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Thursday, 5 May 2011
Ten Signs You Are On The Road To Success
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: Business Principles

I found this interesting article from a link posted on Facebook by Virtual Photography Studio.  Since Facebook won't let me link to it because it seems to think I am a business and VPS is a person (?), I will repost here on our blog to share the wisdom.  

10 Signs You Are On The Road To Success

How do you know if your business is on the right track, and is heading towards success?

1. You have a profit at the end of the year

The first and easiest sign of a successful business is taking in more revenue then you’ve spent on expenses. If your business shows any profit, you know you’ve achieved the first skill required for growing a successful business.

2. You receive referrals from a past client

When someone sends a referral to you, you know your products, services and customer service have reached a level of appreciation by your clients. They think enough of you to put their trust in sending family and friends your way.

3. You receive referrals from vendors

The majority of our new wedding clients didn’t come from brides and grooms, they came from wedding planners and reception sites. While a bride has a certain level of expectation, multiple that tenfold within the industry. When you get this first vendor referral, nurture the relationships like it is gold – they can be great referral partners for life.

4. People recognize your name

Have you ever headed out to a networking event, and met someone that said, “I’ve heard of you, my cousin used your services”. When your name gains traction in your community, you know you are marketing effectively, and you are beginning to build up a successful reputation.

5. You have repeat business

When people like you, they stay put. They don’t head out looking for other photographers that offer different things. They know your style, your terms, your ability, and they are happy. If they feel well taken care of, they have no reason to move on and look elsewhere.

6. Other photographers recognize you

While its nice to keep some things secret to your success, nothing feels better than having a photographer look up to you and ask for advice. When you are viewed as an authority, its time to move up on the ladder of success.

7. People seek your advice through speaking and writing

When that first magazine comes knocking on your door asking for an interview, you know your work is well received. People flock to you and want to know more about you – what drives your success. This is the time to begin putting your system into place, helping you discover exactly the road you took to achieve your current status.

8. You have raving fans

While its great to have referrals coming from your best clients, you know you’ve reached a new level when you have raving fans. A raving fan doesn’t just refer you; they rave about you. They know your business almost better than you do, and they spend a lot of time talking about you. They build up so much excitement in the person they are referring, you’ll often get a phone call from a person that says, “I’d like to book you, and here is my credit card.” The sale is made long before you have any contact whatsoever.

9. You have more time

When things begin to work and flow naturally, you’ll quickly discover you have more time. It’s much easier to keep your plans, strategies and systems working than it is to create new. When they work, you spend a small amount of time keeping them in place, and use the rest of the time to do the things you enjoy – even if it is expanding your business.

10. You love what you do

The more you love what you do, the better you get, and the more it doesn’t seem like work at all. If you can’t imagine NOT doing this for the rest of your life, you’ve made it to the top. Everything works the way it should, you have the freedom to do what you want when you want to do it, and it becomes the center of your world. You have built time for everything you love, both in and outside of your business, and the magic keeps

Posted by ayerphoto at 2:43 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 May 2011 2:50 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 March 2011
VPP: Monteith's Strategic Marketing Workshop
Mood:  energetic
Topic: Business Principles

Every once in a while we get to combine pleasure and work in a way that we have fun while getting something done.  Last weekend was one such occasion when we attended the Vermont Professional Photographers' Annual Meeting at the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont.  Many years ago we spent the first few nights of our own honeymoon at this beautiful venue. 

This premier destination for weddings and many other meetings has been coined "the prettiest small town in America" - a tribute to its nostalgic main street, rural attractions and untouched panoramas.  The Woodstock Inn, itself has been named as one of the top 100 resorts in the United States. 


It was in this setting that we sat back and enjoyed one of the industry's most successful photographers, teachers and consultants, Ann Monteith.  Ann is considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on studio business management and serves as a consultatnt to studios throughout the country.  A past president of the Professional Photographers of America, Ann has been the recipient of many awards including the Gerhard Bakker Award for teaching excellence, the Charles H. "Bud" Haynes Award for encouraging business awareness and practices in the field of professional image-making, and the Helen K. Yancy Award for distiguished service of far-reaching value to photography.  Ann and her husband, Jim, have owned and operated four different studios over the years.  Presently, they are the directors of Monteith's Countryhouse Studio in Annville, PA, and also see clients at their vacation home studio in Deep Creek Lake, MD.  In 2009 they opened Persnickety Pet Portraits as a "warm fuzzy division of Countryhouse Studios."   


Based on her own training and expertise, punctuated with anecdotes from her own studio experience, Ann lead us through a 2 day workshop.  She presented the key elements that she believes photographers must address to be successful in today’s challenging times.  

Day One focused on a Market Plan / Branding Strategies Workshop.  The objective was to define a personal business strategy to separate yourself from what she calls “The Invisible Middle.”  This "Middle" is the place where the glut of new under-educated, under priced, and on occasion unprofessional photographers is clustered.  The premise, of course, was that it takes far more than an expensive camera to provide consistent professional photographic results.  The challenge is to create a solid brand-building foundation that educates the general public and articulates the true artistic value our studio brings to the market.         

