Running Time: 32 minutes
You can do way too many things when planning your business strategy. It's easy to get distracted and loose focus on what is most important. From my own experience, after the core goal is established, I find that I come up with so many ideas to reach that goal, that nothing is followed through, clear until the end. I will do so many different things, that nothing is ever fully completed in any useful way. This podcast episode is about staying focused, staying on target, and not letting all the random ideas pull you away from whats really important to succeed.
In This Episode:
- Why Do This?
- Music Matters
- Digital Fundamentals and Photoshop Basics
- Don't Dilute Your Brand
Transcript: Podcast – Episode 006
One of the questions is, why do I actually do this? This is something I ask myself. Well, there are definitely people who do listen to the podcasts, however, the reason that I do is something that goes back to the previous episode, which is passion. I have a passion for photo retouching, but I actually also have a passion for audio broadcasting. That seems to be a path I never actually went down. When I was younger I used to listen to a local radio show that was on at 10 o’clock at night.
He would have everything from normal, regular interview shows of local celebrities, to local news topics, and then later on when he had nothing else to do, he would do an open air thing where people could call in and just bring up topics to talk about. And those were the ones that always got me the most excited. Well, not so excited, but I certainly enjoyed them, because the topics would always jump all over the place. It wasn’t an hour of the same topic. This was I believe back in 1996 when I was listening to them so I was definitely a young kid and I remember I loved listening to the radio show and when he would have his open calling, I would call up and would do different personalities. I would take on personalities and I would ask a question, instigate a topic.
I really don’t remember too much about it, but I do remember one particular thing that I have done one night. But I do remember that I did call up and did my thing. I remember that I enjoyed doing that and I really enjoyed every subsequent radio related shows that I would see on TV or in the movies at that time. There was a movie Talk Radio, or there was a movie Pump Up The Volume that I really enjoyed because that was the type of thing that I wanted to do, so I started experimenting with CB radios and different things. And this whole topic is about the things that I never actually got to do, because I do enjoy talking to the microphone and all that, so that’s why I take the time to do the podcast. Primarily for myself because it was something I always wanted to do and technology has finally caught up with me and my interests. It was kind of funny because I wasn’t expecting that I needed all this heavy duty equipment to do this. And all the equipment that it takes for me to produce this was under 300 dollars.
It was really fairly cheap to come up with high quality stuff. It was really just the matter of taking the time to learn, what others use, how they produce it. I tried a couple of things to make it work for myself, mostly I learned on the early video tutorials that I did. Those definitely have some issues.
I probably won’t revisit them, because they are already made. I might edit them down a little bit to get them more to the point, but I won’t recreate them. But I do a lot of learning and experimenting and buying equipment as I went I bought equipment and I got rid of equipment because it wasn’t what I needed. I just brought it back to the store and I tried something else and I just narrowed it down. I only have like 4 pieces of equipment here and I could really do with 3 but I feel safer with the 4th. I won’t go into that because this is not what this podcast is about. What does this all have to do with retouching or freelancing? Absolutely nothing. Doesn’t have to. I don’t know if you recall but I said way back in episode 1, 2, or 3 – I really don’t remember – but what I said, that this was about entertainment. This isn’t about anything in particular. So if you find it boring and don’t care, then you can just stop listening. If you do want to continue to listen then continue listening. I’m just talking about this being why I created this podcast. There is no reason other than I do something that I enjoy doing.
With these clear changes and re-decisions that I am making in my life have been changing things up, I often think that I’m making mistakes. And I probably am. I’m learning as I go. One of the things that does help me as silly as it is. I have a playlist that I used to listen to music. It isn’t just songs that I randomly have in there, or songs that I randomly like, they are actually very specifically chosen. Most of them are encouraging.
