Let’s say you wanted to build your own house. Would you want to build it on quicksand?


The Modern Photographer: Tips, Strategies, and Tactics to Thrive as a Visual Artist in the Digital Age

MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER is your new philosophical and practical primer to succeed as a modern photographer in today’s digital world.


Digital share cropping

Sharecroppers working the land of the land owner (and being exploited)

Another question: if you are a “share-cropper”— working the fields of your master, do you really “own” your own land, crops, capital, and yourself?

I have a personal example: my mom worked as a waitress at a popular sushi restaurant for nearly a decade. She advanced through the ranks, and became head waitress. She helped improve customer service, and as a result, sales. Yet after a decade of diligent service, she got let go. She built up all of that value for her employer, but once she got let go, she had nothing to prove for it. She wasn’t able to build any personal capital or “xxxxx” for herself.

What really belongs to you?

Blue. Man at beach. Marseille, 2014

Anyways, the purpose of the story is this:

Avoid building your business in quicksand, or land that doesn’t “really” belong to you.

That means, don’t build your business, platform, or startup on social media.

The rule is this:

If you’re not paying for your platform (website, blog, marketing communication channels) you’re being suckered somewhere.

My regrets in digital marketing

Woman with eyes. NYC, 2016

For example, my mistake in marketing and entrepreneurship was spending so much time, energy, focus, and resources building up my Facebook following. Now, to access more of my fans, I must pay a lot of money to “boost” my posts, to access more of my fans. And as a platform, Facebook isn’t being utilized as much as other platforms.

Instagram is Facebook

For example, nowadays most photographers have flocked to Instagram. Yet, photographers don’t realize that Instagram is owned by Facebook (Facebook purchased Instagram for around $1Billion dollars).

The problem with focusing your energy building your Instagram following:

  1. Eventually the platform will die, and people will flock to another platform
  2. You’re building your own platform in quicksand
  3. You will (eventually) have to pay a lot of money to “access” your “own” fans/followers
  4. You have less control and customization in terms of how to present your work to your followers than if you owned your own platform
  5. It is hard to “meaningfully” differentiate yourself on a social media platform
  6. There is no “freedom of speech” on social media. You can get censored easily for “violating community standards” (has happened to me before on Instagram)

All of this motivated me to delete my own Instagram: the best decision I ever made.

Building my own platform

Ever since I deleted my own Instagram, I’m more focused than ever to build my own website/blog. Not only that, but I have fewer distractions.

By using social media, you’re constantly distracted —comparing yourself, your progress, and your “like” and “follower” numbers with others. But as a principle as an entrepreneur:

Ignore your “competition”— because you have no real competitors. You are in a category of your own, therefore it is pointless to try to compare yourself with others.

Why you should make your own blog and newsletter

My humble suggestion:

Rather than build your following on social media, start your own photography blog, and website. I recommend using the free and open source “Wordpress.org” platform hosted on bluehost.com or 1and1.com.

And to communicate with your followers, I recommend you to build an email newsletter. With my email newsletter, I have an email “open rate” of around 30%— which is massively more than any “engagement rates” on social media (For example on Facebook, less than 1% of my audience actually “sees” my posts in their over-saturated and polluted feeds). Email is the oldest and most durable form of internet communication, and will continue to be so at least for the next 40 years (email has been used since the 1970s in the popular sense). The service that I currently use and recommend is mailchimp.com.


The Modern Photographer

Marketing, Branding, Entrepreneurship Principles For Success


How to build a photography blog

Minimalist composition

If you use Facebook, Instagram, or any other social network —I recommend you to start your own photography blog instead. It is essentially the same thing, except you “own” your own content, yourself, and how you decide to communicate and transmit your pictures and information to your viewer/reader/follower.

Step 1. Register your own photography blog/website

Blue and orange. Berlin, 2017

I recommend bluehost.com or 1and1.com as your website host, and WordPress.org as the platform.

Register your own website domain, and I recommend using your first and last name whenever possible.

For example,

erickim.com

or if that is not available, add the word “photo” to your domain name:

erickimphotography.com

Why use my real name?

ERIC KIM Selfie in mirror. Berlin, 2017

The reason why you want to add your own name in your domain name: your name is the most valuable “brand” that exists. Your name will stay with you for your entire life — you want to build to the legacy, the valor, and the glory of your name — rather than trying to imbue meaning into some cheesy business name like “Midnight Images” or “Decisive Moments Photography.”

Generally the companies and brands that have existed for a long time (traditionally) have been family names, or the name of individuals. For example,

  • Ferrari
  • Lamborghini
  • Porsche
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Calvin Klein
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Prada
  • Christian Dior
  • Hitachi

The best business card

And when you meet people “in real life”— the best business card to own is:

“Just google me.”

Ideally, your first and last name should become #1 in Google. The way to rank higher in Google for your name is to write relevant, interesting, informative, and empowering information (in your field or genre) on your own personal website or blog. And have more high-ranking, popular, or “legitimate” websites linking to you (Google ranks your website just like how Academic citations work— the higher the rank of the academic who cites you, the higher your ranking goes up).

Step 2. Start posting

Cutout. Lidl supermarket. Berlin, 2017

Once you have built your website or blog, start posting. Don’t worry about your design — yet. It is fine to start off with a standard blog or website template. What matters the most:

Content is king.

The quality of the information you put out there is critical.

Follow the 80% principle: publish blog posts that you consider “80% good enough”

My suggestion:

Post information, content, pictures, or videos which would interest YOU.

Be your own ideal customer. Be your own ideal follower.

You will have no idea how to please the masses. But you know what appeals to you.

Therefore, create your website or blog to cater to your personal tastes, aesthetics, or judgements. It is better to create a website, blog, or platform to please you — and then have your audience find you, rather than trying to build a website or platform pleasing a foreign or outside audience.

Cindy with blue cup. Berlin, 2017

To simplify,

Be yourself, and let your audience find you. Seek to please yourself, not your audience.

Step 3. Be seen

Woman with cross neck tattoo. Berlin, 2017

Okay now, you have your website, blog, or platform.

The difficult part:

How do you get people to see your stuff?

I like the idea of “guerrilla marketing” or “bootstrap marketing.” Which means, to be a hustler, scrappy, and to pride yourself on being the underdog.

Fluorescent light. Berlin, 2017

Easiest suggestion:

Start small, then build yourself up, steadily, over a long period of time.

A human newborn is pretty much non-self sufficient until around age 12 or so. That’s around 12 years of tending for a creature, and being patient — and building up this organism.

Why should your business, platform, or self be any different?

Mask billboard. Berlin, 2017

It might take you 10-12 years of being in your business or industry before you start to really make waves. A great redwood tree starts from a tiny sapling, and takes EONS before it reaches heights that block out the stars.

Start small, by sharing your blog posts, website, with friends and family — share via email, text message, messenger apps, or posting to social media. Post to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, links to your biography in your Instagram, or whatever platform that allows you to link.

But the goal is:

Drive traffic to your own website, blog, or platform.

You do NOT want to drive people off your platform. You want them to stay on your website, blog, or platform.

LEARN MORE: How to Start Your Own Photography Blog


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The Modern Photographer

Marketing, Branding, Entrepreneurship Principles For Success

MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER is your new philosophical and practical primer to succeed as a modern photographer in today’s digital world.

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