Blogging has always been my passion, ever since I was 15 years old (I started with Xanga).
Why I blog
To me blogging was great, because I could express myself for free.
My first inspiration was Maddox; here was a guy who wrote with panache, guts, and was unapologetically hilarious.
I started off mimicking him, and started my first blog that was totally not politically correct, but quickly went “viral” within my circle of friends, and at my school.
I remember somewhere along the line I wanted to make a living from blogging. But I had no idea how to “monetize”. I tried Google AdSense, and I read Four Hour Workweek (thanks for the inspiration Tim).
But I wasn’t able to earn any money.
I soon deemed that it was a waste of time trying to make a living from blogging, and forgot about it for a few years.
I kept blogging, mostly for fun, for self education and for self reflection.
Eric Kim Street Photography Blog
When I was 18 years old, I was curious about street photography, but couldn’t find any useful information in how to shoot street photography. I started to experiment, and taught myself.
In 2011, I had an idea to start a street photography blog. Cindy encouraged me to do it. I first objected by saying that I didn’t know anything. Cindy told me to just do it, and learn as I went. She told me:
Eric, I’m sure there’s lots of people out there who want to learn about street photography. Just share what you learn as you go.
So I started this blog, and from 2011-2017 I’ve turned this blog into the number one blog on the internet (after Wikipedia) for “street photography”. Let me teach you all the secrets.
Why are you giving away all your secrets Eric? You can probably charge a lot of money for this.
I’m sharing this information in the hopes that you can become the most fucking awesome photography blogger, and to contribute to the knowledge of humanity. To me, I am just a vessel that happens to drink a lot of coffee and creates information for the greater good.
Of course, disclaimer: none of this advice will probably help you. But some of it might. Let’s go.
I. What do you want to learn?
First of all, the best way to start a blog is to figure out what you want to learn.
It is impossible to know what others want to learn. But you know what you wanna learn. Even as a side note, there is very little information online about photography blogging, business, and entrepreneurship. So I hope to fill in that gap.
The good thing of following your own curiosity is that it will never feel like “work”. It will be damn fun. You will be able to hustle hard, without any feeling of “effort”. Even as I type these words on my iPad screen, the words are just flowing out of me, because it is something I love and am passionate about sharing.
So I know I’m interested in street photography, conquering my fears of shooting street photography, composition, learning from the masters of photography, so I wrote about it. I created the information I wanted to read.
Also, I always wanted to learn how to make money from photography and blogging. So I wrote about how I make more than $200,000 a year as a photographer, and tried to be as transparent as possible.
First of all, I believe the pie for making money is unlimited. Economics is not a zero sum game. We can all be winners. We can all become millionaires together. Because “value” is a man made concept.
But the sad reality is with Google, there is only one number one spot. And whoever has the number one rank on Google gets 90% of the traffic. So in that sense, there is a “winner take all” concept.
However, my suggestion is to find a niche.
For example, there are a billion wedding photographers out there, but there is only a very few number of film only wedding photographers. Perhaps even fewer only shooting medium format film. That might be a good niche, where you can charge a pretty penny.
In photography blogging, there are a very few bloggers who write about the principles of classic art and design and photography. Adam Marelli is the only guy I know who does it.
There are a trillion photography blogs on gear. There are very few photography blogs that are anti-gear (so I started to build a culture of conquering gear acquisition syndrome on this blog).
II. Go opposite
A good strategy on how to know what kind of blog to make is to go opposite.
Go opposite from trends.
For example, if in clothing everyone is wearing all black everything, you should wear all white everything.
If everyone is wearing Adidas sneakers, wear Nike.
If everyone is driving a Tessa, buy a 700 horsepower Hellcat muscle car.
If everyone is shooting with fancy digital cameras, shoot only with an iPhone.
If everyone is shooting with an iPhone, shoot with a medium format digital camera.
Of course going opposite for the sake of it isn’t authentic to you.
My suggestion: see what kind of trend which annoys you or pisses you off, and go opposite.
