Do famous chefs have amazing ovens?
“These photos are unbelievable. You must have an amazing camera.”
My client who happened to be one of the most prominent investors in the world, worth billions (yes, with an s), and one of the kindest super-successful people I’ve ever met said this to me after I delivered his wedding photographs.
I felt comfortable with him. He made everyone I ever saw around him feel comfortable.
So I smiled. And I quickly made the decision to reply honestly but softened it with light humor, “Do you think famous chefs have amazing ovens?”
He laughed (thankfully). And then he told me I’d make a fantastic lawyer. And then I laughed.
I always remember this moment in my career. It’s etched in my memory. Because it’s one of the most important learning experiences I’ve had.
At that point in my career, I had reached well BEYOND my goals as a creative entrepreneur. I proved everyone wrong—you can make money with an art degree!
My client list kept getting better and better. And he was literally my perfect avatar for my luxury wedding photography client list.
But even in his infinite success and wisdom and even though he was one the most amazing clients in every way I ever dreamed of working with, he still thought my camera made all that magic happen.
In that single comment, that he intended as a compliment, he inadvertently dismissed:
the extensive planning I invest in organizing an assignment to be successful
the team I built to help execute everything seamlessly
two decades of real-world experience practicing my craft
all my years formal education, training, and mentoring
my ability to read people and situations with high emotional intuition
my experience to know what gear, lighting, and composition works in high stress situations
my ability to know how to use my gear to express ideas
my ability to find clients that match my vision
(I can keep going but I think you get my point)
Did he mean to say these things? No. But that’s what I heard in his compliment.
And here’s the important part—he taught me valuable lessons at a high point in my career when you’d think my lesson learning days would be over. (Hint: lesson learning never ends.)
Somewhere along the way I didn’t educate him enough on that fact that he hired me…not my “amazing” camera.
Be sure you make the value YOU bring to your clients crystal clear.
Educate your clients relentlessly.
And always keep your eyes open and ears listening for lessons your clients can teach you no matter what career stage you’re in now.
You are the value. Not your camera, or your oven, or any tools you use solve your client’s problem.
Don’t forget it.