I think the purpose of my life is to empower others, especially my fellow photographers and you.
If you are passionate about photography, want financial freedom, and want to make money from photography, read on.
This advice probably won’t work for you. But I hope it will give you some ideas.
I’m only using myself as a blueprint. So this probably won’t work for you, but I think the principles are good, and will probably work for you.
1. How to monetize your photography
Okay, it is better to aim high than low. To be frank, you probably won’t make $10,000 a month from your photography. But better to aim for that goal, and hit $7,000 a month or $5,000 than to aim too low.
So let’s do some quick math in terms of how you can monetize, using myself as a blueprint.
For me, I charge $3500 normally for a week long travel photography workshop. If I get five students to sign up, that is easily over $10,000 (for just a week of work).
If you do commercial photography for a big client, you can charge a lot of money. Recently a big car company reached out to us, and my manager Neil and Cindy helped me negotiate a commercial deal (week of work) for around $30,000-$40,000 USD. At first they said yes, and we proceeded with logistics. Unfortunately it fell through. I was probably too expensive.
Cindy started HAPTIC INDUSTRIES; a company dedicated to creating artful tools to empower photographers and artists. We currently sell Henri Neck and Wrist Straps, Street Notes, Photo Journal, and art prints in our shop. We handle the payments via woocommerce.com plugin for WordPress (what this blog runs on), and we average between $20-$600 USD (income) a day. My goal is within the month, to sell at least $1,000 of products a day, which will be $10,000 in ten days, or $30,000 USD a month.
If you pursue wedding photography and you charge $5000, you just need to shoot two weddings in a month to make $10,000. Or if you do weddings every weekend at $5,000– you can earn $20,000 a month.
If you do editorial photography for a fashion brand or company, I think you can easily charge $25,000.
If you start to teach workshops at $1000, you just need ten students to signup to make $10,000. Can you find ten students (in the entire planet earth of 7 billion people) to attend? Hell yeah you can.
2. You must be an expensive photographer.
The secret is this: to make $10,000 a month from photography you must be an expensive photographer.
For example, it is easier to get 5 students to pay $2,000 for your workshop ($10,000) than to find 10,000 people to give you $1 each.
So when you’re starting off, do this:
Sell a few very expensive products.
We make the mistake of trying to sell a lot of a cheap product.
Do not be a Walmart photographer. You will die.
Consider this, you can buy a used Canon 5D and a good L lens for a total of around $1000-2000. Any college student can technically afford that (in America) by taking out a student loan (what I did when I was in college). And any college student or 18 year old can make damn good photos. This is who you are competing against– students who will do great work for free.
Don’t be mistaken– all photographers are very good. Most of these college kids are actually probably better than you and me.
But the secret is knowing how to brand, market, and advertise yourself and your services. The secret is finding a very specific niche, becoming #1 in that field (after 5+ years of hustling 12-14 hours a day, 7x days a week).
3. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
The harder you work and hustle the more lucky you will get in life.
For example, if you work 100 hours a week, versus the guy working only 10 hours a week, your chance of success is probably going to be 100x more than the other guy.
The Ancient Greek historian Herodotus taught us:
The only thing given to mortals is hard work.
If we want to become rich or make a living from our passion, we need to work fucking hard.
For example, you might be wondering how you can charge so much money for your photography services or products. The secret is to build trust.
The word “branding” means to build trust. A brand is just a symbolism of trust. For example, I trust that if I wear Nike shoes, I will be stronger, sexier, and more athletic. If I wear a Rolex I will be richer. If I drive a Rolls Royce Wraith I will feel like a boss. If I use an Apple product, I will feel more creative and artistic.
I know this is all bullshit, but this is how human beings think. Especially in today’s capitalist world.
I think capitalism is here to stay, at least for the next three hundred years or so. Capitalism will exist our entire lives. Rather than complain and moan about it, let us figure out how we can exploit capitalism for fun and our personal benefit and freedom.
