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Let’s pretend that you take up swimming as a sport. You show up at the pool every morning, practicing your strokes and lowering your times.ย  You’re feeling pretty good about how it’s going and can see lots of improvement!ย  You get up the confidence to join a local swimming league, and sign up for a […]

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  • Anna - Brilliant post, so insightful. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - Yours is the ONLY email I never fail to open, read, re-read and internalise and SAVE. I can’t get enough…

    And this one hits home.

    Lifelong sabotage carried over into business sucks. And I am still a work-in-progress.

    (Congratulations to you and your family on the new addition coming soon!)


    Yes please…if you get a cjance and are so-inclined…peruse my website and maybe suggest ways I can improve it? Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Karen Pickering - Wow, I do find myself making excuses sometimes for sure.
    It’s so easy to default into this ” self handicapping ” mode.
    I have been checking in on myself of late to pay attention to my internal feedback and challenge myself to make positive growth… thank-you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Dorothy Perry - Thank you, Jennika:

    This post is on self-handicapping is really valuable for someone working to address emotions around creativity, money and revitalizing her goals without blame, shame or invalidation.

    Your insightful and inspirational posts help remind me to see the wisdom that every step, even failure, has to teach.ReplyCancel

  • Vickie Earls - I graduated medical secretary college in 2006. The externship wasn’t hiring so I set out with confidence that I would find a job. HA! HA! I got one job because a friend of mine helped me out, but the Dr didn’t buy the practice so she ended up closing the office. I got 4 months of experience from that job. It has been 11 years since college and only one job for four months. Talk about discouraging! I was determined to get a job that would get me experience – hence….where I am working now as a live-in Front Desk Receptionist at Kingsville Motel. Not what I wanted, but it is what I chose to take. I could have waited for something else. I now need to get another job because this isn’t working out for me. Hence, trying to start my photography business. I have told myself over and over that I am no good at sales because I tried to do Mary Kay and failed miserably at it. While I watched all the others climb that ladder and grab their dreams, I was struggling just to talk to people about make-up!

    Thank you so much for this post, it really knocked me in the head with a 2×4! DONK! Stop that! Teeheehee!ReplyCancel

Here’s the dialogue in a scene from one of my favorite movies. See if you can spot what bugs me about it: —– Kathleen: Do you want the West Side to become one gigantic strip mall? Crowd: No! Kathleen: Do you want to get off the subway at 72nd and Broadway, and not even know […]

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  • Mark Hazelton - I think I have fallen for this tactic myself. I would love to try this. Trying to think of how I could use this in my field of photography. I do headshots for real estate agents and other business people and can’t think of what I would say. I’ll have to brainstorm this some more. And thanks Jenika for the post.

    • Jenika - Hey Mark! A simple way for real estate agents might be to say, over the phone – “do you think that great photos get more buyers in the door on a property they are selling?” To which they would have to say yes (there is data backing that up). And then you could say “what about photos helps, do you think?” and let them talk. And then say “do you think a good photo of yourself could have the same effect?” Real estate agents of all people should have deep convictions and life experience on the power of good photos + first impressions!! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Lindsey Slattery - What about if you did something like a comparison w/ a non-professional / selfie shot vs. one of yours and ask a question about who someone would want to hire/trust with their home buying process?ReplyCancel

      • Jenika - Great idea Lindsey – comparison shots are ALWAYS a strong argument! In this case you could precede it with a comparison shot of a house and ask them which more buyers would be interested in + get a better first impression of, and then a comparison shot of the headshot and ask which one people would trust more + have a better first impression of? Doubling it with something they’re already familiar with brings in their expertise and makes the consistency clear.ReplyCancel

  • Kim Bova - Brilliant, thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - Thank you so much for this. First question is posted on my Facebook page, and I’ll be changing up my website contact formโ€ฆ and perhaps some of the text! I’ll also try this technique in my next email.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Oooh, I love it when people jump in right away. Yay!! Let me know how it goes!ReplyCancel

  • Valerie - great info. thanks for sharing. it was almost so easy, i missed it then i kept reading. i will try some of these very soon.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yay! My pleasure – thanks for reading. Hope you find the techniques useful!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - Great information! It’s so true as I thought thru my own interactions with other businesses. Thanks for sharing in such a great way, and BTW love the movie ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - It’s neat when you have a label for something and can suddenly see it everywhere in my life. I LOVE that, it feels like magic, like I’m ‘in’ on something. Anyway, I hope that you find a fun way to put this into practice. And yes – amazing movie! The script is truly a masterclass in the art of writing short, short stories. I talk about one part of it in Irresistible Words too, and I’m sure I’ll reference it again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your note, Jennifer!ReplyCancel

