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Thread: Who needs to change/adapt

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Who needs to change/adapt

    Had a conversation with a photographer friend recently.

    They moved from one of Australia's major cities to a regional city about 12 months ago. In the larger city, he had built himself up a quite good business doing portraiture, a few weddings and some freelance work for a couple of the local alternative newspapers. His wife has a degree related profession and at the end of the year, her income is about double his. She was offered a position on this regional city and they decided to take a tree change and move.

    He set himself up in their new town, where the population base was about 1/10th of his previous location and started advertising in the local rag as a photographer. 12 months down the track he hardly has any work. His lament to me was that people out here do not see the value in photography. They would rather spend it on new farm gear, sending their kids to city schools, going to the local pub every opportunity and buying animals..and more.

    I sat and listened to him for about 15 minutes and he is not a happy chappy at present. But as I was listening to him, I realised he was trying to run his business the same way he had done so in his previous location.

    Should he try and 'convert' the locals, with positive ideas and give them an opportunity to see photography as he sees it, or should he change his business model to suit the people in his current location?
    Last edited by ricktas; 27-07-2012 at 8:34am.
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    Change his business model. It's ALWAYS easier and more effective to adapt yourself than to expect everyone else to adapt to your way of seeing things. If he's in the country and people are really proud of their family, machinery, animals, etc., maybe he could find a way to leverage that into some work. Think like images of machinery for sale, animals for sale, local news, etc. Sounds to me like his ego is a little bruised but he needs to do his market research and find a niche rather than lamenting what he hasn't got; that'll just make him bitter. FWIW.
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    Given that I have zero experience in the professional photography world, this is a view point from me being self employed for the past 5 years or so...

    I think changing his business model is the way to go. It sounds like he knows how the country town works now, so adapting to what they want would be the way to go. Even portraiture around the farm life style ! Kids on the tractors, even farmers and their tractors/other farm machinery. Also considering how he could make budget adjustments to his pricing, to make it more appealing to them. Not selling himself short but selling himself differently. An analogy of say being able to afford 20 outfits from Kmart, or 2 outfits from David Jones... many would opt for the Kmart option.

    I think in any small business you have to be prepared to adapt to what your current market demands My parents both ran small businesses for a good 20 years each ( both in different fields) and probably at least once a year there was a need to analyse their target market and make adjustments to how they did business.

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    Unfort, when a 'city' person enters the country town, he isn't a local and it sometimes takes a good 20 years or more for you to be classed as a 'local'!

    I believe he should adapt to his environment, rather than expect a close-knit community to just open their arms and come rushing to him for their photos. Get into the community and start hanging out with the locals.....help at the footy club, cricket club or the chook raffle at the Local. Once people see that he has the community spirit and is there for them, not the other way around, they will warm to him and he may get some work eventually.

    Apart from the rich Cockies, a lot of people in country towns don't have the money and would rather spend it on other more important stuff (like the beer down at the pub!), rather than photos. Maybe do a bit of charity work....offer his services for free at an event or function, and who knows what may come back to him!

    Apart from just advertising, which will bring NO ONE to him, has he done any of the above?? Country peeps like pro-active peeps. Just saying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms Monny View Post
    Unfort, when a 'city' person enters the country town, he isn't a local and it sometimes takes a good 20 years or more for you to be classed as a 'local'!

    I believe he should adapt to his environment, rather than expect a close-knit community to just open their arms and come rushing to him for their photos. Get into the community and start hanging out with the locals.....help at the footy club, cricket club or the chook raffle at the Local. Once people see that he has the community spirit and is there for them, not the other way around, they will warm to him and he may get some work eventually.

    Apart from the rich Cockies, a lot of people in country towns don't have the money and would rather spend it on other more important stuff (like the beer down at the pub!), rather than photos. Maybe do a bit of charity work....offer his services for free at an event or function, and who knows what may come back to him!

    Apart from just advertising, which will bring NO ONE to him, has he done any of the above?? Country peeps like pro-active peeps. Just saying.
    You know your country towns and attitudes well, Ms. All you need to do for the OP story to mimic mine is alter from a regional city to a small country town surrounded by a handful of larger country towns of around 10k each. And we've been here about 7 years.

    All the things you suggest are correct, but I'd alter the 20 years to be accepted to a few generations.

    I've coached the local senior soccer club, organised a semi pro city club to participate in the first regional carnival held in town, helped out with the local schools, member of club committees, helped out horse event competitors and organisers like polocrosse and rodeo, involved in the Rugby League club and most of all, have been able to become very well known in this and other regional towns through all the press work I've done.

    I've altered the way In which I try to attract work and sales, sell myself &/or product like changing socks in trying to 'fit in' with local attitudes, needs and interests. But still, it's very difficult. As you know, 'real' country areas and attitudes are on a different planet.

    There are a few hobbyists in the region doing weddings at very cheap prices, but regardless of how good an alternative product may be or if attempts are made to reasonably compete, the 'locals' are friends, relatives or friends of friends and you'd realise yourself what that means.

