What Does Success Look Like: A Guest Blog w/ Skip Cohen
****Today we are so incredibly honored to have the amazing Skip Cohen on to guest blog for us! We first met Skip a couple of WPPI's back when we asked to grab coffee with him and ended up sitting together for a couple of hours over breakfast. Since then, he & his incredible wife Sheila have become such great friends to us, and I feel so lucky to have them as advisors and trusted sounding boards for whatever we're working on. After several years of knowing Skip now I can tell you this, in an industry that can often get caught up chasing the things that don't really matter or leaders who might not really stand for what they say they stand for.....Skip Cohen is the real deal. Honest, straightforward, incredibly smart....and with just a real heart for helping photographers get better. This industry is better with him in it. And now, so is this blog! We are so excited to be joining Skip this summer at his Skip Cohen University in Chicago....if you're looking for something to really help you kick it up a notch, we'd love to see you there!
1) As someone who has been around this industry a long time now, you have seen a lot of trends come and go and a lot of photographers come and go. You have been able to see first hand what works and what doesn't, and how the most successful photographers conduct themselves and their businesses. What is the best advice you have gleaned from that experience, that you wish every photographer out there knew?
Right off the bat, you've got to get to know your gear and the craft of photography itself. I know there are a few icons out there who have built a reputation on marketing, but most of them became one-hit wonders and didn't last. If you know your gear and understand lighting, exposure, depth of field etc. you're going to be able to focus on the client more, because how to capture great images will become secondary. Next on the list, this business is about relationships - you've got to make every client feel like they're the most important subject you've ever photographed. Your goal is to always exceed expectations and make yourself habit-forming in going above and beyond.
I could write about this stuff all day long...but last on the list is remember your priorities. Don't look for success, it'll find you. Stay focused on being the best and don't lose sight of your goals, your family and your friends. You need to share your dreams with your family, but they don't always have to agree.
Those would be the top three...but here a few more on the business side...
Build a strong network of people who share your passion, but also compliment your weaknesses.
Don't be afraid to outsource. You can't do it all and your most important asset is your personality. Nobody can sell you as good as you can. Outsourcing gives you a chance to focus on your marketing while more talented people handle the operational aspects of the business.
Last - make your handshake your sacred bond. Take responsibility for your promises and deliver. When there is a challenge, OWN IT! Then fix it and remember your most important resource is your team. If you don't have a staff, you always have team of people who help you...maybe it's the rep you work with at your lab, somebody at your album company, even the UPS guy - they're all part of the team you're building.
2) What do you think success in this industry looks like (or should look like)?
Success in the true definition is very personal.
Watch the video with Tom Shadyac. He was the multi-million dollar producer who did a lot of the Jim Carey movies. He had a bicycle accident and almost died. He realized the boats, cars, houses just weren't making him happy. He's still a millionaire, but focused on things he loves doing.
My definition of success today is waking up every morning excited about what I'm going to work on. I've seen so many photographers dig a hole for themselves, thinking that it's all about building a big client base, hitting huge annual revenue etc. I'm not saying financial success isn't important, but I know some of the wealthiest photographers in the industry and they're not even close to happy.
So it all comes down to balance and establishing your priorities. If you can wake up every morning smiling and go to bed every night knowing you did the best you could all day, that covers it...but it goes back to recognizing your goals and not losing sight of what's truly important to you. Yeah, it's easy for me to say at my age, but success has to be based on your definition, NOT anybody else's.
3) What are the top 3 must-have pieces that every photographer who wants to be successful must have in place?
1) Understanding your gear and the craft....A never-ending passion for the craft. 2) Great photographs tug at people's heartstrings. You can't create those kind of images if your heart isn't in it. 3) A strong network of support to help you build a business with a solid foundation. And there's really a fourth that's so important...respect. Respect for your clients, respect for the photographic process, respect for all the people who have skills you don't have, but you need to build your business and respect for yourself and your dreams. You've got to believe in yourself.
**And now we have some winners to announce!! The winner of our Lush gift card giveaway is....Miss Sarah Harper!! And the winner of our Amazing Life Together webinar is....Faith Cherisse!! Congrats ladies!!
***And you know what, let's keep the fun going with a new contest! Just help us out by leaving a note in the comment box a) thanking Skip for being here & b) telling us which kinds of posts you're really loving/would love to see more of. And we'll pick one winner to receive a $25 Starbucks card. That's worth it, right?? And....GO!!
Today I am really excited to get to tell you guys about two places that we'll be speaking this year, one of them coming up later this month!
First on April 26-27th, the incredible Liz & Ryan- who just have such HUGE hearts for marriage & people living Amazing lives together- have put together this 2-day FREE webinar where you can hear from six different couples how they juggle it all & keep their marriages first. We are SO honored just to be on that list of couples that we love so much! Our video goes live at 11am on the 27th & we'll be hopping on there to live chat with everyone as it plays. But really, you should just plan to listen to the whole thing over both days to hear everyone's stories & advice. I know we will be!
Like I said, it's absolutely FREE to listen to the webinar live! You'll just need to head over HERE to get registered beforehand. But if you can't listen to the whole thing (or just know that you're going to want to be able to listen to it again afterwards), from now until April 25th you can grab your copy of the whole webinar for almost half off at $49 (normally $89). And when you grab your copy by then that will also get you Liz & Ryan's Cozy Date Night Guide, the Amazing Life Together ebook & The Breakfast in Bed Guide. It's a pretty sweet deal! So make sure you head over & check it all out!
