Tag Archives: commercial

Help Yourself By Being Interviewed

The view from my son's tree house

Do you realize how many sites looking are looking for content only the wonderfulness of you can provide? I have been highly motivated during my career to get the word out about me and my photography talents: direct mail, phone calls, sales calls and presentations. That morphed into voicemail, email and websites. The current trend is to give away some of your “stuff” via webinars, blogs and teleseminars. These gestures give potential clients the proverbial lick from your ice cream cone. If they lick and like then they may bite. And this means new awareness for you and what you offer and possibly you’ll be able to turn that awareness into sales.

If hosting your own webinar series is too scary to contemplate there is also another way: sites that will interview you because you are the expert in your field or at the very least you are good at what you do and have something to offer others in the way of advice by relating your experiences, both good and bad. I took that approach with my book and since it’s release I’ve been doing interviews, public appearances and podcasts! Very cool stuff.

Jitzul is just one of the websites willing to interview you about being a creative professional. Take advantage of what Ryan and Alicia are offering, an online archive of the experiences of artists the world over. When the interview is over you can link to it, send others (potential clients) to listen and perhaps people looking to know more about you will see the link in their search engine results. If you’re selected, listen to some of the others already on the site and practice your diction, articulation and think about how thoughtful your answers and commentary can be.

Good luck!

Michael


Invoice & Get Paid

An invoice template option

From 1989-1991 I taught a class covering professional business practices for artists at ACCD. An important area covered was on developing an invoice that wouldn’t stall as it moved through the clients’ payment approval and check writing systems. Developing a clear and concise invoice that benefits everyone who handles it, including you is crucial to receiving timely payments for services rendered. For most of my career I’ve worked client direct. This means no “middle man” advertising or pr agency acting as a payment and paperwork buffer. The buck starts and stops with me. In order for this to work efficiently I have to have clear and simple paperwork: 99% of the time the person who hires me is not the person who approves my invoice for payment and is certainly not the person who cuts the check. There may be three to five separate people who handle/review an invoice. Some of these people are housed in separate buildings, cities, states or even countries! If a particular invoice raised an eyebrow, what do you think happens? The invoice in question gets kicked back to the previous person for them to deal with. Or worse, it just sits in that persons inbox until someone up the chain inquires about it. And this won’t begin until I start asking questions, which is usually two or three weeks after I’ve submitted it for payment. Maintaining a positive cash flow is hard enough (especially for self-employed creatives), why add dead weight?

I want to be paid in a timely manner for my efforts. When you are a self-employed creative professional, you live and die by how good you are and how well you run your business. When I make an invoice mistake it costs me: I wait longer to receive payment. This may adversely affect how and when I pay my bills. I maintain reserves for just this scenario, but I’d rather not have it happen, so I try to ensure that it doesn’t. People who work for a regular paycheck, whether or not they make a mistake, still get their paycheck. Self-employed people don’t.

When thinking about your invoice template consider some of the following… 1) Terms: Due Now. Use this exact terminology to avoid a common accounts payable gimmick: using the current date as the starting point for when to begin processing the payment. For example if your invoice terms states NET 30, (in your mind) this means 30 days from the invoice date, payment is due. Not so for the people handling your invoice as it wends its’ way through the belly of the beast. Every person who receives your invoice sees the terms as giving them 30 days from when it hits their desk to do their part. When 2-3 people handle your invoice, this can stretch out the waiting time to 90 days or longer! Who in their right mind waits for a payment 90 days out? Stop this form of self-abuse by changing your payment terms. It’s your business to state your terms to your client base. You’re self-employed, you don’t get enough abuse, you want more? Even if the client says.”we usually pay in 30 days”, that’s OK, each person who handles the invoice sees that it is DUE NOW and they will usually work on your invoice before some other unfortunately worded invoice.

Item 2) Have a clear description of what job, assignment or project your invoice is for. This will minimize your invoice being kicked back for lack of clarity. Be descriptive. Be brief. Be clear. Along with this also make sure you have their internal tracking number and that you have an internal tracking number too. My tracking number sequence is 0090209 The first three digits identify the current job, in this case nine. The next two digits represent the current month and the last two identify the current year.

Item 3) Indicate whether or not the job, assignment or project was ordered verbally or via a purchase order. If verbally (like a lot of mine are), be sure to insert that persons name. VERY IMPORTANT!

Item 4) Order, photography and delivery dates. The idea here is to provide a time frame for all concerned.

