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Next moves and working out what’s next

It has been a hard time lately for me. I think it happens to everyone from time to time. Failure is never a good thing, but I know I am a strong person and I’m resilient. Sometimes I just need time to wallow in self-pity to help me see what my next moves will be. Though the next step is still evading me somewhat, but I will get there.

I had thought my membership site the Fine Art Way was going to be fantastic for me, I only need to find around 50 people to do it. That would mean I could teach them, do something I love, and not have to worry about money. Only 5 people signed up for. So not great. It was really the disinterest, perhaps the final straw, that has done me in.

lighttrails-peakhour-collinsst-fisheye-melbourne copy

Collins Street, 5 pm

Next moves and working what’s next

Getting a real job doing something I don’t like doing is something I have worked very hard against for a few years now. I did it a lot when I was younger.

You could say I entered the workforce when I was ten years old. My father didn’t believe in children being allowed to be children and we were forced to pick oranges and grapefruit every weekend and during school holidays. We lived on an orchard. The work was hard and dirty. I hated it. We would get all these scratches on our arms from the trees that screamed we were fruit pickers. Around where I was, and I suspect many places, the scum of the town.

In winter you couldn’t do anything until the dew on the trees was dried off, so it was late mornings, waiting. In summer we were up with the birds to get out there before the sun was too high and it was too hot to work. The rain was the best, it meant a day off, it was the only time it happened really, or from what I can remember.

We never got paid for the work we did, my father always said it was for board.

When I grow up

As I was looking for the fruit on the trees I can remember thinking that I never wanted to do work like that ever again. I wanted my grown up life to be so different. In some ways it was, I never picked fruit again, but I went from one job to another, never really enjoying what I did.

Growing up was a nightmare, and I thought as an adult, things would be better. In some ways, they have been, while in others not so. My personal life and relationship have been good. I’ve been married to my husband for over 28 years, we have two daughters, that is good, but I think you need more.

I am a creative person. I worked that out many years ago and if I am not being creative then I am not happy. It is something I can do and I’m pretty good at it, but then there is also the professional side of things and trying to make money from it so you can keep doing it.

Trying to be financially success

My whole life I have wanted to work in an area I’m good at. It wouldn’t seem like an impossible task. I was never looking to make millions, but some to help out around here. Just enough to help pay off the mortgage. However, how to do that has been so elusive.

From my last post many of you made suggestions of what I should do and for most of those suggestions, I thought, I’ve tried that. Over the years I’ve tried so many things, workshops, selling images, teaching, magazines, group outings, shooting weddings, doing portraits, etc. etc.. Nothing has taken off and nothing has worked.

Sure some of it has had some success, but not enough to really help. I am still earning the same amount of money, maybe less, than I was almost 10 years ago.

So what now

That is the question, isn’t it? What else can I try? I have had a couple of things happen that look good, but I will have to work on them and see if they will be good. I do have to ask myself if I have the energy to continue. How many times can a person face failure and not have it destroy them?

Taking a break

It has been suggested that I am burned out. I’ve been doing stuff online every day, all day. I give away a lot of information, find information and then help so many people, that it is time to think of myself. I don’t even work on my own images much anymore, no time.

I need some time to think about what I want. What do I go next?

That could be a job, giving up the blog or toning it right down. At this stage, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I am going to do, but I do need some time where I don’t have to think about what blog post am I going to write about. What subject should I write about to teach people.

So I am not going to be posting for at least the rest of the month. Then I make some decisions about the future here.

Making a donation

Someone else suggested putting a donate button on here, so if you wanted to make a donation you could.

It isn’t compulsory and you don’t have to do it. I understand how these things work. However, if you have ever learned something from me, or find this blog useful then please consider doing it.

39 Responses

  1. I love your images. If I lived in Australia (I am in Princeton, New Jersey) I would definitely attend anyone of your workshops. Unfortunately travel is not something I can do right now but … soon.

    I don’t know if this model of business works for you but for a few years now I have done field trips and workshops with a group of photogaphers in Princeton. They’ve organized themselves around specific topics: https://princetondigitalphotoworkshop.com/instructors/

    I also noted that the photographers in that group — the creatives — don’t run their individual business. Their spouses do. In fact that’s another revenue source. One of the spouses teaches the business side of running the photography business and representing the photographer : https://princetondigitalphotoworkshop.com/jennifer/

    I don’t know if you have already tried this, but perhaps you can team up with other photographers.

    I think taking some time off to reflect may be just what is needed to find your “next step”.

    Cheers!

    • Thank you Khürt, that’s nice of you to say, but I have to admit I’m thinking of giving up the workshops. I will probably still do individual ones, but not the group ones. Looks like I’m going to be working in a completely different direction.

      It is an interesting model, but I’m hoping to try something different soon. The time off has been fantastic, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I feel more refreshed and ready to get back to work.

  2. Mira Krulic

    Hello Leanne, I have only been following you for a short time and I am sad to see you so frustrated. The artist’s path is not easy and I have not been brave enough to follow it yet. I admire your courage for trying so hard and more importantly, your honesty.

    Recently, I found this article about an artist who quit. I found her story terribly heart breaking but I want to share it with you so that you know that you are not alone and that others have similar challenges. I agree with Noel Williams that you need to find your audience. The right audience will value your expertise and creativity and will pay you for it and not expect to get everything for free. Don’t give up yet. Keep exploring your options and hopefully you will turn the corner. Anyway, you have encouraged me to take the next step on the artist’s path.

    Here is the article

    https://craftindustryalliance.org/one-artists-story-why-i-quit-the-gig-economy-and-got-a-day-job/?mc_cid=3497627ca1&mc_eid=ce1490bb50

    • Thank you for the link to the story Mira, it is quite hard to read ones like that, but I do hope my situation is different from hers. I do have a husband that earns a good living, so I don’t have to worry about losing the house or anything, but I do want to contribute, I just need to work out how I can do that.

  3. Hi Leanne, I have been thinking of you and feel sad to read your latest post. Here are my thoughts.

    A lot of artistic people are penniless. It is the exception when an artist makes a living out of their art in their life time. But having said that my view is that you need to segregate your photographic endeavours. One type of photography for bread and butter stuff that you make a living out of, which may mean doing the type of photography you are not enamoured with; the other is your art, your passion, the stuff that sustains your spirit, and although from time to time you might sell a print or do a class, you can’t rely on that to keep you afloat financially.

    Back to basics now. Any business needs a product people want to buy or it is doomed to fail. You need to produce something people want to buy, not what you personally want to do. I think this is your biggest challenge.

    It is really hard to sell ‘how to’ products because so much is available for nothing on the internet. It is difficult to sell prints and even more so when their style is different from the norm because they have to appeal to the average person… back to selling something people want to hang in their lounge room or offering something that meets their need.

    So my friend do you want to be true to your art, or do you want to make money out of photography? If you want to make a living out of photography, figure out what product people are prepared to buy and deliver that.
    Take care.

    • Hi Chris, I feel I don’t need to say much here as I have since spoken to you. I do love the support and I really appreciate what you have said here. Thank you.

  4. Michael Cook

    Hi Leanne, I’ll cut to the chase. I want direct assistance editing my photos. Do you offer 1 on 1 training? I like many of my shots, and would love to process some of them with the style you have developed.
    $300.00 per year to join Fine Art is not expensive. Less than my Zenfolio acct, and not really much more than annual subscription for Lightroom/Photoshop. I have no illusions of making a living with my photography, although it would be a nice ego boost if I sold a few prints.
    I’ve watched countless hours of YouTube videos (enough to earn an Associate’s Degree if one was available), countless more hours invested in shooting and editing my images, and I have about $10k invested in camera equipment.
    I simply want to be the best photographer I can be, and produce the best images I can.

    • Michael, everyone wants to know how I edit my photos but I don’t teach that. If I give that away then I have nothing left. I am more interested in helping people learn how to develop their own style, which is what I want to do in my membership site.
      I didn’t think it was too much either. They get so much access to me, can ask questions anytime, I do videos for them, find artists for them to look at. I do everything I can think of to help them out, but apparently, for most people, I’m asking too much. I can’t win. I don’t need to earn a lot, that is the sad thing. I just need to earn enough to help out around here.
      I want the same, but as with all things, getting paid for it is a massive moral boost. When someone thinks you are worth paying for, well, that means so much. I can’t tell you what I think of the people that just continue taking and never giving anything in return. Thank you Michael.

  5. Leanne, after reading your post my first thought was that if you can’t make it, who can? You were absolutely the first person I started following so I could learn from you. I even shared one article you had written based on a question I had asked, “How do you create those awesome black & white images?”. I have to admit lately I’ve been busy and have dropped the ball on my photography. I didn’t even see your post on your class. I would have signed up, but didn’t see it. Not sure why, this post showed up in my email. People should try to create some photos that would compare to yours just so they can see how difficult it is. Your images aren’t point and shoot snap shots. At this point I’m not in a position to donate but soon as I get some income coming in I will. I owe you that. You are such an inspiration, please take a break but don’t disappear for good.

