Jan 212016
 

Looking for some great tips and inspiration for getting into–and surviving and enjoying!–the outdoor photography industry?  I recently had a blast serving as a featured guest on the very popular Take & Talk Pics podcast with Rob Krueger.

In this exciting one-hour episode titled “Go 4 It,” I share my story about how I got into this business and how I operate today in hopes of helping those who are either in the outdoor photography world professionally or are seriously considering it further their own interests.  However, even those who simply love and enjoy of photography as a hobby will hopefully also draw inspiration from our talk.

To listen to the podcast (free of charge), visit takeandtalkpics.com/go-for-it-colleen-miniuk-sperry or head over to iTunes to download via the direct link:  itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/take-talk-pics-rob-krueger/id982926616?mt=2.  Some of the key topics we cover include:

  • What my mantra “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” really means
  • How photographing everything BUT landscape photography for several years helped me become a better outdoor photographer today
  • Why bringing curiosity to my work is my most important business practice
  • The one bad business habit I’d like to break
  • The three key things photographers can do to grow and succeed in the photography industry
  • And much more!

Need more convincing?  Take & Talk Pics founder and interviewer, Rob Krueger, had this to say in his write-up about our discussion: “Now Photo World it has been months since I have had an episode go much further than my usual 30 minutes of amazing content but today is nearly twice that. After getting to know Colleen a bit I knew that she had a lot to share with you as you grow on your own journey’s. Also I can’t even remember the last time I wet [sic] over all of my questions for an interview. I am glad to say that today’s episode is saturated with value…”

So GO FOR IT!  Have a listen!  You can sleep when you’re dead!

(And if you like what you hear or have additional tips based on your experience, please feel free to leave a comment about it here on this blog post or on Rob’s at takeandtalkpics.com/go-for-it-colleen-miniuk-sperry)

~Colleen

May 152013
 

Sailing Your ShipAre you ready to run away from your mundane 8-to-5 job and start sailing your own ship as a freelance photographer after reading our blog post at the end of February, “Independence Day…in February” and our April post advising “Don’t Jump Ship Yet!  Start Your Own Photography Circus Before You Leave Your Job!“?

Whether your glorious Independence Day has already arrived or you have circled the big day boldly on your calendar – in both cases, congratulations! – before you start to think, “Oh sh*t, what have I done?!” consider these points to ensure you enjoy much success in your new life as a freelancing photographer:

  • Sell your work…without selling your soul.  Mortgages, car payments, and utility bills do not disappear when you start your own business.  As a new entrepreneur soley responsible for gaining income for your business, look for work that gets you out of bed in the morning, as your passion will show not only in the products and services you deliver, but also in the relationships you build with clients.  If your new career starts to feel too much like work (yay, aren’t taxes fun?!?), keep your love of photography alive by working on challenging personal projects in your free time.
  • “Just Say No.”  It may sound illogical to turn down business opportunities as you begin your new career, but heed these wise words from Nancy Reagan.  Once you’ve defined a niche for yourself, be comfortable turning down short-term money-making endeavors unrelated to your path to instead build your brand and skills within your area of expertise.  For example, if your focus is wildlife photography, build your body of work by photographing elk or eagles on the weekend, not the “wild life” of weddings.  By investing your limited time to find lucrative outlets within your domain, your sales will be greater in the long run.
  • Update your online portfolio.   No one wants to visit a website that you have neglected to update since 2010.  As your perfect your work and style, showcase your newest and best photography, as well as published tear-sheets and clips, on your website and social media outlets to keep your existing customers coming back for more and to attract new clients.
  • Keep the “unity” in your community.  Friends, supporters, experts, connections – literally anyone! – can turn into a paying client so it’s important to keep building your relationships and awareness within your circles. Ask “What can I do for you” instead of “Isn’t my picture pretty?  Do you want to buy it?”  Consistently deliver educational presentations throughout your local community, stay active in professional organizations, and engage with others in social media conversations.  Because of the snowball effect exposure can have in increasing your sales, even the smallest opportunity could transform into your future signature work.  Never underestimate the value of exposure (pun intended!).
  • Shut up and listen.  To gain business, don not rely upon the movie Field of Dreams’ motto, “If you build it, they will come.”  As you connect with members of your community, listen carefully to the comments, complaints, and questions they have related to their world to gain ideas for content in your next assignment, upcoming show, book project, or otherwise.  Proactively create your own sales opportunities by delivering solutions to them based on their input.
  • Keep your eyes on the prize.  Round up a couple trusted family members, friends, or mentors schedule frequent “Bored Meetings” (also referred to as “Board Meetings”).  Regularly reviewing your business plan with outside advisors will help you gain a renewed perspective on your direction, celebrate your successes, and gauge your progress against your defined “S. M. A. R. T.” – specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and tangible – goals to stay on track.
  • Learn; there is no “fail.”  If you are blazing your own path and testing new ideas through a wide variety of experiences, inevitably you will have moments when things don’t go the way you hoped.  No matter how much mud you feel is covering your face, hose yourself off, and ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?  How can I improve next time?”  As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  • Working 24 x 7 does not equal success.  Though tempting, resist the urge to work day and night to keep your business moving forward.  Take time to step away from the juggling act to avoid burn out and refresh your creative soul.  As you would schedule vacation time in your previous job, set aside time to relax and enjoy activities unrelated to your profession, leaving the camera and laptop behind.

