The Strategic Photographer: Business Ed for Photogs

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Burning rubber or burning out?

One of my favorite family stories is when we traveled down to have a barbecue with my parents. My mother knows that I am particular about what I like to eat so she called ahead and asked me how to marinade some chicken breasts. I told her to get a pen out and write this down. Use one cup soy sauce, one cup coca cola (for sweet and tenderness) and one cup oil then let it sit overnight.

When we arrived the next day my mom said, "The chicken has been marinading in the fridge since last night but I didn't have any soy sauce or oil and all I had was diet coke so it has been just sitting in diet coke since overnight. Is that ok?" This chicken was the main course for our entire family, brother and sisters and all their kids. I love my mom! 

Ok, so I had to whip something up on the fly and try to get some flavor into that chicken before everyone came in the next few minutes. Here comes the part where we can learn a lesson. As I was transporting the plate of raw, newly seasoned chicken to the barbyq outside I passed my dad who was relaxing on the couch. He yells out, "You have got to microwave that chicken before you put it on the barbyq!!" "Huh? No, I will be fine." I shot back in a hurry. "No, I am serious you have got to precook it in the microwave before you put it on the barbyq. The chicken will be raw in the middle if you don't" He repeated. 

By now most of us have watched enough cooking shows on the food network to know why the chicken was raw in the middle while the outside was burning. However, my dad insisted a third time as I approached the grill and turned the burner to a lower heat. "Do you cook your chicken on high?" I yelled inside. "I don't know." He replied. I just smiled and visualized my dad grilling likely frozen chicken over a 450 degree grill. 

Lets pretend that your business is a chicken breast for a minute. You are cooking on high heat, burning both ends of the candle, eating drinking and sleeping photography all day long. That heat feels good for a little while right?  Things are cooking along pretty well until the chicken starts to burn and you check the inside temp and it is still cold. This is the realization that you are working very hard but not making very much money or you realize that your energy levels cannot keep up with this pace. You are busy but not productive. You are busy but not fulfilled in other aspects of life.

The remedy is counterintuitive just like cooking chicken. You need to turn down the heat. Slow it down and think about what you are doing. Think about your future. Is this sustainable? If I burn out will I even be worth anything anyway? 

A business requires strategy to thrive long term. Remember that you are the engine that runs the business and the engine needs fuel, often. Your fuel comes in the form of time, family, friends, hobbies, personal photography projects. learning or anything that reenergizes you. 

I just shared with you a huge secret as to why after 15 years I still love taking pictures. I still get excited meeting new people and building relationships. I am cooking on slow but some of the best things in life come slow.