Sunday, December 02, 2007

How to Hire Friends & Other Life Lessons from a Photo Shoot

There's a new headshot on my blog and in the process of posing, I have learned a lot about money & gratitude from Melanie Bell, the photographer who took my shots.

Melanie and I worked together for a small business publication based in Miami, with the parent company in New York. Melanie was a staff photographer and I was a staff writer covering banking and finance. After we were no longer on staff, we both established free-lance contracts with that small publication.

What's more, Melanie and I stayed in touch. Melanie shot the beach shot (below) and other photographs. Melanie also recently shot the headshot that will be featured on my upcoming book The Frugal Duchess of South Beach, which will be out in May from DPL Press.

Here's what I learned from working with Melanie:

1. Network with old friends and co-workers. Beyond friendship, good will & mental health, friends and former peers can be a very valuable source of contacts, tips and services.
Other former co-workers have passed on story assignments, names of editors, agents, etc.
One former co-worker provided me with coaching and excellent life-lessons about the media industry during the early stages of my career. And through the friend-of-a-friend network, I have landed major career breakthroughs. Thank You! Thank You!

2. Express Gratitude: I've blundered. Melanie's photos have appeared on my blogs for two years and I have failed to give photo credit. (Sorry!) I am now fixing all of my blogs with a credit line for her excellent photographs. I will also make sure she gets a photo credit on my book.

3. Return the favor: I've tried to refer work to those who have helped me in the past. It's good karma and it's a smart business decision. It really takes a village to raise a child, to start a business and to just live.

4. Be mindful of time. When working with friends, it's important to be respectful of their time. Don't take them for granted. Also be flexible. Due to our crazy schedules and the distance between our respective cities, (a 45-minute distance), arranging a shoot required patience, flexibility and resourcefulness. We both had schedule conflicts that required adjustments.

5. Respect your friend's judgment: When hiring a friend, respect their professional opinion. My smile is crooked; my nose is shiny and my left eye (already smaller of the two) often closes when I smile for pictures. That's what I learned while posing. I listened to Melanie's instructions about fixing cosmetic flaws. So even though I felt like a little kid, I sat on a pillow, tilted my head and posed as she ordered.
Bottom line: I listened because I respected and trusted her judgment. Don't hire friends or former co-workers if you don't respect their skills or value their opinions.
6. Be clear about the assignment: Melanie asked me to clearly state how the photos would be used and exactly what I needed. This process saved us from wasting time and money. We also were clear about deadlines and other expectations.

7. Simplify and use natural light: The best photographs Melanie shot involved natural light on the beach and in my home. I learned that I look best in natural light, which is kinder to my 49-year-old face.
The lesson: in seeking financial, organizational and professional solutions to challenges and goals, I should really seek out solutions that work best with the natural lights of my personality and home.
For example, after reading one self-help organizational book, I made myself crazy trying to follow a complicated system for color-coding files and indexing dates. I became even more scattered because I was trying to organize my money, home and work assignments around a system that was way too complex for me.

I now organize my time and life with a very simple computer-based system and manual files. It works for me because it works for me.

8. Follow-up with praise. Provide feedback and praise for those that have provided excellent services. I often thank other professionals that I meet, but I sometimes forget to thank friends, family and peers who have been so helpful and important. Belated and heart-felt thanks to those who have helped to school me and groom me.
9. Work out payment arrangements with friends. No one can live on good will alone. Friends are often shy about asking for payment. Make a point to pay or provide some other compensation for their time. Be specific about contract arrangements. Take nothing for granted, especially not friends.

10. Take time for lunch: It's important to nurture and feed relationships with friends and former-colleagues. Not only is it good karma, but it's smart.

Here are a few helpful articles:

1. how to hire friends

2. How to Hire a Photographer for an Engagement Party

3. Best Friends and business

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