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24.05.12 - Consultants and Artists

Question: How do I know that a consultant and I are a good fit? Do I look for a consultant that fits my style or should a consultant adjust to my style?

Working with a consultant should be a collaborative process. A consultant should clearly understand your career thus far and be able to assist you in getting you to where you’d like to be, professionally and artistically.

It is important when working with a consultant to be up-front and honest about what you hope to achieve, and the amount of time you’re willing to put into the process. The more focused and clear you are with the consultant, the more effective the consultations will be. Remember, it’s sometimes necessary to get out of your comfort zone to make long-lasting changes.

The Business Lab consultants fit your style   photographer Zoran Milich resized 600

Copyright: Zoran Milich

Bringing Consultants up to Speed

Before you hire a consultant, sit down and prepare a list of objectives and obstacles you’ve encountered. Examples might include objectives like reaching a larger audience and determining the best use of email, direct mail, one-on-one meetings and social networking to promote your work; common obstacles include keeping style and production values clear when improving a website. Most consultants will look at your website and arrange a conference call with you to discuss its strengths and weakness, and to offer suggestions on how you can work together to achieve all of your goals.

Typically, once a photographer and I have agreed on the photographer’s objectives and scope of the project, I’ll ask to see a selection of up to 1,000 images (delivered via Lightroom or Aperture) to get a more comprehensive view of the photographer’s range of work. I also ask photographers to show me 10 examples of work they aspire to and images that have moved them professionally and/or personally. This gives me an idea of how to advise them on an effective edit and a constructive plan to expand their market.

Taking Advice and Keeping it Real

It’s important to allow yourself to be open to constructive criticism. The process can be difficult at times and you’re always free to disagree, but an important component to working well with a consultant is to allow yourself the freedom of not having all the answers, and trusting the consultant’s background and experience. Consultants are there to assist you, and one common challenge they face is convincing artists to detach personal connections to certain images and take a fresh look at what makes for a cohesive, original body of work that’s geared toward getting the best assignments possible.

It’s also important for an artist to be realistic about the time, money and energy that are required to make changes, and to commit to the process. A good consultant can lead you in the right direction, but ultimately the work of change comes from you.Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet, and the consultant needs to know what you’re presently doing – and what’s not working – to get you where you want to go.

When I work with a photographer, I typically put together an Excel timeline with goals and objectives, as well as the costs of implementing the suggestions and a clear list of who’s responsible for following up on the objectives. For example, I always create marketing lists for my clients and monitor and revise them throughout the process based on click-throughs and website changes. I’m also very involved with artists in determining their one-year marketing strategy and providing the tools and analysis that help them best connect with the right creatives for their work.

The Art of Negotiation

My background as an agent for photographers has provided me with strong negotiation skills and an in-depth understanding of how to create comprehensive estimates that maximize profits while effectively managing a photographer’s time and expenses. A good consultant will also work with artists on their negotiation skills and step in to offer suggestions on communicating with difficult clients or meeting challenging budgets. Many artists feel uncomfortable with the negotiation process and welcome strategy sessions on how to overcome these obstacles.

A consultant is your tool for developing effective communication strategies, clearly defining your goals and refining your vehicles of presentation, such as your print portfolio and website. Consultants are there to help you focus your energies, expand creatively and maintain positive momentum in promoting your career.

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