Tag Archives: interview

Nobody Loves You Like Your Mother And Sometimes Not Even Her

So Many Tasks, So Little Time

Take care of yourself. As much as possible take care of your emotional, spiritual and physical health. I know you’ve heard this before: exercise, eat well, rest, find something that directs the energy of the universe back to you. I exercise three-five times a week. I try to get eight hours a night. I minimize eating corporate food. I spend a lot of time with my son and working in my garden. I make the time, morning, mid-day or night, I make the time. This is so important to me that I cannot over emphasize it’s importance: TAKE CARE OF YOUR SELF! Now!

Once you step into the world of self-employment, all bets are off. You’re responsible for every aspect of your life, your family’s life and anyone else who depends on you. It ain’t easy. It’s hard work. It’s frustrating. It’s fun. It’s lucrative. It’s not. It’s everything in your life (both personal and professional) all rolled into a sticky mass of jobs, responsibilities and tasks and it can get to you often…if you let it.

Take care of yourself. Don’t put tasks off. Manage your anger. Manage your happiness. Manage your health. Manage your cash flow and invest every extra dollar so that your money works for you. After all the time and energy spent working for your money, it’s time to make it responsible for your future. Make your money work  for you.

Educate yourself. Go to seminars. Go to workshops. Ask questions. Become informed. It’s your responsibility. Self-love will see you through the darkest times of self-employment drudgery. Success demands you accept failure as part of the process, as part of success. There is much to deal with on a daily basis. On a weekly basis. On a monthly basis. On a yearly basis. Breaking down, organizing and executing these tasks is crucial to long-term self-employment success.

If you don’t do this, who will?

Your mother?

Speak For Yourself

Holly did in Hollywood

Film Is Dead

Tuesday I was interviewed by Beate Chelette of photosecrets.biz. We discussed how I go about creating my distinctive imagery and how I approach managing my life, business and finances. Anyone who contemplates working for oneself will benefit from listening.

Here is the link: Michael E Stern.

After the interview I called the Beate to review and summarize our talk. As the host Beate is able to see who dials in to the call and who drops off the call. She noticed that when I spoke about business aspects, the audience shrank and when I talked about creativity, the audience grew. Similar to lungs, the interview was breathing in and out. Cool. We surmised from this that people wanted to hear about the sexy part of photography…creating worthwhile images. They didn’t necessarily want to now about the grunt work, the nuts and bolts of putting together and managing a successful career.

Make no mistake it takes both parts to make a career work. It takes lots of common sense and focused effort not only to create each image, but also to run a sole proprietorship. The business and creative aspects must be integrated, they are the flip side of each other. They have to be blended into a mutually supportive structure, otherwise failure happens.

I mentor young photographers all the time, both in the creative aspects and the business, (selling, pricing and negotiating). It has been my experience that one out of ten will actually do the hard work that leads them to success.

Are you one of the ten?

Michael

5 Habits Of Success

My 3D scan of a baby raven

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!

Michael

You Are Entitled To As Much As You Make Yourself Worth Part 2

My first impressions of downtown Chicago

To continue from part one of this series, I will now discuss a bit about how I work with my vendors. But first I’d like to back up a bit and talk about the chain.

When it comes to the lab products portion of my business, I am a vendor to my clients and a client to my vendors. I am the middle link in this chain. My clients try to get the best (lowest) price from me, I try to get the best (highest) price from them. My vendors try to get the best (highest) price for their goods and I try to get the best (lowest) price from them. This is how I define the chain.

An order comes in from a client. If it’s something I prefer to do myself then I charge my usual prices for custom made lab products. However if the job is so large or I am too busy to handle the job myself, then I out-lab the job. For some the conventional wisdom is to “make your money shooting, not in handling lab work”. I am suggesting another way of looking at the situation: if it goes through my books, if I am at all responsible for something, then I make money on it or I don’t want to have that responsibility. With this mindset, I can generate several profit centers on each job I accept. The markup on prints, the markup on supplies (tape, glue, seamless, props, etc.) are generally accepted business practices, (and they work great) but I take it one step further.

I work with my vendors to give me a better price than they might otherwise offer. How do I do this? I ask. It’s that simple. I have a 50-50 chance of getting a yes just by asking. I have 0% chance if I don’t ask. So I ask. If nothing else I get to practice my speaking and interpersonal skills. If that doesn’t work I offer to pay by check (this saves the merchant credit card fees). If that doesn’t budge them, I offer to pay in cash. Still no deal? At this point if I trust them, I offer to pay cash at the time of ordering. When I offer this, I really trust my vendor  because I’m taking a bigger than normal risk. Hey, no guts, no glory. I usually have a client advance in my pocket when I offer this, so I’m playing with house money. This is one way I mitigate the risk.

There have been numerous times when I have “earned” up to 70% off the vendors usual price. You heard right folks, 70%! For me, no job is too small and no profit is too large. I’m in business to thrive, not survive, and there are times when I don’t hit my profit goals for a job, so it all works out over time. I’ve been lucky in this business and at other times it’s just plain hard work and never quitting on a deal.

In the end my clients are happy (they got what they needed), my vendors are happy (they got what they needed) and I’m happy they’re happy. As the middle link in the chain, it is my single-minded focus that all parties involved in a transaction are satisfied they did business with the right person. And that’s the way it’s worked for me for the past 30 years.

Michael

Podcast Your Expertise

Australian fire ants

In an earlier post I wrote about getting oneself interviewed to promote your expertise. Podcasting and webinars are additional venues for self-promotion. Two weeks ago Ryan and Alicia from Jitzul recorded our conversation about copyright and contract issues for creative types. Although we covered ground most relevant to photographers there is plenty in the podcast that cuts across all creative disciplines.

Catch a listen here: http://www.jitzul.com/sections/blog/?target=2691

Michael

PS: My first webinar (advanced Photoshop compositing techniques) is coming up soon and I’ll be giving my third interview next week with Melanie Orndorff at rockunemployment.com

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


Shameless Promotion

I received the most flattering and thorough review of my book. It is all I had hoped for in a review and clearly Dr. Roach read my book cover to cover with an open mind. I thank him for his time and thoughtful consideration of my content.

Here is the link: Dr. Michael N. Roach

’til next time.

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