If you wanna succeed in business you need to learn how to become a master at marketing.
To start off, I am damn good at marketing. I’m not the world’s best photographer, but I think I’m the worlds best photography blogger. I think I’m the most knowledgeable person on social media, photography, and marketing. And I think I’m an amazing teacher.
Anyways, bragging aside, let me share with you the secrets which have helped me build up my name (ERIC KIM), and have helped me build a yearly $200,000+ income in photography, from 2011-2017 (6 years of work, hustling 120 hours a week, seven days a week).
This advice won’t work for you. But it helped me. And I hope you can gleam a few new ideas, and apply it to your own business.
I. Hustle fucking hard.
You’re a small guy, starting off on the bottom.
I started with no followers, and nobody knew me. I started with 0 people on the internet knowing me.
So what did I do?
I first started my own photography blog, via 1and1.com and WordPress.org. I registered erickimphotography.com, and made a blog.
At first, I wanted to make a Blog to just share information. I struggled a lot starting off in street photography, and I couldn’t find any useful information on how on how to shoot street photography on google. So I made the information I wanted to read.
I had no intention on making photography my living. I had just graduated from UCLA (GO BRUINS) with a sociology major. I got a job working as an online community manager for eHow.com, subsidiary of Demand Media. I made $40,000 USD a year (before taxes) plus benefits. I just blogged as a hobby.
But I was passionate about my hobby in photography. I genuinely didn’t think it would be possible to make a living from street photography. But 6 years later, I am.
I woke up an hour before work, and blogged a bit. I built up my social media following while bored at work. I made some photos while on my lunch break. I made photos after work. I blogged at home after work.
To me, it was a good strategy having a full time job while building my passion. Because I wasn’t stressed out about money. And to be frank, I was more creative when I had a day job, because I was hustling fucking hard, in order to maybe one day– do my passion for a living.
It took me 1 year of constant blogging, 5 days a week, 1 blog post a day, before I built up a following.
I built a following by the following:
- Making free YouTube videos on how to shoot street photography
- Interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter
- Interviewing other street photographers on this blog.
- Doing guest blog posts for popular photography websites and blogs (thanks Darren Rowe from Digital Photography School).
Above all, I always believe in the mantra:
Content is king.
I tried to make the best information and content possible. I tried to make all my articles on street photography and videos the best fucking information I could muster.
Writing the “Learn from the masters of photography” series literally took me 1,000 shots of espresso, and lots of carpal tunnel to produce. It was written with love and blood.
II. You have to be willing to die for it.
Passion means you’re willing to die for your ideas and ideals. Like the passion of Christ.
To be passionate means to literally be willing to die for your ideas and ideals.
To be honest, I’d fucking die for this shit. And no money can make me compromise.
For example, if I were offered ten billion dollars to sell all the information on this blog and make it locked with a pay wall, I’d tell them to fuck off.
The only one thing I really believe in is open source information. For information to empower others by making it open and free. Because knowledge is power.
If you don’t have passion in your photography, art, business, or commercial endeavor you’re going to die. For real.
For example, I’m rich now. But I still hustle fucking hard. I wake up at 4:30am, and drink a cold brew to get my blood flowing. I write like I’m dying tonight. I make videos to empower others. I don’t give a fuck about enriching myself. I only care to make a shit load of money to empower others. Cause in today’s society money is power, and money can buy your freedom.
The biggest misconception of Eric Kim: he’s lazy. I literally work from 4:30am to 6am, drinking coffee and writing. Then at 6-8am I go to the coffee shop, and do more writing or videos. Then at 8am, I do deadlifts at the gym. I don’t eat anything after because I get tired after I have a meal during the day. Then at 9am, I go back home, and start making videos and uploading them to YouTube, and write more. At noon, I crash and take an hour nap. I then have another espresso, and power up until around 5pm with more writing, thinking, meditating and reading. At 5pm, I have a leisurely dinner with family and friends and usually I pass out from exhaustion at 9pm.
If I could live this life on loop for the rest of my life, I’d be happy.
Because to me, happiness is just creating art, and empowering others.
So ultimately, to market yourself, you need to have your “soul in the game”(thanks Nassim). Anything done without your heart, soul, and passion– people will be able to see through your bullshit. You will never build a following, because you have no ideals you stand up for.
III. Self promote yourself
Don’t wait for someone to discover you and promote you. Rather, hustle and promote yourself.
Self promotion ain’t something to be ashamed of. Even the best rappers had to start off by selling cds from their trunk.
Self promote yourself by giving out business cards, by writing blog posts, by making YouTube videos, and by asking friends and family to refer you to their friends.
