It’s hard to believe that 2016 is just about over. That means I’ve been a self-employed photographer for 4 years as of September. Time has certainly flown by, and I’m more energized for what lies ahead. For now, it’s time for the annual performance review of what happened this year, and what’s in store for 2017.
Annual Stats for 2016
- Photo Shoots: 164 (19 less than 2015)
- Hours Worked: 1794.10 (310.11 more than 2015)
- Miles Walked: 1677.43 (193.44 more than 2015)
- Miles Ran: 171.2 (88.6 less than 2015)
- Days Traveled: 60 (31 less than 2015)
- Destinations: 14 (4 more than 2015)
Goals for 2016 – Achieved?
- Earn at least $2,000 per month [Achieved!]
- Travel at least 2 months out of the year [Achieved!]
- Run at least 1 half marathon [Achieved!]
- Read a book a month [Failed. Not even close.]
- Write a book. Or two [Failed. But so close.]
- Grow the web design business so that profits are at least 25% of total income [Failed, but unrealistic perimeters]
- Generate at least $5,000 in purely passive income [Failed, but very close]
- Earn a six figure annual income [Failed, but closer than ever before]
- Travel to my 26th country [Achieved!]
Annual Performance Review Tracking Tools
- FitBit (daily steps and mileage)
- Strava (running and bicycling mileage and speed)
- Toggl (work hours)
- MileIq (automatic driving mileage tracker)
- FreshBooks (financials)
What Went Well
Fewer Photo Shoots, More Income
During my fourth year as a self-employed photographer, I finally felt a much-needed shift in my confidence and passion for photography. In previous year-end blog recaps, I recall feeling unmotivated by photography. The surge in everyday photographers and fellow competitors gave me a negative outlook on the future of professional photography, which prompted my moves to diversify my income beyond photography. In retrospect, I don’t regret these negative outlooks. As I mention below, I actually think it’s good to not be too complacent about photography and always be working on a backup plan in case the photo industry tanks. However, I was also relieved to go through a mental revival this year where I once again fell in love with photography. Looking back, I think this happened because of:
- Took on fewer photo shoots, focusing only on new projects and clients that I was 100% excited about.
- Accepted a few photo projects (namely portraits, my ultimate weakness) that challenged my comfort levels, but ultimately worked out extremely well, resulting in a confidence boost.
- Tried out new lighting setups that vastly improved the quality of photos I delivered to my clients.
- Embraced new photography technology by purchasing a Sony a6300 and Moto Z Force Droid and challenging myself to learn to shoot with entirely different cameras.
- Tightened my photography workflow by investing in SmugMug and did an intensive study of my past four years of financials to firmly set photography prices in a way that reflects past client invoices and also meets my own monetary needs.
- Sought opportunities to assist and shadow fellow photographers, learning about their processes and workflows and applying some best practices to mine.
Overall, all of this led to working with some amazing new clients this year, including dream clients Bon Appétit Magazine, Sotheby’s and Restoration Hardware. It also led to the production of some of my best photography work that I can say I’m truly proud of. Here’s to hoping this continues on into the New Year!
Continuing to Diversify Income Streams
When it comes to being self-employed, it is essential to diversify income streams. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is risky, and I don’t recommend investing all of your energy and financial hopes on photography alone. In 2016, photography was one of my major sources of income, but I also spent a chunk of time tending to my other five major income streams. I pull in service-related income by doing freelance writing, social media marketing, and website design services, and passive income through affiliate marketing and a travel business in Belize.
My website design business continues to thrive, and I’m particularly excited that all of my clients are related to my photography work. Food and restaurant clients make up half of my website clients, with fellow photographers making up the other 50%. Being able to work with clients from industries that I understand and work in has enabled me to provide better websites while also improving my eye for photography. There’s nothing like understanding how my photography clients will use photos and images than sitting in the website designer seat and trying to find images to fit into certain web page perimeters.
Became a Homeowner
Living in Seattle has its ups and downs. The economy is thriving, and opportunities are abundant for professional photographers. However, the cost of living continues to skyrocket. My fiancee and I finally took the plunge this year and invested in a condo to ease our worries about being driven out of the city. While the downpayment was a bit painful, our monthly mortgage is a relief compared to the ever-increasing rent we were facing in our old place. Best of all, our new home has an extra bedroom that I’ve transformed into a photo studio. We also remain in our longtime neighborhood in Queen Anne, which helps us out financially by keeping our commute costs low. My fiancee can continue to walk to work every day, and I can catch an Uber to my photo shoots to avoid rising parking fees around town.
Traveled a Lot
2016 was a fantastic year for personal and professional travel. There were many opportunities to explore new corners of the world, as well as revisit nearby towns. The only downside to this year was not being able to see my family at all, which will hopefully not be the case in 2017.
- A working holiday month traveling through Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali, and Malaysia.
- Annual 4th of July road trip in the form of backpacking and camping at Eightmile Lake
- A working holiday in Chicago
- Feasting and working my way through Portland and the Hood-Gorge of Oregon
- A month of hosting my fiancee’s parents and showing them around Washington State
What Didn’t Go Well This Year
Lost Motivation to Blog
Partially due to my renewed love for photography, my dedication to updating this blog fell apart this year. For the first time since I started the blog in 2012, I unwittingly took a nearly six-month hiatus from blogging. It wasn’t until I received an email from a reader inquiring about the status of my blog that I realized I needed to refocus it. Until recently, Intrepid Freelancer has suffered from an identity crisis. Is is a personal blog? A blog about travel? A blog about photography? The content was all over the place, as was my motivation to writing new blog entries. During a Thanksgiving getaway to Whistler, I sketched out a new plan for the blog and ultimately came up with the refreshed design you see today.
Looking Ahead to 2017
So far, 2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year. My fiancee will be starting a new job in his biggest, most demanding role ever, so we are anticipating much less travel. With this in mind, plus our new monthly mortgage commitment, 2017 will focus largely on professional development.
Continuing to grow Intrepid Freelancer
When I get a new idea in my head, I work obsessively and compulsively to bring it to life. That’s how I started my photography business in 2012, and my website design business the following year. In a similar fashion, I’ve spent close to 100 hours in 2 weeks redesigning the Intrepid Freelancer blog. For now, the focus is on revamping older blog posts and writing a lot of evergreen (perpetually relevant) content. Newer content is appearing on occasion, and all themes will have to do with perspectives and advice on how to make money from photography. This blog is largely for you, the aspiring photographer, so blog topic ideas are always welcome! Please comment below or shoot me a message with your questions and ideas. And please join the newsletter to find out what’s in store for the blog!
Working on my travel blog, Gemini Connect
While sketching out my blogging plan in Whistler, I decided to move all travel content away from Intrepid Freelancer over to Gemini Connect, a travel blog that my fiancee and I created several years ago. The Gemini Connect blog is largely underdeveloped, but it does highlight some of our past travel adventures. In 2017, my goal is to continue to grow this travel blog in addition to Intrepid Freelancer. If you’re interested in keeping up with my travel adventures, I invite you to follow the Gemini Connect blog.
What are your goals for 2017?
Let me know in the comments below!