  • Marie - Gosh, I always love the insights you share. I will have to spend some time mulling over how to use this for good. Thank you, Jenika!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks Marie!! I appreciate your comment and kindness, as always!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - This makes so much sense! I am wanting to do more pet photography sessions so I’m going to think of how I can apply it to that purpose. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Awesome! I hope you get more shoots! Pets are a great one to use this for because most pet owners would do anything for their pets, so framing hiring you as consistent with the level of care, love, and meaning they have with their pets would probably have positive results. I know for sure that people regret not having more photos of pets so I hope you help many people on that front.ReplyCancel

  • Paul Smith - Great article Jenika, as so many of yours are. I would love to apply this to a marketing campaign myself but unsure how to apply it to Logo design/Graphic design services. I’m sure theres a way though, thanks for giving me something to think about ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hey Paul! I bet there are lots of ways you could apply it. A simple one might be to give site visitors a “quiz” and say something like “which company would you trust?” and have side by side comparisons of pro logos and bad/less refined logos. And then at the end make the point – you chose all the pro logos, so why not take yours pro? And have a book now button. So the principle is, a series of decisions that is consistent with hiring you. Just one example. Hope it helps you brainstorm.ReplyCancel

      • Paul Smith - Hi Jenika,

        Thanks for your response, that’s a great idea. I’ll brainstorm with my team along those ideas and see what we can come up with, thanks very much ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Heather - When you were helping me with my website copy, you had me add a question to my contact form asking potential clients about a recent family adventure (which fits my brand perfectly). I love it so much! It gives me a better understanding of who they are and gives me a way to connect personally. People seem to really like that question because they go into great detail. I’ve never thought of the psychology behind it, but now i’m curious to see if the longer answers relate to higher bookings ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yes! Elaborating on personal experiences connects them to you for many reasons including this one. I would also be curious how longer or more thoughtful answers related to bookings. The best measure would be how deeply they thought about their values which you can’t measure exactly but quality of response could be a decent enough proxy to look at. Anyway, I love what you do! If I ever come to Hawaii you will be my first call.ReplyCancel

  • Weatherly - So Iโ€™m torn about this strategy. Maybe because I have seen it used plenty of times and it makes me hestitant to answer questions. For instance, a friend asked if anyone had a specific genetic marker. I answered thinking she had just been diagnosed, but nope, it was a ploy to sell a multivitamin that could โ€œhelpโ€ with it. It felt cheap. Now it makes me leary to respond to questions like this or even ask them myself because I donโ€™t want to come across as disingenuous. Any pointers?ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Great question. The first step to not being disingenuous is to genuinely not be. I mean that seriously. You can use ANY concept in a disingenuous way – it’s not the nature of the concept it’s the way it used.
      The second thing is to pay attention to where you’re using it. If you’re using it on your branded FB page, on your company website, it’s going to be clear to any visitor that this relates to your business in some way. If you posted questions like this on your personal page and then sprung a pitch on people, that could feel icky because people thought they were answering a friend. That is, my guess, why your friend’s tactic felt cheap – you thought you were answering a friend as relates to her, but it turned out to be a business thing. Thinking something is one thing and it turning out to be another is a major source of negative dissatisfaction (I’ve blogged about that before – it’s always something to pay close attention to in business). If you only use it in branded channels there is no bait and switch. If MailChimp or or the local salon asks me a question like this on their FB page or email sign-up, I might not know where they’re headed with it, but I always know that their goal is ultimately to stay in business and it will, somehow, relate to that goal.
      Beyond that, things like not getting overly personal with questions and never sharing their answers further without permission are basic courtesies that go a long way. Asking someone what they love about their kids right now could be personal but can also be funny or simply sweet, it’s really up to the person and they get to be the judge of how much or whether to share – you’re not probing deeply there or requiring anything, so I have no qualms asking it. I would not ask for genetic marker information on something that would stay public though, for example. Or ask people to delve into their last marital fight or something (< -- that would make no sense in a photography setting, but it might if I were a marriage counselor selling courses about how to fix different relationship problems. In that case, anyone coming across the sign-up was probably already coming with that problem in mind, so asking gently about it in an email sign-up scenario where they then received solutions tailored to their issue would not be a bait-and-switch). Point being: Anything you do should match the tone of your overall site and presence. Hope these ideas help!ReplyCancel

  • Steph+Tim - BRILLIANT. yes and yesReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Miriam - Good response. It makes total sense. I nearly always share my business posts to my personal Facebook wall because I have way more “reach” that way. This reminds me that I need to be clear about my purpose when I ask questions. I am going to try this idea right now!ReplyCancel

You’re rushing to get on an airplane.ย  As you sit down and pull out your headphones, the stranger next to you asks what you do. You answer, “Photography.” And they say “oh what a nice hobby!” and launch into a story about their niece who got a nice camera for Christmas, and is getting “pretty […]

