Posted on 13 September 2011 | 2 responses
Everybody in business needs to be a good manager of their own time. You need to spend some time researching potential markets, perfecting your craft, working on client projects and files, accounting, etc. And if you’re working full-time, you know you need income so that you can survive. The problem is that part-timers and freelancers usually spend too little time on income producing activities. What I mean is that, whether you’re working full-time or part-time at your own business, the reason that you’re doing what you’re doing is usually because you like the field you’re in and you hope to make some money, if not a living, practicing your craft. If you have a day job and you’re only freelancing part-time, you may fall prey to doing the extra after-hours work simply for the pleasure of doing the work. But you need to keep in mind that if your goal is to earn a living, or even just make some extra money, you need to have a solid focus on income producing activities.
Of course you don’t need to be 100% focused on only doing things that directly generate income. You need to spend time producing marketing materials and making business contacts. As well, you probably spend a great deal of time perfecting your craft after hours. But you need to spend a solid percentage of your time doing things that actually generate income. In other words, every single week you should have some portion of your freelance time dedicated to paying projects. And if you don’t have any paying projects, you should reduce the time you’re spending on perfecting your craft and developing marketing materials, and focus intensely on getting that first client or two.
Are you making money? Or are you just dreaming about your business making money “someday?” If you don’t have income producing work, it’s time to focus 100% of your business efforts directly on sales.
Posted on 2 September 2011 | 9 responses
Well, it’s been a little more than a week and I’ve been using Dragon Dictate for content creation quite a bit. I was really excited when I very 1st started using the software because I had these fantasies of being able to crank out pages and pages and pages of dictation without a lot of extra effort. While my productivity and text output has improved, there have been a couple of unforeseen (usually funny) side effects to dictating versus keyboarding and there were a couple of challenges in learning the software as well. So the software isn’t really magical, but if you have realistic expectations I think you’ll be really happy with what it can do.
The overall performance and accuracy of the dictation software is really quite amazing! There’s no question that this software is doing some incredible work and I’m often shocked by its ability to pick the right word when various synonyms are available. The speech recognition engine is at the point where it actually is worthwhile to use dictation as an input method. And honestly, that’s the opposite of what I experienced years ago when I 1st tried speech recognition software. It was cool, but it took far too much time to get the thing to work right. That’s not the case anymore.
I really expected there to be a bunch of YouTube videos for tips and tricks on how to use this software. As it turns out there are a handful of pretty good overview videos, mostly from Nuance (the software company that makes Dragon Dictate) and one really good 5 or 6 minute training video. But as it turns out there is a cottage industry of Dragon Dictate software training which is primarily from Nuance themselves and one other company. I don’t remember the name of the other company, I think it’s “Watch and Learn,” but they charge $50 for a full class on how to use Dragon Dictate. At the same time, Nuance sells a training DVD video, though I’m not sure what the price is for that.
Ultimately though, what I found was that I could learn most everything I needed to as long as I read each of the various cheat sheets I could find on Nuance’s site and in the box. Plus, I read through a quick start guide and the user manual which I found online at the Nuance website. There’s also a blog from Nuance but it’s loaded with all kinds of information about the PC version of the software and only a little about the Mac version. So I took all the information I found, made some handwritten notes to myself, and then I developed my own little cheat sheet. I have one in each office, at home and at work. These help me to remember the most critical commands I need to use as I dictate to the software. Things like showing and hiding various windows, various editing commands, the not-so-straightforward method of training the software to learn new words specific to my industry, and the magical command that you need to use any time you need to manually change something using the keyboard.
So at one point in one of the manuals from Nuance I found something they call the “Golden Rule” which is, NEVER mix keyboard entry and dictation! Fact is, if you did everything including corrections via voice, it would absolutely waste far too much time. So you must be able to mix keyboard and voice entry in order to remain productive. That’s why this cool little command “cache document” is so important. The way that this recognition software works is that it must know about the existence of every single character in the entire document. If you add something manually, really bizarre mistakes happen almost immediately, and it’s especially hard to undo giant mistakes that you didn’t see happen. So using the “cache” command after each time you do something with the keyboard, the software re-memorizes the entire document and mistakes are kept to a minimum.
And while were talking about learning resources for this software, Nuance does host a member forum which seems to have a sufficient enough following that you can find topics and get answers in a reasonable amount of time.
