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Andrea Stern

This conversation comes from a live Clubhouse discussion. In this episode, Chris joins photography rep, agent, and manager—Andrea Stern—in her photo business forum. The topic: what do you do when you’re stuck in your career?

What to do when you’re stuck in your career
What to do when you’re stuck in your career

What to do when you’re stuck in your career

Ep
136
Jun
02
With
Andrea Stern
Or Listen On:

If you don’t adapt to the times, the times will leave you behind.

This conversation comes from a live Clubhouse discussion. In the event you don’t know what Clubhouse is,  it’s an invite-only social media app that fosters group discussion through live audio.

In this episode, Chris joins photography rep, agent, and manager—Andrea Stern—in her photo business forum. The topic: what do you do when you’re stuck in your career?

Andrea helps photographer get work and develop their careers. She’s done so for over two decades.

But times change. And so does the professional landscape. What drove advertising and got you work twenty years ago, doesn’t work as well today.

As a seasoned professional, how do you compete with young up-and-comers? Especially when they have tens of thousands of followers, and you don’t. And that actually matters to clients.

In this live Q&A, Andrea and Chris field questions from people that are bored, stuck, or uninspired in their careers. And although they don’t always agree, Andrea and Chris both offer beacons of hope for an unknown future.

Being a creative professional is not easy. How do you balance honing your craft, running a business, and marketing yourself? And how do you keep up and age into your career?

We’ll let Andrea and Chris answer those big questions for you. But we will say this: if you don’t adapt to the times, the times will leave you behind.

All the more reason to listen to this episode.

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Episode Transcript

Andrea:
You have to develop your own way, and really be yourself and bring that out. And that's called marketing. We are doing this Clubhouse. I don't know exactly why I'm doing this, or what it's going to bring to my... But it's part of my marketing. I'm just putting myself out there and being the fullest me that I can be.

Greg:
Welcome to the Futur podcast, a show that explores the interesting overlap between design, marketing and business. I'm Greg Gunn. Today's episode comes from a public discussion held on Clubhouse. And for those of you that don't know what Clubhouse is, it's an invite-only social media app that fosters group discussion through live audio, not unlike [inaudible 00:01:05] podcast, but in real time. Now Chris joins Andrea Stern in her photo biz forum room. And the topic, what do you do when you're stuck in your career? Andrea is a rep, an agent and a manager for photographers. And she's been helping professionals get work and build their careers for over two decades. But times change and so does the professional landscape. What drove advertising and got you work 20 years ago doesn't work as well today. So as a seasoned professional, how do you compete with the young up-and-comers, especially when they have tens of thousands of followers and you don't?
And that actually matters to clients. In this live Q&A, Andrea and Chris field questions from people that are bored, stuck, or just feeling uninspired in their careers. And although they don't always agree, they both offer beacons of hope for an unknown future. Being a creative professional isn't always easy. You have to balance honing your craft, running a business and marketing yourself. And on top of all that, how do you keep up and age into your career? I'll let Andrea and Chris answer those big questions for you, but I will say this, if you don't adapt to the times, the times will leave you behind. All the more reason to listen to this episode. Please enjoy our conversation and wonderful discussion with Andrea Stern and our friends on Clubhouse.

Chris:
Let me just throw this out there to everybody, we serve the greater creative community. And we can't forget about our brothers and sisters that are photographers. Most of the content that we create generally is pointed towards graphic designers and people that work in that space. But we often hear that a lot of the principles that we talk about and share, we talk about pricing, the way you think about things, your mindset, it's applicable to more than just the creative field. But today we have Andrea Stern, who's a rep. And she reps one of my friends from Art Center, very successful photographer, his name is Toby Peterson.
And I have to say that without a rep in my life, I would not be where I'm at today, because it was with the help of a sales rep that got me commercial work that started to be able to help us get consistent leads in the commercial space with advertising agencies, that allowed me to build my company, to gain the experience that I have, to pay the people that I've employed over the last 20 plus years. Andrea does something a little bit different. And you do a little bit more. Actually, you do a lot more than what my reps did for me back in the day. They just got us leads. But Andrea, you do a little bit of artist management too, in a way, right? You do the bidding, you do a lot of the client relationship stuff, way beyond just getting new leads.

Andrea:
Yeah. I see it as how actors have managers and agents.

Chris:
Yes.

Andrea:
I see me and the other reps in my business as both.

Chris:
Fantastic. So just to give you guys a little bit more context, my friend, the one I'm referring to, his name is Toby, he shot for Apple, for Google. He was making so much money as a photographer. He's one of the most successful commercial photographers that I personally know. So this is a big deal here. I mean, those of you guys that think, "Oh, photo rep, you mean for weddings?" No. I mean, for the world's biggest brands, multi-billion dollar corporations. And she fights tooth and nail for her artists. So I'm going to turn over the show to you. I just wanted to give that context first.

Andrea:
Thank you for doing that. I could say more, but I'll just jump into this. Oh, and so I know, do you guys have an hour or do you have less? Do we need to help?

Chris:
You are my last officially scheduled call for today. I can go for as long as you want.

Andrea:
Okay, good. We have you. We have you in our possession. Okay. Welcome to photo biz forum. Today's topic, what can photographers do when you feel stuck? This is something I see in every photographer, they go through this at one point or another. I'm going to give a few minutes for people to come in. We already did that. And this is a one of a kind special talk with Chris Do of the Futur. I hope you all know about the Futur and Chris Do. I honestly don't know of another resource like what Chris has created. If you want to learn about the business success that you can be in all of the right ways, you need to check out the Futur, with no e on the end.com, and his videos on YouTube. I have a lot to ask Chris, and I bet you all do too. So get your questions ready.
Okay. And I'm going to give us a quick intro. I know you just did that, but I'm going to jump in a little further.

Chris:
Please do. Yes.

Andrea:
Okay. I'm Andrea Stern, of SternRep and Ask SternRep. I've been a commercial advertising rep agent for over 20 years with clients like, as you said, Apple, Google, Samsung, Honda, Adidas, Oakley, Citibank, Vans, et cetera. I started Ask SternRep on Instagram about four years ago to share the business tips and strategies which I was hearing talked about, and I wanted to give them some publicity, because there's a lot of mystery in our business and secrets and I'm not into that. So let's change that. So Chris, no pressure, but you are my perfect guest. No pressure.

Chris:
No pressure.

Andrea:
Okay. No pressure on that. Chris Do is someone I have witnessed over the years expanding his own business from one radically successful design, motion graphics and brand strategy agencies, to now also become an informative mega educational leader of our time.
And I mean that. If you've seen his educational videos on YouTube, you know exactly what I mean. Chris is an Emmy award winning designer, director, CEO, and chief strategist of Blind, and the founder of The Futur, an online educational platform with the mission of teaching, hear this, hear this again, one billion people how to make a living doing what they love. Chris has given talks and conducted workshops on sales negotiations, value based pricing, mindset, branding, graphic and motion design, social media marketing, entrepreneurship, business management, and client relations. Wow. Chris, is there anything you'd like to add [inaudible 00:07:42]?

Chris:
That sounds like too much. I should probably change that.

Andrea:
No. You had more actually on your site, and I saw that then.

Chris:
Yeah.

Andrea:
There's so much we could keep saying about you, but... And Drigo, hello. Should we explain Drigo's role here?

Chris:
Yes. Well Drigo is part of the mod squad. He's one of the four horsemen of the Clubpocalypse, if you will. So he's going to help us manage the room so that you and I can focus on the dialogue and delivering value to people. But Drigo is also a filmmaker, a videographer and editor based out of Florida. So that's who he is.

Andrea:
It's so nice to just be able to focus on what we're talking about. Thank you for handling that Drigo. I love it.

Drigo:
My pleasure.

Andrea:
Okay. Let's get going here. Everyone, get your ears on because we are going to learn a few things that can seriously, genuinely change your career. I would not say that lightly. I'm going to ask a few questions and then we'll open up the floor. Drigo will handle that. In 2018, Chris invited me to be his guest on The Futur, his series on YouTube. This episode was called, why you need a sales rep if you're an artist. We have had over 15,000 views. And it really was a life-changer for me. I don't think you know this, Chris. How you so directly handled asking me the questions, really freed me up to speak and share in a way that I didn't even know I had been holding back. But I felt so in my power. And my POV, my point of view just freely flowed out in a way I hadn't heard of myself. So, how do photographers or anyone keep on that growth path when we don't even know where we may be stuck? And I should start with, how do we even define being stuck?

Chris:
Okay. This is a big one. Okay. Why do photographers feel like they're stuck now?

Andrea:
Yeah. I'd say in their careers, it comes and goes, but it's a natural part of being a photographer.

Chris:
Okay. So we're 2021. It's March. What's making people feel stuck right now?

Andrea:
I honestly don't think it's totally about the pandemic and the changes of the industry. Although that is definitely an issue. I think it's because photographers are overwhelmed, overloaded with constant... They have to constantly stay on it. They have to be the best in a market that is private. They don't share, they don't have people they can talk to. And the pressure, the constant content on Instagram, they have to be the greatest artists. So you have to be creative. Have to be creative, you're a business person, you have to do your own marketing and create content on Instagram now, every minute. I mean, I think it's just a lot.

