With only a few days left in 2010, and a New Year right before us, you may be starting to think about what should be different in the coming year. We can all wish and dream, but putting things into reality can be far more complicated.
As I’m sitting here writing out my own 2011 goals, I started thinking about a plan, and what it truly takes to create the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. I know everyone has a different dream, but if you are reading this blog, chances are somewhere in those dreams is photography and the ability to make money with your photography.
So I’ve decided to create a new series of posts starting in January to help you create your own plan.
I’ll be posting practical, real world steps you need to take to get from where you are today, to creating a photographic lifestyle that gives you everything you need in 2011.
But in order to do that, I need your help. While I’ve been writing here at Virtual for years, and have a ton of tips and ideas throughout the spectrum of owning a photography business, I want to know what your real world questions are today.
- Tell me what your current problems are.
- Tell me what questions you have.
- Give me your story, and what’s holding you back. The more details the better.
Post your stories in the comments below. Or email me, tweet me, or even put something on Facebook. Whatever you preferred method of contact is, get me your information and I’ll use it to build my 30 ways program.
Then check back in January to start following my new series.
Also be sure to bookmark this page. I’ll be updating it along the way with links to the evergrowing series as they are posted.
What would it take to redesign your current lifestyle for 2011?
When I decided to run this series a few weeks ago, my main goal was to help real photographers with real problems. So I went right to the source, and started asking what issues you have as we move into 2011. [A special thank you to everyone who participated – I was overwhelmed with how detailed and thoughtful your responses truly were.]
So over the holidays, between outings and parties, I sorted your responses into piles, read through all of them multiple times, and put together this 30 day series based on the trends that I saw throughout.
So with day one of this series, we’re obviously going to start at the beginning. read more>>
Throughout this series, I’ll use a variety of questions, stories and comments that were presented by my readers. Let me start out today’s post with a story.
“Luci” wants to start a specialized portrait photography business. I won’t get into all of the details here, but because of issues within her own family life, she hopes to build a portrait studio catering to families with unique family dynamics. She’s been thinking about this for a long time, and has done quite a bit of planning. She has designed a logo, has business cards, created a website and has worked on marketing ideas. She has no studio space in her home, but she’s decided it would be best to work on location and in her clients’ homes, so she has that worked out in her mind. She’s well on her way to starting her business. read more>>
Have you reached this point yet? It’s the sudden realization that you are making a change in your life – a BIG change – and the weight of it all comes crashing down on you like a ton of bricks. You may momentarily start questioning your overall sanity. You’ll probably ask things like:
- Am I crazy? What was I thinking?
- Nobody around me does this, what made me think I could?
- I’m screwing up my entire life.
- I don’t know any of this, there’s no way I can make this succeed…read more>>
Do you read a lot? I do. In fact if you came to my house, you would find a stack of books practically everywhere. I have books all over my desk, in my family room, and stacked by the side of my bed. I’m also starting to amass quite a collection on my iPad. While I do end up buying a lot of books, I also check out the majority of them from my local library. Then when I find really good one’s that I want to refer to again and again, I purchase them.
Over the holiday’s I reread my copy of Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Work Week, and I also picked up a copy of another book, Chris Guillebeau’s The Art Of Non-Conformity. I highly recommend both.
They aren’t photography related. And to a certain extent they aren’t business related…read more>>
A hobby can be different things to different people.
It might mean taking a camera along on vacations and to family events, snapping up a few images.
It might be taking a few portraits or shooting a few weddings for people you know, making very little, and doing it more for a portfolio.
However you define it, I tend to look at the way the IRS defines it…read more>>
A person forms an opinion of you and/or your company in a matter of seconds. Once that opinion is formed, it is very difficult to sway the opinion one way or the other. Which means those first few seconds are crucial in turning a first opinion into a customer.
First opinions come in a variety of ways.
