Does Your Mailing List Comply With The Law?

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If you are a freelance photographer or creative (or any sole trader for that matter) who uses mailing lists to market your services or send out newsletters with updates of your work or blog, and you are based in the United Kingdom or the European Union, or email people who are based in any of the two, this post is for you.

On May 25, 2018, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come in effect. The GDPR is a privacy law which will apply in the EU and the UK and will affect anyone who processes personal information of EU citizens. The UK Government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR, and it's introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill (DP Bill).

The UK DP Bill is an evolution of the current Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). It will apply the GDPR and it has been amended to adjust to the national context and the UK citizens.

How does this affect freelance creatives?

Freelance creatives make use of mailing lists to send out promotional material, blog updates and newsletters to current and prospect clients. All the information in those mailing lists (emails, names, addresses) is considered personal information and are part of the scope of these privacy laws. Keep in mind that personal emails of employees of companies fall into this category and both laws have become more strict in terms of what they consider personal information (IP addresses are now part of the scope).

What does this mean?

It basically means that for you to be able to send your self-promotion material you need to have the consent of the recipient that you can use their email for this purpose.

What is consent?

Consent means permission, and for you to send marketing emails to your clients or prospects you must have their permission to do so. If you send blog updates or newsletters to people who have subscribed and agreed to receive them, and you use services like MailerLite or MailChimp, you mustn't worry. On the one hand, by subscribing to receiving these emails they have given you their consent. On the other hand, both services have taken measures to help you comply with these laws (MailChimp wrote about it on their blog and MailerLite has assured me that they are working on these as I am writing this post).

But if you are sending emails to people who have not subscribed to them, you must ask for their consent. You can send, for instance, emails to your existing client list if the email promotes similar products and services to the ones they bought from you. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has prepared a very thorough guide for direct marketing. The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

What if you bought an email list or compiled your own?

This is where it starts to get confusing for me. There is a lot of misinformation on this matter, especially because all the official communications target large organisations, but there is very little written for freelancers and sole traders.

As freelance creatives, we all have a mailing list of some sort for our marketing and self-promotion. Some of us have compiled these lists using contact information of people that we have met along the road, people that we have worked with, people that we wish we could work with, information of people that we find in the mastheads of publications or on websites, and the list goes on. Other creatives buy mailing lists from companies like Bikini Lists or Agency Access.

Freelancers and sole traders are considered individuals under the privacy laws. When we send out our promotional emails to prospect clients, we address these emails to companies but also to other freelancers. If freelancers and sole traders are individuals, and we email other freelancers and sole traders, then these communications are between individuals, but because they are business related I understand that they are considered Business-to-Consumer (B2C) communications.

On the other hand, if freelancers and sole traders email companies, and these communications are business related, they should be considered Business-to-Business (B2B) communications and not really fall under the scope of these laws (the CEO of Bikini Lists, Ross MacRae, wrote a post about this). To make things more confusing, and like I mentioned earlier on this post, personal emails of employees of companies are considered personal information too.

So, it seems to me that in any of these two cases, whether freelancers and sole traders are writing B2C or B2B communications, we must comply with the privacy laws. I have written the ICO asking for more help on this matter because it is really confusing. Watch this space. Yesterday they published a post on their blog announcing that they will launch a dedicated telephone service aimed at helping small and micro businesses prepare for new data protection laws.

So, what can you do in the meantime?

While all this information is clarified, you must definitely make sure that you are taking into consideration best practices in what personal information refers to:

  • Only use personal information that you have consent to use and use it in a fair and lawful manner;
  • Use this personal information only for the purposes for which you have obtained the consent;
  • Send direct marketing emails that are adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • Keep personal information in your mailing lists accurate and up to date and not for longer than is necessary;
  • Keep personal information in your mailing lists secure and password protected; and
  • Do not transfer to third parties or to other countries without consent and adequate protection.

Where can I find more information?

  • If you are dealing with EU citizens, visit http://www.eugdpr.org/eugdpr.org.html
  • If you are dealing with UK citizens, visit https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-bill/
  • The ICO keeps a blog where they have started a series of blog posts to sort the fact from the fiction by busting some of the myths around the GDPR and the DPA: https://iconewsblog.org.uk/

Photo credit: Behind the scenes photography by Stef Mic

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Buy A Postcard For A Good Cause

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This month of October, over 1000 photographers are taking part in the Photography On A Postcard fundraiser organised by The Hepatitis C Trust. The fundraiser consists on a lottery that guarantees the ticket-holder a 10x15cms (postcard size) photograph from photographers like Jim Goldberg, Martin Parr, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nina Berman, and Cristina De Middel, or less-familiar talents. All ticket-holders will be winners, with photographs assigned to each ticket at random. Two of my photos from my Brexiters series will take part in the lottery. What are you waiting for to buy your ticket? 

The Hepatitis C Trust is the national UK charity for hepatitis C with offices in London and Falkirk. It has been operating since 2001. It is a patient-led and patient-run organisation: most of their board, staff, and volunteers either have hepatitis C or have had it and have cleared it after treatment. Their over-arching goal is to shut down because they are no longer needed; in other words, because hepatitis C has been eliminated in the UK. Historically, hepatitis C has been neglected, partly because there has been no concerted patient voice and because it is often wrongly stigmatised as a drug user’s disease.

With Photography On A Postcard, the trust will try to replicate the success of Art On A Postcard, a program which raises money through an annual secret postcard auction and ‘postcard lotteries’ throughout the year. To date Art on a Postcard has raised over £350K for The Hepatitis C Trust.

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to donate my work to such a good cause. Please show your support and buy your ticket on this link.

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To Satisfy Your Clients You Must Understand Them

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As I write this post I am finalizing the migration of all my self-promotion and marketing communications from MailChimp to MailerLite. After 4 years of using it, I came to realize that MailChimp doesn't fully understand the segment of their target that I belong to. In the words of Eugen Herrigel, author of Zen in the Art Of Archery, in order to hit the target, the archer must become "simultaneously the aimer and the aim". If you don't understand your target, how can you serve them well?

Don't get me wrong, MailChimp is an outstanding service and it has gotten to be one of the best mailing services in the market today. I have used it for my mailing campaigns, for my weekly newsletter, for my blog subscription service, and until I finish migrating to MailerLite I will keep on using it for my documents download workflow. Nevertheless, over the last few months, I have encountered problems with some of the templates that affect only specific geographies. But, because I am on their free plan I do not have access to their technical support. They don't offer a means of contact for their non-paying users.

I am a freelance photographer, and like most freelancers out there I have a very limited budget for my business expenses. Therefore, I rely on services which offer free plans to be able to operate my business. "So you are a business who's trying to make money from your clients but expects free services from your suppliers?", you may ask. As contradictory as this may sound, businesses like these that offer free plans are not really doing it out of humanitarian reasons.

By offering free limited plans, free trials or even free forever options, these services grow their client base faster and have more chances of becoming mainstream without having to invest too much in their marketing. They also get thousands, if not millions of users to test their services and give them feedback on potential issues. But ultimately, and more importantly, is that they can go to their investors and show them how popular they are and ask them for more money. So, in a way, they put their free plan users to work for them.