Chris:
It is. It does sound like a lot. But I was thinking about this the other day, that Instagram seems to be tailor made for image makers. And you would think that if you had to sit there... I used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and you could choose your character class like human, halfling, elf, dwarf, wizard, cleric, whatever, you could choose that. And the class of person that you chose would determine your specialization and your ability to move around this imaginary world. But if we're going back to Instagram year one, and you could choose any class, designer, architect, puppeteer, illustrator, photographer, whatever, I would have chosen photography. It was made for photographers.
Why some photographers have been left behind the dust is maybe part of the conversation we need to have today, but why aren't photographers completely crushing it? You've been trained, you have the tools, are experienced in practice, you know the right collaborators between models, stylists of all types, you know the best locations, you know how to do the post-processing, and you know how to put images together in ways that people are happy to pay you tens of thousands of dollars to do. Why aren't you crushing it? I'm just going to ask the collective universe that question. You have every advantage in the world, what happened there, Andrea?

Andrea:
I wish I knew. I mean, every person, every photographer is different, but there does seem to be a commonality where it's difficult to achieve their highest ability of success. I'm in love with their potential. They're so much higher these photo... all photographers. As great as some are, I think they could even be better. And I don't know exactly how to help them as more than I do. I can't bug and nudge enough. So I figured if we can understand what can get artists who are also business, people feeling a lot of pressure, not talking to others in their own bubble. Our industry is so ... We're all in our own bubble. I would think that does not help.

Chris:
It doesn't help. I think there's a couple of things, and I think they mostly are around mindset. So let's just rewind the tape a little bit. In the 80s and the 90s and early 2000s, advertising worked and operated a very specific way. And I think unless you're a fine art photographer, I may be speaking out of an area that I don't have experience in here, but advertising drove the high-end commercial photography market. Would you say that's true, Andrea?

Andrea:
Definitely. Yes.

Chris:
Okay. So when advertising starts to change and it's most definitely changing, or changed, past tense, I think the mindset is, "Oh, this will go away. It'll go back to the way it was." And we can see this anecdotally. Toby rented a studio space from his instructor. And he occupied a small portion of the studio space, but as time went on, Toby took over the lease of the studio and his former instructor, and the person who used to control the large portion of the studio now was on the outside. Time had left this instructor behind.
And so the first part is we resist change, we fight it. We keep holding onto the past. And there's a word for that, it's called attachment. And I just talked about this earlier today, that on two ends of the spectrum, one is attachment, and the other end of the spectrum is the word growth. You have to choose one or the other. They're in competition with each other. So if you want to stay attached to the way things were, how you define yourself, what you studied, the tools and techniques you used to use, then you're not going to choose growth. And that's been a big problem. Because I've heard this before, I don't want to name names, but people, my friends who are photographers, I say, "Oh, why aren't you on Ins..." "It's just another social platform. They're just a bunch of yahoos.
They don't know what they're doing. This is stupid. People should hire me because of my talent, not because I'm on social media." And so they develop this narrative and this way of thinking that they don't want to take part in any of this. And we're all guilty of this to one degree or the other, whether it's about starting a diet, going to the gym or learning a new tool, or learning how to code, or whatever it is that you need to learn, we fight these things. We say we don't want to change. So we hold onto that. And if you're successful holding onto that, more power to you. But I think change is inevitable. The question is progress, progress is a choice. And so I think the times have left many people behind who've refused to answer the call, the call to adventure, the call to action. That's the problem.

Andrea:
So what do we do? How can I help these photographers? How can photographers know that this might come up and maybe not listen to it, but go the other way. Is it something about being an artist and a business person?

Chris:
I think that has a part to do with it, but since they have you to help them with the business part, then I don't think so, because if they just listened to you, maybe they'll do better. I don't know. But I think part of the problem is that they define themselves by what they do. I just recently gave a talk on this and we dropped a video on our channel about reinventing yourself. So we define ourselves by what we do. I take images captured on celluloid film. I'm a photographer. Well, when we switch to digital cameras, you're like, "Well, no. I'm not about that digital image sensor thing. Film is where it's at." And you stick to your guns. But what's happening is there's a whole generation of image makers who use digital cameras, who are shooting thousands of images, where you would shoot 36. And they're learning so fast.
And eventually the light sensitivity of these cameras catch up to or close to what you could do with film. But they do something totally different, they give the person the opportunity to learn so much faster and to be braver and to try so many more things. I have taught myself photography in a way, at least on the digital side. And I tell people this, and I don't think it's an exaggeration, I think I took 10,000 horrible photos. I didn't understand anything about how the camera worked, exposure, composition. And if I could shoot a full day with my digital camera and I have two or three good images, I'd be happy. And over time I get better and better at shooting. And so this is going to present a new problem here, is that there are a lot of amateur hacks, I put myself in there, who are getting better using tools that people had refused to use or are slow to adapt to.
And so now I guess, arguably, everyone's a photographer. So your competition went from maybe 200 people in the United States to virtually everyone. A person who was a former intern of mine, Andrew, he shot an image with his iPhone six I believe, some sand dunes. And Apple contacted him and said, "We're going to pay you for your image so that we can run it on billboards everywhere else." So here's Andrew, who is an aspiring photographer, creative person. They buy an image from him because they love the image. So then the tools get taken out of the equation. So these very expensive tools that you use now are no longer an asset, they become a liability for you.
What do you do? Again, it comes back to this thing, if you define yourself by the tools you use, you're screwed, because tools change. If you define yourself by the things that you make, when those things aren't required anymore, are not in Vogue and don't command top dollar, you're screwed. So the framework is this, think about the benefit that you create. Why is photography important? So maybe I ask you this question, Andrea, if you were a photographer or you can embody the mind of a photographer that you like, how would they answer this question? Why does taking a photograph matter? Why is this important? What would you say?

Andrea:
It's such a good question, because we get creative decks, we're going to bid on a job. It always has to speak to the photographer. If they don't relate, I would say they often don't get the job. And honestly, that is what the client wants to hear from a photographer. How do you relate? Are you this person that we are... The character, the talent that we're going to be shooting? The mom and dad with the kid in the car, can you relate to that kid or the car or where they're going or the kind of life they have? Are you the Infinity driver? Are you the Honda driver? Are you the Toyota?
That's what they want to know. And that's no accident. They want to know that you are that person. You get their brand. So if they're so powerful to then get the job by relating to the job itself, the images, that must mean that's their passion. That's who they are. So to separate that out, yeah, I would say most likely you're not going to get the job, or you probably won't even be up for the job.

Chris:
This is very interesting. It's not what I expected you to say. [inaudible 00:20:01].

Andrea:
What did you think I was going to say?

Chris:
I am going to try again. Let's see what happens. Okay. You're still the photographer. Okay? So when you capture that image, you relate to the company, the product, the brand, the people, whatever, you get the job and you capture that image, what is that image going to do for the person who gave you money to do that?

Andrea:
It is going to sell their product.

Chris:
Okay. Why do they believe that a photo will sell a product?

Andrea:
The visual experience of the viewer, the hyper reality that these people want to be that person, having that experience with that product.

Chris:
I see. So when the end user sees this photo, they're transported somewhere else and they have emotional connection to the image, right?

Andrea:
Yes.

Chris:
Okay. So I'm just going to write some of this down. This is unplanned guys, is unrehearsed. So...

Andrea:
Totally.

Chris:
... I'm working through this. So you may want to take notes because this is not some premeditated thing I've got ready to go. Okay? So they're having an emotional experience and there's the connection, and they're teleported. One of the coolest things that I heard Brian Collins say, he's like, "Books are rocket ships. They take you to other worlds and places and time." And that was such a wonderful, beautiful metaphor, books are rocket ships. So then we think, okay, so what is a photograph then? Maybe a photograph is a teleportation device. I don't know, but it takes you somewhere else. This is what I mean when I say, don't define yourself by what you do or what you make, look at the impact that it has on either your client or your client's customer.
So now if we say, okay, you're a photographer, you're a human being and you take images, and the ultimate end result, if you do everything right, is it's this transformative experience. It reminds you of a childhood, or it reminds you of a dream that you promised yourself about what you were going to do in the future. And it's unearthing or surfacing these latent emotions and dreams and wishes and everything into ultimately you saying, "I want to go to this website. I want to check this product, or now I'm going to add it to my bucket list. There's something there that it does." So you are in a way, I think hoping to modify behavior, opinions, attitudes towards things. And I know this is going to be a stretch. Everybody's listening to us like, "What the hell? Where's this going?" Just hang on for just a second, Okay?
And if this is what you do, how else might you achieve this experience for people? Come up with some ideas then. So here's what happens then when you start to do this, you might say, "Well, I need to be an experienced director for a virtual reality experience." A lot of the answers that come up will not result with a photograph. So when you lock yourself in and box yourself in the definition of what it is that you do, your title, the things that you make, you close yourself off to the opportunities that are waiting for you. So here's what happens. You have an attachment to the camera and the photos that you make and the title, which is a reflection of the investment that you made by going to school at Art Center or Brooks, or wherever else you went to school to study photography.
And that's an attachment to what you told people you're going to do before you went to school. I'm going to be a photographer. And so it's hard to unbundle all of that stuff and say, "Well, what else is there for me?" Somebody like me walks into the scene and is like, well, it seems like people want meaningful connections and they want to experience things that they can experience, augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality or something else entirely different. That's where the opportunity is. And I do that because I'm not attached to anything, I'm attached to the result. And so the photographers are going to, "Yeah, this is a fad. It's going away. It's going to go away, right?" And it doesn't. And then what you see is, as one industry is in decline, another one is in ascent, it's rising, the demand. So you have to make a decision. You want to stay attached or do you want to grow? What do you think, Andrea?