    Recently i've began to organise the placing of framed enlargements in the most frequented business houses so the finished product will be in the face of their clients, which potentially are also mine. Places like a popular coffee/lunch house, restaurant, saddlery and equestrian supplies store, country clothing store and bowling club. I have a couple of country family shoots on farms organised and one or two of those will also be included with a bit of the local landscape, local portraits along with local equine events and sports.

    We'll see what happens.

    In a nutshell, it's not as simple of changing a business model to suit the market, unless of course you're failing to learn to think 'country' and trying to sell a city product to the country market.

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    Well said, Norwest!!

    Looks like you are well on the way of becoming a 'local'!

    "In a nutshell, it's not as simple of changing a business model to suit the market, unless of course you're failing to learn to think 'country' and trying to sell a city product to the country market." .... exactly!!

    I hope you do well with your business ... it sounds like you have a good idea on how the Community thing works! I've lived in country towns (4 different ones in 2 states) all my life, apart from about 5 or so years in the city, and I wouldn't have it any other way!!

    I also hope that Ricks friend can take a leaf out of your book. It would be nice for him to start getting some positive feedback on his photography.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms Monny View Post
    I also hope that Ricks friend can take a leaf out of your book. It would be nice for him to start getting some positive feedback on his photography.
    Get him to join AP. He'll get plenty of positive feedback, and make some new friends along the way.

    I've been a country boy all my life, so I know two reasons why Ricks friend is having trouble.
    1. The dollars are just not there to spend on frivolous things like portraits. And country people are bought up on a waste not want not philosophy.
    2. The volume of potential clients per acre, is very limited, as opposed to the city living.
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    It's little to do with country or city and all to do with "opportunity". And his plight has little to do with photography, but commerce in general. He could take up car sales, selling NBN or even arranging weddings, his wall would be still as high. Most country commerce survives but that's all. The only way rural communities survive is by selling their wares to city folk. It's a numbers game and always will be.
    The "opportunity" is of course to be multi-talented where photography only plays a part in his income/livelihood. My best mate lives in country NSW and he's the local plumber (his trade) and the undertaker. I fail to see the synergy but it pays well. If you can't earn enough money from one business, run two. Pretty common for most of us.
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    "... where the population base was about 1/10th of his previous location ..."

    I think this is probably his biggest problem. 1/10th of the previous population would not be able to sustain his previous workload or salary. He is selling his services to people, and if there are less people then there is less opportunity to sell his services.

    As others have said he will need to adapt to his market. A business analysis is probably in order. My suggestion would be to concentrate on things that country people value eg family, weddings, sport. Also there will be many smaller communities in the surrounding areas that he can target. Other factors like pricing will be an issue, city prices do not equate to country prices, especially in a field that most people will perceive as a luxury.

    "All the things you suggest are correct, but I'd alter the 20 years to be accepted to a few generations."

    It’s a bit of a tongue in cheek saying. In my experience in a very small town, I don’t think it is an issue of not being classed as a local and therefore people are not accepting him and not giving him work. Any country town worth their while will accept with open arms 2 working professionals without question. Having said that it will take time, hard work, and he will have to connect with the people, especially when he is not running a “core” business, so to speak.
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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Doesn't the w.w.w. offer opportunities? Think outside the town(square).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark L View Post
    Doesn't the w.w.w. offer opportunities? Think outside the town(square).
    Yes it does, but also a lot more competition, particularly if you're thinking of servicing a local population. Of course, if you're good enough to compete at the highest level then the web is certainly a great tool.
    The web is a good place to find alternative and perhaps complimentary work - maybe web design itself. Perhaps even web communication (locally) supported by photography?

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    Thanks for the replies everyone. Interesting discussion. I am in two minds about it.

    1. My friend needs to change their business plan
    2. The townspeople need to be encouraged to change as well. Any society that does not change over time is going to stagnate, and this is one of the reasons so many young people leave our rural areas for the cities.

    I reckon a combined approach is needed, one that develops a business plan to suit the locale, but at the same time has some part of the plan to slowly introduce new ideas to the community to allow them to see the benefits and change as well.

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    I moved from Sydney to Mount Isa in almost the same scenario except I didn't run a photography business in Sydney. Mount Isa would be perhaps the largest remote town in Australia by population (It is the worlds largest city by land area) having about 23000 people, and the median wage is among the nations highest.

    There is a little in the way of photography going on, odd wedding, odd family portrait session, very little media. The folk out here, despite having some of the largest disposable incomes in the country would often prefer to pee it up a wall, spend it on cars, or buy the biggest house in town and the most expensive Landcruiser available in an effort to one-up their mates. Photography has little value to most, and they would be happier with a snapshot they took on their iphone rather than a high quality image taken by a photographer that they parted with any $$ for.

