Though a chain of links (Google pointing to a photographer in the Phillipines
who noted a post on Digital Photography review), I came across the following online discussion among a group of photographers
. It's worth reading, because it shows that writers are not the only ones facing the market onslaught of "amateurs." I'm not making claims about who shoudl be considered amateurs or not, nor do I know that this discussion was representative of pro shooters. But through page after page, you will see complaints that strike a resonant chord:
- Amateurs give away their work.
- Amateurs have "regular" jobs that let them give away their work.
- Publishers trying to reduce their operating expenses turn away from pros.
- Photographers are seeing rates plummet, at least in the lower and mid-tier markets.
- Many photographers are frustrated and don't know what to do.
One of the interesting posts came from a self-described amateur photographer:
I'm one the amateurs you describe and I'm surely not gonna give up just because of a rant of an unsuccessful pro.
I earn my living elsewhere, can afford professional equipment, can take pictures that get published, and enjoy doing it. It's not about what you studied or whether you decide to describe yourself as a "pro" - it's about the photos and about contacts with people.
> They will work for discount / free or the honour of having their work
Yes, that's me. Face it or go play somewhere else.
There is a lot of smart observation in that remark. Complaining won't make the problem go away, and complacency will wind up in your professional diminution and possible financial ruin. You need to find ways to accomplish a few objectives:
- Know that value delivered begets success. People do business with service providers because they are trying to gain some value from the exchange of money for work. If you cannot deliver quality - that is, what the customer expects in the way the customer expects it - then you cannot succeed. Business is a series of exchanges in things valued, and you can only do well if you have something with perceived value.
- Improve your quality. I know many writers take umbrage when I or others have suggested that quality was the root of success. I certainly don't hold myself out as the be-all and end-all of writing. I'm constantly trying to improve my craft, my reporting, and my business practices. But over the years, that effort has turned into more extensive word-of-mouth among clients and prospects, better clips, and greater ease in delivering what clients are really looking for. Everyone - but everyone - can get better, and if you find that the concept stings, you should take a cold, hard look at how you write and how you run your business. I've never known a person who was successful beyond luck or birth to operate in any other way.
- Improve your markets. Amateurs have a difficult if not virtually impossible time in cracking top markets - or in staying there - because they don't have the abilities, experience, and willingness to deliver consistently what those markets require. Conversely, amateurs will gravitate toward lower-end markets because there are lower barriers to entry. In short, the bottom feeding clients want something for nothing, and they see writing as a commodity. You should drop such customers because they keep you from moving forward and destroy a sense of satisfaction in the work.
Complaining will do nothing, and nothing will change the course of markets. However, you can find ways to move against the tide and differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Labels: competition, markets, strategy