Obviously, a business model where the majority of your clients don't pay you is not the type of business that we all dream of running. But I am sure that, like me, a lot of freelancers and small businesses out there end up subscribing to the paid plans of these services when they can finally afford to or when they consider that it is time to use the more advanced features that the paid plans provide. I have done it myself with some of the services that I use, and the only reason why I hadn't done it with MailChimp yet is that frankly, I can't afford them at this point.

But then I ran into MailerLite and from the start, I felt that they were the right fit for me. They are an unpretentious company based in Lithuania that prides itself in having a small team of people who work for other people. No big corporation aspirations, no nonsense. That's the kind of supplier that I want to have because that is the type of business that I want to be. On top of that, their templates are beautiful, their website is easy to use and so far I am in love with their service.

So, even if this sounds like a paid post I can tell you that it is not. This is a client testimonial from someone who fully identifies with their ethos. Because why would I want to be the client of a business that doesn't really understand me and that doesn't even offer a communication channel to hear what I have to say.

Photo by Andrzej Gruszka.

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I Wish I Had Known About... TV Adaptations!

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This is the fifth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I chat with Kenza Yarhfouri, a BBC Development Executive based in Paris, about what a career in TV Adaptations is all about:

1. When we think of people working in TV, we think of actors, presenters, and producers, but we forget about the thousands of possible career paths in the industry. In a few words, can you explain what you do?

I'm laughing at this question. First, when I told my family and relatives that I was working in TV, they were expecting to see me on screen or to at least read my name on the initial credits! But no one waits until the very last credits... You won't see me on screen, but I'm definitely part of the TV world. I work for BBC Worldwide as a Development Executive where I deal with content creation. My job consists on adapting English TV programs to the French market. We have access to a huge catalogue of titles from different genres (game shows, factual, shiny floor, talk...), and we spot the more relevant ones to our local market. For the lucky titles, we think of a French version and introduce them to the local broadcasters. Once we convince them, we start producing our own version which won't be far from the original one but will have a French touch. Since I started working in BBC, 4 years ago, I have worked on various big hits like Dancing with the stars, Great British Bake off, Top Gear, The Weakest Link...

2. When we met in New York six years ago you were working for Nickelodeon in the US and also writing for a magazine in France. Now you are living in Paris and working for the BBC. Was this the path that you had set out for yourself or did you just let the chips fall where they may?

Already 6 years, time flies... If I have to look back at my life, it was a series of opportunities that came to me. New York was a dream come true. I went there to finish my Master degree for a semester, but I did want to have a professional experience. I was fortunate enough to get an internship at Nickelodeon. I was working in Times Square (at that time I was convinced that I was part of a TV series since it felt too big to conceive...). I loved the experience there. I worked with amazing people and had great missions. I started my career in the Kids area where I was in charge of buying youth programs for channels. Then, I came back to Paris and did a more specialized Master degree at La Sorbonne. At the end of the year, I had to do an internship and wanted to discover a new field in the TV area. I left the children content for a more adult one and got hired after my apprenticeship.

3. How much of your work is sales-related and how much is actually production?

Actually, 99% of my work is sales, the 1% left is when I go on set to attend the recordings. My main occupation is to make the content that we have in our catalogue attractive. We work hard to find the perfect fit between our titles and the channels' needs. For every format, we must highlight convincing arguments to sell it. We'll usually be looking at the local trends, the success of the original format, the hosts and talents... Once this is done, then the production part begins.

4. Do you only work with BBC content or do you buy from other networks?

Besides the development side, I'm also in charge of finding new shows from other catalogues to adapt to our market. I get in contact with several independent companies all over the world and start shopping. Our catalogue is very rich with hundreds of titles, so you may think that we don't need to look elsewhere. However, we are always paying attention to the international market because we don't want to miss any hit. Therefore, I source content for our own market and look carefully for TV programs that can be relevant to invest in.

5. Does your audience include only channels in France or any French-speaking channel worldwide?

Our clients are mainly France-based companies targeting French audiences, but most of these channels are also available in French-speaking territories (Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, etc.).

6. How do you know if a show is adaptable to a French audience?

All the shows are adaptable, the main question is; is it relevant to the local market. Will the viewers be interested in this program? For instance, the audience in the U.K. has a different taste than here in France. For example, you have a lot of success for Antiques shows in England which wouldn't be appropriate for other markets.

However, most markets, including France, are very sensitive to bigger markets like the US, U.K., or Australia. If something is doing great in those territories, you can be sure that you won't have to contact the channels, they will be the first ones to get in touch with you. This is how we can see all over the world big hits like The Voice, Survivor, or Got Talent. Those key formats have an international radiance that makes them easy to adapt.

7. Growing up in Panama, I remember as a child watching Japanese or German game shows on TV and not really understanding what was going on because their sense of humour and their culture was so different to mine. How do you deal with this when sourcing content for the French audience?

It seems like the people who bought those programs in Panama didn't do a good job! From the broadcaster's point of view, the idea behind an acquisition is to buy content that matches the local needs and mentality. It's more difficult when you are investing in ready-made titles, but when you acquire the program's rights, it's easier to perfectly fit the needs of the audience since you are producing locally.  For example, when we sold Great Bake-off, we knew that because of our heritage our challenges would be more complex and our amateurs' creations would be more stunning. I'll let you compare the two versions and you'll see the differences. That's the aim of the adaptation; producing a local show that matches the viewers' needs.

8. How would you say the audience in France is different to the audience in the UK? How about the audience in the US or in your birthplace, Morocco?

We are all different and similar at the same time. Thanks to the internet, international contents can easily be watched wherever you are. So the audience is relatively the same, everyone watches content for the same reasons; to be entertained, to challenge their knowledge, to be informed, to get help... the difference is more about our societies, and traditions. Everybody knows the success of The Apprentice, it's a huge hit in the US and in the UK, but it failed in France. The local adaptation didn't convince the French viewers who weren't familiar with this kind of management. France is a country where social rights are very inlaid, so the idea of having a big boss firing you was unacceptable.

Therefore, you can notice that some topics are easily discussed in some countries while they would be inconceivable in others. In Morocco, for instance, the blood in TV series will be blurred and some scenes censored. In the US, their puritan society can easily be shocked so not all the themes would be covered.

9. Do you think that adapted programs have actually influenced cultural changes in different countries?

Indeed, I believe that TV can have an impact on the society and the viewers habits. When we launched a sewing competition, we noticed that more and more people were interested in the topic, and some even invested in sewing machines and started making their own creations. There was also the very controversial show aired on Channel 4; Benefits Street. I won't express my personal opinion of the show; however, it did make people react and deal with this topic that is usually eclipsed.

To go further on this question, as a photographer, you are aware of the images' impact on people. TV is part of numerous households, and the content is a reflection of our current society. We currently see the success of the news channels which are airing live and covering all sorts of events. It reflects the immediacy of information; thanks to the Internet we are instantly informed, so TV has to adapt and offer the same service.

10. In a world saturated with reality shows, do you think networks react to what the audience wants or are all these programs pushed to the audience to see how they respond?

Both answers are correct. Reality shows are a real trend in our current world. It's cheap, easy to produce, and moreover, it's attracting the young audience.

