I want to help you get rich with your photography.
Money is powerful as a tool in our capitalistic society. The more money you have, the more options you have, and you can buy your freedom.
The biggest problem that I know with photographers starting off is this: having the confidence to charge people money in their services.
I. Charging money isn’t selling out
First of all, charging money isn’t selling out.
You only sell out if you compromise your morals and ethics.
For example, if you are morally against smoking cigarettes, you probably should not accept a $200,000 campaign to shoot a Marlboro advertisement.
But charging money is your life blood for making a living as a photographer.
So know that you must charge money for your services, or how else can you pay the rent?
II. Ignore everyone who gives you “advice”
Advice is useless.
You either do shit as an entrepreneur, or you don’t do nothing.
To become an entrepreneur requires balls of steel. It requires determination. It requires taking risks, and it requires you to live in poverty for a while while you’re building your business.
For me when I decided to do photography full time, I had to reduce my living costs to the absolute minimum. I stopped eating out, and hustled 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week (I still hustle like I’m broke).
The reason you should never ask for advice or opinions of others is this:
Everyone will discourage you and tell you a million reasons why you will fail.
Fuck that. When I started in 2011, everyone told me how I would fail. That was discouraging. It made me lose my vigor and passion. It made me lose my mojo.
You need to have an insane, unreasonable confidence in yourself if you plan on making a living from photography, and to have the confidence to charge for your services is to know you’re worth it.
I repeat, you are worth it.
You are a fucking good photographer. You got skills. You will make beautiful images that will live with your clients forever.
So whenever you charge money, share the fact that these images will last forever. Forever is worth a lot of money.
III. Free or fucking expensive
Don’t look at the market to determine how much you should charge for your photo services.
Rather, just think to yourself:
What am I and my services worth to me?
For example, most of us generally tend to under sell ourselves. We have no confidence in ourselves, especially if we are starting off.
To be honest, the best way to learn your self value in terms of how much money you can charge is to listen to materialistic hip hop rappers.
For example if you want to become rich in your photography, listen to a lot of Jay-Z. He hustled from the projects and is now worth $600 million dollars.
The first tip is to think really big. Like really fucking big.
Don’t think of yourself to make a modest living. Rather, aim really big. And therefore, even if you fail, you will become richer than if you have a too small goal.
For example, let’s say you want to be a wedding photographer. The only way to survive in today’s generation is to charge a shitload of money. Full frame dslr cameras are very cheap now. Any college kid can and will shoot a wedding for free. If you want to actually make money, you need to charge a lot. Aim to be premium. Don’t be a wal mart wedding photographer.
For example, I’d say start off as a wedding photographer by shooting everything for free. Then when you have confidence in your portfolio, start charging a lot. Aim big. For example, start off at $5,0000 USD for a wedding. And add a lot of goodies. Offer video (get your friend to shoot it), and offer the full resolution images for free (people like this concept of “free”). Also give “free” prints, I recommend mpix.com
And as time goes on, make yourself more expensive. Aim to one day charge for a $20,000 wedding. Those are the clients you want– the rich clients with money to invest in a high quality wedding. The low and middle class photographers will die off.
So the principle is this:
It is better to charge a shitload of money for something, then to offer “freebies” than to charge a little money, and then try to nick and dime someone on every little thing.
IV. Money is not evil. It is just a tool.
I grew up Catholic and poor. I had it brainwashed in me that money was the root of all evil.
I know now, that is not true.
I am now rich (I earn more than $200,000 from photography and blogging, with the thanks of Cindy) and I have not changed. I am actually more generous now, because I can give out more free information (like this one) and not charging you for it. Because I want to see you fucking win, and make money from your passion. Because I think you deserve to follow your passion, and make a (good) living from it.
I also have $100,000+ in the bank.
What does this do for me personally?
I don’t use a lot of money. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch, only dinner. I don’t eat out much. I cook mostly at home. I hate designer shit, and all my clothes and stuff is unbranded and anonymous Uniqlo clothing. I don’t own a car or a smartphone.
Now that I am rich, I don’t stress no more. I know I will always be able to pay rent and not starve to death. I no longer value my self worth through my bank account. To me I see money as a tool to pay the rent, pay for my coffee, and Korean all you can eat BBQ.
I can use money to send my mom to travel or backpack through Nepal for twenty two days. I can support my sister Anna. I can support Cindy and her research.
To me, now having money means I just have freedom from fear. Also I have one hundred percent freedom of my time, mental energy, and life. It’s fucking great, I think you deserve the same lifestyle.
So if you grew up poor, you might see money as evil. I know for me, my dad gambled away the rent money, so I saw money as evil or causing all the problems in my family. I remember when my dad would beat my mom for hiding the rent money from him.
So repeat to yourself:
Money is not evil. It is like fire. It is a tool. It can be used for good or evil.
Ultimately you just need to tell yourself that money ain’t gonna change you. Because I don’t believe money corrupts. I think money just exaggerates your morals and ethics.
The greedy person who wins the lottery will be even greedier.
The poor person who is frugal who makes a lot of money, will just end up being richer and economical, using that money to empower others.
V. Value your time
You might live to be ninety years old if you’re lucky. No matter how rich or poor, you will die. And no, we will never live forever.
Realize that if you sell your time for cheap, you are essentially saying that your life is cheap.
I think my time is expensive. Because I know, it is my most precious thing.
Seneca said we don’t have “life”, but only time. Life is too abstract of a concept. We can count our hours, not our lives.
So now, I value an hour of my time a thousand dollars usd. So that is my new bench mark in terms of what I decide to do or not to do.
To me, it is worth having a relaxing three hour dinner with my loved ones. I would spend three thousand dollars on that.
To me, it is a waste of my time to shoot some small little project that isn’t at least fifty racks (fifty thousand dollars). If I’m going to sell my time, it ain’t gonna be cheap.
And if I wanna help someone, I will photograph for them for free. For example, I’ll shoot my friends wedding for free. No way would I charge them (thank you Neil Ta for photographing my wedding with Cindy, your photos were the most beautiful testament to our friendship and your photos will life forever).
You’re worth more than you think you are. Never sell yourself short.
When deciding how much to price your services as a photographer, my rule is:
Always charge twenty five percent more than you think you’re worth.
This is because we always under-sell ourselves.
So friend, I believe in you. If you hustle hard, seven days a week, twelve hours a day, you can easily earn two hundred thousand bucks a year.
I’m not special. If I can do it, you can probably do it better than me.
And for me, my next goal: be the first photography trillionaire.
Learn more: Photography entrepreneurship 101 >