I was offered the position of Administrator at The Academy of Learning today. So what does that mean? I will be guiding young (and not so young) minds and helping them decide their future. Lots to learn, but very exciting too…
I am just about finished my Business Administration Course (I know I have been saying this for a while, but it is a bit more complicated than it really should be…) and that means I need to start making some money.
Looking at what I like to do, I have decided that the life of a Business Consultant is for me. Of course there are parts I don’t look forward to (Cold Calling for example) but I really do like helping people. I think I have enough knowledge and experience that I can help small companies stay on track for their first few years.
I came across someone asking for help for his website. He has lofty goals, but I think he has bitten off a bit more than he can chew. I will come back to this in a bit…
Whenever I talk to someone who wants to start a small business, I ask a few basic questions:
1) What makes your business unique?
Too often the answer is either, “People will come to me because I am great” or “I am the only one selling this exact product”. No business is without competition, and there are good people everywhere (admittedly, there are “bad” people out there too). There may be no one selling widget “A”, but widget “B” does 99% of the same stuff, and it costs half as much.
A related answer is, “I will do it better than any competition.” This is a tough one, because you are fighting a real uphill battle. First you need to define “better” then you need to determine if enough other people will agree that this is in fact batter. Finally you need to hope that your competition, with their established customers and “business momentum” will not learn or implement your new better way.
2) What are you really selling?
This is the old sizzle and steak sales adage. Know what problem you are solving for your customers. And possibly more important, are there enough people with this problem to become potential customers.
It is surprising how many business owners don’t really know what they are selling…
This brings me back to the website I started with. This person wanted:
(Note: typos corrected)
Now I don’t want to be too hard on this person, but….
To add to the problems, the person (and no I will not add a link so I don’t embarrass the web developer more than I have to) is trying to create a site to appeal to visual people, yet he still seems to be struggling with the basic layout of his site, as evidenced by this screen shot:
Sorry, but before you can start marketing you need to get a product. If your purpose is to learn HTML and CSS, that is great, but if you want to attract people, maybe it would be worth taking a shortcut with Drupal, WordPress, or some other content management system.
EDIT: I originally found this site while at school, where the network is quite locked down. Viewing the site on a more open network looks a lot better, but it is still not really appealing to it’s target market. And of course, since the site doesn’t degrade well, if anyone were to look at it from work, or on an under powered tablet, the impression would be pretty bad…
- Yes I just made up the term “business momentum” I define it as the comfort customers have in staying with an established company, or conversely, the reluctance customers have in changing companies.↵
- Sales people will say that people don’t buy things, they buy solutions to their problems. If someone is hungry (the problem) they don’t want a slab of dead cow (the steak) they want the aroma, the flavour, and the feeling of satisfaction after eating a meal (the sizzle). Of course this analogy breaks down if you are talking to a vegetarian….;)↵
A friend sent me the following….
Christmas 2012 — Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high-gear to provide Canadians with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of Canadian labour.
This year will be different. This year Canadians will give the gift of genuine concern for other Canadians. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by Canadians hands.
Yes there is!
It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local Canadian hair salon or barber? Or spa services!
Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.
Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, Canadian owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the dollars on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway ploughed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Canadian with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the Canadian working guy?
Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewellery, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.
Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of lights, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.
You see, Christmas is no longer about draining Canadian pockets so that other countries can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging Canadian small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Canadians, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.
This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn’t that what Christmas is about?
BUY CANADIAN – BE CANADIAN – The job you save might be your own.
In the days of film, we photographers never really knew what our pictures looked like until we had the film developed. When I was a kid growing up in a small town, I had to wait an eternity to see what my photos looked like. First it took a while to finish a roll of film, then I dropped it off at the local drug store where it took a good week or so to get developed. finally, I had to save up my allowance so I could pay for the magic package. During all this time, I would imagine the images that I had captured. In my mind, I would soon be seeing 24 or 36 masterpieces that would transform photography in the 20th century. Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but the point is, I imagined the best possible scenario.
