As photographers, it’s easy to get tempted into buying more gear. It seems like it’s what everyone is talking about. With all the new releases, it’s hard not to succumb and buy a new toy every month. If you can afford it, then go right ahead and enjoy it! If you’re a professional photographer, there might be better ways to spend your money. Let’s talk about a few of them.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that one. Education is so important. Along with practice and hard work, it’s the key to better photos and a better business. Today, there are so many ways to learn: books, workshops, classes, videos, ebooks, podcasts, and more. Pick a format you like. I personally like books and podcasts a lot. Videos are great for practical stuff.
Learning about photography is great to stay on top of innovation and new techniques. However, I feel that I can always learn more about business and marketing. Business education has helped my business far more than any photography course. What I’ve found useful is to go beyond the photography community. Learn from business leaders from other industries. They have a lot more tools and strategies that will help your business.
You don’t always have to spend money for networking, but sometimes it helps. You can start by networking online but you probably will end up attending events with paid entry.
More than just networking events, I want to talk about professional associations and conferences. While it’s great to network with your clients, it’s also important to have a network in the photography industry. Professional associations, such as PPA in the US or PPOC in Canada, are great ways to get to know other photographers. While the membership dues can seem high at first, they are more than worth the friends you’ll make and the help you’ll get. Plus, many associations have benefits: for example, my gear and liability insurance is much cheaper thanks to my membership. And this year, I’m probably also going to take advantage of the group health insurance.
Membership dues are more than worth the friends you’ll make
Another great way to grow your network is to attend conferences. There are many conferences and you’ll have to pick the one(s) that suit your needs or your genre. Conferences are a great combination of learning and networking. It gives you the opportunity to meet many new people. For example, when I presented at Out of Chicago in 2015 and 2016, I met many people who became my friends. It also led to business opportunities: friends have recommended me for jobs or speaking engagements, I’ve started leading workshops with Angie McMonigal and people have attended my other workshops. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had at these conferences!
If you’re in business, you should definitely spend money on marketing instead of gear. When done right, marketing will bring you new clients, which, in turn, will bring you more money. I’m the first to say that marketing is tough, but it’s how you grow your business. If you spend $500 on a marketing campaign, but you book a $1000 job, then it’s worth it. There are so many ways to market your services. Do your research, try things, and see what works.
Software can make your life so much easier. And I’m not talking about Photoshop. There are a lot of applications that can help you run your business. From small browser extensions to larger applications, there are many ways to make your life easier. Here are a few things you can look for:
- Note-taking and to-do apps
- Email management
- Social media management
- Accounting / expenses
- Cloud / backup
- File delivery and proofing
Do your research first: a lot of these tools can be free, depending on your usage. It’s worth paying for additional features that will make your life easier and save you time. Everything that is client-facing (like invoices or files delivery) need to look and feel professional.
There are so many reasons why travel is a good way to spend money, for personal and business reasons. I’ll stick to the business side of things here. Travel can be great to further your education and help with your networking (see points #1 and #2). It can also be a good way to expand and diversify your portfolio. For example, traveling has allowed me to photograph more famous buildings that most people in the architecture world would know.