When a channel schedules a show it's in order to attract the maximum possible number of people; at least that's the aim of the commercial channels. Therefore, the broadcasters will match their viewers' wishes. From this statement, you can easily understand ITV2's schedule which is mainly targeting a young audience.  However, you won't imagine The Only Way is Essex aired on BBC One; it wouldn't fit their audience's needs. Besides, as a public service, the BBC group will be more inclined to produce very original shows so that everyone is able to find on the TV Grid something suitable for them. Thanks to this strategy, the audience can still be surprised and be pushed outside its familiar consumption.

Merci beaucoup, Kenza! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions about what working on TV Adaptations is like. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thank you! À vite! Gros bisous!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Think That I Have Finally Converted

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When I decided to become a full-time photographer, I knew that an important part of my marketing strategy should be Social Media. In particular Instagram. So I put all my efforts into building a name for myself as a brand, and a portfolio that would represent who I was as a photographer. But, like most people, I got obsessed with followers, comments and likes, and not having a clear goal for my social media efforts and an understanding of what these terms meant made me constantly worry that I was doing something wrong.

In hindsight, my first mistake was not knowing my brand enough. Which is strange, because I created this brand myself, and as a freelance photographer it is an extension of me. But not knowing what my brand stood for and what type of branding I was trying to create made me follow social media strategies that were not suitable for me. Grey Pistachio is not Nike, is not Tesco nor Walmart, is not even similar to other photographer's brands like Testino or Mert and Marcus. So why was I trying to copy what those other brands were doing on social media if I wasn't like them in the first place?

My second mistake was not knowing what I wanted to get from my marketing strategy. In my obsession with metrics, I confused engagement (likes and comments), with post views (impressions and reach), with conversion and awareness. Not understanding what these terms meant and how they could work for me made me apply trial and error tactics that were not suited for Grey Pistachio. Probably the biggest confusion that I had was not really knowing if I was creating posts for conversion (and exactly what that conversion was) or for brand awareness.

But in starting my blog and writing about me, about my brand, about the industry, about the issues that I care for and about how important the sense of creative community is for me, I have come to realize that what my marketing strategy has been about all along is brand awareness. And that is the conversion that I should have been measuring. This fact has never been clearer to me than during this last Fashion Week.

I moved to London in 2013, but it wasn't until mid-2014 when I decided to go full-time with my photography. In just 3 years I went from not having a portfolio nor even knowing a single person in the industry to where I am at right now. It may sound like a slow process to some, but for me, it has been an exhilarating journey. And this past weekend, while shooting the runways and the backstage in Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week, I had a moment of self-reflection.

Some of the people in the event (designers, models, guests, organizers)  knew me from previous seasons; while others who didn't know me at least had heard of me. And this is what I have been working so hard for over the last few years. To make myself a name in the creative community in London.

So the lesson here is that I shouldn't have been worrying so much about getting more likes or accumulating more followers; or so concerned with the number of impressions versus the size of my reach. None of that matters. What I should have been focusing on, and what I was actually doing without realizing it, was in presenting an authentic image of myself and of my brand so that my audience felt organically attracted to me. Which in turn creates an engagement that translates into a conversion trackable only by the number of meaningful connections with actual people that I make.

Photo by Wayne Noir.

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The Show Must Go On

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I was recently told that I don't look like a fashion photographer. At first, the statement didn't sit well with me. Were they saying this because I just put on what feels comfortable and not anything "trendy"? Was it because I care and show interest about many topics rather than just talking about designers and catwalks all day? Or was it because of any of the other stereotypes that people from outside the industry have of those who work in fashion? I couldn't tell. But then, after a while, it hit me. This person wasn't trying to insult me. Their words were actually meant as a compliment.

Honestly, I don't blame this person for having that opinion of me. More often than not this industry feels disconnected from reality. If you care just a bit about what is going on in the world you automatically don't fit with the image that the industry has made for itself.

Take for instance the New York Fashion Week. Millions of people were being displaced or left without homes due to the several hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and the south of the United States in early September. At the same time, the industry was prancing the catwalks in New York. If you were reading the news those days, you would see photos of models on runways alongside photos of people fleeing their towns in search of refuge. Very few brands and designers took actions to raise awareness for the victims of the natural phenomena that were causing mayhem a few states down south.

Was this what Jim Carrey was trying to tell us? We will never know. What we know is that the show always goes on. It must go on. This industry employs millions of people around the globe and it contributes immensely to many economies. For that, it deserves credit. But its reach also comes with the responsibility to respect and value their audience and their target. Showing a little sensibility for the issues that matter to the rest of the world won't hurt anyone. In the end, if we want the engagement of our customers, we must show that we care for them too.

In the effort of trying to sell a fairy tale fantasy and an unattainable lifestyle reserved to a very few, the message that we are sending is that we just care about the money and attention of the consumers, not about their well-being. Luckily, this image of superficiality is just a very superficial layer. Below, there are many who work in the industry who don't fit the stereotypes. A lot of them are very active on the issues that affect humanity and the environment.  Not all of them are vocal about it or have the appropriate channels to voice their efforts. But these people exist, they are very real, and in my experience, they outnumber those who contribute to the shallow image of Fashion.

So, if the image of someone who works in this industry is the image of someone who is superficial, I am glad that I don't look like that. Because the last thing that I want is to look like someone how doesn't care about humanity and who feels that they are above the rest of the world.

Photo by Luca Dominique Marchesi.

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A Guide For Perfecting Your Photography

A free guide for perfecting your photography

On a previous post, I mentioned that I had been invited to talk during an event for bloggers called "Breakthrough in Blogging", organised by the people of the Creative Industry Hub. For the purposes of that talk, I put together a short guide with composition tips and tricks to help anyone interested in photography to take better photos. It has been so well received that I have decided to make it public for anyone to download for free. Just click on this link to get your own copy and start taking better photos!

The "Breakthrough in Blogging" event took place at The CoClub, a fantastic co-working space in West London. Almost a 150 bloggers from different disciplines (fashion, travel, food, beauty) came to listen to a line-up of great speakers of the likes of Paul Goldsmith from Wearisma, Katia Bololia from Daisy London, Ulrich Boulon from Burberry, Victoria Reddington from FP Engage, Caroline Towers from The Content Edit, and Philip Gamble from Found.

Apart from the talks, the attendees had the opportunity to network, and also speak in person to some of the sponsors of the event: Alexandra Ursan from Kites and Bites, Funmi Deri from Funlayo Deri, among others.

Creative freelancing can be a very lonely path. But If you are a creative working in the UK, the good news is that the guys at the Creative Industry Hub organize some of the biggest networking events in the country. Their next event called "Breakthrough In Fashion" will take place on October 26th, 2017. You can't miss it!

All the photos, except for the guide's cover, by Luca Dominique Marchesi and Maria Teresa Fiatamone.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Hair Styling!

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This is the fourth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Hamilton Stansfield, Australia-born London-based Hair Artist, about what a career in hair styling is all about:

1. On any given day one can find you working with a celebrity, tending to your private clients, or running 106 km in the Isle of Wight. In a nutshell, who is Hamilton Stansfield?

All of the above inclusive and more, but I'm not defined by what I do. I’m a driven, ambitious, motivated, energetic, relentless creative. I’m always looking to push the creativity and I try to work or collaborate with people who are also driven to keep trying something different, something fresh.

