It’s important to note that I’m not special–I’m not wildly talented, not extra smart, and I haven’t had anyone walking next to me making this all easy or teaching me what to do. Hopefully, this is encouraging–it means as long as you’re willing to do the work, it is 100% possible for you to be who you want to be and make a living off of what you love.
I can’t say that I’ve gone about this “growth” project in any defined, strategic way, but looking back I do see patterns in what I did that have helped me move my career and talents forward. Here are a few things to intentionally work on or pay attention to as you grow in your own talents and abilities (and remember–I’m still doing these things myself!)
Have a personal project that you’re committed to.
Even before I was making money as a food photographer, I made sure I was consistent in my food blogging. No one read my blog for months after I started it, but I still showed up with 3 recipes every week. It was a crap ton of work and there wasn’t a lot of reward at the time, but I knew that instant gratification isn’t something to bank on when you’re growing a creative career. So even if no one sees your work or it isn’t really good at first, have a personal project that you stay committed to like it’s your job.
Invest in yourself – Financially and in other ways.
I’ve invested a lot of money in myself post-college with online courses, workshops, equipment, and books (and yes, I’m still paying off a bunch of student loans, but that hasn’t stopped me). There are many ways to invest in yourself, whether it be with time or some other resource, but I do think there is something special about investing real dollars in your future. It sends a message to yourself about the value of what you do and what you believe you can accomplish. It also serves as a wake-up call to keep yourself committed to what you’ve signed up for.
The moral of the story: invest in yourself with what you have, and try to put a bit of money into it, even if it’s a small amount.
Participate in feedback/critique groups.
My creative eye grew the most when I was in circles where I was giving constructive feedback to other photographers or designers. It trained me to look for principles of design, good composition, and other important details in my own work. I think it’s valuable to join a Facebook group or forum where people are actively posting pictures of their work and requesting feedback–you’ll receive a lot of useful insight on your own projects, and you’ll learn how to better critique yourself as you work without needing to request feedback (although it’s always good to keep growing in this way, no matter how much you progress!)
How to Market Yourself as a Maker