Erik the Red and Eric the Frenchman
Starting a business: Hardest F*^%#$ thing I’ve ever done in my life. Without fail. I had skills, talent and an idea. But I had no clue how to talk to clients, get clients, win jobs, quote for work, dress for shoots even! Boy, those early days of wearing Lycra superhero outfits to shoots were aaawkwaaaard… Now they’re over I think back to the things that have brought me success. Number one on that list is mentoring. Actually, it’s not. Good food and red wine are equal number one. But mentoring is definitely right behind them.
In the beginning it was really hard to find a mentor, particularly as a photographer. There is only one structured mentoring program for photographers I know about. Many photographers don’t mentor because they
- Have never been asked
- Don’t have the time
- Don’t feel they have anything worthwhile to contribute, or
- See you as a threat and think you’re just after their price list
Mostly it’s a combination of the first three, but there are a few really dumb photographers out there who believe the last one. If you are one of those, a special note for you:
If a first year photographer is able to steal your clients then you’re either stupid, not very good at your job, not charging enough or don’t understand why your clients hire you.
I’ve had two very classy mentors who’ve helped me through the early days.
Mentor One: Erik – The Technician
I liked to call him Erik the Red. He’s a ranga like me so it’s okay (see Tim Minchin’s stance on this).
Erik hired me as an assistant for his shoots. Read: I carried his shit ton of gear up every single stair case in Brisbane for 12 months. The payoff? Apart from biceps that can independently crush cans* I have a brain for lighting that is far superior to anything I could have developed on my own.
Mentor Two: Erik – The Businessman
I like to call him Eric. Because he’s French and I don’t want to poke the bear. Or the Frenchman. He’s almost retired now so has seen it all, shot it all and worried about it all. To this day Eric still helps me understand my business and lets me bounce harebrained ideas off.
I’ve recently taken up the mantle and have started mentoring a few photographers and videographers just starting out like I was in the early days. I tell them, yes it’s normal to
- Cry yourself to sleep some nights because it seems like nothing is, or ever will, work
- Rejoice when you land that first really big job
- Panic. All the time. Even about stuff you’ve already done before because the phase of the moon is slightly different it feels different!
So thanks, Erik and Eric… You’ve truly blessed me with how honest you’ve been and how much gear you’ve let me borrow!
Have you had any mentoring experiences? What have they been like?
*My biceps don’t actually crush cans. THEY EAT THEM