Recently I came across this wonderful article by Tim Kreider, a brilliant writer and cartoonist from New York. The article, originally published in the New York Times and on Tim’s blog back in October highlights a ‘plague on all our houses” For those of you who are expected to work for free ( you know who you are ) it is an interesting piece in the New York Times. Not that you haven’t heard it all before.
“They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it.”
NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.
A familiar figure in one’s 20s is the club owner or event promoter who explains to your band that they won’t be paying you in money, man, because you’re getting paid in the far more valuable currency of exposure. This same figure reappears over the years, like the devil, in different guises — with shorter hair, a better suit — as the editor of a Web site or magazine, dismissing the issue of payment as an irrelevant quibble and impressing upon you how many hits they get per day, how many eyeballs, what great exposure it’ll offer.
“Artist Dies of Exposure” goes the rueful joke.”
This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them. The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.In fairness, most of the people who ask me to write things for free, with the exception of Arianna Huffington, aren’t the Man; they’re editors of struggling magazines or sites, or school administrators who are probably telling me the truth about their budgets. The economy is still largely in ruins, thanks to the people who “drive the economy” by doing imaginary things on Wall Street, and there just isn’t much money left to spare for people who do actual things anymore.
Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge. I now contribute to some of the most prestigious online publications in the English-speaking world, for which I am paid the same amount as, if not less than, I was paid by my local alternative weekly when I sold my first piece of writing for print in 1989. More recently, I had the essay equivalent of a hit single — endlessly linked to, forwarded and reposted. A friend of mine joked, wistfully, “If you had a dime for every time someone posted that …” Calculating the theoretical sum of those dimes, it didn’t seem all that funny.
I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here. I suppose people who aren’t artists assume that being one must be fun since, after all, we do choose to do it despite the fact that no one pays us. They figure we must be flattered to have someone ask us to do our little thing we already do.
I will freely admit that writing beats baling hay or going door-to-door for a living, but it’s still shockingly unenjoyable work. I spent 20 years and wrote thousands of pages learning the trivial craft of putting sentences together. My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.
Maybe they’re asking in the collaborative, D.I.Y. spirit that allegedly characterizes the artistic community. I have read Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift,” and participated in a gift economy for 20 years, swapping zines and minicomics with friends and colleagues, contributing to little literary magazines, doing illustrations for bands and events and causes, posting a decade’s worth of cartoons and essays on my Web site free of charge. Not getting paid for things in your 20s is glumly expected, even sort of cool; not getting paid in your 40s, when your back is starting to hurt and you are still sleeping on a futon, considerably less so. Let’s call the first 20 years of my career a gift. Now I am 46, and would like a bed.
Practicalities aside, money is also how our culture defines value, and being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting. And of course when you live in a culture that treats your work as frivolous you can’t help but internalize some of that devaluation and think of yourself as something less than a bona fide grown-up.
I know I sound like some middle-aged sourpuss who’s forgotten why he ever wanted to do this in the first place. But I’m secretly not as mercenary as I’m trying to pretend. One of the three people who asked me to do something for nothing that dispiriting week was a graduate student in a social work program asking me if I’d speak to her class. I first sent her my boilerplate demurral, but soon found myself mulling over the topic she’d suggested, involuntarily thinking up things to say. I had gotten interested. Oh, dammit, I thought. I knew then I was going to do the talk. And after all, they were student social workers, who were never going to make much money either because they’d chosen to go into the business, which our society also deems worthless, of trying to help people. Also, she was very pretty.
“Let us not kid ourselves,” Professor Vladimir Nabokov reminds us. “Let us remember that literature is of no practical value whatsoever. … ” But practical value isn’t the only kind of value. Ours is a mixed economy, with the gift economy of the arts existing (if not exactly flourishing) within the inhospitable conditions of a market economy, like the fragile black market in human decency that keeps civilization going despite the pitiless dictates of self-interest.
My field of expertise is complaining, not answers. I know there’s no point in demanding that businesspeople pay artists for their work, any more than there is in politely asking stink bugs or rhinoviruses to quit it already. It’s their job to be rapacious and shameless. But they can get away with paying nothing only for the same reason so many sleazy guys keep trying to pick up women by insulting them: because it keeps working on someone. There is a bottomless supply of ambitious young artists in all media who believe the line about exposure, or who are simply so thrilled at the prospect of publication that they’re happy to do it free of charge.
I STILL remember how this felt: the first piece I ever got nationally published was in a scholarly journal that paid in contributors’ copies, but I’ve never had a happier moment in my career. And it’s not strictly true that you never benefit from exposure — being published in The New York Times helped get me an agent, who got me a book deal, which got me some dates. But let it be noted that The Times also pays in the form of money, albeit in very modest amounts.