Whenever someone criticizes you for self promoting, just ignore them. Because they don’t have a spine to promote themselves. All your haters are failed artists, who don’t have enough courage to take risks.
IV. Don’t censor yourself.
Don’t be controversial for the sake of it. Rather, just be honest and speak your mind.
Harness the Dionysian in your heart. Which means, channel your emotions into your art, your business, or your message.
Whenever something pisses me off, rather than complain, I try to figure out how I can make a positive change. Like Gandhi, I try to be the change which I wish to see in the word.
So my new rule is this:
Never complain; make CHANGE
Marketing can be applied to everything. To non profit work. To business. To photography. To art.
Marketing is just getting your message across to a wider audience. Or finding the right audience.
So get it out of your head that marketing is evil.
Marketing is like fire, it can be used in a positive way (cook food) or evil (terrorist bombings).
V. Don’t be wal-mart
Rather than aspiring to be the next Tesla, Apple, or Nike, try to figure out what kind of business you do not want to become.
For me, I hate unethical companies. I hate Walmart. I hate how they are fucking up local communities, and killings mom and pop businesses. I also hate how all their stuff is so cheap, we just accumulate tons of crap.
So, I try not to be a wal mart. I follow what I think are ethical business decisions (don’t do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you) by paying above market prices to my associates, and building wealth for the benefit of everyone else. My goal is to make all of my friends, family, and fellow photographers millionaires. The economy isn’t a limited pie. It is unlimited and ever expanding.
I don’t want to sell cheap shit. I want to be like a Prius, lasting for 10 years and still working well. I want to be like a Porsche, looking better as time goes on. I want to be a Film Leica, gaining beautiful grassing and patina over time, and still working after a few decades.
If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, don’t sell cheap shit. Either give away your information for free, or charge a lot of money for it. And whenever you make stuff, make sure it can last lifetime.
For example, HAPTIC is the business that Cindy made. The camera straps we design are meant to last a lifetime. To be the only camera strap you will need until your camera dies. To create educational books that empower photographers and artists, and making it out of 100% recycled paper. To make beautiful limited edition art prints (very expensive) that will bring joy to someone for their entire lifetime.
As a capitalist American, I don’t believe we should renounce all our worldly goods. Rather, we should just be more conscious consumers. To buy fewer shit, but making sure that shit you buy will last a long time. Be like Tyler Durden from fight club, just buy a single leather jacket that will last your entire life. Buy a car that will last you at least 30 years (Honda, Toyota). Buy Apple products, because they will last a lot longer than cheap Android devices. Pay a premium for good shit, that it will last a long time, and contribute to less trash on Mother Earth.
So if you want to market yourself, brand yourself as premium, high end. Quality. Lifetime. Indestructible. Patina, wabi-sabi; your products get better over time. Create a marriage with your customer and follower, rather than a one night fling.
VI. Stay true to your ideals.
Us silly modern folks no longer have ideals. We just sell our souls for money.
What ideals do you have? What ethics or morals did you believe in when you were 18 years old? Are there any ideals that you would die for? Are there any ideals that you wouldn’t backtrack on, regardless of how much money people offered you?
The worst marketing tactic: betraying your true vision.
I think it is bad that Leica is making cheaper cameras for the mass market. Because it is diluting their brand. I think they should only sell expensive Leica M cameras, rather than trying to saturate the market its their cheap and middle range cameras.
Apple believes in empowerment in all individuals and the artist. They also believe in privacy. Tim Cook had balls of steel when he refused to give a back door for the FBI to crack iPhones. To me, Tim Cook stood up for the morals and ethics of Apple and humanity. I will buy Apple products until I die. Steve Job would have been very happy.
Know with marketing, stay true to your mission statement. I do think it is a good ideas as a business or individual to have a mission statement. To write it clearly and openly. That will help you stay focused on why you are doing what you do.
Eric Kim mission statement:
To empower as much of humanity as possible through information.
Be an ethical marketer, don’t do unto others as you don’t like others doing unto you.
I hate ads. I don’t put ads on this blog or YouTube, because that shit annoys me.
Simple marketing tactic:
Just do the opposite of annoying marketers.
You can be an ethical and good marketer.
Have a morally strong and virtuous message, and spread that shit wide and far.
Photography Entrepreneurship 101
Learn how to make a living from your passion:
How to get rich from photography
- 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
- The Social Media Blackbook for Photographers
- Why Do You Need More Likes or Followers?
- Instagram is Going to Be the Next Facebook
- Don’t Trust “Free” Photography Social Networks
Unleash your creative potential:
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.