by Walt Malone Published 01/01/2006
from a man from a big country, Canadian, Walt Malone
Over the past dozen years, I have learned, primarily through the experiences of others, that there is more to a successful career in photography than the production of good imagery.
Many of you know that unless graduations and school work is a big part of your business you will only spend about a fifth of your working time during the busy season behind a camera. Some might say more, some may say less, but this is what I would calculate to be an average. The most challenging part of running a successful business is to stay motivated.
So how does a photographer survive mentally in the middle of February, March, and April, when a busy week might consist of a cheque presentation, a business portrait and washing your car? There are in fact many ways to keep your head in the game and everyone has their own unique method.
During these months most of us rely on the retainers received from prospective wedding couples. Beyond that I occupy my time writing letters of proposals in preparation of the upcoming season. Most of us have conventions and seminars to attend. Becoming involved with the committees will often be as beneficial as a going to see the speakers. It is a great way of networking and more importantly it gives you a sense of direction and purpose.
I try to keep in touch with the hotels with which I have developed a rapport. This reminds their sales and catering staff that I am around and available for much of the work that they refer to me for later in the spring, along with future wedding couples. At this time I will do much of the promotional work for hotels preparing for their own busy times.
As a goal setter by nature I am always writing lists of what I would like to accomplish over time. There are three lists:
The first describes the on-going assignments booked. A single line displays the assignment with the date, the couple's or company's name, location and deposit paid. It's very brief and is only for personal motivation. More specific details are in the individual folders, within the filing cabinets.
Second is a list of Competition Prints or Accolades which I hope to achieve over the next year or two. This encourages my creativity and includes ideas for these future competition prints. I have found that as time goes by excitement for competition print ideas wane and only the better ideas are saved and implemented. I have actually generated many assignments with this list.
The third is the most important list, since it is the one, which I use for long-term goals. Where I hope to be two to five years away. Listed are ideas for coffee table books, possible calendars, trips which might be taken and any convention or seminars that I hope to attend. This is done from the point of view as if I was already there and how was it accomplished. It includes family and outside interests other than photography. Most importantly it only includes the thing you want to do and ignores the things dictated by others. This list is not time sensitive. For example if you do not do graduation photos you would not have a proposal to a school on this list. It should also be noted that, while this is your list, on which to dream, consider that the average human lives to be just under 80 and you have to maintain a list that does not include the solving of world peace or global warming.
Outside of these lists is the best motivation of all - becoming involved. It is the best way of developing a feeling of being the member of a team. You might choose to join the local board of commerce or coach of little league team. You may volunteer at a senior's home or a soup kitchen. If time is a scarce commodity working on a one- or two-day project is an option. Regardless of your personal choice, getting involved is a great way to make contact for business and build a sense of self worth and belonging. When you surround yourself with people who share your tasks and goals the work is far more enjoyable. Never be afraid to dream big.
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