Part of PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101

Dear friend,

If you don’t want to make money with your photography, please don’t read this.

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Okay, you still here? Cool. Let’s proceed.

What is selling vs “selling out”?

ERIC KIM x RICOH GR II x ERIC KIM STRAP

As a liberal, socialist who studied Sociology at UCLA (left leaning school), who told myself that I’d never “Sell out to the man”, I’ve started my own capitalist enterprise. I’ve done pretty well for myself, and continue to grow, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and physically.

To me, life is about growth. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

  • To sell: make money from the work and labor you do.
  • To sell out: betray your core values and ethics and morals, for profit.

For example, if I hate smoking (I do), selling out would mean that I would accept a $1 million dollar payment (bribe) from Marlboro to shoot an advertisement campaign for them. Or to blog about how smoking cigarettes will make you more creative and inspired in your photography.

To sell yourself as a photographer: charge money for your services, and make a profit.

What are you trying to do?

So, as you read this, what are your goals? What are you really trying to do?

  • Is photography your passion, and you have a day job, but you just wanna make extra bucks on the side?
  • Are you trying to make a full time living from your photography?
  • Are you seeking to get rich, and make a lot of money from your photography?
  • Do you just want more people to see and appreciate your photos?

There is no “right” or wrong. Just know, brutally honestly, what your aims are.

What are your aims, Eric?

FILM NOTES by HAPTIC

Okay this is my current mission statement:

I want to devote my life to creating open and free information, to empower the individual and humanity. Photography is just another channel or field I want to contribute to. Ultimately, my aim is to contribute to photography, art, culture, information, and society.

To reach my aims in this capitalist world, I want to accrue money, power, and influence. I see money as a tool, and a means to an end. Not the end in itself.

HENRI NECK STRAP

To clarify,

I want to use money as a tool to help more people.

To start, I gotta take care of my family. I gotta help myself, Cindy, my mom and sister, and Cindy’s family. That’s the first priority.

Then helping close friends, and others in my community.

Then all of humanity.

Barbell pricing: Free or Very Expensive

LEICA MP x ERIC KIM STRAP

Okay, so this is the theory and practice I follow:

FREE or VERY EXPENSIVE.

For example, my information is free. My products, services, consulting, and experiences are very expensive.

Rolls-Royce Torpedo
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

To me, everyone wins.

  • I win because I make good money.
  • My family wins because I can help pay their rent, and buy their freedom. They don’t gotta work shitty minimum wage jobs just to keep the lights on.
  • I don’t worry about my living expenses, so I can be more generous in producing more open-source information. I don’t gotta “nickel and dime” and charge for everything I create.

So essentially,

The richer I am, the more generous I am.

Ancient wisdom from Publius Syrus:

Don’t water the lawn of your neighbor, if your own plants are dying.

Another one:

Something is worth what the buyer is willing to pay for it.

Therefore,

  1. I must be selfish in order to be generous.
  2. If I charge a lot of money for my products and services, and if it sells, that is what it is “worth.”

How to market yourself

Watch out for Medusa

To me, “marketing” is just another form of communication. You gotta get yourself and message in the public eye, ear, and heart.

There are many ways you can market yourself, the most ancient way was “word of mouth” and trust/reputation.

So essentially my idea is this:

  1. Create valuable, interesting, or empowering things
  2. Share it with others
  3. If others like it, they will share it with their friends and circle.

Therefore, the important things to focus on:

  1. Make high-quality things
  2. Share it with others
  3. Hope that others will share it.
  4. Repeat.

The secret is taking a lot of risks. To publish a lot. The more you swing your bat, the more likely you are to hit a home run.

Yet many of us are too afraid to swing. Why? Because society and bitter people hold us back.

NYC, 2015

Why is selling or selling out bad?

Michigan, 2014

A question to ask yourself,

Is it bad to sell yourself, or to “sell out?”

If so, why?

For example, I was taught money was the root of all evil. So if I made money I would be an evil person, and maybe go to hell.

Detroit, 2014

Now, I’ve seen the light. I see money as a tool. Like fire. You can cook food, or kill people with fire.

Money, if used with wisdom, is useful (Seneca).

How to overcome your shame of making money

He owned the hotel. San Diego, 2014

Apparently it is bad to sell your art, because it de-legitimizes your commitment to your artistic vision.

I disagree. I agree with Andy Warhol who said, “The art of business is one of the most beautiful forms of art.”

Detroit, 2014

I don’t think you must sell yourself or art to be seen as “successful” in the eyes of society. However, I do believe that selling yourself, services, labor, and art is helpful.

Why do you need money?

Detroit, 2014

You need to survive. You need to not starve to death, die of thirst, or die from the cold.

Money is a nice modern invention which prevents us from starving to death.

Downtown LA, 2012

Money helps us pay rent (prevent freezing to death), pay for food (fight off starvation), and for water (and coffee) not to die of thirst.

And then we like having money for transportation, modern conveniences like our espresso machines, wifi, digital devices, cars, etc.

More money, more options.

Pittsburgh, 2014

The more money we have, the more options we have in life.

The more options you have, the more freedom you have.

Indy, 2014

You have the option where to live. What and where to eat. What kind of coffee to enjoy.

You have control over your time. Your schedule. Essentially, having money allows you to have power and control over your life.

Nashville, 2014

But you can still be a billionaire and not control your own life.

Easy heuristic (rule of thumb) from Nassim Taleb whether you own yourself or not:

Can you take a nap when you want to?

How to sell yourself

Tucson, 2014

It ain’t bad to sell out. You gotta sell yourself and services to make money.

So how to sell yourself? Some ideas:

  1. Promote yourself: share your stuff with friends, family, and your followers. Don’t be shy.
  2. Produce things of value, and advertise your own products, services, and the things you sell.
  3. Have confident in yourself and what you sell by not being apologetic about it. Never apologize for selling something.

These strategies are very morally sound to me.

How to sell out

Hollywood, 2014

This is how you sell out, and sell your soul:

Accept money, no matter what your personal ethics or morals.

Follow your gut.

Orange County, 2017

If you wanna sell out to feed your family, that’s totally cool with me. But if you sell out just to buy that new Mercedes, I would probably look down on you.

And at the end of the day, just trust your gut. I think the gut (stomach, intuition) is smarter than the brain.

Don’t be too rational in life. That’s boring.

Rather, harness the creative spontaneity and inspiration in your soul.

And know there is nothing wrong with charging money and accepting money for your photographic or artistic labor. Just try your best not to sell your soul. And if you are gonna sell your soul, don’t sell it for cheap.

Hanoi, 2017

BE STRONG,
ERIC


PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101

ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP // Portrait by Benjamin Thompson

Learn how to make a living from your passion:


How to Make Money with Photography

Photography Marketing 101

How to Hustle.

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

Photography Blogging

How to Teach Photography

Social Media

How to Save Money

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