So I’m writing this not only in the hope that everyone will cross me off the list of writers to hit up for free content but, more important, to make a plea to my younger colleagues. As an older, more accomplished, equally unsuccessful artist, I beseech you, don’t give it away. As a matter of principle. Do it for your colleagues, your fellow artists, because if we all consistently say no they might, eventually, take the hint. It shouldn’t be professionally or socially acceptable — it isn’t right — for people to tell us, over and over, that our vocation is worthless.
Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:
Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.
Feel free to amend as necessary. This I’m willing to give away.
Tim Kreider is the author of “We Learn Nothing,” a collection of essays and cartoons.
By now you should probably carved out your 2014 marketing budget and developed your plans for the year. As business owners, we have a lot of things to consider when planning our efforts for the year. As you put the finishing touches on your 2014 plans let’s review 5 common marketing mistakes for you to avoid to save you time, money and a lot of frustration.
￼￼One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen photographers make is overlooking mobile. Currently there are over 5.5 billion mobile device subscriptions across the globe. As a consumer, I definitely access as many websites from mobile devices as I do from a desktop or laptop. And it turns out, I’m not alone. By 2015, it is predicted that we’ll see more than 788 million mobile only Internet users with mobile browsing (for the web) surpassing desktop browsing. A mobile optimized website is no longer a “nicetohave,” it’s a must. Your customers expect you to have a mobilefriendly site. Mobile should be a critical component of your digital marketing strategy this year.
Focusing More on Acquisition than Retention
We have to develop a strategy that focuses on both acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. Far too often I see photographers shift that focus to be too acquisition centric. Acquisition is important don’t get me wrong, but there needs to be a balance. The cost of retaining a customer is significantly less than that of acquiring one (as much as 20% less!). Another hard truth is that repeat customers spend more than new ones. Marketing is equally about retention as it is about acquisition so don’t forget to consider how you’ll deepen relationships with existing customers (particularly high value ones) in 2014.
Marketing Your Aspirations
Every photographer aspires to be something greater. We all have (and should have) that big hairy audacious goal. But we’re not marketing what we aspire to be, we’re marketing who we are today—in the present. Marketing your aspirations can create major problems if you can’t live up to them. Keep your aspirations in mind when planning and executing, but don’t market them to your customers.
Letting Research Dictate Plans
As a selfproclaimed data junkie, I believe strongly that data can lead to better decision making. You should review data and research to keep you informed, but you shouldn’t let it entirely dictate your plans. Research is a valuable tool for photographers, but research can be misleading at times. There are just some things that research simply can’t predict. And consumers don’t always know how they are feeling or what they want. And they don’t always know how they will feel in the future. It’s hard to predict how consumers will react to things in the future. Research should guide, not lead.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Playing Exactly by the Book￼
￼Plans are important. We need plans to keep us focused and on track, but at the end of the day plans are just words on paper. We should always count on plans changing course. Think of your marketing plans as a compass and not a map. Leave some room for adventure and spontaneity and use the plans as your guide.
Can you think of other common marketing mistakes to avoid? Share them in the comments!
A guest blogpost by Business Coach Linda Ryan of LR Coaching.
Being any kind of artist especially a photographer has become increasingly challenging over the last year. With the development of smartphones and everyone and their mother taking better photos it would seem difficult to sustain a living from the art of capturing the moment.
Selling photographic services is the name of the game and like any other professional depends on the money people have to play around with.
The recession means that the public don’t have disposable income to buy great photographs or indeed hire talented photographers. Being undercut by cheaper competition and those who have developed their hobby is a regular feature of what is happening out there right now.
Taking photos and being creative are great stress busters in themselves but what happens when this has become your business and your business is not functioning. A non-functioning business means no money and no money means stress and exasperation.
The stress of the recession is affecting nearly every sector. How can we maintain an effective outlook while coping with the unsettling circumstances we are living through today.
The basics of stress management are good food, regular exercise, regular rest and time to reflect. Along with these there are other factors which can help when we experience tension and anxiety.
How much control we have over things needs to be assessed honestly. Realising that we can do something about our situation and then acting on that can go a long way to dealing with our stress levels. Likewise realising that we don’t have influence over things can bring relief and free our energy up for areas where we can be more effective.
Fear of branching out or looking at other options will only keep us in a stuck and restrained position so don’t be afraid to challenge your thinking and view point to see if some other avenue opens up and would benefit you at this stage. Reflecting on what holds you back from looking at this might help to shine light on potential improvements one could make that would be positive rather than staying in the same situation.
I have heard of photographers fall into the trap of taking photos and providing services for little or nothing so being in business for the artist in general can be a challenge, what must it be like when a recession has us by the neck.
