Education, Networking and Your Skill Set

Sal Cincotta kicks off the history-making first ShutterFest in St. Louis.
In just a few hours I’m teaching my second of three classes at ShutterFest in St. Louis and as I am with any workshop, I’m totally pumped.  Good buddy, Jim Morton, in our Hasselblad days, used to make sure he always gave people a heads-up with “Watchout, Skip’s in show mode!”and Tony Corbell would refer to me as “Wound a little tight!” Sheila knows, just looking at my face, if she’s going to tell me something important there’s a 90% chance I’ll forget what she said within ten minutes.

As nuts as I get before a program like this, Monday night, meeting some of the attendees for the first time, I saw the same expressions on their faces over and over again. It’s all about anticipation and enthusiasm.  We’re all looking for answers and when you take the time to step away from the challenges of business and attend a workshop or convention, your quest to raise the bar on different aspects of your career kicks into high gear.

You’ve chosen a career field where your education can never stop! Technology is constantly changing and putting pressure on your skill set. Social media is growing and changing every day and pushing you to understand marketing and your reach. Consumer trends are NEVER stagnant, but what are you doing to understand them and stay on top of client expectations?

You have to make sure you attend every possible convention, workshop and trade show that comes your way, along with online education, blogs, books and DVD’s.

Over the years I’ve suggested that networking is one of the very top reasons to attend any workshop or convention, but don’t just collect business cards.

  • Talk to the people around your in every workshop. Right from the start you’ve got a person on your left and another on your right.

  • Don’t be afraid to share your challenges. I’m not suggesting you sit there and whine about how tough business is, but carry on a conversation asking them about their business and then just listen. They might have discovered a solution to one of your biggest challenges.

  • NEVER eat a meal alone! Breakfast, lunch and dinner are ideal times to just talk and get to know new people who should be in your network.

  • Stay in touch. A great network needs follow-up and nurturing, just like a plant in a garden. Once you leave the event take the time, every so often, to contact people you’ve met and build the relationship.

Your Skill Set
I know not everyone agrees, but I’ll continue to argue that diversity is the key to survival. In order to build a strong business today, while there are those who can survive being specialists, I still believe diversity into related specialties can build a much stronger business foundation.  For example, brides start families; families grow up and during the process there are opportunities for maternity images, baby portraits, family portraits and seniors. Plus, depending on the client, they might have needs for commercial work and fine art along the way.

You dont need to be an expert in everything, but learning a few skills outside your comfort zone when you’re at a program like ShutterFest is going to make you a better photographer. Building your skill set out so you never have to say, “Sorry, I don’t that kind of photography,” builds a stronger client base.  And, if you really don’t want to expand your skill set, then at least expand your network, so you know other artists who compliment your weaknesses and you can refer business to each other.

Okay, so it’s not one of the “big three”, but it is the reason we’re in this business in the first place. Sadly, “fun” has been buried under everyone’s baggage worrying about the economy, finances, marketing and business. “Fun” is one of those words so often forgotten in business today, but spending time outside your studio at workshops and conventions is one way to bring fun back into your life.

So, if you’re here at ShutterFest, welcome to St. Louis. If you’re not here then look around for the next workshop series coming your way or make the time to get away to be involved. You’ve got a choice – you can either stand on the sidelines and watch the parade go by or you can be right in it!


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