Alright bear with me here... if you are thinking WTF has Taylor Swift got to do with being a wedding photographer, then read on as you might just feel inspired by the end.
Right, I have two small blondes that are most definitely Swift fans. Her album is pretty much on rotation in our car. I admit that I will merrily sing along and I think her recent videos are great fun. But what has all this got to do with business? Well as Swift has just made history by being the youngest person ever to make the Forbes rich list of the 100 most powerful women in the world, I believe we have a hell of a lot to learn from her. She is no trust fund baby, at just 25 years old she is self made, worth over £200m and my hat well and truly goes off to her. So here are the things that I think we can take from Taylor Swift.
- CREATE FROM A PLACE OF HONESTY. Taylor is well known for taking her latest heartbreak and turning it into the lyrics for a huge hit. Ever since releasing her first album at just 16 years old, she constantly looks to her own life for inspiration and isn't overly concerned about what everyone else is doing. When country music was considered old fashioned, Taylor made it relevant. Sticking to writing about what she is genuinely passionate about means that people relate to her songs more than manufactured pop and it's the same when it comes to your photography voice. People will always find more in something that is authentic, not just what you think you should show.
- WORK AS HARD ON THE BUSINESS AS THE CREATING. Nobody gets to that level of success by accident. Forbes say, '..she has proven herself as an impressive businesswoman' and has a hand in most aspects of the business elements to her career. From writing the lyrics, then attempting to trademark many of them to maintaining popularity and personal connections across many social media streams yet refusing to give it all away for free on Spotify. She has even produced her latest video and it smashed all records by having over 20 million views in its debut 24 hours. You know those super creative 'Rock Star Photographers' that you admire? When they are not jetting all over the world to photograph incredible weddings, they are all taking care of business behind the scenes too. Never neglect this side of your workflow and try to take a creative approach to all aspects of business.
- SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE FRIENDS FIRST, USEFUL BUSINESS ALLIES SECOND. If you watch Taylor's latest video for the song Bad Blood, you will see many familiar faces from Lena Dunham and Cindy Crawford to Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss. But these are not just people who are hot in their field, they are Taylor's mates and they look like they had a blast making that video. I want to dress up as a Space Age Mad Max Ninja and hang out with them! But more that dicking about in a video, Swift is creating an inner circle of powerful allies and I'm pretty damn sure that you need them in the music industry and in ours. There will be more than enough people looking to put you down if given half a chance. By having friends both older and younger than you but with business sense of their own, you have access to all the help you might need with solid advice as well as the LOLs.
- MAKE TIME FOR THE FUN AND DOWNTIME. So what is Taylor doing this week to celebrate her huge global success? Is she in the studio penning another album, in the boardroom kicking some record executive butt? Nope, she is hosting girly parties at her New York apartment and getting cosy with her hot Brit boyfriend. Working non-stop stifles anyone's creativity so ensure that you also factor in some fun.
- BE PREPARED TO EVOLVE. I doubt that Taylor would be reaching these dizzying heights of global success if she was still putting out bubblegum country tunes. It's all too easy to stagnate in any creative industry but those that can move with the times and take on board new influences are usually the ones with a career that stays interesting for a long period of time.
- STAND UP TO YOUR CRITICS. Hand in hand with any level of success will be a corresponding level of criticism. If for every 1000 'fans' you have one hater then you are doing OK. Be prepared that as soon as you stick your head up above the crowd, you may expect someone to slap you right in the face. When accused of only writing songs about ex boyfriends, Swift responded by pointing out how sexist that statement is as most male singers are also writing about their exes. When the critics see that you can handle yourself, respond intelligently while at the same time holding up a mirror to their own inadequacies then they will soon move on to trying to rile someone else. Twist the negative into a creative energy. Taylor embraces the haters in her lyrics with Shake it Off being the best example. And she does indeed shake it off all the way to the bank. So you too can take any negative energy from your career and spin it into fuel for your creativity. It's a big part of life that we have to face the rough with the smooth. Just don't let it overwhelm you, I believe there is always some kind of silver lining somewhere. Sometimes it's a little hard to spot when the clouds are nasty but it's always there.
- SHOW YOUR TRUE CHARACTER. Kids/people relate to Taylor because she isn't some super slick pop machine. She is goofy, vulnerable, cheesy and real. She admits she was an outcast at school and maybe not growing up popular has meant that she isn't afraid to show her personality. If you read our series This is What I See, then it's a recurring theme that many photographers grow up feeling like outsiders. It's good to show what you are really all about instead of thinking you should conform to some 'wedding photographer mold'. In our workshops, we address this quite a bit as we think it is the foundation of creating a unique brand.
- LOOK AFTER YOUR BRAND. Speaking of brands, of course brand Taylor Swift is a phenomenon. And as a young woman in a man's world she has done it her own way. She doesn't feel the need to flash the flesh to boost exposure and her social media accounts make it look like her life is pretty amazing. I'm sure it is so follow her example and aim to maintain your brand across your social media channels too. You are a photographer so fill your instagram with behind the scenes shots and pretty pictures from your DSLR.. not just shots of your lunch please! Use your blog, twitter and facebook to not just show off your latest shoots but to engage with your followers and promote what your brand represents. Present your brand in everything from the initial enquiry to delivering the product.
- MAKE THE BEST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Swift has become a master at this. That record breaking video for Bad Blood could easily have been an after thought. The first single from the album was released almost a year ago and Bad Blood was a surprise choice for a single. It's not the catchiest tune on there but the video has added drama to the song and to make the best of it, the premier was at The Billboard Awards in the US where Taylor picked up multiple awards before the video was available to view on her youtube channel and that is when it broke records in terms of hits. Very canny, so how can you make the best use of any opportunities that come your way? Well how about taking a leaf out of Taylor's book and being creative about how you use them?
- FINALLY, DON'T TAKE IT ALL TOO SERIOUSLY. The thing that I admire most about Taylor Swift is she just seems to take it all in her extra long stride. She doesn't seem to get too bogged down in the negative stuff and she takes neither the industry or herself too seriously. Life is hard enough so add a sprinkle of your own sense of humour and fun to what you do. Although my About Me page talks about some of my accolades and achievements, it also has some tongue in cheek parts such as all singing all dancing unicorns and a muppet. This stuff makes people want to befriend and hopefully book you.
All images @taylorswift13/twitter