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Know what the best words are, sometimes? None at all. Last week, we talked about how to take a paragraph from your site and slim it down.  That was largely about removing non-contributing words and replacing them with livelier ones. But sometimes I see a wall of words on a business website and think – they […]

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  • Carol - Great article, as usual, Jenika.

    Just wanted to add that many photographers actually install their clients’ prints, thus providing the perfect opportunity to photograph their images onsite.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yes! Absolutely true – you could make it a standard part of delivery (just asking permission beforehand) :-)ReplyCancel

  • Dawn - Gosh, Jenika, you always make me think! I don’t know why this never occurred to me that an image is so much more powerful than words.

    Follow up question, though. Some think that we need the words for SEO. Do you agree with that? How do you balance both?

    Thanks so much for your insight!


    • Jenika - It’s a good question you ask, and balance is a good word, since there are so many factors that play into SEO I think it’s not good strategy to overly focus on any one. My answer has a couple layers. First, I’m not an SEO expert, but every time I’ve looked into the length issue, the only consensus seems to be that you should not fill a site with fluff to hit a perceived word count (the magic number estimate ranges from 300-1800 words anyway, and no one I know would suggest that you have 1000+ words on your home page). Nearly everyone says to optimize user experience. Most photographers end up with a lot of words on their site anyway, more than the average user will read, so this tip is to help get rid of the words you don’t need so that the words you DO use are read and appreciated. Cutting a single paragraph of 100 words on a site where there are already a few thousand seems unlikely to dramatically affect SEO but can dramatically affect reader experience. And since reader experience determines a lot of other aspects of SEO, I don’t really see this as an SEO tradeoff personally. At the very least, if you have 100 words that you don’t need, it’s STILL better to cut them and replace them with a more powerful 100 words, if you really do need/want them for SEO. So you can still cut the paragraph describing all your products and write instead about how a past client feels about having them in their home. The latter will sell more anyway.ReplyCancel

  • Vicki - Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hope you can use it for something good, Vicki!ReplyCancel

  • Allison - I love the idea of using BF sales to incentivize the client help with photos. That’s brilliant, and got my wheels turning.

    Also, “I volunteer as tribute.” ???ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - It’s a convenient season to do if you really need someone to buy something, I think…just a thought. Hope it helps someone!ReplyCancel

  • Allison - The question marks are actually laughing emoticons. Talk about miscommunication.ReplyCancel

I had a mean biology professor once. Okay, fine.  He wasn’t mean, he just made life terrifically inconvenient.  He assigned an 18-page paper.  Then, once we’d finished, he demanded that we turn in the same paper in only 12 pages. As in, cut the length by a third.  Still delivering the same paper. WHAT. So […]

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  • Mike - Like!

    (After pages and pages of verbal diarrhea [an idiom my Microbiology teacher loved to use to make the point of what not to hand in], I whittled it down, and this is really all I wanted and needed to say) :)ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Bravo on the brevity!! :-) Haha.

      Verbal diarrhea is one of the grossest yet most apt phrases for this phenomenon…ReplyCancel

  • Charlotte Reeves - THIS! “Words, like air, are not a scarce resource. Attention is the scarce resource. Cut words to increase attention.” That is pure gold! Great article Jenika, inspirational!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Oh Charlotte, your comments always make me happy. But most importantly, I’m glad the article was useful. Thanks!!!ReplyCancel

  • Terri - That was a fun exercise!ReplyCancel

  • Dave - When I got my first job after college, I did a write up for my boss and he gave me a blood red paper and a valuable guideline. “Treat it like you’ll give yourself a dollar for every word you can take out”

    Brevity is a good thing.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Excellent, vivid way to express the point! Thank you for sharing that!!!ReplyCancel

  • Gail - The best advice you ever gave me was to keep things as brief as they need to be. I’m still surprised how many words I can pack into almost anything. Thanks for the reminder. You are pure gold!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thank you Gail! I’m a fan of yours. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - I rarely comment online. I’m more an observer and absorber of information, but you’re posts are so interesting and well written that I had to comment. Excellent work and I look forward to reading your next one!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Well thank you, Cheryl! I appreciate you leaving me this note. Happy you find the posts helpful.ReplyCancel

