Photography career planning: the long and winding road
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. ~Lewis Carroll
Yes, it’s good to have a focused and well-thought-out career plan. It’s far better than not knowing where you want to go. However, a career plan to “become rich and famous” isn’t quite specific enough 😉
But even if you know exactly what you want (e.g. become a commercial and editorial food photographer), it’s a mistake to think that knowing where you want to go is the only road to success. Thinking that success is completely under your control (“I just have to do x, y, & z and success will happen”) can lead to major disappointment when things don’t go as planned. The map is not the territory.
It’s also an illusion that none of it is under your control (i.e.”It’s just luck; you have to be in the right place at the right time. I’ll just go with the flow.”).
In fact, it’s both…and it’s always been both.
Ask any top photographer who’s both self-reflective and honest,and you’ll hear that his or her success was made of both luck and hard work.
Good luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity. ~Author unknown
Continuing education.For the preparedness piece, no matter what point you are in your career (just entering the market; mid-career professional; or seasoned pro who just hit a fork in the road), engaging in continuing education is essential–both to improve your imaging skills and to keep current with industry changes. Apprenticing will expose you to different–and possibly better–work flow systems. Learning sales and marketing skills will definitely help support your career success.
Two big marketing trends that are getting almost incessant online buzz, are video and mobile. Both require continuing education– especially when it comes to understanding how the integration of video into a mobile can support your sales and marketing strategy.
[I could write reams on both of those subjects; in the future will point you to some educational resources I think are worth your time. Here’s one resource for those who’ve built their careers in print but see a fork in the career planning road and are now contemplating adding video to their image services mix.http://bit.ly/photogvideoguide ]
Bigger picture planning: Until the day comes when your preparation meets up with a great opportunity, there’s another important element of successful career planning to consider. Life planning.
I’ve noticed that those who’ve enjoyed long and successful careers, place a lot of importance on work/life balance. A photographer often learns too late that by going full-tilt in only one direction (i.e., focusing only on career) they are at risk of ending up burned-out and alone.
To find a balance that works for you, consider planning your photography career by working backwards. Pretend for a moment that on your last day alive, you have both the time plus the mental and emotional clarity, to reflect back on your entire life.
What events in your photo career made you feel the most proud and most fulfilled? Was it fame? Fortune? The respect of your peers? Self-respect? The income to support a family? Did you have a career path that supported your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and allowed you time to connect with friends, family, and community?
If the latter is part of your vision, then, as Steven Covey says in his perennial best-seller “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” you need to make sure that “you put the big rocks in first.” That means that in every daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly calendar–in addition to scheduling activities that directly relate to your work–you also put into your schedule those non-work activities that support your whole life.
Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. ~John Lennon