Business people suffer from the same malady. When doing a business projection, many prospective entrepreneurs over estimate income(everyone will want my service/product. I will grow phenomenally quickly) and under estimate expenses (I can get a better deal on that….). I think it is part of the creative mind. We imagine reality to be better than it may be. This is not a bad thing, and, in fact, it may be what drives artists and entrepreneurs to keep going…
My Mom calls me a survivor. I have gone through some tough times, but I always seem to land on my feet. I think the biggest factor is that I don’t give up. I keep trying. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t, but I am always moving forward. It frustrates me that some people give up. They become afraid of “what if”. I think creative people, such as artists or business people, become excited with “what if”. It isn’t a case of glass half full or glass half empty, it is a case of what can be done with the extra room in the glass….
- This post was inspired by this blog, specifically the quote, “Any photographer will tell you that exposed film only contains perfect images. It’s only in development that you find out that you did it wrong.”↵
- and others. Why do people buy lottery tickets? To imagine a dream. Until you check your numbers, you can imagine what it would be like to have 50 million dollars…..↵
This video explains a lot of my gut feelings of business. I love it when science proves what I know…
And further confirmation here
Came across this link today.
A case of good intentions causing irreparable damage. I came across the link as an example of why you should always hire a professional, rather than let your neighours kid do it…..
- The original link was in regards to illustration, but the same example could be used for photography, or indeed any professional service.↵
I was browsing some job sites and came across this:
As one friend said, this sounds like the job description of a WalMart greeter.
I received the following unsolicited email from an old employer
Scott here from ………………………. I wanted invite you to a FREE event my team puts on every year celebrating local food and community. Please see attached poster advisory and I look forward to seeing you there. My community address will be at 1pm and I look forward to seeing you in the crowds. In case you haven’t heard, my team are working hard to bring you a Victoria Public Market in Spring 2013 in the Hudson. Come learn more and have some fun. Facebook event link:http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/184461161688872/
There are a couple of things wrong with this. First is the poor grammar and lack of proofreading of the email. Knowing the company (more on that in a bit), I think that they hired someone who doesn’t have English as a first language. Not to sound prejudiced, but if you are marketing a company, you should understand the language, or at least have it proofread.
Now the second point is a bit more subtle. I worked for this company quite a few years ago. I have never received any emails or communication after we parted ways. Now all of a sudden I receive this as one of their “friends” Inviting me to something I am not really that interested in. It screams desperation and lack of any focus. From a customers point of view it looks unprofessional, and just a bit creepy. Like a drunk street person who is suddenly your best friend.
Lastly, after doing a little research (like going to the linked facebook page) the company is not a sponsor, and is mentioned nowhere. They may have rented a booth at a food fair, but the invite seems to imply Scott’s “team” is putting on the event instead of the Victoria Downtown Public Market Association.
Not a good impression.
My suggestion would be to send out an email more along the lines of:
This is Scott from ………. . We don’t usually send out emails, but we thought you might be interested in the EAT HERE NOW Harvest Fair at Market Square. This free annual event is put on by the Victoria Downtown Public Market Association to bring awareness to some of the farmers, processors, and small businesses who contribute to food security on our area. I will be giving a talk starting at 1PM at Market Square Centre stage (put an address here so people know where to go) about (what the heck will he be talking about, and is it really worth me going) There will be many family friendly events including (give me a reason to come. Are you giving away free product or samples? etc)
I hope to see you there
In other words, sell the event…. Tell me why I want to spend my day there….
Why is obvious marketing so difficult….
PS Sorry Scott, but you should know better….
I have been watching videos at Kahn Academy (khanacademy.org) and I started to wonder if I could put up something similar, but photography or art related. I have researched video software enough that I can start experimenting. Hopefully I can get something up soon..
I know one of my weaknesses has been accounting. That is one of many reasons I am back in school. And one of the reasons my brain has been hurting lately, however, I am trying out a few open source accounting solutions I can use if I become a consultant.
For a small business, gnucash is ok. It is more fully featured than the cheaper versions of Simply Accounting, but nowhere near the ease of use of the expensive versions. But there is the rub. For a small business, is costs over $400 to get what you need, as well as a bunch of stuff you don’t. $400 may not seem like much, but it is an expense with no return that repeats every year. If you were to take that same $400 and buy inventory that you can sell with a 25% margin, in 5 years, you will have made an extra 3 grand. (see that is some of my new accounting/financial planning knowledge) I have also been exploring LedgerSMB and FrontAccounting. These program are very powerful, can be run off a server to be accessible anywhere, and can be quite customizable.
