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Dig More Streams

My mother used to tell me not to put all my eggs in one basket. She also used to tell me not to count my chickens before they hatch, and not to cry over spilled milk. There were a lot of animals involved in her wisdom. But the eggs in the basket—that one is sound business sense. If the basket falls and the eggs all break, well, you have no eggs. Now that I think about it, I guess a better basket might also have done the trick.

So forget the eggs—let’s look at income streams. You’re a wedding photographer who gets paid for going out and shooting a full-day wedding. That’s one stream. When you sell albums, that’s another. When you teach newer photographers to shoot great weddings, that’s another stream. When you also begin to do maternity shoots from clients who got married last year, that’s another stream.

The more streams you have, the better. They all lead to the same place, but the diversification that these streams represent brings opportunities to serve clients in related markets, with the same branding but serving different needs.

The point of thinking creatively about income streams is to serve the same clients in different ways, or different levels of clients in the same way. If you approach it right, it allows you to solve the problem presented by any work that demands your presence. Shooting a wedding is active income. You gotta be there to earn. Selling DVDs to younger photographers wanting to better serve this market is a passive income; it doesn’t require any more than a one-time investment of time and money, and a way for people to order and pay for it.

If you are a travel photographer, like Gavin Gough, you might consider different income streams like assignment photography (active), as well as stock or print sales (passive), as well as other active income-earning activities like writing for magazines. Can’t write? Team up with a travel writer and market yourselves as a team. Travel together, shoot work for both your assignment and stock clients, and submit collaborative articles. Then come home and put up your three best images as limited-edition prints. You’ve already spent the money on flights and expenses; amortize those expenses over as many earning opportunities as possible. The income can be exponentially higher without an exponential increase in the time and money spent.

You might also want to look at the holes in your calendar. I can only be on the road so many times in a year. That leaves me at home to either serve a local market and dig more streams, or to sit bored and broke, waiting for the next assignment to roll around in a month. If you’re a traveler, develop a market that makes use of you locally as well as internationally.

How do you begin the process of digging more streams? Go back to your personal inventory (see “Know Thyself” on page 36). Look at the breadth and diversity of your skill set and the things you’re passionate about. Love teaching? Find a way to teach. Enjoy public speaking? Begin speaking and training. If it’s writing, write about photography or travel or any other area in which your expertise makes you valuable. You’ll not only develop another stream of income, but you’ll be making solid inroads with your marketing as you expand your audience.

Your Next Step

Take some time to do an inventory of yourself. Look at every transaction you’ve ever made. If one person wants prints for the walls of their new home, how can you make sales to more people? If you sold a set of custom greeting cards to one client, why not more? Spend 30 minutes online and look for “ways to make money with photography.” Sure, you’ll wade through hundreds of ideas you’d never consider—and for good reason—but you might find an idea. What about grants? Have you looked at national, provincial, or state arts councils, or even grants provided by corporations and businesses? Have you considered creating a sponsorship program in which local businesses can participate? The more creative you become with your thinking—while making sure it is in line with your brand—the more doors you may find opening for you.

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