Eric

If you want to become a successful photography entrepreneur, you must build your own capital.


What is ‘capital’?

The etymology for the word ‘capital‘ is very interesting. In one sense, ‘capital’ literally means “head” (and in medieval economics, it specifically meant the ‘head of cattle’). Thus, your “capital” (material worth/property/possessions), literally meant:

How much (head of) cattle do you own?

In ancient Homeric times, kings flexed their material worth by accumulating thousands of cattle, sheep, hogs, etc. Much of “wealth” in the past was simply related to food.

Fucking up commas

Of course in today’s modern times, we think of ‘capital’ in terms of money. Monetary wealth. AKA:

“How many commas and zeros do you have in your bank account?”

And this is also an interesting thing:

There is a difference between having a million dollars in your bank account, and spending a million dollars.

This is one thing that was very difficult for me to understand. To accumulate ‘capital’ meant to put your money in your bank account and to NOT spend it!

So in a simple sense, to accumulate capital means to put more money in your bank account, and to NOT spend it.


Most millionaires are very frugal

I have a funny story.

I was at a birthday party, and everyone was eating cake. I wasn’t. My sister-in-law then said to me:

“Eric, why don’t you eat cake?”

I told her that I didn’t want to gain fat.

She then told me,

“You can eat cake, you’re already so skinny!”

And then I said,

“I am only skinny because I don’t eat cake!”

This is the funny thing with money: people think that just because you have a lot of money in the bank account, it means that you can go out and spend a lot.

But the reason why you have a lot of money in your bank account is precisely BECAUSE you don’t spend it! You lose your money-capital the moment you spend it.


You can accumulate much money on a small income

This is the interesting thing: the amount of money you are able to save into your bank account is dependent on BOTH how much income you earn, and how little of it you spend.

  1. You can technically accumulate a lot of capital in your bank account even on a small salary. Even with a small salary, if your expenses are very low, you can accumulate a lot of zeros and commas in your bank account.
  2. On the other hand, you can earn a high income, but if you end up spending a lot of your money (high expenses), you won’t accumulate a lot of money in your savings.

To use a real example:

  1. You can technically save a million dollars into your bank account by earning $80,000 a year, as long as you save a lot of money.
  2. You can earn a million dollars a year, yet have no savings (if your expenses are a million dollars a year).

What I mean to say is this:

Don’t really concern yourself how much money you earn; focus more on how little money you spend!


There isn’t much difference between living like a rich person and a pauper

Let me compare two scenarios:

  1. Eating $10 worth of tacos at a local Mexican taqueria
  2. Eating $100 worth of steak at a fancy steakhouse

Just because you spend more money on food doesn’t mean you will have more joy from the food or the experience. In-fact, I actually prefer to eat really fatty carnitas at a Mexican taqueria, when compared to a fancy steak at a fancy steakhouse. The carnitas actually taste better than filet mignon.

Eric

Also when it comes to photography, I’ve noticed practically zero difference in terms of enjoyment level when I’m out shooting with my $6,000 Leica MP vs shooting with my $600 RICOH GR II. We don’t get enjoyment from ownership of the camera or physical things; we get enjoyment by creating something with it.

skyscraper saigon

I’ve experienced really expensive things, and experienced really affordable things. And honestly; they are more similar than dissimilar.

And often rich culture is stuffy, pretentious, and the lifestyle is actually more stressful and complicated. I actually prefer to live a more simple lifestyle, even though I have the option of living a fancier lifestyle. Why?

Benefits of living a simpler lifestyle

  1. Less stress (fewer things to manage)
  2. Fewer options (less stress, less ‘paralysis by analysis‘)
  3. More money in the bank account (less stress, less worrying about paying expenses and bills)

Essential capital-creation tools

RICOH GR II x Eric Kim NECK STRAP

As a photography entrepreneur, what actually builds your capital? What actually will earn you more money?

Buying a more expensive camera will not earn you more money. Perhaps buying a newer and more expensive camera will make nicer-looking photos, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to getting more paid clients. Generally speaking, the best way to get more clients is to create better work and being a more savvy marketer of yourself. And creating ‘better’ work generally has to do more with creative compositions. And being a better marketer is generally building your connections and name (either online or offline).

1. Buy a really good MacBook laptop

I’ve found the most important investment to build your capital is a laptop. I encourage any photography entrepreneur to buy the most expensive MacBook laptop they can afford. For example, I process a lot of 4k videos which I shoot on my Lumix G9, and my MacBook Pro 13” TouchBar (refurbished, with maxed-out specs) can process it 10x faster than my old MacBook Air. Saving time is the ultimate asset for a photography entrepeneur.

2. Phones are overrated

I got rid of my phone around 2 years ago, and honestly — I’ve been fine without it. For communication, email is easiest. And if I need to use Google Maps, I will borrow Cindy’s phone, or borrow a phone of a friend.

It is ridiculous how we spend thousands of dollars on new phones all the time. I think it is better to spend less money on your phone, and put that money towards a really powerful laptop.

3. Website/domain/blog hosting

Pay for your own domain and website. Preferably open up a wordpress.org blog-website, and host it on a host like bluehost.com. Paying for your own website and domain host is one of the best monetary investments you can make.

4. Camera

I would say in today’s world, best to invest in a camera that shoots both still photos AND video.

Currently I’ve found that the Lumix G9 camera is the best for both still photos and videos. The 4K video that comes out of the G9 is phenomenal. And it takes fantastic still photos in “iA” (intelligent auto) JPEG mode. I’ve shot two weddings on the Lumix G9 and the Leica 12mm f/1.4 lens (24mm full frame equivalent), and it was fantastic.


Accumulating your own following capital

If you’re focused on building a social media following, you’re not building capital in yourself. You’re building the capital of Facebook-Instagram.

The real numbers which matter for accumulating your own following:

  • Number of subscribers to your email newsletter (I recommend mailchimp.com)
  • Number of regular visitors who visit your website/blog

I know personally, I have thrived more AFTER deleting my Instagram. It is probably the best marketing advice I could give– because all that attention I was giving to my old Instagram account, I gave all that attention to this blog! And now I’m 100x more innovative and productive, by focusing on my own platform.


Sign yourself

rolls royce

“Start your own label and sign yourself, that is a major key.” – NAS

Rappers always want to get signed to a big record label. But as JAY Z tells us, that is slavery.

Instead, seek to start your own brand. Seek to start your own publishing house. Seek to start your own label!

For example, Cindy and I started HAPTIC INDUSTRIES; we produce our own camera straps, our own print books (via HAPTICPRESS), and HAPTIC products belong to us.

You must own your own brand in order to own yourself, and to start accumulating (real) capital.

Don’t seek sponsorships from other brands; seek to sponsor yourself!


Practical Takeaways

HAPTIC PRODUCTS

I won’t go on too much longer, but here are some takeaways:

  1. Build your own brand; don’t seek to get “signed” by another brand.
  2. The best way to accumulate commas and zeros in your bank account isn’t to earn more money, it is to SPEND LESS money. Prefer a more simple and economical lifestyle; it is actually superior to a fancy and complicated lifestyle.
  3. Build up your own website/blog and delete your Instagram.

BUILD YOURSELF!
ERIC

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