Evolving a business:: less is more and all that jazz

In 29 days, I’ll no longer have a studio.

Don’t panic. 9art still exists. I still take photos just like before. And this was not an unhappy decision. But some things just have to change. 🙂

When I first really got things rolling, that studio was a dream come true. I still remember the first year of sharing it with my good graphic designer friend Matt Spiel… blaring the ‘Inception’ soundtrack (Matt yelling BUM! BUM! BUM! as it crescendo’d), goofing around with lighting setups to get pictures like this one…

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Then, for the past 4 years, it’s just been me up there. Not that Matt & I don’t still hang out. (Would you believe we just hung out an hour ago)?

FIVE YEARS…. can’t believe it’s been that long.

It was a milestone to get that place.

Now, it’s a milestone to let it go.

It’s funny how your perception of success changes as you go… and how things evolve in unexpected ways. When I started, the studio was a marker of my validity; it meant (or I thought it did) I was a REAL photographer, and having that physical presence was vital in being part of the downtown community. And, I can’t forget, it was the starting spot for the ‘third thursday’ photo booths here in Joplin…

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And it was vital, during these past few years, in having a place to work, a place to meet, a place to shoot.

Now I’m at a completely different point. A physical space, at this point in my career, really doesn’t mean much at all. A reputation as a reliable person with a solid body of work means a whole lot more.

So the questions that naturally ensue:

-don’t I need the studio to shoot in?
-don’t I need a place to do my day to day work?
-don’t I need a place to meet with folks?
-don’t I need a physical location for clients to consider me a valid business?
-don’t I need a place to do the monthly third thursday photobooths out of?

Those were hard questions to answer. Those are the kind of decisions you have to face from time to time in running a business- changes can’t be made on a whim for sure, and no change should ever be made that interferes with the core concepts that got you started in your craft to begin with. ‘From Good to Great’ is a fantastic book that taught me a lot about that idea.

No rash moves. But fear of change can also be the most destructive force to a professional… leading to things like an overhead that’s way more than you need it to be and a workflow that ultimately makes you a far less productive person than you should be. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to sit down, at least once a year, and ask yourself the tough question… ‘where can I trim the fat?’

A lot of prayer and awesome happenings and even awesomer people revealed the answer to all those questions and opened the door to make some changes.

So, for those of you who are wondering about those specifics…

SHOOTING: 90% of my work is ‘on location’- when it comes down to it, I generally only use the studio about once a month. I like to shoot in different places, to be in a real environment. But on those occasions when I need an actual studio space to shoot in, I’ve still got it covered, don’t you worry.

MEETING, PHOTOBOOTH, & WORKSPACE: I’ve developed some partnerships that gave me solutions to all of these things.

Firstly with Spiva Arts Center– I love being around the folks in our foremost local gallery here in Joplin, and they have graciously allowed me to host the photobooths in their building each month.

I’m developing another partnership with a local creative group that involves a sweet co-working space…. I can’t go into the details, but it’ll take care of my storage, having a dedicated desk space, and having a conference area for ordering appointments with folks. Plus, being around other creative professionals is always a bonus (honestly, a must) when it comes to keeping yourself inspired.

And I can’t forget the local coffeeshop downtown… Joplin Ave Coffee Co. For the past 3 years, these guys have served me my daily (overabundant) dose of get-it-done serum (aka caffeine) and let me hang out at my ‘usual table’ for much of my work time.

Yeah, I completely realize, it’s weird that I work in a coffeeshop. But I love the environment, and for me it’s an oddly productive place- plugging away with my earbuds, yet surrounded by people to cut out that feeling of isolation that us largely-computer-based creative folks get sometimes.

Amazing interactions, conversations, and networking have happened there. So a good portion of the time, that’s where you’ll find me.

SO NOW…

The studio is out of the picture. But other things are stepping in.

This is a big year for more than just the streamlining. I’m also set to launch a new division of my photography business within the next month, dedicated specifically to commercial work.

The design phase is in full force on the joplin photonovel… my biggest project to-date, as a collaboration with Lance Schuabert for the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau… more about that very soon.

And all sorts of creative ideas are in the works.

So farewell studio. I’ll miss ya. But I’m excited about what’s next.

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-Mark

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