Working for clients means you’re constantly on the hamster wheel. If you stop taking client jobs (or worse, clients stop knocking), your cash flow stops. Not only have you effectively put all your proverbial hamster eggs in one basket, it can leave little time for honing your craft, spending time with your family, or just taking time off at your leisure.
The answer here is diversification. You don’t need more skills, you need ideas on how to capitalize on the ones you already have.
Why Freelancing Can Only Get You So Far
As a photographer working for clients, your business is service based. A service based business requires human participation throughout the process or at least interaction with each transaction.
Service businesses have scaling issues – especially when you have to scale by adding more people.
Of course, additional employees = more $$$$.
While more employees means you can generate more revenue through additional client work that would otherwise not be possible, the gap between revenue and expenses (called profit, which is pretty important) tends to grow slowly. While profits do increase as you scale up, it requires substantial effort and expense.
The question becomes this; how do you rapidly scale your business without overwhelming expenses?
Here’s a small list of ongoing activities you must perform:
- People leave and must be replaced
- New people must be trained
- More people require more equipment to get the job done
- The sales pipeline needs to stay full
- You are always seeking out new clients to continue growth
Ain’t nobody got time fah ‘dat!
Creating An ATM That Keeps Giving
The question becomes this; how do you rapidly scale your business without overwhelming expenses? The answer to that question is the difference between a service and product based approach.
With a product based business, you sell a digital offering over and over up to an unlimited number of times. You don’t need to be present for each transaction. Because product sales transactions can be performed unsupervised, they don’t have any of the scaling issues mentioned with service based products.
There is upfront effort to create the product. This can include time and money. But once the product is created, it should be designed to require little maintenance thereafter.
You might be wondering: What are these products that you’ll be selling? Let’s start with some common deliverables that translate well into digital products.
- Online video course
- Online audio course
- Industry Reports
- Subscription Offerings
Translating Your Knowledge Into Dollars
Offering an online course is a very popular path to generating passive income. Before we dive into what an online course offering looks like, I want to speak a little about passive income. Very few items generate truly passive income. Products require upfront work. Once they are out in the wild, it might be necessary to periodically update them. Sometimes the payment processor goes down, and you have to deal with that. Sometimes, emails don’t reach customers, and that needs fixing. However, compared to a service offering, the effort is much less.
Translation: put in the work up front while you’re still young.
Now back to our online course offering. As a photographer, you have lots of knowledge about cameras, different photography styles (landscapes, weddings, action, etc.), or specific techniques in Photoshop. All of this information can be packaged up into a course and sold.
Editor’s Note: I came up with this list in less than 10 minutes. These courses are real, and nearly every one of them has over 1,000 enrollments on Udemy.com. Just think if you charged $100 for the entire course. It’s simple math.
- Approaching people for street photography
- How to avoid motion blur (John Cornicello gave you the blueprint a few weeks ago)
- How to use a drone for aerial photography
- How to build a home based photography studio
- The basics of food photography
- How to take underwater photos
- Using off camera flash effectively
- Using iPhone/Android apps for high quality photos
If you are demonstarting different camera techniques, you’ll need another camera for recording. If you are showing off your Photoshop or other software techniques, you can record your computer screen as you work. Software products such as Camtasia or Screenflow are great for screen recordings (or screencasts as they are also called).
Camtasia or Screenflow also let you edit video, which you’ll need for your online course. Editing in these programs includes:
- Adding transitions
- Audio adjustments
- Video dimension adjustments
- Cutting out the “ohs, uhs, ahs, um-hums.” ‘Cause they make one sound like an idiot.
- Re-recording sections as needed
The editing process can get messy and having the right software to handle it is important.
Another item you’ll need is a high-quality mic. Audio can make or break your online course.
A USB based mic is fine but make sure there is a cable or adapter to plug into your stand alone camera (if applicable). You’ll want to capture good audio when you’re working away from the computer as well – nobody wants to listen to anything that sounds like it was recorded in a tin drum.
Some mics that work well are the Blue Yeti or Blue Snowball. There’s a lot that goes into creating great audio, but the more courses you create, the better you’ll get.
Once you have a course created, the next question becomes where do you sell it? If you don’t have an audience, Udemy.com and Skillshare.com are a great place to start. If you already have an audience on your own platform, selling direct from your website can also be ideal.
Having a community on your own platform does 2 things for you;
1. You get to keep virtually 100% of the profit
2. You are in control of the entire process.
See, the thing with offering your (undoubtedly awesome) course on someone else’s site is that you can’t really control what they do with your course. They can change the rules on you at any point.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t consider using these sites to market your course, but just make sure that you’re getting the exposure you need out of them, as hey are a great way to get your course out there to a hungry audience if you haven’t built yours, yet.
There are also numerous other channels you can leverage to market your products:
- Facebook: Use your business page to let people know about your course. Hopefully, you have one set up already. If not, Facebook makes it really easy. Spend some time working with Facebook Ads and shell out a little money to get things going. Facebook is a pay to play platform, so don’t be upset about it, just embrace it and make it work for you. Facebook Groups is also a good way to engage an audience that share similar interests.
- Twitter: This will take a little more finesse because Tweets disappear from your audience’s feed at an alarming rate. So you’ll have to promote often. Start promoting with your own profile. You can also move onto promoted Tweets to let even more people know about your course.
- Email Newsletters: These are gold. You’ve already got an audience that wants to hear from you, and odds are that they probably want to learn from you, too. But selling to your email list can feel a little dirty. Here’s why it’s not.
- Medium: Medium is a blog publishing platform that was started by the co-founders of Twitter. It’s got a huge audience and anyone can publish. Think of it as an extension of your own blog. Readers here are looking for information, so don’t sell too hard. Simply summarize what the course is about and point people in that direction.
- Local and Industry events: Get out of your office. Make some new friends. Connecting with other like-minded photographers can be a huge help in getting your course in front of new eyes. Your new pals may also give you ideas on creating new courses or how to make your existing course better. Keep in mind that you’re not selling your product to these people. They probably won’t buy your course. But their audience might if your new friend talks about how brilliant it is.
Remember, this is a numbers game. When your course is online, your market is global.
It’s also relatively inexpensive, so you can get started slowly and build your marketing efforts as you go.
What Are You Waiting For?!
Creating a course with your unique knowledge is a great way to start generating passive income for your photography business. Over time, adding additional course offerings means you can attract and engage a broader audience – generating additional income that builds passively. More offerings also means you can sell related courses to your existing customers – so get out there and share your knowledge!
These ideas represent a foundation on which you can jump start numerous business initiatives that drive not only revenue, but your skills and experience.
Remember, use your skills and unique point of view to your advantage, because people buy from people.