    • Thank you, it is a hard slog and I think part of the reason for sharing these posts is to show that, that photography isn’t an easy business to make your mark in. Being a woman in her 50’s doesn’t help either. There is a lot going against me. Thank you, I’ve worked very hard on developing my style, it is good that people like it.

  6. I’ve only found your blog today so I guess that’s incredibly bad timing. Anyhow, I’ve followed you and will wait and see what happens! You’re obviously at a crossroads and I hope you find a direction that suits your creative spirit. I posted photos today on my blog by an Australian-based photographer! All the best, Liz from New Zealand

    • The blog is going to be changing, not sure exactly how at the moment, but will sort it out in the next couple of weeks. Thank you Liz, I hope so too. I love what I do, but my husband wants me to earn so I need to find some way of doing that. Thank you Liz.

  7. You are very much in my thoughts as I understand your dilemma. We both made the mistake of equating older with easier. Lofe should not have to be such an ongoing struggle. As I just said to a local photographer friend, “talent, unfortunately, is not enough…so much of life is just dumb luck.”
    Take care of yourself my friend.

    • Thank you Robert, I agree, it really shouldn’t have to be. You are so right, you need a lot more than talent these days.

      There are some things on the horizon so who knows.

  8. Hope you do the class, I joined and will accept any advise and critics available.Let us do the marketing by sharing via social media, just give it some time. You have a good base following…. let us help!

    • I am going to do and you are now part of it Rob, you just need to join the FB group.

      So you think I should leave it open for a little bit longer, I can do that, though not sure if we will get a big response, but if you want to do that great. Thank you.

  9. The break will do you a lot of good, Leanne, time to reflect on your next move. I am sure you will come up with something that will provide an outlet (perhaps profitable) for your creativity. Best wishes! Peter

  10. Hello Leanne! It’s Noel again. I have donated. It was not much, but I promise I’ll donate from time to time. I understand your frustration, but I still do not think you should give up your photography. You are awesomely creative, and I am sure there is a piece of pie sitting at the table with your name. So, my friend, two of the first things you should do is find out who your audience is; and what genre of photography they like. Until you know what your audience wants, you cannot serve them well. Therefore, if you wish to make a living from your photography, then you cannot think about what you like. So, the easiest way to find out what genre you should focus on is to go through your stats on WordPress and see which style gets the most likes and comments. Another way is to run surveys on your blog so you can target the right group. Also, do not be bashful about asking people to donate to keep your blog running.

    • Thank you Noel, that was a very generous donation, far more than I expected, so thank you very much.

      I might try sharing the donate button on my Facebook page and see if people feel the same way.

      I have been doing a lot of that, but it is so hard to fight the, but there is so much information online that is free. Though I think some changes are about to happen, so I am excited about that. One is that is going to change is this blog, not sure entirely what, but I will work it out over the next couple of weeks.

      Changes are afoot, I’m still trying to work it all out. Thanks again Noel.

  11. Leanne, from day one on my blog (almost seven years ago) you were one of my biggest supporters. I hope that you find what you are looking for. More often than not I have found that it finds you. You have a big fan here rooting you on.

  12. Hi Leanne, I’m sorry your website hasn’t taken off. I love your work and you share so much with all of us. As I’m on a pension I have to just learn what I can from free sites and you have helped and inspired me so much. I think your cost is totally reasonable but it’s so hard to build up a custom base. Take some time for yourself, but please don’t give up. Perhaps you could offer the first month free to attract people who are unsure whether what you’re offering is for them to try? I note a lot of sites offer that option. I am trying to sell my images on my website just to offset some of the costs of the equipment to improve my hobby, but not having any success. I got really down about it lately, but decided to push on as I need my photography to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Without wonderful people like you sharing your knowledge with us, it would be so much harder for me to learn. I know that doesn’t pay your bills, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you and what you do.

    • It is an interesting thing and perhaps I am part of the problem, giving away information with the hope that people would eventually pay for it. The real problem too is that my knowledge and skills cost me a lot of money to get, so it doesn’t seem fair that people expect to get it for free. So I do know one thing, once my break is over, I won’t be doing that anymore. I have to be selfish too, I know a lot of people will leave me, but they have to do what is best for them.

    • Deborah Bisley

      Yes, I agree, you have to do what is best for you. I can assure you that I for one won’t be leaving you if you are not sharing advice. I still love seeing your work, so hope you will continue to share that, even if in a more limited format, and inspire people with your talent. Ive said it before, but it seems to me the only people who make money from photography are the portrait photographers. Have you thought about real estate photography? That’s becoming a big business now days. Not as artistic, but you would make any property look amazing. Good luck.

    • There are definitely going to be changes happening around here, I need to change things so they work for me and I’m not constantly giving. Thanks Deborah.