2. Hairdresser, Hair Stylist, Session Hair Artist... what is the difference?

A Hairdresser is someone who encompasses all the skills that are generally needed for the public, which involves cutting and colouring, blow-drying, and styling.

A hairstylist is generally somebody skilled essentially in styling. Not all of the support work that gets it to there. Generally speaking. So just the dressing out of hair as in most shoots, which sometimes involves wigs and hair pieces, sometimes it does not. Sometimes it involves having knowledge and skills about cut, colour and all the other elements of texture. Often times, not. It is not about the needs of bringing out the best of a person necessarily.  It's often working with a model or celebrity, so many times hairstylists don't necessarily have a strong ability to bring out the person within the creativity. Sometimes the creativity of the hairstylist just pops on that person. It's less to do with the person or finding out what the person is about because it's not always the context. If it's a model, especially if it's a model, but sometimes even the same with an actress or a celebrity. Sometimes they look like they're wearing a hairstyle rather than being just them.

Then a session hair stylist is the next level, where you can pretty much do it all. But It's infinitely creative. Every time you don't copycat, you bring something new. Because you do have all of the skills: you can do wigs, you can do hair pieces, you can completely change who that person is because it's less colour-by-numbers. A session hair stylist truly reinvents somebody. Like Sam McKnight or Malcolm Edwards, for instance. You see their work and you can tell that's something!

You can be all of the above, but generally, you break them into these categories.

3. How did you start working with hair?

My step-father's nephew from his first marriage was a renowned hairdresser in Australia. I was coming out of a very complicated time and he connected me up with the craft. And I just devoured it. And then I couldn't stop. Courses, working, extra training, wigs, makeup, learning, learning, learning.

Then acting came after five years of doing hair. I went to NIDA, which is a known drama school, and I auditioned with a friend and went into the Actors Centre. In the meantime, I did hair to support acting. But, as with many actors, I didn’t make a career of it. Thankfully, I had something else that I could do. I started working with celebrities because I understood them. I had been on both sides. So I continued on to make a good living out of hair. 

4. What is the path for a creative who decides to follow a hair styling career?

In Australia, you have to do four years. It's a degree. Here in the UK, you can do six months, the same in the US. Six months or a year, and then you're left to do it, but you really don't know what you're doing. You haven't studied the physiology or the chemistry of all the elements to do it properly. You just had a faff around with hair, but you don't know what you're doing. You don't know what the chemicals are made of or how the elements come together. You don't know the substance behind it, you just know how to contort hair. But you don't know why and how, you don't have the substance behind it.    

5. Are there any sort of specializations in the field or do you need to know it all about styling, colouring, treatments, etc?

Specialization depends on which way do you want to go. If you want to do commercial work, TV and catalogue, or you want to do bridal or do fashion, or you want to do extreme fashion, or you want to do campaigns, or do film. Do you want to do stuff that is 9 to 5 or do stuff that is infinitely creative? It depends on where you want to go. It's like saying: “what do I need in order to go on that trip?” Well, where is your trip to? You have got to know where you're going to go. How can you know how to get somewhere if you don't have an idea of where you want to go?

6. You often hear that makeup artists are expected to know how to do hair... are hair stylists expected to know how to apply makeup?

It's definitely different categories. This really intrigues me and I have thought about it quite a few times because people have asked me many times before: “what do you enjoy more hair or makeup?" Not to be confused with the male or the female gender, but hair is much more about masculine energy, about taking control, being strong with a manipulative force. Makeup is much more about the feminine energy, much more painterly, reflective, touching, perceiving, understanding, feeling what's going on. So they are different energies. Of course that’s a generalization because you can have aggressive makeup, but generally makeup requires a softer touch and generally hair requires to take charge of it. Some people are wired in a way that they can handle the amount of energy and attention to detail. And some people are not. Some people benefit either way. That's a little bit out there but that's my view of it.  It has nothing to do with the gender. It has to do with the energy of the person.

7. I know that you are represented by an agent, but I believe that you also work directly with your own clients. Would you say that your career gives you the flexibility to work in a salon, as a freelancer and with agencies without having to stick to one business model at once?

Absolutely. I've deliberately done it. I've had salons before, managing staff and people, and it requires a lot of energy and time. I'd rather just do the work. I have an agent. She essentially does the paperwork and does it pretty well, but my clients come directly to me. I have just shy of 400 clients that come to me and to my place which means I'm available from 7 a.m. to midnight almost every day. And then when I have a shoot they know that that takes priority and they get moved. And they understand that.

Those clients involve people from all over the world. I'm very lucky that they fly me there or they fly to me. Lots of people come to my atelier, which is a two chair salon and it is very much one on one. Very personal. Anytime, day or night. As a client, you're not dealing with any public or anybody else. Total attention to you, and for that you pay a premium. But they enjoy it. Once they get away from the mindset of a salon they prefer that they can come here any night or any day or any morning they can. They are also quite happy to fly me to other countries to do that as well.

All this involves complete autonomy from anybody telling me what to do. Financial independence on a creative level. So I don't do things like catalogues anymore. That doesn't interest me at all. Neither anything that's kind of generic or not creative because I don't have to. It's not interesting. The more you simplify life, the better. If I had a salon, and staff, and those insurances, and those expenses, and those things to take care of, that would be less energy that I have for the people I'm working with. My clients. Whether it is in the atelier or whether it is on a shoot.  It's more money in, less money out. It’s more energy into what I'm doing, less energy wasted on stuff that doesn't return. So you want to maximise what's coming in and minimise what's going out. That's the business model.

8. Apart from working with private clients and celebrities, you also collaborate with photographers in photoshoots. How does that come about and why do you think that it is important to collaborate with other creatives?

If you don't put yourself into new situations you won't challenge yourself in new ways. Creative collaborations come to me. I generally don't hustle anymore. Not unless it's somebody that I really like.

9. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about embarking on a hair styling career?

Work on your skills and your craft. Work on you. Know what you do and why you do it and don't do it for the notions of some kind of fame or notoriety, because they won't last. You do this because you love doing it.

10. Where can we see your work and how can people get a hold of you?

The usual suspects: my website and my Instagram.

I really appreciate it, Hamilton! Thank you so much for answering my questions and letting me take a peek into what a Hair Artist career is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Learn The Rules Then Break Them

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The idea of rules to regulate art goes against the notion of creativity, but in order to explore and express your creativity, you have to understand at least the rules of the medium that you are working in. Once you understand those rules you can and should break them, and only then will you be able to fully unleash your creative self. If artistic growth is about breaking the rules but you haven't learned any rules in the first place, can you even say that you are breaking them?

A couple of posts ago I spoke about the importance of knowing what the subject of your photo is. Only then will you be able to apply the rules of composition to your images to improve how you present your subjects. On September 2, I will be giving a talk on "Perfecting Your Photography" to a group of bloggers during the "Breakthrough in Blogging" event organized by the guys over at the Creative Industry Hub. Join me and learn basic photography composition guidelines and start taking better photos!

If you live outside London and are not able to make it to the event, don't despair. Stay tuned for future blog posts where I will be talking about all these concepts.

