I’ve made a habit over the years of following the careers of many successful people both inside and outside of photography. I’ll be dedicating a future post to having heroes, but for our present purposes I’ll point out one common thread — all of them place a sizable premium on time. This is largely due to the high demand others place on their time. When there is a scarcity of something, the value goes up. Additionally, time is something that is always diminishing, you’ll never get more of it.
If you’ve had a job, chances are that you’ve worked for an hourly rate. If you haven’t, you could easily break your income down on a per hour basis. It’s a good way to measure if something is worth doing or not. If an employer offers a very low hourly rate for your time, you’ll probably look elsewhere. Conversely, if your employer sees comparatively low production per hour on your part, they will probably show you the door so they can find someone more productive.
One of the issues with photographers, along with a lot of other self employed people is that we don’t tend to be great at time management. Let’s be honest, if you were paying someone beside yourself to do what you do on an hourly basis, you would have probably fired them by now. It would be for a very simple reason, you’re not making any money. We are very willing as a group to spend longer than we should on setup, shooting time, editing, re-editing — all while loosing track of our plummeting per hour compensation. It’s an issue of pride. The business has your name on it. You’re going to have to face your client in person and don’t want to screw it up. You want to do a good job, and that’s admirable, but there’s a big problem…
I’m not here to pile on, I know you’re probably already frustrated, but you need to admit it. You are obsessed, and it’s costing you. Everyone needs time for everything. Every hour you make $5 you have to find $15 someplace else, and that’s a recipe for disaster. If you tell me you don’t need the money, great, good for you — you’re still obsessed and it’s not going to end well. Remember, your photography is important, but not more important than your family, health or well-being. You also need time away from photography to produce more photography. You’ll burn out — everyone burns out — EVERYONE.
Discipline is not typically an artist’s forte, but you need it. Balance is the key to longevity and it’s not going to happen on accident. Measure the amount of time you’re spending compared to the income you receive. Target areas of “time waste” and see where greater efficiency can be achieved. Don’t give yourself excuses.
If you’ve been shooting for clients for a couple of years, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make a living. It will most likely be a balance of not charging enough and being too frivolous with your time, so look at both areas. Assess your business model, is there something in the way you work that is holding you back? Make this a priority, because as soon as you are making a reasonable living on your own, many more possibilities will be available to you to grow your business and become more successful.
photo credit: Ryan McGuire