LedgerSMB is ugly, but since it is html template based, it may be possible to make a prettier face on it. It also feels a bit dated and awkward to use. It was also much harder to install (mind you email support was very friendly and fast).
FrontAccounting is quite easy to install on any basic Linux server. It does take a bit of work to set up a complete set of books, customers, vendors, and inventory, but with a bit of patience, and a very little bit of bookkeeping knowledge it is possible. I do wish you could add things “on the fly”, such as adding a customer from within the invoice screen. Instead you have to exit the invoice, go to “add and manage customers”, add the customer, then go back to the invoice screen. Reprinting invoices is also a bit convoluted, as you have to go in through the journal entry screen.
As a techie, FrontAccounting is not bad. I am not sure if I could recommend it to a small business owner, only because it doesn’t have as much hand holding as Simply Accounting. If you have a bit of bookkeeping knowledge (I only have three courses under my belt) and are comfortable with computers, you can save your $400 per year, and I am sure that as I get more familiar with it and use it more, FrontAccounting will become easier. This software also seems to be under active development, so improvements will continue to make it better. Here’s to open source…..
I just finished a course on goal setting. The course was put on by The Pacific Institute and Lou Tice, and it was quite inspirational.
Sometimes these types of courses can become a bit spiritual or “woo-woo” but this one stayed very down to earth. No surprise, as the school I am in is quite “left brain”. Not that that is a bad thing, but sometimes business types ( and accountants or lawyers) can be quite dry. I do believe a more rounded approach is important.
To that end , I always push creativity, and thinking outside the box.
I guess I was pleasantly surprised at the course. I would strongly recommend anyone look into a course like this.
No, this post isn’t a lament on finding buyers for my work, it is my fear that copyright law is getting out of hand, and is actually working against the rights of creators.
Contrary to popular belief, copyright was originally invented to protect the church and state. Most people today are under the impression that copyright exists to protect the artist, and to encourage creation of new works by securing monetary reward. That is, copyright enables the artist to control who uses their art, and for what purpose. In theory, this is great. If a company wants to use a photograph for an advertising campaign, for example, they have to get permission from, and probably give payment to, the artist. Perfect. The artist can choose not to taint his artwork, and the artist gets fairly compensated.
There are a (huge) number of problems in how the copyright system works today, however. For a lot of this discussion, I will pick on the USA because, arguably, their policies are influencing the rest of the world, but that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.
Copyrights last way too long. Copyright lasts (in Canada, the USA, and other countries) many years past the death of the author. Now, the purpose of copyright, according to the US constitution, is, “…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The key phrase here is, “To promote the Progress”. I will assume this to mean the creation of new works of art. However, with long term copyright, the result is the exact opposite. Let’s assume I am a fairly lazy artist. If copyright only lasted, oh let’s say 14 years, I would have to produce at least one commercially successful work every decade and a half to make a living selling copies before the work became public domain. With a longer term copyright I can produce less and still make the same amount of money (making the further assumption that the work continues to be commercially successful. In fact, if the work is not still commercially successful, why is it copyrighted?)
A related issue is that corporations can own copyright. Corporations are not people. They cannot create. (ok, I will concede that corporations can create profit, but it is still the individual employees who create everything else). Now before everyone gets up in arms about work for hire, let me explain. A single photographer (I will use photography, since that is what I do, but any art form will fit), or at least a team of individuals (I have no problem with a group of individuals co-owning a copyright), can create a work. While a company can pay them, said company is not directly creating the work. Now, this (these) artist(s) can license all copyright to the hiring company/corporation, and this company could even register the work as a trademark, and so protect the work form infringement. This lets the corporations protect themselves from competitors stealing their image, while still letting unused art move into the public domain (see below). So if corporations can’t create, and (theoretically) never die, why can they hold copyright. I guess my problem here is that I thought the artist held the copyright. I don’t believe copyright can be sold. License and rights, yes, but not the original copyright. That does however also cause problems with inheriting copyright, but hopefully I don’t need to go into that (see above).