To build trust for people to spend four thousand dollars to attend my workshop is because I’ve built trust. They trust my knowledge and expertise. Because I have put in the work of hustling for over five years, I’ve written close to three thousand blog posts, and I do genuinely feel that I am the best photography teacher on the planet. And that’s a fact in my mind. I genuinely do not know a better photography teacher than myself who is empathetic, loving, practical, and motivational. I think I am certainly the most knowledgeable person on street photography probably on planet earth. If people can afford ten thousand dollar Leica cameras, what is five thousand dollars on an Eric Kim workshop?
You can easily build an audience, with enough hard work, sweat, and hustle. I can guarantee that if you write one or two blog posts a day for five years straight, you will be number one on some photography search term on Google. And if you are number one on Google, you will become rich, period.
I currently earn over two hundred thousand dollars a year from photography, and I plan on hitting a million a year within three years.
For me, I plan on building a photography company that specializes in photography business, marketing, branding, product design, and blogging. I plan on charging at least two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to camera companies, and teaching workshops for at least ten thousand dollars to potential photography entrepreneurs. And if I can help a camera company earn million of dollars more in profit, I am a very good investment. If I can teach photographers how to earn two hundred thousand dollars a year in income, ten thousand dollars for a photography entrepreneurship workshop is very cheap.
Sorry I’m talking about myself too much again, that is what happens when you are an egotistical bastard.
Anyways, listen to Rick Ross’ “everyday I’m hustling” for inspiration or Dr Dre’s “Compton” album, or most of the songs by Jay Z for inspiration.
4. Dream massive.
To be frank, it sounds super wishy washy, but you just need to dream big. Really big. Like fucking big.
The bigger you think, the more successful you will be in life. Because any limits you have for yourself is shackled onto you by society.
If you’re a woman, the patriarchal male dominated society will try to prevent you from breaking the glass ceiling.
If you’re black or colored, the white men in authority will try to prevent your ascent.
If you’re from the Midwest or the south with an “accent”– snobby assholes from California or New York will look down on you and judge you.
You will have random folks telling you that you cannot get rich off your passion. That is a lie. I followed my passion and I got rich. If I can do it why can’t you? I’m honestly not that smart, I’m just hard working and lucky.
Kanye West said that geniuses are just kids with good parents.
I think I am a genius because my mom raised me well. She taught me the spirit of hustle, hard work, and never doubting myself. I love you mom, thank you for instilling all the good morals and ethics in me, and my love of humankind.
5. Don’t be “realistic”
Even now, everyone tells me that I’m crazy. But often I feel like I’m the only sane one– I feel like I took the red pill and I can see through the false reality of the Matrix.
So friend, don’t let nobody hold your dreams back or down. Because ultimately, you need faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
Homework assignment: become an egoistical asshole (like Eric Kim). Don’t fake humble. Know in your mind that you’re fucking the best and awesome. And constantly hustle to learn, grow, and develop. I eat books like a fat kid eats cake.
To study business, the books I recommend include:
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel
For motivation, just watch any Elon Musk interview, or listen to Kanye West or Jay-Z.
Don’t censor yourself. If you curse in real life, curse online. Be a real person, a real singular person. Don’t be two faced.
My biggest benefit studying sociology was I learned that social rules are all socially constructed, and all are bullshit.
I also think if you have negative friends or family who don’t believe in you, distance yourself from them, or cut them out of your life. For a while I started to get depressed after all these folks were saying negative shit about me online, so one day I just realized, I am going to stop reading comments. So I don’t read comments from others anymore. I just listen to my own gut.
I disabled statistics and page views on this blog. I don’t know how many page views or visitors I get, but I know I am doing a good thing– because I had to upgrade my server, because my PHP server kept running out of memory. And Cindy says I’m getting reposted a lot on PetaPixel and the internet. And we’re making more money. So I guess I’m doing something right.
Another practical tip: don’t get distracted by social media. You don’t need Instagram or Facebook to make money from photography. Rather, make a good ass website via bluehost.com and WordPress.org. I recommend the Genesis WordPress framework, and buy one of their $100 themes.
Build up your brand, by building up your name, and own your own platform. And hustle hard, and you will become rich. Easy as that.
Photography Entrepreneurship 101
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 become rich from photography blogging
- 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