For example, I hated how all photography bloggers focus too much on gear. It annoyed me how they focused on blogging about how sharp lenses were, and shot photos of brick walls, rather than actually writing on how to make more meaningful photos. So rather than complaining, I just was the change which I wanted to see in the world. I tried to create a new culture of “anti gear”. I wrote buy books, not gear. Of course I’m still a sucker for gear, but I’m trying to be the contrarian thinker.
III. Don’t edit
In school we are taught to always edit our papers. I say screw that, just write and blog and don’t edit.
The point of writing is to communicate an idea or a message, not to be eloquent for the sake of it. You only need to edit your text in order to be understood. But if you write with shorter sentences, with simpler words, you will never need to edit your text. Maybe just do some spell check.
Another tip: blog like you talk. This makes it more friendly, authentic, and genuine. And human.
The best compliment I get on my blogging is this:
Eric, after reading your blog for about a few years and meeting you in real life, I feel like I’ve known you forever.
Another tip: write letters to overcome writers block. Writing for an audience is too abstract. Rather, write your blog posts starting with “Dear friend” to have this fictional idealized reader to communicate with. For me, my “friend” is my 18-year old self. Which gives me more confidence and authority.
IV. Be useful
People are hungry for useful knowledge. Or at least I am.
I hate reading things online, where I feel like I have just wasted my mental brainpower without any practical gain. So whenever I blog, I try to be as useful as humanly possible.
To become rich as a blogger is easy: create ideas which empower people, and create more value than you take.
Also, try to seek to make your blog posts 80% “good enough” then hit publish. Perfection is the enemy of a blogger. And the benefit of blogging is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can always go back and edit things into the future (I never do, but at least you feel better about it mentally).
V. Use the right blogging tools
I am an evangelist for the “IA writer” writing app. I have it on my Mac, and my iPad. I write everything in “focus mode”, and in full screen with no distractions. I use markdown to edit the formatting of my text. This app helps me stay focused when I’m writing, and not to get distracted. And in the most easily distracted person I know.
Another tip: turn off comments and analytics and page views from your administrative console. Comments are a distraction. Analytics and page views will fuck up your true voice; because the days your traffic goes up you will feel high on crack, and the days it goes down you will feel like shit. Kind of how stock traders have emotional roller coasters. I used to trade stock in high school and college, and I no longer want to fuck with my emotions with numbers. So even now, I disabled all tracking analytics from my blog, and now I’m so much more productive, and less emotional.
If you wanna start a blog, I recommend using bluehost.com and using WordPress.org. And when you start your blog, don’t make it a cheesy title. Preferably make it your firstnamelastname.com or if that is taken, firstnamelastnamephoto.com.
To build a company, you want to use your name. Names are easier to remember. Consider Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, or simple titles like Nike, Hermes, Apple.
If your first and last name is complicated, just make up a new name that is simple and easy to remember.
In terms of laptops, I prefer MacBook computers as I think macOS is more simple and has better blogging tools. But you can use a chromebook or PC; just try to find a good minimalist typing app.
For photo management, use Adobe Lightroom.
For image resizing, use JpegMiniPro (on mac– thanks for the hook up guys!)
The most important blogging hack: coffee. Lots of it. I’m already on my 6th cup of coffee, and I feel like a beast. Drink it black, no cream or sugar.
Oh yeah and this is kind of random, but I no longer eat breakfast or lunch. I don’t get food coma after lunch anymore. So I can blog all day with no exhaustion. I do feel with physical hunger, it allows us to focus more with our writing.
Also if you want to make a living from photography blogging, you need to type fast. I can type 130 words per minute. If you cannot type fast, teach yourself how to type online or buy some program that teaches typing. This will help you forever. Because I can type as fast as I think.
In terms of blogging environment, I prefer coffee shops. And the best blogging happens when you turn off the wifi. Write your blog posts offline, then turn on the wifi to edit the text and add images.
VI. How to build an audience
Page views are overrated. Because I know for my company, I earn 90% of my revenue from workshops. I charge $3500 a workshop student, so if I even get 10 students, that is $35,000 of income.