Their intention is that while I’m working and not really thinking, I’m just kind of doing while I’m listening to music in the background. What I am listening to are songs that give me the uplifting inspiration to keep going. Again, it sounds a little bit silly, but that constant reconfirmation that I’m doing something right, that I need to go that extra step, in order to achieve what my goal is, and when I’m working those late nights, as I’m recording this it’s 12.20, I should already be in bed, but the very least I should be watching TV or watching a movie, or whatever the case is. But I’m down, here, doing this, because this is what I enjoy doing.
If I was doing retouching or other background work related to the website or something like that, I would be listening to music that encourages me, that gives me the inspiration that I need, to make me feel better about what I’m doing. And even if it’s background music and I never really think about the lyrics, I know that they are having some impact, some influence on me. By far the best song that I have is from Pink Floyd. This one goes back all the way to their early years, it’s called Fearless, and I’m sure I’m going to completely do this an injustice by actually reading the lyrics, so I would most certainly encourage you, go look it up in iTunes or something, and even if you don’t get the Pink Floyd version, it’s been remade several different times, however, my personal favorite is by far Fish which you may not find in iTunes but on the album: Songs from the Mirror, that actually happens to be my favorite version of the song.
So for better or worse, these are the lyrics:
You say the hill's too steep to climb
You say you'd like to see me try Climbing.
You pick the place and I'll choose the time
And I'll climb That hill in my own way
Just wait a while for the right day
As I rise above the tree lines and the clouds I look down, hearing the sound of the things you've said today.
Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd Smiling.
No doubt in your own way
Every day is the right day
You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd.
I have always just taken that song as very inspirational in that you give me the challenge, and I will take on that challenge, and I will succeed. I'm not saying that I am going to do today, I’m not going to say I’ll do it tomorrow, when it’s right, I’m going to make the move and I’m going to achieve my goals. I can’t say that I’m a fan of those self-affirmations, that you are supposed to look in the mirror and say: I am good, I am great, I’m going to do something special today.
So that’s not me. But I do believe that you do need the background belief that somewhere in your subconscious it’s listening to this… just listening to me. It’s the same thing for you. That I’m telling you, you can do it. And there’s different ways that you can do it. Don’t be listening to everybody else, telling you that you don’t have to, or you can’t. They might as well just sit down and watch some TV. The only way you are going to succeed to take the time and learn more. The only way you are going to learn more, to make the time. That’s the only way you are going to succeed and it’s all hard work.
On December 12th, I’m going to be hosting my digital fundamentals class, so if you do have an interest in that, you should definitely sign up before you forget. It only costs 1 dollar to come in, I was going to make it free, but then I figured that I have every other person signing up just for looking for a free class.
This way, for a dollar, I know that at least the people that are coming in actually want to be there and want to learn something. The digital fundamental class is before Photoshop, it’s basically the types of things you need to understand about file handling, the different file formats, jpg, raws, gifs, things like that, pixelization, what’s trapping, megapixels, all different kinds of stuff about scanners, printers, cameras. This is a class I actually have been teaching for a couple of years now, so if you do have an interest in it, certainly go to the website and sign up and just reserve a seat for yourself, that’s going to be December 12th, at 4 pm, Eastern Standard Time.
That is a leading class to my basic Photoshop training that I’m going to start on December 3rd, at 4 pm, EST, and this class is going to take you through all of the basic Photoshop knowledge, usage of the tools, the pallets, what are the different things are for, etc. I know I got a bunch of videos up on the website that you can watch, but those are just kind of randomly placed things, this is actually a starter course that will give you everything in a very linear fashion.
You’ll have homework, you’ll have me as a mentor, so I can help you through specific problems that you are having, we’ll be covering topics not in the videos, and I also hopefully will be able to give you some helpful inspiration, so that you have someone that you can be accountable to, whether it’s me or other members of the group, so if you are finding you are not actually watching the videos, even though you want to, if you sign up for this and you’ll know that you have to be there, otherwise you’ll be out the money.