Some Quirkiness… Read more
Posted on 1 September 2011 | 2 responses
Two Great Ways to Get New Business
One of the best ways to get new business is to specialize in a particular niche market. Another great way to get business is to partner with someone who serves a market similar to your target market, and have them do some of the selling for you. Today’s tip incorporates both of these concepts.
Now, this particular business niche idea does require that you are both a very good photographer and a very good Photoshop postprocessor. When I say you have to be very good at both of these, I mean it! I’m not talking about the kind of “good” where your spouse and kids think you’re the greatest. I’m talking about the kind of “good” photographer who is constantly being asked questions by fellow photographers at local club meetings, and the kind of post processor who sees and knows how to reproduce the latest, hottest image design trends. So, if you’re really good at photography and postprocessing, this might be a good niche for you.
Start by finding a decorator that serves either upscale businesses or upscale homeowners in your area. Then request a meeting with them and let them know that you are able to deliver both custom photography, and highly stylized postprocessing consistent with practically any design theme out there today. You will need to bring samples to prove your case. While doing your research to find this decorator, if you can find several examples of what he or she has done, do your best to emulate the kinds of images they use in these various installations and include those designs in your portfolio. Doing your homework here is going to be critical to getting a “trial agreement” to see if a working arrangement might happen.
Now, don’t kid yourself, it’s going to be tough just to get the appointment with the decorator. And it’s going to be tough to find the right decorator in the first place. Then it’s going to be tough to do some research and find out what that decorator likes. But if you can do all of that, it’s definitely worth the effort because you will have an automatic sales department for your photography and design work (postprocessing).
When it comes to your sales pitch to this decorator, you need to make sure they understand that you are willing to work with them to make this a profitable venture for both of you. It is not unethical to offer to pay them a commission for any sales they make for you. They are acting as your agent so they deserve a commission. Like I said earlier, your sales pitch will work better if you already know their work and adjust some of your samples accordingly. But the real hook for them is that they are not only decorating with pieces which are consistent with their design taste, they get to use freshly created images which have been captured specifically for the client in question. What I mean is, all these cool designs you do to your images, will have been done to pictures of family members and other places and things that are important to the end client. So that way the decorator can deliver not only cool looking designs, but they can deliver cool looking, personalized designs. And that means bigger commissions for everybody.
Now, don’t just look up local decorators on the web. Ask around. Do some serious research by touching base with wealthy people and successful businesses in your area who have hired a decorator themselves, or who might be friends with lots of wealthy people who hire decorators. That’s who you need to ask about decorators.
This last thing is actually the most important thing in the whole process… If all of a sudden this opens up new doors for you when you start making good money at it, I want a commission. — Okay, either an expensive gift or just telling everybody about BeckerBiz is good too.
Posted on 31 August 2011 | 2 responses
I had the pleasure of making friends with a member of NAPP who is a rather successful digital artist. She was originally a natural media (oil painting) artist but because of a reaction to the chemicals involved in painting, she had to stop painting. Then when Photoshop and the Wacom tablet were introduced to her, her talent and interest in (digital) painting exploded once again. I’ve seen a great deal of her work and it’s actually quite impressive.
Now, that’s a little of her back story but what happened next is even more interesting to me from a business perspective. She joined NAPP and asked all kinds of questions through the Help Desk and member Forums. And over time she got quite good at using Photoshop and her new Wacom tablet and even started helping other members and teaching in the NAPP member Forums. Around the time she realized she was helping other people and that her skill set was appreciated by more than just her family, she started applying for various jobs she saw posted in forums and listings all over the web. In talking with her, I realized that she had spoken with literally hundreds of potential clients and dozens of people offering jobs work-for-higher style. She went in-person to galleries. She really got “out there.” Ultimately, she was hired to illustrate magazine ads for a major video game company, a 4 foot canvas of one of her works went on display in a gallery in central Florida (and she had never been to Florida), and she was hired to illustrate matte paintings for a feature motion picture.