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Too Many Thoughts Remain Unwritten

Today I was going to write about photography, but the recent events in Charlottesville have prompted me to write about Human Rights instead. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression", but in the case of hate speech, it always feels like this article contradicts the main purpose of this declaration to offer rights "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." If we are promoting and encouraging equality, why are we protecting discrimination as well?

There has been a historically long debate about whether hate speech should be free speech. And I understand that there will always be parts of society that will have an opinion that is completely opposite to mine. But one thing is raising an opinion, and another thing is inciting violence with what you say. Because words can kill. And words have killed. And no matter how many people try to deny past and present slavery, past and present genocides, past and present horrors against humanity, they have taken place. And if we don't do something about it they will continue taking place.

The solution at this point in history might not lie in prohibiting this sort of speech, as those who take advantage of the vulnerabilities of our human rights declaration would also take advantage of possible hate speech rulings to silence those who think different to them. But there are things that we can do right now to plant the seed of kindness, tolerance and inclusion for the generations to come:

  • Speak out. Use your freedom of opinion and express your thoughts. Condemn hatred, bigotry and discrimination of any kind. Talk to your relatives, to your friends, write about equality on social media and blogs. Even if it feels to your acquaintances that you have an annoying agenda, this is a matter of life and death. This is a time when our words can save lives. I found a very useful guide on how to speak your mind when confronted with hate speech on this link.
  • Elect better representatives. As clichéd as this sounds, we have in our voting hands the power to let our leaders know that we won't condone any form of support for hatred. And because they should work for us, for that is the reason why we elected them, we must demand of them to improve our education systems and invest in programs to promote equality in our schools.
  • Be kind. This might be the most important one. Lead by example, be kind and accepting of others and hold yourself to the highest standards of equality and inclusion. If we try to perform an act of kindness as often as we can we will all be contributing to spreading this message to the world. Every small action counts.

In the meantime, I refuse to remain silent about attacks against humanity. And even though the aim of this blog is to talk about business and marketing in the creative industries, every single word written in my posts is a part of who I am and how I think. And I feel that it is my duty to use my words to try to make this world a better place for every person and it is my human right to not let my thoughts remain unwritten.

Portrait by: Wayne Noir.

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Why Do We Take Photos?

Lately I have found myself coaching people on how to improve their photography skills and take better photos. And one of the things that I emphasize the most is that when we take a photo we need to understand what is the subject of our image to be able to convey a message about it. Sometimes the subject is very clear: a person, a building, a landscape, a dish; but other times we create images about experiences, about feelings, about moods, and then it is difficult for the viewer to understand what the photo is about. And even if it is difficult for ourselves to explain what an image that we took is about, there was a reason why we felt the need to capture it. The answer to the question "what is the subject of my image?" lies in the answer to another question: "why am I taking this photo?"

In this day and age when photography has been so democratized, I would say that the majority of people take photos to show others the experiences that they are living or the places where they go, some sort of visual journal of their lives. Other people, on the other hand, take photos in a less self-involved manner and more like witnesses of the world that surrounds them, like "a tourist in other people's realities" (Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977). But there are also people like me, photographers who get hired to take a photo of a person, a product or an idea for commercial purposes. No matter which type of photography you do, there is always a reason why you are taking an image. There is always a subject in mind.

The challenge relies on how to transmit the message to the viewer, how to make them understand what our photo is about. And for me the first step is understanding ourselves what the subject of our photo is. In my experience, this idea that might sound so obvious is not so obvious at all. Today's technology lets us take an infinite amount of photos for a very low cost which means that we end up clicking away every time that we want to capture something. Amateurs and professionals alike, with the "think less, shoot more" strategy we take a massive amount of images in the hope to be able to rescue at least a few good ones. And even if admittedly there are some instances when there is no time to think for too long because time is precious, most of the times stopping for a second to think about why we are taking an image translates into a better photo.

Do you want to improve your photography? Stop what you are doing and look around. Do you see any photos? Are you able to tell what the subject is? Now do this with your own photos. Is the subject as clear as you thought it would be when you took them?

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Waiting For The Bus To Come

Those who know me know that I enjoy cooking. More than enjoy, I would say that it is a hobby of mine. Spending hours in the kitchen taking individual ingredients, transforming them, and creating something that you can share with others is for me one of the biggest pleasures in life. But, apart from being a pleasure, it has also been a school. It has taught me patience and it has given me the ability to blindly wait for long periods of time to be rewarded with the outcome of my efforts. We all desperately need to learn how to cook.

It is funny that what I do for a living and what I like doing in my spare time are both related to the pass of time. Berenice Abbott wrote in her book 'The World of Atget': "(...) the photographer is the contemporary being par excellence; through his eyes the now becomes past." As photographers, we capture present time moments and turn them into memories from the past. But, as someone who enjoys cooking, the pleasure relies in imagining how a dish would taste in the future and then build with present ingredients towards that.

Carmen Herrera said in the documentary on her life: "If you wait for the bus, the bus will come." She had to wait until she was almost a 100 years old to be recognized for her art. But she never stopped painting. Not even when she was told at some point in her life that she would never make it in the art world because she was a woman. Talk about perseverance. Yet nowadays we are not willing to wait for anything in our lives: we buy pre-cooked food instead of cooking it ourselves, instant messaging has replaced almost all of our communications, we want immediate success without doing the effort.

If you have a goal in life you must have the patience and perseverance to attain it, but also the vision to make it sustainable in time. Immediate success often comes with immediate failure. Our business community is so consumed in going from zero to profit in the least amount of time possible that no one seems to be focusing on how to survive after success. In my opinion, it is better to arrive slowly but to have a solid foundation that will keep us going for long.

Don't rush into things, not even when you feel that everyone else is ahead of you. Everything happens at the right time. You can't have 40 years of experience if you haven't lived for 40 years. The same way that you can't make a delicious homemade meal if you don't spend a few hours in the kitchen.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Fashion Journalism!

This is the third post of my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Olivia Pinnock, Fashion Journalist, Copywriter and founder of The Fashion Debates, about what fashion journalism is all about:

1. I met you through the Fashion Debates but you are also a copywriter, a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and a fashion journalist. Who is Olivia Pinnock?

Oh I ask myself that all the time! I trained as a journalist and I do still really believe I’m a writer at heart but I’m very fortunate that I’m able to channel all of my skills and passions into many different areas.

2. What exactly is Fashion Journalism? Is it related to Fashion Critique?

Yes, all fashion critics are journalists, though not all journalists are critics! Fashion journalism is the reporting of news and trends related to what we wear. This can be interviewing designers, writing catwalk show reports, announcing changes to key staff in fashion companies, forecasting trends for the coming season, reporting sales figures for brands, and many more things! Fashion criticism is deeper analysis of these things. It could be putting a fashion collection into context and offering thought on whether it is a successful or unsuccessful. It could also explore why certain trends are popular right now, or what changes in the industry mean for business.   

3. How do you become a Fashion Journalist? Is it a separate career from journalism?

There’s not one path to go down. I studied Journalism at university and built up a portfolio of fashion writing to specialise and I believe that my training in traditional journalism skills has been very helpful. However, some people study fashion journalism and other people don’t study at all, they just train themselves through experience. I didn’t know I wanted to work in fashion when I studied so it was the right route for me.   

