April 25th, 2011

Tips for Young Creatives – Part 4

Posted in business, featured by Greg Benson

This is Part 4 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 5, and Part 6.

Benson Photo Promotional Package

Benson Photo Promotional Package

IV. Networking and Marketing – 1 of 2

Answer this question:
What is the one thing no business can do without?

Answer: Customers.

In the spirit of perpetuating your business, this section deals with finding and retaining customers.

1. Network with your peers

Networking is a fortunate side effect of interacting with your peers, clients and colleagues. You should work to cultivate a large and diverse network. When a peer is called for two jobs on one day, he or she can refer you to one of them. Return the favor. And through the grapevine you may learn who is great to work for and who is difficult to work for.

2. Network within your industry.

Go to an ASMP meeting. I’m focused on the still photography world, but I know there are equivalents for other professions.

3. Have a 30-second elevator speech in your brain

When you meet people – possibly in an actual elevator, but more likely in a networking situation – you will need to explain who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. Prepare a short speech for any situation. An example: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe. I’m a  graduate of the Acme School of Art and I work as a photo assistant. I recently got to fly to Los Angeles and assist on an annual report shoot. It’s amazing how long it takes to create one photo.”

Practice your short speech with your roommate so that when you run into an important person that you’ve been dying to meet at a film screening, you don’t mumble and sound like a sophomore on a first date.

4. Ask for someone’s business card.

If you meet someone and cannot get a card, jot down their name in your phone or in a notebook as soon as possible. It’s not too difficult to later use the Internet to gather their contact details. Put that information in your contact database. It is potentially very valuable, which is why one of the leading client relationship management (CRM) programs is called GoldMine. Once you have contact info, write the person you just met an email – then friend them on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

5. Volunteer at your alma mater on phone solicitation night.

Meeting and connecting with older people who went to your college is one way to network, and giving back to your college can be a positive experience.

6. When you meet new people, remember Dale Carnegie.

Dale Carnegie wrote a book in 1936 called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. The Big Idea of this book was that people love to talk about themselves. So, when you meet someone new, focus the conversation on what that person is interested in. Pretend you are Terry Gross on Fresh Air and interview them. Listening is better than blabbing.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 4 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 5.

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April 18th, 2011

Paul Stankard: Breathing life into glass

Posted in artists, portraits by Fernando Gaglianese
Paul Stankard examines one of his creations.

Paul Stankard examines one of his creations.

Paul Stankard is one of the preeminent American glass paperweight artists. With fire and a patient hand, he breathes life into detailed botanical and ethereal forms that are eventually encapsulated inside crystal.

We were fortunate to visit him at his home and studio to shoot images for a feature story in American Style magazine.

Paul delicately adds fine detail to a glass leaf.

Paul delicately adds fine detail to a glass leaf.

During the shoot Paul, his daughter Katherine, and master assistant David Groeber demonstrated aspects of the glass-working process. Glass is very sensitive to timing and temperature. Greg documented the action while staying clear of flames and annealing ovens.

Paul and master assistant Dave Grober encapsulating a botanical in clear glass.

Paul and master assistant Dave Grober encapsulating a botanical in clear glass.

Throughout the day Greg shot several different environmental portraits of Paul, so that the editor at American Style would have options in laying out the story. Paul’s beautiful home and studio provided many opportunities for photographs.

Paul in his home, which is on the same property as his studio.

Paul in his home, which is on the same property as his studio.

There is currently a retrospective celebrating Paul’s fifty years of work showing at the Wheaton Arts center in Millville, NJ. The show runs until May 8, 2011.

Two of Paul’s finished glass botanicals that are in his own collection.

Two of Paul’s finished glass botanicals that are in his own collection.

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April 18th, 2011

Tips for Young Creatives – Part 3

Posted in business by Greg Benson

This is Part 3 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

It is important to have a filing method for your records.

It is important to have a filing method for your records.

