How To Become A Successful Full-Time Photographer In 1 Year: The Ultimate Guide – Part 3

This article is the last in a 3-part series which examines what it takes to become a professional photographer in 2013. Read Part 1 and Part 2.


20. Learn The New SEO And Social Media.

Lots of photographers are struggling at the moment because they’re still hoping that the old “bricks, mortar, industry referrals and Yellow Pages” business model will be sufficient.

It won’t. It’s unfortunate for them, but it’s also good news for you because it provides you with opportunities for market share.

You need to start paying attention to SEO and social media. I’m only just starting to get my head around the latter one, and it’s a bit mind-boggling. But as for SEO, I learned this: right now has never been a better – or easier – time to be on the first page of Google.

That’s because last year SEO was re-defined. Google realised that there are too many lazy businesses appearing at the top of search results who got there by buying their positions.

So they leveled the playing field, making the new primary indicator of search rankings – you guessed it – your demonstrated track record of an ability to relevantly contribute to your niche.

The established players, whose search rankings are a result of thousands of paid links, can now be overtaken easily by social-media-connected, passionate photographers with a contributor mindset.


21. Dreaming vs Planning.

As most guys, I like cars. And I especially like those hotted up versions that have a boring everyday version – you know, the Golf GTI, the VW R36, the Subaru Liberty GT, and (dreeeeeaaaaam!) BMW M3.

I used to love going to a car dealership and taking one of those cars for a test drive. I’d dream about owning it, and would spend a few hours in the afternoon trashing it as if I almost already did.

Here’s the thing. I stopped doing it when I realised that one of those cars is not part of my Measurable Vision (see previous posts). Either I had to include it (and adjust the business plan to raise extra funds to make it a reality) or I had to stop thinking about it.

There were many other things I eliminated because I’m a big believer in making your mind work for you.

I simply didn’t want my mind to be pulling me in incongruent directions. On some level, I still want the hot car – of course – but I’m absolutely clear that my most overarching goal doesn’t include it – the overarching goal was what you read in Create A Measurable Vision point in a previous post of this series.

That’s the difference between dreaming and planning.

A dream is a goal that you hope to achieve. A plan is a goal you intend to achieve by taking actions which facilitate it. The more distracting goals and actions you eliminate from your life, the more power you’ll experience in achieving that one goal.


22. Focus.

For the past year, I’ve lived a pretty Spartan existence.

I rarely spend money on clothes (and only do when I need them to provide a function rather than a new image statement). I have consciously made an effort to decline invitations for “coffee” and “catch-ups” from a lot of people.

I have chosen to distance myself from everyone who is not one of the most important people in my life.

I rarely spend money on booze and expensive dinners. When I’m not working, I wind down by going for a stroll with my fiancee or watching a movie. Apart from paying rent and bills, I have made a progressive and conscious effort not to spend money on much else.

It’s obvious, but so easy to ignore: the more focused you are, the quicker you’ll get to your goal. And the less your daily life is cluttered up by things which are not moving you towards your goals, the more power you’ll experience in achieving them.

Learning to pick your priorities and eliminate distractions is crucial in obtaining your goals, otherwise you’ll work your butt off and won’t get anywhere.

Start paying attention to your daily habits: what are they? Why are they there? Are they serving you? Are they making you happy? Or are they just things you do on repeat because you’re afraid of making a change? Or is a fear of people’s judgement stopping you from making adjustments?

It’s your life. You’re choosing how it turns out in every moment. Which means that every moment you have a choice: focus on everything that’s not very important to you. Or eliminate it.



23. Work Sucks?

The traditional approach to work is this:

You go to work and work is something that sucks. You work, watching the clock to see when you can finally go home.

You finally come home to relax – and relaxing is seen as something that’s fun. You may watch TV or have a few drinks, cook, go on a date, go to the gym, maybe read and on the weekends you may go for a dinner or more drinks and some partying.

You may choose to fill your life with those, or different activities. But the basic principle of the world you’re born into is this: work sucks, but is necessary because it pays you. And pay is important because you use it to make yourself happy when you’re not working.

I invite you to flip that paradigm on its head.


24. New Paradigm For Work.

Work is not something that sucks. For centuries people have made their work into a reason for their existence and have drawn immense amounts of satisfaction from their jobs. Some have even died in pursuit of work-related goals.

However, work does suck if you:

  • Chose a job that is not intrinsically connected to any cause you care for.
  • Bought into a lie that money and status will satisfy you.
  • You’re not pushing past your boundaries.


25. Why Should You Care?

Because I invite you to build your new photography business from a place where you see this business as the main source of fulfilment and happiness in your life. And for that you need to:

  • Be driven by a desire to contribute to a cause that you deeply care about (we already covered that).
  • Push and challenge yourself to go past your boundaries.

When you do those two things, work will not occur as something you loathe, but something you can’t get more of.

And when you’re building your own business, you can’t afford to have it any other way. You can’t be watching the clock, waiting till you knock off so that you can finally make yourself feel good by obliterating yourself at the pub – because that’s what drones do.

You’re not a drone – you’re an artist who is going to make a difference with his art.


26. How To Not Procrastinate.

And this bring us back to the point about Focus. Most people procrastinate because they’re constantly getting distracted by a myriad of things which they think will make them happy.

When your main purpose in life becomes setting and achieving a goal that you deeply care about, you will experience the kind of fulfilment and satisfaction on your journey that distractions can’t ever hope to match.

Which means focus will become an essential by-product of that purpose and achieving your goals will become effortless.


27. What About Photography?

You’ve probably noticed by now that we haven’t talked much about photography yet. And there’s a good reason for it.

Most photographers don’t succeed because they think that their art will carry the day. They dream about “getting discovered” by some agency or their photos “going viral on the Internet”. And look, sometimes it does happen.

But most photographers out there are of the “starving artist” variety, and that’s not what we’re talking about here.


28. You: Contributor, Businessman, Photographer.

The more clever photographers recognise that being a great artist is not enough. They begin to learn about business to have more control over their destiny.

They look for ways to monetize their photographs and to market themselves. And that’s a huge step forward – but often those wither after a few unsuccessful attempts at advertising and blogging.

That’s because very few people pay attention to the nuances of business in depth and detail that we’ve discussed here. And even fewer are talking about the most important part of it all which gives you a context for your actions: your motivations.

Don’t ever forget that you’re a Contributor first, a Businessman second and a Photographer third.


29. Photography Does Matter.

Of course it does. And you love great photography – that’s why you’re here, right? Immerse yourself deeper in it. Follow work of photographers you like, browse through agency portfolios, flip through magazines, look at exhibitions, go to art galleries.

Look at many ways in which light is used to tell a story. Check out my photos while you’re at it and let me know what you think.

At the end of it all, this is what it’s all about. You, the artist, want to tell the story of a subject you find interesting.

But for that to occur – and for you to do it as a full-time job – a lot of other things need to be put in place. Hopefully this series helped you see what those things are. Now go make it happen.

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