Let’s talk about how to respond with professional courtesy when reaching out to fellow photographers. Our industry is full of negativity and competitiveness but guess what? It’s also FILLED with positive, helpful individuals who actually want to see our community flourish.
So, here we go:
- You consider yourself a new photographer. Maybe you started a year ago or maybe you started last week. Maybe you’ve been shooting for years and just opened up your business. Or, maybe after shooting for awhile, you’ve decided to focus solely on seniors and you feel like you’ve started all over again. Or maybe, you aren’t technically “new” but want to learn new skills or business tactics.
- You consider yourself an experienced photographer. You know your shooting style and your target market. You have a plan for where your business is headed. You are seeing success and your business (and skill set) is growing. You may be a leader in your own local market. You’ve got your groove on.
How many of you newbies have reached out to an admired photographer? Let me take a stab at this…You sent them a message on FACEBOOK? I’m good, I know. Not really…I told you I’ve been on both sides of this saga. While it seems harmless (and flattering) to gush over a photographer’s work and ask them to mentor you, you may not get the response you had hoped to receive. What’s up with THAT?! On the flip side, it’s an incredible ego-booster to receive a message from someone who loves everything you do and wants to learn from you! But then, your mind goes to its super skeptical, defensive place.
- Even though you admire someone’s work and success immensely, they may not feel like they are in a position to be a mentor. Whether it’s because the photographer is focused on their business or family (or both), they don’t feel like they should teach yet, or they simply do not want to mentor, don’t take offense because it isn’t about you.
- Remember that if you are in their local market, you are competition. Can you blame someone for not wanting to give away the tactics that helped them to climb to success, especially for FREE? Mentoring someone is work and if you plan to eventually compete for potential clients, please respect their apprehension. It only makes sense. The photographer has spent their own time (hours and hours and hours…) and money to hone their skills. Should they be expected to just spill the beans?
- Be gracious when someone does lend a helping hand! There are incredibly helpful folks out there, SSG is full of them 😉 ! Don’t take advantage of their kindness or overstep your bounds by asking too much. Use your judgment on what’s “too much.” Give them credit when it’s due and when your day comes, pay it forward, my friend.
Oldies: (Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything else to call you…)
- Not everyone is the enemy. Not everyone is out to steal from you. Try to embrace our community, rather than hoard your secrets. You’ll not only feel good about your generous deeds, but you’ll gain friends and an awesome reputation to boot.
- If you feel like you have to “protect” your business by holing up and keeping to yourself, you aren’t leveraging the key component of your business – YOU. Even if someone came in and stole every single tactic, skill, and piece of gear you own, your business would still flourish because no one can do it like YOU. They can’t take away and use the YOU for their business. Take a moment and really contemplate that.
- Set boundaries. When you receive one of those flattering inquiries, don’t shoo them away. Know what you are willing to share and what you are not.
Let’s all be friends and professionals. Friendly professionals, professional friends. Whatever. And, let’s hang out more over on SSG’s FACEBOOK, ok?