If you’ve started a new career or independent business, what tips and tricks have you utilized to stay afloat as you charter new territory?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

And of course, no matter where you are in the transition, I wish you the very best of luck in your journey as a professional photographer!  Go forth and conquer! And keep us updated with your progress and learnings along the way!

<shameless plug>If you would like more hands-on guidance in planning your successful transition to a photography career, join me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013.  Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.

If you’re content with keeping photography as a hobby but would like more information on how to sell the photographs collecting dust on your hard drive, then  join me for the 1-day Arizona Highways Photography Workshop, “Selling Your Work Without Selling Your Soul” session on June 1, 2013.  For information and registration, visit www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-Selling-Your-Photography-2013-06-01. </shameless plug>

Apr 032013
 

Are you ready to run away from your mundane 8-to-5 job and become the ringmaster in your very own sensational circus as a full- or part-time photographer after reading our blog post at the end of February, “Independence Day…in February?”

If so, before you trade in your badge for the life you have always wanted as a freelancer, here are suggested actions to take to begin as the CEO of “You, Incorporated” on the right foot:

  • Get busy on your breaks. Though it may feel like you are working two full time jobs, start your new business before you leave the windowless office.  Take care of little tasks like registering for state and city tax licenses, opening bank accounts, and ordering business cards now so you gain legitimacy as a business owner as you walk out the corporate door.
  • Transform the scribbles on your beer-stained napkin into a Fortune 500-quality business plan. Without a manager standing over your shoulder and barking orders at you, it’s time to get “S. M. A. R. T.” when it comes to running your own circus. Formalize what you seek to accomplish in the next three months, one year, and three years, testing your goals to make certain they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Tangible. The statement, “I will make $1,000 from photography print sales by December 31, 2013,” is S. M. A. R. T. while “I plan to win the lotto tomorrow” is not. Once you have set a course, write out the specific steps and resources you need to get there.  Then, complete one step a day towards your goal.
  • Showcase your talents.  Build a professional-quality portfolio of work that accurately shows off what you can deliver. Post relevant examples of your photography and tear sheets of published work that demonstrate a recognizable style and focus that potential clients will notice and purchase.
  • Don’t act like the government. When it comes to making money as an independent, it’s not rocket surgery:  the “goes-IN-tus” to your bank account must be greater than the “goes-OUT-tus.”  In other words, your income must be greater than your expenditures.  Track sales and expenses to not only give Uncle Sam his cut later in taxes, but to also make sure you can cover your incoming bills. And no, you still don’t need that expensive new lens.
  • Expose yourself.  Although streaking down the street would certainly attract attention – albeit the wrong kind for business success – awareness is always the first step in making sales. If customers do not know of your products and services, they will not buy either. To build your network, provide educational presentations throughout your local community, join professional organizations, and be active in social media outlets. Volunteering your time for worthy, related causes can also often generate significant income over time.  Never underestimate the value of exposure. (Pun intended for those who use histograms.)
  • Learn to how to increase your “goes-IN-tus.”  Take a marketing class right now.  Not next year. Not next week. Now.  Though the thought of using your left-brain during lectures may make you break out in hives, at least go rub shoulders with ambitious marketing majors who might be interested in supporting the sales work for your business in the future.
  • Schedule the fireworks for your own Independence Day. Whether your sought-after day of freedom is two weeks away or a year off, circle the date on the calendar.  Having a light at the end of the tunnel can breathe new life into you until you say “adios” to your stuffy gray cubicles walls.
  • Burn the ships after landing. In 1546, upon reaching the shores of Mexico, Hernán Cortés did not make failure an option. When you land your new freelancing career, neither should you. Replace the voices hemming and hawing about what will happen if you fail with more productive thoughts about what you can do to succeed. Heed the advice of automotive pioneer Henry Ford who aptly suggested, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.”