  • Angela McConnell - I definitely needed this so thank you! I have spent the morning editing down all of my overly verbose information :)ReplyCancel

Today is more of a personal post – for me and for you. Let’s have a chat. When I was a child, I had some really cool friends at school.  They lived in newer houses, took vacations to Yellowstone, Disneyland, and Hawaii (the “cool” destinations when you grow up in Idaho).  They even had brand new […]

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  • Erika Janine - Well said and SO TRUE!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - I think you are wise and totally “right on.” It takes a bit of maturity to understand this, but it is so true. Thanks for this article. I am sending to my son who is not a pro photographer but who thinks everyone but him has red marbles. He is a wonderful person in every way and he has been through the school of hard knocks…. still the light shines. Thanks for this. It was well written and empathetic.

    • Jenika - Thank you for these kind words, Kathleen. I hope everyone who needs this message finds it…I think it’s true!ReplyCancel

  • Nik - Great post!

    “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”
    – Regina BrettReplyCancel

  • Maggie - Love this post! I have been trying to be conscious of the comparison trap, and this does a great job of explaining it. Thanks for sharing! I have always enjoyed your posts.

    I live in Idaho now (but I didn’t grow up here), so I especially love that connection.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yeah Idaho!! It’s a beautiful state. I love so many places in it. Wave to the mountains for me, will you?ReplyCancel

  • Steve - From the vantage point of being 62, a nice twist on “the grass isnt always greener”.
    I look around at friends and health issueas are all over the place bar me and mine, though Inhave just been prescibed Statins.
    Where a relative works, a University town, everyone appears to live a very good life , but then the drink problems many have, creeps out.
    My camera keeps me sane, a pocket of “outside it all”.

    I dont run a business but do enjoy your articles.


    • Jenika - Thanks for your note, Steve! And you are most welcome here, business or no business. You keep using that camera. It IS a wonderful way to step back and be “outside” of things, isn’t it? I see that too. I hope you have a wonderful week.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry - Recently saw a list of 20 people who made serious money playing football . These 20 all lost their wealth in bad business deals, drug and alcohol abuse, and just bad decisions.
    One was even touted as the worst draft bust EVER! Would I want to be in their shoes? NO! Remember, Elvis and Michael Jackson had wealth and fame, both died at an early age.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - It’s amazing how even the wealthiest are not necessarily in enviable positions! The amazing thing is, truly, everyone has difficulties that are worthy of empathy, including the very people in one’s FB feed. Thanks for your thoughts.ReplyCancel

  • Rina-Bodil - So true and important to remember and re-read often! Thank you, I really needed this!!ReplyCancel

  • John - So, where are the pictures from? They are great.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thank you, John! They’re from King and Queen Seat in Maryland!ReplyCancel

  • kate callahan - This is fabulous. Thank you for it! : )ReplyCancel

  • Red41 - Jenika,
    Thanks for bringing me up when I’m down. SAHM-wouldn’t trade it, EXCEPT,I have 2 degrees in arts I’ll never use. Spent yrs looking for a job & failing at other jobs. Lots of nice temp jobs, so I got my MM thinking I’ll get a dream gig. Immediately upon getting 3 jobs/reinventing myself, I got pregnant. Dream job fell plummeted (no fault of mine),difficult pregnancy, now no job. Lost 1/2 my family, & spouse has addictions/denial.I feel like a loser for not accomplishing my goals. Everyone else has a better marriage/house/more $. I’d be screwed if I had to take care of myself & kid. However, you remind me of what I tell myself daily. Vacations=debt. Glamorous frienemy’s pics are of flowers she bought herself, & not from her hubby. I’ve had MANY flowers, & have a great provider/parent for a spouse. My perfect baby is a miracle who makes me smile every day. I can teach him everything I know bc I’m educated. :)


