Follow One Course Until Success.
I was listening to a John Lee Dumas podcast back in 2015. I was skiing down a crisp, deserted piste in Italy. I had lost my companions (but if I'm honest, I didn't mind - I don't like to ski fast). I was enjoying a moment, only a moment, in a busy week, where I could only hear my choice of podcast and the sound of my own skis, could enjoy the smell of the pine trees uninterrupted, and was free to let my mind wander.
I wasn't entirely concentrating on the podcast, but JLD must have said his FOCUS piece enough times for me to stop and listen. Pennies dropped. Mists cleared.
It's all very well being a multipotentialite (I think that was the buzzword back then for someone who didn't finish anything), but success isn't having 12 great ideas, 7 projects on the go, 4 book proposals and nothing - NOTHING - finished, published, available, selling, out there in the world.
That was my turning point; Thursday 12 February 2015, contemplating the do or die pitch on Stelvio. I put 12 great ideas to bed, consigned 6 projects to an early grave, buried all 4 book proposals, and promised to give just one fledgling project all the light, love and attention it needed to flourish. I even embraced my own mortality and didn't take the chicken run round the bottom of that iciest of World Cup runs.
Jump forward 12 months
OK, so I may have picked the wrong project to focus on. But if you spend any time at all in the online entrepreneur world you'll soon be pivoting and switching like a pro. You write down everything you've learnt, never call yourself a failure, keep talking to your audience and stay focussed.
At the end of 2015 I knew I had picked the wrong course for the wrong audience at the wrong time. But I also knew how NOT to teach photography online. I knew, had evidence, could persuade a non-believer, that I needed to do what no-one else was doing:
1. You can't learn photography in a weekend, so I would not promise this.
2. The online photography education industry is saturated. I needed to stand out. I would give my entire course away for free. (I still do this.)
3. I would look after an often overlooked audience - women who have had a career or two, raised a family, looked out for everyone else, and never quite had time to learn to use their camera properly.
4. And I would honour the trust my audience has in me by doing what absolutely no other photography site in the world does: I would take no sponsorship, host no adverts, and use no affiliate links.
Armed with all this experience, at the beginning of 2016 I launched what was to become my success: A Year With My Camera.
2016: the year of the amazon #1 bestseller
So how did I do it? How did I write a beginner's photography book that was an Amazon #1 bestseller in the Digital Photography category?
It took 3 months. I started in July, and by November 3rd I was Number 1.
Yes, I opened my first InDesign file in July. Yes, I launched in October and it went to Number 1. But I had been planning and refining, thinking and editing for the entire previous year. And if you add up all the time I had devoted to previous projects that launched, nearly launched, didn't quite take off, were put quietly in a corner; then it took 3 years and 3 months to write.
And then you need to consider all the hundreds of things I said, "No." to in 2016. To finish a book you need to do nothing else. Nothing. Nothing at all. It's hard.
The book has been #1. It has hovered around the top 20 mark since it was published. As of today (4 Jan 2017) I've sold 461 copies in less than 3 months, and Amazon like it so much they have discounted it between 7 and 10% (it keeps changing) (which they take the hit on, not me).
I want to thank, and share with you, in order, the people that have got me this far. If I can self publish a book, you can. This is how I did it:
Catherine, of Aspire Photography Training, was the first (and only?) person to tell me that if I wanted to do it, I could do it. Whatever it was. If you ever need an injection of self belief, just visit Aspire in beautiful Cumbria, the best county in England (sorry, Yorkshire people). She helped me get my first online enterprise (Love Your Pics) off the ground, and has been unremittingly positive ever since. I'm delighted she will be writing the Foreword to the second edition of A Year With My Camera, coming out early in 2017.
Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income
This is what got me started once I had Love Your Pics up and running. I quickly decided I didn't want a wholly passive income, I enjoyed talking to my students more than anything else. But Pat's transparency and integrity stood out in a world back then that was full of black hats and backlinks.
Internet Business Mastery
Jeremy and Jason got me over that thing that stops everyone in the beginning: the fear you can't put anything out in the world until it's perfect. "Progress, not perfection" became my mantra, and I started to put imperfect things out there with glee.
Another of Jeremy and Jason's mantras is, "Just in time learning". So when my audience kept asking me to write the book, and not before, I researched how to self publish. And Joanna had every single piece of information I needed; CreateSpace vs Ingram Spark, black and white vs colour, hard copy vs Kindle; copy editors, cover designers, pricing, publishing, distribution.
(Another bit of just in time learning - I taught myself InDesign in a week with Lynda.com.)
Other podcasts on my don't miss list:
All of these guys, one way or another, have said something, interviewed someone, made me think, or helped me pivot:
A Year Of Free Photography Lessons
Register here. You'll get an email every Thursday, nothing more, nothing less:
What about the rest of my life?
I still worked as a commercial flower photographer and photography instructor in real life all year. I had the best time photographing more than 6,000 images for Claire Brown's The British Flowers Book (website now live, do have a look). I made plenty of time for personal projects and a couple of proper adventures.
A Year With My Camera, Book 2.
Fine Art Flower Photography, the video course (and the book - I need a publisher, do you know one? Contact me here.).
Much, much more time for personal projects, and many, many more adventures.
Buy the book - i'M Proud of it
This was the highlight of launch day, as I outsold Scott Kelby momentarily: