Learning from others!

Today’s inspiration comes from someone else, as there are a lot more experienced and successful people out there than me. Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing 4 inspirational women talk at the West Lothian Chamber’s Entrepreneurial Ladies Lunch. Jackie Waring from Investing in Women, Jane Martin from Scottish Enterprise, Liz Cameron from Scottish Chamber of Commerce were great, but today I’m stealing from Sanja Moll from the Salt Yard Group and LeCoq restaurants.

Here are the key points I took away from a much more experienced entrepreneur than me.

  1. Be flexible. Don’t be frightened to chuck out a plan that doesn’t feel right even if it involves throwing away months of work.
  2. Work hard. A lot of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to make it up as you go along. Just keep working hard.
  3. Take risks. It’s important to not be so frightened by failure that you don’t take risks. Failure is an effective learning tool and taking risks is a key part of being an entrepreneur.
  4. A key part of growing as a business is learning to delegate and professionalize a business.
  5. Enjoy yourself and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back.

It was great to hear about Sanja’s¬†trials and tribulations when developing her businesses. Especially the stuff about throwing out ideas and dealing with failures. I often don’t take action on things quickly because of a fear of doing something wrong. The result is I don’t get things done. So moving forward I’m going to be braver and learn from people who are much more successful than me…for now ūüėČ

Big thank you to West Lothian Chamber of Commerce for the invite and Norton House Hotel for a great lunch.

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The importance of systems to a creative

I like to think of myself as a creative type, but being creative is something I have been struggling with for the first time in my life. This is mainly due to running my own business…or more accurately due to one of the major challenges¬†of being a one man band, having to do everything myself. I¬†am my¬†own book keeper, PA, marketing department, designer, researcher…you name it the job is mine. This has created an environment where my brain feels rammed full of lots of things I struggle to understand half the time. The result of which has lead to a lack of headspace, and often time, to be creative. This has to change!

Day 4 ERP-systems

A lot of creatives I know face similar challenges and have a variety of ways of dealing with them, but systems are mine. The better my systems the more headspace I get back. This doesn’t come easily to me as being mildly dyslexic and growing up in a haphazard environment ‘a place for everything and everything in it’s place’ is a fairly foreign concept. However, I know when I’ve got it right because I stop thinking about it and gain a sense of calm. I get mocked for being OCD by my family, but I’m not really it’s just the more things I have to fit in the more organised I have to be. If I have to spent 15mins looking for something it drives me up the wall.

Good business systems have the same calming effect on me. I have a checklist with a time frame for each client so that I don’t have to think about when and where things have to be done. This gives me the opportunity to be creative and in the long run delivers a better product, more efficiently to the client,¬†leading to a better client experience.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have any systems in place for blogging and social media promotion…but not for long…the 30 day blogging challenge is going to fix that!

I’d love to here how important other people feel systems are to their business, especially if they are in the creative industries and how you create more time and headspace in your weeks. Leave a comment below and we can all pool our ideas to save time, stay sane and be more creative.

Thanks Claire x

The myth of only being online

My business requires touching…before you get the wrong idea I mean it can’t exist only online. I have to have face to face contact with products, suppliers and, most importantly, clients both for my health but also for the health of my business. I think this is true for many businesses,¬†but like many¬†I’m guilty of¬†often get bogged down online. I don’t forget that websites and social media are tools to make real world connections, but sometime I spend an unproductive amount of time obsessing over them. The 30 day challenge is my way of forcing action rather than obsessing.

Choosing products is a prime example of something that I can’t do¬†online. It requires touching. There is no way of deciding online if I¬†love a product. Does the cover feel right to the touch? What is the standard of the finish? What kind of paper captures the feel of the session? Do I feel happy asking my clients to pay the price for the product? I had a great day yesterday having a look (and feel) of some new ideas from Kaleidoscope-Framing, my favourite being the signature option, which takes photography back to works of art. I also loved the quality of finish on the Jorgensen Albums from SWPM. They are going to be great additions to my existing products from Loxley Colour.

Suppliers are another area where real people make all the difference. Don’t get me wrong online printing is great for convenience and I love Moo¬†for both ease and quality, but for bigger investments and for branding I want to talk to a real person, which sometimes slows me down but in the end I’m always happier with the outcome. Personal touches are always very welcome. Glasgow Print are a prime example of a beautiful product. However,¬†what really impressed me was the hand written note in the sample pack they sent through. The more I interact with businesses like these the more I know what kind of business I want to be and what type of client experience I want to build.