Andrea:
I'm just loving this. This makes so much sense because if photographers are bored, maybe that's what being stuck is, just not inspired and bored, but as you're saying, get outside of their own heads and their own lives for a minute. It's not about that. It's about something so much bigger. And to hold on to that, that's like a muscle that never ends. You can keep reinventing yourself throughout your career because it's so... I want the words for what I know you're saying.

Chris:
What word is that?

Andrea:
God, it's that holding onto something outside of yourself as the... You said it, the ...

Chris:
The word? Or some other word?

Andrea:
You mean attachment?

Chris:
Yes.

Andrea:
No. It's the other thing. It's not attach, it's growth.

Chris:
Yes.

Andrea:
But it's because as you're saying, it's holding onto something much bigger than you. It's probably the reason why photographers got into photography.

Chris:
Yes.

Andrea:
That's probably what you're talking about.

Chris:
You like your purpose maybe.

Andrea:
Yes.

Chris:
Yeah.

Andrea:
To go back to that. So even when I'd say they are stuck, I've always said they could go for a hike, go surfing, go play volleyball. You have to enlighten your whole self, not just test on your portfolio.

Chris:
Yes. Yes. But, okay. You keep me grounded, but I'm going to just lift you to the clouds a little bit more. Okay?

Andrea:
Okay.

Chris:
Okay. So we think, if you tap into the reason why you exist, your purpose, your reason for being, then you're going to touch on something much bigger than the technical components of what you do. So we say, when we look at a company like Apple, they win the hearts and minds of-

Chris:
When we look at a company like Apple, they win the hearts and minds of people. They transcend the physical devices that they make, the digital services they provide. Now, people have an emotional connection to inanimate objects. Dell makes computers too. They used to make music devices and other things. They make monitors. But very few people have an emotional relationship with Dell. So when we go to buy a Dell, we just buy, I think, the cheapest, most powerful version, and we'll even haggle them on price. I'm speaking to my real experience here. Well, when I go and buy an Apple product, it's like I must do this, it reflects who I am, because there's a deeper thing that's going on here. I want to support a company that believes in simplified user experiences that are delightful, that are magical. It's a perfect alchemy of science technology and user interface design.
I want that. So when you are a photographer and you sell images, you're becoming the Dell, you're becoming a commodity and for which there's many replacements. So again, I know you're a rep for photographers, but if your photographers changed the way they look at themselves and what they do, I think they would be a lot more successful and you attached with that, would be more successful as well. But I don't mean just to be more creative as a photographer, but I'm talking about just thinking about what it is that you do on a much bigger level, the impact that you create in the world. And that'll open it up, but that's just my 2 cents.

Andrea:
That's interesting because, and I'm going to bring it back down. [inaudible 00:27:35] that's my role here, I guess, is that is our business today. Photographers are directors. They have to do motion, the gifts and the cinema graphs, everything. They're drone pilots. I mean, a photographer is no longer just a photographer. So isn't that what you're saying? It still can be in the category of photographer because that's what they love, the images, but it can take different routes, different shapes, different titles.

Chris:
Yes. But here's an example that I think people can relate to. There's a friend of mine, his name is Matthew Workman. Some of you guys know who he is. He runs a company called cinematography database. And Matthew Workman is a traditionally trained cinematographer DP and he's shot music, videos, and commercials. And then somewhere along the way, he wanted to make tools to help other cinematographers learn the craft of lighting and cinematography. So he got into cinema 4D, started develop an asset library. So he would make cameras and props that matched the real world counterparts. Here's an RA light skylight or whatever, any kind of light spotlight. Here's a 2K by molson. Is it Molson, Molson? He would make all these things and lenses and all kinds of stuff so that a photographer could, or I'm sorry, a cinematographer could visualize or previous a scene, so they come to the set, armed, confident, ready to go knowing exactly how this is going to work out. And then he keeps diving deeper and deeper into this world. And now he's working with synthetic characters, virtual reality experiences, and he's deep into development and software.
Matthew wasn't stuck thinking of himself as a person who holds a cinema camera for a director to control a set or shoot. His definition of who he is and what impact he wants to make on the world is much broader and it's tied deep into his core. And so when others cinematographers are having a hard time finding work, he's speaking at conferences on behalf of unreal, and he's doing workshops on virtual cinematography. He just showed a video today on LinkedIn about how he has this, this synthetic character, that's going to give a virtual tour to people, all triggered with off the shelf software.
So between where he's at in the spectrum of cinematographers, you can fit anywhere in, in between those two. But your photographers, they're the most sought after image makers in the world. They just need to start to open up what it is that they want to do. And I don't mean just other versions of doing the same thing. Yes, it's nice that they're doing cinema graphs and they're doing motion graphics and they're directing and they're drone pilots. But those are just more iterations, I think, of the same thing. I don't know. What do you think?

Andrea:
I like it. It's like don't trap yourself. Don't restrict before you even know before you even try. Because it could even just make it all better as you were saying.

Chris:
Yeah. You just don't want to be blind to the opportunity that exists in front of you.

Andrea:
Yeah. There is room for growth too, because I mentioned all these titles that photographers now are directors and all that, but who knows what's tomorrow? Maybe there also, who knows, we are the leaders of our business. I do see photographers in them, that's a broad term. We set the tone because we are being hired by advertising companies and they are living on the edge of creativity. They want us to show them the past. So really, photographers have to be, if they want to make it, have this open mind that you're talking about to set the path.

Chris:
Yeah. And I'd like to share some business advice my coach gave to me one time. And we were maybe 10 years into doing motion graphics, directing commercials, doing compositing, visual effects, that kind of stuff. And he says, it seems to me like you do more than just motion graphics, but that's how you describe yourself. Right. And I'm like, yeah, that's what we do. That's what the industry understands. He says, this sounds to me like if somebody needs an image that creates an emotional connection with their audience, you would do that. I'm like, yeah. And then he said, what else can we do? I mean, does the logo have that same power? I was like, ah, I see where you're going here, [inaudible 00:32:06] . Yes. Does a video game package, key art or a movie poster have that same application? Yes and yes.
So we were just looking at one Application of what it is that we do. And we defined ourselves that way. We're a motion design studio. We do production and post-production for commercials and music videos. And so when that market was shifting and changing and moving and trending in the wrong direction, that thinking allowed us to see other kinds of opportunities. So the first major shift that we made was to think of a life beyond working for advertising agencies, because we also saw that they were in decline, slowly but surely they were in decline. The writing was on the wall. So we needed to learn how to be our own agency to our clients. So we needed to learn how to do work, client direct, account management, strategic planning. And that's when we shifted and became a brand design consultancy. And we got all kinds of new works, new assignments, new challenges. And we did that.
And as we kept going, although we were making money, I was getting bored. And I was just thinking, what else can we do? So it's this constant question of like, and what else? And what else might that lead? We just traded one master for another. We used to work for ad agencies, we got rid of the middle person, so then we started working with clients direct, but they're still our masters. Somebody still tells us what to do, defines what done looks like and ultimately decides what value to place on that. I wanted to break free of that. And so when the opportunity came, it didn't look like opportunity to beginning. It looked like an obstacle. When the obstacle came, it was like, how can you take all of what you've learned in your entire life at this point, from teaching, talking about design, typography, sales negotiation, writing a business, creative entrepreneurship, your skills at shooting, producing videos, storytelling, editing, visual effects, motion graphics.
How could you put all those things together to serve an entirely different market? And that's the last pivot that we made, which was to go from a service design company, into becoming a content and education platform. So if you look at it like that, then you can see these little moves and the mindset shift that allowed us to see those opportunities hidden inside the obstacle. So now you could say, well, I don't recognize who you are and what you did, or what you do from where you started. And I would say to you, thank you. That's not an insult to me.
We have to move fluidly from one opportunity to the next and use as many of the skills that we've collected over the years to empower us to do the next thing that we need to do in our life. Because you can say to like, what is, what does Elon Musk know about electric cars or building rocket ships? He was the PayPal guy, right? They don't seem that connected. And what does Jeff Bezos know about selling books and then creating artificial intelligence, software, speech recognition, digital books, all these media running an entertainment company. What does he know about that? Because they don't define themselves so rigidly about what it is that they do. They think of themselves more as the impact they want to create in the world and whatever door leads down that path, that's the path they go down.

Andrea:
[inaudible 00:35:31] is so valuable because even if photographers do stay on the path of let's, in quotes, photography, it still has to have that growth element, those fresh ideas. We still have to meet our full potential. So I think what you're saying... I remember you back then and you do seem like the same person, but perhaps you feel different or you pushed yourself. But you are your full potential. I can tell that because I knew you then. You don't seem different to me.