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  • Derer - Thank you for this nice article Jenika!
    Great advice which reminds me a bit of martial art where you deflects your attacker’s move by using his energy to hit back ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Charlotte Reeves - Great blog post Jenika! I have this issue so often – I usually just say “photographer” to start with, and then when they ask what kind of photographer and I say “pet photographer” – the most common response is actually that people laugh! They seem to think it’s a bit of a joke. That’s usually followed by a question along the lines of “how much of a demand is there for that?” like they doubt I am making a living from it. I actually dread people asking me what I do these days. Lately I’ve been adding that I teach photography too – which seems to somehow legitimise what I do. But I feel like I shouldn’t have to do that!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Gaaaaaaaah, I have been hearing that from a lot of pet photographers. I mean you can play with the words (“animal photographer”?) but ultimately people who have never seen your gorgeous gorgeous work are the ones missing out. My husband gets different reactions if he tells people he’s a musician, a composer, a conductor, a choral conductor, a music teacher, a college professor – all evoke different, incomplete ideas even though it’s all under the same job umbrella.

      Glad we’re all on the same team though about putting creative work into the world and hopefully teaching others there are many ways to make a living!ReplyCancel

  • Claire - Charlotte, that’s AMAZING that you are such a niche photographer and WORK IT! Way to go! That’s gotta be 1.) tough to shoot 2.) tough to market to your specific perfect clientele!

    I am absolutely sure that when people laugh, it must really hurt. That stinks, but man I would just love to hear you set people back in their shoes and straight up tell them how successful you’ve been. I know that’s the opposite of Jenika’s advice- but I would just love to hear, “I know it’s crazy- but we’re actually going gang-busters! I’m booked up until May and loving every minute of it! I get to make people happy, preserve memories of their best friends, and steer a thriving business that keeps growing every year! I’m really blessed.”ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Love your thoughts + support. And if someone asks “how much demand is there for that?” I think it’s a perfectly reasonable reply “I’m booked up until May!” Gentle education is totally within the realm of letting them sort out their own opinion. It’s mostly, I think, about the emotion you feel when you’re doing it. ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Charlotte - Jenika and Claire – thanks so much for your replies, ideas and support! I am sorry it’s taken me so long to respond – I’ve been overseas. I do actually usually respond with how busy and in-demand I am haha – though I feel then like I am bragging and that sets off another bout of awkwardness within me! I guess it doesn’t matter what people think anyway, right?ReplyCancel

  • Rachael - Oh, Jenika, I love everything you write! I love this non-defensive this approach is, and I’m just thinking about how applicable it is in so many difficult situations.

    Also, I want to point out that a lot of creatives can do this to ourselves. I’ve heard so many people say “I don’t feel like I have a real job”. And always what I say to these friends is “real money, real job”. If you’re making money, then you certainly have a “real” job (whatever that is!). It’s hard to do something atypical, and I struggle with feeling valid in business myself sometimes, and I think this valuation starts with us.

    Love your posts, lady! xoReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thank you for the kind words! It’s lovely to hear from you!

      “Real money real job” – I like that motto! I completely agree with you that it has to start with us. In fact, I didn’t get into this in the article for space’s sake, but part of the reason it can sting to hear this is because we feel self-conscious about it. Like if someone said to me “Jenika you have weird short hair” I’d be like “huh? what are you talking about?” because I have super long hair. It would totally register as untrue and I’d blow it off. Some people who are struggling to feel validated about their work would be even more cut to the core by invalidation. (Though invalidation stinks even if you’re confident.) Anyway I hope we can all embrace the ever-wider landscape of employment including self-employment and feel good about that!ReplyCancel

I stared at the ticket website on my phone.ย  Then called out to my husband – “I absolutely cannot make one more decision.” We had arrived in Oslo, Norway, and pulled up to our Airbnb in a rental car.ย  We wanted to go downtown to see an art museum, so I found the public transit […]

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  • Jeff Dean - Wow that realy hit home. I just finished my website after 3 years working on it. I haven’t liked it but could not figure out why. Now i know why! Its not simple. Thanks for the help!!!ReplyCancel

  • Dave - Sometimes figuring out the optimal isn’t worth the delta from the less favorable choice. If it takes you 10 minutes to figure out that you’d save $2 on the best ticket option, after spending $3000 to get to the place… Maybe it’s better to just get the easiest ticket and go about enjoying the trip.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - If that were the situation, then I’d agree since I’m not one to quibble over $2. But daily sum total margins of error of $20-70 or more on a 2.5-week trip add up fast. Thankfully I didn’t spend $3k getting there, I used points. Smart travel = more travel. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But at any rate, lots of the hurdles faced weren’t really about the money but the pure logistics of tickets and buses and trains and parking, all in translation on the fly, creating a cumulative situation. And that is a lesson well-applied when we want people to make decisions favorable to us. Thanks for reading!ReplyCancel