A good friend of mine called me today and let me know he had just been laid off. He was in a high-paying management job, and his boss came in today and out-of-the-blue fired him. That has to be devastating. When I think of all the down sides of working for someone else it reminds me of how fortunate I am to be self-employed. If I put in the work, I get the reward. There are no office politics to deal with, no personality conflicts, and no one I have to count on to pull me out of a jam. I am totally responsible for my own success or failure. No one can fire me.
Blaming Robs You of Your Power
While it is true that no one can fire me, my career does seem under threat. Photographers, particularly long-time stock shooters, are having a difficult time. My own income is down almost thirty-perecent…which isn’t too bad by a lot of accounts. But if you truly accept full responsibility for your self, there is no blaming. I don’t blame the micro stock shooters and I don’t blame Getty or any of the other agencies. Blaming others just robs you of your power. That doesn’t mean I like the downward price pressure from micro stock competition, or the fact that Corbis just lowered my royalty percentage, or the fact that Getty is now sending me royalties of less than a dollar per license. It is just that complaining about it not only doesn’t do any good, but it actually directs my energy away from dealing effectively with the new realities.
Responsibility Means Learning
Accepting total responsibility for your success or failure is perhaps the key step for successfully competing in photography today…at least if you want to make a decent living at it. To succeed in the face of the kind of overwhelming competition that is emerging in this flickr, iStock, and Internet era requires total commitment. It means a whole lot more than making great photos. It means learning about distribution, learning about the market, and learning your craft. Sometimes it means learning something difficult to learn that you may not end up using at all. I am learning SEO. I have been learning Final Cut Pro and have no idea if I will eventually end up needing it or not. I haven’t yet tried shooting video with a DSLR, but I am going to because I think I would be remiss if I didn’t explore that possibility. I am taking full responsibility for my future as a professional photographer.
Industry Assessment, Opportunities, and Strategic Thinking
Being responsible for your future means realistically assessing the photography industry and where you fit in, where the new opportunities are, and which ones you are both suited for and interested in pursuing. I believe that strategic thinking is going to get more and more important. It used to be, with stock, you just had to make great images, or heck, even not-so-great images, and send them in. I my mind there is no doubt that this business is just going to get harder and require more and more strategic thinking. If you are not ready to take total responsibility for your photography future then your future might be in serious doubt.