Chris:
I think because you probably saw the idea or the person or the personality behind the things that were making you saw beyond what it is that we made. And so I usually have one of two reactions. One is, are you the same person I knew from school? Because I don't even know who you are. I'm a [inaudible 00:36:25] . I'm still the same person, but I don't do that thing. Or that other thing that you think I might. I'm doing something different now. But people from the outside are looking at this more from the 30,000 foot level. It's like, okay, this person, and maybe I'm speaking too highly of myself right now, but he's a person who's a change agent. And he's going to ride whatever needs to, whatever industries that are trending upwards versus just staying stuck. And if you saw that, then you're like, you're the same person. And to that, I'd say, yes, I am. What I do is different. But the same philosophy, that motivation, that drive, it's the same.

Andrea:
I think this is the element that we need in our business. And let me speak highly of myself for a second. I started as a certain rep. I had no reason for it. I don't know why I'm not making money at it. I have no idea, but it does for me the exact thing you're talking about. I'm still a rep, but it connects me to people, which is what I love. It's bringing out the power I said I felt when I was being interviewed by you about being an agent. So I took that further. It's photographers. If they all have the thing that you're talking about, there's no limits to where they can take this and get into their own creativity, without it being stuck on a no, it looks like this.

Chris:
Yeah. I think people have such rigid definitions of what they do and who they are that when those things, those opportunities present themselves, they can't see themselves doing it. We had mutual friends in common. This is their attitude and their mindset. And it's kind of probably why they're stuck. But I want to talk about getting stuck for a second, if that's okay, Andrea.

Andrea:
Yes, please, please. Okay.

Chris:
You had said something I wrote down. I want to come back to, which is maybe they're feeling bored or maybe uninspired or something. And I wonder what is the catalyst. Is being bored the cause, or is it the effect? And I happen to think oftentimes being uninspired, it looks like the cause, but it's actually the effect, the by-product of something else. And it's lack of progress because you're not growing and you're doing the same thing and presumably getting paid less and you're losing control.
Meaning your client's not letting you lead the engagement. They're not coming to you for your expertise. It's going to leave a bad taste in your mouth. So not only am I being told what to do more, the assignments are getting less creative, but I'm making even less money, a significantly less amount of money. So what's my reaction to that? I'm not inspired. I hate this. I hate the client. I hate this whole process. I hate photography. I hate all of this. I want to do something else with my life. And it's a by-product of lack of growth. So again, we're right back to that. Back to you, Andrea.

Andrea:
Yeah. I'm just kind of sitting here mesmerized, because this is what I hear and witness from photographers. And it shocks me because there's so much potential out there. There's so much creativity. They're so good. They're so good. You wouldn't be at this level. This is good. This is good stuff.

Chris:
Should we open it up or are there a couple more questions that you had in mind?

Andrea:
I feel like you've basically covered everything I wanted to dive into. I mean, one, I'll just throw this out there. I don't know this pandemic time. It's so hard to know what to expect. Like even now, but even tomorrow, we don't really know what's going to happen. So photographers who shoot hospitality or groups and events, lifestyle, it's much harder to shoot right now. But I do believe the answer probably you've already answered it, because I took a go with the times and get yourself out of your own way of thinking, no, this is what I do, so I have to stick with that thing that I do, but I can't do it right now. So I'm not going to do it.

Chris:
Yeah. You know, I was thinking about this the other day. As a director, you get paid. At least you used to get paid a lot of money, 10, 20, $30,000 a day at photographers, similarly, and somebody who is a production coordinator, production assistant, they're probably sitting there like, why do I only make a couple hundred bucks a day? Whereas this person is making 10, 100 X of what I'm making. This sucks. And that's because the director, he or she, has to think on their feet and to adapt to the situation because nothing goes as planned on a shoot, especially when it involves people. And so you have really good instincts. You've honed your mind to problem solve constantly before a problem even presents itself. You already can see it like the chess master that you are and you just solve for it before you even becomes a problem.
Photographers are the same way. You have what you think will work in your mind and you're there, you're setting up and you have a hundred lights pointing at something and it's not looking the way it's supposed to in your mind, you adapt. This is excellent. This is a muscle that you already have. You've honed this thing. But here's the problem. When you're not on a set, not in front of your lights, you turn that muscle. And that brain off, that part confuses me. I mean to think about it, you get paid to solve problems and think on your feet and time is money. So you think fast, but when you're not on that set, you don't want people paying you to pay attention. You just completely shut that brain down. If you can just activate that, what problem couldn't you solve? And if the problem is, if photography is heading in one direction that you don't like, what else can you do? What do you need to change? How can you adapt. If you did that, you would be in good shape right now.

Andrea:
I'd like to throw one part into that. You cannot know what that thing is, is fine. It's good. You don't have to know to make that decision and take those steps. You don't have to actually know why or what, what it's called. You're building that muscle. You're using it. I know exactly what you mean. I hope everyone knows what you mean. So I would like to get some questions. And does everyone know? Cause I'm on fire, I'm breaking with this good stuff. I want everyone to get it.

Chris:
I don't know. We'll find out in a second, as I dodge fire bombs, I anticipate some coming

Greg:
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back with more from Andrea. Welcome back to our conversation with Andrea stir.

Chris:
Here's what we need to do. So we've opened it up for people to raise their hands. I think we need to prioritize people who are image makers, photographers, people who are experienced some of this pain where they feel like the times have left them behind. And if you're stuck, if you feel bored or uninspired, if you want to know what reps do and how they can help you, please raise your hand. Drigo, he'll carefully screen people and bring you up. So on behalf of Andrea and myself, I'm just going to say, please ask a question or make a statement in the spirit of generosity for all of us to learn and share it together. And if you do that, we're going to have a good time together. So I believe Alicia is up. Go ahead, Alicia.

Alicia:
Hi Chris. Hi Andrea Rodrigo. Thank you so much. This has been such an inspiring talk and a lot of great food for thought, thinking about things in a really great and different way. I'm going to try to make this linear and fast. And I really enjoyed the more existential aspect of this conversation, but as far as kind of what Andrea spoke to as far as wearing all the hats. And I think as we see the landscape shifting and things change so quickly and you really do have to change with that ebb and flow and, and wear those hats. Something that I'm coming up against. And I know we have different sectors here with photographers, but I'd be really interested in hearing about your take on... I work in fashion and beauty and something that I'm coming up against is this competing now with content creators and influencers.
And I have done some work around trying to figure out how I can enter that space without necessarily becoming an influencer or, you know, cause I'm passionate about what I do, but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on that. Like where maybe we can kind of meet the demand and you know, I'm bidding jobs that are... I am literally up against a content creator or an influencer who can maybe provide something that's not as highly produced, but it's much more affordable and gets a bigger reach because of their, you know, their followers. So I'm Alicia and I'm done asking that question. Thank you.

Chris:
Thank you, Alicia. Okay. Andrea, do you want to take a stab at that? Or do you want me to do it?

Andrea:
I'd love to hear your thoughts first. Cause I'm like my automatic rep [inaudible 00:45:43] you know, thought, cause I'd love [inaudible 00:45:46].

Chris:
I think the heart of the question, thank you, Alicia, for asking that question, is that she's up for a job against someone who is probably not trained traditionally as a photographer. And I think it's pretty safe to assume that Alicia can destroy this other person on a technical level, could produce a superior image. But what's at play here is audience reach. And this comes down to the heart of it. It's because if you produce a superior image, but nobody sees it, does anyone care, outside of the world of fine art photography? And so your prospective client, isn't just paying you to take the image. It's what comes with that now. And that has changed a lot and I don't think it's going away. So I think it's pretty safe for me to say that as a photographer, if you can bring an audience with you, you're going to be super powerful and you're going to have all the advantages.
So right now, a lot of photographers, are feeling that this is not fair isn't right, that some self-taught amateur can bring an audience as an influencer and even be in the conversation against you in a legitimate bid, that sucks. And you know what, that photographer that influencer can charge the less than you because you know why? They didn't pay for all that gear. They didn't buy that four year education that you're still probably paying down. And so they have a lot lower overhead to deal with. They're not necessarily trying to undercut you. They just don't have the financial baggage or history that you have. It's kind of tough. And I think your question was also like, how do you do this without becoming an influencer? Now, if I told you tomorrow, you could be an influencer, you probably would be like, yeah, that's cool. Because what I'm doing is influential. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think in the context in which you've asked, and I could be reading this incorrectly, but you don't have the reach. That's the problem. Is that fair to say Alicia?

Alicia:
That's definitely correct. I mean, I have, a low, I have like 5,000 followers, so certainly not a huge reach and I think that's a portion of it. I think to be completely transparent, I'm in my forties and I feel like there's this movement towards people who are younger and sort of on just imaginative in a different way, you know. So I think that when we talk about being stuck, I think that's kind of another aspect. It's like, how do you compete so it's an interesting... You know, you bring up a lot of interesting points about exploring, what that means and where I go from here without abandoning my craft and what I love to do.

Chris:
I'm not a proponent for you to abandon anything. So stay on the line with me. Okay. I don't want you to reveal your age, but you said you're in your forties. That's your physical age. What's your mental age?

Alicia:
Probably about 16.

