Think through the grandest possible vision for your business. Go ahead. Do it. Dream the dream. And then write it down.Don’t be shy. Don’t hold back. Be bold. Be daring. Be confident.
In our digital age, no matter your age- a professional headshot is a critical component of a polished personal brand.
For anyone older than the era of Selfies, Instagram and Snapchat, having your photo taken, let alone having it be so publicly accessible, can be quite uncomfortable. Even stomach churning. We get it. But what we also get, is how standing-out allows you to stand-up and start-up. So move past the hurdle and take your shot- literally!
At THE JILLS we're passionate about Personal Branding, since we recognize that without a story to tell and an awesome book cover to sell it, often amazing talent may sit dusty, never to be found. Sadly, we've seen it happen too often, particularly with anyone born well before the iPhone era. It's the reason why we lead so many Personal Branding workshops and presentations, making sure that anyone, especially solo professionals, can market themselves well within today's high visual standards.
Putting your face forward is one way to carve out a unique brand identity, one that best showcases your personality and style. A great headshot is the anchor of today's personal branding. It reflects your style, confidence, and a bit of your personality. It humanizes & personalizes your skills and expertise. So we are boldly stating that you need a GREAT headshot, not just a good one to put your best foot- and face- forward. Follow our tried and true guidelines below to revamp, or altogether reinvent your headshot.
1. SETTING: Your personal brand should tell a story about who you are, what you bring to the table and set a specific tone. Select a locale that cues up your area of interest, such as: an art gallery for Creatives, a natural park setting for Environmentalists, a library for Researchers, a coffee shop for Writers, a sleek black backdrop for Techies, a lab for STEM Scientists. Ask yourself, if you are the main character in your play, where is the stage set? This is not your vacation selfie, not shot in a bar with your mates. The setting says "you" but it also first and foremost must say "professional".
2. WARDROBE: As in any compelling shot, chunky shapes and strong contrasts make the image interesting. Think about your setting and what will set best against it to jump-out, versus blend in. Your colors should be bold, and patterns can be an excellent visual to tee up your style vibe. Just make sure the pattern isn't too jumpy, or it will distract from your bright happy face. Scarves, hats, necklaces, earrings, bracelets are all great accessories to bring into the scene, providing that they speak to your style and speak it loudly, in terms of scale and impact. Layering lots of necklaces can work too as an alternative to one statement piece. Your headshot outfit represents your work day, on your very best day. It shouldn't read party or picnic.
3. ART DIRECTION: This is where the true flavor really ramps-up the overall image impact. An interesting pose and face position adds to your unique shot. Don't be afraid to try an angle that is outside of the traditional face-front straight on composition. A slight high-hover can be successful, as can a sideways full or 3/4 turn that plays up your face. Asymmetrical poses with you off to one side or the other, can make for a very interesting and memorable shot, too. Just a caution, though, that this approach may be limiting on certain applications. If you like it, go for it.
4. EXPRESSION: You absolutely need to honor where your comfort is with the tone that you want to project, but the general rule of thumb is a friendly, happy, approachable mood. Your head shot often now serves as your first professional introduction, so think about how you want your new connection to "meet you". A more serious non-smile can also work, but just be sure that you aren't saying somber.
Lastly, Ellen DeGeneres can pull it off as only she can, but cheeky or silly never works for a professional headshot. Seriously, never.
5. COMPOSITION: Once you have the setting, wardrobe, and expression feeling right, the next step is to crop the image so that your face is the main focus. This typically means that you will make up about 3/4 of the whole image. Keep that in mind when you are selecting your accessories and outfit. Just the top pop of it shows up in the final image. Not often, but on occasion, a fun head-to-toe shot is the best way to sum up your setting and story. In this case, every detail truly matters, and there should be nothing in the background that doesn't belong there.
6. STYLING: An all too often forgotten step in the photography process- even by photographers- is the styling. Styling can be what sets apart a great shot from a just ok one. Styling means you- or a trusted and creatively-critical eyed friend, checks for: fly aways hairs, smudges on the cheek, smudged lipstick, a run-away toddler in the background, a crooked necklace, one collar tucked in & the other left out, wrinkles on a blouse, a dry-cleaning ticket on the outside of a jacket sleeve (this actually happened, and was a bear to edit out). The key take-away here is to plan the big idea of the shot, but also don't forgot about the tiny details. You'll be so happy you took the time to correct these little nuisances on set, instead of trying to edit later or having to scrap the series.
7. CAMERA CONSIDERATIONS: For the best lighting, take the shot mid-day, if possible and have the sun shining from behind the camera. One of the best lighting set-ups is indoors near a window, which creates soft shadows for depth and helps the skin to glow. You can work solo with a selfie stick and a black or white foam core board placed behind you. Or, you can ask your friend to man the camera. Today's lastest phones have fairly decent resolutions so if need be, use a phone camera in a pinch rather than not updating your head shot at all. But no doubt, a pro is the best route to ensure high quality.
8. EDITING: If you're going the self-serve approach, you too can utilize available photo editing tools or apps, to brighten up the saturation, remove blemishes, and smooth out any distractions. This is a nice to do, rather than a need to do, but it will certainly polish up the overall image.
