I had such a great time at this RIT event… Had a yum­my meal and the best part was an inter­est­ing talk from Lau­ren Dixon of Dixon Schw­abl here in Rochester. I know it must be a fun place to work, since all of the DS peo­ple I’ve inter­act­ed with on clients’ shoots have been ter­rif­ic. Even bring­ing their kids on shoots. After telling Col­in a few things about Lau­ren’s com­pa­ny, he said it sound­ed like the kind of place he’d like to work… so loose and cre­ative.

Our pan­el had a real­ly great range of expe­ri­ence and it always reminds me of how lit­tle my busi­ness is com­pared to every­one else! But I hope some of my expe­ri­ence after 21 years still helps the folks start­ing out.

Here’s a recap of what I said (…and sor­ry to keep butting in Eliz­a­beth 😉

  • Read much and broad­ly. You can teach your­self any­thing just by grab­bing a book, and amaz­ing cre­ative things hap­pen when you learn about dif­fer­ent areas. Read Wired.
  • Learn good busi­ness. Sim­ple stuff like being on time, billing accu­rate­ly, dress­ing for the event. Read busi­ness guru’s. For me it was Tom Peters. Today Get­ting Things Done or the Long Tail
  • Stay Find­able… good things hap­pen when peo­ple can find you a year or two lat­er. Work on your Google rank, ‘K
  • Be a Triple Threat: Wrig­ing Skills, Web Skills, Graph­ic Design Skills as well as Pho­tog­ra­phy. You nev­er know what you’ll be called on to do or have an informed opin­ion on. Once when mon­ey was tight, I did real­ly well writ­ing on dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy for a tech jour­nal. I design my own web site. Don’t blow off chances to improve these skills.
  • My friend Ron Cronk remind­ed me of this… there’s a lot more than just shoot­ing skills. I said there was a ‘stra­ta’ you move through… Every­one should have the bedrock of good tech­ni­cal skills, or else don’t even show up. BUT peo­ple ignore the rest of the lay­ers… Being ‘nice’ and hav­ing peo­ple skills is key: Do you make clients lives more or less stress­ful?? Equal to that is being com­pe­tent in busi­ness skills (as not­ed above) and final­ly those three things should allow you to grow over time to the top of the heap and real­ly devel­op refined, mas­ter­ful skills that real­ly set you apart.
  • You must jump in at some point. It’s great to ease into the free­lance game while work­ing a job, but at some point you have to go full time. Until you do, peo­ple just don’t see you the same, and you miss many busi­ness chances for clients to total­ly rely on your avail­abil­i­ty

Some things I did­n’t get to say:

  • Find a good niche you love. Doing a bit of every­thing can give you expe­ri­ence, but go deep in one area you can be known for.
  • Be pas­sion­ate. You’ll still pull all-nighters if you’re self-employed. You’ve got to love it.
  • Work for great, grow­ing clients and clients you can learn and grow with. I’m real­ly bummed I did­n’t touch on this one! I’ve been blessed with clients that were on the grow and so the amount of work just kept grow­ing too. You can love and serve the clients that are flat, but if you notice a client is real­ly rockin’, jump on board and give them every­thing you can.
  • Rav­ing Fans . Read it or down­load the audio­book. iTunes does­n’t seem to have it.
  • Learn on the job. When you know you’ve got the basics a client needs cov­ered, push your­self to do more and learn right then, not at some work­shop. I’ve always had an area I want­ed to improve (Light­ing, por­traits, web, etc) and so I’d study where I was weak in books and on shoots get the ‘safe’ shot the client asked for, but also work on the new skill. Warn­ing: Don’t suck while you do this…you still have to pro­duce 110% of what the client wants and not waste any­one’s time.


Michael (yes, this was shot right dur­ing the pan­el!)


Eliz­a­beth & Rich (sor­ry for the bad moment, Rich…)

So thanks t o RIT for invit­ing me and to Rich Get­sloff, Eliz­a­beth Lyons and Michael Lomb my co-pan­elists for their good ideas I’ll now steal 😉


Me wax­ing pundit‑y

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