So consider, would you rather have 10 page views (from die hard fans) or 1 million page views (from mildly interested folks)?
You need die hard fans if you want to make a living from photography blogging.
If you’re starting a photo blog from scratch, the easiest way to build an audience is to do guest blog posts on popular photo websites. I built an early audience from popular posts I did on digital photography school (thanks Darren), on Steve Huffs website (thanks Steve), and on the Leica Blog (thanks JJ). Do guest blog posts that are fucking good, then link back to your blog.
Or, interview photographers who you admire. Then they will share the interview with their social network, and bring more folks to see your blog.
I also recommend writing blog posts on practical tips on how to make better photos. I personally like to read lists as they are easier to read. I like “ten tips” blog posts, because I can quickly scan it, and read what I want to read. I hate academic papers.
VII. How to make money
I don’t recommend putting ads on your blog. They are ugly, and unless you are making millions of billions of page views, you won’t make much money.
I use amazon affiliates to link to products, and make about $600-1000 USD a month.
The biggest bread and butter for me is teaching photography workshops. I don’t believe in selling information. Because who likes to pay for digital information? I know I don’t like to buy ebooks or PDF ebooks. For me it is an ethical thing– it costs me nothing to reproduce information, and I think information is power. I grew up poor, and information is what empowered me. So I would rather give away the information for free, and charge a lot of money for my services.
So for workshops, do them for free or do them for a lot of money. The more money you charge, the more valuable your workshop will look. If you’re new, charge at least $500 a student, and manage payments through PayPal. When you start off, start off with 10 spots, then expand it to 20 students when you get more popular.
The reason why teaching photography workshops, classes, photography tours is such a good business is that you will never be able to “pirate” an experience.
VIII. How to build trust
The most important thing as a photography blogger: build trust.
A lot of people talk about “branding” — but what they really mean is “trust building”.
I buy Nike shoes because I trust that the quality is good, that it will make me faster, stronger, and that the shoes will look cool.
I trust Apple, because I trust the philosophy of Steve Jobs, and I trust the build quality, and the Apple ecosystem.
I trust Lamborghini because the cars look cool, all the rich and successful rappers (like Kanye West) drive one, and Batman (Christian Bale) also has one. I’ve learned to trust Lamborghini to make me look cooler, more badass, and perhaps increase my penis size.
Most people who buy a Haptic product or attend an Eric Kim workshop has read this blog for at least a year or two. It takes a long time to build trust.
It took me 6 years of straight blogging (1-2 blog posts a day) before I was able to earn $200,000 a year.
So friend, unfortunately there are no shortcuts. You need to fucking hustle hard. Listen to a lot of Jay-Z and one day you can be worth $600 million.
But how do you build trust? My suggestion:
Be unapologetically you.
Don’t fake it. Don’t be a poser. Just be you. Don’t censor yourself.
People can smell bullshit from a mile away. So if you make yourself naked with all your scars and flaws, people will learn to love and trust you.
I trust my friends who I have betrayed (and who have forgiven me) more than friends I have never tested.
IX. Hustle fucking hard
I said this before, but you need to work really fucking hard. Like really fucking hard.
I seriously blog for 12-14 hours a day. Today I am jet lagged from coming to America after being in Vietnam, and I woke up today at 2am. I literally drank 5 cups of coffee, and blogged until 6am. I took a short nap, then started to blog from 7am-10am. I then took another nap for an hour, did some push-ups and yoga at the house, then went to the coffee shop. I took a 30 minute nap in the car, and now I’m drinking another espresso typing these words on my iPad to help empower you.
To me, making money is easy. Just deliver massive amounts of value to others, which can empower people. And the best business to go into is where you help others earn more money. Consider uber who has helped normal folks earn extra cash. Consider Apple who made the App Store to help developers make money from apps. Consider kindle and amazon who has helped authors directly earn money.
So I personally aim to be the #1 photography blog on photography entrepreneurship and making money. Because I want all of us to get rich.