In addition to the excellent head shots in the Jills Gallery, here a few more examples to get you thinking...
Co-Founders of the recent startup, THE JILLS OF ALL TRADES™, Megan and Corinne have been building portfolio careers over the past 25 years that have taught them to work smarter, live fuller, and carve their own niche. Here they share some of their learning.
Find a community. Working solo is great, but not if you’re siloed. The promotional power of a community will put a spotlight on you more than you can independently. So find your people, know your tribe, meetup, chat, join a board, volunteer, play a sport, coach, take a class. It’s imperative for your personal and professional growth that you find a place of belonging - somewhere you can make a contribution. It is foundational, and can be the basis of establishing meaningful work.
Foster collaboration, not competition. There’s no corporate ladder to climb and no glass ceilings to shatter in your portfolio career so embrace this new work paradigm and shift the metaphor. There’s only space for one person at a time on that ladder anyway! Instead start lifting and linking others, and let your work life have the breadth and exploration of rock climbing, not ladder climbing. Mountains offer more; there’s more to see, more to explore, more to discover. So help someone find a new path, reach out your hand in someone’s aid, support a colleague from the bottom as you watch their ascent. Why? Because it feels great, and it’s more likely that they’ll do the same for you. You know what they say about that rising tide, all ships float. Plus those blue skies while you’re climbing together are just so much better than any ceiling, glass, or otherwise.
Connect by knot-working versus networking. Think about it. The best work comes when we don’t even feel like we’re working. The idea of knot-working is to truly build authentic relationships in authentic ways, well beyond passing out business cards at happy hours and adding people to LinkedIn. So make friends. Share your work. Tell your family about what you do. Display it. Write about it. Let others engage in it and engage with you. The power of personal connections is what builds sustainable professional relationships, so give knot-working a try. It might be exactly what you want from your portfolio career.
Establish an accountability partner. For real. Having weekly check-ins, on the phone or in-person, can totally change the time you spend working. Set goals together. Create timelines. Make lists. Then support each other. Offer feedback. Learn to receive suggestions and critiques. And be generous to each other.
Set boundaries. You’re juggling this portfolio of work presumably so that you are empowered to determine how you work, when you work, and what projects you want to take on. Portfolio careers are all about reconfiguring the work + life equation over and over to create the best you. In order to do this, take the time, every year, every month, or whenever it makes sense to write down your personal policies for work and your rules for engagement. Seriously, write them down. Post them predominantly. Return to them often. Share them with your accountability partner. Then stick to them.
The portfolio career truly offers the promise of establishing the right work life balance for you. But be patient, good work takes time to build.
There is so much to think about as a new business owner. From bank accounts to business entities, logos to managing social media, and about a million other pieces in between. it's enough sometimes to make you feel like there's just too much to do to even get started.
But don't get caught up in that kind of thinking. And don't start with the paint colors.
Start instead by understanding the business of YOU. Take the time to figure out your WHO, WHAT, WHY, HOW, and WOW, and you'll have the necessary foundation to build out the rest of your business.
WHO: Determine exactly who it is that you help? We all want to imagine that we can help everybody with our special talents and skills; that our door is open to everyone and anyone. But really understanding who you want to work with, and who your talents help the most, will allow you identify target customers. Taking time to do this work, helps you create your niche and the business you really want.
WHAT: Clearly define what it is that you do. What exactly are you doing that helps the target customers you defined. What pain point are you alleviating? What gain are you offering? What assets do you have? What activities are you performing? Being able to articulate the work that you do is essential. If you offer a variety of services, can you providing an overarching label for all of them. Considering your defined customers does it make sense to elevate one of your services? What about personal satisfaction
WHY: Ask yourself why are you helping these people and it can't just be to make money? Okay, it can be to make money, but that won't be enough to sustain you or your business. So don't be afraid to dream big on this one. How might the world, the community, your country change if you can successfully do your work for your target audience.
HOW: Articulate how you help these people? Different than your 'what', explain the way you work. Think first about speed, quality, and cost. Then consider the ways in which you interact. Are you highly personable and relational? Do you work seamlessly in 'the background'. Do you always make a deadline? Are you thought provoking? Do you challenge the status quo? Are you big picture, or small details? Be authentic about you 'how'. Trying to be someone else inside your own business is likely to lead to unhappiness for you and disenchantment for your customers.
WOW: Know your WOW! It is the combination of your WHO, WHAT, WHY, and HOW that makes your WOW. This is where you can begin to define your 'special sauce'. Think of how you can combine all this thinking into a sentence or two. I do 'this' for these 'people' in 'this' way so that 'this' can change for them, and 'this' can happen in 'our society/ community/ country/ planet'. Write it out as many possible ways as you can dream up, let it simmer, then see what version seems right for now. Practice your wow statement on family, friends, and clients. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in car. Practice with your pets. Try on lots of different versions. The point is to get really comfortable with your WOW statement. You'll revisit this statement over and over in the lifetime of your business as you change and grow. And this is exactly what you want.
You definitely don't have to have every piece of the puzzle figured out before you can start as a solopreneur, but knowing your WHO, WHAT, WHY, HOW and WOW can get you started.
And it'll likely help you figure out your paint colors too.