Chris:
Well, I would say then act like a 16 year old. 16 year olds are blowing up on social media all over the place. Right? And so there's not a lot that we can do about our physical age. We are stuck in the vessel containing water and blood. This is us. This is it. Some of us have better genes to start off with. We won the genetic lottery or whatever. Some of us are cursed. And we look our age or older than our age, but that's one thing. But your mental age is what happens inside between your ears. I'm 49 years old and I started making my first YouTube video when I was 42. And so I think this idea...
We have to just surrender. We have to let go of some of these old ideas, because if an idea, even if it were true, doesn't help you, I would call classified as old and useless. So if we say the game is only for young people and we're not young anymore, that idea is not helpful to me at all. I would just change the narrative in my mind so that I can solve the problem. So I think the question is, how do you compete with an influencer is to become more influential. So the question really should be, Chris and Andrea, how do I get to 500,000 followers? Because then I'm going to kick some. That's really the question. Because you beat them at their own game.

Andrea:
I did have a thought on that. I don't want to call it a disagreement, but I don't think photographers need to compete with influencers. They need to compete with their category. It's such a different type of market. I don't know much about that world because we don't compete with them. If your book, Alicia, if your portfolio looks your best, if you weren't bored, if you were talking, feeling about everything the way Chris is describing it, I think your images would show it even more and you wouldn't even be competing with them. That's my take on it.

Chris:
Okay I'm firing back, you ready? I hit the ball to you, you hit the ball back. So here, I'm going to hit it right back to you.
We know that this era, this age of being able to control and influence people's minds through paid media, it's going away, man. I don't care what you tell me about your restaurant, your car or your clothes. If the street, the people, don't say that is true, I don't believe you. And that's why influencer marketing is really on the rise because we trust people. Now we trust to say like, Alicia, if you take a picture of a product that you are in some way, staking part of your reputation that you do like this thing, or you should not attach yourself to it at all. Now in the world of photography, you produce a glossy 8X10 visual, you send it off to the client to reach out, to just do what they need to do. It runs in Time or whatever magazine... People aren't even reading magazines anymore. It lives in the universe and people don't know it's you. So you can take a picture for anything and it doesn't matter. But what people want are authenticity and credibility. And they also want a media by... Like I said, a beautiful image seen by...

Chris:
The one, a media buy, like I said, a beautiful image seen by no one is basically not a beautiful image at that point because who can appreciate it? It's like the tree falling. What is it? A tree falls in the woods and no one's there to hear it. So they're also looking at you now as part of the media buy and part of your reputation attaching yourself to it. So if you use a Sony camera or a Canon or Nikon or whatever, or Leica, and you're taking images with that, well Leica wants to be attached to you or Sony or Canon because you take beautiful images and talking about their cameras and images that you can produce is much more powerful coming from you than it is from a generic ad.
Ask yourself this question, the next time a lens or a camera or a new product comes out of the market. Do you talk to the sales rep or do you just go online and just search reviews? Does this suck? Compared to what? And if you're like me, that's what you do. So these companies have to adapt with the way that we're consuming, the way we're buying and the way that we're behaving. And so, yes, I'm going to hit it right back to Andrea, because if you don't adapt to the times, the times will leave you behind.

Andrea:
I do get that. And I did, I am working with a photographer who is doing that and shooting other images. So it's a combination of what you're talking about. She's an influencer and creating other images.

Chris:
Yes. I mean, look, Andrea, let me ask you this question okay?

Andrea:
Mm hmm. (affirmative)

Chris:
If I could tell you, if you had each one of your photographers and the artists that you represent, if they could all spend an investment, let's say 10,000 bucks each, and they would get to 200,000 followers. Do you think that would make their job easier to sell themselves or would it make it or make no difference at all?

Andrea:
It would make it easier, but they aren't the type of people that want to show it on their own feed. The types I rep, their feed is their portfolio.

Chris:
Absolutely. This is not in conflict. I'm not telling people to post things that they don't feel good about, but let me rephrase the question okay? If you can spend an equal amount of energy and time in either growing your influence, aka getting more followers, or doing more test shoots, which would help them sell more work?

Andrea:
Test shoots.

Chris:
Okay, that's where you and I will disagree.

Andrea:
Yeah.

Chris:
You can shoot test shoots until you're blue in the face, but you don't have any influence, you don't have any clout. You really think in 2030 that where you and I will have this conversation where the photographer's like "Yep, I'm successful".

Andrea:
The stronger their images are going to be, they're going to be the ones that get hired. I honestly, I think we're both right.
Hopefully that works.

Chris:
[crosstalk 00:54:56] Okay. I'm going to push back one more time. I'm going to get a lot of hate after this I'm sure of it.
I'm pretty sure, you tell me if I'm wrong here, the photographers that you consider representing are already at a level in which they're worthwhile to be considered for national campaigns today. Is that true or not true?

Andrea:
Yes.

Chris:
So at this point, we're just trying to further, I think, split the hair here when we, and I talk, this is advice I take and I share with people readily. So this is not anything new you're going to hear me say. At a certain point, your portfolio is already good enough for you to be considered for work. Now you have to work on everything else that's outside of your portfolio. And a lot of it is just the art of marketing, getting known in the world. That's it. Like right now, there's a mad dash for artists to mint their things and get their NFT artwork sold. And the biggest, most visible, most well-known person also happens to command the most amount of money.
Beeple, Mike Winkelman, sold his painting, his NFT, for $69.3 million. Another friend of mine, Magdiel Lopez, sold his digital NFT for $10,000. What's the difference between those two people? You can [crosstalk 00:56:17] even argue that Magdiel Lopez's image is superior to Beeples image. One could argue because there's a lot of criticism going around about Beeples work right now, that it's just a bunch of 3D mashup, generic models that are poorly rendered.
That's what some people are saying. I don't agree with that. And some people will look at Magdiel Lopez's work and say, this is beautiful. It's artful. I'd hang that on my wall. But Beeple has two million followers. He's been making an image every day for 13 years. So I guess on your argument, that's true. More test images, but he's just better known.

Andrea:
Which is marketing.

Chris:
Yeah. So that's where if we, if you were one business coach and I was the other, and we have finite resources and time, for sure, I would say at this point, you're good enough, everyone. Your images are good enough. Now you've got to do the work that nobody wants to do, which is to work on your marketing, your personal branding, to get your name out there, to do networking, to be visible, to be a thought leader.
And I would bet all my money, all things being equal, the person who works more on getting their name out there will have an easier time selling the work than the person who keeps working on more test images. Like our good friend, Toby. He's amazing. I look at his images, I'd hang them on the wall. More test images from him, I don't think are going to move the needle. I know we disagree. So...

Andrea:
I think most, some photographers are in a sect of the business that the same people see their work over and over. They need to see a freshness, which is part of their marketing. I don't know if there's a black and white, crystal clear answer on this one.

Chris:
Right, but it's like two boats are leaving the port, you got to get you're on one boat or the other. That's it. It's both. It answers both, but really sometimes these grey things make it hard for people to decide so that's why I would say that, but okay. I don't know if we helped Alicia out at all, but we did weigh in on the issue.

Andrea:
We had a good talk.

Chris:
I think so.

Alecia:
Thanks. No, I appreciate your time and all of this is really great to be thinking on and moving forward so thank you.

Chris:
Yes. So Alicia, I would strongly encourage you to do this if you haven't done this already. Look up this young man's work, his name is Jordi Koalitic, I think that's his name? J-O-R-D-I Koalitic. He has a couple hundred thousand or maybe a million followers. He uses an iPhone. Check out what he's doing. Use your artistry. You use your POV, use your subject matter, but just try to understand why this person has that many followers. And it might give you clues to what you need to do next to add a couple of zeros to your influence okay? All right. Let's do this.
Damien, you're up next. Damien, what's your question for Andrea?

Damian:
Hello everybody. Thank you for having me. My name is Damien Noble Andrews, and I've just been inspired by the whole conversation. Chris, what you were saying in the first half about stepping outside of what we currently know and doing other things is kind of dropping in my lap at a very serendipitous time. I have been shooting for 20, almost 22 years and commercially for about 10 of them. And I've recognized actually through this app over the past couple months that I'm pretty darn good with a camera, but I truly am an excellent teacher. And I'm now incorporating a huge part of my workflow and work into the teaching and coaching space. It's something I've been doing for about 15 years behind the scenes and now involving it more in the forefront of what I'm going to be doing. So I have kind of question, statement, all of the above.
First of all, thank you for the perspective and the amazing timing in my life for hearing these words. I appreciate it. Secondly, Andrea, I wrote you an email about this while Chris was speaking, because I was so inspired and I have an idea for you for this type of direction. And I guess my question would be, if you had to start at the very beginning of your pivot of, into this coaching, speaking realm, what's a piece of advice that you would give yourself to save yourself just that 10% of heartache. Thank you. I'm done speaking.

Chris:
I think Damian's question was for, for me, is that right, Andrea?

Damian:
Yes, it was.

