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Tuesdays Tip

About me

We’ve all been there. You’re plugging away on your new site, your images are filling the space just as you imagined, your design is coming to life….and then you sit down to write your ‘About Me’ page, and suddenly your momentum stops. Summarizing (and more importantly selling) yourself as an artist and business owner in just a few short paragraphs is a daunting task. How do you let potential clients know just how amazing you are while convincing them to employ you over someone else in your industry?

Your about me page should give your audience a small glimpse into what it would be like to work with you. Take a moment to step back from selling your product and focus on selling yourself as an individual. To make things simple, we are going back to the old elementary school technique of identifying the 5W’s and an H. Now, you are going to be answering these questions yourself and will use the answers to guide the content on your about me page.

The who, what, where, when, why & how of your about me page:

Who am I trying to reach?

Decide who your target audience is. Research them, check out their social media, study their demographic, and use this to dictate the tone of your about me page. Are you a photographer trying to reach potential brides or families? Maybe try a more personable and casual tone. Are you trying to reach out to advertising companies or newspapers? Maybe a formal approach is the way to go. Whatever you decide, make sure that the feel of your about me page matches the feel of the rest of your brand experience in addition to where you want to see your image going in the future.

Pro-tip: Find someone in your target audience, whether it be a friend, sibling, coworker, fellow patron at a coffee shop, or a stranger on the street, and ask them to read your about me page. Ask them what their first impression is and if they would like to hire you as a result of what they read. Ask them if it is easy to read and holds their attention. This is key! If the above feedback is positive, your about me page is well on its way to grabbing the attention of your future clients.

What makes me special?

Regardless of what industry you are in, we know that you believe your services are the best, and we know that you want to share them with the world. However, what if we told you that no one cares about what you have to offer? It is your responsibility to make people care. It’s time to introduce the face behind the brand and services that you are selling throughout your site. Keeping your target audience in mind, what makes you stand out in the crowd? What makes you different and more desirable than the rest? Creatively let your audience know this as you sell yourself as an individual through your about me page.

Where do you see yourself in 6 months? 1 year? 5 years?

Have you made your business plan yet? Though it may not seem related to a simple about me page, it is absolutely vital to know and understand where you want to take your business in the future. As you create and publish content, you are creating an online brand and image for yourself that will stick with you for years to come. In todays day and age, most consumers are not only looking to buy a product, they are looking for an entire brand experience. Create goals and work to create a cohesive online image that will guide you towards your aspirations. Additionally, let your audience know what you would like to do. You never know who may be looking for the exact services that you are dreaming about offering!

When I am not working, I like to ______.

Don’t be afraid to let your audience know who you are as an individual. What do you do when you aren’t working? How do you enjoy spending your time? Is there anything about you that you think clients may relate to? This is a pretty important piece of the puzzle that will allow your web audience to connect with you on a personal level.

For example, maybe you absolutely love traveling and spend most of your free time dreaming about your next destination. Include this in your about me page! Odds are, there are plenty of people in your audience that feel the exact same way and would instantly be connected to you as an individual. While this could have the potential to turn certain clients off, it could also catch the eye of the exact person that you are trying to work with. We all want clients we mesh well with, right?

Why do I do what I do?

Take a moment to reflect on the days when you were just getting started in your specific industry. What was it that sparked your interest into getting into business? That kept you motivated and excited to create new content during the toughest times? What keeps you going now? Take a moment to think. Find something meaningful. Find something that will resonate with your target audience. Maybe include the story of the exact moment you knew you wanted to make something more out of your hobby, or tell your audience about your hopes and dreams for the future. The most important thing is to not only tell your viewers what you do but why you do it as well. Step back from selling your services for a moment (that’s what the rest of your site is for!) and share a little bit of the soul behind your business.

How can people reach me?

Now that you have people hooked on who you are as an artist, let your audience know how they can easily get into contact with you. Include links to your contact information and social media profiles on your about me page to ensure that interested customers understand the best ways to stay connected with you.

Pro-tip: Think about including a photo of yourself on your about me page (Bonus points if it is an image of you in action!). Though this is not directly related to getting into contact with you, this will allow your potential customers to connect with you on a personal level while identifying a face with the name on your brand.

While it is not necessary to include each and every aspect listed above in your about me page, it is important to put quite a bit of thought into crafting the language and content of your about me page in a strategic manner. Ready to get started?

July 16th, 2011

The Ingredients of Success

Posted by liveBooks

Flying has always been exciting for me. Something about being high above it all, traveling at high speed, with views to forever – well, it simply gets my creative juices flowing. So on my recent trip to our office in Romania, with stops in Berlin, and NYC, I had plenty of air time to think about all the little things that make up the ingredients for success.

