Thanks to the internet everyone can get their words down on virtual paper and try to spread their message to the world. Certainly over the past five years the idea of writing from your laptop — and making money from it — has become a very attractive profession, especially to millennials. The term “Digital Nomad” was born and everyone wants a slice of the pie. The idea of taking great photos and writing articles to go with them has become big business — hence why so many want to get involved. But while some believe that all you need is an internet connection, a blog account, and a strong yoga pose in your avatar, the reality is it takes a lot of sacrifices to start making money from writing about photography.
In this piece I’m going to share my personal journey and the steps you need to take if you’re aiming to earn an income from writing.
Find Your Niche
As a creative, there’s a strong chance that you have ideas and opinion on a wide range of topics. Because of this, you may be eager to write about anything and everything that takes your fancy. In the beginning, this is okay because it allows you to find your writing voice. Long term, however, you need to lock down a specific niche so your work becomes more recognizable. This also helps you to become more of an authority on the topic.
I went with the genre I’m most passionate about — street photography. I had been shooting street photography for roughly four years before I started my personal blog. In the beginning, I shared my experiences — things that worked and things that didn’t. Over time my work developed into opinion pieces, interviews and reviews within the field. After blogging for one year I started getting offers to guest post on other websites related to my topic. Which brings us on to the next step…
Don’t let people put your off being bold. If you have a controversial opinion, don’t be scared to write about it.
Guest Blog as Much as Possible
Having a personal blog helps you to develop your writing and to get your name out there. But building a blog is difficult. It takes time and consistency before you start seeing good traffic numbers. Collaborating with larger blogs gives you access to a broader audience. You also get the experience of writing for a different publication. More importantly, you get a byline, something which is a benefit to your resume as you’re building your profile.
Guest blogging should also redirect traffic to your website. The more demand you have for your content the more attractive you will be to publications that pay their staff.
I became a better writer, I was more creative with my article concepts and got an understanding of what it was like to work to deadlines.
Prepare to Take a Virtual Beating
As soon as you cross over from the enthusiastic photographer to someone who believes they have something to say that’s worth reading, things become tricky. From internet trolls to those who think they know better, people are going to crack down hard on you if they don’t like what you have to say. From abusive emails to attacking your character, you’re going to need to have a strong mental chin in order to cope with the negative aspects of writing online.
Sometimes their critique will be valid, and it’s important your open to adapting your opinions, especially if you’re writing publicly about them.
Don’t let people put your off being bold. If you have a controversial opinion, don’t be scared to write about it. People will try to bully you into being silent – just make sure you respond by shouting louder.
Become a Contributor to The Established Sites
After two years of managing my personal blog and writing for other street photography blogs, I contacted The Phoblographer. I had always been a fan of the site and had found lots of useful tutorials to learn from. I contacted our EIC, Chris Gampat, and approached him about contributing the site. To be clear, at this point I was not asking for a job, rather I was asking for a creative agreement — one that was void of money.
The reason I did this was that I knew I would learn a lot from Chris. My articles would reach the site’s audience and I would get the experience of working closely with an editor for one of the industry’s leading websites. I remember some people reacted negatively to this, but I knew there were far more benefits for me (and him) than what money could offer at that time.
Showing that you understand the preferences of a publication’s audience will go down much better than just hoping for the best.
During the eight months that I was a contributor, I became a better writer, I was more creative with my article concepts and got an understanding of what it was like to work to deadlines.
All of this paid off because after those eight months I joined The Phoblographer and became a member of staff.
Create a Database of Editors To Send Pitches To
Once you feel you have a strong resume you can start contacting leading publications. Take time to research which websites pay for content and create an email database of all the editors. When you have good ideas, contact them and make your pitch. Ensure you include your background, an overview of the idea and why you feel the article will be a good fit for their audience.
Don’t just spray and pray, by which I mean, don’t send your pitch to all the editors and wait to see who responds. Although photography websites cover the same topic, they do so in a way that’s unique to them. Showing that you understand the preferences of a publication’s audience will go down much better than just hoping for the best.
As the story goes, the arts will never have as much money running through it as other sectors. In order for me to earn my sole income from being a creative, I’ve had to make many life changes. Gone are the days of buying new clothes all the time and spending my weekends in bars. That London lifestyle that I enjoyed, living life at 100mph, that has gone too. If I’m being honest, I could not be happier.
Changing how I live my life and manage my income has brought creativity to the front of my experience. Creativity has always been the anchor to my happiness, and all the superficial things just masked a deeper feeling of misery. Only spending funds on the things I truly need has changed my perspective on the role money plays in my life. Because of this, I’m now able to do what I most enjoy.
A great book that helped me achieve this mindset, and one I highly recommend you read, was Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living
Note: I’m writing this as 30 years old who has had the freedom to make these big life changes. I appreciate that there are people with commitments, such as family and mortgages, that are not afforded the same freedom as me. However, if you can still find ways you that can adapt and make sacrifices without sinking the family ship, I highly recommend that you do.
This isn’t blogging for fun – it’s your job and you need to take extremely seriously.
Understand It’s a Whole Different World From Blogging
Having your own blog is great. You can write about what you want and whenever you want. Made a typo or a bad post? Who cares, onto the next one, right?
Well, this kind of approach just isn’t going to cut it when you want to be paid for your work. The big sites are big for a reason. They have spent years building their audience and they’ve done this through consistency and quality.
So, if you have a deadline, there’s no “meh, I’ll do it tomorrow”. Because tomorrow isn’t today and that may mean the article gets scrapped and you don’t get paid. You also need to be prepared for rejection. If your content isn’t good enough, it doesn’t mean you just leave it and move on. You have to go in and edit, then edit some more until the quality is at the expected standard. And your ideas need to be good too. You need to ensure your topics excite your editor and you also need to ensure they will excite your audience.
This isn’t blogging for fun — it’s your job and you need to take extremely seriously.
This process takes time. A lot of dedication, self-doubt, sleepless nights are ahead of you if you’re serious about doing things properly. It’s not all glamour, it isn’t just about cool Instagram posts and it will be difficult.
But if you can make it work and are open to changing your perspective on things, then the opportunities are endless. And although it’s not the perfect life that social media will have you believe it to be, it’s certainly an extremely good one. A life in which you don’t work to live, but instead, you live to work.