If you meet someone in person, it may be formed by your appearance, the clothes you wear, how you look, your neatness (or lack thereof), your timeliness, or even your attitude…read more>>
As I was gearing up for today’s post, I went over to Google to see how many results would rank under “to do lists”. Close to 600 million entries appeared for this search phrase. And the suggested related searches ranged from “printable to do lists”, “to do lists iphone”, “to do lists templates” and “to do list software”. Obviously there are many issues related to just a standard to do list, and it really comes as no surprise.
As a society, we’ve achieved overload. We try and accomplish more in one day than people were doing in a month a few decades ago. It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century. We are at information overload, and we simply don’t know how to control it all…read more>>
It’s a big step to go from “job” to “entrepreneur”.
When you have a job, everything is built into the structure of the work environment. They pay you on a regular basis; they take out money for your taxes, insurance, retirement; and you can count on having weekends, holidays, sick time and vacation days. Not so with a photography business.
If you rely 100 percent on your photography for your income, you are in charge of everything. Creating enough sales to provide your salary. You have to take out the taxes and forward them to the appropriate agency, find the best insurance policy, workman’s comp issues if you..read more>>
In many industries, when people decide to set out on their own path and start a business, the first thing they look for is a financing option. They determine how much they will need and find a source for it, whether it’s through credit cards, dipping into a retirement fund, borrowing from family, or taking out a loan.
But for some reason, I’ve found photography to be one of those industries where the same doesn’t hold true. Maybe its because many photographers start out as hobbyists, have a bunch of equipment on hand, and decide to turn it into a business at that point. In any case there is a long stretch between having some equipment on hand, and running a profitable business…read more>>
Maybe you don’t want to open up a part of your house to customers – you want your house to be your home. Or maybe your city won’t let you run a business out of your home where you have clients come on a regular basis.
You can’t afford to lease a commercial property – how do you go down that road when you barely have enough clients to make ends meet?
So what do you do?
In today’s world, it’s easier than ever. Not having a studio isn’t a detriment; in some cases, it can actually be a distinct advantage….read more>>
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever gone to dinner with a friend, and had them take one call after another? How did it make you feel? Did you feel your friendship was important, and that your friend was truly a friend? Or did you feel somewhat let down? After all, you took the time out of your schedule to meet, why can’t he or she?
Even if they use the line, “I have to take this call, its business, you understand right?” It still leaves you feeling a bit let down. Yet it’s almost the way of the world anymore. Everyone is connected; everyone has a phone. And with smart technology coming on full force, it’s not likely to decrease any time soon…..read more>>
Have you started planning out your special promotions for 2011? If so, you probably have the standard ideas on the calendar. Valentines Day, a spring promotion with chicks or bunnies, pumpkin festivals in the fall, and of course Father Christmas come December.
Not only is it standard, your prospects and clients can easily expect it as well. And while they may be open and receptive to it, chances are it comes somewhat of a given in their lives…..read more>>
In Day 12 of this series, we talked about finding different types of promotions to use during the year to promote your photography. Special promotions allow you to find new clientele in a out of the ordinary way. But special promotions are designed to be above and beyond your normal marketing. They are designed to work in conjunction with your normal marketing routine.
On Wikipedia, one of the definitions for marketing is:
the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising
I like that definition because it stresses two things……read more>>
I’m a huge fan of learning from the biggest names in the business. From celebrities, to business owners, to politicians, I’ve always felt if they had what it takes to make it to the top, they must have a tidbit or two of insight on how to get there. Even if you only pick up one important fact from each person, together it can add up to incredible advice.
So you’ll find a lot of biographies on my nightstand. And I love watching interviews on television and online. But something amazing has happened over the past few years.
If you watch or read about anyone from the early baby boomer generation and older, they usually provide a comment along the lines of “if I had to start again today, I’d never be who I am today. The competition is just too intense these days.”…..read more>>
I went back and read through many of your responses again, and read through them with a different idea in mind. As I read through each story, I started picking out pieces that would tell me what skills today’s photographer needs to survive. Is it the same as in the past? Or has it completely changed?
And as expected, I found a full array of support for many different types of skills.