What was most interesting to me is that many of the people who knew this person through the NAPP member Forums heard about her various successes. While most everyone was happy for her, there was the occasional person who suggested that she was “lucky.” I assure you that luck played a very small role (if any) in her success. It’s more like tenacity was her key. She simply applied for every single work for hire opportunity she thought she could remotely do and a few of them came through. The lesson here is, if you want to be successful and have a decent size client list, you have to get in front of dozens of potential clients for every single client that actually ends up hiring you. It’s a numbers game and if you can’t stand rejection you’ll either need to budget for a salesperson right up front, or find a different line of work. Now, get out there!
Posted on 29 August 2011 | 6 responses
Most people have heard of the movie Pay It Forward from a few years back. The main concept in the movie is that frequently when someone does something nice for us, we aren’t always in a position to repay that person for their kindness. Sometimes it’s actually impossible to “pay it back.” So “pay it forward” simply means to do something equally nice for someone else.
Today my post isn’t a long one. It doesn’t require a lot of details or background information. Today’s post is just a simple request. Find someone in your industry, or someone who shares a similar interest with you, maybe someone in your local camera club, and who isn’t yet at your level of proficiency. Then see if you can help them. Maybe you have lots of time and can really coach them. Maybe all you have time for is a helpful tip or two from time to time. — The goal is not to look for anything in return. Instead, the goal is just to simply help someone else. The ironic thing is that most of the time you learn something new or receive something in return you never expected. If nothing else, it will make you feel better about yourself and it’s hard to top good karma.
Posted on 26 August 2011 | 2 responses
Notice the question isn’t the typical one you hear like, ‘How are you better?’ Instead, how are you different.
When it comes to being different, most people understand that IF their ‘difference’ is generally considered to be a strength or positive characteristic, then that’s what they should focus on in their marketing. If you always shoot moody portraits and paint in fog and smoke using Photoshop, that’s a look, that’s a style, and that’s what you market to the world. That’s easy. — And if you have such a skill or strong style, you can stop reading because you already know how to focus your marketing message.
Still, there are many, many more people who feel “average” or even feel like they may come up short in one or more important ways when they measure themselves against their competition. They look around and feel average in many ways and possibly even weak in some ways too. That doesn’t mean that these people are destined to remain average in success, recognition, client base, etc. You just need to change your focus a bit and see if you can twist your average self-assessment or even a weakness, into something that would attract clients.
Some standard, marketable strengths include things like:
- Do you have a particular style that stands out?
- Are you brilliant at post-processing?
- Are you really fast?
- Are you fast enough to be really cheap? (By the way, unless you’re unusually fast and amazingly organized, as well as tireless, lowest price is often a bad way to market.)
- Have you done any notable work (like famous clients)?
Then come the more probing questions. How are you different? Even if it’s one of those things that you consider to be a weakness.
- Are you far younger (or older) that most of the people in your field?
- Do you have some sort of handicap that makes your story interesting/compelling? (A vision problem, some other physical disability, color blindness, recovery from severe cancer, etc.)
- Do you have a regular day job and can only shoot on the weekends (and some evenings)?
- Are you a poet who could write a verse about each image you shoot?
So here’s your challenge for this weekend… Think about any way you might be different and then market that as your unique offering. Make yourself memorable by giving your customers and potential customers an unique way to remember you.
Posted on 25 August 2011 | 12 responses
What is it about some people that they get something out of flaming or trying to crush someone else?! I don’t get it.
Recently a friend of mine who is a very good photographer and a truly kind soul, was told by a “professional” (somebody with a particular certification) that her work was bad. First of all, it isn’t bad. I’ve seen good and bad photography and I’ve judged quite a few contests and hers is truly quite good. So what’s the point? Does the flamer think anything remotely good will come from his comments? He wasn’t asked to provide a critique. His comments were free from helpful advice. Just pure putdowns. Again I ask, what’s the point?