We launched the new version of liveBooks – Scaler – this past week. We’ve known that the market wanted scaling websites, large images, new thumbnails, but the trick is to do it right. A few other companies having scaling sites, but after studying the compromises made in design, technology and price, we knew we could do it better. It is one thing to design for a specific size and ratio window, but to allow for that design to scale up and down without compromising the integrity of the site—well, that’s tricky— and our brilliant development, design and production teams knocked it out of the park! And our clients still have the flexibility to customize their sites or work directly with our designers for a fully unique design.  Check out the home page to see more about SCALER.

So what lessons are available to us thorough this process?

For more than a year liveBooks teams have honed the vision for Scaler. We met with clients, prospects, art directors and photo editors to understand the market’s needs, wants and perceptions. We assessed the design and technical challenges, and the long term product road map for liveBooks. Defining a clear vision is imperative at liveBooks. Once the vision is defined, we write it down and all the teams use this statement as a guiding principle for driving strategies. Do you have a vision of what success looks like for you? If not, how will you know when you get there? Write it down!

Once we had our vision statement, we began the painstaking exercise of planning. At liveBooks this includes all aspects of the company, from how the product will be built, to how it will be marketed to existing and prospective clients, to how we will support our clients in the transition. For example, Scaler is the photo industry’s only custom scaling website solution. So in our planning we needed to determine how to build the product to allow for this customization, keep the price affordable for our clients, while sustaining the business in the long term. As your plan is developed remember to include allowances—time, money, and resources—for unknowns that will inevitably appear along the way. “Measure twice, cut once” as Dad used to say.

Once we had agreement on the plan, then we set out to execute the plan. A major part of working the plan is continual evaluation of how we are doing. Things change, and new information may challenge your initial thinking. Are the things that you are doing on a daily and weekly basis aligned with your vision? If not, perhaps it is time to reassess your vision or rework your plan. Have you made time in your schedule, in your life, to regularly assess and adjust your plan?

In my experience, another thing happens when you set your vision, create your plan and begin to work it – magic happens! When I say magic, I just mean those special surprises, the unexpected little pieces of help that can come your way. Recently, my friend and old business partner, Bernie DeChant, happened to be in Eastern Europe while I was working in our office in Romania. Bernie was the Art Director at Adjacency and designed many of the very first e-commerce sites in the industry for top clients like Apple, Patagonia, LandRover and Virgin Megastore. He stopped by the liveBooks office in Brasov and spent a few days hanging out with us. It didn’t take long before Bernie was meeting with various team members and providing valuable input on the new product, marketing ideas and our website. Everyone was energized after meeting with Bernie. It was that alchemy of an amazing group of creative people in multiple locations around the world successfully collaborating toward a common goal. So stay open and awake to the unexpected ‘magic’ that may come your way, signaling you’re on the right path.

Clear vision, solid planning, continual evaluation, keeping your eyes open for the magic… and lots of hard, smart work.

“In human endeavor, chance favors the prepared mind”– Louis Pasteur, 1822-1895,

So here’s wishing you lots of success!

April 5th, 2011

My Visitor from Tehran

Posted by liveBooks

As a kid growing up in Ohio I started a door-to-door sled-pulled grocery service for elders during the Blizzard of 1978. In the early 90’s I started the Chicago MadHousers to build small temporary shelter for homeless individuals. Ten years ago I started FiftyCrows Foundation to support documentary and photojournalistic photographers that document social issues. Renowned photographer and National Geographic Society Fellow, Chris Rainier, asked me to help him to start the NGS All Roads Photography Awards to support storytellers documenting their own culture. And here at liveBooks our philanthropic efforts are extensive, from supporting an orphanage in Mexico, to working in the local homeless kitchen, to donating over one hundred websites for organizations around the world.

But why? Why do these things?

Last week I had visitors from Iran. One, an outstanding Iranian photographer that had won an All Roads Award back in 2006. The other visitor was her husband, a Washington Post correspondent based in Tehran. I remember the first workshop for the All Roads winners, I was teaching them the basics of how to shake hands, how to create an elevator pitch, and of course how to put together their new liveBooks site. Now, four years later, I was the awe-struck student, listening intently to Newsha’s tales of her assignments for The New York Times, exhibition opening under the terror of being arrested, awards and honors from around the world, and the evolution of her artistic vision.

I once heard that, “we are not looking for the meaning of life, but rather, the experiences that remind us what it means to be alive.” For me, the experience of being of service for a fellow human is such a reminder. After Newsha and Thomas left, I smiled for days, knowing that in some small way I had contributed to her path.

This is why we do these things. This is why I suggest that you too find a path of service. Regardless of how small you might think it is, it can have a tremendous impact in ways you may never even know. The return on the investment is enormous, and it may even help your business in some way.