Day Two focused on Profitable Pricing and Selling, for if you do not make a profit (if you do not pay the bills) you will not stay in business long enough to even need a branding strategy.  According to Ann, “The professional photography industry is struggling not only from the entry of so many largely untrained individuals in the last decade, but also from its internal failure to evolve the proper systems to manage changes brought about by the transition from film to digital capture.”  In this fast paced program, Ann helped us understand how to price, sell, and educate our customers in what she calls the “aftermath of digital chaos.”       

Ann ended the workshop by sharing examples of products and services her own studio uses from Marathon Press and ProSelect.  We picked up many ideas to improve our own studio and articulate our own artistic value-add to the industry both from Ann and the other professional photographers who participated in the workshop with us.   

What willl we change?  We do not know yet.  But, we have a systematic way of thinking through the possibilities and are excited to see what the future will bring.          

Posted by Linda                                                    

Posted by ayerphoto at 3:08 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 10 March 2011 5:29 PM EST
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Thursday, 3 March 2011
Tips To Avoid Business Reclassification
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: Business Principles

This is a repost from an article in

Don't Let the IRS Reclassify Your Business as a Hobby by Bonnie Lee

Years of losses can leave some owners with nothing more than a hobby. Here's how to turn your fun venture into an enterprise. 

If you're a sole proprietor filing a Schedule C in industries that are generally seen as recreational such as quilting or jewelry making, and your business hasn't made a profit in at least three of the past five consecutive years, the IRS may audit your business and reclassify it as a hobby. (For horse breeders and trainers, the rule is at least two of the last seven years must be profitable.)

With tax time around the corner, a number of struggling businesses may fall into this predicament -- after the worst recession to hit the U.S. since the Great Depression laid siege to many small companies' finances.   

If your business gets reclassified as a hobby, you may be forced to kiss some valuable tax deductions goodbye. For instance, you could lose your ability to write off business losses and expenses against other income from, say, a day job. What's more, since the IRS can go back three years in an audit, you may face a really big tax bill as well as the inability to write off losses from your “hobby” in the current tax year and into the future.

A lot of owners assume this reclassification is automatic -- that having more than three years of losses in five consecutive years or three consecutive years of losses will blow you out of the water no matter what. Fortunately, they're wrong. It's not automatic. Instead, if you are selected for an audit, the IRS will typically give you a chance to prove your profit motive and whether your fun business is a legitimate enterprise.

Here are nine tips for helping persuade auditors that you're serious about running and building a business -- and not just playing at it:

  1. Keep a set of books -- preferably on accounting software or on a spreadsheet. Generate profit-and-loss statements and comparative profit-and-loss statements to measure the growth of your business against prior years. Chart future projections, and write a plan for turning the business into a profitable enterprise. Keep all your notes and financial statements to present during an audit.
  2. Be in compliance with local, state and federal requirements by obtaining all required licenses, insurance and permits. Maintain a file of all certificates and licensing information to present during an audit. 
  3. Keep a mileage log or at least an appointment book to substantiate any automobile deductions.  Follow the rules for deducting commonly flagged expenses like travel, meals and entertainment.
  4. Improve your skills. Attend classes, trade shows and conventions. Keep all registration forms and fliers to prove your attendance and the nature of the event.
  5. Open a separate business bank account. Deposit all sales revenue into this account and pay all business expenses from this account. If you don't have enough sales revenues to cover the expenses, don't start paying business bills from another account. Instead, transfer funds from your personal accounts to cover the bills. 
  6. Advertise. Keep copies of every advertisement you place. During an audit, these records will go a long way toward proving that you're serious about the business.
  7. Network. Get out there among your peers and exchange ideas. You can do this by joining a local chamber of commerce and other professional organizations. 
  8. Do some thinking. Be ready to explain to the IRS why your business is a serious enterprise. Perhaps you're nearing retirement and are looking to turn a part-time venture into a full-fledged business? And why exactly aren't you showing a profit? The recent recession is a good reason many businesses aren't moving forward. And there is nothing wrong with admitting that you're having trouble getting the hang of being a good businessperson. After all, entrepreneurial skills are often acquired. 
  9. Stand your ground. If you're being audited, and you find yourself on the losing end of the argument, stop the audit. Tell the auditor that you need to discuss the matter with a tax professional before you continue. The auditor must honor your request and give you adequate time before resuming the audit. 

Posted by ayerphoto at 5:06 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 March 2011 5:17 PM EST
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Sunday, 27 February 2011
Why Hire A Professional Photographer? - Ethics
Mood:  special
Topic: Business Principles

In speaking with a potential client the other night about their wedding photography, they related a story about an incident with another photographer.  It reminded me that not all of us in this profession subscribe to the same ethics.  And that the very ethics we take almost for granted in our daily dealings with customers, other vendors and even competitors are in themselves a reason you should consider hiring a Professional Photographer. 