I’m thinking the real answer is no more difficult than what our moms told us in 3rd grade about that bully. He just picks on other people because he’s insecure about himself. There’s usually jealousy involved. Sometimes the bully feels threatened by the victim. Maybe he thinks putting someone else down will help him appear better to other onlookers. Sadly, it doesn’t do anything positive for him or his victim. And if you’re well-known or popular, bullies can be even more vicious! Just ask Scott Kelby. But I digress…
The cure is, of course, moving on. Ignore the flamer and move on. But that’s easier said than done. Those negative comments too often echo in our mind. So how do you get past the flame? Use this two (or three) step process:
1) Recognize it for what it is… the flamer is truly no more mature than a 3rd grade bully. As an adult you know that 3rd grade bullies need to be ignored. Ignoring them makes them powerless and increases their foolish appearance. Sparring, comebacks, etc. usually give them more power than they deserve and they don’t deserve that attention. They deserve to be ignored. If that’s not enough motivation to move on, then…
2) Focus on something positive in your own life. — Okay, that’s mom’s advice from way back in 3rd grade. Sure, thinking about something positive helps if you can do it, but if you’ve been hit with a harsh put-down, it’s hard to refocus on something positive. Try it, but if it doesn’t work, you need to move on to step 3…
3) Use humor! Is there anything funny about the situation? The flamer? Have you got a funny friend who can help you see the humor? Those kinds of friends are gold!! Worst case scenario, play 5 minutes of a favorite comedy album and just get away from the problem mentally for a little while. – By the way, if you are just irresistibly compelled to reply to your taunter, humor often is the best way to go. But try to resist any reply if possible.
The reason I love humor is because it pushes you into an alternate state of mind. It doesn’t say, ‘try to feel better.’ It bonks you over the head with a frying pan and forces you to laugh.
In my friend’s situation, the flamer said that my friend was a WalMart photographer. Her friend Janine said, “Really? You only take pictures of WalMart?” Hilarious!! Janine is a comedy super-hero!
These days it seems like things everywhere are getting far too uptight! Even stand-up comedians include way too much politics in their routines. I don’t need a comedian reminding me how bad the economy or Washington is. I know.
— I’m up for a good Bill Cosby album… then I think I’ll have some Jello Pudding.
Posted on 24 August 2011 | 2 responses
Just today I started dictating into Dragon Dictate. I’m using the speech recognition software in order to type a blog post into my business blog and into WordPress. You’re reading dictation right now. This is actually a pretty incredible experience. I haven’t touched the keyboard a single time. I can see where, in the future, I could get my thoughts collected on scrap paper in the form of bullet point notes, and then spend a little time dictating.
It has been a long time since I previously tried speech recognition software on the Mac. I remember spending a couple of hundred dollars, and not being very pleased with the results overall. The problem with the old speech recognition I used was that it required stochastic speech. That’s. Where. You. Put. A. Pause. Between every single word. It’s extraordinarily frustrating!
A couple months ago I picked up a new iPad 2.0 and I noticed that one of the applications that was available for free, was a speech recognition program from Nuance software. While it will only capture one or 2 sentences at a time, I was really impressed with the accuracy of the speech recognition using just the built-in microphone of the iPad 2.0. Later I did a little bit of research on the web and read some reviews, and I decided to go ahead and give Dragon Dictate a fresh try.
I understand that this particular topic may not appear to have a direct relationship to the business content of this blog. However, it actually means that I will be writing a whole lot more blog posts. Especially when you consider that all I have to do is think about something, talk about it for a little while, and my blog post is done. In fact, I often think about all kinds of different topics, I even jot down some of the topics in my iPad, and then I just never have enough time to write the articles. This is my personal blog and I have so much to do at my day job that this is always where I have to sacrifice. With the accuracy I’ve experienced so far using Dragon Dictate software, I’m really encouraged that I’ll be able to crank out a lot more content!
So far all I’ve done is install the software package, go through the initial training, and then start dictating directly into WordPress. The entire process took less than 30 min., and the actual training only took 5 min. It looks like my productivity is going to increase even more once I spend a little time learning the idiosyncrasies and specific commands required by the software. On the other hand, if all I have to do is speak and have my thoughts instantly typed for me, that alone is a tremendous productivity booster.
So now you have a little peek behind the curtain here at my business blog. And if you find yourself reading one of my posts at some future point, and you see a word that looks just really bizarre in context, you’ll know that it was me not catching the mistake made by my dictation software. Or at least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
I’d be really interested to hear if anyone out there is using dictation software successfully. I’d like to know what projects you’re doing with it. I’d like to know if you like it as much as you did when you first started using it and it was a new toy. I’d like to know if you’re using the Mac version or the PC version. And I’d really like to know if you feel like your productivity has increased as much as you thought it would.
