We’re sold the dream. Being our own person. Owning our own lives. Maybe it’s the idea if you work hard, you’ll get there. Maybe it’s the idea that it’s a birthright for being who we are. Maybe it’s just a burning desire to get somewhere. But slice it how you like, one way or another, we’re always beholden to someone. If it’s not ‘the man,’ then it’s the planner who passes you the business, the client who posts the reviews, or the blog that features your images.
Forget independence. Forget freedom. Forget the notion that going for the gold means we’re a hop, skip, and a step away from strutting down easy street, owing nothing to no one. Because the question isn’t whether you own your life. The question is who you want to be beholden to.
My bet? Go with the client. I’m not saying to forget the partnerships, skip the magazines and blogs, and ignore the industry. But go with the client. They are not your burden, they are not your ticket. They are not obstacles to navigate or foes to outwit. They are the people who keep us alive. The ones who are willing to invest their hope in us on one of the most important days of their lives. To follow us, believe in us, and spread the word if we treat them right.
If that isn’t reason enough, consider this: buzz no longer works from the top down. The old economy is dead. That was a world of push and pull. You cast your net and reeled in the money. Spreading the word was hard, barriers were high, and attention was hard-earned, so those who received it were rewarded well. The numbers were king and reach was everything. No reach, no buzz. You could count the ways most people marketed their services on one hand, after all. The Yellow Pages. Remember those? They actually used to be important. The free paper in the rack at the grocery store? Classifieds? Ads in magazines? Maybe a flyer or a postcard? Those who controlled the media controlled everything.
Now we live in a seek and share world. The dam broke, and we are awash in information. We are inundated and overburdened, and what we want is context and relevance. And we find that in other people. Through reviews. Word of mouth. Social media. Businesses that get it take it to the people, creating remarkable experiences that forge followings and encourage sharing. Clients will speak for us. And new ones will ferret us out. Enable your client. Put them first. Those who do will succeed. Those who don’t will be forgotten. Quality rules. Quantity is dead. Everyone is a broadcaster and a consumer. The middle is gone. The king is dead.
In reality, it’s not that we’re beholden. It’s that we’re connected. And we always have been, but now those connections are supercharged, so it’s no longer a what’s-in-it-for-me world. It’s a what-can-I-do-for-you world! So, if you’re staring at walls without the bookings you need and the loyalty you want, put your faith in clients. Don’t think about how you can improve your own life. Think about how you can improve theirs.
- Care for them.
- Think about every little thing that matters to them. The opportunities are endless.
- Do it in earnest. Not just through a knickknack here or an email there.
- Make what you do specific to them. Base it on what you know and what they’ve asked about.
- Write out their names, write out their needs, and keep that list around you.
- Set aside time to specifically look for opportunities to help.
- Make yourself valuable, and people will value you.
And if this sounds scary, remember this: for far longer than the world we know today has existed, we have relied on others to help us. But way back when, it wasn’t called business. It was called survival. People helped people. Not because it made our businesses stable, our bank accounts large, or our fame lasting. We did it, because that is what people do. We are wired for it. After all, we all have to believe in something. Why not one another?
About Spencer Lum
Spencer is a storyteller with an indelible belief in the raw humanity of weddings.
With 10 years of experience running Brooklyn-based 5 West Studios, he has developed a style that combines influences from fine art and photojournalism. He has also enjoyed time as a designer, creative director, and filmmaker.
Spencer is the founder of the industry blog, Ground Glass, as well as a doting husband and father of two beautiful children in Brooklyn, NY.