All art is influenced, if not based on previous art. We use the expressions and explorations of others to inspire and lead us to further expressions and explorations. A technique used by one artist is refined and adapted by another. A large part of art education is looking at the work of other artists. A lot of discussion and criticism of art revolves around recognizing and placing influences. Ask any artist how they got started, or more directly who influenced them, and it becomes obvious that art cannot exist in a vacuum. Enter the concept of Fair Use. Early law makers recognized that limited use of copyright material was essential for society to function. A teacher could copy parts of a book to teach in class. A reporter could quote parts of a speech for a newspaper article. Drawing this line has always been very gray and very tough for judges and lawmakers. Another tough area is parodies, spoofs and homages. Is even a blatant reference to another work illegal? Is the musical West Side Story a rip off of, a homage to, or a blatant copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette? Same question on US president Obama’s Hope poster? There are many examples that have fallen on both sides of the line. Why should there be a line? I will leave this one to discuss over a beer or two, lets move on to….
Public Domain. Wikipedia has three definitions for culture. I will concentrate on the third one.”The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group”, although it could be argued that all three state similar ideas. As I have said, all art has been influenced by the art before it, or more obviously, all art is influenced by “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices” that have come before it. All societies have decided that culture is important and worth protecting. Art and artifacts are exhibited in museums, galleries, and libraries for all to see. Unfortunately accidents can and do happen. Natural disasters and wars can destroy artworks. Luckily today we have a great invention called the Internet. Using the digital power of computers we can duplicate many works of art and distribute them to a wide range of locations for next to no cost. Using this technology we can easily preserve our art and culture for future historians and artists. But here we hit the copyright wall. Preserving our culture has, in large part become illegal. Copying culturally significant artworks has brought fines of millions of dollars, businesses shut down, and individuals thrown in jail. The other side of the coin is that this cost free copying can render the monetary value of artwork close to zero. In other words, with infinite copies available, each copy is not worth anything.
All this brings me back to my original statement. There was a ruling in England recently (further discussion here) that said a photograph that only looked similar to the original infringed on the copyright. Now I know there are extenuating circumstances in this case, but it is a scary precedent. If this continues, no artist will be able to sell their art because it will infringe on some other art. I guess the big question is how can we let artists make a living while still allowing people to copy their work? The big media companies seem to be determined to convince governments to disallow copying. This is leading to a big backlash under the umbrella of “pirating”. Neither of these extremes is sustainable in the long run. I wish I knew the answer. I would be rich…..
- Especially in the United States. Also, because the US media, specifically Hollywood, produces a large percentage of the worlds copyrightable material, US laws are being pushed on the rest of the world.↵
- from Wikipedia, “The origin of copyright law in most European countries lies in efforts by the church and governments to regulate and control the output of printers.”↵
- As of 2011, copyright in the USA lasts 70 years after the death of the author. In Canada it only lasts 50 years past the death of the author. Does that mean Canada is better? or just not as bad….↵
- This was the length originally stated in the US constitution.↵
- In fact, this action gives corporations more control without killing the art world. For example, one of the “bad guys” in the copyright war is the Disney corporation. They have been accused of hording public domain stories and art, such as Cinderella and Snow White, and prosecuting others who use these works. They are also often seen as pushing longer and longer copyright terms. Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and others can be (and probably already have been) trademarked to protect them. Copyright should be unnecessary.↵
- I know corporate copyright is limited to 120 years (depending on jurisdiction), but by granting personhood to corporations, it is not a difficult jump to further extend copyrights. I mean, the corporation did make that movie or whatever….. ↵
- Even before galleries or museums really existed, art was publicly displayed. Statues in public squares, paintings were hung in churches, not to mention minstrels and public markets. The tradition goes back well before the Egyptians, potentially before our cave man days…↵
- Years ago, I used to say to clients, “if I make one cd of this work, it is worth hundreds of dollars. If I make two, each one is worth pennies” The idea was that if one was lost or destroyed, the second was a good backup. This, in fact, is the whole point of backup.↵
- Read The Melancholy Elephant by Spider Robinson, The Right to Read, or many of the books by Cory Doctorow for fictional predictions on where we are potentially headed.↵
I was visiting another photographers website, and I liked their idea of a top ten album. They had chosen their favourite 10 images for one album.