III. Accounting

1. Keep track of money in and money out.

You will need to implement an accounting system. It can be simple or complex, but you need a system. I don’t recommend using a typewriter with carbon paper and paper ledgers like I did in the good old days. I’ve been using AccountEdge software on my Mac since 1996, mostly because I need to do payroll. It may be overkill for someone starting out, but it does handle accounting well. Luckily, there is a wealth of intuitive and affordable software available for all levels, including Quickbooks and many cloud-based programs. A program called Billings is a simple and inexpensive solution, though it does not track expenses.

2. Invoice promptly.

Develop a standard method for sending invoices, and email them promptly. I prefer PDFs over .doc attachments; a client should feel that he is looking at a finished product, not a work in progress.

3. Keep track of who owes you money.

My accounting software shows me who is past 30 days in making a payment. Email slow payers. Sometimes I find that they never received the emailed invoice. Sometimes I find that they are a slow-pay. Don’t be afraid to call people who owe you money.

4. Create a filing system to save crucial paperwork.

Save your receipts. Save your bank statements. Save your utility bills and credit card bills. I assume that someday in my financial life I will be audited. And when that day comes, I want to be able to show the tax auditor my receipts.

5. Hire an accountant.

Establish a relationship with an accountant by January 1. April 14 is not a good date to find an accountant. (Accounting for Dummies hint: April 15 is the day that annual tax returns and payments are due.) Ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations; if your parents use an accountant, that might be the place to start. Most importantly, find one that you are comfortable with. My first accountant made a big mistake one year. My next accountant was too “creative” for my tastes. My current accountant is knowledgeable and approachable, and he will answer tax questions during the year.

6. Don’t forget about taxes.

Profit equals gross receipts minus expenses. You will have to pay social security taxes, federal income, state income and possibly local business or income taxes on all of your profit. As you make money you need to set aside money for taxes. You will likely have to pay quarterly taxes in your first or second year as a freelancer. Ask your accountant.

7. Separate work and play.

As your business grows, get a separate bank account and credit card for your business. This can make accounting for your business life easier.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 3 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 4, and Part 5.

Look for Part 4 next Monday.

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April 11th, 2011

Tips for Young Creatives – Part 2

Posted in business by Greg Benson

This is Part 2 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 3, Part 4Part 5, and Part 6.

Always ask for a quick tutorial if you have little experience with the gear.

Always ask for a quick tutorial if you have little experience with the gear.

II. When you have work

1. Always be on time. In fact, always show up early.

Make a photographer late for a shoot, and she will call someone else the next time.

2. If you don’t know, ask.

When asked if you know how to set up a Canon 580 flash with a Pocket Wizard, don’t nod your head yes if you don’t really know. Don’t be afraid to ask the person you are working with to show you.

One of the first times I worked as an assistant, I was unfamiliar with loading and unloading Hasselblad film backs. When the back reached the last exposure, I simply opened it, not knowing that the film needed to be wound out past the last frame. I ended up fogging the last scene we had photographed. We were able to immediately re-shoot, so I did work again for that photographer – but you may not be so lucky.

We all learn from failure, but learn to be humble and admit when you don’t know something.

3. Keep chatter to a minimum.

Shoots can be fun, but focus on the work. Being on a shoot is not a time to chat on your cell phone. You’re being paid to help the photographer, not your social life.

4. Remember who is in charge.

As a freelancer you will be working with different bosses, each of whom has their own personality. While it’s important for you to make creative suggestions and point out obvious problems, every person you work with will handle your input differently. Sometimes you will have to bite your tongue.

5. Be helpful and exceed expectations.

That you should be helpful may sound obvious. The reality is that the more helpful you are on the job, the more likely you’ll be hired in the future.

6. Babysit the photographer.

An assistant is a babysitter for the photographer. I once heard this from an assistant, and its truth has been borne out many times. A photographer I used to work for once used his wallet to prop open a door. When it came time for lunch, you can guess who remembered this.

