How to Clean Up Your Brand in 4 Easy Steps with Vanessa Joy
Branding sucks. It’s annoying. It pigeonholes us. And if we don’t have a distinct brand, we may as well have started photographing yesterday. Or, more annoyingly, photographers who literally just started photographing yesterday can have better branding/presence/awareness than you, and you’ve been at this forever.
When I was finishing building my Speed Posing Course (www.speedposing.com), building the sales page and course page, what really bugged me was the fact that I needed to spend more time on branding it than actually creating it.
Don’t worry. My rant wasn’t without purpose. I want you to understand, above all, that while I’m going to teach you some branding tricks and cram all the knowledge I have down your throat, that I’m right here with you. I feel you. I know it’s frustrating when all you want to do is photography but you wind up doing everything but photography.
Hopefully these tips will make the process a little less painful.
1 – Delete, delete, delete
When referring to editing writing, Stephen King recommended that you should “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
If you want to make yourself look amazing, take out all of the less-than-amazing. Go through your Instagram and archive photos that don’t match your feed. Peruse your website and kick out a ton of images that aren’t making you look amazing. When you post a blog, don’t post 156 pictures of the day. Aim for 30.
Showing less means being more. It gives a more refined look to your overall brand and gives more wow to what you are showing. Just think of Will Smith in the original Men in Black: You want only the “best of the best of the best, sir!”
2 – Check yourself
For a really long time, I thought that in order to be successful, I needed to be a carbon copy of my successful predecessors. Wrong. In fact, that’s the quickest way to make yourself totally boring and quickly irrelevant.
You can see the crazy change in my AdoramaTV series Breathe Your Passion. Compare the older episodes with the latest 12 or so, and you’ll notice the real Vanessa Joy finally come out to say hi.
Look at the things you’re writing on social media, the way you’ve written the About Me on your website and your mannerisms in front of clients. Are they wildly different from what you’re really like? If so, it’s time for a change.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be more polite on jobs than you are any given morning scuttling about your kitchen, pre-coffee. Of course you should be. I’m simply saying if you’re finding it difficult and exhausting to keep up a persona, then drop that persona. You’ll have much more fun and end up with fun clients.
3 – Hire you
Isn’t that our biggest dream? To clone ourselves and let our clones scurry around while we sip martinis, and roll out of bed signing autographs and taking pictures? Sign me up!
What I’m getting at is that your brand isn’t just about you. Whenever you hire another person, they represent your brand. Sure, it may only be that second photographer or assistant that you hire occasionally, but those people are being watched and judging you based on what they see.
Take it to an extreme level. Note the pictures in this article. I didn’t take all of them. I happened to give birth just before this wedding (yes, I did tell my clients that it was a possibility), and I was only able to come for the first-look photo session. My clients were fine with the possibility that I wouldn’t be there for their whole wedding, but can you tell what pictures I took and what pictures Jaye Kogut (my life manager/second shooter) took? Nope. That is killer brand consistency.
4 – Don’t freak out
I know you’ll likely head over to your social media accounts right now and have a mini meltdown. Don’t do that. I know we just finished complaining about other people who seem to brand themselves perfectly the minute they open their doors, but that’s not the norm.
Branding, especially for a photographer, does not happen overnight. It takes years, and then, once you’ve got it nailed down, you’ll likely change because you’ve advanced your photography skills and your photos show it.
Don’t freak out.
If photography and being a business owner were all about making it, then you’d see a lot more of us retire. The truth is that we should love the climb more than we love the idea of success. Success is like the carrot in front of the horse. Everyone, no matter how successful they are, is always reaching for just a little bit more. Embrace that and keep climbing.