The Selfish Part Time Photographer

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on June 2, 2015

in This is Life

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“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.”
– Luke 11:33, King James Bible

That little light of yours?

You oughta let it shine.

I hear you – you’re worried that there’s a perfect “right time” to take the leap and hang your shingle officially as a professional photographer, but you have no idea when that time is, or even how you’ll know when that right time comes.

The problem of course is that there’s no way to know when that time is. We are absolutely the worst people to judge for ourselves when we are “ready” to go pro.

And if I had to bet, the “right time” lies in your past, not your future.

You’re already there.

Truth: Way more often than not, when a PTP reader asks me to review their work, I’m blown away by the talent on display. Photo after photo of great lighting, subtle and tasteful processing, clean backgrounds, personality, expression, warmth, uniqueness, real value, a real blessing for the subject and their family.

You are way more talented and artistic and capable than you give yourself credit for.

That you’re reading these words shows you are deeply invested of your time and heart toward the goal of becoming a successful part time professional photographer.

But – here’s the gut check – at some point you risk crossing the line from sponge to vacuum… From enthusiastic student to selfish daydreamer.

Don’t feel bad though:

With every nugget of wisdom you gain, through study, through your mentors, through practice, you grow your value as a photographer and business owner. Your art gets better, your marketing gets better, you refine your business acumen.

But like fruit grown in a garden, if you don’t translate your growing value into contribution, production, or creation, you’re letting the fruit die on the vine.

And just like a college sophomore can easily earn pay as a tutor to freshmen, it doesn’t take much to be the ‘expert’ in your market – to be Jane Doe, professional photographer, able and willing to produce better art for her clients than they can produce for themselves.

Give yourself grace: you don’t have to be the best photographer in the world – your goal is to become the best photographer in your client’s world.

However, growing in value becomes an exercise in vanity when you don’t put that value to service in your market.

What worth does your art and knowledge have if you never use it to bless your clients?

At every level of talent as a photographer, there are matching, eager subjects waiting to be blessed by the art and experience created for them by an enthusiastic artist – and who are willing to pay for the privilege.

Your people are out there, waiting for you.

But you can’t create value for your people if you don’t make the art.

You can’t communicate value to your people if you don’t show them what you’re capable of.

You can’t command value with your people if you don’t give them the opportunity to invest in you.

Don’t think I’m preaching from an ivory tower – I’m as guilty as anyone of letting fear, self doubt, comfort zones and unchecked distraction hold me back from making my best and most valuable contribution to my community, my readers, my people.

I’m not trying to force your hand, to shove you off the cliff and guilt you into launching your business today.

Just think about it, okay?

One of the most powerful questions ever posed to be by a mentor was:

What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

Let that question steep in your mind and in your heart for a minute. Read it again. Feel the weight of responsibility and fear slip off your chest, and really let the question sink in:

What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

When I let the question get inside me, it brought me to tears.

It made me strip away all the worry, all the stories of self-defeat and the limiting beliefs I’d allowed to insulate my heart and my courage and my spirit from the truth.

The truth being that I had long grown beyond the threshold of due diligence and appropriate reserve.

I had buried myself – my creativity, my potential – in a mire of inaction and vain self-indulgence… In countless hours of growing my value without giving anything back to the world.

Friends, I can’t count the ways I have been blessed in my lifetime.

Every day I strive to slow down, to be conscious, to be grateful, and to remember that for all the blessings I’ve been given, I have the gift of a responsibility to multiply those blessings through sharing what I know and what I’m capable of.

Just think about it.

The time to take those Next Steps to get your art and business out there in the market, to share the blessings of your knowledge and creativity – wherever you are in your journey up the mountain of success – may well be nigh.

Taking the leap to go pro doesn’t mean an end to your learning and growth – quite the opposite, working with paying clientele will act as a multiplier as you put all you’ve learned about art and marketing and business to work in the world.

You will continue to study, practice, and learn.

But no longer will it be in a vacuum.

No longer will it be in the realm of theory and daydreams, but in the real world of trial and error, experiments and feedback, progress and results, clients and paychecks.

It’s time to get real.

Are you ready to launch? Comment below or e-mail me and let me know – I want to hear your stories and celebrate your victories!

Feel like you’re not ready to launch yet? E-mail me right now and let me know what’s holding you back – we’ll work together to get you where you need to be, in your business and in your heart, so that you feel empowered to launch and bring the blessings of your art to your community.

Next Steps,

  • Just writing these words, I’m excited for what you’re on the verge of doing – for the art and experiences you’re soon to bless your clients with, and the financial, social, and creative blessings you’ll enjoy in return. If there’s anything, anything at all holding you back, tempering your excitement and breakthrough moment, please don’t hesitate: e-mail me at right now and let me know what’s stopping you. I don’t care how simple or small or embarrassing or stupid it may seem, share what’s on your heart, and I’ll do everything I can to help.
  • I love Tim Ferriss’ perspective on scary-but-awesome new projects: he said recently on Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers podcast that there is no failure, only experiments and feedback. If you were going to let your ego step aside for a minute and launch your business as a three-month experiment, to test your art and your marketing and your market, what would that experiment look like? What would you be trying and testing and measuring and getting feedback on? Pull this thread long enough and you’ll have an entire business plan in hand. And that’s a good thing.
  • Brainstorm session: get out your pen and paper. Let’s shine a light under the bed: brainstorm a list of everything – every fear, every concern, every worry, every feeling of inadequacy – that makes up this knot of resistance holding you back from launching your business as a professional photographer. Look Resistance in the face, name it, shine the light on it and see it for what it is. You may be surprised at how not scary the boogeyman is. Now, flip the page over: list everything and everyone on your side, everything you’ve got going for you, all the ways you’ve studied and practiced and prepared, all the nice things people have said about your art, all the moments of inspiration that have brought you to this moment, this day, this site, and this exercise. Keep writing until you run out of page, and get another if you need it. You can do this. You can do this.
  • My writing at exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I’m truly grateful for your readership, and encourage you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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