If you’re driving attention to your work using nothing but social media, I’m asking you – begging you – to slam the brakes on.
Like, right NOW.
Your Career May Depend Upon This
Putting all your photography on social media is not how you’re going to build up your career to where it really takes off. I speak from experience. That’s not how I did it. If I’d put all my time and energy into building a social presence, I’d be terrified right now. Absolutely witless with fear. Seriously.
Every year, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (and Pinterest, and all the other social platforms) make huge changes that severely restrict a user’s ability to reach their audience – the audience they have built for themselves. It happens every year, without fail – and the effect on content creators is that they reach a small chunk of their audience every time they post.
And it’s a crazy situation because great photography has never been more popular, as this Guardian article explains nicely.
But who does that benefit, exactly?
I’ll tell you. If you’re putting all your work onto social platforms, it benefits those platforms first and foremost. They are the ones getting all the power, all the clicks, all the breathlessly excited mentions and links from elsewhere on the Web. They get 99% of the credit, in every sense that matters. And every year, in order to reach the same amount of people as last year, you have to grow your audience faster than the rate Facebook (or whoever) restricts your access to it.
Needless to say, this is maddening, frustrating as hell, and completely at odds with the idea of building a thriving presence online.
And it’s happening because a lot of creators are fundamentally misunderstanding how social media should be used.
If I had one piece of advice for anyone getting started online as a photographer in 2019, it’d be this:
Build your audience around a platform you own.
If you build it on social media, you are vulnerable to the next big algorithm change, and the one after that, and after that – and over time, you will watch that audience shrink dramatically. Maybe not in raw numbers, but in the amount of people you can actually reach with your work? Certainly.
And that’s a career-killer.
For this reason, and many more, you need a blog.
Before we continue – are you clear on what a blog is, and why you want to start a blog, but hazy on details about how? If so, please skip the following section and go >here<
But if you’re confused about what a blog’s for?
Then keep reading, because this one’s for you – and now is the time to act.
Why Start A Blog?
If you’re embarking on a career as a creative artist of any kind – writer, photographer, business-card doodler – you’re going to need to get noticed online.
Banish all thoughts of leaving “all that online stuff” until later. Banish them for good. The internet is your number one tool for establishing a healthy, well-respected business from the very first day you start work, and doing it from day 1 is giving you the best chance of standing out in an increasingly crowded online world.
And hey, the creative arts is hard enough already, right? No need to get in your own way as well.
The best method for photographers to build an authentic, respected online presence is to create a successful blog. (There, I said it.)
Now, let’s unpack that for a minute or two.
What’s a Blog? Why Not Say “Website”?
Excellent question! Yes, a blog is technically a website – but a website isn’t always a blog.
A blog, simply put, is a site that allows you to publish journal-like entries (posts) in a reverse-chronological format.
Now, here’s where blogs get career-definingly powerful.
Modern blogging software like WordPress have the ability to create pages as well as posts. Pages are what websites used to look like before blogs. They’re written, they’re published, they just kinda sit there instead of being shuffled off the index page by the next loads of blog posts. \
Pages aren’t reverse-chronologically arranged – so they’re perfect for becoming resource pages.
And you know what’s a great resource page for a creative artist? A portfolio page. Or a press & PR page (here’s the one belonging to my good friend Jodi). Or anything that’s meant to be up front & center – anything you really want to get noticed, when someone first lands on your website.
With that in mind, let’s answer the most fundamental question of all…
What Is A Blog For?
For your purposes (and mine), a blog is two things:
- It’s An Online Portfolio Tool
With a blog, you can build a firm presence online that can never be restricted by anyone else, because you hold the keys here.
You become an authority in your chosen field because you have a blog – specifically, because you fill it with really great work relating to your chosen field of expertise, and you work hard to make sure your intended audience keeps finding it through search engines or social media.
Result: you’re easily discovered, and over time you’ll become the person associated with your particular corner of your craft.
Set it up right, and it’s a portfolio that markets itself. Your future career will love you for it. Guaranteed.
- It’s Meaningful, Lasting Connection With Your Audience
Now we get to the real reasons blogs exploded in popularity in the first place.
Blogs became popular as content platforms with integrated conversation tools – the original “social media.” These days, commenting on blogs has receded as everyone started using Facebook and Twitter to argue with each other – but that’s only part of what “conversation” means.
When you have a thriving, well-visited blog, you’re opening an intimate discourse with a huge range of people.
There are people who want to learn from you – meaning it’s how you build a reputation as a professional.
There are people who want to hire you – meaning it’s how you brand yourself and show your availability.
There are idle browsers, and people interested in a specific piece of advice, who typed a question into Google and found your page listed as a source for answers.
The thing that unites all these different kinds of visitors is that the first time they leave a comment on your blog, you get direct access to them, via the email address they use to leave that comment. You can now contact them directly – meaning they have now become your audience, not Facebook’s, or Instagram’s. Yours.
At this point, I’d suggest encouraging them to sign up for an email list, so you have full permission to send them updates about your work and anything you are able to offer to them in the future in terms of goods and services. Here’s a brief guide from a professional wedding photographer.
But you could just send those commenters and subscribers a normal email, anytime, saying hello – without worrying if your social platform will make it hard or even impossible for that message to reach them.
That’s called “having a real audience”. Over time, it’s the power to build an online presence that you can rely upon, and can’t be taken away from you…
And it all starts with having a blog.
Free vs. Paid (Self-Hosted)
There are many free blogging platforms out there – including a free version of the most popular and powerful platform of all, WordPress.
However, if you want complete control over what you’re doing with your blog, including the right to run advertising and other forms of on-site income, I strongly recommend you go for self-hosting.
The free version of WordPress is at WordPress.com, with your blog hosted on WordPress’s servers – but I’d only recommend it for experimentation and learning how a WordPress blog works. When you’re ready to begin properly, you need two things:
1) Purchase a domain – the URL that you will use for your entire website. For example, my domain name is www.kenkaminesky.com, and my blog is housed in a subdomain called blog.kenkaminesky.com. The simpler it’s all arranged, the better.
2) Find a reliable web host – a company that will put aside server space for your needs, and help you with technical support any time you need it.
3) Using your new domain and web host, create a fresh install of a WordPress blog, using the other version of WordPress – the kind that can be installed on private server space.
4) Build your blog from within.
Let’s start with the most important action you can take today.
How To Find The Right Web Host
I could create an exhaustive list here, weighing the pros and cons of all the big names in web hosting – and it would probably take you hours to work your way through (yes, I’ve tried a lot of them).
But you’re a photographer, so I’m guessing you’d rather spend your time in a different manner. Right?
For that reason, here’s my recommendation for you today: a web host that offers absolutely remarkable power and support, with customer service like nothing I’ve ever seen. They’re my top pick if anyone asks – and my final word on the matter.
Enter the only web host with a 98% “Excellent” rating on the consumer review service TrustPilot – and a vast sea of testimonials singing their praises – because they really are that good.
Getting Started With WPX Hosting
Buying Your Domain:
You can use any domain registrar for this – but you can also do it through WPX (here).
It’s easy, it’s just as affordable as anywhere else, and when you’re attaching your blog to your domain, you’re using exactly the same company in both cases so nothing can go wrong.
Buying WPX Hosting:
Click HERE to learn more about why WPX is the leader in WordPress hosting and customer service satisfaction..
(If you’re just starting out, Business should be everything that you need – and you can always upgrade later if needed.)
Once you’ve purchased your hosting plan, you can link your already-purchased domain to your new hosting package – and you’re ready to build your blog!
Through WPX, this is a piece of cake. It’s a one-click install, with no need to code anything. Trust me, the old way of installing a WordPress blog was an absolute nightmare compared to this.
WPX has a page showing you the entire process – click here to see it. As you can see, it’s absurdly simple. One-click and you’re done.
If you have any questions about getting this done, get on to the online chat and in under thirty seconds, you’ll be talking with a WordPress expert who will walk you through any issue you may have.
Building Your Blog:
There are two ways to proceed here – and I’m going to recommend the one that saves you the most time.
If you are a really quick learner, and happy to spend hours and hours tinkering with your blog to get it just the way you want it, then throw yourself in, head first. Try things out, set up pages, learn as you go – and rely on WPX’s terrific customer support if you want to ask questions or get stuck on anything.
Create that v1.0 of your blog from scratch, and turn yourself into something of a WordPress handyman along the way, with the right attitude to fix anything.
Sadly, I am not one of these people. And even if I were, my time is too precious and too limited – and for business purposes, it makes more sense for me to be out there, taking photos and running my business, than inside, (re)building my blog. I know my chosen expertise, and I’m organizing my time around it. I’d recommend you do the same.
If you feel the same way as I do, you now need a web designer – an expert in WordPress design that will take the raw material of your newly launched blog and turn it into the professional-level website it needs to be.