I guess I should also mention that Amazon sells it for $131 and Best Buy sells it for $150 (even though the sticker and shelf said $199). I opted for Best Buy so I could have a little immediate gratification, and I was thrilled to discover that the package version ships with a sweet USB Plantronics wired mic. One last thing… the Mac boxed version is only available as version 2.0 and the most current version is 2.5. It’s a free upgrade and since I was connected to the Internet during installation, the installer program asked me if I wanted to download and install the latest 2.5 version. That extra step took all of 2 minutes and I was working away!
Posted on 27 July 2011 | 1 response
Just because it seems like everybody is raving about the effectiveness of Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools these days, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to spend an inordinate amount of time researching the tricks of the trade and posting on social media all the time. You might just be wasting your time altogether.MIT could be a magic bullet for some people and a complete waste of resources for you.
Don’t get me wrong, lots of people in various situations do extremely well using Facebook and Twitter to market their services. And they aren’t necessarily lying to you when they credit lots of sales to these marketing tools. It’s just that, while you should have a Facebook presence, you don’t necessarily need to be super active there, nor do you necessarily need to be Tweeting regularly. The key is to know your market. Are you wanting to target high school seniors for portraits? In that case you had better be a voracious FB and Twitter user. On the other hand, if you’re targeting commercial builders for architectural photography, Facebook & Twitter may play little or no role in landing most of your big accounts. In those cases, you’ll probably find that more traditional marketing techniques work much more effectively. Maybe targeted direct mail, attending local Chamber of Commerce meetings, or even an old-fashioned sales call will be the right approach.
For most small businesses and freelancers, Facebook and Twitter will likely be a part of your marketing efforts. Just realize that it’s incumbent on you to know your market, know what they read and how they research people and companies they’re considering doing business with, and focus your attentions there.
Posted on 14 July 2011 | 10 responses
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, just a strong suggestion that’ll save you lots of headaches and time. Don’t compete in ways where the competition is overwhelming or your competition can destroy you on price.
For example, if you’re considering starting a new business in the US, would you consider starting a new customer service call center business from scratch? Would you think it’s a good idea to manufacture umbrellas stateside? Do you think you could run a business based on volume post-processing of images in Photoshop? — All of these things are being outsourced successfully from the US to overseas suppliers and the costs make US start-ups in these fields a suicide mission.
So what’s the takeaway from this? Two things. One is obvious and the other one is less so. 1) Find or invent an unique niche and market to that niche’s potential customers; and, 2) Consider outsourcing to places that can do it cheaper. Even if you’re a one-person operation and I’m even talking about your Photoshop volume work.
I own a lawn mower and could easily mow my own lawn. It would save me money. But my lawn guy has a fast rider and does everything in 1/4th of the time I could. And if I just spend my normal mowing time on my business instead, it makes me more money than I could save by mowing my own yard.
I ran into the exact same situation recently when I was talking with a well-known photographer, author and trainer. (No it’s not Scott, Matt, or anybody who even lives here in Florida.) He told me that he sends out volumes of his images to have models expertly cut from their background for $2 or $3 per image. After a day of shooting, he emails dozens and dozens of images of models to his Photoshop service bureau overseas, and when he wakes up in the morning, he has all of the images back on his computer with layer masks that knock the model off the background. And this guy is a Photoshop trainer!!! He told me that the work gets done far faster than he ever could do it, it’s done while he sleeps, and it’s amazingly affordable. And if you consider that the people creating these layer masks for him do dozens or hundreds each day, they have far more experience than even the best Photoshop experts out there.
Does that mean you shouldn’t ever do your own Photoshop editing (or mow your own lawn)? Heck no! But do what makes sense and don’t waste time competing with people and companies you can never beat. Be unique in your offerings or maybe even consider using these volume outside resources yourself if your work volume is sufficient, so you can focus on alternate profit centers or unique marketing angles.
DISCLAIMER: In spite of the title, I’m not really suggesting that you don’t bother competing. However, you should look for a way to provide something unique if you plan to compete in a saturated market. Doing something that someone else is already doing cheaper and faster and in volume, even if they’re in a different country, usually leads to failure. You have to do it brilliantly or somehow bring something unique to the table in order to compete. Regardless of how you feel about outsourcing, especially outside your country’s borders, this is the current state of the world and (based on an email I got from someone who apparently wishes things were different) you might be angry at my suppositions but I believe that anger is missing the target. I don’t make the rules. I’m simply trying to help people understand their competition and how to remain competitive in a challenging economy.