7. Be a sponge.

I absorbed so much knowledge by simply observing the photographer I assisted. Sure, I learned about lighting and propping, but just as importantly I learned about interacting with clients and running a successful business.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 2 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

Look for Part 3 next Monday.

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April 9th, 2011

Boys vs Girls in Toy Ads

Posted in blogging by Greg Benson

The blog, The Achilles Effect, has a post showing the frequency of words that are used in TV ads for toys marketed to boys vs. those  for girls.

The author, Crystal Smith, took the word frequency lists and ran them through Wordle, a web site and app that makes a graphic out of a word frequency list.

Most frequent words in girl toy ads.

Most frequent words in girl toy ads.

Link to Wordle page for this graphic.

Most frequent words in boy toy ads.

Most frequent words in boy toy ads.

Link to Wordle page for this graphic.

The debate over nature vs nurture when it comes to raising boys and girls will never be settled completely. There are obvious differences between the genders, and society steers each gender in different ways.

When I played with GI Joe figures as a kid, was I playing with dolls, or acting out the power struggles of war? Probably both.

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April 4th, 2011

Tips for Young Creatives – Part 1

Posted in business, featured by Greg Benson

My daughter graduated from art school last year and is pursuing freelance work in the video and photography industries.

While this is not a letter to her specifically, her decision inspired me to write about starting out in a creative services business. I am a still photographer, and I have worked as a freelancer for most of my career. Some of these tips are specific to photography and video production, but many apply to all freelancers in the creative professions, whether graphic and web design or other fields.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Be found. Have a web site, business cards and mobile email.

Be found. Have a web site, business cards and mobile email.

I. Basics to be in business

1. Be reachable

Have a cell phone that receives email. If someone can’t reach you, they will contact the next person on their list. Return emails, phone calls and text messages promptly.

2. Record a legitimate voicemail greeting

Include your name and speak clearly; you want a person with work to want to call you back.

3. Use an email address not tied to a specific ISP

Have your own domain name, or use Gmail or an equivalent. This will allow you to keep your email address when you switch internet providers.

4. Maintain a web site

Nowadays a web site is as important as a business card. Make sure your phone number and email address are visible on every page. If your site shows up as “under construction”, you fail. A home page is enough to start, but to maximize impact include great examples of your work.

5. Have a business card

Make it creative but readable.

6. Create and use a contact database

It can be as simple as Address Book on a Mac, Microsoft Outlook on a PC, or Google contacts in Gmail. I use Address Book and salesforce. Whether it’s simple or complex, have a place in your computing world where you keep people’s names, phone numbers and email addresses. It’s also helpful if the database syncs with your phone.

7. Be ready to talk money when somebody calls with a job

Know what you charge for a day’s work. Do not say “Yes” without talking price. If you don’t know market rates in your city, ask others. Know what you normally charge, but don’t be afraid to ask the photographer what his or her budget is. The same photographer may have some jobs with an editorial budget (lower) and others with an advertising budget (higher).

Read the other parts of this series.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3,  Part 4, and Part 5.

Look for Part 2 next Monday.

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April 1st, 2011

April Fools’ Snow

Posted in blogging, weather by Greg Benson
Snow on April Fool's Day, view from my yard in Havertown, PA

Snow on April Fool's Day, view from my yard in Havertown, PA

This week I have been trying to dream up a humorous and believable April Fool’s Day blog post, but I haven’t come up with one. Instead Mother Nature has provided the perfect April Fool’s event, snow. Here it is April and it’s snowing in Philadelphia. The snow isn’t sticking but it is keeping Spring at bay.

As a kid I always loved April Fool’s Day pranks. One year when I was about ten years old, I woke up early and switched the contents of the sugar bowl and the salt shaker. My dad proceeded to put salt in his coffee and sugar on his eggs. My younger brother spooned salt onto his cereal. Salty coffee and cereal taste terrible. My parents were not amused, but I sure was.

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