Item 5) Usage. I present my clients with a quote before a job begins. The terms, conditions and licensing agreement are spelled out in this document. (I will post another blog about contract agreements soon) I only reference this agreement in my invoice.

Item 6) Identify the contact person on the project with a phone number so the internal people have someone to verify your information.

Item 7)  List the client name, address and how the job is to or was delivered.

Item 8) List the charges you are billing for. I have developed the technique of billing my client (on the initial project), for every possible item I can legitimately bill for. At the end of the invoice (after the sub-total), I back out a lot of these charges as a first-time courtesy price reduction. This way the financial “risk” on the part of the client (for the initial project) is minimized yet I get to introduce to them my regular and customary charges for future reference. It works for both parties.

Item 9) ALWAYS THANK YOUR CLIENT FOR WORKING WITH YOU. ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL AND BE HUMBLED BY THE FACT THEY CHOSE YOU OVER YOUR COMPETITION.

Item 10) Always put in the © symbol, let the world know you OWN YOUR ARTWORK.

Item 11) Always put in how you want them to make out the check. Seem obvious but there was a time when clients called to ask who the check should be made out to.

Item 12) I use a tax ID number instead of my SSN. I feel better using the ID over the SSN. Ask your accountant or CPA for help on this.

Item 13) I don’t list it here but you should also make it known where you want the check sent. This is covered in my contract and when I do a lot of business with a company, I’m already in their system.

Ok, that’s it for now. A long post but worth the read.

Take care and here’s to all of us!

One Self-Employed Success Measurement

sword

These days, one of the tasks I relish is when former students who are now in the workforce (as self-employed individuals), reach out to me for advice. They are finally experiencing what I mentioned in a class lecture. At the time they may not have listened well enough or perhaps it had little relevance for them at the time. But boy do it ring bells now!

One such story I wish to relate here: that of a former student and recent graduate of Brooks Institute who was lamenting how she was a “complete bust” (her words, not mine) on a self-assigned ski photography shoot. I wrote back to her with this note of support: (more or less)

“Even though you say the ski photographer gig was a complete bust, in fact it wasn’t. It’s not uncommon for folks new to being self-employed to focus only on a narrow range of how success is defined. You may not realize it yet but you learned a tremendous amount about yourself, your perceived value in the marketplace, how you interact with people and how they respond to your professional presentation.

This information is in your head, now it is up to you to retrieve it and use the information efficiently. I spent quite a lot of time training myself in this discipline and I can tell you the rewards are invaluable. But you must train to get to this state of mind.

It’s hard being self-employed, it even harder to make money being self-employed and the hardest of all is doing it for decades while supporting a family. Talk about tough.

Don’t get discouraged, success will come if you truly want it and are single-minded in succeeding, no matter what curve life throws and it will throw all kinds of junk at you.

Good luck.

Stern

Time & Flexibility & Patience

Australia from the Car

Australia from the car

In the past when a client issue, vendor problem or business opportunity made its way onto my radar, I wanted to resolve the issue, problem or opportunity immediately if not sooner, clear it off my “books” to 100% satisfaction and then move on without any lingering effects. I wanted to deal with these tasks in the order they came in, resolve them one at a time in linear fashion, go one to the next thing and not deal with it again. Ha! every time it didn’t happen that way frustration, anxiety and anger crept into my head and planted their respective flags. As a result I have a lot of holes up there. Too bad I don’t need hair plugs, but it obviously affected my work. I would be stressed out until the task was completed. Working in a linear fashion, doing one thing at a time and striving to have my desk completely cleared when I hung my shingle up for the weekend was a poor work habit. Even if that meant working the entire weekend. I wanted a clear fresh desk Monday morning, without lingering business from the previous week. Good idea, poor execution and really not practical at all. Juggling so many hats as a self-employed person dictates working on things as they happen in as an efficient a way as possible. I know this and in fact I practiced this a lot. Can’t really explain why I thought one way and worked another.

During my studio days when I had a business problem or client issue requiring a decision on my part I wanted those decisions to happen in a linear order and within my time frame. When I had to delay decision, I went into stress mode and made myself a bit crazy. I work from home now (in a separate office), more relaxed and dealing with things based on their importance and deadline. I’ve found that by working this way I provide myself with more time to think about how to go about accomplishing the tasks at hand. I’m more efficient and better able to get results out of the people I am dealing with whether they are clients or service providers. It also helps to have a beautiful and engaging yard with fruit trees, a vegetable garden and several spots to just sit and enjoy nature and the amazing light filling the yard throughout the day.

I truly am blessed these days.

See ya!