These things may sound different and unrelated, yet they fired some of the same synapses in my brain.
First, a post in Bored Panda, showing the difference between an amateur and a professional.
Second, a conversation with a friend who is a photographer for over 20 years now.
Third, companies and brands lose time to market and sometimes great opportunities because they focus on price alone. It’s an issue of trust.
Amateurs and Professionals
Alright, Bored Panda may not be your go-to source of in-depth articles yet they made a great point about what makes someone a professional.
A professional photographer will look at the Dullest and greyest scenery and find ways to make it stand out.
“To be honest, I’ve captured my favorite street photos in the ugliest of all places,” Vijce wrote in his recent PetaPixel feature. “Sure, it’s a bit more challenging to find the extraordinary in the ordinary… but isn’t that what street photography is all about?” Indeed, he somehow manages to capture the industrial grit of the station in a softer, more ‘human’ light, an effect he insists can be achieved in any place a photographer has available to them.
This is simple yet we sometimes forget. We tend to qualify others as amateurs or professionals based on their contract or whether they make a living from the profession or not.
We sometimes forget the role that Quality plays in making someone a professional.
This takes us to talk about Benjamim and the conversation we had.
All right, let me tell you a bit about him first. He’s a talented photographer, and he does make a living from that work, he does have a high quality and most of all consistency. We’ll get to that later.
I have known him for a while now, and every time I feel he sells himself too short. And it’s amazing to see that when he focuses on a subject he finds interesting, he quickly develops a breadth and depth of knowledge and keen sensitivity to it.
This last part is important, because it’s easy to grasp a concept. It’s another thing to be sensitive to how it needs to be handled and the ripple effects it has on the surroundings.
Going back to that conversation, to that table and the beers. We were discussing on how the market is filled with photographers. Some better than others, some with academic training and others with none.
Benjamim made quite a point. He told us about some of his clients and the projects he is sometimes recurrently involved in.
One of them, I already know what the client expects. I know who his target audience is. I know that I need to capture a photo that represents that.
None of this is or ever was passed on to him in the project brief. He got it by listening and by paying attention.
Kids, this ability to listen and to empathise with the client is what your teachers talk about when they say you “need to pay attention to the needs of the client”.
The client doesn’t want a photo. He could get anyone to take a photo, he could do it himself with his new Smartphone. He needs to get a point across, to show his brand is interesting, to make an image stick to the viewer’s mind. Anyone can take a photo, people like Benjamim make a photo.
I deliver, and I deliver on time no matter what.
He wasn’t just talking about getting the work on time. He was talking about his process and quality. About how he knows where and how to get the best photos.
Delivering on time is being effective. Delivering work of a good quality in that time is being efficient. And the best way to make this consistent is to be methodical, as much as possible. He does have a method and a process that he has been improving over time.
And all this doesn’t just come from training. It comes from experience and it’s a set of soft skills that some people have a hard time finding.
How much does trust cost?
Let’s make a quick jump to another subject.
A while ago I found this video. The bit I found more interesting is at 12 minutes.
Sitting at a different table, with different friends, there was a similar discussion. Talking about clients that take time to decide, about how fast a brand needs to move nowadays; we were in a sort of group therapy session.
The problem is not even the time the decision process takes. Sometimes the problem is their approach to decision, based mostly on price but refusing to share their budget with the companies and freelancers that work with them.
I’ve seen projects slide because price was the most important factor. I’ve seen great work done cheap, and awful work paid like it was gold.
There is a great point in the video, where Chris Do says that clients don’t choose the best option, they choose the less risky option. That holds true for most of the cases I know, yet some are still price oriented. Both paths are valid, yet for some reason vendors, agencies and freelancers seem to be racing to the bottom and selling low.
For these reasons, I have stopped arguing price and instead focus on the level of service.
Clients have budgets and we need to meet them halfway, but we can’t compromise the things Benjamim was talking about: method, sensitivity, experience and quality of the delivery.
In fact, going back to the less risky options, that’s why clients may opt for the cheaper proposal. They will be risking less resources in case they are making a mistake.
Once they start to trust you, they will adjust the price to match your rate, right ? I’m sorry but I have never seen that happen. The way companies make decisions is most of the times procedural and not simply rational. Once a rate is agreed with a vendor, it is rare to see it increased.
The only way to break the cycle of this lack of trust is to have both sides sit down and be frank about what’s at stake. What is the budget? What are the goals? What do each of the people involved need to assure these things happen?
I’m sure I have friends reading this and in their heads commenting how romantic this peace treaty sounds. Romantic and impossible.
Maybe it is, or maybe it’s not. The only way to know for sure is to put it to the test.