4. What is the role of the fashion journalist today in this day and age where a photo posted on social media is worth a thousand words?

Well we all know that what is posted on social media is not necessarily factual never mind good quality. While it can be even harder to stand out amongst all the noise on social media and the internet, I think we need top quality, trustworthy journalism in all fields more than ever.   

5. With great writing comes great responsibility. Do you think that a fashion journalist should actually know about fabrics, pattern cutting, design, and the basics of the fashion industry to be able to do their job?

Absolutely! You would expect a political reporter to understand how government works, you would expect a war reporter to understand the history of the conflict, you would expect a football reporter to know the rules of the game, so you must educate yourself as a fashion journalist to understand every aspect of the industry and its history.

The module I teach at London Met is called Fashion Branding & Journalism but as part of our classes I give them quizzes on current fashion news, names of fabrics, shoe styles, important figures in the industry, etc. We also take a trip to a factory to see how clothes are made. I feel very strongly that this is something that is very important and yet often missing from fashion journalism education.  

6. I know that you are also a copywriter. For the rest of us: what is copy?

It is any writing that is done for a brand, and therefore has a commercial purpose. It’s a very broad term that covers anything from product descriptions, to press releases, to advertising slogans, to e-newsletters and social media posts, to company information on a website or catalogue.  

7. Is it right to think that sometimes the copy on the cover of magazines or in advertisement is trying to exploit our insecurities?

Of course it is. It’s not necessarily so obviously at the forefront of editors and advertising executives’ minds when they write them but it is a very long-standing technique in order to get people to buy things and it’s very effective. However, we are now much wiser to this and there is quite a backlash to the negative impact the constant bombardment of messages that tell us we are not good enough unless we buy things to solve all our problems has. This is very slowly heralding a new age of advertising and media.  

8. How about fashion brands? How honest is their message? What can we do as consumers?

Well, that really depends on the brand! I think we should always be aware that any brand’s ultimate purpose is to sell and make a profit, but that doesn’t necessarily make them evil. Of course, sometimes they cross a line and we have an awful lot of power as consumers to boycott brands we disagree with and to hold the brand’s we do like to a higher standard when they miss the mark by using our voice. It’s important to think critically and always be aware of the motives behind the things you see, read, and watch, and while brands can have an amazing impact on raising awareness or money for certain issues, don’t expect them to be saints. Expect them to be companies who need to make money in order to survive.

9. What are the Fashion Debates and when and where do they take place?

The Fashion Debates is a series of panel discussion events in London which explore ethical issues facing the fashion industry. Our past topics have included sweatshop labour, environmental pollution, racism, the health of models, and unpaid internships and work. And there’s many more to come! You can find out when the next one is coming up on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, or on our Facebook page and there’s also a newsletter sign up form on our website.  
    
10. How can people from outside London take part on the debates?

We stream all our debates live on Facebook, make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page! And by sharing your ethical fashion style every Wednesday with our hashtag #OnWednesdaysWeWearEthical.

Amazing! Thank you so much Olivia for taking the time to answer my questions and for explaining with such care what Fashion Journalism is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous post of this series, you can check it out here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Creativity And Ego Don't Mix

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A couple of nights ago I went out for drinks with a group of photographer friends to catch up and to share our projects. At some point in the conversation we started talking about inflated egos and we all agreed that something that we value in other people is humbleness. So why is it then that if so many people appreciate a humble person you find so much arrogance in our industry today?

I went jogging with another friend this morning and out of the blue they told me about how much they like humble people. I thought to myself: "is this a coincidence or is everyone trying to tell me something?". Thankfully, they continued talking and explained an anecdote that prompted that statement. So many people talking about humbleness seems to me like a reaction to the times that we are living. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about people wanting "Truth", and with this series of conversations that I have been having lately I realise that we are all just getting a bit fed-up with all the falseness and the arrogance that surrounds us.

There is a documentaries series that I watch on Netflix called the "Chef's Table", where different chefs from around the world talk about their craft and their path. One of the episodes was on Jeong Kwan, a monk and a cook from South Korea, and during the interview she said: "Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly." I couldn't agree more. I too believe that people with inflated egos are usually trying to hide something: they either feel insecure about their work or they feel like they don't have a clue about what they are doing or what is expected of them. So they react in this arrogant way to avoid other people from finding out. And the thing with creativity is that when you have your mind full of insecurities about you or your work, full of jealousy for the success of others, or even full of paranoia that everyone else is trying to steal your clients or copy your work, your creativity doesn't have a space to flourish.

Besides, being in constant fear and self-doubt has to be exhausting and no matter how much you try to pretend everyone else around you can tell. Well, almost everyone. There is a part of the population that enjoys a diva. But from these conversations I can see that the majority of people feel rejection towards arrogance and you don't want to be the creative that no one wants to work with. Not your clients, not your peers, not even your own team.

Self-confidence and humbleness for me go together. When you know where you are standing, and what your value is, there is no need to pretend. Everyone around you will see it. And if they don't, maybe it's time to reconsider your target.

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The ‘Norm’ Is Not What Others Say It Is

We have been made believe that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, that lobster is the mother of all seafood and that only fit people get laid. But, what happens if you can't afford to go to Paris, or you don't like lobster, or you have never set foot in a gym? Does that mean that you will never find love? Does that mean that you don't know how to eat well? Or, even worse, does that mean that you will never get laid? Not quite. But popular culture is full of these myths and society forces these aspirations on us in order to feel fulfilled. Could it be that as human beings we need these false aspirations as an excuse to explain why our lives are not the way that others expect them to be?

I have fallen in love in Barcelona several times; and before that, in Panama City many more. And at the time those cities where the most romantic cities in the world to me. And if you really want to know, my favourite seafood is octopus, and with my 'dadbod' I don't have a problem in the three-letter-word department. Like my dad says all the time: "the best wine in the world is the one that you like the most". Consequently, the most romantic city in the world is the one where you are at your most romantic. Period.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do certain things the way society tells you or otherwise your life will never be fulfilled. Live your life to the fullest but in your own way and not paying attention to these silly social conventions. We have become a race of 'followers' with the so-called 'influencers' leading the pack. Individuality and free will are not praised enough. 'Millennials' should be like this, Generation 'Xers' should be like that. We receive these inputs so much that we end up assimilating them and becoming that way. To be honest, the 'coolest' people that I know are not remotely similar to what society considers to be 'cool'.

What is the 'norm' for others doesn't have to be the 'norm' for you and that is perfectly fine. Be exceptional, be the only one of your kind.

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The New Trend Is Truth

Last June, The Global Language Monitor announced that the Top Trending Global English Word for 2017 was 'Truth'. Not 'meme', not 'god', not an animal nor the name of a celebrity, but 'Truth'. People just want the truth. In a world with so much falseness, could it be that being real is all you need to stand out?

