The more time that passes in which I am a professional photographer, the more I distill the various components that have a hand in success in this industry, revealing which are vital and which are posturing as important. Here is a component that I would consider one of the most important, if not the most important.
I read a lot. One area I consume more books, articles, and papers on than any other is business and development. That's a loose category, admittedly, and many of the books I put under this umbrella is to do with finance or even self-improvement. However, I like to make a note of concepts that either feature often or just resonate strongly with me. One which fits both categories is the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. To summarize this very briefly, a management consultant noted that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. He then named this after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who had observed the 80/20 connection at the end of the 19th century.
This idea has been molded into myriad applications and, I'm sure, applied to areas in which it just doesn't make sense. One area that it often does overlay nicely with is the efforts of your work and the rewards you receive from them. You will regularly find, should you break down the numbers enough, that around 80% of the rewards you get for your work, come from around 20% of the tasks that make up your work. Many books I have read on business development cite this principle in the attempt to highlight 80% tasks with little yield. However, there is one factor which I suspect is true of most professions, but it certainly is with photography, and it can mislead the 80/20 principle in the beginning. That factor is consistency.
The Power of Consistency
The value of consistency isn't difficult to spot if you think to look for it. Find anyone, in any niche, that you see as successful and look for the ways in which they are more consistent than you are. Many of the most successful individuals in our industry are posting to social media on a schedule, releasing new content on YouTube or their blog every few days, and ensuring they're consistently in the minds of their followers and growing. It's difficult to do, but it's crucial.
Perpetually divisive businessman and inspirational speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk, speaks highly of this sort of relentlessness in the way that he always wanted to — and still wants to — be ubiquitous with whatever area he's working in. This is a great mindset to have. I personally prefer the Malcolm Gladwell idea in "The Tipping Point" where you're working towards a moment where you build up so much momentum, it begins to carry you forward on its own. Both ways of looking at the pursuit of success sing from similar hymn sheets, and what underpins them is consistency.
But, where should you be consistent?
Consistency of Effort
Consistency in your efforts is somewhat of an umbrella term for all other consistency, but it's also relevant at a meta-level too. That is, consistently put in the same (hopefully high) amounts of effort in and avoid the natural ebbs and flows of motivation. It's never easy to keep it exact, particularly during busy periods, but avoid letting your efforts dip too much as you never know what you might miss when you're taking it easy.
Consistency of Work
I've written on this a few times before, and it is crucial for any artistic endeavor you're looking to monetize: consistency of work. What I mean by this is being able to regularly produce the same quality of the photograph, video, etc. whenever you need to. Potential clients when looking into using a photographer will value consistency as it safeguards their money to a degree. Being able to consistently produce good work, every time you need to is more appealing and more marketable than sometimes producing average work and sometimes producing excellent work. Of course, the standard of work varies from shoot to shoot; some of it will be portfolio worthy and some of it will be par for your particular course. However, aim to raise your weakest work to a good enough standard and never drop below that.
Consistency of Interaction
This is an area that many successful people in all fields promote and it's something I'm actively trying to improve at. The more discoverable you are, the more work you do, and the more content you create, the more interactions you will receive. This could be in something as simple as an Instagram comment, or it could be in the form of a carefully written email to you. Do your absolute best to reply to as many as possible, as often as possible. This sort of engagement is invaluable for growth, but admittedly one of the more difficult to keep on top of, at least in my experience.
Consistency of Analysis
I have a real penchant for analytics. I love to see what areas of my businesses are growing and by how much, what areas are struggling or being neglected, and what is the best financial return on my time. Without analyzing your performances as often as is reasonable to do, growth is hard to measure and stagnation hard to spot. Ensure you are tracking everything you can track and analyze the results.
Consistency of Improvement
Consistency in improvement follows on nicely from analysis, but it's admittedly almost a trope at this stage, but not a false one. Looking for areas of weakness and areas you can improve is a practice you ought to undertake regularly. As the old saying goes, if you're not moving forward, you're moving backward. This could also be called consistency of practice, as deliberate practice with the express interest in improving is a lot of what you would need to do, but I don't want to neglect education.
To illustrate the gains of consistency in the pursuit of improvement, here is my first ever attempt at a low-key, simple product shot of a watch. Earlier this year I had to do a similar style to show off the extra-bright lume for a watch brand. I hope as time progresses I can use the "after" shot as a "before" too.
Are You Consistent?
What areas do you find it most difficult to be consistent in? Is there an area where you are consistent which has yielded great results? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.