The cost on that is 299.00, for a 4 week course, it’s very inexpensive, but I’m really just hoping that I can get that information out there and help you be a better photo retoucher. In the past week I released a new on compositing, painting and lighting. Which is basically an hour and 40 minute video, which goes from intermediate to advanced skill level, where I take 2 different images, I composite them together, then I do retouching, I paint in hair, I go high contrast, make it a dull tone image, and basically do something really nice that I was able to put inside my portfolio. So this is another one of my fully edited video tutorials, it’s not any topics specific, but if you want to see how I work on a complicated image in my studio, this might be something that you are interested in.
For the time being, I’m going to have a price on the video, being 9.95, as well as for an older, extended cloning video, which I’ve also dropped the price to 9.95. So you can get them both for the price that used to be 20 dollars for a single cloning video and I’m just kind of hoping that more people will make the purchase and hopefully learn something new.
You are your brand. You are selling yourself. But don’t dilute that by doing too many different things. You need to focus. And you need to be the best at one thing. Hopefully that is the one thing that you like the best. When you are doing too many different things, it is simply distracting. This seems to be one of the hardest things for me to do. For some reason I believe that I need to go out and I need to do everything. All at once.
I think that what it comes down to is that if I have one thing that I’m really good at, and that one thing goes away, then I have just lost a revenue stream, so I go out of my way to build multiple businesses, and multiple ways to bringing in money. The problem is that it does, it dilutes my mental focus, and it is very distracting. When I’m unable to do one thing and do it well. This can certainly be a good thing, if one thing has a problem, there is still money coming in. But because it’s distracting I can just focus on one thing and do it well. As a side business I do computer repair. It brings in some money on the side, it’s not bad. It’s not what I’m doing full time, and it’s an ok thing to distract me with. It’s nothing that is going to keep me from doing other work.
However, as I mentioned before, I sold cellphones. The cellphones were constantly distraction. I was constantly getting calls, where I had to constantly talk to people. I had to meet people, I had to get in my car, I had to meet them, I had to show them the merchandise. I had to sell the product. And if I sold the product, put the money in my pocket and came home, that would be a good side business. The problem came in where inevitably people were calling me up and saying: this isn’t working, the receive doesn’t work, the buttons don’t work, there’s static, there’s poor reception, honest to god, the list went on and on.
The problem wasn’t that the products were bad, the problem wasn’t that I was selling garbage to people, the problem was the people themselves. They were literally bringing me into their world after the sale and saying something wasn’t working. At 99% of the time I was finding that these problems that they were having were exclusively their own. And I could then take that same product, give it to somebody else and they didn’t have the same problem. Inevitably, they found something else to complain about. I don’t know if they were complaining just to complain, I don’t know if they were complaining because it was in them, I don’t know if they were complaining because they were expecting the most pristine Apple iPhone, that could possibly come off the shelf. I don’t know what they were looking for. What I do know, that these people were coming back to me after the sale complaining about this, complaining about that, complaining about the other thing, then I had to go and meet them again. I had to exchange phones, I had to give them refunds, then I was taking the products back, testing them myself, seeing that I had no problems, put it back in the box, put it back in Craigslist, and make the sale again.
This was happening way too often. Now I have been selling phones for 3 years. The problem is that in the past 3 months, I have had a lot of exchanges and refunds. Previously I had a 16% of refund or exchange rate, which I think is very high. It should really be down to 10%. However, I have been dealing with it and I have been doing it for so long that it seem normal to me. Part of the business. I raised my rates just to cover the costs that seemed to be normal. At some point recently I just realized that it was just too much. I mentioned previously that we had a storm, a big weather, hurricane, storm thing, power was going out in these different towns. Whole towns were out of power for a week. And I had somebody call me up shortly after the storm and they said in a voicemail – I didn’t actually answered the phone, I’m afraid to answer my own phone – and they said that they wanted their money back because they were getting poor reception. That was the core of what they were asking. They wanted the money back because of poor reception. To elaborate a little bit on what they were elaborating on, they actually said, they want a refund, because of the poor reception, with a cellphone power that lost power due to a hurricane. This is how I read into it. In fact that the power is down, is not my problem. I’m not a T-mobile or AT &T representative. I just sell the phone.
