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

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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.

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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.

become-professional-photographer

 

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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  • Comments
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  1. Garret M. Clarke

    Hey Steven, I really enjoyed reading your article. It put into words the stage I find my business entering, a larger focus on the business end of photography! We will be putting some of your quotes on the board in our studio to remind us. The one thing i would add is preserverance. It’s amazing what sticking to your guns can do for you. Sometimes you learn the lessons the hard way but hang in there and things can get better. Thanks again!

    • Reply
    • Steven

      Thanks Garret.

      Great point about perseverance – we’re often sold the idea of overnight success and the reality of it all is that it takes years to bring a business to a point where it’s mature, stable and is able to change directions quickly in line with market demands.

      Steven

      • Reply
      • Lorri Anne Adams

        True, it takes a lot of hard work through the years to become an ‘overnight success.’ Thanks for this series, I’ve found a few good pointers already and have only just begun reading.

  2. Dean Z

    If you learned all of this in one year, you have done exceptionally well, no matter what the dollars say! Thanks.

    • Reply
  3. Rachel Church

    Hi Steve,
    Thank you for the articles! I very much enjoyed reading all three parts. You are so right… There is so much more than just photography for a business to succeed!!! I registered my business one year ago, and I am still trying to figure out how to organize my thoughts. I think your articles will be a great resource for me to guide myself! Thank you!!!!!!

    Rachel

    • Reply
  4. Derreck

    Definitely one of the most inspiring and thought provoking, life changing articles I have read on the internet for a VERY long time. Brilliant advice that I plan on putting into effect. Thank you!

    • Reply
  5. Jarrod W Cross

    This was a awesome article i am glad i stumbled on to it!

    • Reply
  6. nicole

    first off you are amazing… i really think you need to add life coach and writer to your business’. I have been dreaming of being a photographer for a number of years and this article made me look at things in a whole new refreshing and exciting way. thank you for your knowledge! You are truly an inspiration for my business and my life… thank you. Nicole

    • Reply
  7. Irma-Jane Caggiano

    I REALLY needed that (all 3 articles)! I have been getting bogged down and thinking of increasing my days at work in my day job to make ends meet…but this is not what’s it about – right?! I am close to travelling in the opposite direction. I have two young kids and wished I had found this before I had them on some days, but without them I wouldn’t be the photographer I am now or the one I hope to be in the future….thank you…Maybe I won’t put that request in to increase my hours in my day job just yet…?!!!

    • Reply
  8. Warren

    Wonderful set of articles, thank you. I have got important points from all of them and will put that toward my business and growth.

    • Reply
  9. Oliver

    SEO is a key but It has to be the correct SEO. Google changes the way it ranks sites and is starting to move away from basing site ranking on back links. Instead content is becoming key and if you create content that is relevant to your industry then you will begin to rank better.

    • Reply
  10. Luis Macedo

    Just one of the best articles i’ve read about photography and the business of doing photography in the last 2 years…
    Thank you very much for sharing this.
    It really resonates with my way of feeling and creating photography and how I think one should look at taking photography to a new level.
    Thank you!
    :-)

    • Reply
  11. Teri Hofford

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and motivation. I have been running my business since 2006, but its always good to have that motivation to keep it going, keep it fresh and remember why you do what you do in the first place :D. I went from a 6 figure salary of soul-selling to my $35,000 income of pure happiness and contentment with life! Thanks again!

    • Reply
  12. Renee Spiga

    Steve,

    What a supportive and motivating read! Thank you ! Cheers…..

    • Reply
  13. Daniel

    This series of posts was so much more than just about photography, very motivational stuff, I copied down a couple quotes and tweeted this post!

    • Reply
  14. Mike Taylor

    This series of articles is wonderfull, and so right on the money.

    I’m linking to it so my readers can benefit from it just as much as I will.

    Thank you Steven

    • Reply
  15. Jim Ward

    Great job! Thanks for writing this series! I’m retired and, besides staying interested in fixing computers and all things techie, I’ve joined a photo club and am learning a lot about the subject. I’m building a web site and have the URL already, but I have to think about how much of a business I’d want to be in.

