Workshop review: Sean Low’s Business of Being Creative

Mark Twain once said, “Never let school interfere with your education.”

Probably my favorite quote.

Don’t get me wrong. I take education very seriously. As does Sean Low, with his a law degree from an Ivy League school. He’s also schooled creative wedding greats like world-renown event planner Marcy Blum, NY destination photographer Christian Oath, and my favorite story, 83-year-old cake maker Sylvia Weinstock.

Low schooled about a dozen colorado wedding professionals last week. I was stoked to be apart of it, however that $500 entrance fee can make anyone wheezy for a few hours of inspiration creative-ass-kicking-buisness-brain-dump.
Picasso Did It
Picasso sat on a beach one day. A man approached him, noticing who Picasso was, and asked if he could draw something for him. He handed Picasso paper and pencil. Picasso sketched for 30 seconds, then handed it back to the man. The man asked, “How much do I owe you?” 

“$600,” Picasso replied.

“But it took you only 30 seconds to create,” the man said.

“Yes, but it took me 30 years to get to this point.”

… Or so the story goes.

Sean emphasized the importance as an artist to ‘value’ your creative talents more than just a simple commodity of your time. Your ‘creative fee’ is your happy price to do what you love at a sustainable rate.

Two notable quotes that really got me thinking (and a few of us laughing):

Some favorite lessons learned:
1. Sell me. Sell my work. But never talk money.
As an entrepreneur, talking money may boost testosterone, as the power of negotiation can make, or break us. With the artist, however, once we talk money, we immediately become objectified…. as in something to be owned, with the right amount of money. There’s the rub.

For wedding clients, I realize money doesn’t grown on trees.  It’s a means to get not what you need, but what you want. Getting there and being paid in “your worth” becomes the delicate dance to gold.

2. Craft the Creative Business Plan
Writing a business plan in the traditional sense doesn’t ‘work’ for creative businesses, according to Low. Create a “Look Book” instead, sans mentioning ‘package pricing.’ In the coming weeks, I plan on creating my own Look Book showcasing me, my style & inspiration, and a case study of a ‘perfect’ client.

3. Don’t be the cash register.
As I write this I sit in the same seat I sat 6 years ago after I had my first photographic show at Clear Creek cellars, a gallery wine shop in Evergreen, CO. The show sold out (yikes!), and I hung about 10 small landscape photographs, taken with my very first digital camera, a 3.2 megapixel Pentax Optio waterproof point and shoot, circa 1994, edited in Photoshop 7, and framed in Ikea goodness.

There was something about: 1) Showing my work in a gallery 2) Selling my work 3) Selling enough work to break even 4) Selling my work to actually make money.

It smacked me in the face why this model really worked: I wasn’t a cash register. And Sean Low forced us to think about how NOT to be the cash register in our creative business. Coming up with that “gallery representation” acts as a filter to avoid going weak at the knees and giving our art away for free.

Two Thumbs Up
In sum, the experience was worth the price of admission. Sean Low knows told us not necessarily the information we want to know about how to run a creative business. He told us what we NEED to know. I’m a big fan of the latter. Very few effective workshop leaders can pull this off without making too many people cry.  My only criticisms about the workshop: 1) more time with Sean not in ‘lecture’ mode, but on the topics which generally start like “don’t get me started…” 2) more case studies directly applicable to the working wedding photographer.

The quality of the take-home material and it’s effective potential elevated the day-long symposium into practical a two-week workshop of self-discovery.

Special thanks to Sean Low for making us answer those harder questions… making our heads just a little sharper and hearts more open to create the work we love:

6 Responses to “Workshop review: Sean Low’s Business of Being Creative”

  1. Gino Siller Photography — November 7, 2010 @ 9:45 am (#)

    Great stuff, and valuable quotes. Thanks for being such a great note taker……

  2. Sean Low — November 7, 2010 @ 6:11 pm (#)

    R.J. Thank you for this wonderful write up and for asking the tough questions. I really enjoyed my day and especially having you there. Photos are really terrific. Thanks again.


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  4. Debbie — December 13, 2010 @ 7:32 am (#)

    GREAT recap RJ. Thanks for writing this!

  5. Robert London — February 27, 2011 @ 3:27 pm (#)

    Thanks for sharing and posting, is it working yet?

  6. Pingback: Headdresses for Flirty Fleurs | Kern-Photo

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