Let me get this straight, I do not claim to be very knowledgable of very photography or business related topic ever, in fact I learn something new every week! But even in my personal and professional journey from someone who has graduated University and sat home, scratching head and wondering what to do with my future to someone who has slowly and steadily become a more confident photographer, writer & web designer, I have had a few hurdles on the way.
In a way, my journey began when I received advice for free, but it wasn’t one I asked for, it was one I was given without any expectations for anything in return. After that, I learned that in order for me to ask business / professional advice from someone, I must be able to offer something in return, whether it is favour, whether it is a monetary reward (as you do for classes, courses and workshops) or something else the other person may wish for. It could simply be a “I’m happy to help out whenever, let me know if you need anything as a thanks”.
If we ask for advice in something that is quite involved, for example, it might take the ‘tutor’ to teach this over the course of several hours or perhaps even days, they are giving away their knowledge. They are giving away what they have learned over years through hard work, learning, researching, failing and learning how not to fail.
So, why do so many still expect to receive this for free, as a gift of sorts. What does the ‘tutor’ get in return? If it’s a sneak peek or a teaser of sorts from their workshop or course, that’s fair enough. But the end goal is still to receive return for their work. Whether it is to get you on the course, to get you to buy their online resources or anything else.
I am more than happy to give out generic advice to anyone who approaches me. But there’s those who simply want an answer to a quick question and then there’s those who expect you to set time aside on your day, meet them for a coffee (they better pay for it!) and to “pick your brain”. That’s literally how someone approached me.
“I like your style. Can I meet you for a coffee and “pick your brain”? Would love to learn how you edit and shoot.”
I am not being mean but what’s in it for me? A free cup of coffee?
I can get that after I have collected 9 stamps on my Cafe Nero loyalty card and I won’t have to give away my knowledge for free. After I mentioned money and workshops he could come onto where we’d teach, I never heard from him again.
I am all for friendly business environment between professionals, who help one another, from passing clients onto others when the original photographer has fallen ill, is busy or doesn’t shoot that particular style, or exchanging ideas for new projects, shoots and exhibitions. I am all for women supporting one another in the business, choosing to support local traders who in return use your services, but the free advice (one that is very involved, specific or requires a lot of resources) trend has to stop.
I am all for free educational material, there’s tons of it on the Internet. I am all for self-learning, because that’s how I have always operated myself.
But I am strongly against people blatantly approaching you to extract valuable information and skills from you, only to discard you soon as they have received what they wanted.
If you’re a freelance artist or self employed trader, you will know exactly what it feels like when people approach you for a job or a purchase by offering in return pretty much nothing, such as exposure!
Let’s be mindful about how we treat other professionals, let’s treat others with respect and appreciation for what they do and for what they give back to the community. If you only intend to “quickly steal a few trade secrets”, then I am sorry to break it to you that it won’t work. You need patience, hard work, purpose and a genuine wish to grow to succeed.