I really value Boris and his connection to Big Inc. He is always asking me the right questions when I begin to waver like: What is your ROI? As an artist it is easy to sit in ones ivory tower creating photographs and not take the time to step back and think about ideas like “Return on Investment (ROI)”.
What is ROI? It is a business term used to measure rates of return on money invested in an economic project to determine if it is a succes and should be continued. It is a slippy formula at best and like all business ideas, I am wary of taking any of it too seriously.
Yet I can’t help but look at what I am doing and wonder if it is all worth it.
My toy photography has definitely passed beyond the realm of hobby, beyond the simple idea of passion and moved into that grey area of commerce. I spend a considerable amount of my creative energy working on this blog, keeping up to date on Instagram, trying to figuring out Facebook and creating a presence on Google+. I even manage to spend a few minutes every day editing or actually taking photos. Of course when I look at the actual money that I spend collecting the latest mini figure or money spent ordering custom mini figures, the cost is even higher.
I realize I am in pretty deep here with this toy photography project when I consider both real and creative costs. So as a responsible business person, I have to ask myself, what is my return on this investment?
Would I be taking photographs of toys and LEGO if there was not a social media platform to be posting the results too? Absolutely! Like Boris and Kristina before me, I have written that I would be doing this if social media did not exist. Would I be doing it to this large an extent and with this much passion? If I am honest with myself, probably not.
So what do I get out of all this energy and money invested in what is undoubtedly a money losing proposition?
- A sense of self. It is a whole lot more fun to introduce myself at parties as a LEGO photographer than as a bookkeeper. Trust me the conversations that result from discussing toy photography and LEGO are far more interesting than the intricacies of QuickBooks and the best online filing systems.
- Community. I know we have talked about this before, but it can never be stressed enough. In a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams it is wonderful to connect with like minded individuals across the globe. We have written about how amazing it was for all of us who attended the Baltic Toy Safari to meet for the first time as strangers, yet we all knew that we weren’t, not really. We had interacted enough on different social media platforms that we came together as friends. It is this community spirt of joy and friendship that keeps me coming back.
- An opportunity to give back. Honestly I love sharing with you my experiences as a photographer, both in my distant past as well as current adventures. I love looking for interesting articles, documentaries, mini figures and photo tips to share here. I love it when I see these thoughts and ideas reflected back to me through the filter of social media.
You are probably wondering where all this ROI discussion is coming from. If you are not aware, the StuckinPlasic crew is about to open a second group show at the Bryan Ohno Gallery on November 5th. As the bills begin to come due on this next show I try to keep my eye on what is really important, the intangibles that I outlined above. I also have the thrill (and no, I do not use that word lightly) of seeing my images off the screen, printed on fine paper and framed beautifully. It is as if these five framed prints are the culmination of an entire years work. It is a heady experience.
Can an artist look to business formulas to assess whether or not an art project is successful and should be continued? In my opinion, you can and should. I think that no matter what decisions you make you have to make them looking at all the data, both financial and emotional.
No matter how successful (or unsuccessful) this next group show will be for me personally, I know I will be coming back for more. Although I may have to tweak the formula.
What return do you get from your toy photography investment that makes it worth while?
Over the past year or so, I’ve begun to associate my LEGO town and photography with my main pursuit as a writer of novels for tweens and teens. So while I’m not a professional toy photographer and have no investment in equipment, I do have a lot of money and time invested in a town that I enjoy building and gives me something to share with my young readers.
Lynn, Thank you for sharing how you are currently using your LEGO. These plastic bricks certainly are a great device to make a connection with your young readers. Sometime I think that LEGO is its own language that crosses (almost) all cultures.
I think all of us here, who are stuck in plastic, have an oversized investment in plastic. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional toy photographer (what does that even mean?) or a casual hobbiest, it is always good to take stock and look at why you are pursuing that path. ROI seems as good a tool as any.
Thank you for joining the conversation!