I have been thinking of how to incorporate this idea into my site. Of course I thought of automating it and making a rating system and using that to create a top rated album. The problem is that after a while I end up with a lot more than 10 images. The next step was to arrange the images so the most recent ones were first…
Another problem is that my taste changes from day to day, so what I want in my top 10 today is not necessarily the same as what I want tomorrow.
I guess I will have to keep working on it…
PS. The latest “top photos” album is here.
Originally I set up a website mainly so I could find (and show friends) all my photos. I put up most of the images I took, as I would be talking personally to most of the people who would know where the site was….
Now I am using this site as more of a marketing tool. As such I have to purge a lot of the less strong photos. It is very interesting to see how my style and skill level has changed over the years. It is also hard to decide what to take down, and what to keep… As an artist I am never quite satisfied with my images. They are basically done when they are good enough that I am bored with working on them. That is to say, all images can probably be improved a little bit, but you reach a point where the effort to improve the image is much greater than the improvement itself. As my skill level has grown, the amount of effort to get a decent result has grown less, therefore I can push my images farther. One consequence of this is that my older images don’t quite stand up to scrutiny.
Do I keep these old images to show my growth? Do I rework the images to bring them up to my current level of skill? Or do I just delete them….?
an interesting look at social media from an artists point of view here.
I agree with the premise. The internet has brought the possibility of huge exposure for artists, but there is a disconnect from the financial side. How can you make money, as a visual artist, on the internet?
- You can try to sell prints, but there is strong pressure to bring the price down. I am also unsure that visual art can be represented well. I think most, if not all, successful on-line visual art sales are the result of trusting the artist as much as loving the artwork.
- For some mediums, you can sell services. for example I am putting together a Photography workshop, but again, consumers want a little more trust in, or at least knowledge of the artist.
- Other? This one I haven’t found yet…
It all comes down to marketing and building a name for yourself. Of course most artists are very poor marketers….
- Since your monitor uses transmitted light and prints use reflected light, it is very hard to match the two. Also, different monitors, graphic cards, and even viewing conditions (monitor near a window etc) can affect the on screen colour. See all the articles on monitor calibration. Google “monitor calibration” gave me over 18 MILLION hits. Wikipedia article here↵
A website is never “finished”! It is a constant work in progress. I have changed the default page on this site to this blog, however you can still easily see my newest images by clicking on the “Recent Photos” button on top.
You can also go directly to any of my public galleries by clicking on an album on the right side of the screen.
A while ago, a friend suggested that I call my prints limited editions. The argument is that I always try to create new work and never go back to old images, therefore I, by default, create limited editions.
A discussion recently prompted someone to say that I cannot have limited editions unless I declare at the outset how many prints I will make of an image. I agree with this sentiment, but it made me think:
1. Do I have the right to destroy beauty?
Lets say, for argument sake, I create something that is beautiful, for some definition of beauty. Do I have the right to destroy the original (either negative or digital file)? If I created it, it would be quite selfish, but I think I should be able to delete it. In the same way that if I purchased the Mona Lisa, I do have the right to burn it. Some people might be quite pissed off, I would be depriving human culture of a great work, but I do have the right.
2. What gives me the right to artificially inflate prices by artificially limiting the number of copies of a piece?
If I create a one of a kind something like a painting, any extra copies will not be as good (or at least the same) as the original. The piece with the original brush strokes is unique. The whole argument falls apart for photography*. Each print is the same as the last. Now I know that in 20 years it will be very hard to copy the same printer settings, especially if I am printing on a newer, better printer. but for a short time I should be able to reproduce any print exactly. All I need to do is print the final file. Why should I tell someone that I just sold the last copy and I do not want to print any more? Again it is a decision on my part to not print another copy, not any limitation in the media. To me that sounds selfish. But again, I guess I do have the right to not sell a print.
Digital media has changed a lot of things. Copies are no longer expensive. The only way to create a limited market is to decide to create a limited market. Is this morally right? Is it morally wrong? I don’t know, but I think I will still produce prints from an image for a while, and then no more once I get bored with it….
*An argument could be made that a print from an analogue negative is more unique, especially if there is a lot of burning and dodging of the final print. Other photographic processes may have random uncontrollable elements as well, but I am more concerned with digital, since that is what I shoot.