    • Jenika - That’s a lot to manage! But congratulations on your beautiful baby and keep looking up. Wishing you many bright days ahead.ReplyCancel

  • Charlotte Reeves - You’ve done it again Jenika, with a beautifully written, insightful article. The marble analogy is very powerful and instantly relatable. A timely reminder! Also – the beautiful photos you’ve selected for this post are perfect. :)ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Oh Charlotte, always so kind and encouraging. I appreciate your words. The photos are from a Halloween day hike I took with my family. Fall is so wonderful. Hope you have a brilliant day!ReplyCancel

  • Eric Beck - I love the photographs!!!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thank you!! Nature is quite photogenic, especially in Maryland at the end of October.ReplyCancel

  • Kristi - Love this! So well stated. We all need to be reminded of this every now and again.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks Kristi. Glad you stopped by.ReplyCancel

  • KarahC - So True!! Everyone just posts the things they want to share and most of us don’t want to share our yellow marbles with the whole wide world. I know I don’t.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yes. We don’t share them, and I’m not entirely sure we need to, either. I think it’s okay if we do, but at some point I think we can all agree it becomes less interesting to hear about someone’s day-to-day irritations – so what does that mean about social sharing? It’s purpose, what we really want out of it? A certain level of validity that others experience the same things as us, but mostly uplifting inspiration? It’s an interesting question…ReplyCancel

  • Tony - Great article, Jenika. Don’t know which color marble a sick day is, but that is one most people can mostly eliminate through a healthy diet, exercise, and the right supplements. I went from getting sick 4 times a year plus flu, bronchitis, etc, etc. Then changed my diet, eliminated junk food, processed food, sugar, chemicals, etc (using a lot of “etc’s” here) and eating more organic whole foods, added some supplements, and now almost never get sick and no more flu. Remember, the better you feel, not only will you enjoy everything more, and because of that, you’ll take better photos. Somewhere I read this quote, “He who has health, has hope. And who has hope, has everything.” Wishing everyone the best of health.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hi Tony! For sure, changing one’s diet and lifestyle improves health immensely! I heard once that health is easier to maintain than it is to regain, so it’s best to keep yourself functioning well and not neglect it. I like that.
      Unfortunately, some of the fittest and healthiest people I know have still experienced illness, there are so many kinds of causes (and not all can be addressed by one’s own immune system), and I think it’s important to make sure we explicitly acknowledge that not all illness is someone’s own “fault.” However I’ll happily join you in encouraging everyone to eat well and move their bodies…it certainly has improved my own life, too!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Absolutely loved this post! It hit an issue I deal with right on the head. Plus your style of writing is really funny and entertaining! The white sock thing is so true too! What is it about super white socks that just seems to scream “success” to certain (us) people? 😉 Lol!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Oh my gosh, right? The socks. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that they buy them more often? Or that they can afford to walk on the ground with pristine white socks? Like some kind of secret wealth indicator? No clue. Hahaha. Thanks for the kind note. Glad you visited!ReplyCancel

  • Vicki - Wise words. This owner of multi-colored dented marbles thanks you for sharing. Aw man, my marble bag just ripped…where is that tape!ReplyCancel

  • Lizz Riley - As always, a great post. And one that I’m guilty of. Guilty of thinking everyone has it together and guilty of trying to give that image too!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - So in other words, you’re a human being? :-) Haha. It’s ok that it happens, it’s awesome if we can remind our automatic thought processes that we have the power to override them. Because you do! Go, you!ReplyCancel

