Begin. Again.

In Freelance and Business, Pep Talks, Rants and Sermons by David16 Comments

San Frutuosso, Liguria, Italy, 2010. Had to strip down to my boxers to get this one.

Monday’s post seemed to strike a chord. Perhaps because y’all were so surprised to read a post that had nothing to do with books 🙂 So, harnessing that momentum I want to make some suggestions for those who are suddenly captivated by the need to live a life with “a strong bias towards action.” (Scott Belsky’s words, I love how he puts this.) Todays suggestions are for those who make money – or hope to – with their photography.

If you can’t think of a single thing to do, then here are 5 things you can begin immediately. The key is action. If you can’t do it NOW, because, oh I don’t know, you have a life, then schedule it for the first free block of time you can and under pain of a dirty sensor keep that appointment.

1. Start your tax prep NOW. This year is the year your receipts will be in order for tax time. Schedule a time to go to Office Depot and get the file folders you need. Label them. Sort receipts from now back to the beginning of your financial year. Now do this daily or weekly. But do it. While you’re at it, open that account that will be ONLY for your taxes and begin putting the right percent on your gross income into it. Don’t know what that is? Ask your bookkeeper or accountant. Don’t have an accountant? That’s your first step. Get one. You can’t afford not to.

2. Bring your invoicing up to speed. How do you invoice? What? You just whip something up in Word or Pages or something? You did not just say that. Take it back. Now sign up for Freshbooks. Take 2 hours to add your best clients, add a logo, and get this set up and comfortable. Repeat after me: Word is for writing stuff, I will only invoice using Freshbooks. If you like the system you have, fine. You may move along. But I still think you should look twice at Freshbooks.

3. Check in with your clients. Who is your biggest client or potential client? When is the last time you touched base and asked how you could serve them? There’s a theory that says 20% of our efforts result in 80% of our results. Which clients or projects account for that 20%? Focus on them! Pick one client to connect with today.

4. How’s your brand? I don’t just mean your logo. I mean how long has it been since you looked at your whole identity as a company, your core values, and the Why and How of your company’s existence? Are you still true to it? Has it shifted? Does your current website and identity materials still reflect that? Has your market shifted? Are you still communicating with them in the best way? Sit down and spend a morning or afternoon checking your calibration. Make notes on what needs to be updated and get it done in 30 days, no more. Start now.

5. Empty Your inbox. I know, this one scares the hell out of you. But do it. Take one day if you have to, but do it. Sit down and look at it before you start deleting stuff. Where are the bottlenecks? Why do you have – OMG! – 3000 emails in there? First, go through the list and unsubscribe to everything that is not opened. Open it, unsubscribe, delete. If it was important you’d have opened it. Next look for the senders who flood your inbox. Pick one email, hit reply and send them an email that asks them to please for the love of Dorothea Lange limit their emails to you to only the most important stuff and tell them you will no longer accept forwards. Now Begin creating rules. For example Big Client emails go to a client folder and get flagged as a priority. Now answer anything that’s less than a month old. And then…

Delete the rest.

I know, this is scary, and it’s up to you whether you can do it or not. But honestly, folks, this is keeping you from being productive and you will never, ever, EVER be replying to those emails anyways and the folks that sent them 3 months ago have long given up the hope of getting a reply. So be ruthless, create a system, empty that inbox, and move on. Seriously. If I come over to your place and see 3000 emails in your inbox we can not be friends anymore. Do it now. I have 7 emails in my inbox right now. My manager had to force me to let go of some of this and we don’t all have people to ruthlessly delete our emails for us. Do whatever you have to to manage this. Outsource it if you have to. Do it now.

Whatever the next step, do it. And when the “I’ll do it, but first I just have to…” thoughts pop up, ignore them. The need to do something else before we do something important is just another form of Resistance. (Not familiar with that term? Then your first Do It item is reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art)

Got a Do It Now item you want to tell us about, leave it in the comments. Writing it down just might help. Unless you’re thinking, I’ll do X today, but first I have to write a comment about it….then you know what you need to do.