    • Reply
  16. pauly K S

    Hi steve,
    Thank you so much, what a fantastic set of articles.I don’t have a business yet but i am at the point of really assessing what is going on with my future.I studied art for three years of my life after school then got caught up in the music industry (ever the rockstar!) and now find myself living in a foreign country,surrounded by beauty and stuck in a job i hate just to pay the rent and bills.For the last two years i have been taking photos of where I live and my love for photography has grown and grown to the point where I realise,as you point out,work does not have to be the hated 9 hours a day that gives way to the slightest bit of relaxation we call life,but can be a beautiful realization of the world we live in.As i said i am yet to create my business plan but am ready to embrace the beauty around me and try and share it with those who refuse to stop for 5 minutes and appreciate it.
    Thanks so much for being part of the drive i need !!
    cheers,
    paul

    • Reply
  17. Patrick Engman

    Great read! Very well written and a lot of the points you speak about hit home, especially in the motivation, focus and contributor points. I feel like my greatest downfall as a businessman is motivation. It’s so easy to get sucked into complacency to then find yourself aching for work because you procrastinated the month before. I really want to make things work out for myself and follow my dreams. :) I’m sure I’ll be visiting this article a couple more times to soak it all in. Until then, I’m going to kick my motivation’s ass!

    • Reply
  18. Ren Faustino

    Thank you for this article. You have no idea how much help this is and will be to everyone who has just started or is going through tough times.

    • Reply
  19. Eszter Rule

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your articles. Just when i was going to give up on following my dreams i found your blog.
    Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational journey.

    I looking forward to following your blog!

    • Reply
  20. Cramer Imaging

    Thanks for the article. You have given me some food for thought. I knew that being a businessman was a higher priority than being a photographer but I didn’t know that there was a category higher than that. I will start implementing some of these ideas in my own business.

    • Reply
  21. Pat

    Thanks so much for this series. I’m in Phase 3 of life now (“retirement”), and I’d like to do something with my budding photography skills. I’ve already been self-employed successfully, so I know that end of things, but I’ve been having trouble with the vision and value pieces for photography. You’ve given me guideposts for addressing these aspects. Thanks again!

    • Reply
  22. Kenneth Clapp

    On July 15,2013 I set in motion a one year mission to leave my govt job to becomes full time wedding and commercial photographer. Somehow fate brought me to your site! Amazing!!!! Your articles were very inspiring and gave me the direction I needed to make my dream a reality. I will bookmark your site and check back in a year from now using your principles! Thank you so much for your wisdom and insight!!! Cheers!

    • Reply
  23. Jessica

    It is strange, yesterday I visited your website and now I am reading this article and I realize you are the same person! Small world :). Anyway, thanks for this interesting article, I will definitely read it again, very inspiring.

    • Reply
  24. Lindsay Carlisle

    Really awesome article!! Thanks so much for writing this. You mentioned some really crucial points…what stuck out for me most was the need to really focus and eliminate those things that aren’t important or relative to starting/growing a business. I find myself doing that lately: distancing myself from friends and activities in order to work on photography and learning everything I can. It’s hard and isolating, but I know it will pay off! Thanks again…:)

    • Reply
  25. Daniel Nuñez

    It’s really interesting the way this article teaches about not photography but about a total different thing! this applies to world wide business making. It really inspired me, and open my eyes that photography is not only about the gear, or taking pictures and about being discover (i really was looking up to that, i laugh about it when i read what you wrote) it’s all about a series of things that we think they don’t matter but end to be the vital factors of your growing business. I really enjoy your blog and your pictures, they really tell stories and show the inner passion of your work, I’ll look up to that. (I’m a starting photographer at Central America, Honduras, having a hard time getting clients, and when i do, having hard time for customers paying the value of the work done, visit my site: http://www.danielnunezphotography.com) Excellent article series.

    • Reply
  26. Kumaravel R

    Hello,

    I think this 3 part series is a wonderful article. In my opinion it may not only be applicable for photography but to any business.
    Very interesting read indeed !!

    • Reply
  27. Rahul

    Hi Steven,

    I’ve read your series and its a great help and a eye opener to me. I love photography and planning to get into this professionally from my heart and soul but cant afford to leave my current job coz thats where the income comes from. I am planning to start slow and steady till i can survive alone on photography. Dont know if this is the ideal approch but can’t think of any other option.

    Please advice if this is right or may need a change.

    Thanks & Regards
    Rahul
    Email – rahulbosephotography@gmail.com

    • Reply

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