The Purple Cow

I’ve decided that it’s time to start putting my foot down and really begin promoting my freelance business. As I wrote previously about life as a corporate photographer and being at the mercy of the bean counters I think it’s time to get this party started before the next round of layoffs appear over the horizon. I’ve been “freelancing” part time for almost thirty years, I’ve also been very fortunate in that I’ve always had a full-time job as a photographer in that time. Well as I get older I realize that the corporate gravy train could dry up at anytime and it would be nearly impossible for me to get another full time corporate gig, especially at my ripe old age of 47. That realization is why I made the decision to build up my freelance business now, while I can.

I’d like to think that I know a lot about photography but what I know about making pictures pales in comparison to what I know about promoting myself. I rely heavily on word-of-mouth promotion. Yes I’m on Linkedin, in fact if you’d like to join my network, drop me a note there. I have a few regular portrait customers but not enough to sustain a living. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and came across a great little book that I just finished and would like to share it here. The book is Purple CowTransform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by Seth Godin. No – it’s not a book about using gels to photograph a cow; it’s about creating that “thing” that makes you and your business remarkable.

The book lists the P’s of marketing – Product, Pricing, Promotion, Positioning, Publicity, Packaging, Pass-along and Permission. Godin introduces a ninth one – Purple Cow. Why a Purple Cow? He came up with the name while vacationing in France with his family. Driving through the country they became fascinated by the beautiful pastures filled with cows grazing along the road. After a few minutes they started ignoring the cows, what once was fascinating was now common, in fact, boring. But what if they saw a Purple Cow, that would grab their attention, that would be remarkable, hence the title and the theme of the book, identifying the why, the what and the how of remarkable. How do you create a product that people will want? According to Godin, the old rule was, create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing.

The new rule is create remarkable products that the right people seek out. His point is to get your idea to spread, because ideas that spread are more likely to be successful that those that don’t. He refers to ideas that spread as ideavirus and those that spread it are known as sneezers. The sneezers are everywhere and it’s up to you to find them. In my case, I plan to target high school seniors, I’m still developing my Purple Cow but I am identifying the sneezers in my area. I hope to tap into a market of students that number in the thousands. There has to be a couple sneezers that would spread my ideavirus to their friends. The ideas and suggestions in this book have given me a great starting point into how I should prepare my plan.

It’s refreshing to step away from the how-to’s of the photography books into the business side of things every now and then. You’ll find this book to be an easy read and loaded with practical, useful information to help your business, no matter what line of work you’re in. Enjoy.

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