  • Tara Eveland - Oh wow I LOVE THIS POST! Thank you for thisReplyCancel

  • kelly - this is something I have been ruminating on for a while now…how to stay true to my creative vision but to also be as genuine and authentic as possible. such a great post with great insight! thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Jeni - Amazing amazing amazing post. So much of what I’ve felt or experienced over the past year or two, but in much more encompassing eloquent words. I’ve always gotten a bit annoyed at people that harp on the fb posters who only post good. To me, that’s not me hiding the bad, it’s just paying more attention to the good, however small it may be. I’m also of the mind that “just because it’s happening doesn’t mean it should be on Facebook, and just because it’s not on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s not happening”. I only post negative/sad things if I can make them funny or if I think there’s a valuable lesson/call to action, or if I need prayers for someone. So THANK YOU for writing such a spot-on post and reminder. Everyone on fb should read this.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie Allen - Thank you! Fantastic and I’m so grateful for my marbles! I was thinking I’m even grateful for my yellow, grey, purple, and blue ones too. They make the red ones so much nicer.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - I love this Jenika, thanks so much for sharing. As posters, it can be hard to achieve that balance between over-curated and over-sharing, but as consumers it’s our responsibility to ourselves to be aware that the words and images in front of you don’t reflect the whole truth.ReplyCancel

  • Moira - Hi Jenika
    I was going to write a comment and then I saw that you had so many already I thought to myself that you didn’t need mine and then I remembered how much I enjoy people giving me feedback on my blogposts and just knowing that somewhere out there in the big wide internet world at least somebody is reading my stuff and looking at my images and enjoying them. I enjoy reading your posts, I love your images and you have a tremendous gift for imparting wisdom without sounding condescending or preachyfied. Have a fab weekend xxxxxxReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks for the kind words Moira :-) I really appreciate it!! Hope everyone can look at these suggestions and find something that helps them too.ReplyCancel

I have two questions for you: Pay close attention to how you answer each one, okay? Question #1: How much would you pay to hear me recite poetry for an hour?  _____ (Mentally fill in the blank with an answer.) Got your answer?  Onward: Question #2: How much would I have to pay you to come […]

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  • Alexandre - In this post there’s some recurrent self-worth and ownership thought process that is of value. But I have another question (based on pure curiosity) for you: what’s the psychology, if any, behind your topic unrelated photos in between blocks of text?ReplyCancel

    • Jeannine - A, I like the way you phrased that question, it made me smile :) I was surprised at the photos too! and then my mind wondered why? and then I thought: Poetry. Peaceful. Beautiful. So much history of poets inspired by nature / forests. I think the pictures describe the feeling I get from a pretty piece of poetry. So to me, the photos artistically add to the article in a lovely way :) Thank you for your encouragement, Jenika!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hi Alexandre! Thanks for asking. I appreciate curiosity. I have several reasons for posting images that might seem ‘unrelated’:

      1) My blog breaks just about every rule there is about how long blog posts should be. This post is a notable exception – most posts average 1500-2000+ words, which most people in the blogging world would say is “too long.” Yet somehow, people still read them 😉 However, people do skim and skip ahead when they read online, or scroll to see how long something is. And when people see a long stream of unbroken text, they are more likely to abandon it altogether or say “I’ll read this later” (and never do). So I use images largely as visual rest between bigger points. Or, in this post, as a way to prevent someone seeing the second question before they’ve considered the first – as a hedge against skimming ruining the reading experience.

      2) So the above is ‘why use images’ but you asked ‘why are they unrelated.’ There are two big reasons. First, I hope to push back in the blogging world of posts being a quick hit of information, and hope to inspire people to ponder and consider. I don’t think of my blog posts as “posts” when I write them, I imagine that someone is actually sitting here with me in my office, or that we’re in a coffee shop or a classroom somewhere, and I’m telling them about something related to psychology that I think might help them. I’m personally deeply inspired by surroundings of nature, books, pens, ink, paper, and certain kinds of color. Such surroundings help me meditate and consider, and I include them here for that reason. Is that sentimental and perhaps a little self-indulgent? Perhaps, but pretty innocuously so. 😉 I’ve had lots of emails over the four years I’ve been blogging from people saying they appreciate the images for this reason though – that it’s a breath of fresh air, a rest, a calming presence, a unique thing to this site, or something that makes them happier, so I don’t think I’m alone in enjoying mood-appropriate photos of nature or book/word texture.