And this person found yet another reason to complain. And this person was after a whole strain of complaints. In the past 3 months, I was having a 95% dissatisfied rate. To me that’s way too much. The product was not actually that bad that I was getting a 95% return. But that wasn’t even it, really. I resold every one of those products. The problem came in with those people who just complain. I’m sure that if you are a freelancer, you have your own set of clients who just complain. Clients who complain are complaining either for a good reason, or stupid reason. Let’s just be honest about it: the client is not the customer that is always right. Sometimes the client is just stupid. If you have one person who has a problem, then try and fix the problem. If you have 10 people in a row that are complaining, even if it’s about a variety of things, something is fundamentally wrong.
Now I’m not saying that there was a problem about these phones I was selling, because I don’t think there was. I was selling it over to the next guy and he was going away happy. I think the problem is expectation. When you are presenting a quote to a client, you need to set that expectation properly. They need to know what they are going to get for the money. And if they have an expectation above and beyond that then there will be an added charge. You need to communicate that to the client, upfront. There can’t be a question later that causes a problem. That’s why it’s ideal if you have a form letter that you have pre-written, that you pre-thought about, that you made sure is absolutely right, and when they enquiry about the job, you can copy it, and paste it. They can read it, and then they will know what to expect. Now, in my particular case, after 3 years of doing it, I think I pretty much just gave up. For more than 3 years I was selling cellphones, I went through good periods, I went through bad periods.
Overall I have made money, so it was very hard for me to walk away, but damn, I did. Now here is another point for you. I spent 3 years of my life, pouring a lot of time and a whole lot of money into this business, online and offline. I built a brand, I built referrals, but at the end of the day I acknowledged that something was wrong. I could possibly fix it, but I don’t it was worth it. That’s where the ability to go to the next level comes in. I know there was a problem, I spent 3 years fixing problems, this continues to be a problem. I had problems with poor products, poor sale, bills from other vendors that I do business with, I literally spent 3+ year building an entire business, solving problems and making this work. I reached the point last week when I just didn’t want to deal with it any more.
I realized – I don’t even want to say I realized – I have always known it, it brought in money, I made sales, but the problem was that I was spending a lot of money putting back into the website, putting back into advertising, and all the other stuff that goes with it. I’m not saying I was breaking even, I was making money, otherwise I would have not continued doing it, but with the amount of literal garbage I was dealing with, I just had it. Maybe it was just me reaching a breaking point, maybe it was just me finally throwing away my ego and saying it didn’t work, but it didn’t. I’m done, I hate saying this but I’m done. By the time you are listening to this, it’s probably well old news. Certainly I have given up on this and sometimes you need to do that, sometimes you need to say, this just isn’t working for me. And that’s your current job, maybe your job isn’t working for you. And it takes you to take the balls to admit that to yourself, to say it out loud, and to make the changes that are necessary to quit. Now, if it’s your own business, or if you’re a freelancer, you can’t just quit. But you need to be able to adopt to the situation and see what’s broken and how can I fix it. My decision to shut down the company was just literally out of frustration. It took a lot of my mental focus. I don’t want to do that anymore. I would rather focus on retouching. And maybe retouching is the wrong thing for me, I don’t know. Who knows? I would have rather kept the phone thing going and then move into the retouching and then freelancing. But the reality was, which is back to the whole point of this, that my retouching was being hurt by the distraction of the cellphones. And it sucks.
Because cellphones brought in money. And if I made the sale and I was over with it, I would have made the money hand fast. Honest to god. The problem is that it was just constant garbage. People weren’t happy with the stupidest things. Not only was the person that said that they had poor reception, after a hurricane, when the power is out in half the state, but also I had another customer, who said he didn’t want the phone anymore because his fingers were too big. How in the world is that my problem?? Maybe if you have a bought a product that you know, you expect to work, and refunds and all that, you can understand. I have been doing this for so long and I heard every stupid complaint under this sun, like the guy with the big fingers, and I was immediately replace the phone and do my thing, and it’s just like, ahh, I don’t want to do that anymore. So for you, I’m not saying to you to shut down your business, it’s really a matter of find what’s broken and fix it.