One of the other places that we'll be speaking this year, is that the incredible Skip Cohen asked us to teach for 2 days at his new Skip Cohen University this August 11-14th in Chicago!! We will be teaching the same thing on both Monday & Tuesday to two different groups of 20. The space is incredibly limited & from what I hear a lot of the seats are already filling up with people who were already registered. So if you're thinking about coming, definitely get on this soon! On our two days, we will be going through some of the trickiest parts of a wedding day, giving practical & technical tips, but also focusing on the deeper Why that each of us is called to pursue as a photographer. Then we'll take that storytelling & show you how that can become one of your most powerful marketing tools.
There are going to be a ton of other amazing speakers presenting over the three days & it's just shaping up to be an incredible time! We hope we'll get to see you there! To find out more info, just click HERE!
Whew! Ok, so we don't want this post to be just all announcements, so we decided to throw in a little contest just for fun! I saw that a lot of you are planning your own Spring redecorating projects, so leave us a comment saying hi & we'll pick one winner to have their choice of $25 to Pottery Barn or Home Depot!! We'll announce the winner on Friday, so get to it! And....GO!!
Today I am SO excited to kick off this week right, by sharing with you an NYC anniversary shoot we just did with the amazing Abby & Matt!! Abby is actually a wedding photographer herself down in the DC area, who we got to meet first through this blog (the internet is an amazing thing!), then for a Walk Through a Wedding Workshop earlier this year, and now she is someone we feel very lucky to call a friend! So when she contacted us about doing an anniversary shoot for her & her adorable husband Matt we knew we had to make it happen! After a few back & forths trying to schedule dates in either DC or CT, we finally found a weekend that worked for all four of us in the middle in NYC. We spent time with these guys walking around the City, sipping hot cocoa, randomly running in to Chicago photographer Kenny Kim, and (my favorite!) ordering mac & cheese with a side of ...mac & cheese! at the famous Bubby's.
It was an incredible day. Spent with two absolutely incredible people who I love with my whole heart!
Right about now, we have friends making their way to CT from all over the place..... Chicago, Maine, Baltimore & Virginia, to be more specific.
Because tonight.....tonight is Halloween. One of our favorite days of the year.
And it only made sense that we would spend one of our favorite days of the year with some of our favorite people on the planet!
This of course also means that I have to cook. Like, y'know, real food. Food that requires more steps than taking the plastic off and hitting the popcorn mode on the microwave.
And let's be honest, that may just be the scariest thing that happens this Halloween. :)
This party of ours is also a dress up party. And here's a little sneak peek of our costumes.
And this made me think that it's about time for another contest! Take a guess at what you think we're going to be and leave it in the comments below. One lucky person who gets it right is going to receive a $50 iTunes card. Y'know, to download Halloween and Halloween H2O....obviously. And....GO!!
On the first day she sat in the first row, and we went back and forth as I did one my impromptu (yes, ever so slightly Miss Cleo-esque) brand predictions on her. I told her I saw pink in her future. She told me I was crazy. And the two of us have been fast friends ever since.
As it turns out, I was more right than either of us could have ever known at the time. And it's one of the very few times in my life, I would have been more than happy to be wrong.
You see, Lauren did end up rebranding later that year and it did, in fact, end up including pink. But that's not the part I wish I was wrong about (her brand is totally killer and you can check it out here). The part that I wish I was wrong about, was when pink took on a whole different meaning in Lauren's life late last year as she found out she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Lauren came to WPPI, just two months into her diagnosis when she still wasn't telling anybody. And while she was there, she came to sit in for support at our Platform class because that's the kind of amazing friend she is. While she was sitting there front and center in the first row, we played the Mary Ann video. And unbeknownst to us at the time, it struck a chord with Lauren perhaps more than anyone else in the room. Later during our talk we had people write down a list of their bHag's (big hairy audacious goals)....and Lauren knew exactly what was going to be first on her list. But I'll let her tell you about that....
A few months after WPPI, Lauren wrote this blog post. Unveiling to the world that she in fact reached that first bHag. She had faced cancer....and beaten it. And she told her story with a humor and a wit that only Lauren could do. I encourage each and every one of you to head over and read the full post in its entirety. But for now, I just wanted to end with these words from her:
'Since the day I started my business I was scared. Scared of doing something wrong. Scared of not being good enough. Scared of failing. Every big idea I had was stuck behind a bigger excuse of why I couldnít do it. Some reason as to why going after something bigger was too scary. But not anymore. I literally faced the scariest thing I can think of and I beat it. So what could I possibly be scared of now? What excuse could I possibly come up with as to why Iím not going after every single thing Iíve ever wanted. Nothing. To anyone out there who is scared. Or has a laundry list of excuses as to why theyíre not going after their dreams. I beg you to let go. Forget about the things youíre afraid of and just do it. Make them happen. I promise that even the scariest things really arenít that scary after all.
And you will come out on top."
Ladies & Gentleman of the blog world, I ask that you please help me thank Miss Lauren Wakefield for having the courage to be here.
And for giving us all the courage to fight a little harder.
For being an inspiration.
And for showing us all that even the hardest of scars, just make us that much stronger.
"A scar does not form on the dying. A scars says 'I survived.'"