Glasgow Press sample packClients and connections also get touched…usually shaking hands, but for professional profile pictures it’s usually a bit more…what can I say I hate rucked fabric. I¬†try and meet all prospective clients for a coffee or a chat before I take on¬†their¬†project. This is because it’s¬†not just about the price being right,¬†expectations have to be set managed. All of my most successful projects have been part of¬†a team effort.¬†In my experience most people communicate their ideas, so much better in person than over email, phone etc. Though some claim the opposite I find it¬†rarely to be true, if you know how to ask the right questions communication is always better face to face. The same is true for business connections. How can you¬†recommend someone you have never met of worked with? You’re basically handing over your credibility to someone you’ve never met, so while LinkedIn is great to keep in touch and make connections it’s never going to supersede coffee for me.

In conclusion, being¬†online is a great tool but for me it’s never going to replace human contact because in the end people by from people.

Finding a commercial photographer

How do you find the right commercial photographer for you and your business?

We’ve all heard the numbers¬†65 and 85 percent of people describe themselves as visual learners*.¬†This means they digest information more easily by viewing an image instead of reading text, so how do you get images that represent you and your business?

I’ll talk about how to take better images using smart phones and tablets that communicate your brand values on social media in later blogs, but for your website, print media and branding you should hire a professional. Your challenge is to find the right photographer¬†for you.

Lets assume that you have asked around, got a few names of local photographers and looked at their websites, so you know they own cameras and can take a decent picture, but that’s not all you need to think about.

We all want images that talk to our prospective clients and communicate our USP to our target market. How do you find professional photographer who can do that?

You need to be able to answer 2 questions: WHAT and WHO?

WHAT is your USP? What skills, goods, features, people make your business what it is? Why should people come to you rather than someone else? You have a limited number of images. Make sure you get as much value as possible by focusing on what is unique to you. You are the best person to explain this to your photographer and if you don’t or can’t they will just be¬†guessing and you are less likely to get the most from your money.

WHO is your target market? Age, gender, location, income and a range of other factors influence how we read images. By knowing who you want to influence a good commercial photographer should be able to get you images that connect with prospective clients.

You then sit down with your prospective photographer(s) and talk over your project. Go with your gut. Do you feel they understand the project? Do you like the suggestions they make? Can you see yourself working with them? These are the things you need to know first, because if the answer is no, then there is no point in working out the fine details.

If the answer is yes then get down to hard facts. Have a budget for what you can afford and an ideal number of images in your head before you start (e.g. 3 possible profile pictures, 10 images of key products, 5 stock images for banners on your website, 1 team picture etc.). The more information you can provide the better the quote you will get.

The photographer should be able to give you a rough idea of long it will take.¬†Explain how they price their work (e.g. number of hours, images, days, etc.) and their policy on copyright and licensing. Any professional photographer should be completely comfortable explaining this to you, if they can’t then I would politely move on to another prospect unless you really believe they are the best person for the job.

Finally, when you have agreed terms, deliverables and set a time frame there are a few more things you can do to get the most out of your session. If you want a profile picture for LinkedIn and a 3/4 shot to go on a 3 fold leaflet, 9 square images of products to go in an online shop and 3 banners to sit at the top of your website homepage, Twitter and Facebook let the photographer know as they should be taking it into consideration when composing your images.

I’m probably forgetting some details, but hopefully that has given you a bit more confidence and knowledge about how to deal with hiring a commercial¬†photographer and if you have any other questions ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Apologies for the lack of¬†pictures I’ll add more on the next post ūüėČ C x

*Reference: http://sendible.com/insights/the-power-of-images-in-social-media-marketing/#ixzz3ca7ObCwh

Getting started: taking action and setting goals

I have been meaning to do Sarah Arrow’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge for months. My excuses/reasons (depending on your perspective) for not taking the plunge have been vast and varied. My main question has been¬†do I blog for the existing commercial photography side of my business or the new portraiture studio I am in the middle of setting up? I have been going round in circles on this for much more time than is productive. In the end the decision is obvious. The setting up the new side of the business and the existing commercial work have a common business based theme and are things I am constantly dealing with, so are both the most useful things to reflect on and easiest to come up with topics for.

Lesson 1: Stop wasting time (procrastination cost money)

Lesson 2: Often the obvious answer is the correct one (stop over thinking and trust my gut)

Lesson 3: Sometimes the path of least resistance is the one you should take, despite most of the motivational pictures on the internet say the opposite!