If you are having problems, if you are having client complaints, if you redoing work, if it’s anything vaguely like that, you need to find the core of the problem. Maybe you need to automate things to a point where you come up with problems and solutions and write them down. And I do that, write them down and present them before the sale is made, to the customer. This way there is no question, or other anomaly that they can find to complain about. This way it’s just written down, it’s clear, it’s out in the open. And that’s the most important thing I think to give your clients. If you don’t know what you actually need to say to the customer at the front end, then you can do exactly what I did. Which was do a Google search, or a FAQ on retouching and just start reading through what other people have encountered, take notes about what their questions were, how they answered it, and then you can put together your own document that explains everything.
Reword it obviously, because different situations for different clients, but this just gives you a starting point. I did the exact same thing. I didn’t know what to say because I just started to build the business, with clients I don’t know anything about, but I just did a research, I put something together and put it up on the website that I am building. A job that we have recently working on, we are trying to anticipate the problems, and we brought it up in emails to the client on the front end. We brought it up again while we were working on it. The core problems that we were anticipating and then experiencing. And at this point the client still hasn’t acknowledged that specific problem that we were having. At some point they will probably, tomorrow, but we covered our base and we said what we wanted to say, and got it out there in the open. And you should not be afraid to do that, too.
Put things out in the open and just get them out there, let people know about it that this is good, better and different. People always appreciate the more open and honest relationships that they have with the suppliers, vendors and whatever. And if you can do that, rather than hiding things and keeping them secret, then you are much better off down the road. I worked for many companies that kept things as this big secret, and they didn’t want to tell the clients or whatever, and that just always ended up in problems. They were always backtracking and lying and making up excuses. I hated the excuses. Like with the phone business thing. It was a lot of making up excuses, like because of this and because of that, and just blowing it off and the reality of it was just wrong. And I hated that.
So just be try and be open with your clients and build that report. Every client that you have may not want the bad news, but they appreciate the bad news preferably ahead of time rather than it already passed and already happened.
To end this on a more positive note, I’m glad that you were joining me on this journey of self discovery, where I’m just kind of venting myself and talking about whatever comes to mind, whether be the past or the future or the present, and you are learning something from this, and you are hopefully growing and not making the same mistakes that I did. I acknowledge I mostly talking off my head at this point, because as you have been following along, I did it open and it was a lot of editing that was involved, and I wrote everything down, and I was very ‘read’, it sounded like I was reading it all. And then I started doing this more open thought process thing where I just kind of got my topic and I’m running with it. And I’m hoping it comes out ok.
So in general, I’m doing this because I enjoy doing this, which is back to the earlier point, why I’m actually doing this, because it’s the type of thing I always wanted to do. And it’s not a podcast about retouching, but because I always wanted my open radio show, like the one I used to listen to when I was a kid. Where I can just kind of talk off my head and whatever came out came out, and if anyone wants to listen, that’s perfectly fine by me. And if no one wants to listen, then no one wants to listen, and you are not listening to this. But you are listening to this, so there is got to be at least one person that gives a crap about what I have to say. And if you do care about what I have to say, I assume that you are into photo retouching and if you are into photo retouching, please go to http://www.theartofretouching.com where you can pick up more tricks and tips on how to become a better photo retoucher.
But I’m sure you already know about that otherwise you wouldn’t be listening to me now. And if you are wondering how much of a passion this is for me, this is actually the 3rd podcast that I have recorded in a row. That is correct, I have recorded podcast number 4, number 5 and number 6, all in the same night.
I’m very tired and my throat hurts. But I started doing this tonight because I had a lot to say – I didn’t think I had quite so much to say – but apparently I did and I just spit it all out and now I’m tired and I’m going to bed. Thank you for joining me, and I will talk to you next time.
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