  1. Pingback: friday few: talk, time and motion | Fine Lime Designs

  2. Sorry David And sorry Clive but I suppose is S. FruTTuoSo and not S. Frutuosso…BTW I’ve got a great&tested recipe for the recco’s focaccia! I’ll change it for a brand new 5d mark II!! ;P

  3. Thanks for the list David. I think the key is to just begin and start making images. With all the technological distractions of our craft and the gear excitement, we just need to purposely make images. Your list is really helpful in making a living, but perhaps a little overwhelming. Simplify and make the images, with a purposeful project as a guide. I kind of think that the biggest drawback to success, at least to me, is getting out there in the world and using the camera. When you have a great body of images, then the marketing and selling can begin.

  4. I just now read “Begin” and was going to mention Pressfield’s book, but you beat me to it. That evil ‘resistance’ is what keeps us all from doing any number of things. I’ll have to say, because of “Vision Mongers” and “The War of Art” and “The 4 Hour Work Week” (see, teacher, I AM doing my assignments), among other things (The Fifth Agreement…that PixelatedImage blog thing..) I have come a long way in my ‘struggle’. Is my business booming?…not yet….Has my photography improved 100%?….not yet…Do I feel that I am finally being true to myself and following the proper path to ‘fulfillment’ (photographically)? YES…I am moving forward and I think, for me, now, that is progress…. BTW….I LOVE deleting e-mails. I only keep the ones that are too bulky to read immediately. I come back to those during my reading time and THEN delete or save to a thumb drive to take on the road for those times when I just don’t see any reason to turn on the hotel TV.

  5. Hello David,

    Thank you for sharing these helpful information. Regarding the invoice system, I am using BillingBoss (, it’s free, very easy to use, look professional and accept Paypal paiement or if you have a business credit card account, they take it too. And I agreed at 100% with all the recommandations you gave.


  6. After looking at your images of Italy for days, I settled in to read the list of 5 things thinking they might be a bit more glamourous. I should have known. You always talk about what’s real.
    I could barely read this post because of an overflowing inbox, a cluttered desktop, more than a dozen open browser windows, and notes from five current projects.

    So, I began, …and I began again, …now can you help with focuZZ??

  7. I do have to say I’ve been putting some of this stuff off for years… I finally went through my contact list to clear out a lot of people that were casual acquaintances from over 4 years ago following Mondays article.

    It always feels nice to clean up, now to get it done before spring ends

  8. Author

    Thanks Clive, it’s corrected now. I get a little overly enthusiastic where the Z is concerned. 🙂

  9. Your idea in VisionMongers (I think it was there) of adding a simple check box to To Do items that you write in your Moleskine or wherever has changed my routine completely. Whenever I see an empty checkbox I feel compelled to get the job done.

    That didn’t happen before 🙂

  10. Take a look at Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero and 43Folders, including ”Making Time to Make,” a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work. You can Google it. It’s worth looking at.

    It’s not his quote (I forget whose it is) but my wife likes to repeat that “your inbox is just full of other people’s priorities.” Good advice.

    Just ordered Vision Mongers and pre-ordered Vision & Voice. That’s good stuff too!

  11. Had to leave a comment about the inbox. I really hate it when people think that drowning me in email is the best way to communicate.

    I describe e-mail to co-workers as something that makes you feel productive and feel connected but actually does neither.

    You outline a great strategy for dealing with it.

  12. Great advice David – the more personal insight you put into your posts the better. I’d like to make some money from all my awesome images but there’s a lot I need to do and these are a great start.

  13. I’ll add a few things that I loathe – that I hate doing. Cold calls – you’re more likely to meet clients by introducing yourself – and that may mean walking into half a dozen (or more!) businesses, porches, restaurants, or whatever to introduce yourself as a local photographer.

    If I offer portraits in my neighbourhood who knows? How do they know and even if they did – who the hell am I?

    It’ll take me half a day to walk around my block knocking on doors. Will some people slam it shut? Sure. Will I get clients? Maybe not!

    But they’ll know me, and maybe recommend me later, and if my brand is “me” and you won’t know me until you meet me that’s a good way to get started: Own my block – and work out from there.

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