If you’re like most photographers, you got into the business of photography because you love taking pictures.  But as we all quickly realize, owning a photography business is about a whole lot more than understanding the in’s and out’s of your camera.

Over the years, I’ve heard the old adage that “leaders are readers” more times than I can count, and as cliche as it is, it’s the truth.  When I look back, the phases of life when I’m doing the most reading are the phases of life where I’ve grown the most and been most innovative in the work I do.  There are a lot of books that could have made this list, but here are three of my favorites that I think are a must read for any photographer looking to keeping growing and building their business.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Never Eat AloneThis book was a game changer for me. It takes the notion of “networking” (a word I HATE!) and turns it into connecting and building true relationships.  Quite simply, Keith Ferrazzi is a master at teaching how to become a better connector.  This book not only changed my perspective of how to build relationships as it pertains to a photography business, but in my personal life as well.  As photographers, it’s so important to build relationships to grow our referral network, but its critical to do so in a way that’s genuine. This book has some real gold nuggets and practical takeaways that are easy to implement.  Here are just three of my favorites:

•“Ping.” Pinging just means reaching out and constantly staying connected with those in our circle.  If you don’t want to be the jerk who just reaches out when you need something, Keith Ferrazzi’s system of “pinging” is a great one that will help to constantly remind you to be thinking about how you can help others.

Don’t keep score. When it comes to building relationships, this is absolutely fundamental.  Genuine relationship aren’t built on keeping score of what you owe the other person and what they owe you.  If you want to get away from the ugly “networking” word, stop keeping score and start looking for ways to help other people. When you understand deep down that helping others succeed will in turn help you succeed, your outlook on sharing and connecting will change dramatically.

Never eat alone. Literally.  Meals are a great time to connect with others, whether they be potential clients, other photographers or vendors in the industry, or someone who will help introduce you to a new circle of people in another industry.  Don’t make the mistake of missing out on a great opportunity to connect.  And just like meals are a great way to connect with new people, there are other mundane activities we do in daily life that are a great opportunity to naturally reach out to others.  Don’t miss out.

The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris

Four Hour Work WeekI’m hesitant to put this one on the list.  The truth is, Tim Ferris makes me more than a little crazy sometimes in the way his ideas are so extreme and a bit too black and white for my taste.  However, the reason this one has to go on the list is because the principles he talks about in this book truly changed the way that I operate day-to-day and the way I do business. I certainly don’t subscribe to all of his practices, but I think that the extreme approach he takes in presenting ideas made me pause to consider them, even if it was just because I couldn’t believe what he said! My implementation of the principles in this book does not follow exactly what he proposes, but if you’re trying to keep you life balanced as you juggle so many things that vie for your time, this is a must read.

(PS. If you’re familiar with this book, no, I don’t run the PUGs, teach webinars, or write content for The Photo Life from a beach with a margarita in hand. In case you wondered.)

Here are a few ideas I took from this book that really helped me optimize my photography business:

•Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. This is a big one for those of us who run our own business because its easy to get distracted by tasks that take a long time but aren’t necessarily important. This reminder helped me re-evaluate what tasks I was spending a lot of time on but that weren’t actually moving my business forward.

You will accomplish your work in whatever time you allot. So many photographers work 12 or 15 hour days when the reality is if they gave themselves a deadline of 8 hours (or less) a day, this would force them to prioritize, focus, and stop shuffling things around to fill the 12 or 15 hour days that they think they “should” work.  Tim Ferris really expands on this principle in his book, but this idea made me look at how I was utilizing my time when I work and how I can cut the excess and be most productive.

You can automate more than you think. As artists, we want to control the images we take and we want our handprint to be on the experience we give our clients.  While its important that we have a personal touch on these things, it’s possible to automate and outsource some things so that we can operate more efficiently and give our clients a more consistent experience. This book opened my eyes to ideas for doing this that prior to reading, I would have never considered.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

Make Ideas HappenScott Belsky is someone who I’ve followed for the last few years not only because of this fabulous book about execution but because I love the incredible resource he’s built with the99percent.com So many artists are great at coming up with ideas but there are some major obstacles that have be overcome in order to make those ideas as reality.  Here are a few of the takeaways that I got from this book that helped me understand how to take the ideas I had for my business and actually execute them:

•Break down projects into actionable steps. So often we get great new ideas for our business but it’s tough to know where to start and what the next step is. After reading this book, when I have a new idea that I want to work on, I’ll write out all of the small action steps that are necessary to get started and focus on that, rather than the overarching big project which can get a little too overwhelming. The only catch is that each step you list has to be something that is actionable (not just another idea.)

•”Urgent” and “Important” are not the same thing. When something is urgent, we usually rush to do it.  It’s our tendency to to rush to do these things because they seem more pressing than longer term projects (“important”) so we have an instinct to take care of them immediately. But we can’t accomplish much when it comes to our long term projects when we’re paralyzed by the urgent items coming into our email inbox or frantic voicemails.  This book was a personal reminder to me that I need to keep my emotional attachment to urgent items in check and develop strategies for differentiating urgent vs important tasks so that both can be managed effectively.

•Reduce your “Insecurity Work” As we put ourselves out there to the world and work on growing our business, it becomes easy to want to frequently observe the progress we’re making and confirm the status of all that we’re doing. Belsky says this is a normal tendency because we often feel insecure in that we’ve overlooked something or that something we’ve done will fail.  When we have this insecurity, we try to seek information to make that insecurity go away which often takes the form of spending countless hours reviewing web traffic and stats, reviewing Twitter search feeds, watching our email inbox like it was a pot of boiling water, etc and other similar things. Now, as I go through my days I make sure to keep a mental check of whether the work I’m doing is important or just helping me soothe any insecurity I might be feeling.

These are just a few of my favorite business books.  What are some business books that have had a big impact on YOU?

Written by Katie Humphreys

Photographer Katie HumphreysKatie Humphreys is half of the Chris Humphreys Photography team. For eight years, Katie and her husband Chris have been shooting weddings all over the country. Whether they find themselves in New York City or in the mountains of Colorado, they love every minute they spend documenting the relationships and connections of all the families they work with. Katie is also one fifth of the Pictage and ShootQ Community Team where she oversees theSQUAD program and works on The Photo Life Dispatch to develop business resources for photographers.

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