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The Ridiculous Amount of Work

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This little peak into the day-to-day hustle of a working commercial photographer is so useful, I’m putting it here in its entirety. Thanks to Nick Onken again for this write-up — the image above is from his blog, as well, where you can also see the gear setups for the auto shoot. (Did you know they actually take the windshield out for these kind of assignments? I didn’t.)

The Ridiculous Amount of Work, by Nick Onken

A reader who was just reading the recent post “You Gotta Wannit” and was wondering what I meant by “putting in a ridiculous amount of work.” that goes on outside of taking pictures. I figured this my be a good thing to share with everyone. Behind the scenes there is a hell of a lot of work to be done that doesn’t even incorporate taking pictures. This is what’s called “The Hustle.” In fact, lately I’ve realized and felt that I should be out taking more pictures, but sometimes it’s a slow process of learning where to spread your time, which the older I get, the less I feel I have.

The ridiculous amount work all breaks down from the two rules of the photography game I described in a recent post. Make better images and show more people. It’s doing all the things that go into that.

A lot of the work comes from the self motivation and drive to get better at what I do between the actual paid shoots. I’ve always been a believer in the ABS theory(Always Be Shooting). The more I grow as an artist, the more planning and preparation goes into even my own test shoots. Since I’m putting my own money into my tests, I want to make sure that I’m pre-producing them to get the most out of them.

The other amount of work is showing more people, and that is a completely complex idea. Networking, marketing, promotion, social media, etc. This is all very time consuming but getting your work in front of people is the key component in even getting work.

So, that said, what are the daily tasks that fill my time?

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I typically get up at 8am and work till 6, 7 sometimes 10pm. The more you hustle, the more you have to do. A lot of my workload is even farmed out to different people that can do it for me(IE: my reps who circulate my portfolios, handle estimating, do portfolio shows, seek out new work, etc.) My accounting and book keeping are farmed out to people that actually enjoy doing it. Next step is to hire a personal/office assistant to take even more of the load off so I can spend my time doing more focused ROI work.

Day to day:
•Researching, planning, reproducing and shooting test shoots
: (A fun part of the job that lets us be creative) I spend time writing out creative briefs for shoots so we can all be on the same page when shooting them.
•Job preproduction:
working on casting and location decisions for jobs, conference calls with clients for pre-production etc.
•Conference calls and new business:
Big ad jobs always require creative calls with art directors to get more info on the project and to for them to hear your thoughts on how you would shoot their concept.
•Dreaming of ideas and establishing goals:
Another thing I love about this career is dreaming of ideas that I can actually execute or at least work towards executing. The world is your oyster. You can do what you want with it. Dreaming and creating goals is a great way to stay driven and inspired to keep creating.
•Branding development:
Tasks like working with designers to create new promo pieces, email promos, etc. Brainstorming new ways of getting my work in front of prospective clients.
•Portfolio updating and creation:
This goes in conjunction with creating and updating the website. It took me a month in the office of 12 hour days to populate my the new website I just launched. Prepping images, and creating the right edits. My printed portfolios get updated twice a year, and that in itself is a lot of work from working with other people on the right edit to laying it out and getting it printed.
•Party planning:
I just threw a book release party for my recent book Photo Trekking, and even though I hired an event producer to make the event happen, there was still a significant amount of creative decision making and promotion that I had to do myself. Check the out video and photos here.
•Social Media:
I’m not as hardcore into social media updating as a lot are because it’s so time consuming. I try to do it as much as possible, but time becomes so spread thin.
Writing blog posts and getting inspired to write. Figuring out what is best to share with the community.
•Networking and relationship building:
Something I do way more of in New York because you can. The community here is pretty amazing, and you meet new people all the time. I love it because it doesn’t always feel too separated here. People in the industry enjoy hanging out and talking about collaborating. Even outside of networking building personal relationships is not something to cast to the wayside. Developing more meaningful relationships is something that I’ve made a goal in my personal life. Sometimes especially here the work and personal relationships collide in a good way.
•Travel planning & Dreaming:
I love traveling and dreaming of places to go. Granted time is more scarce these days to take off for long periods, but something I still try and get done. It seems to be more last minute these days, but it involves a decent amount of planning.
•Paying bills and paperwork:
The dirty work. Usually it’s taking care of the in office management stuff to send to my book keeper/accountants. I hate doing this stuff.
•Budget planning and allocation:
A lot of being a business person is deciding where you spend your money. I try and put as much back into the business as possible to grow and expand. Learning and deciding where to allocate your funds can be a fair amount of work, especially in the beginning stages when there’s not much funds to allocate. Figure out where to best invest.
•Business meetings: Meeting with current associates and potential clients. All takes time out of the day but is important. Personal relationships are key.
•Researching & Reading: I like to read business books when I can to learn how I can better myself and my business. In the same respect I like researching imagery and where I want to be going with my work.
•Managing Interns: This one is quite new, but managing interns, teaching, and giving them tasks to do.
•Other business ideas and projects outside of photography: I have other ideas that may be somewhat photography related but aren’t within the actual scope of my photography business that I love dreaming of and working on.

The “To Do” list never ends, and I’m sure there is much more, but what I can think of off the top of my head. Most of this work is self created, which is a huge part of going places in the commercial world.