Now are you ready to enter your very own big top?  In a future blog post, “Staying Afloat in Your Photography Career,” we’ll explore the best ways to not only stay on the tightrope, but to also how to give a spectacular performance in your new career.

<shameless plug>If you would like more hands-on guidance in planning your successful transition to a photography career, join me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013.  Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.

If you’re content with keeping photography as a hobby but would like more information on how to sell the photographs collecting dust on your hard drive, then  join me for the 1-day Arizona Highways Photography Workshop, “Selling Your Work Without Selling Your Soul” session.  Though the April 13th class is now full (waitlist available), a new session on June 1, 2013 has been added to the schedule!  For information and registration, visit www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-Selling-Your-Photography-2013-06-01. </shameless plug>

Whether photography-related or not, if you’ve made a transition from one job to another, what tips and tricks that helped you make a successful transition to a new career would you offer to someone who is considering a change?  For those of you who are considering a change, what’s your biggest fear or obstacle preventing you from making the leap?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feb 282013
 

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
~William Shedd

Reaching for the Stars

“Reaching for the Stars”    A shooting star falls over Thor’s Hammer and Bryce Canyon at moonrise in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.  Prints available – click on print to order!

Today, February 28th, marks my 6th anniversary of my personal Independence Day, the day I walked skipped joyously out of my grey cubicle walls of Corporate America in 2007 to begin this amazing journey as a freelance photographer and writer. 

I joined Intel in September 1997, fresh from graduating from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (“GO BLUE!”).   Brimming with excitement of “going West,” I started with the company as a software test engineer, then moved on to systems analyst and project management roles within the transportation and logistics, factory automation, and training departments.  Though I worked with so many inspirational, talented people doing remarkable things and enjoyed working for such a generous company, over the course of ten years, I realized it just wasn’t my path in life.  I was safe in the harbor, but that’s not what I was built for.

How did I know I was ready to sail my ship into somewhat unknown open water?  Almost two years of planning and preparation ensured I could make the freeing transition to freelancing.  Though scary at first, after 2190 days have passed since my escape, I still can’t believe I’m so fortunate to live such a fulfilling life.

How do you know if you’re ready to make the leap?  If the following rings true for you, it may be time to start planning your very own Independence Day:

  • Working as a one-person show in a many-ringed circus, juggling marketing, finance, human relations, manufacturing, and training tasks sounds much more appealing than staying in your current position working with clowns.
  • If the photography gig doesn’t work out, your backup plan is to serve hamburgers at a fast food restaurant, not return to your current occupation.
  • You’ve run out of dead relatives – no one honestly believes your grandmother has passed away six times since January – and vacation time.  Or perhaps you’ve used so many sick days, your co-workers think you have some highly contagious unpronounceable disease. 
  • Your desire to become a freelance photographer derives from a burning passion to inform, educate, and inspire others.  You should not make the choice to leave your current position based on lack of other employment options or the idealistic notion of what a National Geographic photographer does in the movie, The Bridges of Madison County.
  • As El Presidente of your own business, when things go right, you’re to blame.  When things go wrong, you’re to blame.  And this complete accountability and control excites you.
  • When you work for yourself, no manager will stand over your shoulder telling you what, when, and how to do your work.  Are you self-disciplined, independent, and highly motivated enough to sail your ship through the occasional fog and stormy weather?
  • Family and friends support you beyond “Wow, that’s a pretty picture, George.  You could totally sell that!”  Your moral support network willingly buys your photographic prints for the holidays, spends hours editing your articles, and cooks you dinner when you forget to eat while putting together a submission.
  • Ever heard the joke: “How do you make a million dollars as a photographer?  You start with two!”  Starting any new career, let alone one in photography, with financial debt is not a smart decision as you’ll be transitioning from a stable income to a fluctuating one.  Put off buying that expensive lens (you don’t need anyhow) and instead ensure you’re financial obligations are low.
  • You’ve already tasted the “good” life by working as a freelancer in conjunction with your current 40-hour work week and have found enough work to cut ties and independently generate income now and in the foreseeable future during self-employment.

Are you ready to sail your ship out of the harbor?  What do you feel you are built for?  Are you currently planning your own Independence Day?  

For more ideas, read my next two posts in this three-part series:

<Shameless plug> If you are seeking more guidance and help in planning a successful transition to a career in photography, please consider joining me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013.  Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.</Shameless plug>

Share your aspirations and success stories in the comments below, and we’ll raise a glass to you tonight as we celebrate in hopes you too overcome your fears, follow your dreams, and live the life you’ve always hoped for.  After all, Les Brown suggested, “Reach for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Thank you so much for your continued support!  Cheers to Independence Day…in February!