If you like the look of my blog, then I can happily recommend my awesome designer, the ultra-talented Nikola Lazarevic.
Why I’m Recommending WPX: The Science Bit
If you’re new to web hosting, this section may blind you with science – but for anyone with blogging experience who is wanting a run-down of what WPX offers, prepare to have your socks knocked off.
As standard, you get:
– A ‘Staging Area’ where you or your designer can merge Staged builds with Live site versions WITHOUT losing new blog comments or post/page changes on the Live site since the Staging version was created…
– 24-hour, 365-day customer support, with an AVERAGE response time of under 30 seconds according to Live Chat Inc (the independent live chat platform used by WPX Hosting) – easily the fastest I’ve seen in the industry… this alone is worth the price of your subscription. Trust me!
– A “Fixed For You” guarantee, where WPX promises to act as your very own F1 pit crew, leaping in to help where needed, and giving you expert guidance if you’d rather do it yourself…
– Superfast high-end new SSD servers (so fast because they’re typically underloaded to guarantee high performance under extreme traffic loads)…
– Unlimited Free Google-sponsored SSL Certificates, installed & running in 10 seconds or less, along with PHP 7.X (plus earlier versions) + HTTP2 enabled…
– Unlimited FREE site migration from your current host to WPX Hosting within 24 hours, 7 days a week (by comparison, most other web hosts charge an extra fee for site migration – and here it’s thrown in for free, as many times as you require)…
– fully managed WordPress hosting With free email included
– rock-solid server security in the world’s largest data center (the one used by the U.S.’s financial infrastructure), and also in London-based servers
– Enterprise-level Incapsula DDoS protection on ALL plans…
– Free custom-built ‘WPX Cloud’ CDN service for all customers…
Just to be clear: all these features are available on ALL the pricing plans, including Business. It’s frankly astonishing how much you get for your money here.
Great Resources For New WordPress Bloggers
- Take A Free Blogging “Course” At Problogger: Darren Rowse has been teaching people to run blogs for the last decade, and he knows everything. He also has some really terrific beginner’s guides. Start here, with his How To Blog page, and work your way down the list (it may take a while, there’s a ton of great advice in there). Then, when you’re feeling like you’ve mastered the basics, open up “31 Days To Building A Better Blog” and spend the next month honing your skills.
- Find An Endless Source Of Great Questions To Answer At Quora: At the beginning of your blogging journey, one of the best ways to make a name for yourself is to be incredibly helpful and knowledgeable on the answers to specific questions, delivered in the form of blog posts that have a good chance of ranking highly on Google Search. What are those questions? A good place to look is Quora.com, a vast collection of interesting questions with frequently brilliant answers submitted by users. Do a search for “photography” (or just click here) and go in search of questions that people really want the answers to.
- Do Research Easily With Pocket And Evernote: If you’re researching a blog post, you need some way of capturing all those juicy facts, quotes and info-dumps that you’re going to work into your article. The best two tools on the market are Evernote for little bits of copy’n’pasted information – and Pocket for storing entire articles for easy reading. They’re both free. Here’s a guide to using Pocket – and another for using Evernote effectively.
- Use The 80/20 Rule and the Content Pyramid: It is incredibly easy to spend your blogging time on the wrong things. Follow these two pieces of advice, and you’ll divide up your time in a really smart way – creating content 20% of the time and promoting it for the other 80%, and breaking your work up into a content pyramid that will appeal and be useful to a wide audience.
- Learn the timeless principles of Direct-Response Copywriting: This is where you write things that directly inspire action in your audience, whether it’s going out and taking better photos, buying a particular piece of equipment (or something created by you), or taking action to subscribe to your blog so they can keep getting the good stuff. In short, it’s “communication directly to the customer in way that compels them to take action” – and it’s a skill that will pay off dramatically if you can master it.
The Time To Begin Is Now
Building a meaningful, influential presence using a blog is going to take a while. I won’t lie to you about this (and anyone who says it can be done quickly is telling fibs at your expense.)
It’s going to take some experimentation to find what works for you – because that could be entirely different to what’s working for other people. It’s going to take trial and error. It’s going to take a few calculated risks, and a few leaps into the dark – and all this is going to take time.
For that reason, the sooner you get started, the better. So that’s my best advice for you. Forget the details, forget finding the best ways of doing things (you’ll discover those along the way) – and just start.
That’s how I did it, and everyone whose work I admire. They just threw themselves in, head first. It’s the best way to learn – and the only way to begin.
Get started today.