Happy New Year! It’s officially 2018, meaning it’s my 5 year anniversary as a freelance photographer. Every year flies by quickly, but my 5th year of self-employment has felt like the fastest yet. In a lot of ways, it was due to an increased confidence in my photography skills. This was also apparent in my 2017 client list. The projects of the year were the most sophisticated and among the highest priced I’ve ever done. With these higher profile jobs also came some bouts of anxiety, which caused somve personal issues to start bubbling up. Here’s more about what went down in 2017 and some news about a big change I plan to make this year.
Annual Stats for 2017 (with comparisons to 2016)
I think annual reviews are incredibly important for self-employed folks. We don’t get regular one-on-ones with our bosses since we are our own bosses. So it’s crucial to take the occasional timeout to self-reflect. Want to do your own annual review? Here’s a template to get started.
- Photo Shoots: 271 (107 more than 2016)
- Videos Published: 34 (34 more than 2016)
- Hours Worked: 1745.52 (45.23 less than 2016)
- Miles Walked: 1512.59 (164.84 less than 2016)
- Travel Destinations: 19 (5 more than 2016)
- Days Spent Traveling: 84 (24 more than 2016)
Annual Performance Review Tracking Tools
What Went Well
In previous annual reviews, this is the part where I typically score myself on previous years’ goals. This year…forget that. As I’m learning in my current audiobook, a goal-based approach isn’t always the best for achieving things. So we’re jumping right into self-assessment.
I’d be remiss to not mention this life-changing event, so number one on the list of 2017 positives is getting married!
Higher quality photo shoots
As my time tracker, photography still fills up the vast majority of my time. Luckily, my financials are also showing that photography contributes the biggest chunk toward my overall income, so that’s time well spent. I’m not planning on revealing my full photography financials for 2017, but you can still see how much money I made from photography in 2016. This year, my photography focus was more of the same. Primarily corporate event photography, followed by food and restaurant, real estate and architecture, and editorial work. The editorial side REALLY picked up this year, hence a larger number of photo shoots in 2017 compared to 2016. For all this talk about how editorial photography is disappearing…that’s largely true. But I’ve somehow managed to score several recurring editorial photo clients that pay pretty well for relatively short shoots. So I’m not at all complaining for now.
Increased confidence in my photo rates
Along those lines, my core photography clients are now largely comprised of national and international corporations. This means bigger budgets, invoices paid on time or ahead of schedule, and some really cool photo opportunities. These commercial photography clients often have multiple photo needs, so I’ve found that one solid shoot with a new client often leads to more photo requests over time. This has been GREAT for business and has also spiked my confidence. Towards the end of 2017, I feel very confident in my photography rates and am more willing to walk away from prospective jobs if the price isn’t right. Perhaps best of all, I scored several new recurring photo client in 2017 with all-inclusive travel! This has been a dream come true and I look forward to where these clients will take me this year. Looking ahead, I have business trips to Park City, Orlando, and San Diego set for the year.
Cashing in on passive income
I’ve been into passive income for a while now and even bought my car with passive income. But there are a couple of popular passive income models out there I had never experimented with until 2017. This was the year that I started investing more time and effort into new passive income ideas and actually seeing decent returns to the tune of $1,679.01. The first is Amazon Affiliates. Whenever someone clicks on a product link from my blog, it takes them directly to Amazon; if they happen to purchase an item during their shopping session on Amazon, I get paid an automatic commission, at no extra cost to the shopper. It’s a win-win situation. Any profits that I do make via Amazon affiliate marketing go right back to this blog, whether it’s paying for hosting, maintenance, storage space, etc. 2017 was the first year that I took full advantage of Amazon affiliates, and I made a total of $920.96.
My other passive income stream for 2017 was monetizing via stock photography. If you’ve ever wondered how much money you can make selling stock photography, the answer is shockingly little. But the advantage is that you can make money over a long period of time, so stock photos are a long-term investment strategy. I’ve been making sales on my entertainment and celebrity photos on Getty Images, but never tried to monetize my food and travel photos. In July 2017, I decided to put them up on Shutterstock. From July to December 2017, I made $758.05 selling stock photos on Shutterstock.
Branching out into a new industry
Over the past few years, my focus has been in establishing myself as a corporate event and restaurant photographer. Five years in, I feel like I’ve achieved this goal. So the tail end of 2017 was about making waves in another industry: travel and leisure.Once I set the intention to break into a new field, the universe cooperated. Opportunities started flowing in, and I already completed several travel-related projects for new clients. This is why much of my latest blogging and multimedia work has been centered around my other brand, Gemini Connect. Feel free to check it out and follow along for travel-related content.
Learning a new skill
Another very important thing that happened in late 2017 was re-discovering an old passion: filmmaking. It was during my wedding and honeymoon and Italy that I started playing around with my Samsung Galaxy S8 and discovered that it took some pretty stunning 4K video. When I returned home from Italy in late September, I had thousands of little video clips on my phone, so I decided to dive into video editing. Several months later, I had created and published 34 videos on my YouTube channel, and continue to be more passionate than ever about making videos. Not only does filmmaking excite me as a new form of storytelling, but it’s something I do as a joint partnership with my husband, so the results are even more meaningful. This whole experience of learning videography has been so impactful that I’m starting a regular blog series about how I learn a new skill with applications to how one can learn photography. Follow along here.
What Didn’t Go Well This Year
Sluggish personal health
Ok, I’m being a little hard on myself probably because I gained over 5 lbs in 9 days during the Christmas break. But truthfully, 2017 started off as a rough year for physical health because I was without a gym. My local 24 Hour Fitness suddenly called it quits, so I went 10 months without a gym. The results were rougher than I expected. Not only did my physical activity go down significantly, but my emotional and mental health started to suffer. I had some of my worst late night anxiety days before big photo shoots. Not only was it a lack of physical health, but it was the realization that I was about to do photo shoots for my dream clients at some of the highest rates I’ve ever charged. That meant I had to deliver top quality, and that pressure started getting the best of me.
The fix? Two-fold. First was joining a new gym. It’s a bit further away from home, but it allows for regular physical activity, plus it has hot tubs and saunas. Worth every penny! The second was getting into motivational and business audiobooks. I’ve charged through several audiobooks, mostly while at the gym and traveling. This part has been so key for invigorating my mental and emotional health over the past couple of months that I can’t imagine going without it.
P.S. These books and others on the topic of sales and business are actually helpful in principle too for other professional photographers and creatives. You have to know how to sell yourself and your work, so it never hurts to learn some sales tactics.
Recommended Motivational & Business Audiobooks
- The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
- Secrets of Closing the Sale
Similar to last year’s annual review observations, my motivation to write regular blog posts on Intrepid Freelancer has been lacking this year. However, I’m inspired to keep this blog going thanks to the new email subscribers that keep piling on. At this point, there are over 1,000 of you out there, so I need to make this site worth your while and deliver on my promise of helping you start a thriving photography business. Luckily, I think I’ve found the answer through my new videography venture. As I learn my new skills in video, I’ll blog my findings along the way (starting with this first installment), along with tips on how you can go about learning a new skill such as photography. I’ll also be recording and sharing more YouTube videos and vlogs about the business of photography, so stay tuned! And if you feel so inclined, subscribe to my YouTube channel for the fastest updates.
Here’s a sample video of what you’ll find on my channel going forward.
Over To You
How did 2017 go for you? Did you meet your photography goals? What questions do you still have, or what kind of content can I make to help you in 2018? Let me know in the comments below!
Like this post? Share it with your friends, or pin it for later!