Posts tagged marketing

Adjust Your Hustle

Tech Worker

We hear so much these days about the ‘pivot’. Faced with unprecedented health and economic crises, small businesses and freelancers are hunkering down to weather the storm. Many are panicking, understandably. Those who can are using the opportunity to shift their focus to the things they can do: becoming more useful, more disciplined and more prepared to safely get back to work when it’s time to do so.

I’m most grateful that I’m healthy and that my very large, far-flung family is as well. Number one priority for me has been to stay healthy and to keep my business healthy as possible.

I’ve had more family time than I’m used to, and it’s been both challenging and rewarding. My daughter Maggie is 13 and in seventh grade. She’s not the World’s Biggest Fan of online learning and misses her friends, but by now she’s turned into a bit of a corporate lawyer: from waking up at 5:30 to get work done before her school day starts, to pausing her earbuds, forefinger raised, to tell her parents that “I’ve got back to back Zooms from 9:30 to noon; I’ll catch up with you for lunch before my 1 o’clock.”

I’ve been using my time to brush up on skills—taking a handwriting course, of all things, and studying Russian again—and to work on new ones, like shooting video and editing in Premiere Pro.  That’s been fun and I’ll have more work to show soon.

It’s also been a welcome opportunity to re-edit my work and website. I’m embarrassed to say how long it’s been since my last major website portfolio update, but it’s not for lack of new work.  Finally I’m incorporating personal and client images from the past couple of years and can’t wait to reveal those soon. As I refocus my marketing and other business systems, I’m streamlining things to make my workflows easier and my client experience better.

My studio is clean, organized and prepped for reopening. I’ve even done a few no-contact and social-distancing client shoots this week, following the state guidelines as service businesses like mine reopen.

In this time of social distancing, the most surprising and unexpected benefit has been connecting (and reconnecting) with friends and family sadly too long neglected (by me, usually, not by them): a high school friend now serving in the Navy in Spain (a nurse, no less); my octogenarian Uncle Michael in Washington State who proudly wears a ponytail; former newspaper colleagues around the country.  I love Virtual Happy Hours….a bit too much. I’ve learned not to schedule more than two of these in a weekend.

In April, I helped to form a group of fellow creatives located around the world. We meet weekly to discuss marketing, how to elevate our work and our value, and to hold each other accountable. The group includes a photographer from Montreal; a Florida filmmaker; a podcaster and a designer, both from Portugal; a Budapest furniture designer and a German copywriter. After just one month, it’s become a hugely valuable part of my week and one positive outcome of this strange time that I plan to continue long after the pandemic ends.


I’ve realized that just because the world slows down, there is work to be done: maintaining health, relationships, and working hard to pivot your business, your career and your skills.  I’m adjusting my hustle, though more work needs to be done.  

Now if I can just wean myself off of these happy hours, I think I’ll be in good shape.


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Turbo-charge your marketing, one mug shot at a time

mug shot

“Make sure you get the mug shot,” I heard my photo editor say as I carefully packed my camera bag, preparing for my first official assignment as an intern with the (now much-diminished)  East Valley Tribune in Mesa, AZ. I was a student at nearby Arizona State University, where I was also photo editor of the student-run State Press.

I’d heard the term ‘mug’ before–it was how we referred to the 6 x 9 pica-sized tightly-cropped headshots often run in newspapers and commonly associated with the mug shots of suspects taken and distributed by law enforcement.

There was nothing glamorous, sexy or artistic about them. They were straight-forward and not what I had in my mind as I contemplated all of the possibilities of the now-forgotten assignment I was about to shoot.

But Paul, my photo editor, knew better. A cool, wide-angle portrait that showed a person tiny in the frame, looking off-camera in an angsty way, surrounded by the light and shadows of the environment might play well across three or four columns as a lead image on a page. But if that story jumped to a new page, as it often did, or if we later decided to run additional follow up stories on the same subject, that cool artistic image would be much less valuable. More useful in those instances was a standard, straight-on headshot portrait, or mug shot. I quickly learned that if I took those headshots along with the artistic pretty portraits, I could guarantee a happy photo editor and happy page designers too. Fail to do it, and I found that as the intern I was the one sent back to shoot a 10-second mug shot of a subject because other photographers (or I) had failed to do so the first time around.

 

mug shot

 

Of the many lessons I learned as a photo intern, this was one I never forgot. It made me think about the practical uses of images, rather than just the artistic merits. Both are important considerations. It also taught me that people have a fundamental desire to see and connect with other people, and that having a mug or a headshot in a story made people much more likely to read it, connect with it and understand it.

That was true then, and it continues to be true in the world of Linkedin, Facebook and online media channels. Rather than a two-second mugshot, I create headshot portraits that take quite a bit more time and care. These headshots are unsung heros that are both simple and indispensible for many professionals. They are the yeoman workers who do the heavy lifting when it comes to a personal or corporate brand. When done well, they promote and propel a brand, build trust and connection, all without shouting, ‘look at me’.

mug shot

I used to say that a good headshot can’t help you, but a bad one can sure hurt you. In this visual, social media world, when I see a professional profile with a missing or obviously amateur portrait, my mind wonders: is it because you aren’t professional, are anti-social or simply because you can’t be bothered? None are an appealing scenario.

A good headshot is a long way from the ‘mugs’ we used at the newspaper. They are portraits, created with purpose, intent and function in mind. They convey real information and some intangible emotion as well. In short, they leave a few things unsaid so that the viewer can form their own opinion. They are straight-forward, and they communicate, clearly. Instead of being used in a purely utilitarian way, they must shine in their own right. No longer mugs, but finely-crafted portraits.

 

mug shot

 

I have a sister site called Maine Headshot, dedicated solely to these kinds of portraits, mostly taken in-studio. My tagline is, “Portraits that Work”, because a good headshot should do just that–work for a brand 24/7, 365.