      The other big reason is – it doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot for me to go to, say, a financial site, and see images of money or business people shaking hands all over the place. Yes, people should include images and research bears up the idea that people are more likely to read things with images. But I don’t think trying to nail down abstract ideas into a literal depiction is the *only* way to go about that. I think images can set a tone and mood, but I think that can be achieved without showing an actual photograph ‘about’ your topic. My topics vary widely and most are quite abstract – this post for example, how do I depict a subtle confidence shift that undergirds your whole way of thinking and business dealings? A photo of someone in a cape or standing in a ‘power pose’? Wrong kind of confidence. Someone smiling subtly as they talk to a client? Maybe, but that’s also kind of general and the same photo could be added to posts on a thousand other topics, so does it really add a unique understanding to this one? Anyway, I think it’s fine when people use ‘stock’ photos well to show their topic, but given the intangible nature of many of these ideas, the high risk of cheesiness or overgeneralized boring-ness of trying to translate that into something photograph-able, and most importantly my own philosophy about what I want this blog to be, I go a different route. :-)

      Probably a longer answer than you bargained for! Have a fantastic day.ReplyCancel

  • Allison - This was perfect timing yesterday, as I was finishing my mini session announcement to go out this morning. Just the boost of reassurance I needed. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - So glad, Allison! :-) Always a joy to ‘see’ you around here. Hope you’re well.ReplyCancel

  • Robert Mullan - You have made a good point, however, I have met many photographers who totally overrate their work. In photography, I have seen examples of utter rubbish described in glowing terms by their talentless creators. I have eaten awful meals in overpriced restaurants, run by owners who knew more about marketing than cooking. I bought designer shoes that hurt my feet (never again). Used a ‘big name’ decorating company who made a mess of my house for an eye-watering fee. That was before I discovered a self-employed painter who put it right and charged me a reasonable rate. This man will NEVER be unemployed and still has a good standard of living from what he earns.
    I recently photographed the wedding of two barristers. They both were successful and both earned less per hour than I when I actually work. Each would be eminently qualified to defend me if I murdered someone. Which of us is overpaid?
    Yes, it’s nice to value one’s work, having confidence (very important) and taking pride are all good. When this value turns into unrealistic, grandiose notions – it’s just laughable.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hi Robert – thanks for taking time to read the post and leave these thoughts. I agree that this value, like any, can be taken too far and must remain in balance. (Tried to indicate that toward the end with some hyperbole about not arbitrarily charging a million dollars; I have made the mistake in the past of overburdening a post with too many caveats and reminders and chose not to here.) I have also suffered from bad meals at overpriced restaurants, designer clothing that is poor quality or painful, etc. Certainly there is enough extreme to be found.

      Bringing it back the other way, the reason I wrote this is that I get relatively few of the overconfident types interacting with me around here, but I do get a lot of correspondence via comments and email from people who do have good work and who struggle for various reasons, who are just stepping a toe into the entrepreneurial world and are weighed down by guilt and baggage related to self-promotion, who believe their work is worth seeing but struggle emotionally as they mentally translate that into monetary terms. They whisper when they should speak clearly, and their feelings influence far more than they realize. This post is for them. The overconfident need no encouragement and would think our caveats don’t apply to them anyway 😉ReplyCancel

  • Brad Barlow - This is one of those posts that felt like it was written just for me. That’s heavy on my mind right now. Thank you for making me feel like I can stand up straight and just breathe.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Deep breaths! You’ve got this. Best of luck to you in finding the right mix of confidence, humility, hard work, and inspiration to carry you forward.ReplyCancel