I found questions and comments about final output – “Do I provide high or low res images?”…..read more>>
So you want to be a photographer. You want to start a business and make money doing what you love. Once you make that decision, the next most obvious question is “What will you photograph?”
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I could find a million examples of people that have found a niche and are making money doing what they love. In fact I even highlight ideas in my One Great Idea series.
However thinking through the question first has its advantages. If you start out as a generalist, you’ll be climbing an uphill battle against hundreds of other photographers in your area who are doing something similar – and in many cases doing it better or receiving more recognition for it……read more>>
In Day 16, we worked through the concept of Niching your photography business, and why it’s so important to focus. The more you focus, the clearer your vision, and the more results you’ll have.
I decided to provide a post on why I thought niching was so important to your success first, and then follow it up with a series of posts that were specific to fields within the photography profession. A great majority of my emails and responses were from people that had specific questions on types of photography. Whether you currently have an interest in a particular field or not, read on. I’ll cover a variety of items that can be taken from field to field, and can help you when you look at growing your own photography business……read more>>
“I love to photograph food, products – things for commercial use. I would love to sell my work to companies for hanging on their walls of for them to include in company magazines, brochures, etc. But I’m finding more companies are turning to micro stock, and I’m having trouble getting my foot in the door. Is commercial photography still a viable business? Or should I shoot micro stock myself?” John
I’m currently reading a book I Live In The Future & Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton. I’m only about half way through it, but something Nick wrote in the first chapter has stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it the past few days.
In it he speaks of the unraveling of Playboy Enterprises Inc. (I know, Playboy? You have to read the book to see how it fits in to a technology book.) Anyway, between 2004 and 2007, Playboy’s revenue was between $330 million and $340 million, and the company was turning a small profit or just breaking even. But in 2009, revenue slid to $240 million – a 30 percent plunge. The company’s stock slid from $25 to $5 a share. And its outlook isn’t encouraging……read more>>
Have you ever walked into a gallery of fine art photography, and thought, “I could do that.” How great would it be to have a huge gallery that inspired millions from around the world?
Fine art means many things to different people.
- Fine art might be selling a few images at a local craft fair.
- Fine art might be selling your art as calendars, journals and books.
- Fine art might be selling your work at art exhibits.
- Fine art might mean ending up in a museum……read more>>
Over the past few days, we’ve been covering the idea of specializing, and why it’s so important to really focus on what you want to do. This post is in my 30 Ways series because when people mentioned event photography, it was usually associated with one thing.
One reader mentioned she’s done a few Quinceaneras and would love to do more of them within her family portrait business. One reader mentioned her love of horses and her desire to spend more time within that community. Still another talked about his love for weddings, and his desire to take it to an entirely different level.
While you may love working events, there is a huge difference between working with horse shows, and photographing weddings. Different clientele. Different vendor sources. So specializing is just as important here as it is overall……read more>>
If you have photographed a number of years, I’m sure you can look back and recall your favorites.
For us, we have favorite wedding clients, favorite engagement shoots, and favorite family sittings. We also branched out for a couple of years into the art of preschool photography, and I have one location that became my favorite.
We worked with a private preschool that taught 3 to 6 year olds, from preschool through private kindergarten. It was in an upscale neighborhood, and they weren’t looking for the same old school portraits for their children; they wanted something different.
This preschool was in a beautiful building that had an educational atrium filled with plants and mini-waterfalls. Trust me on this – it was a photographers dream….read more>>
If your goal is to bring in portrait or wedding clients, you quickly understand that you must advertise to the right people, and bring them in one by one. But what if you are looking for bigger jobs? What if you are looking for a few large clients on more of a corporate level in order to fill your studio for the year?
If you are just starting out, that can be a daunting task. I heard from several of you facing this type of situation.
“What is the best way to approach a company to try to get them as a client when you already have photos that are applicable to them? … How should I go about contacting the companies? ….read more>>
You’ve been dreaming of the day you tell your JOB goodbye, and work at photography full time to support your lifestyle. And while your dreams are real – you live, breathe and dream them every day – you tend to keep your dreams to yourself. Will your family support your decisions? Will your spouse accept your new goals?