    There are lots of kids in the town, and some people want kiddies photos and they will pay well for them, but again most want free or very cheap, so with that it has spawned a number of very ordinary photographers charging $0- $50 for a portrait session, and they provide the disc. Many people out here would fail to see much difference in these cheap snaps compared to professional images, but the one thing they don't fail to see is the price tag. They will never change to the point where they would be happy to pay real $ for real images, it is just not in the same league as drinking $400 per weekend and a Landcruiser...

    There are zero FT photographers in town, and there never will be if he/she expects to make a living out of it.

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    Don't see much reason to bang your head against a wall and whine. Move or change.




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    as it should be in the general public the minority should not change the majority. So the minority should adapt (not fully change as this is not correct either) to the new area and maybe introduce his other photography talents to clients if and when jobs come in.
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    Interesting topic,

    I grew up in a small mining town on Tassie's West Coast, family moved to the city when I was a young teen and after 15 years of existing in the "rat race" I moved to a lovely peaceful Tourist Fishing town on the East Coast......and love it.....small towns can be wonderful places full of opportunity if you make a conscious effort to fit in and be a part of that community rather than just exist in it.

    I worked for somebody else for the first couple of years just to get a handle on the area and ease into coastal life then saw a need and filled it with my small business which has been very successful, and very welcomed by the community.

    Unfort, when a 'city' person enters the country town, he isn't a local and it sometimes takes a good 20 years or more for you to be classed as a 'local'!
    .....you missed out having to bleed a little with them and maybe even give up your first born, sacrifice a goat....ect ect.....
    But seriously you have to tread lightly and be accepted rather than storm in and throw your weight around.

    Your friend may need to also look at whether or not there is a real need for his business, as someone else stated there are only 10% of the volume of people he is used to dealing with, even with some basic number crunching maybe he can only expect 10% of the previous level of income.

    But if he wants to be successful then he will need to become very involved with the people, I am sure they have a small local publication, or even a couple, offer to write some content for them along with a picture or two as a contra deal for some advertising, sporting events, fairs, scout groups or anything like that.....people will need to see he wants to be a part of the small community rather than just make money from it.

    Join things like the chamber of commerce, network with other business owners and find out the needs of the community as there may be an great opportunity right under his nose that he just cant see yet.

    I know my small town has quite a few people running online business's either from home or as part of a retail shop, many don't have time to take loads of pictures of their stock to post on a website or Ebay, outside the box a little but we all know the benefit of quality product pictures.....its amazing what other work may spawn from some small little jobs that may or may not pay much.

    Even offer some adult ed workshops of basic photography, even if its only teaching the bored housewives down at the local neighborhood house how to use their happy snapper, start a photography club even or if there is already one join in.

    Heres a real life example for you, where I am we have some fantastic landscape and nature photography subjects( I need to get off my bum and start shooting more) as well as some Tasmanian icons, now everybody likes a calender right, we had a local enthusiast (photography is not his only "profession") who decided to make a few calenders using some beautiful pictures of some local landmarks and scenes ect from the area to give to a few people, one thing led to another from that one gesture he now does half a dozen business calenders around the town for the business owners to give to their customers and all the pictures are more personal and related to the business......simple but effective and if you put all those small but innovative ideas together you may just be able to make a viable income.

    But he is definitely going to have to leave the "big city" thinking behind a little, definitely think outside the box a bit and look for different opportunities, definitely get more involved with the "town folk" and probably lower his income expectations a little.

    I don't mind saying that I personally now earn less money working for myself than I did when both myself and my wife worked in the city, however whilst we exist on a much lower income we are much happier, more relaxed, don't wast money on things that we cant even remember what they were and live in a small town more for the quality of life rather than the big income.

    Often my city mates and business acquaintances stir me up with comments like, "you blokes are in slow motion down there"........well I have to say I like it that way.
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    I'm rather anti facebook and such because of all the trouble misuse can cause. With two teachers in the family I hear of new examples of that each week. However, my wife has a facebook page and she recently brought my attention to the comments and exposure given by a couple of clients showing off the shots I'd done for them. Being a close knit region, facebook appears to be the local bush telegraph and 'everyone' knows and sees what everyone else is doing and which ' Jones' they need to keep up with.

    So, I'm thinking of putting up a facebook doorway to my website and just display regularly updated local photograph examples.

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    Time for a change of business plan. I have spent a lifetime in hospitality, one of the biggest mistakes people make when opening a food based business is to serve food that they love and think others should love as well, your only successful if you provide a service that people want, not the one you think people should have, i wish him all the best of luck.
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    But not being on facebook by listening about the odd issue is akin to not driving because there are crashes

    It's a great tool for networking and marketing if you use it properly
    Last edited by kiwi; 07-08-2012 at 9:09am.

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    Facebook is akin to standing in a pub half drunk reciting your life story to all around. The next morning you're full of regrets. Just ask a few of our Olympic swimmers.
    There's a big difference between "networking" and "bragging".

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