  • Evan - Bam.
    That is all.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Milito - Love this. It’s a healthier and smarter way of thinking! We truly do have to believe in ourselves and that what we offer is unique and special.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks Kristin. I like little shifts in thinking that can make big changes. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Marit Welker - I needed this today, but I also needed the comments. I don’t lack confidence, but lately my work is not received as well based on my pricing, especially with the quality of my work. (Good but not great). So finding the balance is important. Thanks to you AND the commenters above.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Glad to hear it, Marit, and yes – thanks to Robert for commenting above and adding a new dimension on balance.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - I can’t seem to accept this truth : Your existence is not a burden on others. I have a few creative talents and people are *constantly* telling me to go into business for myself. But every time I try, it fizzles out because I CANT charge people a fair price. I guess I see how those 2 things are related. It makes my husband and my best friend (a savvy entrepreneur) crazy. Cliché, I know, but it probably goes back to my mom constantly reminding me that she couldn’t wait until I was grown so she could live her life. She had it pretty rough, can’t blame her.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Big hug to you. Sounds like this is a big block for you, and I don’t expect to be able to wave a magic wand with a reply to your blog comment, BUT. It’s true. You’re here regardless of what other people think about that fact, and since you’re here, you might as well do what you are capable of doing, and let that support you. Yes, you can use your time and talents to work for other people, or not work at all, but you can also give your resources of creativity and receive others’ resources of monetary compensation in return. There’s nothing wrong with asking for that kind of exchange. Sounds like your mama wasn’t able to give you all the support that you needed, but in the end you’ll probably need to get to a place where you can see that her disappointments are her business to deal with and ultimately have nothing to do with you as a human being, creative soul, or contributor to this planet. Not denying the impact on you, or how hard that shift can be, but it’s true that you’re now an independent soul who can choose your own path regardless of what someone thought of you. Sounds like you’ve got a husband and BFF who are there for you now and you can enjoy their support now. Keep going.ReplyCancel

  • Kath - I too struggle to see my own value sometimes so this post was great for me. Feels crazy to be paid to do what I love when so many people don’t have the same good luck so feels like I am on this never ending see-saw of building myself up and believing in myself and then being brought back down by negative talk. Any ideas on how to keep things in balance?ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - What kind of negative talk is bringing you down? Your own, or others’?ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - Such great insight. I think the hard thing being a photographer is finding which monetary exchange for work provided is fair. There is such a wide gamut of pricing from those stepping into the market and not pricing very high to those trying to compete in the hard middle market.ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - Wow. Yup, exactly what I needed to hear. Because yes, I’ve been guilty alot of feeling a lack of worth in my work, and I’ve seen the difference in the sale when I’m feeling positive and confident about my pricing and how I present it. Thank you. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Marisela - I greatly enjoyed reading this! Insecurity is such a sneaky emotion. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Cruz - Oh Jenika, Talk about timing. I messed up. I did a senior session which I haven’t in so long I forgot that I raised the price, so when the mom asked how much she owed I quoted the old. She questioned it and said, no that’s fine. Darn it! I raised prices because my skill level is higher and yet I let the creative drive instead of the business person who would have been able to quote tax and correct price. Ah well. I liked the visual I had on pondering the reading and hope that will stick with me for next time. Also, I adore the ‘unrelated’ image of the baby because she’s a blue eyed gush of beauty and I smiled to know you are all well. You’re writing always draws me in. Keep those well timed moving messages of love coming. Cheers! SarahReplyCancel

  • Seshu - Jenika – YES! Mindset has so much to do with success. Loved this short post. Sharing it with the world of course!ReplyCancel

  • John - Great piece! You now owe me $3.27 for reading it. LOL Just kidding, of course. You bring up very good points. Our own perceptions and bias can sometimes create an obstacle that only *we* see.ReplyCancel

  • Dawn - Jenika, you always give us much to consider. Thank you for this post. Pricing seems to be one of the hardest parts of running a creative business. On the one hand, people are trying to run a business, so they need to be profitable. It does take nerve to be at the top end of the market. But, creative folks are often sensitive folks and it can feel wrong to charge prices that are higher than the average. On the other hand, if they set prices too low, they are competing on price, which is not a good place to be. Plus, at the low end, a creative must work more hours for less money and the quality of clients might not value their work at all, which leads to frustration. What to do? The middle isn’t necessarily the best option, either.ReplyCancel

  • KarahC - I love love love this. This has been a real struggle of mine to learn how to truly value what I offer.ReplyCancel