One of the most difficult situations you can deal with is to start out in the entrepreneurial life, especially when no one around you has done it before.
“It’s too risky.”
“You’ll lose your benefits.”….read more>>
Have you ever noticed how many photographers describe their marketing budgets? “I’m trying to do it all on a shoestring budget.” I hear that all the time. So I started wondering where that term comes from and what does it truly mean?
A shoestring budget refers to a very limited or small amount of money to spend on something. While the origin of the term is widely debated, one resource relates it to a “shoestring gambler” or a gambling game. Another theory is that shoelaces are low to the ground, and very inexpensive, so the idea of “low budget” and very inexpensive may have been built into the connotation.
In any case, shoestring budget simply refers to….read more>>
One of the most magical points of running a business is when you realize you can’t do it all yourself; the only way to move forward is to take on an employee.
“My challenge is how to grow from a one-woman show to the next step. Do I just hire an office/production manager? I have found that networking and shooting and selling are my favorite things and could let the rest go. Am just having trouble with making it happen.”
Document Your Month
As a solo business owner, the first step is realizing you need help and are willing to let some things go. The second step is determining what is practical to let go…..read more>>
You’ve done everything right. You’ve created your goals, and are on target to put everything into place. You’ve produced a marketing campaign that’s bringing in a steady stream of clients. You’re bringing in enough income that photography is your full time career. Everything seems to be going as planned. Now what?
How do you handle the growth you are experiencing? How do you keep up with it all, and keep your head above water? Its fun at the moment, but the last thing you want to have happen is to feel like you are in over your head. Overwhelm is not something you choose to experience again…..read more>>
When I say the word “networking” what do you think of? Everyone has a slightly different slant to the connotation of the word.
You may have thought about a particular group you go to regularly, and how you interact with people that are more then business owners – they’ve become friends.
You may have thought of the word fear – you hate walking into a group of unknowns, and be expected to walk up and start a conversation.
You may have thought about online networking – yep, Facebook and Twitter, wondering how you can gain more leverage by using social networking sites…..read more>>
Shocking right? Over 72 percent of all wealth in America is in the hands of the top 10 percent. So what does that mean for the rest of us?
Right now, we’re seeing that wages are increasing at about 3.4 percent on average per year. That is if you happen to be lucky enough to be in an industry that is currently giving raises. Add in the fact that job security is at an all time low – will your job really be there next year? And expenses are growing at a much faster pace then our income could ever hope to keep up with.
Okay, I’m not using all of this to bring you down. Just the opposite in fact. I’m using these numbers to bring you up.
See statistics also show that the only way to build wealth right now in America (and the rest of the world too) is to start and build your own business. When you are in control, you also control how much you bring in….read more>>
I love time travel movies. It’s so much fun thinking about the possibility of being able to leap into the future to see what its like. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what the world is like in 50 years? What technology will we be using? What will our daily lives be like?
Unfortunately, we can’t make the leap today, and know instantly what we should be doing to make our future successful. And in today’s world, even a few short months can bring about drastic change.
Think about what we do today compared with what we were doing five years ago. Would you have ever predicted spending your time on Facebook? Statistics show that the average person spends over 10 hours per month on it…..read more>>
The questions raised by today’s photographers make you wonder what’s happening to the photographic industry. And rightfully so. Is there a future for photography? Can you still make a decent living as a photographer?
Huge amounts of photographers are coming on board because of digital cameras. It’s easy to buy one, easy to understand and process an image, so it’s easy to announce you are becoming a “professional”.
With so many newbies on board, they take the easiest way possible to make a few bucks. They shoot, give the images on a CD, and then wonder why sales are diminished…..read more>>
Author’s Note: This concludes the 30 Ways in 30 Days series. Still have a question or problem that wasn’t addressed here? I would love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment on any of the 30 days posts, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing how this series helped you grow as a photographer.