Talk with Nottingham College – My take on building a career from a hobby
Before the Coronavirus pandemic hit , I was invited once again by Nottingham College to give a talk about how I’ve been able to start to develop the passion and craft for photography into a business model , and create economic opportunities – and some of the things I’ve learnt along the way . Here’s a blog summarising what I would have said , think of these as a form of show notes.
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to find myself within the wonderful craft of photography which I’ve been able to dearly enjoy for over a decade now – more latterly creating a business where I apply my vision to create images which help other business people and creative organisations tell their stories and be herd . Going back to my roots it has also served as a craft and hobby which allows me to express myself and communicate my feelings , as well as share my experiences of the world around me.
My first why – the love of the craft…
When I started to learn to enjoy photography I enjoyed the sense of freedom of being able to create and express myself – and having so many myriad ways of doing so with the tools of the craft of photography , and I still do – being heard has done wonders for my wellbeing and mental health. Being able to be observant , and being in the moment and being able to share that vision of the world has been priceless and just being able to work through the process is a form of therapy in and of itself as I’d mentioned in my last blog.
Being on the autism spectrum I was immensely grateful for the opportunity to be able to express myself with a camera , at a time when I was nowhere near as comfortable doing so as I am now. I’m also thankful for the confidence it’s given me which I’ve been able to take forward as a result and meet other people.
It wasn’t until more recently that I was able to begin to turn my love into a career – as much as I love and enjoy the experience of crafting it took me a long time to be able establish myself – because it took a lot more then what I anticipated. Another reason was that when I was younger and out of uni , it took me a while to overcome some personal issues and the particular role of photography as something I had to cope with was something I really relied on , which I didn’t appreciate until more recently , which presented a conflict of interests with my work.
On standing out…
For a long time I’d been sharing my vision with others online others but it took me a while for it to really set me apart from what a lot of people are doing – with an abundance of mass social media. In this day and era everyone is a photographer and has the means to share their visions with mass social media. Even talent , technical and artistic merit doesn’t necessarily stand out on those platforms to be valued seeing as many talented people have the same level of profile and awareness . Not to mention the amount of memes , politicking and other crap there which you’ll be competing directly for eyeballs with. I also think it might not be the best representation of your ability to work with others and ethic – which is probably more important in terms of doing business . Thom Hogan wrote an excellent piece about not allowing other people to extract value out of our work as photographers recently , which sums this up perfectly.
The challenges and opportunities
This challenges you to be so much more then a photographer who simply creates – your business and career is so much more than just that. You really need to fully embrace the tools of business development to be able to package your craft in terms of services , as well as products and be willing to invest a lot of effort to promote them to those who might benefit and are able to pay. Getting and people in commercial organisations to know , like and trust you over time to show up with their money and delivering on that , with the client work I do.
It’s tough – until I had a business mentor with the through the Princes Trust it was something I’d put off thinking about ,- it’s easy to have a nose too far to the grindstone and just concentrate on your creative work and not think about the bigger picture in terms of viability – especially as the business development needed me to be able to confront things I found scary.
It needs you to really be known for something very particular in terms of your craft , rather than being a jack of all trades ,trying to be everything to everyone – and being nothing to not very many people , which they can’t already do for themselves.
As the Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated you might need to deal with externalities which will make it necessary for you to change and pivot in terms of the work that you’re doing as things become more difficult – the world constantly changes – and so does things.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to spend many years building my craft and business slowly and rebuild my confidence after a difficult few years out of university – and I’m forever grateful for my client base in supporting my work thus far , and allow me to build a life out of creativity , and once the dust settles on this I look forward to doing more of this.
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