  13. Michael Kotzin

    Hi Leanne, this is Mike, Pam’s husband. This is my first direct contact with you since our visit last year, so let me express my thanks for your companionship for several days, plus what I learned about photography from you in a non-classroom format. Here’s my take on things, take it or leave it. I think you have talent and an eye for good photographic composition, no doubt about it, especially your skies. They are incredible, and I have never seen anything to equal it. And you are fast. That said, I think you are thinking like an artist, not a businesswoman, sort of like the baker who thinks everybody would want their recipes and cakes without considering the general public who just wants a good cake. People are not going to come to you just because you are good. What are your strengths that set you apart? What can you offer that a significant number of nonprofessional photographers would want to pay for? Not thinking about people like you, but Joe Average? The thing that comes to mind for me is to offer your services to cruises. That may seem crass to you, but if you want to make a living, you have to be realistic. You know Melbourne and the surrounding area extremely well. People on cruise ships don’t. In their limited time ashore, a significant number would love to have a professional photographer take them around Melbourne and show them the photos they need to show their friends at home. Think of it as a photographic tour. You would be great at it. I think you have an attractive, quirky personality that would appeal to people on tour with you. Remember that many successful people had to endure many failures before they found the right formula. Well, anyway, that’s it. I wish you well, Leanne. You deserve it.

    • It is nice to hear from you Mike, they were great days we spent together when you were here. I have to admit it is an idea I have thought about at times, but if I’m honest, I’m not really sure how I would go about it. I will add it to the list of things to consider Mike, thank you so much.

    • Mike, that is an awesome suggestion. That could benefit a lot of photographers.

  14. I have really enjoyed your posts Leanne and enjoyed participating in Monochrome Madness. Enjoy taking this time just for yourself.

  15. Craig Douglas

    mmmmmmm…… yes life is never how you want things to happen, believe me I think that I’ve put the words STRU into the word struggle, my back is sore and I know I won’t achieve what I wanted to achieve. But we are all fighters and we will do our best…..

  16. It sounds like you do need a break.

    In any event, I would suggest working on growing your customer base and continuing Monochrome Madness when you return.

    You’ve been going for a while. It would be a shame to see your blog end, as well as MM.

    Whilst we may not provide much in way of financial support, you’ve helped build what I think is a strong community.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, but I think I really need to work out how I am going to make money. I know that sounds crude, but a strong community is no good to me if all I am doing is giving and all they are doing is taking. I need to find a balance that is beneficial to both.
      I am going to take some time to think things through.

  17. Hi Leanne, sorry to hear you are feeling a bit defeated, its really hard to be a creative and make a living from it. Some feedback in relation to your Fine Art Way – I considered it but the descriptions of what it offered and what I could learn from it were a little vague and open ended.

    Perhaps offering sample video to get an idea of your approach, a more structured format of key lessons and take aways. While US $25 a month doesnt seem like much, for me its more like $35 a month and if I was going to commit to a few months that becomes a substantial investment. I want to make sure that I am going to get sufficient return on that – and right now your course looks “interesting”, but for me personally, not worth it.

    Good luck!

    • that is what fine art is, there is a structure to the first 6 or so weeks and then it is about them working, it is what I did in my fine arts degree.
      I don’t understand how people will do a course for several hundred dollars to learn, but think that amount a month is too much. It really isn’t a substantial amount, one or two coffees a week, that’s it. to learn how to direct your work, to look at other artists, work on post processing, get your work critiqued. I charge heaps to teach people photoshop, and you get to learn what you want there for that amount a month. I do videos on what they say they want to learn. I used to charge $60 an hour to critique images. So if that is what you think, then good thing you can’t join.
      You have made my day less pleasant.

    • The Arcanum (https://www.thearcanum.com/pricing/), Trey Ratcliff’s creation, charges $79 monthly for the “apprenticeship” level and the price goes up as the student advances (for example, Sphere 2 (Levels 20-30) may cost anywhere from $100 to $500. ) and the intruction is 100% online.

      NOTE: I was in the Arcanum for almost a year. $80×12 = $960/year. I quit because I realize online learning was not a good fit for me.

      $35 is cheap and $25 a downright bargain.

      To Leane’s point:

      I don’t understand how people will do a course for several hundred dollars to learn, but think that amount a month is too much.

    • So true Khurt, I don’t understand it either. It seems if you charge a monthly fee people feel you are ripping them off, but if you just charge a $1000 then it is fine.
      I’m surprised at how much Trey is charging, that is a lot.

      I also wanted to thank you for your very generous donation. Thank you, I really do appreciate the support.

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