I would love to hear from you about ways you’ve blended your creative vision and your profession. Let’s see how many of us are giving, and in so doing – receiving.

If you’re in San Francisco this week be sure to catch Chris Rainier at the Herbst Theatre on Wednesday, April 6th as he discusses his efforts to record the remaining natural wilderness and the indigenous cultures around the globe by putting these wonders to film and using the visual stories to bring about social change.

And, please check out the website from my Visitor from Tehran. Keep singing Newsha – loudly!

Growing up in Ohio my basketball coach used to drill us non-stop on the basics. So much so that we often wondered when we would actually get to play ball. But once the season started we discovered we were in better condition and better prepared for the season than our competition. We ended up going to State and I’ve never forgotten the importance of having the discipline to work on the basics every week. It is what makes winners.

I suggest that taking time each week to work on your contact database is one of the most basic things that you can do to assure that your business continues to grow. Some of you may be asking, “so what is a contact database?” In the simplest of terms it is a list of all your past clients and all of your prospects. At a minimum it should contain their name, company, title, address, phone and email.

Do you know that 40% of creatives at advertising agencies change jobs each year? 40%! So that great Art Director that you worked with last month may not be there next month. Where did they go? Who took their place?

The average family moves every five years, every three years for those under 30. So for those wedding photographers out there who are interested in developing a long term relationship – the so-called “photographer for life”, you have your work cut out for you as well.

Take the time each week, let’s say Friday mornings from 9:00 am until Noon, to do research and maintenance on your contact list. For prospecting I suggest you do the following:

  1. draw four circles on a piece of paper
  2. in each of the four circles write down the name of one of your top clients
  3. start with one of your circles and write down key aspects about the client such as their industry, their title, who else you met during the project
  4. go to your favorite search engine and start researching for other companies in their industry or associated industries, then the names of people with similar titles at those companies

For example, let’s say that my client was Rick Jackson, the Chief Marketing Officer at VMWare. A quick search on Rick Jackson VMWare and I find in his LinkedIn profile that he was in major marketing roles at Borland and BEA. He has recommended two Borland Marketing people in LinkedIn. I’ll send Rick an email to say hello, mentioning that I saw he used to be at Borland and had recommended a few marketing people there, and I was wondering if he might make a few introductions for me. I also notice that VMWare is owned by EMC, so I will ask Rick if there are other people at some of the other brands within EMC that he could also introduce me to.

Within minutes I have identified prospects that I think I can get introductions to from someone that knows me, likes me and can vouch for my work style and professionalism. Repeat this every Friday for a few hours and I guarantee that your business will thrive.

What is it that you want with your business? Write it down on a pice of paper and put it above your computer. Why? Because success requires discipline and discipline often times is simply remembering what you want.

February 22nd, 2011

Accepting Advisor Advice

Posted by liveBooks

Actively seeking criticism and advice is vital to the successful entrepreneur. As a creative professional the chances are good that you are on your own most of the time when it comes to business decision-making. So what do you do to assure that your decisions are sound, timely and relevant to what is happening around you?

I have been an entrepreneur since I was a kid. Whether syndicating the neighborhood lemonade stands, starting social ventures to help the homeless, or my role here at liveBooks over the past six years, I’ve been leading teams of people toward the successful completion of common goals for most of my life. Ultimately I credit my advisors with a large part of this success. I’ve known some of them for nearly twenty years, which means they have a unique perspective because they can include knowledge of me in our discussions and decisions. Some of my advisors I speak to on a weekly basis with a set day and time, others I talk with every few weeks, while others I may only call on occasion.

Like any relationship, advisor relationships need nurturing and respect if they are to be of true value. Although most of our discussions never have a set agenda I try to prepare for the discussion by reviewing my notes from the last call or meeting and by creating a good question or two that I hope will be the cornerstone of a wonderful conversation. For instance I might ask, “Hey Jim, what type of things have you found to be most effective in staying connected with your customers?” Often times these discussions are the highpoint of my week as I listen intently for what my friend Cory refers to as “nuggets of wisdom’.

So, don’t be afraid to reach out to a person or two and ask if they might be interested in becoming an informal advisor for you and your business. As with building any team think about creating diversity of knowledge, experience and reach. Who do you know that you deeply respect and have found to be insightful and helpful in the past? Simply ask, “Hey Jim, I am putting together an informal group of people that I greatly respect that would be willing to chat with me from time-to-time and act as advisors and mentors for me – it would mean a lot to me if you would consider joining my team.” The worst that can happen is that they decline, but I guarantee they will be honored that you thought of them. Start small, make it simple, and let me hear of your experiences with advisors. As always, I hope you’ll find a little something good in this advice.



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