea. By the time we get past the fear (if we ever do), we have nothing left for our idea.
If you're like almost everyone else who ever had an idea, you want to see your idea come to life. You want to see it nurtured, see it grow, and see it flourish. You want all of that, but deep down - what you really want is for someone else to make it happen. You're waiting for someone else to clear the obstacles, remove the barriers, and assume all of the risk. And so you're waiting.
Here's the thing - it is your idea. It's your passion. It's your calling. There's a reason this idea started as a tinge. It began in you, as a brief "what if," and it's in you that it grew roots. There's a reason it began to grow, and expand, and resonate - within you. And if there's a reason - why on earth would you wait for someone else? Maybe someone else has a similar idea, and they're waiting for you...
I can't even begin to count the number of ideas I've had, that never made it in to this world, simply because I'm waiting for someone else to do something. When that happens, we all lose. We lose an idea, because I was hoping someone else would have the idea and do something.
On a side note, the irony is, when someone else DOES do something with an idea similar to ours, we often end up bitter and resentful. "Hey, that was my idea!" we tell ourselves, as if we are somehow entitled to be the sole being with a claim to "our" idea. Never mind that we never bothered to do anything - we were waiting for someone else. We were waiting for someone to do something - and they did. And now, we're somehow surprised that we don't get credit for it.
Finally, many of us are simply waiting until we have it all "figured out." We don't want to share our idea with the world until we have it "just right." And so, we wait. We wait for things to work themselves out, until the idea is fleshed out, until the edges are perfectly refined, and the plan complete. Even if we're inching forward, we're still waiting.
In reality, most ideas don't reach their maximum impact until they've been refined by rubbing up against other ideas. They don't mature without exposure to other perspectives, and they don't often succeed without frequent encounters with failure. If we're waiting until our idea is "perfected," the truth is - it never will be. Nothing great was ever sprung on the world. Nothing is ever perfect in v1.0.
I love how Seth Godin puts it: "One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen."
If you never shine light on your idea, for the world to share, what's the point of your "perfect" idea?
A few weeks ago, our friends Abbie and Jason had a beautiful baby girl, named Kennedy Grace. I love that name, but what I love the most about it, is that our daughter Maddie loves to tell everyone that she got to meet "kenenenedeee grace." Now, whenever Maddie sees one of these photos, she makes sure she tells me exactly who it is: "that's Abbie's baby.. her name is Kenenendeeeee Grace!"
Well, I had the privilege of photographing their beautiful family a couple of weeks ago, and I asked them if it was okay if I shared a few pictures of their beautiful little girl.