As I’ve transitioned to the education, public speaking, writing and consulting side of the photographic industry, I’m surprised at the lack of basic professional business skills (common sense skills) that early-career (and often mid-career) artists frequently lack. Actually this phenomenon is not exclusively an artist issue but since that’s my big thing, for purposes of this post, it is. Following is my very short list of professional business practices you must master and adhere too if you want to be taken seriously and have leverage when negotiating.
1) Always do what you promise to do, without excuses or procrastination, in a high-quality way and always as promised. It’s OK to exceed a promise but never under-deliver. The bad rap (of being unreliable) is very hard to separate from, once attached.
2) Always communicate in a professional way. Be fanatical about typos and grammatical errors in all correspondence sent out. You want your audience to consume only the best from you. This devotion to excellence directs a positive light onto all that is you. Think of it as the foundation of your marketing and branding regimen.
3) Education is a daily process, be in a constant state of learning. I learn something everyday from parenting, gardening, being healthy, being mindful, minding my business, etc. It’s almost impossible not to be able to extract some kernal of knowledge from your daily existence. Don’t discard any experience without first vetting it for that hidden kernal.
4) Take care of your emotional state. This is perhaps the most difficult for me to manage on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. Getting quality rest, eating healthful food, play time and someone to talk to are a few of my techniques.
5) Learn financial management. Spend less than you earn. Tough to master, but the long-term payoffs are sweet. Define what you want and what you need. If you can’t pay cash can you really buy it? I don’t make a purchase until I have the funds already available. I look for no-interest financing options and then make sure I pay it off within the allotted time. I can always pay it off if need be. I appreciate the power that comes with this knowledge. Get in the habit of saving, anywhere and everywhere you can. Don’t be concerned with what your friends make, be concerned with how frequently you pay into your future by spending less today.
This very short list is intended to get you thinking about the topics. If you don’t begin mastering these basic habits, it’s my opinion that you’ll struggle to develop and maintain long-term life and career success.
Be well and good luck in your pursuits!