Day 1 Getting started STARTING POINT…Where does my online promotion currently stand?

  • Blog:¬†Current number of¬†posts 12. Frequency of posting: once every 3 months. Commenting on other blogs: almost never…hence the uninspiring screen shot.

Day1 Stats

  • LinkedIn: Blog posts once…maybe: Comments on other people’s posts once a week
  • Twitter: Erratic…not always relevant

Day 1 Twitter GOALS (measurable things for the next 30 days and final numbers)

  1. Blog everyday (Total 42 blogs).
  2. Comment on at least 2 other blogs.
  3. Post content (blog or other relevant content) on LinkedIn everyday (30 posts).
  4. Tweet relevant content 3 times a day (total tweets 3,152<).
  5. Follow 5 other bloggers on twitter every week (Total following 1,980).

NICE THINGS…stuff I’d like to happen but as I have no control over how other people will act I’m not including them in goals.

  1. Have 50 people reading my blog by the end of the 30 days.
  2. Have 3 pieces of work directly linked to the blog.
  3. Have a group of online blog based friends who I can bounce ideas off when needed and vice versa.

Woohoo! 1 down only 29 to go!

Going to the movies!

On a windswept Sunday morning a few intrepid film makers were seen in Gullane. I got the privilege of capturing a few action shots as well as the movie poster for Bass Rock Films’¬†new short film: Us/Alone, set to debut at film festivals in the UK in 2015. I can’t wait to see the final results. A huge thanks to the cast and crew for being such great fun to work with.

Cast:
Aynsleigh Turner – ‘Jessica’
James Thackeray – ‘Jack’

Crew:
Sarah Cairney – Producer
Sophie Cogle – Associate Producer
Kieran Hennigan – Director

Photography for fun training

This weekend, Sunday 14th September, in conjunction with Re-Union Canal Boats I will be hosting a photography workshop with a difference, on the lovely Lochrin Bell.

What do you want to take better pictures of?

Animals, the wild or the friendly?

People, big ones and little ones?

Places?

Events?

Join us on the Union Canal of a fun and informative morning improving your photography skills and knowledge.

You will learn some top tips on composition, whether you are using a camera phone, tablet or SLR. You will also be able to ask questions about your photography challenges, practice your specific interests and get tips and feedback on your pictures.

I am bringing all my experience and lots of enthusiasm to the canal for this 2 hour course, which will begin by looking at how to compose better pictures in general and specific tips for different kinds of photography. Then there will be time for questions before lots of practice opportunities both on and off the boat, feedback, more tips, more practice and tea, coffee and cake.

Join us by booking your tickets here.

Photography for Business – 5 Top Tips

Recently more and more people have been asking me how to improve their photography for business. Not using expensive equipment, but tablets, smartphones and their other existing equipment to generate higher quality more engaging images for their websites and social media channels.

As I can never say no to an interesting idea, I’ve put together a training course to help SMEs and start-ups improve their photography. Click here to see more of what is covered on the course.

However,¬†if all you’re looking for is a few quick tips here are a some things that can make a huge difference with very little effort.

Look: Look for light and interesting angles. Is the light coming from as strange direction? What colour is it? Are there reflective surfaces where you can see yourself? Picking an unusual angle of an everyday subject makes it more interesting.

Ask: Ask people to move closer together in group shots. It makes them awkward to get into each others personal space, but leads to better pictures. Ask if people mind having their pictures taken. It keeps people happier to be considered and can raise awareness of your company if you encourage them to check out the pictures on your social media channels.

Move: Move closer to your subject. Too much dead space is not (usually) that interesting. Move to change the perspective. Get lower or higher so your image is not what people would expect to see.

Use: Use the apps on the phone or tablet to make the best of your images quickly before you upload them. Use something to stabilise the camera like resting your arm or the camera itself on a table to keep the picture sharper, especially in low light situations.

Think: Think about the composition. Peoples eyes move from left to right across a picture, so put something there for them to look at. Think about a plan before the event. What is going to appeal to your target market? The venue, people, food, entertainment? Have a plan and you will save time on the day and be more likely to get the pictures you need.

Here are a few examples of different looks you can achieve from a camera phone and if you want to learn more come along to the training courses on the 15th and 31st of July in Edinburgh.

For other enquiries contact me claire@clairewatson.co.uk

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