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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