But to hustle hard doesn’t mean doing shit you don’t wanna do. Now I don’t do nothing I don’t wanna do anymore. I only do things which I am interested and curious in. So even though I hustle fucking hard, it never feels like “work”.
I personally dislike email, so I don’t use email anymore. I don’t like getting distracted by social media, so I deleted my Instagram, and I have my blog automatically posting to Twitter. This helps me blog and flow like water; no distractions. Oh yeah, and I gave away my smartphone to my friend Natalie. So I’m in super zen mode.
How did dr. Dre become a billionaire? He fucking hustled hard as fuck, even when he was already a millionaire:
Rich as fuck, but guess what I’m back to work. People want my time but fuck that I’m back to work. Friends talking about lets go bust into the club, but fuck that I’m back to work.
If you wanna learn how to hustle, listen to a lot of rappers. Listen to Kanye, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, and Rick Ross.
Everyday I’m hustling.
My suggestion: you are engaging in “honorable hustle”. You’re hustling for the greater good- creating blog posts that uplift the soul of your viewers, and empowering them. And if you empower people, they will want to throw money at you.
Also another tip when charging money for your products, services, consulting, photo shoots, whatever– always charge 25% more than you think you’re worth. This is my personal rule, so it has helped me earn more money over the years. Because we always under-sell ourselves.
If you deliver massive value, what are you worth in your eyes?
To me, whenever I write a blog post, I try to make it 10x better than books I’ve read on the topic.
Like even this blog post, I genuinely believe that it can bring you at least $10 million dollars of value. Why? If you can earn $200,000 a year as a photography blogger after 5 years of hustling through selling your products, services, and teaching workshops– and you work for 50 years, you will earn at least $10,000,000 USD (before taxes).
Never sell yourself for little.
Even now, if a company wants to work with me, I will refuse to do anything less than $50,000. I would prefer to do business deals for $250,000+ (Kendrick Lamar does guest verses on songs for $250k a pop). That is what helped King Kendrick earn $30 million.
Also in terms of my time, I value my hourly wage at $1,000 an hour. So I no longer waste time. I stay focused.
These are my top entrepreneurial principles for photography blogging, and getting rich.
To me, rich means having a higher income than your expenses.
So for example, if you earn $1,000,000 a year, but you spend $1,000,001 a year, you are poor.
But if you earn $40,000 a year, but only spend $20,000 a year in expenses, you are rich.
The easiest way to get rich as a photo blogger is to increase your income, and reduce your expenses. Even for me now, I share coffee with Cindy at the coffee shop. I always drink a lot of coffee at home to save money. I don’t pay for an office, I save money by going to coffee shops and stealing their wifi. Even now I’m rich, I share the same entree with Cindy at restaurants. I still prefer burgers over steaks (higher fat content is more delicious) and espresso is superior to pretentious lattes. I wear the same all black Uniqlo outfit.
I plan on building the first trillion dollar photography company. Watch out Apple. I’m gonna be the next Steve Jobs meets Kanye meets Pablo Picasso.
Learn how to make a living from your passion:
- Why you must be an expensive photographer
- How I Earn $200,000+ a Year From Photography
- The Free Way to Become Rich
- 5 Lessons From Hesiod on Hustling
- JUST DO IT.
- 7 Steps: How to Make a Living From Your Passion
- How to Sell Yourself
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
- How to Fail Big
- How to Invest in Yourself
- How to Be Bold in Photography and Life
- Mission: Cover Your Rent and Food
- 1,000 True Fans
- The “10x Principle”: The Only Difference Between “Success” and “Failure”
- Make More Value Not Money
- We Live in a Photo Utopia
How to be a Full-time Photographer
- How to Make a Living From Photography
- The 3 Principles of Making Money With Photography
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- Don’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Trust: The Most Important Thing You Need to Succeed as a Photographer
How to Start a Blog
- How to Make a Living with Blogging
- 50 Blogging Tips For Beginners
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media
How to Teach Photography
- How to Become a Photography Teacher
- How to Teach a Street Photography Class
- Why I Teach Street Photography Workshops