Did you know that photographers who seek to join the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) or its Vermont affiliate, Vermont Professional Photographers, must subscribe to a code of ethics?  In addition to their commitment to quality, it is another reason to look for one or both of these memberships among their credentials.  We at Ayer Photography of Vermont are members of the Vermont Professional Photographers and the Professional Photographers of America and subscribe to their codes of ethics.   

If you are unfamiliar with them, they are as follows: 

PPA Code of Ethics (National Organization):

I, as a requirement for admission to and retention of membership and participation in Professional Photographers of America, Inc., agree to strive at all times to upgrade and improve my knowledge and skill of professional photography, marketing and related areas.   

In all my dealings with users of photography and the general public, I will:

1.  Strive to present all photographic services in surroundings and in a manner which reflects the highest levels of professionalism.

2. Use the highest levels of honesty, professionalism and integrity.   

3. Not use any marketing or competitive practice which violates any Federal Trade Commission, or other Federal or State regulatory agency rule or regulation, or Federal or State statute or any decision of any Federal or State Court.    

4. In all dealings with fellow professional photographers, students and others who aspire to be professional photographers, I shall share the knowledge and skill of professional photography.    

5. Support efforts for and assist in the education of all interested persons and the general public in the art and science of professional photography.

VPP Code of Ethics  (Vermont Affiliate):

1. The practice of photography, both as a science and as an art, is worthy of the very best thought and endeavor of all who enter it as a vocation.

2. Our brother photographers name and reputation shall be as sacred to us as our own.

3. No untrue or misleading statements shall be made, in any way, in any form, of business promotions.

4. It shall be our duty to impart freely of our knowledge so photography among our members may be raised to higher standards.

5. It shall be our duty, individually, to strive to serve the public to the very best of our ability in all matters concerning photography.   

So, the next time you look for a photographer, look for the PPA or VPP logos or membership.    

Posted by Warren      

Posted by ayerphoto at 6:16 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 27 February 2011 6:47 PM EST
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Monday, 22 March 2010
A Day With Ann Monteith
Mood:  chillin'
Topic: Business Principles

Yesterday, I attended the Annual Meeting of the Vermont Professional Photographers.  It was held at the beautiful Equinox Resort in Manchester Village, Vermont.  While it was a meeting to conduct some of the annual business of the organization, like elections, it also featured a nearly all-day session with the one and only Ann Monteith.

Ann is considered by many to be one of the industry's leading authorities on studio business management.  As such, she serves as a consultant to studios throughout the country and her Guerrilla Management Workshops are widely credited with setting some of the most successful studios on the road to profitability.  A former chairman of the board of the PPA International School of Professional Photography and a past president of PPA, she received the Gerhard Bakker Award for excellence in teaching, the Charles "Bud" Haynes Award for "distinguished service to PPA and its members for encouraging business awareness and practices in the field of professional image-making," and a 2008 Leadership Award from the International Photographic Council, which was presented at the United Nations.

She and her husband, Jim, have owned and operated four different studio businesses.  Presently they are directors of Monteith's Countryhouse Studios in Annville, PA, and also see clients at their vacation home and studio in Deep Creek Lake, MD.  In 2009 they opened Persnickety Pet Portraits as a "warm fuzzy division of Countryhouse Studios."

In our all day session Ann regaled us with many stories and anecdotes of how, as she put it, "she got smart by getting over being stupid."  Some of her lessons were classic business concepts applied to a photography-based business, while others focused on the shifts that have occurred because of the advent of digital techonologies.  Such technologies have made possible an "avalanche of images," that simply would have been unaffordable with film.  This avalanche, unless it is managed, can lead to fragmentation and a loss of focus, with the result being -- buried under your own workflow.  Running a photography-based business is oh so much more than just taking cool pictures.  Control of your business, your profit, and your personal life (or lack thereof) are directly related to the photographer's ability to shoot smart, price smart, and sell smart.

The day was spent unlayering what Ann called her 12-step program of precision business concepts.  At the outline level, her 12-steps look like a lesson in classic business principles:

  1. Understand business models and choose the right ones for you at both the structural and operational levels
  2. Understand business finance, including properly valuing your time.
  3. Simplify your business concept - find out what you are good at and focus on it - you cannot be all things to all people.
  4. Perfect your brand - make sure it reflects what you want to sell.
  5. Enhance your business image - clarity and complementary partnerships are key.
  6. Exploit "viral" marketing - the 21st century version of word-of-mouth.
  7. Price for profit - making sure you have valued your time.
  8. Sell with confidence
  9. Track your business progress - know where the money is going and coming from.
  10. Plan for business cash flow, especially in seasonal models like weddings and senior portraits, for example.
  11. Set, manage, and monitor business goals.
  12.  Expedite workflow - spend your time where it really matters.

While most of this could be garnered from any good business concepts book, the application to a photography-based business and the anecdotes (case studies) are what brought it all to life and made it an invaluabe session.

A lot of Ann's business wisdom for photographers can also be found online at her website at

Posted by Warren.


Posted by ayerphoto at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 April 2010 12:15 PM EDT
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