January 12, 2010

Best and Worst Purchase of '09

As I've been getting 2009 paperwork in order I realized that I've made some great and some horrible purchases over the last year. Now, I try not to do bad reviews because, well some things just don't work for some people! So what I might not like, you might fall in love with. And of course, what I love you may hate. But I thought this was a good time to go through my best and worst. I now try to find reviews and ask other photographers about any big purchases, because who wants to keep throwing money out the window. So lately, most of my purchases have been on the good end. Grab a cup of coffee, there's a bit of info in this post! Let's start with the best:

Best Purchases of '09
Wacom Tablet - You would think that being a graphic designer for 10 years I would have already owned one, but I didn't. I picked this up in '08 but didn't take it out of the box for months, so we'll call it a '09 purchase. After forcing myself to use it for a few weeks now I can't live without it! I currently have the Intuos3 4x6" Tablet. I figure smaller was better when I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep it. I'll be upgrading to a larger model hopefully this year.

Blackberry Curve - Not sure why I waited so long to pick one of these up! Now, I really wanted an iPhone, but since I'm on the Verizon network that was not an option. I finally caved an got the Blackberry Curve. If you're dealing with clients I think you really should have a Smart Phone. I love that no matter where I am I can receive client emails and get back to them as soon as possible. I also love that I no longer have to carry around a paper calendar for scheduling session or life for that matter. I've got everything sync'ed to my Mac, so if something happens to either, I have it in another place.

Insurance - After reading tons of stories on the twitter and blogs about all the bad things that have happened this year to other photographers, insurance is a must!! If you don't have your gear insured, do it immediately!! So many people have lost gear due to fires, water damage and theft and they didn't have any insurance. If you charge people for your services, please, please, please make sure you have liability and equipment coverage!

MobileMe - I recently wrote about MobileMe here, check it out for details on how I backup my client files.

Joyce Smith's WordSmith Guides - I'm not a write, nor do I even pretend that I'm a writer. That's why I love all of Joyce's guides. I've talked a lot about her products in the past you can find out about the Senior Pricing Menu template and {what to wear} seniors guide here, how to sell guide here, and the {what to wear} guide here.

Easy As Pie - Thanks to Alicia Caine, I've got a clue now. I talk more about Easy As Pie here, so take a look. I just finished my 2010 pricing and I love how simple it now is. My clients actually understand my pricing now! If you're struggling with pricing yourself correctly, this is a must! Be sure you read the entire post, Alicia just gave me a $20 coupon code to offer to my readers, it's at the end of my review here.

Education - I think education is a must! No matter what level photographer you are, you can always learn more! I talk more about the Unleashed Pet Photography Workshop that I attended in 2009 here. I'm currently kicking myself for not attending this year's Imaging USA from PPA. After seeing all the rave reviews and great time that everyone is having on Twitter and Facebook, it's going to be a must for me in 2011. I also think forums can be extremely helpful in building your knowledge base. I also believe sometimes they can be time wasters as well. As long as you don't get sucked into hanging out all day long on the forums, you should be fine!

The not so hot purchases of '09:

Props - I was a bit out of control this year with props for session. I was on a newborn kick and bought tons of hats, blankets and other items. Guess what, I decided that newborns aren't my thing and don't plan on photographing them again! Luckily, I found other photographers who were more than happy to take those props off my hands. The bad news, I lost a bit of money on them when I re-sold the props. From now on I'm going to give myself a yearly prop budget and stick with it. It needs to be a must have instead of just because it's cute!

Random Forms
- When you're starting out you just aren't sure what you need, believe me, I totally overspend in this area. I purchased form after form from other photographers. Portrait contracts, other contracts and lots of forms. Too many forms in my option! Guess what, Business and Legal Forms for Photographers has pretty much everything you need in it. Go figure there's a book out there with all the forms you need AND it comes with a CD of the forms so you don't have to re-create them. So much for me spending over $100 on forms from other photographers, I got the Business and Legal Forms book for under $25.

Samples - Last year I wanted to do it all and sell it all. My bank account took a huge hit with samples. Now granted, you need to have samples to show clients for them to want to buy, but keep what you offer simple. I spent upwards of a thousand dollars on various album, canvas and boutique item samples. This year, with my revised pricing, I'm not even planning on offering half the items I have samples for. And those items that I'm not offering, didn't even sell last year. Make sure when you're getting samples of products you plan on offering them to your clients! Be sure to check out various trade shows and conventions to see the items in person before you consider ordering them!

Softboxes - With being on-location and not having a studio, I really plan on focusing on learning more about Off Camera Flash (OFC) this year. And, I wanted a great softbox to use for my OFC work. I'm currently on softbox number 3! The first one was inexpensive, but it did the job. I decided to upgrade to a softbox that other photographers rave about. It was close to $300 ... and I hated it. It was cumbersome and a total pain while I was out at sessions. I parted with softbox #2 and have moved on to #3. The current softbox was less expensive than #2, and since it's a newer purchase, I haven't used it enough to say if I love it or hate it. I can tell you that it's much lighter and easier to assemble while out in the field, so that's definitely a bonus! Looking back, I wish I would have just gone down to the local camera store and checked some of these out in person before I continued to make purchase after purchase. I'll be trying it out over the next few weeks and let you guys know if #3 stays or goes!

So, some great purchases and some real money burners this year. Live and learn, right? I'm going to be overly cautious about my spending this year. It needs to be an absolute must have before I make the purchase.

Make sure to post in the comments below the best and worst that you've spent money on this year!

Full Disclosure: Samples received from WordSmith.

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