Business Model Generation

I wonder how many photographers seriously consider business models and even applying their creativity to developing new business models. Frankly I’ve always thought business models were fir the MBA crowd and not something that I needed to worry about. With some prompting from people like ‘Photo’ Jack Hollingsworth I’ve been giving the business side of photography a harder look in recent weeks. There are lots of great resources for photographers, such as Fast Track Photographer and Fast Track Photographer Business Plan both written by Dane Sanders, although I find myself more aligned with books such as ‘Taking the Leap‘ by Cay Lang which seem to have painters as the primary audience but easily translates to the other visual arts.

The Book Business Model Generation (get a free 72 page preview here) provides a visual tool that helps you build a business model that you can use to test your ideas. I’ve been able to easily flesh out some of my ideas and identify questions that I need answering before moving ahead. A video showing how to use the tool – the Business Model Generation Canvas is below.

Watching the Weather

As a photographer and a sailor the weather has a major impact on my activities. As a photographer I look for weather that suits the style of photographs that I’m currently working towards and plan appropriately. As a sailor I’m watching the weather and modifying the sails to match changes in wind and changing plans to account for storms.

We need to be equally skilled at looking for and responding to the winds of change in our careers and personal lives. We must change and continue to innovate if the hope is to build and sustain our business and career. Being creative, looking beyond the obvious, offering something more than just what the camera is able to bring seems to be the way to succeed. Opportunities abound for those willing to try small experiments, review the feedback from those experiments and try again until something is found that works.

Getting Things Done

How do you keep track of and manage your commitments?  Most people are wearing multiple hats – this could be husband, father, dutiful employee, or at a more granular level – little league coach, counselor, accountant, marketer, content creator, etc. all of which have a pull on your time.  There is a real skill to keep track of your commitments, to maintain balance and to allow for enough space to be creative and productive.  How ready you are to engage productively with your life is proportional to how much psychic clutter you are toting around.

One of the tools that I’ve been using for almost a decade now is David Allen’s Getting Things Done or GTD system.  GTD helps cut the psychic clutter and provides control and perspective.  It’s well described in David Allen’s Book of the same name, and with the follow-ups ‘Ready For Anything’ and ‘Making it all Work’.

The central tenant to the GTD system is to get everything out of your head and into an efficient capture system.  Once there you can review and define what the next steps are.  This can be tremendously freeing and can result in remarkable increases in productivity.

The capture system can be as simple as a stack of 3×5 notecards clipped together or something significantly more sophisticated such as the tasks function built into Microsoft Outlook. Your capture system should be portable, or at least you should have a way to make sure ideas can be captured off-line and then entered into your system promptly.  This and not regularly reviewing my lists of projects and associated next actions are the main reasons that I have fallen off the wagon in the past, while my calendar system where appointments get entered automatically is rock solid.

In addition to resulting in bursts of creativity and productivity the other thing a system where you can see all of your commitments in one place does, is to make you realize how much stuff you have going on.  Consequently it’s much easier to say no to taking on additional tasks, or at least have the conversation about reprioritizing activities to allow a focus on the one you’re going to pick up.

And so it is with me.  Since photography is something I do in addition to many other things, I need to fit it into an already busy schedule.  I’ve been using my ‘photography time’ in the last couple of weeks to print and mat photographs. The people who’ve received the prints have been genuinely pleased with them and that in turn spurs me on.

Poke the Box and the Art of Shipping

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan.  My first intersection with Seth was around 2000 when I came across his ‘Bootstrappers Bible‘.  It was around the time that he was ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus’, the marketing book that he gave away for free as a pdf.  For a cash strapped book fiend like myself this was awesome but at the time I missed the point totally.

With 10 more years on the tires I’m finally getting the point and even more so now that I am taking photographs and writing about that process here.  I think that many of us worry about having our work ‘stolen’.  For some this is more of a concern than it is for others.  I may be a contrarian but it seems that the worst thing that anyone who creates anything to share or sell to the world is not having their work stolen but not having an audience.  For no one to care what you’re doing.  Why not instead figure out how you can reach the broadest audience possible and do that?

Seth’s new book is called ‘Poke the Box‘ and is a riff on some of the themes and ideas that he has been pushing for the last few years.  Namely you have to get your product out of the door.  Starting is not enough, you have to finish too.  You have to ship!

For many this involves overcoming what Steven Pressfield calls in The War of Art ‘The Resistance’.  That overwhelming fear of failure, of being rejected, of humiliation after putting your heart and soul into a project.  Seth Godin refers to this a the lizard brain.  Our instinctive response to danger or fear.  One way of course if listening to what the lizard brain is saying to do and then doing the exact opposite.  It requires practice but becomes easier with time.

Seth was interviewed by Dane Sanders this week and the video can be found here.  As always, a provacative conversation.

Get ‘Poke the Box’.  Read it.  Read it again.  Figure out how you are going to make a difference and go do it!

To Thine Own Self Be True

I’m sure that most people recognize the title of today’s post as Polonius’s advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For me, it evokes memories of one of the worst training sessions that I have ever attended and still managed to complete. I was part of a group working with an actor to develop our presentation skills. ‘To thine own self be true’ was one of the phrases that we were using to make sure that we projected to the back of the room.

The phrase of course had meaning in itself – by being authentic you are able to give a much better presentation. Part of the workshop was to explore who we were as individuals, what was our story and how would that impact how we approach presentations. At the time I thought it was utterly hokey and wanted little to do with it. With time however, I’ve come to believe that success, with presentations or otherwise, will follow when you are true to yourself.

This is something that is echoed in Dane Sanders‘s story about his own career as a photographer in ‘The Fast Track Photographer‘. Dane was pitching himself as ‘Santa Barbara’s Premier Wedding Photographer…’ when in fact he had little experience. Once he changed that message to one that more accurately represented him the work began to flow in.

In a culture where ‘fake it ’till you make it’ is the rule, being true to yourself can be a challenge but one that’s ultimately worth it.