You may think this is a strange topic for a blog for photographers, but bear with me, it will all make sense, I promise.
You might like to think that it doesn’t really matter what people think about you – that if your intentions are good then what they think is their problem, not yours. Unfortunately, if you run a business, it matters hugely what other people think about you. Ultimately, it affects your bottom line , your profit, your income.
So what has this got to do with swans and seagulls I hear you ask?
When you see a swan gliding across a lake you might notice how graceful they are. They look regal and commanding, people stop to watch, perhaps making a special trip to see or feed them. If you had to be a bird, a swan would surely appear high on your shortlist. Swans rub shoulders with royalty, they appear in ballets, paintings and crests and you likely would come off worse if you got into a fight with a swan. However, beneath all the grace and beauty, there’s a great ugly mess going on beneath the water. Winged feet are flapping, short thick legs are kicking and pushing, there’s nothing graceful about it. The swan doesn’t let anyone else see her mess or her struggles.
The seagull, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. Seagulls are brash and loud, they publicly spat over scraps of discarded food – they might even swoop down and steal the chips right from the carton in your hand. Everybody knows about it when a seagull has an issue, there’s nothing discreet or calm about a seagull. People call them vermin with wings and actively avoid areas where they might be. If you had to be a bird, the seagull would come very low on your list.
Just take a few minutes to think about your business. How do you react when things go wrong – as they inevitably will? Do you immediately take to social media to rant – or even worse post one of those enigmatic statuses that cry out for attention. Clients don’t need to hear or see your struggles, issues or problems. They don’t want to know how hard or stressful your job is, or how late you were up editing, or even how hard it was to get your last newborn to sleep so you could pose them. They don’t need to hear you have competitors copying you or undercutting you. They want to deal with swans, not seagulls.
There are exceptions to every rule. There are people who make a living out of being seagulls. People who court controversy and drama. Think Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump. There are a handful of these in the photography industry and if that’s your chosen path, good luck to you because you will need very thick skin and a high capacity for stress!
Our advice is to always be a swan. Being a swan will help you to attract and keep customers. You will be recommended more and people will trust you more. If you are seen to be making a drama in public, people will wonder what you say behind closed doors! And of course, like attracts like (your vibe attracts your tribe) so if you want more of the swan like clients, then you know what you need to do.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, feel free to comment below