… and none of them have anything to do with making photographs.
1. People person
Yeah, you gotta be a people person. No, I didn’t say you have to be an extrovert, you have to be a people person. You have to read people and understand what isn’t being said while they are talking. You can be outgoing or quietly soft-spoken, but you have to be able to work with people and be someone they would like to work with. This may be even more important than being a good photographer.
2. Quick Decisions
There is no time to ponder or worry yourself through a bid proposal. Usually, there is a ticking clock and it gets louder as the deadline approaches. Make quick decisions based on solid research and you can be golden.
3. Understanding Priorities
There are many reasons to set priorities in a small, service-based business. Failure to meet your obligations because you screwed up priorities can be a devastating way to lose a client… and chip away at both your reputation and your self-esteem.
4. A Head for Business
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We hear it all the time. “I’m creative so I don’t understand business like icky business people do.” Bullshit buttercup, you had better learn then. Most every successful artist, designer, photographer, and author knows business and have become masters of their financial fate. To think different is to expose the mindless twaddle that you have ingested from failed artists.
5. Master Time
Time waits for no one. We have a limited of time to do anything in this reality. If you are late for a sunrise shot, you missed it. If you are late delivering product, you missed it. If you cannot make it to meetings and conference calls on time, you will be replaced by someone who can. There is far too many talented people for anyone to waste time on someone who doesn’t value it.
6. Know Your Numbers
Finances. Profit. Loss. Carried Forward. Lots of terms that mean something to your bottom line. If you don’t know where you are how will you figure out where you are going – or even how you got here. Learn it. It isn’t hard, it just takes some focus. And then you can make better decisions, faster, based on your knowledge of the numbers.
7. Listening Skills
Seriously. Super-seriously. If you are thinking about what to say while someone else is speaking you are not listening. Listening will help you hear the nuances of what is being discussed. It may lead you to some creative solutions you hadn’t thought of before. At least it will stop you from asking a client the same question over and over again because you weren’t listening when it was discussed.
Sometimes shit happens. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you screw up. Blaming everyone around you for that screw up instead of taking responsibility for it is a terrible reputation to have. No, your assistant didn’t screw up, you did. No, it wasn’t the lab, or the delivery guys, or the talent, or your Uncle Misha… YOU are the photographer – and you accept the loss. Graciously, and with sincerest apologies.
Are you mentoring a startup photographer? Are you a startup photographer working with others to make the business better for all of you? Are you being helpful to the community of self-employed creatives in your town or region. Did you answer no to any of those questions? Ask yourself why? To be helpful is a great honor for a creative. Be honorable and be a mentor.
10. Patient Impatience
You must be patient for your business to expand the way you want it to. You must be impatient in the work that will make it do so. Patience is not laziness. Patience is not sitting around hoping. Impatience means never wasting time, and constantly creating more work in order to grow. Patient Impatience is what I call it. And it works.
Being a photographer pulls on a lot of talents, personality traits, and habits. Doing a self-assessment helps define where you may be great and where you need some work. And knowing what we need to do makes the journey a bit easier… as long as we are ready to get it done.