Chris:
Okay. Thank you, Damien. I just don't want to jump in there and volunteer, but you know what? You just reminded me of something super powerful. That if you are a teacher, you can do anything in the world and you'll have an audience and you'll have a following and you might even have your thousand true fans. I think a lot of us are nervous about teaching because we say, well, what do we know? And if I say this then people will think I don't know anything, and so it's just better to not teach. But I think teaching is one of the most noble professions that you can have. It's done in the spirit of generosity and you're just trying to help people. And that was the clue by the way, if you look up Jordi's work, all he does is he teaches you how to capture shots that makes it really fun and accessible and relatable to normal people. And unfortunately, when he does that, or fortunately, depending how you look at it, he's going to capture the mind share of people who think I need to hire somebody to capture an image for me, and he'll probably be that guy.
And so Damien, I'm going to encourage you to lean into this. I just quickly glanced through your photographs and I think there are really beautiful. If you showed people in static or moving form, just how you capture these things, how you make people feel comfortable on camera, and you just give them little tips. Your audience will grow. If you do this consistently in a years time, I bet you, you would add a zero to your followers. Easily. And this isn't even, I'm not even talking about marketing yourself as a coach or as an instructor, but just teaching people how to hire you is just, it's a skill and it's something that you can use to market.
So here's the thing. Every time we watch a video, somebody explains to us a really complex concept that we don't know how to do and we think we want to learn how to do it, we actually just wind up hiring that person. I'm watching this show, on YouTube, this man is building a super car and everything he's doing looks amazing. I'm so inspired. But I also realize how complex it and how hard it is and how many skills this person has to possess. And the lifetime of knowledge that he possesses in his mind executed through his hands. And I just sit there and think if I ever wanted a super car built, I would just give the man the money. I'm just going to pay him because there's no way I can achieve that in this time. And the better you are at what you do, the easier it looks, the more people are like "Oh my God, I can't achieve that level. I'd just rather hire you.".
And so I see that there are a lot of portrait work, I think maybe fitness models, things like that. I'm just quickly glancing through your Instagram feed, that especially right now, people are looking for ways to stay in shape and to look good and, I don't know, there's an opportunity for you to jump in there for sure. And you had asked me what's that one tip I would tell someone who wants to get into the content game that's what I want to call it, it's the content game. It's the art of getting known. What I would do differently or something I would do to save you 10% of pain. And it's going to sound terrible, it's not what you want to hear from me. But the one that I'm going to tell you is just do it.
Stop waiting for it to be perfect. Stop waiting for the right equipment, the lighting, conditions to be perfect. It will never be perfect. It isn't perfect. We recently dropped a video and somebody in the audience said "You know, there's this high pitch humming sound I hear in the background, you guys can get rid of it.". Yeah. I could get rid of it or I could release the video and you can learn, and then you can close a job and make money. So we get entirely too caught up with perfection and making sure that we can't have one negative opinion or critique about the work that we do and that'll cripple you. I also think that's a lot of reasons why people who are successful who see themselves as a professional at the highest level, don't get involved in making content because when they start making content they're equals with everyone else who is trying to make content right now. That's one of the reasons why I think people are stuck. So just do it, man. Do it in its imperfect, ugly, messy, flawed way, but just do it. Was that helpful to you Damien?

Damian:
That was, yeah. Thank you so much, Chris. I appreciate that. And then I do have a quick follow up question for Andrea. Andrea, is that the type of photographer that you would potentially be interested in representing? Somebody that has that educational following as well as the commercial stature?

Andrea:
I mean, my guess is probably not, but I like what's coming up here because it sounds like your best marketing is the teacher that you are. I mean, if you have those skills, you're putting yourself out there, just like we're talking about. That is your marketing. I'm excited for you and I'm curious where you'll actually take this.

Damian:
Well, I'll keep in touch and make sure you're up to date.

Andrea:
Go for it.

Chris:
So you know, one day I'm going to hire a bunch of sales people. This is probably a couple of years into the future. I'm going to hire a bunch of sales people, who are going to market people who have a big audience, who don't know how to handle the business part. And if you're at that point in your life and we're at that point in our life, Damien, I'd be happy to get you work and sell you and negotiate on your behalf. We're not there today because we know so many talented artists who don't have the connections for work. But what I tell everybody right now is just work on growing your audience and you'll see what happens. Doors will open for you. If I may, I'm going to tell you one story that may not seem related and it might just seem like I'm bragging, probably cause I am, but you'll see how this works right?
I remember talking to my wife's friend who was sharing that there was a speaker, an author, a well known world-renowned author who spoke at a conference that her company had sponsored. Get this, they paid this man $300,000 to give one talk for a couple hours and his conditions were, you had to fly him first class, stay in a four or five star hotel, for him and his wife, in order for him to consider speaking at this thing. I remember hearing this, I'm like, Oh my God, what does one have to do to become a person where somebody would pay you $300,000 to open your mouth? What an incredible gig.
Okay so rewind the tape here at 2014, I'm still doing work for clients. I'm still getting paid, whatever, the rates people get paid to do the work that we do. I go on this adventure with my friend Jose, we start making videos, and for the first couple of years, we barely make enough money, what you would pay an entry-level assistant, but we keep working on this thing. We keep elevating and our audience keeps growing. And so today, people that I thought I never even knew that would even consider talking to us, are not only watching our content, but are making it mandatory for people on their teams to watch.
The doors that are opening up to me today because of the influence, the reach that I have, are just mind boggling. And it just took that little bit of courage to say, you know what, I'm going to go and just share with the world what it is that I know how to do and hope to help some people. I honestly believe that I would not even be talking to Andrea on this Clubhouse call or on YouTube, if we didn't start that journey. So do not underestimate the power of audience and reach and influence. I know for a lot of you, if you don't have those results, it's going to sound like heresy. It's going to sound like I'm some blasphemer telling you how to create a lot of buzz and noise around things that don't matter. And maybe I am, but you get to decide which path do you want to go down.
Okay, let's do this, let's bring Melissa on. Melissa, what's your question for us?

Melissa:
Hello there, I'm Melissa Robin and thank you all so much. This has been so valuable and Andrea, I've been following you for a while and love everything that you have to share. And I've just really been resonating and also been a photographer for 15 years and started as a portrait and lifestyle photographer. And have really pivoted about four years ago to weaving my gifts and as a healer and a coach and creating the goddess session to help women experience beauty and self love through a guided meditation and a one-on-one intentional photo session in nature. And then also offering mentoring after as well. And I work with, you know, real women of all shapes, sizes and colors. And I just see this amazing opportunity to work with bigger brands that share the values of female empowerment. So my question is, how do I find a good rep that's in alignment with my values? Or do you have any suggestions on how to go down that path?

Andrea:
I love what you're doing, Melissa, you're speaking my language I love it. The thing you want to get in a rep is who their clients are? And for you to first figure out who are the clients you think would work for you. One great way to find a rep is to go and ask those clients that you want to be working with "What reps do you like?" and it's actually a great way for you to market yourself in with the clients by having this question. Because you're giving them something to say, it's like a tangible ask. Does that help?

Melissa:
Absolutely. Yes. Thank you.

Chris:
Fantastic tip. All right. Okay. That was like super quick. Okay, Mario, you're up next. What's your question or comment, please get right to it.

Mario:
Thank you. My question is, I would like to know your perspective about what do you think an artist is? Because the title of your chat is "what can photographers do when they feel stuck?" and it makes me think the whole time that many of us feel stuck, or at least in my case feel stuck because we got into this because of the love we have to the art of making photography and not because we have to, we want to market ourselves. So I'm really curious about that. What was your opinion? Because I've tried many things to get unstuck, to reinvent myself. But I also realized that I am, as an artist, I am too sensitive sometimes to everything that is shiny. So I tend to try everything at the same time and I lose sight of the real reason why I'm doing what I'm doing. So I would like to know what, how do you see the part of being an artist and being sensitive to the world, next to having to market yourself? I don't know if it makes sense, my question, I hope so.

Andrea:
Well, I could say for me, the essence of who you are is what you market in yourself. So if you're an artist, that's what you put out there and that's what you show. And that's what you put on Insta Story everyday, hopefully. Explore that and be honest with that. We are all artists. And a lot of this has come up today with Chris, about your purpose. That is what you are. I guess I don't see it's actually the problem. Am I missing something, where's the issue?

Mario:
The issue, for me at least, is that I am always, in some ways I think Chris Do saved my life in many things, because I found more inspiration and tried a lot of more things to integrate more things in my business to make it grow, to help others, to help negotiate. But at the same time, I became a bit anxious about all the things I would have to do. I mean, I have a child now and I would like to make carousels and teach all I know to people, but at the same time, I have to just earn money now you know? And I don't have time to make a one video a week to share my blessings to the world like I would have liked to. But the problem is that I think many of us are or feel stuck because we are creatives that are really sensitive, to compare ourselves with other people who are not as confident as other people who are growing and growing that fast, you know?
So what I'm trying to say what I'm trying to ask is Chris' perspective on artistry and sometimes not being able to just see it with a cold blog and just share what you know, but more like we're trying to, in my case, I'm trying to be a blessing for people and that's the reason I do what I do, but sometimes I cannot see the light because I have no clients like other photographers that I see. And then you get in this loop trying to not compare yourself to others, but doing it anyways, because everybody seems to be successful, except yourself. So does this make any sense?

Chris:
Andrea, did you want to answer a follow-up?

Andrea:
I think you should, Chris, but I do think this is key. Like, this is what comes up for a lot of photographers. The focus on the competition and others are making it. I'd be really curious to what you're going to say.

Chris:
Okay. So Mario thank you very much for asking that question. I see that you're from the Netherlands, right? So shout out to you there. The first part of your question, scared me a little bit. It's like I did this to be an artist, not to, to learn how to be a marketer, and it's a sign of the times. And I think if we were just to rewind the tape 20 years ago, you could be an artist and somebody like Andrea would come in and help you with the business and the marketing part and the market wasn't saturated. There was high demand, therefore creating a premium on the things that you do, and you would do okay. But as times change, the demand for the work and the supply for the people who can do what you do, changes as well and it's not moving in your favor.
And I hear it and I feel it, there is this, you just trying to balance, like you have a family, you got things that you do. Like where do you spend all your energy? Because you can't do a whole bunch of things well, you could do one or two things well, but not everything. And then I'm thankful and grateful that you're watching the channel and you find some inspiration from it, but also sense from what you're saying, you can also feel really overwhelmed. Like "Chris is saying to do this, then he's saying to do that, how can I do all that?" and you can't. To be honest, you cannot. I'm a big believer in doing less, but better. So the question is, you need to make an educated guess from a hypothesis as to what's going to move the needle for you? And if you think shooting more images and posting more frequently, in the same way that you've been doing, is going to make the difference, do that.
I don't suspect that's the case. Doing more of the same and expecting a different result, you know what they say about those kinds of people. And so you might say, look, what else can I do with this gift that I have, with the resources and the constraints that I have, the time that I have available, to the region of the world that I live in, and to what I can do in terms of geographically, like I'm not allowed to travel two kilometers outside of where I live? And you just use all those variables to kind of think, what can I do? What can I make from this? And use those as a creative brief, make an educated guess, and try a bunch of things that work towards that goal. The thing that people don't want to hear, is that innovation, it's messy. It's inherently wasteful, but that's the cool thing is like when you're successful, people forget all the things that didn't work.
They just focused on the thing that did work. Even just a beloved brand, world's most valuable brand right now, Apple, they've had a lot of duds, products that never took off. Remember the Apple Newton? The 20th anniversary iMac? They've had a lot of bombs, but people don't remember them. They just remember the ones that work. So you need to just try things based on an educated guess. A hypothesis that you have, that's going to make a difference for you and just try. Now, I looked through your account while you were asking the question and Andrea was answering it. There's some event photography in there. It's very moody. It's very evocative. And if the world was blank, you would have the corner on that marketplace, but the world isn't, and there's a lot of people who do those kinds of things. So you have -

Chris:
... the world isn't and there's a lot of people who do those kinds of things. So you have to learn how to stand out just a little bit more than the rest of the people. I see that you write some captions and the captions, the ones that I saw, they're okay. They weren't moving me to tears. It wasn't like poetry. So what else can you do? So you keep thinking, I want to stand out just 1/8 of an inch and try some variables and give it a really good effort before you say "That's not going to work," and try the next thing and keep doing it. And eventually, you find success.

Mario:
I hear what you're saying and I've tried to do this. I taught myself last year to make websites in Webflow. I am learning Core. I bought Core from you guys. I'm loving it. I'm helping people with that. I'm trying just to be more skilled, know more things to help more people. But at the same time, when I wrote, I did wrote very nice captions on Instagram, but that's, I realized that every time I try to go on Instagram and write a very nice caption, it just sucks all my energy because there are so many things that...no one that's like, no compass. You really have to just make guesses about what you're going to do and your direction. So at least for me, I have ADD, so I have a lot of problems focusing on things.
I envy people who just can say, "Okay, I'm going to do Instagram. And I'm going to just do that." For me, just to survive is with my own head is a big challenge. And I wish I could do what you preach, just go and do it. But some of us are not like that. That's why I was trying to make emphasis on being an artist. Because for me, being an artist is just expressing all the things you have in you. And sometimes, I just think, "Well, I don't have time to express those things or write a blog or do something with it" because I have to do the stupid marketing. I have to just be onsite of all the people or to be present and to be there. And I don't know, sometimes I think those are things that just make you tired. And at the end with the little energy you have, it's really, you become insecure and you don't know where to spend that last energy, if you know what I mean.

Chris:
Yeah, I feel your pain.

Mario:
Thank you.

Chris:
I'm one of those people who can focus, and that's why I give people advice to focus, right, because that's what I do. And so I feel that there's a disconnect between the things that I'm saying and the things that you're capable of doing. So I don't know how to help in this situation. Maybe somebody who is really...like Jose would be a great person.
You should reach out to Jose because he has ADHD as well. And so he has a very clear systems that he's had to invent for himself. I'll give you an example. And I thought he was joking around when we're at the office together, he would literally tape Post-it notes to the side of his glasses to act as blinders. You know what horses wear? So they can only look forward because any little distraction from the side view is going to get him to break his concentration. And he has worksheets and he has a large paper trail that says...he makes promises to himself every morning. "This is what I'm going to get done today. These three things." And he gets that work done. So I would say that talking to me is like an extrovert asking an introvert for advice. It's just, it's different advice, man. So I would say reach out to him, okay?

Mario:
Thank you.

Chris:
You're welcome. And good luck, man. Hang in there.

Mario:
I really tried to meet you in the Netherlands last time, but I couldn't tell, it was impossible. [crosstalk 01:22:14] Maybe next time. Thank you, bye.

Chris:
So, Andrea, how are we doing on time for you and time and energy?

Andrea:
I mean like, 10 more minutes?

Chris:
Sounds good.

Andrea:
I do have one quick thing for Mario. Mario, you are so normal. I just don't want you feeling like you're one in a million and nobody would relate. I bet most people on here would go, "Yeah. Yeah." This is how it is. And especially, as creative people, photographers, I really think you are quite normal. We all have that. We all have that. We got to do this. We got to do this. That's my day, at least, is full of, "I got to do this. I got to do that." It's so...I'm jumping back and forth and it takes a lot of work to stick on that one thing and get it done. I make a list and I put little circles next to it if I have to get this done in the next hour, I prioritize it.
And there's...I thought of something what you could do. Tell me how you feel about this one, is to be the human that you are, not the mass marketer. Go on LinkedIn, find the names of the companies you really want to work with, who are the three people or five people. Find them, then go find them on Instagram, if you can, and build a relationship. I always...I'm talking about this a lot right now. We are more human than we've ever been. This pandemic, if it's done anything good, it's made us more human. People want to hear from you. Especially the more vulnerable and honest you are. So maybe change your perspective of marketing and make it connecting, really engage.

Mario:
You're right, you're totally right. I actually, only like two weeks ago, I just decided that I am not going to try to do any marketing, I'm just going to be who I am and be a blessing for the people around me and try to help those people. And then we'll see what happens because the moment I tried to be this teacher who is trying to bring something new to the world or something, then it doesn't work anymore.

Andrea:
It also sounds like that isn't really your calling. You're putting other words that you're hearing...Everything Chris is teaching is not for everybody. It's to find your own words and your plan, how to bring that into your life. You are you, so put yourself out there in a human way and really connect with some of the top people. Do the research. You might spend a few days researching, "Who are the clients? What are the companies I want to work for and who are the right contacts?". And then you go talk to them. Even if they don't answer, you could stay on it. You schedule it. I'm going to email once a month or maybe every two months, once a, something like that. I'm going to then engage on Instagram, I'm going to look up, "Do they have a personal website?". Take over specific people and really stay on it, but just with those people.

Mario:
Thank you very much. Sounds really good.

Chris:
Wonderful, so let's do this. We will finish out with the last two people up on stage right now. So Simsim and then Hoccum? Hoccum? Yep. Sorry, I butcher your name every time, I apologize. Okay, Simsim go ahead.

Simsim:
Hello everyone, thank you for this amazing room. And I just want to say really quick, Chris, I love the first two lines of your bio. One of my goals in life is to show by example, the people around me, that you can make a living doing what you're passionate about. My question is, I'm a fashion photographer from Saudi Arabia and I've been doing it using sunlight, so natural light. And I'm stuck in the point where I've never practiced or learned how to do flashes, strobe, lighting, artificial lighting. So I'm stuck in the point where I'm doing really good with natural light. So should I just stick to what I'm good at and just make it my niche and then just find enough clients that is going to keep me going with that genre or slow down? And you know, I think learning the artificial light and you think is going to slow me down when it comes to making money, making a living, but it will diversify my kind of clientele. So I'm kind of stuck in that point and I'm not sure which way to go.

Chris:
Andrea. I believe this is a question for you.

Andrea:
Got it, Chris. You know, I don't know exactly the type of work you do. You can do it with natural light, but it would be good to support it because what if it's cloudy that day? What if it's dark? What if you're in a dark space and you need lighting? You could hire assistants. If you have the kind of budget that you can bring in a crew that knows lighting. There's also, and we've talked about on YouTube and stuff, you can get educated on lights and all equipment. You can really learn this stuff. It's all out there for you to gain knowledge about it. Does that help?

Simsim:
Yes, but my problem kind of is if I'm going to start to do that, it's going to slow me down. It comes to doing actual paid work, right? Because I don't want to learn through my clients and then do something wrong while I'm doing it. It's going to make me stop taking clients and just start learning, using the artificial light because you know that it needs practice, right? That takes time, I guess. So that's my stuck point.

Andrea:
I bet though, your eye is already there. You see light. So light is light. And if you, I bet you'll pick up on it very quickly, but can you hire an assistant that knows the lighting and then they'll bring it in and you watch what they do?

Simsim:
Yeah, probably.

Andrea:
Because probably you're not getting the jobs with the really defined studio lighting. Because that's not what you do. But it would be good to expand a bit and have the knowledge in case you need it. In case you need a little...some light on their face in some...or some element in the background, something like that. A little more control. I do think you want to learn this.

Simsim:
Great, thank you so much.

Andrea:
Yeah.

Chris:
Great, I'd like to weigh in there really quickly. The way that Simsim phrased that question was, "If he learns lighting, he won't make money." So based on just the question alone, it sounds like he's working nonstop. There's not one minute to breathe or to watch a video or to pick up a lighting package. I suspect that's not the case. I know very successful people, almost none of them work all the time nonstop. And if you're in that wonderful position, you don't need us, you're doing great. Keep winning, keep killing, keep crushing life, right? But if it's not the case, you do have time in which you can learn, experiment and try things out. And I think for your own self benefit, forget about doing this for others, just for your own personal growth. It's good for you to master your craft. And you are a person who captures and manipulates light. Right now, sunlight. But some point, artificial light.
You could do it, you should do it. And unless you are literally...from the minute in which you open your eyes, you're on set and the minute you close your eyes, you're offset. Well, there's time in between and I know there's time. So make the time. Everything worth having requires work. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. And then what you do wouldn't be valuable at all. Okay, last but not least, Hoccum, you're up.

Hoccum:
Hey Andrea. Yeah, love your work and love the work, your creative circumstance. My question is, how do you get unstuck when you feel stuck in growing your client base of [inaudible 00:12:09 clients? But you also feel stuck in growing your portfolio and your Instagram profile. Yeah, where do you start then? How do you get unstuck from that? Thank you.

Andrea:
Wow, what a good question to end on. Because it sums up everything we've been talking about. I guess, I want to ask more questions, but Chris, do you have an answer just based on that?

Chris:
No, you can ask questions, yeah.

Andrea:
Okay, is it Hoccum?

Hoccum:
Yeah, everything flies. Hoccum, Hoccum is all good.

Andrea:
Okay, why are you stuck? What does that mean? Why? When you say you're stuck, you just feel like you're putting everything into it and then it's not moving?

Hoccum:
I feel more like I'm overthinking mostly everything. And every idea I get about a new portfolio shoot or something I would like to do for my Instagram, I might get negative about that idea as soon or very quickly after getting the idea. And you don't get started moving and you feel you have so much different aspects that are not working out like, growing your agency, client base, could be more like on the business side. I'm working on that a bit now and have discovered a little bit things by being a part of The Futur. But growing the portfolio and the Instagram is also something I feel stuck at, at the same time. So I feel a bit more, maybe a bit overwhelmed.

Andrea:
It reminds me of a couple of things you talk about Chris, which is the perfectionist part. You don't have to be perfect. And also how you talk about obstacles. Do you want to jump on this, Chris?

Chris:
Well, I get the opportunity to talk to him all the time. So I...we talk actually, it seems like all the time now. He's in the rooms, he's in the Pro Group. So I want to dedicate the last part to getting your perspective, because I think he specifically, it was addressing you, so yeah.

Andrea:
Wow. All right, you feel stuck. Try something else? Maybe you're not doing it your way. Maybe you're trying to do it what you think others are doing it or perhaps you're going for a market that's not exactly you because you think you should. If I'm guessing at a lot of things here because I don't know you. But first of all, your belief system, I would like to turn up the volume of a little more positivity and belief in yourself. "I'm going to do this. I'm going to figure out my way. I don't know what that is right now, but I'm going to take step one, step two... I'm just going to go for it." And you don't have to know exactly the answers. Everybody's marketing. It's this huge word.
I showed up once at a client's office, and she still tells this story too, and I brought her a blended mocha. It was one of the best marketing, I think I spent $4. And Matthew Young talks about this too, because he met with me, he's a photographer, he brought a passion fruit. He spent $4 or something. I'll never forget it. He stuck in my mind. I stuck in the mind of this other client. Because I brought a blended mocha. That's not on the path of marketing. Nobody teaches, bring a piece of passion fruit. You know, you have to develop your own way and really be yourself and bring that out. And that's called marketing. We are doing this Clubhouse. I don't know exactly why I'm doing this or what it's going to bring to me, but it's part of my marketing. I'm just putting myself out there. I'm being the fullest me that I can be. If you have any other specific question, but that's my loaded answer to what I'm hearing.

Hoccum:
Yeah, thank you very much for that. Yeah, it's probably, I don't know. I can take maybe the Instagram as one part of it. It's probably this kind of comparing to other photographers who's already at that level that you're aiming for and that you feel like you should do something in a direction of something in that level or you're kind of wasting your time or you're kind of misrepresenting yourself. So it probably goes down to the perfectionism again. But do you have any advice or inputs about not to look too much to the side of your peers and your colleagues and people may be ahead of you in the game?

Andrea:
Yes, I hear this a lot. Photographers get really down by looking at their competitors. You can't, that's not the way to inspire you and maybe make some rules about that. Maybe, "Okay, I'm allowed to look on Tuesdays from three to four. What they're up to." But otherwise, why keep watching something, it's like, "I don't watch the news after eight, nine o'clock because it'll bring me down." I have to set a limit. If Instagram or any other aspect of what we do brings you down, why do it?
If you're trying to educate yourself, okay then maybe pick the people, who are the photographers you really want to learn from and be inspired by. Change that language. "I want to be inspired by them." That's who you go seek out. Spend your engaging and Instagram time, all of social media, very wisely. Even this Clubhouse, I wouldn't get too lost. Be careful who you're listening to and don't spend all day, unless you want to. Make a plan, make a marketing plan for yourself and maybe map out the hours. How much time are you going to spend on Instagram? How much time you're going to be on Clubhouse and maybe get really picky and choosy cause your time, that's what we got. And that's that.

Chris:
Beautiful. Okay, I'm exhausted, I'm exhausted. And it's a wonderful way to end the conversation. And I think the way that passion asked that question really ties it together with the title of the room, which is "What do you do when you're stuck?". I'm hoping I didn't make too many enemies today with photographers. I really truly I'm here for anybody that wants to increase their awareness amongst potential clients and prospective clients and studios. Okay? I'm here for you. And if what I say doesn't resonate with you, it feels strange and foreign and, and something that goes against your core. And I get it. Ignore me, please.

Andrea:
I don't, I think you're off on that one. You've completely inspired me and I'm in the photography world. This is where we're at. And that's why I'm noticing so many photographers feeling stuck. So this was helpful. I, yeah.

Chris:
I always wonder if it's a case of the grass is always greener. Because I sit there and like I'm doing my own lighting, I've learned enough about the cameras and the lenses that I'm using to set my own studio up. But I'm always looking to images of the photographers that you represented. Think to myself, "If I had that skill, my videos would be on this level and my live streams would at this level."
And it's, I think it's one of these situations where it's very human nature to say... we focus on the things that we don't have versus things we already have. So mindset shift should be looking at what you already have and go all in on that and make that explode and let that flourish and blossom into whatever it is that you want to do.
There is no one formula, one size that fits all one solution that destroys everything. There isn't the best solution is the one that works for you. So whether or not it's something that I've said, something that Andrea said, or something in between, or one of the guests that we've had up on the stage with us, pick the parts that work for you. Somebody shared this expression with me, I think it might've been somebody from Africa where they're like, "Eat the chicken and you spit out the bones". Leave the stuff that doesn't work for you. Andrea, last thoughts?

Andrea:
Yeah. Funny you just said that about your lighting. I was looking at your videos on your website yesterday. I saw this gorgeously lit, the back of your head and then one actually the profile. I was like, "Oh, that lighting is beautiful." I felt inspired by your lighting. So I think that's the key here is when we look at things that we aren't doing, the grass is greener over there, get inspired by it. Instead of taking that attitude of, "Oh, I'm not good enough. I'm not comparing myself to them." You're an artist. We're all artists. We have to light our own flame by. I mean, that is what we're doing. That's why we're in this business.

Chris:
I like that play on words there, lighting and then light your own flame. Well done, Andrea, well done. I'm going to hire you a writer after this. All done. Okay, I think you wanted to say something. You un-muted yourself for a second before we say goodbye. Did you want to say something?

Hoccum:
No, I probably just wanted to say thank you.

Chris:
Beautiful. Okay, Andrea, should we get out of here?

Andrea:
Yeah. One thing I want to say, join Futur Pro. Find the little green house because you got to follow. You've heard what you got, you've heard what we get today and you can get it a lot more. Because I know Chris is going to be on here. And join me on Instagram, @AskSternRep, and we hear a lot of photo industry topics and issues. Check out my APALA webinars, those are once a month. Chris, any parting words or upcoming events that you want to share?

Chris:
No, you'll probably find me here on Clubhouse once again really soon. But if not, you'll see me here on Sunday at 12, o'clock talking about the six pillars of brand strategy with brand strategist, Anneli Hansson, and a couple other smart people. So I hope you are able to join us then.

Andrea:
Love it, thank you everybody. Appreciate it, this was fun. Thank you, Chris.

Greg:
Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barro for editing and mixing this episode, and thank you to Adam Sanborne for our intro music. If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by rating and reviewing our show on Apple podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me? Head over to thefutur.com/heychris, and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time.

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