Is it time to set new goals and if not what is your present strategy going forward. Have you got one and if not why not? Do you need professional marketing assistance, do you need to get social media savvy, have you got an up to date website that is mobile device responsive that shows off your amazing photos and lets people know where you are and what you cost? Would it help to be challenged by a coach to see what your next step could be. Start checking out potential professionals who could help. Doing something is better than doing nothing and there are tonnes of great advice and assistance on the internet and a lot of it for free!
Self-awareness is key to managing our stress so ask yourself where and what tends to make you most stressed and then see what your options are.
Linda Ryan is a coach and stress management consultant. Her website is lrcoaching.com
Linda Ryan is a business owner and coach. Over the last number of years she has specifically been working with employees, managers and executives in such areas as performance breakthrough and work/life balance, along with areas like stress and anger management. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Personal and Executive Coaching, and is approved by the British Psychological Society for Personality and Occupational Psychometrics. She has also lectured and been a trainer at Griffith College Dublin on their personal development programs which she designed and assessed. She holds an MA from Dublin Business School and has worked in the sports, corporate and hospitality industries.
Aaron Lindberg is a photographer and blogger based in Kansas City, Missouri. As well as shooting and blogging, he often writes articles for ‘Fstoppers.com“, which is a terrifically entertaining and highly informative (usually) video blog run by Lee Morris in the USA.
One of Lindbergs more entertaining and topical articles/posts appeared on Fstoppers yesterday titled “Photography is dead”. In it he talks about “shooting for free” and “low hanging fruit” – in my opinion, the entire article is well worth a read. It might change the perspective of many photographers out there.
Here is a link to the full article for you.
Facebook have completely changed the rules around Facebook competitions in the past couple of weeks. I have seen so many photographers pages continue to flout the rules and put themselves in danger of being unceremoniously shut down.
The great news is that Facebook have completely changed their promotion and competition guidelines, and the new rules have huge implications. The biggest being that pages can now continue doing what they’ve been doing, but it is now actually allowed. Well, most of it. I’ve outlined the changes below, as well as the pros and cons of running a competition straight from your wall vs via an application.
The biggest and most important change is that you can now run competitions/promotions straight from your Timeline. Previously pages were only able to run competitions through applications, not directly on their page timeline (though many didn’t actually know this was the case). This has now changed, and along with it Facebook are allowing entries via Comments and Likes.
So what does all that mean?
You are now officially allowed to publish a post to your Page that says “Want to win €1000? Like this to enter.” Or post a photo and say ‘Caption this pic for your chance to win”. What has changed you may be thinking? It’s likely you saw loads of competitions similar to this in the past anyway. And it’s highly likely that’s why Facebook changed the rules – pages simply weren’t adhering to their previous guidelines anyway. That being said, some pages continue to break the rules by posting competitions that require people to share things to their wall to enter the competition. To break it down for you, here’s an overview of what you now can and can’t do with Facebook competitions:
What you can do:
- Run competitions through your Page wall/timeline (through a post) and/or via an application
- Allow people to enter your competition via commenting or liking your post
- Allow people to enter your competition via direct message to the Page
- Allow people to enter your competition by posting on your wall
- Use ‘likes’ as a voting mechanism – ie. people can vote for their favourite entry by simply liking it
What you still cannot do:
- Administer a competition on a personal timeline, it must be done on a business page
- Require or encourage people to tag themselves in content they are not depicted in
- Require or encourage people to post or share anything to their personal timeline
These new rules mean that it is so much easier, particularly for small businesses with small social budgets, to run competitions through their Pages quickly and cheaply. But in some cases, it may still be preferable to use an application. Here’s a run-down of the pros to each method:
Why use an app to run your Facebook contest?
- It allows a more personalized and branded experience
- There is more flexibility in terms of content you can provide and interactivity
- You can collect more data from entrants – eg. their email addresses, business names etc.
- You can require the opting into a newsletter to expand your database
- You can like-gate the competition – ie. Entrants must like your page to enter (thus better opportunity to grow your community)
- You can easily keep all entries in one place for your community to share, like and vote on (ie. Gallery)
- You can prompt entrants to share their entry with friends after they have entered, increasing viral exposure (and you have control over the message that is being shared)
- Easier to collate all entries and entrants’ details in one place for judging*
Why use your business page to run your Facebook contest?
- Faster and easier
- Cheaper to run – no requirement to pay for third-party apps or pay a developer
- Easier for entrants to enter, thus likely to gain more entries
- Potential for greater viral exposure via post showing up in entrants’ newsfeeds who have liked/commented
- No mobile compatibility issues
Of course, if you want to get the best of both worlds you can always use both an application and your wall to run your competition. If you want to check out Facebook’s new promotion guidelines in more detail, you can do so here.
Hope this helps!