How To Become A Successful Full-Time Photographer In 1 Year: The Ultimate Guide – Part 2
- By: Steven McConnell
This post is part of a 3-part series on starting your own photography business. If you didn’t catch the beginning, you can find it here.
11. Create A Measurable Vision.
You need to be crystal clear about your direction.
If someone shakes you out of sleep at 3am and screams at you “where is your photography business going to be in 12 months time?”, you need to be able to give an answer. And you need to know how you’re planning to make it happen.
This is where most emerging photographers fail. Without a direction, there’s no way to choose which ideas you need to embrace and which to reject. There’s no rudder to steer you; you just end up at the mercy of thoughts, feelings and random ideas.
The vision that I followed for most of this year was this:
I don’t care how much I have to work each day – I just want to work in, and on, my photography business, making $50K per year.
I’ve recently changed that (to a new level) because I have a new set of goals, greater responsibilities and a vision for bigger things (hint: family), but having that vision was vital in helping me make effective day-to-day management decisions.
12. Where Are You Headed Right Now?
A few times every day I check in with myself and ask myself two simple questions:
- Right now, am I trying to get something or contribute something?
- Am I moving towards my goal (see point above) or away from it?
Sometimes I’ll catch myself reading some blog post or forum article I don’t really care about with the aim of leaving some nuisance spammy comment. That used to happen a lot, but these days I’ve mostly trained myself out of that.
These days, however, I tend to catch myself trying to read all of the stuff in my social media feeds. It’s addictive! And it’s important to do it, but one must find where to draw the line.
Point is – at any moment in time, you’re either getting closer to your goals or further away. Cultivate self-awareness and discipline so that every moment you’re heading in the right direction.
13. Value Proposition: Don’t Be Cheap.
Your value proposition will make or break your business. Another way of saying “value proposition” is: how are you different to other photographers out there?
Most new photographers try to create more value for the consumer by being cheaper than the other guy.
It’s the easiest, which also makes it the most overused path. The second most overused one is to differentiate yourself on service (“we provide best service, fastest turn-around!”)
They’re both dead-end street because there’s always going to be someone else who will be willing to do photography cheaper and with a wider smile than you.
14. Value Proposition: Your Stand.
Your value proposition will emerge out of your stand (see point above Stand For Something). Sure, you need to produce amazing photography AND you have to offer great service AND you need to have competitive prices, but consumers expect those of you, anyway.
Which means that absence of them will count against you, but their presence doesn’t count much in your favour.
What will count in your favour, however is if people recognise that you’re on a mission and, by purchasing your services, they can become part of that mission as well.
Again, I’m pointing to a potential for doing evil here: you cannot fake this. Well, technically you could, but it won’t be financially successful. And you won’t experience fulfilment doing it.
(For example, you could declare that your photography business now donates to breast cancer causes because you care deeply about that issue. But unless you ooze that out of your every pore, there won’t be much power in that campaign – and I’ll assert that you’ll spend more on donations than you’ll see in increased revenue).
15. Make It Personable.
When you’re writing your website copy, don’t list your role as “CEO of Smith Photographics” or “Senior Principal Photographer at ACME Photography”.
If it’s just you in the business that’s perfectly fine. Avoid the temptation to sound bigger than you are by beginning to refer to yourself as “we”.
The days of trying to communicate an embellished image of yourself through your website are over. People want to interact with other people, not marketing cliches. Make your website tell your real story.
Make sure that who you are as a person communicates throughout the site. If you’re loud, chirpy, kind of weird in that artistic way and have an obsession with Orange Chupa Chups, then make sure your site communicates that.
Hell, make your logo have Chupa Chups in it (hope you don’t get sued for trademark infringement) and when people click on it, make it link to a page which tells your story details your obsession with them.
Seems boring, I know. But it will help a lot with staying in the contributor mindset more often – until it just becomes the norm for you.
Meditate a few times a week by paying attention to your thoughts as they run through your mind. Spend some time each week just sitting still, doing nothing. You’ll be surprised how many powerful ideas come to you when your mind chatter becomes quieter.
It may seem as a waste of time to do what seems as “doing nothing”. But that’s an illusion. The Western world has conditioned us to be unconsciously busy. We think we’re getting somewhere, but very often, we’re not. Stopping and meditating will help you to see through the illusions.
Garbage recycling companies are very profitable. That’s because they get paid by the council for providing the service of collecting your rubbish. Then they recycle your rubbish into metal and cardboard – and get paid again when they sell it to manufacturers.
If you’re not leveraging, you’re not getting ahead of your competitors. The good news is that when you’re a contributor, you’ll find yourself creating value that you can use in a number of ways effortlessly.
18. Real-Life Example Of Leveraging.
I have a principle that before every photoshoot I identify a weak point in my photography and focus on improving it during that shoot. It may be compositions, it may be communication with my subjects or it may be lighting.
Prior to the shoot, I’ll research the topic and read some articles on it. I’ll flick through a lot of photos, paying attention to that point. Then I’ll implement those tips during the shoot. Inevitably, I’ll have some of my own ideas about that aspect of photography as I go along.
After the shoot, I’ll put those thoughts into a blog post and offer it as a guest blog post somewhere that I think people can benefit from it. Often the process of writing the blog post will help me cultivate my ideas further, learn more and give me ideas for other topics.
The net result is happy customers, SEO benefit and exposure. Most of all, I’m constantly growing as a photographer and helping others to do the same, which is what brings me most fulfilment.
It’s a lot more interesting than doing crappy photoshoots, then having to worry about paying some SEO guy to write spun articles for me and to build spammy links.
19. Hammering It Home.
The point above ties back to the very first point I made about motivations: if you’re driven by a desire to contribute, then opportunities for growth will present themselves to you. And you’ll experience fulfilment and happiness while you’re doing it.
If you’re just in it to get something, life becomes a struggle.
I don’t mean to sound like a drone, I’m just hammering this point home because it will either kill or help skyrocket your photography business: if you look around and all you see is problems instead of opportunities, check in with yourself and examine your motivations.
Don’t move forward until you’re clear that you’re driven by a desire to contribute to fixing some problem out there.
This article is part of a 3-part series about becoming a full-time professional photographer. Read Part 3 here.