Generating Income from your Passion
Other essays in this series

Photograph by Bill Irwin

Introduction by Alain Briot
Being an Artist in Business, as I will discuss in due time in my upcoming article, can take many different aspects. It can certainly take the aspect of the artist selling his or her photographs as fine art prints. But it can take other aspects as well, with the artist selling products other than his or her prints. The business approach chosen by Bill Irwin is a case in point.

Bill purchased my Marketing CD a few months ago and put it to good use. What follows is Bill's account of his journey starting a photography and printing business. If you are considering starting your own photography business, Bill's essay is an important read.

Essay by Bill Irwin
At 45 years of age I have come full circle and returned to my childhood passion of photography.  At age 10 I was playing with developer and fixer in a makeshift darkroom, using my mother’s old roll film camera.  “Real life” encroached and I ended up running the family farm for over twenty years, with photography relegated to the occasional snaps of children growing up.

A few years ago my mid-life wake up call came early after diagnosis of a spinal cord tumour.  Drama ensued but it was eventually dealt with, leaving me with a slightly battered body and a real sense of my own mortality.  At this point I decided to stop farming and extract more fun from life.

I have always had an interest in computing as well as photography, so the upsurge of digital imaging was a great (and expensive!). Time to re-enter photography.  In a desire to enjoy my work, I have self-imposed limits (no weddings or portrait work!) which impact on earning potential.  My main interest is landscape photography, but in a small country with great scenery it is a challenge to make a respectable income from selling prints alone.

During a trip to Maui in 2003 I was amazed by the canvas prints Randy Hufford was creating from his images.  I returned to New Zealand and looked for someone who could print mine.  I could not find anyone who had the skills or standards needed,  so I spent a lot of time researching canvas types, colour management issues etc., and bought an Epson 4000 printer to print my own (note: its size is already limiting me - I am eyeing up a 9800 in the near future).  I am pleased with how my prints are selling, but I felt there was room to make more use of the printing skills I had learnt.

A few months ago I set up a website to tap in to the need I saw here for a high quality, customised canvas printing service.  Alain’s Marketing Mastery Workshop on DVD has played a big part in how I set up the website to emphasise the benefits people will have from doing business with me (my unique qualities!).  The only promotion I have used is Google Adwords, so my customers are people who are searching for canvas printing information.  They already know what they are looking for, and when they find their way to my website they connect with the customised service as opposed to the alternative of an mass production lab.

I had been planning to advertise more widely (in magazines etc.) but have found I am getting as much work as I want now.  I like to balance my time so that I can carry on my own photography, create my own prints, and print for others.  I do not want to turn in to a full time print bureau, but I do enjoy the personal interaction with customers and helping them create the best possible print from their images.  The feedback is very rewarding.  However if the volume of work rises to the point where it impinges on my own photography, I will nudge up my custom printing prices to limit the volume of work.

My business plan is constantly being fine tuned, with the aim of keeping true to doing what I like to do, while ensuring that I am actually generating income out of it.  Every few months I re-read Alain’s Marketing and other articles and find that there is always another thought which helps shape my overall direction.  They have been a huge help in defining my direction.

Bill Irwin
Methven, New Zealand

Design, concept, and Iintroduction Copyright © Alain Briot 2005
Text body & photograph Copyright © Bill Irwin 2005
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