Being a successful freelance photographer is like laying asphalt for a new road.
Let me explain.
A road worker does the following:
1. Gets up in the morning.
2. Goes to work without being “inspired”.
3. Grabs her shovel, and starts clearing rocks for the paver.
4. Works when it is cold.
5. Works when the wind is brutal.
6. Works in the rain, snow, sleet.
7. And in Arizona, she stands next to 150-degree fresh asphalt when it is already 110 in the shade.
8. Sees the progress that was made that day and goes home tired.
9. Compares what she accomplished today to what she accomplished yesterday,
10. Knows that her small in part played into the larger idea of a road to facilitate people’s aspirations to travel.
Wannabe — but entirely unsuccessful freelance photographers do the following:
1. Get up in the morning.
2. Wait to be inspired.
3. Methodically look for reasons to NOT pick up the phone and call possible clients.
4. Finds hundreds of really “nifty” reasons to not do any marketing, calls. emails, and such.
5. Spends 2 hours online looking for ‘ideas’ to shoot — if the rain goes away or it gets cloudy or the snow stops/starts, or the sun comes out, and the temperature is between 72 and 78 because that is really comfortable, and maybe they will set up in the living room after they dig the lights out and set up the table and move the furniture and get the props and … fuck, that is too much work. They plan on doing it ‘later’.
6. Becomes a ‘social media monster’ — whatever that is, and wastes precious time trying to get followers on instatwittiksnap or whatever is ‘hot’ right now.
7. Watches videos of other photographers out in the world doing shit and imagines that could be him, if, you know, he was actually out doing something…
8. Believes that other people are at fault when taking stock of where he is in his photographic journey.
9. Compares his work to those who actually do shit and then feels inadequate because he hasn’t actually done shit — which fuels the whole cycle again tomorrow.
10. Knows that IF he were just given a chance, he could really do some awesome work… although he hasn’t really worked at much of anything and there is absolutely no evidence that he could actually do… anything, really.
“I coulda done that” is actually NOT a good marketing plan.
Here’s what a truly successful photographer does.
Work your photography (writing, art, poetry, photography, music… whatever it is you do) like a road worker.
Get up early.
Go to work.
Don’t wait for inspiration, just do something to get started.
Work when you don’t want to or don’t ‘feel like it.”
Create shitty work.
Create good work.
Create great work.
But create it before you decide if it is crap, good, or great. If it doesn’t exist it is simply dead.
Work in the sunshine, rain, heat, wind, snow… some of the best photographs are the ones in hard-to-manage environments.
Make time to market… force it if you have to.
Send the emails.
Send the direct mails.
Make the calls.
Post your work on appropriate channels.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Measure what you did today to what you did yesterday… and find that 1% improvement.
Stop wasting time on the ‘easy buttons’ that are promised by tech oligarchs and their newest “social media platform”. Social media is NOT your lifeline.
Do the work.
Do. The. Work.
Make it so.
I am a photographer, designer, and photo editor. You can find me at my self-named website or at Project 52 Pro System where I teach commercial photography online. This is our tenth year of teaching, and it is the most unique online class you will find anywhere.