Many film producers, photographers, SEO consultants and even therapists have the same common complaint: the growing trend of so-called professional consumers, also known as prosumers, is making it difficult for them to make a living. I definitely understand your frustration, as this is an issue that impacts my career on a daily basis. Before we can determine how to combat this issue, however, we must first recognize the very real issues that it is causing and where these problems stem from.
The Internet Age
The Internet and the resulting boom of the information age have helped professionals in many ways. For example, it is now easy to get the word out about a new film project because YouTube enables anyone to upload trailers and other applicable videos. Filmmakers are also able to benefit from the instant connection that comes from creating a fan page for each of their movies. These wonderful aspects of the Internet age have made it much easier to get even the smallest indie movie in front of a mainstream audience, and there is now a big push to bring quality movies to a home audience more quickly by utilizing Video On Demand, RedBox, Netflix and various websites that host streaming videos. All of these perks make professionals happy with many of the changes that the Internet age has ushered in, but there is definitely one change that my contemporaries are not happy with.
Advent of the Pro-Sumer
An alarming and growing trend is the high amount of consumers who believe that they are able to accomplish anything that a professional can do for a cheaper price. For example, there are thousands of people who own a moderately priced DSLR camera who have decided that they are just as skilled as a professional photographer. In some cases, the so-called prosumer will even go so far as to take a few classes or watch a bunch of how-to videos on YouTube, and they will then label themselves as an advanced hobbyist or even a beginning professional. Anyone who actually makes a living with photography knows just how preposterous this is. However, as long as consumers continue to buy into the belief that they can match a professional’s skill level by simply buying an expensive camera, there will continue to be quality photography studios going out of business at the same time as inferior photographs are being hung on walls around the world.
SEO consultants are also dealing with the damaging effects of the Google factor. Because most people now believe that they can simply look up anything that they need to know on Google, there are a lot of highly skilled SEO consultants who are competing against people who have only read a few articles on SEO techniques. Unfortunately, the current economy has forced a lot of people to be as frugal as possible, and this sometimes means that they will end up hiring a person who is not actually going to be able to help them meet their SEO goals. By the time they figure this out, though, they will have spent their SEO budget, and they might also become convinced that all SEO consultants are peddling an inferior service.
The prevalence of digital cameras has also encouraged would be filmmakers from all over the globe to bring their vision to life. In some instances, these independent productions can actually showcase a raw talent that big movie studios become extremely excited about. In most cases, however, the results are shoddy, and they cast independent film making as whole in a negative light. Although it is definitely a good idea for a filmmaker to refuse to let the studio system stand in the way of their making their dreams come true, it is important to work with people who understand how to make your movie look its best. When you hire your best friend to operate the camera instead of a professional camera operator, you should not be surprised when people say that watching your film makes them feel nauseous due to all of the unnecessary camera movement.
How to distinguish yourself from the Prosumer as a Professional
So how do we move forward in a world that is forcing professionals to compete with prosumers by utilizing blogs and other soapbox techniques? The first thing that needs to happen is that we all need to take the necessary steps to educate consumers about the difference between having the money to buy a camera and having the technical skill and experience to actually use it properly. A good rule of thumb is to ask people if they would expect a lawyer to freely offer advice and tips by using the giant soapbox that is known as the world of Internet blogging. Most people will instantly realize how silly it is to think that a skilled lawyer is going to give them something for nothing. Once someone has come to this realization, you can easily tie it into every other professional trade in the world. After all, if a consumer believes that the best lawyers are the ones who do not work for free, then why should they expect to receive quality results from someone who has no professional training as a film producer, SEO consultant or a photographer?
Educating Starts with You Get What You Pay For
Aside from educating consumers, the only other way that we are going to start changing this growing trend is if we band together and refuse to participate in the way that prosumers expect us to. In other words, it is time to stop giving out free tips on how to produce a movie and start placing a high value on our work again. Consumers are never going to respect us or our respective trades if we continue to give them our services for free or for next to nothing. Instead, we must demonstrate the difference in quality that a consumer will receive when they pay our required fee. For example, if you are a professional photographer, you might want to consider asking a few people who have taken very poorly composed family photographs if they will trade you the rights to utilize those photographs in your advertisements in exchange for a free portrait. By showcasing the vast difference in quality, you can make consumers begin to understand why it makes more sense to pay you $150 an hour instead of having a friend take their next family portrait.
Setting the bar to earn respect
The Internet age is not going to go away, and we will always be competing with prosumers. If we can stop hiding from this fact and begin using their lack of quality results to our advantage, however, we can earn back the respect of potential customers and have a viable career.
Juliana Reed is able to offer much insight from the creative industry after 6 years of personal representation of those in film industry who offer Film Production Budgeting, and Script Consultation. If you are looking to explore the film profession, start your journey in screenwriting, or are looking to revamp your career in film industry, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, she will gladly point you to someone who can help.