Truth. Such a strong word, for words themselves are very powerful; mightier than the sword, has been said. Used with good intentions they can move us, unite us, incite love, support and confidence; used with the wrong intentions, they can manipulate us, lead to hatred, destruction, and war. But, sometimes, we are not aware of the consequences of our words. We throw them unwittingly without stopping for a second to think if they are hurting others, or even ourselves. And nowhere is this more obvious than in social media these days. The internet age has made us feel as if everything was ephemeral, short living. We post something today and a few minutes later is not in our timelines anymore, it is gone, forever. Or so we think. But, it is not. It is just hidden, waiting patiently somewhere in the depths of an internet server to come bite us back. When I was growing up I was always told: "The spoken word can't be taken back." Replace "spoken" with "posted" and it is our reality today.

Therefore, we must be very careful with what we say online, specially in our businesses accounts. Our brands can be easily tainted by the wrong use of words, and the trust from our clients, present or future, might not be that easy to gain back. Before we post anything we must always ask ourselves: Is this true? Do I have proof? Does this represent me or my brand? Does this hurt anyone, including myself? Is this disrespectful to others, even the ones who are not like me? Think about the words that you like being told to you. Think about how it feels when someone tells you that they love you, that they support you, that you mean the world to them. Think about how you like it when people are honest with you, when they tell you the truth. Other people, including your clients, would appreciate that feeling as well.

Use your communication channels (voice, social media, email, online, print) being true to yourself and your branding but with respect, empathy, tolerance and transparency. Your clients, and your peers as well, might have different opinions or backgrounds than yours and just because they do business with you that does not mean that they see life the same way that you do. If you show them respect and truth they will more than likely show you their trust.

All the love or all the hatred in the world can fit in one word. Use words wisely.

Photo credit: Tana Benavides

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I Wish I Had Known... About Marketing!

This is the second post of a new series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Ilise Benun, a Marketing mentor and author based in New York, about what marketing is and how can creatives successfully self-promote:

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and the work that you do?

I am an author, business coach, national speaker, the founder of Marketing-Mentor.com and adjunct faculty at Pratt Institute and Maryland Institute College of Art, host of the Get Better Clients Bootcamp and a Program Partner for HOW Design Live, the largest design conference in the U.S.

Half my time is spent coaching creatives, especially the ones who are willing to do what it takes to get better clients with bigger budgets. That includes photographers, designers, illustrators, copywriters, videographers and other miscellaneous creative professionals. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years.

I have also written 7 books, including The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing, and Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive. I edit 2 blogs, The Creative Freelancer Blog and The MarketingMixBlog, and I host 2 podcasts, The Marketing Mentor Podcast and the HOWLive Podcast. My online courses can be found through CreativeLive, HOW Design University and American Writers & Artists Institute.

I also have an online store where I sell tools to grow a creative business, including The Pick a Niche Kit, The 30 Minutes-a-Day Marketing Plan for Creative Professionals, The Designer’s Proposal Bundles and The Package Pricing Bundle.

All of that keeps me busy delivering the basic business training in all the different ways a creative professional would want to learn how to grow their business.

2. When did you decide that you wanted to help creatives with their marketing strategies?

In 1988, I was fired from a job so I started out helping my friends who were actors and singers and painters in New York be more organized; over the years it has evolved into helping creatives learn what it means to be your own boss and take control of your business and your life. So I wouldn’t say I “decided” – it was more a question of me responding to the needs I perceived around me with a skill I didn’t even know I had at first, and then practising what I was preaching to take control of my own business!

3. Niche, target, audience, market... for the uninitiated these words are very confusing at the beginning. How would you explain in everyday words what self-promotion is all about?

Let me start with what self promotion is not. It’s not:

  • Bragging
  • Tooting your own horn
  • Boring people with me, me, me
  • Shoving your business card in someone’s face
  • Convincing anyone that they should work with you

Unfortunately, most people think it’s one or more (or sometimes all) of those things. Instead it is very simple:

Self promotion involves identifying those who need what you offer (that’s your target market or niche) and letting them know that you are willing and available to help. Self promotion is everything you do to communicate that message to the right people, the ones who will be open to it – again, your niche.

4. Why is it important for creatives to get their products and services out there?

James Sommerville, VP of Global Design at The Coca Cola Company, said it best on my blog: “Show us you’re interested by reaching out to us. Otherwise, we probably won’t know you exist."

5. Are creatives betraying the artist in them by trying to attract clients?

There does seem to be a popular myth that art and business don’t mix, that one corrupts the other or that you can’t be both “an artist” and “a business person.” I, of course, think that is bull. In fact, I recommend not labelling yourself at all. Instead, think about the business tasks that need doing and do them, whether you are “an artist,” “a business person” or a dog.

6. In this day and age when we are over saturated by promotional material, how much self promotion is too much... or too little?

It depends! And we each have to figure that out for ourselves. Here’s how: if you have a goal to earn X dollars (or pounds) per month, you have to figure out how much self promotion it takes to make your monthly goal based on how much you charge for your services.

Also, self promotion is not a question of quantity, as much as quality and effectiveness. If you choose the right tools to reach your target market in their moment of need, you may not have to do much at all. But you have to know which tools those are! Sometimes, attending one targeted event will give you all the marketing ammunition you need to last a year, as long as you follow up.

7. Is it enough just spreading the word about our work? What else can we do?

The most important thing to do is develop and nurture relationships with the people who are in a position to either hire you and/or pass your name along to the right people.

That can be done in many different ways – too many, really. It can be done in person through networking. It can be done online through social media. It can be done via email and through the old fashioned snail mail -- even sometimes on the phone. The problem most people encounter is getting overwhelmed by all the different marketing tools available. Or using the right ones in the wrong way. The right way, of course, is strategically, allowing you to connect the dots so the right people get the right message at the right time. That is the basis of my latest marketing plan: 2017 Marketing Blueprint - How to Connect the Dots of Your Marketing.

8. Most creatives are very good at their craft but very bad at selling themselves.... myth or reality?

Reality…but for a good reason. You are good at your craft because you care about it and you devote a lot of time to improving it and making sure you’re the best you can be. If you don’t do that for the business side of your craft, you are almost guaranteed to be really bad at it. No one is good at anything they haven’t learned and practised until they are competent and confident about it.

9. Any other word of advice?

Stop making excuses and get on with the work of letting people know about your work. It is your obligation to yourself.

10. How can creatives reach you and what can you do for them?

What I can do is teach you the simple and basic marketing tools that will bring your ideal clients to you. If that sounds good, sign up for my Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor to get a taste of my advice. Listen to the podcast and then, if you like what you see, sign up for my free 30 minute mentoring session and we’ll talk.

Beautiful! Thank you so much Ilise for your time and for all this fantastic information. So many things that "I Wish I Had Known"! I am sure that a lot of people will find it all very useful. I know that your blog, podcasts, calendar and books have been very useful for me!


If you haven't read the first post of this new series, you can check it out here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Make Me Perfect

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but the beholder's sight becomes distorted when they look at their own images. A photograph's sincerity is hard to face if the person that we see represented on it does not look like the image that we have of ourselves. To some, photography is supposed to "beautify" us, to make us look pretty. And nobody knows this better than the makers of those mobile apps that alter our features and exploit our self-confidence issues. What's the point in going through this beautification process if we end up looking nothing like ourselves?

