I would bet that egos destroy more businesses than recessions or acts of war. I say this because I nearly destroyed mine by letting my ego convince me that I could write four books in two years and that my business of taking photographs would run itself. It almost did. Right into the ground. Fortunately I went on a little journey to write a fifth book only to find that there is no book there. And then it struck me like scalding coffee thrown in my face.......it's time to get back to work doing the thing I love. Taking photographs. I grabbed the controls and pulled up just in the nick of time (I hope).
The lure of writing a book is the little voice that says, "Someone thinks you are smart enough to write a book." Photographer friends say, "I wish I could write 'cause then I would have a second income stream." And publishers tell you, "If you put enough of these out there you'll finally stack up some royalty income...." All of these things may be true (or they may not) but the bottom line is this: Now you have TWO jobs. One of them is seductive. Nothing on the schedule? You could do some marketing, pick up the phone and call some clients, or.........you could put on your jacket with the patches on the elbows, head to your favorite coffee shop and......work on your book. The choice is too tasty. Hot coffee and crowds of the beautiful people or the quiet desperation of the cold calling and all the rejection it implies. I chose the coffee shop way too often.
It wouldn't have mattered if the economy hadn't tanked. I probably could keep going along on marketing fumes and royalties for years in the old days. But just as I was adjusting to life in multiple lanes it became very clear that cash flow is king. The route from writing to royalty is a perilous journey that takes about a year to bear any fruit. The best part of photography is the instant gratification on so many business levels. The jobs come quick and they finish quick. If you take credit cards you'll be paid quickly. And then you are on to the next job. If you do that marketing thing.
It finally hit me as I was thinking about a book project I'd been offered by a publisher who had stalked me since last fall. I didn't like the terms but we negotiated those. I was ready to leave when I hit one more stumbling block. It was the final straw. I balked and forfeited. In retrospect, being a curmudgeon and refusing to compromise on the way I write saved my business because it made me realize just how many hours I would have to spend in the creation, formatting and editing of the project. Not to mention the shooting and photo editing. All for the promise of a small share of future profits.
I took the exploratory trip to parts west just for myself. I wanted to be sure I wasn''t missing out on a great thing. And as I was driving back to Austin I had a coffee induced epiphany: No matter how smart you talk yourself into believing you are you aren't smart enough to do every at once and do it well. At some point you have to decide. I looked out over the landscape of corporate clients and advertising agency clients and it became so clear that there are hundreds and hundreds of accounts just waiting to be harvested. Ready for me to come along in my combine and snap, snap, snap them up.
I had to take my eyes off photography for a while to understand just how much I like taking photographs and working collaboratively with really smart designers and marketers. I've smelled the flowers. Now it's time to roll up my sleeves.