Deb is very tied into photography; that made me more comfortable.
Through a couple of workshops with Photoshelter and just talking to other photographers, I understood and realized that I kind of needed to take that bigger step.
The template site didn’t cost much but it certainly didn't do much of anything for me to create revenue.
I kind of knew Deb already. While we didn't work directly together we worked for the same company. I've known her husband (Mike Davis) for a long time. Another photographer I knew who is in weddings had used her and after seeing her work on his website, I said, "Wow, OK, I probably can't afford that."
But I just kind of got the process rolling. I knew I needed to take this bigger step to make sure my business has a better chance of being what I want it to be. I also realized I probably needed a logo that was better than the one I designed with a $50 piece of software.
I also knew from starting at templates and other things, I didn't have the time, patience, or expertise to do this myself.
Deb is very tied into photography; that made me more comfortable.
She’s also someone who is trying to set out on their own. She knows photography and her background in photography was even more helpful. It really worked out for me in that aspect.
The website just makes sense from colors to design. Everybody who sees it gives positive feedback. I think we only made like one minor tweak to the whole thing. So we didn't have to come back and retool a bunch of stuff.
Before I first saw the new website, I was nervous. I was like, "What if I hate it?" It's overwhelming when you're sitting there in the middle of it.
So the more I look at my website, I was like, “OK, I know this. Now, I understand this is working and this how it connects.” When I look at my website it doesn’t look like any site out there. It looks one-off. It looks professional. It is very easy to navigate.
I feel more professional now. I mean the template site wasn’t terrible but now it's looks fresh. It doesn't look like 6 million other websites. It integrates my logo into the design. The colors are not just a gray, white, blue or black page, that you get out of Blogger. It just has a whole natural look to it.
It’s cohesive, like really reflecting your business and your professionalism.
The template website was just kind of cold. It wasn't black and white as far as color. It was black and white as far as “Here are some pictures. Here’s a category. Contact me if you want to.” My new website is a lot more welcoming.
Early on we asked the question: “Do you want a portfolio website?” I didn't feel totally comfortable with that because I'm still building. So we quickly kind of came to a decision, "Hey, this will be kind of like a blog style website that will interact with a second website that I have. Stage 2 will integrate Photoshelter. Deb does a lot of custom work for people like myself so eventually my primary site and my Photoshelter space will look the same.
With the site being more of a blog I’ve got to keep posting content. The more I blog and the more I add information to those pages, the more likely I would be found by other people looking for people with my skills.
The blog I hope will help people understand who I am a little bit, unlike any other business. Sometimes, people can be hard to work with. I hope I don't come across that way.
I hope people think, “Oh, this guy has a sense of humor and I think he will be good to work with.” A blog gives people the chance to get to know you a little bit.
A template site is not designed to display personality but was designed to suit lot of people. It’s generic.
Go to JC Penny for a pair of khakis versus going to Nordstrom. Either go to the Men’s Warehouse or go to a tailor and have one made.
During our conversations we kind of looked to see what I was doing and where I was trying to go. As I focus my business, this felt like the best way to do it.
Deb is like a web designer to logo designer, as well as business consultant.
When I walked in the door, so to speak, all this is done online and via a phone, I didn't know what the process would looked like.
For the logo, you get this huge questionnaire about what you want in a logo. It’s very detailed. I was kind of looking at it and like, "Oh my, I haven't thought of this before."
It was so comprehensive— the logo and web design planners. She also uses an online project management software to communicate with her. I just thought we would be tossing back and forth emails which you do but you do it within a system so that everything is viewable in one place.
I thought it would be a professional experience but it was beyond what I had expected.
“A website is an investment. What you’re doing is like buying a camera buddy. This is another tool for your business. You have to invest in cameras in order to be a photographer. You need to invest in something like this if you want your potential clients to have a good deal.”
I was more blind than I realized. Part of my challenge was growing a photography business. It seemed fairly simple when you say, "Hey, I've been into photography for 20 years."
The last ten, I was on the editing side more than I was in the shooting side. So at the same time that I have been doing all this, I've really kind of have to reinvent myself not only doing from newspapers to doing a freelance setup. But I also had all my pictures that I had before that in my portfolio were old.
They were dated and they felt dated, not only because of the content. You could see that they were shot on film and everybody shoots digital now and it's a different look.
For my website I was using a template from a company that basically offers 12, 15, 18 different templates. You upload your pictures, build your site; kind of plug in the holes basically.
It was great for pushing potential clients from say a face-to-face situation or from handing out a business card to look at some images.
The template version of my previous site was a great place to push people to but nobody was finding me because of it.
If you were a client looking for a photographer in the Chicago area and typing in various keywords, my name really wasn't coming up.
“I feel more professional now. I mean the template site wasn’t terrible but now it’s looks fresh. It doesn’t look like 6 million other websites. It integrates my logo into the design. The colors are not just a gray, white, blue or black page, that you get out of Blogger. It just has a whole natural look to it.”
I think in a lot of situations, you could walk into something like buying a car and go, "Oh, I wasn't prepared for that." And then you're stuck with the wrong car.
Well, this was like "I wasn't prepared for this'" but Deb helps you through it and she uses tools that make things easier. Since she isn’t just working on my site—she works with multiple clients—and needs to be organized and create an organizational system for the project.
She is a really great project manager.
The hard thing for me, being a creative individual, we're not always the most organized people in life or business savvy. She really put it all together. If I didn’t understand some jargon you can ask and she would take the time to explain and make sure you “got it”.
Advice for Someone Like Me
I would tell a photographer: look at Kevin Weinstein’s site. Look at hers. She has a thorough knowledge of the other stuff she has built. Two days after I went live, a photographer that I've known for sometime was asking questions about websites, and I sent him to mine. He's like, "Oh, wow."
He's like, "Isn’t that too expensive for me?” C’mon, it's not like the price of a new Mercedes.
A website is an investment. What you're doing is like buying a camera buddy. This is another tool for your business. You have to invest in cameras in order to be a photographer. You need to invest in something like this if you want your potential clients to have a good deal.
You just feel more confident about it.
Her system is great. She had a couple of other people working with her from a developer to Rachel, her assistant. Everybody was always very helpful. You have a question, you fire to them through the project management site and you hear back.
It was just pretty easy.
For someone starting new in the business, Deb asks some pretty tough questions like "How much are you going to charge for your business, for your services?" That was hard so be prepared. She forced me to get down and hammer some of that stuff out.
In the end, I'm stronger for it.
I think that the biggest thing I learned is the end-product is so much better than anything I could have ever dreamt of coming up with.
It’s just like when somebody hires me to do their photography, you need a professional in order for it to look professional. I don't care if it's taxes, carpentry, a caterer, there are people with specific skills that are needed for specific tasks. I knew that Deb had that and coming out of it, I knew it even more.
You concentrate on your craft and let other people support you doing theirs.
I wanted to focus on my photography.