Photo editing techniques are nothing new. And the concerns surrounding them, either. According to John Hannavy, in the 1850's not only did photographers groups like the Société Française de Photographie condemned retouching, but also there was an important debate on whether altering an image was deterring from its "veracity and sincerity". In spite of this, very early into the business of photography's history, photographers understood that people usually want an image where they look more attractive than they think they are (Susan Sontag, "On Photography", 1977). And photographers as early as late XIX century ran very successful portraiture businesses that employed in-house retouchers to make their clients look better.

As a photographer working in the XXI century I can't help but think that body image issues should be one of the biggest concerns in the photography industry today.  When I look at my subjects, I try to accurately capture the essence and the beauty that I see with my bare eyes. But, every now and then, I get people who are not happy with how they look and ask me to alter their photo by changing their features. And no matter how hard I try to make them see that they are beautiful and that those changes will make them look nothing like themselves, some of them still want me to go through with the alterations. To which I always say no. I made a promise to myself when I started out my career as a photographer that I would only retouch my portraits if they needed colour grading, temporary skin problems corrections, lighting enhancements, and clean-up or replacement of backgrounds or objects in the scene. Not just because I find it unethical to retouch any further, but because body image issues can lead to mental health problems and I don't want to inadvertently contribute to someone's body dysmorphia, a mental disorder that affects a person's perception of their own appearance and justifies the means to fix it.

However, I recently found myself breaking this promise when I allowed a very demanding person to make me alter their images beyond what I consider to be ethical. I felt very guilty and disgusted while doing it and I purposely changed as little as possible so that they would continue looking like themselves. But, in the end, after numerous exchanges where they kept on telling me that the features needed more enhancements, I was very relieved to hear that none of the changes that I had made were of their liking and that the photos wouldn't be used. No matter what I did, as long as they kept on looking like themselves, they were never going to be satisfied with my photos. The whole experience made me feel very bad about myself and about what I had gotten myself into. And the truth is that I don't blame this person in particular or any of the other persons who have asked me for these changes in the past. I feel sad for them. They are just the victims of the selfie culture and of the mobile cameras and apps with so-called beautifying features. It is very shameful how the creators of these apps are profiting from our vulnerabilities.

Let my post today be a renewal of my promise to myself to not engage in this sort of practice ever again.

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What Am I Leaving Behind?

I got my first digital camera in the year 2001, when I was 25. Until then I had been a shutter-bug also, but I had been shooting film. No fancy cameras, just a point and shoot, but enough to record the memories of my younger years. Now, at 42, I have started playing around with film again, this time not only with a more complex camera than the one that I used back in the days, but also with an actual knowledge of the craft. And somehow now I feel like I am finally understanding my profession.

Getting used to shooting with a film camera again was not a big deal for me in the sense that I had already used film cameras early in my life. Loading the film, advancing the film before each shot, even not being able to see the result of what I had shot for the lack of an LCD screen on the back of the camera were things that just felt natural to me. The real impact came when I took the film to the lab to have it developed and I heard those dreadful words: "come back in a week." A week?!?! I almost had a panic attack thinking that I was not going to be able to see the result of my work until after a whole week! But then, I decided to embrace the magical feeling of the experience full of expectations that lead to the moment when you finally get to see your creations for the first time. And my mind was blown away! This is how it felt! Before the 1-hour or the 24-hour developing services, we had to wait a week or two before we got to see the photos from our trip, our party or our family gatherings. And it was perfectly OK. Nobody died of impatience waiting for their photos to come back from the lab.

We live in a different world now. Everything is so immediate these days that we no longer have a sense of patience. If I click the shutter, I want to see my photo now. If I send an email promo, I want clients calling me as soon as I hit send. If I start my business today, I want to be successful tomorrow. If I meet someone and I like them, I want us to be best friends right away. We have lost our ability for waiting, it seems like nothing is worth looking forward to anymore. But film has reminded me of how beautiful the anticipation to see your work for the first time can be.

Another thing that shooting film has done for me is that it has gotten me into thinking about my work and what I'm leaving behind. Today, only a very small percentage of my work exists in print. The vast majority is stored in the form of digital files inside hard drives that backup to the cloud and create a copy that resides somewhere in the cyberspace. In other words, they don't actually exist in a physical form. Which means that in 500 years from now, if someone finds these hard drives and doesn't have access to our obsolete technology to be able to read what is inside of them they will never know of my existence or my work. We might not know who posed for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but at least we still have the painting. It's funny how we feel that we are so technologically advanced because we have managed to store millions of bytes of information in very small hard drives but if we expose them to time, to the elements or to obsolescence all this data is lost. However, after so many centuries we can still learn so much from fossils and from rudimentary tools that were left behind by the people who were here before us.

And all of this got me into thinking that maybe a return to film is a return to contaminating the environment. We accumulate our printed images, we kill trees for the paper, and we leave behind chemical residue from all the processing involved. But, all the digital technology that we use today needs a lot of power to function which has a massive impact on the planet, and it also leaves a greater footprint with the speed at which devices are discarded when they become obsolete. So, what do I prefer to leave behind? In all honesty, I prefer to leave behind art than just a piece of metal.

Rediscovering film has made me re-evaluate my career as a photographer: I feel more like a craftsman, like an artist. It is as if, by exploring the past, I am also exploring a different version of myself in the present. Quoting Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist: "Sometimes we have to travel a long way to find what is near."

Below you will find some of the images that I have shot on film over the last month. Photo credits:

  • Photo 1: George Robbins
  • Photo 2: Tana Benavides
  • Photo 3: Tim Godfrey
  • Photo 4: Arnau Siches
  • Photo 5: Mooeo Munkhtulga

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Having Your Website Reviewed

After almost 4 years of shooting non-stop and building my online portfolio with both client and personal work, yesterday I had my first website review ever. Having your work reviewed is a very intimidating process, specially if you are a creative. Our pieces are like our babies, and who likes to hear that they have got an ugly baby? Fortunately, it did not go as bad as I feared and I just had to make a few changes here and there.

My website was reviewed by Raffaela Lepanto, a Milan based Photo Editor and Photography Consultant, as part of the LCN programme at Four Corners. Her first thought was that I was showing too much in an attempt to tell the world everything that I was able to do. And don't we all? I think that as creatives we don't like to be put in a box and be the person who "only does this". But, as she cleverly pointed out, showing the best you can do implies that you can also do everything else. Besides, it is a well known rule in portfolio making that you must only show your best work. So why would your website be any different?

Then we talked about simplifying my menu. For the longest time I wasn't very comfortable with how my menu looked as it felt too crowded, but I just didn't know what to take out and what to keep. She was brutal in her assertion: make it boring. And so I did. I took out all the different menu options that pointed to my different styles of shoots and past client work that never made it to the homepage as I always felt that they weren't homepage worthy. So if I wasn't willing to put them in my homepage, did it make sense to keep them in the menu anyway? No.

Finally, the About and Contact section needed a bit of tweaking. Like not talking in the third person on my blurb or showing my email address besides my contact form. Little things that you don't think about when making your website because it is impossible to put yourself in your clients shoes and know what they look for when they visit your online portfolio.

In summary:

  • I should only show my best work and the type of work that I want to shoot.
  • I should keep the layout simple.
  • I have to make sure that my client knows what I offer and how to get a hold of me.

All in all it was a very rewarding experience because you always have the feeling that your online portfolio is not there yet, but having an expert actually tell you what works and what doesn't makes a big difference.

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