We all need a little (or a lot) of help from time to time, and never is this more true than when running a small business. Generally, the photography industry is pretty full of helpful folks who are willing to answer questions and help those newer to the profession to learn the ropes. After all, this very website exists specifically to provide that service! The industry as a whole benefits from each member being more educated and better at her job. This is good.
However, there’s often a fine line between reaching out for help and being an askhole*. I’m going to go ahead and assume that none of us actually want to annoy or offend the people we’re hoping will help us, but we also shouldn’t be so worried about causing a problem that we refuse to reach out at all. So, we’ve put together a handy little guide to help you find that perfect balance.
1. Do Your Research.
You know that handy little “search” bar? Use it. More often than not, you’re not the first person to experience your specific problem. The internet is a big place. Odds are, your question has already been answered in a blog post, article, or Facebook group. And if you ask a question and receive a link like this in return, you probably didn’t search hard enough.
2. Be Respectful.
The photographer to whom you’re reaching out does not owe you her time, nor does she owe you an answer. She may very well choose to help you, but her doing so will be a favor, and acknowledging that fact will get you a long way. Use phrases like “Would you mind taking a moment to help me with a quick question?” or “Would you be willing to share this information?” Avoid coming across as demanding or entitled. And be patient. Your hero may not have time to answer right away.
3. Be Aware of the Context.
Asking business questions in the form of comments on client photos is NEVER OK. I can’t believe I even have to say that. Leaving a comment asking for help on your hero’s Business Facebook page in front of her clients is not a good way to achieve your goal. A private email is the most appropriate method of reaching out for help.
4. Don’t Be a Copycat.
Hopefully you know by now that your business is not going to succeed if you simply cobble together bits and pieces taken wholesale from others. It needs to be truly yours, which means, unfortunately, you need to do the hard work. It can be very helpful to hear generally how another photographer organizes Valentines Day Marathons, for example, but asking that photographer to send you over all the design files of their Valentine’s Day fliers as well as the complete price list and detailed vendor info isn’t going to help you as much as you think it will. Additionally, experienced photographers have worked very hard for their success, and they’re not always willing to just hand out their time-tested documents such as price lists or contracts.
5. Consider Investing in Mentorship
Many successful and experienced photographers offer paid mentoring services. If your question is fairly simple and straightforward, odds are your hero will be happy to provide a quick and helpful answer. However, if you’re looking for someone to walk you through foundational business concepts like creating a price list, marketing for new clients, crafting a legal contract, using studio lights, or building a brand, be prepared to hear that those answers come with a price tag. But this isn’t a bad thing! Investing in mentorship is often a great decision, as it gives you access to tried and true methods from a professional who has built a successful business model. You might find that asking a quick question ends up opening the door to a beautiful business relationship.
Hopefully, this list of guidelines will help you feel more confident in approaching your fellow photographers with questions. And, of course, those of us here at The Business of Boudoir always appreciate ideas for new article topics. Feel free to stop by our Facebook Page or Tweet Us with any questions or suggestions!
*Askhole (n) : an irritating and eventually blacklisted person who believes she’s entitled to everyone else’s hard-earned knowledge, and can often be found demanding said knowledge loudly and in inappropriate contexts. HT: Petra Herrmann for introducing me to the term.