EP 45: With shopping season upon us, most Americans will see a typical spike in expenses during this time of year, and in my opinion, creative professionals are highly susceptible to peak sale season! And while this commercialized time of year is neither inherently good or bad, with the wrong mindset, our expenses can end up as further deficits to our business. So in this episode, I am going to give you the 5 areas of my business that I prefer to spend fearlessly on, and hopefully inspire you.
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Michael Der 0:02
You're listening to Artrepreneurs, a podcast that inspires photographers and visual artists to live their best creative lives. My name is Michael der and I am a full time photographer with nearly 10 years of experience in the freelancing world. And I'm sitting down with an amazing community of visual artists to talk about process, business, and the lessons that have helped them grow. So let's get to it. Artrepreneurs starts right now.
Alright, what is up everybody? Welcome to a another fabulous day here at entrepreneurs and I am thrilled to have you guys tuning in and supporting this show. As always, it really means a lot to me. Now we are in the month of November and as such, we are entering in what I would consider to be a rather dangerous time for creators. And that my friends is shopping season. Yes, one of your favorite vendors will likely be listing their products on sale during the Thanksgiving season. And I know from good experience that all of us gearheads are looking at the menu. We may not always shop the menu, but we're looking the reality is we are just one little nudge away from dropping our hard earned dollars on the next camera body lens lighting modifier or accessory you name it. If you haven't already been bombarded with email flyers tempting you with new product discounts, you will be very shortly.
And I found this great stat through Fortune magazine that estimates that the average American is going to spend about $500, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And that is not including the three weeks leading up to Black Friday, and the four weeks following Cyber Monday. So this is prime urgency prodding folks, you're going to be blasted with FOMO inducing strategy. And guess what it actually works. If it didn't work, businesses wouldn't slash 10% off their whole product line, and then spend even more money on the ads to promote it. So it got me thinking about these high expense searches during the month of November for basically, as long as I can remember, even before the internet, I remember as a kid, November was the month to go shopping. And the recent conversations that I had with Matt Brown about money and gear and really studying your expenditures. Got me thinking as a whole about how we as a culture qualify our purchases? How much are we honestly assessing the return value of what our purchases will yield versus simply chalking them up as the latest impulse buys? Now, I've
mentioned before, then my opinion, nobody can justify a purchase quite like a photographer, there's something special and unique about our ability to justify every single purchase that we make. And if you want to raise your hands and push back on that sentiment, that's totally fine. Maybe you don't qualify Exactly. But by and large, we are gearheads we love what's next, what's gonna help us improve? So in my opinion, I think we as creative professionals are even more susceptible to these transparent marketing ploys. Now, I'm not here to dismiss all holiday sales. In fact, I think some of them are actually pretty good.
I'm also not here to pick on anyone who has a little extra cash and likes to treat themselves. After all, if I can channel a little bit of my inner Marie Kondo, I do believe in the notion that items can spark joy. The question I would simply ask, though, is will that item spark joy in one month, or two months, or three months? Or any extended time after the purchases made? Or is it merely the short surge of adrenaline spiking your dopamine levels as you click purchase? You see, the adrenaline that comes from the anticipation of acquiring something new is a form of joy, it's excitement, it's a thrill. But if it just becomes a tool, after one month, along with all the other tools that you have, and rarely used, was that purchase validated.
And so that is effectively my launchpad for this episode, folks. I know it was a very long runway to get to this point. But I want to give you some food for thought on how you can be more critical in your purchases going forward, particularly if you have a full plate of financial responsibilities already weighing you down. But let me also be clear that even if you're in good financial standing right now, meaning the clients are knocking on your door, the checks are rolling in, doesn't mean you're always going to live adversity free. And so I asked you, if you've ingrained the habit of engaging in retail therapy, when things are going well, will you be able to stop if things go bad? You see behavior is a hard thing to change. I know plenty of creatives, making purchases left and right when they are hundreds of 1000s of dollars in debt with no retirement savings, no investing. And these purchases act as a coping mechanism, as opposed to being leveraged as true business assets. Now, let me say it's not my goal to tell you what to do with your money. Nor is it my place to judge anyone on how they live their lives. But as someone who has spent a lot of money, regrettably so on low ROI gadgets in the past, I am speaking with empathy on this issue. So this isn't an episode on what to not spend money on. Rather, it's more of a list of areas that money can be spent on that might yield greater returns. So let's get right to it. You've waited long enough you Here are my five areas to spend fearlessly on.
Number one, focus on assets, assets, generate money and increase in value over time. And if it doesn't increase in value itself, I believe it should increase your value as a business. To me, those are the basic qualifications of what an asset truly is. And there is a point of diminishing returns on equipment purchases. So after getting your core kit of cameras, lenses lights to do your job, a lot of what we purchase additionally, simply becomes fun gadgets that satiate our ego, more so than the client deliverables. So ask yourself critically, what will reliably drive financial growth. Let me go over a few different scenarios at different price points to give you an idea of what I'm looking at. Okay, scenario one, let's say you spend $300 on a new octabox. That's simply one foot bigger than the softbox that you already own. Will that $300 spent earn you more money in client jobs than let's say an upgraded website that has the ability to sell prints and licenses directly through it without you needing to manage it. To me, that website has a greater potential to become an asset than that softbox scenario to what if you spent $1,000 on a new iPhone and tablet when the other ones that you have are working just fine? Will that $1,000 spent on the iPhone and tablet grow your business more than let's say $1,000 spent on coaching or consultations with experts like IP attorneys, CPAs and portfolio reviews. In my opinion, investing in people that are qualified to teach you about your business, and how to move it forward is rarely given enough credit, but they could be one of the greatest assets in your arsenal. And scenario three, if you spend $5,000 On camera upgrades when your current camera is already nailing the job, will that additional $5,000 spent on a new body earn you more money than had you invested that money into stocks, retirement plans, real estate, commodities, bonds, investment funds, crypto silver, gold, whatever, I'm not going to promote one investment vehicle over another. I'm simply asking, Do you have anything that will make your money work for you?
area number two, focus on marketing. So in my opinion, we as a community are really way too quick to spend 1000s and 1000s of dollars on equipment and not a penny on marketing. Now, I'm not suggesting that every marketing expense is really going to yield a great return for you there is a gamble to it, there may be no financial return at all. This is not a guaranteed asset. But to me, those who are not afraid to spend on marketing have stood out weigh more than those who rely solely on upgrading their gear. So look into a number of different options. There are portfolio books, there are email marketing platforms, there are client agency lists, there are promotional marketing mailers, like magazines, postcards, you can attend networking events, you can budget for client gifts, and don't sleep on business cards either. I know this world has seemingly forgotten about them. But I think there's still a place in it, it doesn't cost you a whole lot to invest 35 $40 on marketing for business cards to leave just a little bit of an impact. Not only can this help create work for you outside of your normal circle of clients, but it can also help you maintain good standing with your current ones. So if you're okay, spending $10,000 on equipment each year, and not willing to spend $500 on marketing, I beg you to reconsider.
area number three, focus on speed. So to me if a product or service cannot generate me any more revenue than it already has, I look to see if it can provide any value in different ways. In specific, more efficiency, the more efficient that I can actually become by using any specific product or service, then the more free time I can manufacture. And that is a worthy trade off to me even though it may not be generating more money. I'd rather upgrade my hard drives my RAM my memory cards, my card readers over a new wardrobe for photoshoots. One has the power to improve the speed that I ingest an edit while the other doesn't. And have you ever tried drafting your own contracts or converting estimates to invoices manually for each new client? It can be a painstaking process. So I have no qualms investing in attorney approved contract templates, or cloud accounting software to help me speed up my response time with prospective and current clients. So when it comes to spending money on tools to make you a more efficient professional, even if it's just so that you can spend more time with your family or doing things that you want to do. Don't be bashful. Invest in speed.
