Building your new business in 2013

See all articles by Matt Antonino(1) Rating:
  • "Make money with your camera!"
  • "Foolproof method of being a 6-figure wedding photographer!"
  • "Our digital photography workshop will take you from Joe to Pro in 3 days in Las Vegas!"

I was a full time photographer for 8 years and saw hundreds of new photographers come and go.  They saw friends and family operating a business, making money and "taking a few photos on the weekend" so they thought it would be easy money. Why not put that expensive new digital camera to work and make back some of the money? Submit to stock photo agencies and make a few more dollars on the side. Easy peasy.  You're in business. You're an "entprepreneur" just like everyone else.

Fast forward three years and these same "entrepreneurs" struggle to pay taxes, argue with clients over their contracts and albums, and end up hating the business, thinking "my old corporate job was easier than this!"  Many long-time photographers quit in the last few years, as well, essentially believing that the influx of new photographers had doomed them to a low-paying existence and uneducated clients who didn't appreciate the difference between amazing and good enough.


I always find it interesting that people all want to claim they're unique and then do exactly what they see others doing. I talk to entrepreneurs and startup companies all the time who say they want to create "the next Groupon" or "the next Instagram, so Facebook will buy us!"  

That was someone else's ship.  Stop trying to board it.  It sailed already and you're going to look like an idiot when you jump off the dock and get wet. 

Finding a Groupon or Instagram (or Pinterest, Facebook, Pandora, Hulu, Etsy, etc.) is not easy. You have to *create* a market that did not exist.  That means seeing what isn't there.  You can't do it by copying, you can't do it by "improving" something (unless you massively improve it.)   Facebook isn't MySpace v2.  Myspace was dominated by customization, flashiness, and "blog" style posts & comments.  Facebook simplified that to be less custom - but more about quick updates, inline comments/responses and much more about photos.  

Etsy took a page from eBay - moving craft fairs online whereas eBay moved auctions online.  Craigslist moved the classifieds online.  Hulu and Netflix moved live tv online.  Amazon moved bookstores online.  What can you move online that isn't already or isn't maximized with a built-in audience? 


So what will you create in 2013?  What separates you from your competitors?  Many of my friends are still photographers.  They brand themselves as having a unique eye for detail, a talent for capturing the moment and a reasonable price.  "They" = many of them.  All things being equal, you aren't standing out.  Stop doing what your competitors are doing.  Look, learn, then ZAG when they ZIG.

Go read Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.  Stop swimming in the same ocean as your competitors.  Stop being "just another wedding photographer" or "just another marketing agency" and do something extraordinary.  Don't say you're going to be "unique like everyone else."  Find your unique position, set a goal for the next year and grow your new business toward that goal.

I own & manage a digital marketing agency in Melbourne at http://www.HighonSEO.com
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Really enjoyed this article and I totally agree, it wasn't until I started my own businesses that you realise how hard it is to stay ahead and stand out - from the outside it looks dead easy.
Thanks - and I agree, it looks simple! You see someone go to an event on a Saturday, shoot some photos and go home. Job over.

You didn't see the education time to stay up to date, the prep, the interviews with potential clients to book that job, the networking that brought you the lead, the post-wedding editing, the album design time, revisions when clients want changes, the bookkeeping, the marketing, the blog comments you made and the number of forums you keep up with to become an "industry expert" - and of course, the money it takes to invest in fast lenses, a fast computer, Photoshop, Lightroom, album design software, Quickbooks or hiring an accountant, industry memberships, etc.

People get a misguided idea about entrepreneurship - it's not as simple as showing up and working. I wish more people would understand it. :)
Thanks Matt, what an awesome article. It really shows what out of the box thinking can do, only if we have the right attitude and will power to resist following the crowd. One of my favourite sayings is by Mark Twain - when you find yourself in a majority, it's time to pause and reflect - or something along that line. So thanks again.
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