area number four, focus on projects. So rarely do I hear people talking about budgeting for personal projects or personal work? And the response to it is usually well why would I spend money on a project if I'm not paid to do it? And maybe that's fair. After all, I am advocating that people think critically about their purchases. But as I've mentioned this entire episode, there are a lot of expenses that creators make that don't yield any return either that $200 camera bag, that $800 prime lens, that $1,200 carbon fiber tripod, those aren't bringing in revenue either, but you've determined that it provides you value. So my question is, how can we shift our focus to seeing personal projects as having even greater value? The best images in my portfolio folks? are not client work, they are projects that I spent time and money curating. And I'm not the only one I must have talked to 100 photographers over the years more skilled than me about how they built their portfolio. And what most of them revealed to me is that their best work is more often than not their personal work, which then drives more client work to their doorstep. And if you agree with that concept, in general, that's something good always comes out of a project that you spearhead on your own, then hopefully, I can inspire you to take it to just one extra level. Well, what if we threw a little money at it? What if instead of going the free route, you paid for a permanent a prime location that is normally inaccessible to the public? What if instead of trading services with talent, you hired top agency models? What if instead of rummaging through your own wardrobe, you paid for better styling, hair, makeup, etc? And what if instead of solely relying on free social media platforms to show off your finished project, you instead invested in marketing books and prints to send out to new leads, you certainly don't have to throw money at a project to level up, but don't dismiss it either. Higher Level production may improve your portfolio better than new gear.
And last but certainly not least, number five, focus on education. So investing in yourself is a justification that I can get behind way more than shiny new objects. And yeah, we're in a content free era. You can get information on any blog, YouTube University Channel, or even podcasts like this one without spending a dime. But there will be times where this podcast can't help you from afar. There will be times when even the best YouTube channel won't teach you what you need to know or answer the follow up questions that you have. And I did mention it before but investing in expert consultation coaching portfolio reviews, strategy sessions, those can be worth 10 times more than the money you spent on it in the first place. And beyond that, I am a big proponent of either workshops, classes, seminars, anything virtual or in person, they can all be transformative to your business. Now, you may not be able to afford that $5,000 photography workshop in the Amalfi coast of Italy. And that's okay, like everything I've mentioned today, you should have some responsibility in what you can actually afford. But the point is, don't scoff at paying for $100 portfolio review from a world class editor. When you're paying the same amount for a waterproof tech pouch, weigh your decisions, folks keep assessing what is going to drive you forward education, especially when it's sought out by the individual has the power to change your life.
So to wrap things up, folks, don't just spend money on liabilities. Look for those opportunities to turn those liabilities into assets, focus on marketing, focus on speed and efficiency, emphasize your personal projects, and always value your education. So as I wrap this up, I'm going to leave you on this one last little note, you've likely heard that common business lingo we're in the red or we're in the black. Now, I was always curious what that actually meant. And I had to do a little digging these phrases came from traditional bookkeeping practices, where people would record their deficits and reading and their profits in black ink. Now some even speculate that the term Black Friday came from these phrases when businesses would see their profits spike after Thanksgiving. And whether that's true or not probably not true. But it brings up a good question all the same? What color are your purchases leaning towards? Is your business going to experience its own version of Black Friday? Where your purchases will drive your business forward? Or will your purchases fall in line with the rest of the impulse buys that simply take money out of your pocket and drive you into the red? So think about that as you head into this holiday season. But would you rather experience a Black Friday or a Red Friday?
That choice my friends is ours. Hey everybody, this is Michael der thank you so much for making it all the way to the end of the episode. I hope you'll follow tag engage with us on our Instagram account at Artrepreneurspod. We've also launched our website Artrepreneurspod.com. It is the central hub where you can sign up for our newsletter, read our blog posts, send us voicemails, and even access discounts from our amazing affiliates. It's also the perfect spot to shout out entrepreneurs with what would be an immensely appreciated five star rating and review. And if you're feeling extra generous, you can even make a small donation that's really going to help accelerate the growth of this podcast. But no matter what you do, folks, I just want to say thank you so much for supporting the program. There are a lot of great photography podcasts out there and I just pray for that gained your trust even for our take care of you will see you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai