Surfpreneur https://surfpreneur.co Tested strategies for creating a business that makes time, not just money. Enjoy life on your own terms. We’re in the freedom business. Tue, 12 Mar 2019 23:27:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 https://surfpreneur.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/cropped-icon-32x32.png Surfpreneur https://surfpreneur.co 32 32 138625293 How to stay consistent with social media marketing and not go crazy https://surfpreneur.co/stay-consistent-social-media-marketing/ https://surfpreneur.co/stay-consistent-social-media-marketing/#respond Sun, 09 Sep 2018 20:22:32 +0000 https://surfpreneur.co/?p=1046 It’s hard to stay consistent with social media marketing, especially if you’re running or starting a small business doing everything yourself. But social media is crucial for business in today’s world, and consistency is the most important factor.

But it’s haaaard Adam, you say. It’s time-consuming, I want my posts to be perfect, sometimes I don’t know what to post, there are so many channels to keep updated, I can’t stop checking them, and… trust me, I know! Finish reading this post...

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It’s hard to stay consistent with social media marketing, especially if you’re running or starting a small business doing everything yourself. But social media is crucial for business in today’s world, and consistency is the most important factor.

But it’s haaaard Adam, you say. It’s time-consuming, I want my posts to be perfect, sometimes I don’t know what to post, there are so many channels to keep updated, I can’t stop checking them, and… trust me, I know!

I struggle massively to be consistent with my business’s social media.. it just doesn’t come naturally to me. Some people seem to thrive on social media and enjoy using it both personally and for their business. They’re predisposed to reaching for their camera or their phone, they’re energised by the effort and attention instead of being drained by it. If that sounds like you, you probably don’t need to read this post! Social media just feels more like work to me.

It’s hard to stay consistent with social media marketing, especially if you’re running a small business yourself. Here's what helps me.
Social media can get overwhelming.
Social media can become overwhelming.

That’s compounded by the fact that I value privacy and being present in the moment over sharing publicly in my personal life.. values which are becoming more and more out of place in this modern world. If I could delete all my social media, live comfortably, and surf every day, I would! But that doesn’t gel with running a small business or the way I do live my life so I have to find a balance.

So having said that, this post is as much about ways I’ve found to help me stay consistent on my business’s social media channels as it is about ways to avoid it consuming your life and time.

What’s the goal of your social media marketing

It’s for your business right? The goal is to make money. You need your audience to buy your products or service.

Buuuut, social media is playing the long game. The number one function of social media for a business is to build a relationship with its audience. And it’s hard to build a relationship if you’re always trying to sell them something.

You want your audience to have a good feeling about your brand and get to know and trust you, so that when they need or are in a position to buy what you’re selling then they will come to you.

Why social media consistency is important for your business

You are trying to cultivate relationships. I’m sure you have that friend or acquaintance who you don’t hear from for months on end and then hear from out of the blue and they ask you for something.. how do you feel about that person at that moment? That is why social media consistency is important above all else. Don’t make your business that person.

Your audience is bombarded by advertisements and information all the time. There are other businesses and distractions always fighting for your audience’s attention. Keeping on top of social media keeps you in the front of your audience’s minds.

There’s an old adage in marketing called the Rule of 7 which states that a business has to reach its customers seven times before they’ll take action and buy. The number isn’t important but the idea that you have to have consistent positive contact with your potential customers is.

To stay consistent is to stay relevant, and to present as reliable. So, without further ado, here are the things I’ve learned.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for quality and perfection

A big problem I had with my social accounts for my surf photography business is that I set the bar for content too high. I was only posting images that I was ready to print and sell. It was a vicious cycle because I’d feel like I’d created an expectation in my audience for the type and quality of content that I would post and I felt pressure to live up to it.

This meant I wouldn’t post photos taken with my phone or other content I could create and share quickly and easily, even though I’m sure those kinds of posts would have contributed to the goal of building a relationship with my audience.

I still want to post quality content, but I’ve realised that that can come in different forms. This lets me relax and have fun with it a lot more.

A nice photo.
A nice photograph.

Only use as many social media channels as you can handle

There are so many platforms. In an ideal world, your business would be present and active on them all to make sure you reach aaaall your potential customers.

But if it’s just you behind the scenes, it’s not realistic. Social media can be a full-time job and you’ve other business tasks to focus on, never mind actually having personal time too!

It’s made worse if you have multiple projects. I run surfpreneur.co, a surf photography business, I’m a surf and SUP instructor, and I do a couple other things.. At first, I was determined to have separate social accounts for all my projects. That quickly adds up. Am I going to run three Instagram and Twitter accounts, two Facebook business pages, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat…? Absolutely not! It’s overwhelming.

I’m lucky that most of the things I do online are related and can be grouped together in a ‘personal brand’, so I’ve recently changed my strategy to mainly running only one Facebook business page and one Instagram account. I’d rather be able to focus on one or two channels and give them the attention and effort they need than to spread myself thin over multiple channels and end up neglecting them all. Instagram is most relevant to my core audience. I’d be quite happy just using it.

My Instagram social media channel.
My Instagram account: @adamandthesea

Make coming up with post ideas a breeze

Ever get the feeling that you should post something but you don’t know what so you give it a few seconds thought and then put it back on the to-do list to be ignored for another day? I do the easy stuff on the list first and then procrastinate instead of doing the difficult tasks. But I still feel like I’ve accomplished something! You know..

It’s all about making it easy. I have a list of different post types for my social channels that I can mix up and have a constant variety of different post ideas. For example, my Instagram account’s list is:

  • Prints on the wall / customer photos
  • Quality water photographs
  • Lifestyle phone photos (behind the scenes)
  • GoPro clips of surfing
  • Photos taken of me surfing

I combine having a list of different post types with keeping an eye on competitors and industry leaders in my niche for inspiration on how they use social media. I’m never stuck for ideas!

It’s also a good idea to keep a couple posts in reserve so if you’re having a slow week (normally for me when there are no waves), you’ll still have something to post.

Make it as easy as possible to make a post

If you make posting on social media easy you’re more likely to actually do it. We’ve all got our phones on us all the time, so if you’re not setting a restrictively high bar on quality you can have a convenient and quick process from idea to post.

For phone photos, I do a quick edit on my phone using Snapseed and then post directly to Instagram. I’ll do the same for Facebook. I have a Twitter account but it’s not my favourite platform by a long way so I’ve set up a Zapier process to automate posting my Instagram posts to Twitter. I don’t think this is ideal but if it means I post more and spend less time on social media then I’ll take it! I can still make posts unique to Twitter if I have a post that suits that platform better (like blog posts!).

You can make use of other online tools to make the process easier as well depending on your needs. I’ve used Buffer in the past and I found it helpful for scheduling posts on multiple platforms in advance.

Once your post is done, it’s done

I can’t help it. When I post something I’ll check over and over on how it’s being received. Likes, comments, shares. Refresh. Likes, comments, shares. I’m trying hard not to do this.

It’s worth remembering that when it’s done it’s done. It’s just one social post in a constant stream of thousands of posts all over the world. There are 500 million Tweets sent each day or 6000 every second.

I like to think of Twitter as a big theatre completely filled with people all screaming their opinions out and ignoring everyone else.Click To Tweet

Let it go and get on with something else!

Close the laptop and have a break.
Close the laptop and have a break.

Keep a schedule / content calendar

This is something I’ve not yet committed for social media as my channels are more in the vein of a ‘personal brand’. I’m getting away with posting whenever I have shareable content from the various things I do. But it would allow the right kind of small business to set aside a little time every week or month to schedule all their social posts at once. That would be a significant timesaver and almost guarantee consistency.

Here’s a useful blog post about Content Calendars from Buffer.

This is something I am going to do with surfpreneur.co in the future. Watch this space.

Consider hiring someone to help

At the end of the day, you can spend as much or as little time on social media as you like. But to do it well, spending more time intelligently is the way forward. If your business or project is making money it’s worth considering the cost of the time you spend updating your social media channels. Could you spend your time better elsewhere? It could well be worth hiring a freelancer to do some or all the work for you. But then you’d have to give up some control..

Freelance content strategy and social media marketing.
Shameless plug: I offer content marketing and social media work amongst other things at adamwrites.co

As small business owners, we often have a perfectionist, almost obsessive, personality type. We do all the work and make everything happen ourselves. We are extremely invested in our own success. Combine that with social media and you have a dangerous combination when it comes to mental health. Find a balance that suits you.

Here’s an interesting piece from Forbes about social media fatigue in small business owners.

Do you have any tips on how you stay consistent on social media? Let me know in the comments and drop me a link to your social media channel.

Thanks for reading, see you in the comments!

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How I Sell Photos Online: Starting a Photography Business https://surfpreneur.co/sell-photos-online-photography-business/ https://surfpreneur.co/sell-photos-online-photography-business/#comments Tue, 12 Dec 2017 17:46:22 +0000 https://surfpreneur.co/?p=565 Do you want to sell photos online? There are plenty of ways to make money from photography, but I started an ecommerce photography business selling surf prints from my laptop. I wanted to focus on making a business I could run from anywhere.

In this post, I’ll go over in detail the steps I took to start that business. From coming up with the idea, to working out the details, to getting my photos in front of customers.

So.. take the things I did well and avoid the things I didn’t! Finish reading this post...

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Do you want to sell photos online? There are plenty of ways to make money from photography, but I started an ecommerce photography business selling surf prints from my laptop. I wanted to focus on making a business I could run from anywhere.

In this post, I’ll go over in detail the steps I took to start that business. From coming up with the idea, to working out the details, to getting my photos in front of customers.

So.. take the things I did well and avoid the things I didn’t!

Let’s get into it.

A 4000-word case study on how I started an online photography business, selling prints independent of location. Successes and mistakes!

NOTE – This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through one of the links, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only ever link to products that I actually use and honestly recommend. If you choose to use one of the links, I really appreciate the support, but if not, that’s cool too. I hope the post helps you!

Can I sell photos online? The idea

I’ve been a keen surfer for many years, and always dabbled in photography. Putting the two together was a lightbulb moment for me and I’ve been swimming around in the sea with a camera ever since. I love every part of the process (well, maybe apart from the constant stress that is owning a water housing and taking expensive camera equipment into the sea..).

Also, I live in Scotland. There are plenty of amazing surf photographers in the warmer parts of the world, but there aren’t many here. Almost none, in fact (would you believe it)!

I’d been posting my photos on Instagram and getting a good reception, and a few people had started asking me about prints. I’m pretty sure this is how many a photographer’s foray into business begins!

Can I sell photos online? Just got to find the customers.

I won’t lie, when I started posting photos on social media, the idea that I could make a side hustle out of it was already in the back of my mind. I was a little disillusioned with my job and needed somewhere to focus my energy.

As it gained some traction on social media and people showed interest, I started to put some serious thought into how I could make a small business selling prints.

Quick tip: Everyone has a high-quality camera in their pocket nowadays. There is still a demand for stunning images but you’ll need to make people say ‘wow’.

If someone is going to buy your photography, they need to think that they couldn’t take it themselves.Click To Tweet

I’m lucky, most people don’t swim around in the North Sea with a camera!

Research – photography business models

By far the most common type of photography business is service-based. Wedding photographers, pet photographers, headshot photographers etc.

But often, service-based photography businesses overlap into providing products as well. Once you’ve paid your wedding photographer, you’ll probably have to pay them again to get prints of your photos!

Camera
You can do a lot of things with a camera. I probably wouldn’t do this. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I knew I wanted my business to be as location independent as possible. My unique selling point is that I take photos from the sea in Scotland, so I have to be in Scotland to take the photos. But could I sell printed photos online without being in any particular place? Definitely.

I decided to focus my efforts on selling prints as a product, as opposed to selling photography as a service. This model is scalable (buzzword alert!). You only have so much time available to provide a service and that immediately caps on your income and consumes all your time. To create a product you only spend the time once.

Starting a photography business? I’ve made a checklist to help you out.

The surfing and watersports community in Scotland is small (I’ve tried telling people it’s not that cold, but no-one seems to believe me!). I knew I’d have a better chance of being profitable if I could get my photos in front of people who aren’t surfers as well. A service taking photos in the water would only apply to that small community but I was confident I could market prints beyond it.

I was lucky to not have any direct local competitors. Normally, I’d say this is a pretty big red flag as generally if there is a market then someone will have jumped on it.

Surf photography is such a small niche but photos of the sea are universal. I could see there was a market for my indirect competitors in other areas so I took the plunge anyway.

Google results for surf photography prints.
Almost two million results!

If lots of people are already doing the same thing, there must be money there! I just needed to differentiate myself and find the right audience.

NOTE: The way I reasoned this out is not something I’d suggest anyone else do! If I did again, I’d do much more in-depth market research. Here’s a great post on Medium about software startups, that would be helpful for any business. You don’t want to put hours of work in and then find out no-ones buying what you’re selling.

Looking for inspiration, I checked out the websites of all the surf photographers selling prints I could find. I subscribed to all their newsletters, looking for different ideas I could use and build on for my own unique needs. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..

Online photo print mockup service.

I borrowed the idea for my Mockup Service from Aaron Chang, a talented water photographer from California. His marketing efforts are a cut above a lot of other surf photographers.

At this stage, I also looked into the different tools I would have to use. I roughly worked out how much money I’d have to put into it, and how much I’d need to make to be in the black.

Apart from money (we all need it), it’s worth thinking about the other ways you might gain value from your business. For me, the skills I’ve learned and the opportunities I’ve opened up are at least as valuable as the money, if not more!

Finding a printer

I’d watched a few videos on drop shipping, where the manufacturer ships directly to the customer. Most of them focus on drop shipping T-shirts, or buying mass goods from the far east and sending them to Amazon, who store and ship them when a sale is made.

I wanted to apply the concept to my idea.

I was doing it myself, and I knew I only had so much time to devote to all the business functions. I definitely didn’t want to be responsible for printing and shipping the prints. I didn’t have the time, the equipment, and I didn’t want to tie myself to a specific location (I was living in a flat.. not ideal!).

At first, I experimented with Pixieset, which is a platform well suited to wedding photographers or people who provide a service and a product. You get a basic website for free and can upload photos in albums.

Pixieset - drop shipping prints.

They partner with various printers and you can pick the products you want to offer. When a customer makes an order, Pixieset takes a small cut and sends the order to the printer. The printer then sends the print to the customer. Totally automated, you just upload your files!

Pixieset is not a website platform though. It’s used for selling prints and digital downloads, but you can’t use it for a full website with content.

One of the printers that Pixieset partner with is called Loxley Colour. I was surprised to find out that they are based here in Scotland, so I looked into them and hit gold.

Mel Gibson everyone, Scotland’s national hero..

They have a stellar reputation and work with businesses shipping prints directly to customers, white label. Basically, when I send them an order, they send the order direct to the customer without any of their own branding. Perfect.

Quality testing. Buy some prints!

After ordering some sample prints and working out the types of prints I would offer, I was ready. I just needed a way to take orders. I needed a storefront!

Drop shipping photography T-shirts with Inkthreadable.I considered selling other products and discovered a service called Inkthreadable through Sam Priestley’s excellent blog. They drop ship all sorts of printed products, including tote bags and T-shirts, which I’ve been experimenting with.

Setting up shop online

I did a lot of research before choosing Squarespace as the platform to build my website with (I wouldn’t make that choice again – more below).

There are plenty of services dedicated to providing a storefront for photographers, some of which link in with printing companies like Pixieset does (I wish Squarespace did this).

I looked into some of those platforms like Smugmug and Photoshelter, and even Shopify, before settling on Squarespace.

I wanted to have more control over the website and the way it appeared, and the other platforms available were limited in their scope.

What I mean is, Squarespace offered a way to build a website and a shop for anything, but the other platforms offered a way to build a photography shop specifically. That meant they were limited to the features their creators had decided would fit (no blog / few customisation options).

There is a massive problem with all of these platforms though.

The front of my online photography business website.

I put a huge amount of work into the website; the branding, custom coding, layout, writing copy, taking product photos etc. Honestly, ask my girlfriend. I was losing the plot at the end of it over tiny details. Note to self for the future – just ship it!

After all that time and effort, I realised that I am now completely dependent on Squarespace to not go under, or not change their features in an impactful way, or raise their prices. When I discover a limitation I’m not happy with, I’m stuck with it. That is a scary thought!

Any website building service where you are not in control of where your website is hosted has the same problem. You sacrifice control and ownership for ease of use.

Generally, I have been happy with Squarespace, but for that reason, I wouldn’t use them again.

But don’t just take my word for it! Ramsay at Blog Tyrant makes some great points, coming from a wealth of experience. Which leads on to my next point..

I’ve built a fair few websites in my time, but until building Surfpreneur, I’d never used WordPress. I did a bunch of research and dove in head first when making this blog, and it’s been a real eye-opener.

Research website options!
At some point, you have to stop researching and start doing. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

WordPress is infinitely customisable with themes and plugins. I have a decent coding knowledge and love to mess about with tiny parts of my websites that no-one cares about (I waste a lot of time doing this..) but you don’t need to know code at all to achieve a stunning and practical result.

You can make anything you want using WordPress, including an ecommerce store, but the bonus is that you are in complete control. When compared to Squarespace and similar platforms, you do have to put a little more effort to begin, but once you are all set up with hosting, a domain name, and a theme, it is just as convenient and you own it.

These are the tools I would use now as a basis for any website:

1
WordPress – Like I said, after using it for this blog, I’m sold on WordPress as a platform. It’s free, powers almost 30% of the internet, and has a massive community. You can do anything with it.

2
SiteGround – After a lot of research, I went with SiteGround for web hosting. I’ve not been disappointed. There’s not been a single problem, and I know that great customer support is there if I need it.

3
iwantmyname – I own 8 domain names, and they are all registered through I Want My Name. They offer everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Refreshing.

4
GeneratePress – A non-bloated theme with excellent free and paid options, backed up a public-facing and involved developer, and a great community.

Anyway, my business website is still on Squarespace. I take orders on the site and then manually make them with the printer. I’ve streamlined the process as much as possible but if the amount of orders increased significantly, I’d be getting in touch with Loxley Colour to find a way to automate them.

I’d like to move it over to WordPress in the future, but for now, the work is done and it will have to stay where it is!

A quick mention of Adobe Creative Cloud – it has been crucial for me in all my business adventures but is particularly relevant to a photography business. If you’re starting one, you need to be using it. From editing photos, preparing prints and making video, to creating branding and marketing material, it’s essential.

Marketing photography

Getting my photos in front of the right people. That’s marketing, and it’s a constant task. It’s made easier using a few simple tools and techniques.

Research

Apart from competitor research, here are some other ways I tried to gather and define useful information to make marketing easier.

Customer Personas

I have two general groups of customers; local surfers, and other sea-loving locals. Defining some ideal customer personas has been extremely helpful when making marketing choices. The personas are always evolving but here’s one of them:

A customer persona for buying photos online.
As you can see, Sandra is thrilled to have been featured in my blog post. (Sandra isn’t real).

Sandra, 28, Marketing Executive
• Lives in Cove, Aberdeen.
• Recently purchased her first house with her fiancé.
• Tried surfing abroad and interested in trying again.
• Loves walks on the beach and watching the sea.
• Dabbles in photography and posts on social media.

You can see how this would be helpful, and the more detail the better. How could I get my prints in front of Sandra?

I even have a reader persona for this blog which helps me imagine communicating with a real person when I’m writing.

Keywords / Important words

I knew nothing about keyword research when I started (I’ve since learned a little more). As it happens, I do rank in Google for what my keywords would be, but Google is not the primary way customers discover me. These are the words I noted down though.

  • Surf
  • Photography
  • Aberdeen
  • Scotland
  • Local
  • Ocean
  • Sea
  • Waves

These helped when I was writing website copy, titles, and descriptions.

SWOT Analysis

Here’s a table I made when I was starting.

Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
• Good local knowledge of coastline
• Professional equipment
• Comfortable in water
• Lack of experience running a business
• Solo run business, working full time, lack of time and resources
• Corner on local market
• Unique selling point
• GoPros
• Growing availability of mobile phone water housings

Based on that, I might have decided that I need to stress the quality of my equipment in my marketing to mitigate the threat of other water housings.. (In Scotland, I don’t think this is too much of threat, but it’s a good example of how SWOT can be useful to identify issues).

How did I want people to perceive the business?

I noted down a list of descriptive words I wanted people to associate with the business and picked some synonyms for each. This is what I wrote, and again, this was very useful for writing copy with a voice for the website and social media.

  • Friendly / Approachable
  • Stoked / Enthusiastic
  • Talented / Skilled / Knowledgeable
  • Well equipped
  • Available / Flexible
Business notes in Evernote
Searching my business name in Evernote, my online brain!

What did I want the audience to do?

Identifying what I wanted from the audience and ordering by importance helped me prioritise and create call-to-actions. Here’s what I wrote.

  1. Buy prints
  2. Subscribe to the mailing list
  3. Contact me for opportunities
  4. Interact with and share photos

Now, I’d also consider what a customer journey might look like, from discovery to conversion. Something like discovering me on Instagram, to getting on the mailing list, to making a purchase after seeing a discount code in an email.

These ideas were useful for starting, from the business name to colours and fonts, but I have used them to guide my branding and marketing throughout the life of the business. I revisit and adjust them for specific tasks, like writing website copy and blog posts, laying out the website or doing a social media giveaway.

Starting a photography business? I’ve made a checklist to help you out.

Reaching the audience

The most effective techniques I’ve used to reach customers and actually drive sales have been using social media (where the majority of my customers discover me), and an email list (where most of the sales come from). I’ve also managed to get some press coverage which I was stoked about.

Flyers printed by Instant Print.I’ve experimented with printed material as well. Here’s a flyer I hand out at the beach after I’ve been in for a session with surfers. I use Instant Print for this stuff. They send out a great sample pack for free and offer quality, good value materials. I’m really happy with them.

Social media

The first thing I had to do was identify what social media channels to use. I considered where my customers were, as well as what I was comfortable with.

I’d love to be using LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest, but I’d be spending all my time on social media! I use Instagram and Facebook, and that’s quite enough at the moment.

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Instagram

Genuinely interacting with people on relevant hashtags and posting water images a couple times a week has been effective in growing my Insta channel. That’s it!

Instagram bots, insincere business.Click To Tweet

I’ve never used an Instagram bot and don’t plan to. I think it’s an easy way to come across as insincere, and in the local area my business is based in, I can’t risk that. I’d sooner outsource my social media interaction to a freelancer. At least they would be a real person!

Facebook

If I go out for a session shooting shots of surfers and post a full album of those images, it’s always well received. Pictures of people do well on Facebook.. who knew?!

People also like to support achievements, so posting when I get news coverage or hit a milestone tends to do well.

Facebook organic reach strategy

I manage a Facebook group for surfers in the local area, which is linked to my business page. People like to join communities, and that group is a great way to associate my business with local surfers and reach some of my potential customers.

Sharing images in relevant Facebook groups for the local area and messaging local pages and asking them to share images has also been effective.

I’ve also dabbled in Facebook advertising and had some successes and failures. It can be a very effective tool. This episode of The Photopreneur Podcast is an ideal introduction.. the whole podcast is great actually!

Email marketing

A mailing list is essential, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. They give you direct access to people who have already made some sort of commitment to your business. Those are the people that will buy! (Messenger bots and notification services are also exciting developments that will only grow in the future).

I use MailerLite for my email list. I’ve found them to have all the features I need in an easy to use interface, plus they are cheaper than the main competition once you get a paid number of subscribers. And they don’t stick their branding all over your forms and emails, even on the free plan!

I’ve still not really pushed my email list (I should and I will!), but I’ve used two main techniques to help it grow.

I did a social media giveaway for two free prints, and I created a pack of mobile phone wallpapers to download.

An incentive for the email list. Photo wallpapers.

The social media giveaway in particular was effective and profitable, but I would never have guessed the amount of work that would go into giving away something for free..

This is definitely an area I need to spend more time on, as the majority of customers have been from the list!

A note on pricing

I researched competitors and found there was a pretty wide pricing range. There definitely isn’t an obvious rule for pricing photography prints. I ended up using the steps in this great video by Thomas Heaton, combined with competitor research, to decide on pricing.

Marketing work is never finished. I love the idea of passive income, but I’m not sure that it exists (I’d love for you to prove me wrong, leave a comment).

You have to get your work in front of people in creative ways to stay relevant, and without maintenance, I think any source of income will dwindle and eventually disappear. It’s a fast-paced world!

The future

I’m in Fuerteventura over the winter, but when I get back I plan to approach potential local stockists. I offer smaller matted prints that would do well in a coffee shop or craft store type setting.

I’d also like to expand into offering prints to offices and commercial premises. I’m undecided on how to do this. Cold emails/calls? Just showing up? What do you think?

I want to get more photos and start experimenting with videos on YouTube and Facebook (I also need to make more Instagram stories). Video is huuuuge.. can’t be left behind!

If you start a business, the to-do list will never end. Ever.Click To Tweet

You’ve made it to.. the end! Or just the beginning?

This is the first really big post I’ve written for this blog, and a lot of effort went into it. I hope you’ve found it helpful in starting your online photography business, or any other business! If you did, I’d really appreciate if you shared it so other people can get value from it too.

I’ve done my best to be detailed but unfortunately, I can’t explore everything as much as I would like (even in 4000 words!). I’ll definitely be expanding on some the ideas I’ve written about in full blog posts of their own. Let me know what you’d like to read and I’ll focus on that.

Last thing:

This post probably makes it look like I had everything perfectly planned when I started. I definitely didn’t! It probably would have been a lot easier if I did but who knows if I would have ever actually started if I got hung up on the details.

The most important thing is to just start. You can learn, figure things out, and adapt along the way. Take your first step! I’ve made a checklist to help you out:

P.S. If you were running my business, what is the next thing you would do?

Thanks again for reading, and see you in the comments!

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8 Reasons I Started This Blog https://surfpreneur.co/8-reasons-i-started-this-blog/ https://surfpreneur.co/8-reasons-i-started-this-blog/#comments Fri, 10 Nov 2017 18:24:28 +0000 https://surfpreneur.co/?p=696 Blogs are awesome. The internet is a seemingly infinite platform for anyone, anywhere, to share their experiences. But there are so many of them.. why start another one?

Surfpreneur is my personal blog, where I document my efforts building location independent businesses and earning more time to live well. I hope that by sharing the process, I can help others do the same.

I want this blog to be a little different from some of the blogs out there, so here are 8 reasons why I started it. Finish reading this post...

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Blogs are awesome. The internet is a seemingly infinite platform for anyone, anywhere, to share their experiences. But there are so many of them.. why start another one?

Surfpreneur is my personal blog, where I document my efforts building location independent businesses and earning more time to live well. I hope that by sharing the process, I can help others do the same.

I want this blog to be a little different from some of the blogs out there, so here are 8 reasons why I started it.

1. Learn new skills

Aah, a new challenge. Before starting this blog, I had never used WordPress and had never really delved into SEO (search engine optimisation) or keyword research.

I was lucky to find a great theme with a supportive developer and community behind it, so learning WordPress has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve even jumped into PHP to customise specific areas of the blog. I’m pretty happy with it, what do you think?

With the help of Backlinko, I’ve also gained a decent foundation in keyword research and SEO, and the more time I put into this blog, the more I’m going to learn!

You can teach yourself almost anything with the help of the internet, but the best way to learn is by doing.

2. Fits in with my ’network’ of projects

Surfpreneur fits in nicely in the sort of network of other projects I’m working on. They’re all related. It will act as a hub; a place where I can write about all of them.

For my freelance content business, I’ll get more examples for my portfolio. I’ll establish some authority on small business topics (small businesses are my freelance target market), and hopefully, I’ll make some referrals.. I suppose from that angle it could be described as an elaborate content marketing campaign!

The healthy lifestyle aspect fits in with my surf photography business as well. Health is important and should come before all this business malarky. I try!

The freelance business is a service business, I exchange time for money. And the photography business is an ecommerce/service business, I’m always putting time into that. Surfpreneur won’t have the same immediate demand on my time as they do, I’ll write here in my spare time.

Oh, and blogger sounds better than surf entrepreneur..!

A break from business.. surfing.
Hard at work..

3. Writing is healthy

Writing helps me to organise my thoughts. Trying to articulate something makes it clearer in my head, and that helps me learn from mistakes, talk to clients, identify next steps, come up with ideas.. all that good stuff.

Being healthy is just as much about being mentally healthy as active and physically healthy. Writing is a massive help there. I write a lot anyway, I should share more of it!

4. Give you an alternative

There are thousands of blogs dedicated to teaching people how to do things, with step by step guides for anything you could think of. There are probably thousands specifically about teaching people how to build a business!

I probably won’t be writing about slime or pancakes, but might write about training dragons in the future.

That’s great, I read blogs like that all the time, especially when I’m trying to solve a specific problem.

But there is a huge lack of blogs that share the process, from the point of view of someone actually putting techniques into practice (got any suggestions?). I find blogs like that extremely useful, and I’m more likely to trust what I’m reading because I can see it working.

But lots of people either don’t have the time for blogging, or they are worried that other people will steal their ideas.

I don’t mind sharing my ideas. They’re worth nothing without the execution anyway. But if someone does copy me and do it better, they deserve it! I’ll be thrilled if you take ideas from this blog and make something successful with them.

Time is always going to be a struggle, but I have a fair bit more of it now that I’ve left my job, so we’ll see what the future holds..

5. Help and inspire others with content I’m passionate about

Like I said, I think sharing the process and real experience will be really useful for you folks reading.. hi Mum! Even if you don’t want to do exactly what I’m doing (you probably shouldn’t), the lessons I learn and mistakes I make will be applicable in some way to your project.

For example, you don’t have to be making a surf photography ecommerce website, or a photography business of any kind, to find something useful in my ramblings about doing it.

Plus, this is the stuff that I love doing, so I’m excited to share it! If it helps you, all the better.

Feedback for one of my blog posts on Medium.
Feedback from a post on Medium. This was hella encouraging for me!

6. Build a community

You have a wealth of experience vastly different from mine, we can learn a lot from each other!

I want to build a community around this blog and start conversations and real friendships with people around the world. I’m sure we can help each other and open up opportunities. It’s amazing what another person’s point of view can do to improve an idea you think you have well thought out!

Surfpreneur's Twitter account.
Say hi!

I’ll end every blog post with a question, and I hope more people get involved in the comments and on Twitter as time goes on.

7. Try a different business model

Surfpreneur is a business in itself. The plan is to make money by including affiliate links to products that I actually use and recommend. That means I’ll make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use a link and decide to pay for one of the tools.

It’s important to me that I maintain my integrity and share honest advice and experience, so I’ll never share a product or tool just because of its affiliate program. I use the tool first and find the program afterwards. If there’s no program, no worries!

This is a model I’ve never tried before, so I’m interested to see how it will work and what I can learn from it.

8. Have fun with new projects

I love new projects. The first stage is always one of the most exciting parts; doing the research, learning, working out the details, coming up with new ideas. This blog will give me an excuse to try new ways of making money online.

A couple things on my radar that I’d love to experiment with are matched betting and teaching English as a foreign language. I’d also love to try an FBA product on Amazon. What do you think I should try?


I’ll come back to this list in a year’s time and see if this blog has achieved what I hope it will. But even if it doesn’t do everything I want it to, it’s already been worth it. The new skills I’ve learned will be invaluable for other projects.

Do you have a blog? Why did you start it and what have you learned from it?

Thanks for reading, and see you in the comments!

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Tools & Resources for Online Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses https://surfpreneur.co/toolbox/ Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:50:58 +0000 https://surfpreneur.co/?page_id=537 Do you obsess over the best tools to use for your small business? Me too! These are all tools that I have actually used and recommend. There’s some awesome stuff here that I know you'll find useful. Finish reading this post...

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Do you obsess over the best tools to use for your small business? Me too (I wish I didn’t). I’ve likely wasted hours of valuable time trying and comparing resources before deciding what to use for my online businesses, over and over again..

I could have probably used that time better, but at least now I can share the tools with you.. maybe it wasn’t such a waste!

These are all tools that I have actually used and recommend. There’s some awesome stuff here that I know you’ll find useful. I’ll be updating this page when I discover new tools and resources that help me out in my online business endeavours, so bookmark and check back if you like.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list!

Here's a full list of the tools and resources I actually use in my own online businesses. Researched, tested, and genuinely recommended.

NOTE – This page contains a few affiliate links (although a lot of the tools are free!). This means that if you make a purchase through one of the links, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only ever link to products that I actually use and honestly recommend. If you choose to use one of the links, I really appreciate the support, but if not, that’s cool too. I hope you find this helpful!

Website / Blog

WordPress

One of the reasons I started this blog was to learn WordPress. Having jumped into it, I’m sold. You own what you make, it’s free and it has a massive community behind it. I’ll be using WordPress for most projects in the future.

SiteGround

I went with SiteGround for web hosting after reading a lot of positive feedback about them, and a few concerning things about their main competitor.. I’ve not been disappointed, and was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from them offering help with setup after I’d bought hosting. A nice touch. I’ve not had any problems, but I know great customer support is there if I need it.

iwantmyname

I own 8 domain names, and they are all registered through I Want My Name. WHOIS Privacy is included, so you can keep things like your name, address, and phone number private (a lot of domain registrars will charge extra for this). There are also useful integrations which make it easy to set up your email and website. In summary, everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Refreshing.

GeneratePress

This is the WordPress theme I use for surfpreneur.co. It’s lightweight, has free and paid options, and has a public-facing, involved developer and an active community. The support has been excellent and goes beyond what I’d expect (you’ll get help with things like specific custom CSS if you need it, which is really nothing to do with the theme itself). This theme is awesome.

MailerLite

I switched to MailerLite from MailChimp to avoid double-opt-in (confirm your subscription email) when I was doing a giveaway. MailChimp has since added support for single-opt-in but I’ve found I like MailerLite more anyway. They offer all the features I need in an easy to use interface, and they are cheaper than the main competition once you get a paid number of subscribers. Plus, they don’t stick their branding all over your forms and emails, even on the free plan!

ZohoMail

I use ZohoMail so I can create professional email addresses for my domain names. I used them initially because they were free (for one domain), but I now pay £18/year. This lets me send email from multiple different domain email addresses in the same inbox. So I have the email addresses for all my businesses in the same place! It’s convenient, and you can set up separate signatures for each address and forwarding rules for email to the different addresses.

GitHub

If you are interested in coding, you should get on GitHub. I’ve used it for a few coding experiments, and to host multiple static websites with custom domains for free with GitHub pages. If you don’t need a blog or shop on your site and don’t mind messing about with code, GitHub is for you.

Sublime Text

Speaking of code, here is a text editor for coding. It’s pretty good. One might say it’s sublime (I’m sorry).

Cloudflare

You can use Cloudflare for free to get an SSL certificate and use a CDN. This means that your site will be more secure (which helps with Google) and faster (a Content Delivery Network allows you to serve your website’s files from a server closer to the user wherever they are in the world, instead of just from one place).

Squarespace

I use Squarespace for my online photography business website and e-commerce store. It’s been an easy way to build a website and online shop. Its advantage is that it’s simpler to set up than a self-hosted WordPress site, but it does have limitations. Overall, I’ve had a good experience using it and would recommend it depending on the use (so long as you are considering other options as well!).

Font Awesome

Free icons that you can easily use on your website. I use it on this site (it comes set up in GeneratePress), but you can use it on any website. The icons in the headings on this page are all from Font Awesome.

Google Analytics

Gives you analytics on where the users of your site come from and how they interact with it. All that good stuff that you need to know, so you can improve your site for your visitors.

Pingdom

I use Pingdom’s Website Speed Test to make sure all my websites are loading quickly. Slow websites lose visitors!

Productivity

Evernote

Evernote is my online brain. I use it for everything; drafting posts, making plans, to-do lists, budgets, study. It keeps me organised.

Tomighty

A free little app that helps me use the Pomodoro Technique. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s a time management technique where you work for a set period of time, take a short break, and repeat. This stops me procrastinating (most of the time).

Toggl

Toggl is a tool that tracks time at the click of a button. Great for freelance work, or making it even clearer where I waste my time!

Trello

Recently, I’ve been using Trello for blog post ideas, scheduling and review. It offers a different way to organise projects and ideas that helps me keep on top of tasks.

Buffer

A tool for scheduling posts across different social media platforms. Saves a lot of time.

Noisli

Studies have shown that ambient background noise can have a positive influence on creativity and productivity. I use Noisli. It’s a free tool with a convenient browser add-on. I like rain, a little bit of wind and thunder, and the crackling of fire. Here’s a mix.

Feedly

Feedly is an RSS reader. I use it to follow my favourite blogs and publications, keep up to date on what my competitors are doing, and find freelance work.

LastPass

Sick of having to remember your passwords? Or do you have the same password for everything?! *gasp* LastPass solves this problem. It generates solid passwords that you won’t have to remember, securely stores them, and automatically provides them when they’re needed. And it works across multiple devices.

Flux

Research suggests that exposure to blue light (the kind that your phone or laptop glows at you) is bad for your sleep. Flux warms my laptop screen for those productive late night sessions, without keeping me awake afterwards. I like.

VoilaNorbert

Allows you to find that person’s email address you need. There are plenty of services that can do this, but VoilaNorbert is the one I’ve been using. 100% hit rate so far!

Google Drive

Store stuff online and use Google Docs, Sheets etc. Preeetty useful.

Coggle

Like mindmaps? Me too. I use Coggle to make information visual and appealing. See it in action and get some business ideas here!

Writing

Grammarly

You’ve probably heard of Grammarly. I can’t seem to watch a YouTube video without seeing one of their ads! Despite that, they do provide a useful tool. I use the free version to check all my blog posts, emails, university writing etc.

Hemingway Editor

Another free tool. This helps me make my writing clear and concise.

Hemingboard

Use the same words too often in your writing? Hemingboard helps me find the perfect word every time, while keeping me from sounding repetitive.

Outsourcing

Fiverr

Depending on what you want done, there is a lot of talent on Fiverr that can be tapped into for not a lot of money. I’ve used it a couple times for small tasks, and have been pleased with the results.

Reddit

There are a few subreddits dedicated to hiring freelancers. Definitely worth a look if you need something done. You’ll find freelancers posting their skills for hire, as well as job requests. I’ve linked to a multireddit for a few I keep an eye on.

Travel

Booking.com

I keep going back to Booking.com for my accommodation when I’m travelling, whether it’s a Guesthouse in Cornwall or an apartment in Fuerteventura (I had memorable experiences in both of these places.. got plenty of waves and even a little work done!). There are some deals to be found on the site, and it makes sorting out your accommodation simple.

ExpressVPN

A VPN protects your data when you’re using public WiFi networks abroad; crucial if you’re running a business from your laptop. Plus, you can watch Netflix for other countries (or home)! I did a lot of research before deciding on ExpressVPN, which has the right balance of features for me. It’s fast, easy to use, secure, and private.

Duolingo

I’ve been learning Spanish for about a year and I’d describe myself as conversational (and improving!). Duolingo gave me a strong base to build on, by making language learning a game and focusing on useful vocabulary and speaking. Combine it with some podcasts and reading, and you don’t need anything else to start having conversations.

Plug Adaptor

A necessity when working abroad. I’ve been using this exact plug adaptor regularly for the last year and it’s not let me down.

Keyword Research / SEO

BuzzSumo

I use BuzzSumo to research competition and evaluate the potential success of content ideas.

Soovle

Soovle pulls suggested search results for a given keyword from multiple sources, which is a cool way to find post ideas for your general niche.

Answer the Public

Another useful tool for getting ideas for blog posts and keywords, and zeroing in on the questions that people are asking.

Moz

I use Moz Bar, Moz’s free browser add-on, to get metrics on search results and websites, as well as using their Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer to evaluate keywords and check backlinks.

SEOQuake

SEOQuake is another free browser add-on that’s helpful for optimising your website for search engines and getting metrics on search results.

KWFinder

A tool that I use together with Google’s Keyword Planner for evaluating keywords and deciding on my main keyword for pages and posts.

Yoast SEO

A WordPress plugin for optimising your website’s pages and posts so they can be found in search engines. This makes on-page SEO easy.

Money

Halifax Clarity Card

No fees to use this card anywhere in the world for transactions or cash withdrawals! If you are from the UK and spending time abroad whilst running a business, you should get this credit card.

Starling Bank Account

A real bank account you use from your mobile phone. It has a host of useful features, but best of all, there are no fees for transactions or cash withdrawals abroad.

Transferwise

Send and receive money from abroad in multiple currencies with the real exchange rate. If you need to accept payments from abroad for services you provide, Transferwise is the ideal solution.

Working with Images

Adobe Creative Cloud

The Adobe Suite has been crucial for me in my online business adventures. I use it all the time to edit photos and videos and create branding and marketing material. It gives me the flexibility to make changes myself when I outsource work as well.

Pixieset

Pixieset lets you sell both digital downloads and photography prints to clients. I use it to sell image downloads to surfers for my photography business.

Instant Print

A great company I stumbled upon! Instant Print will send you a free sample pack of their print options, which convinced me to go with them over other printers in the UK. I’ve used them for various flyers, and printed gift vouchers with a gorgeous finish. I’m thrilled with the results.

Canva

If you need to make graphics for your business, but don’t want to jump into the Adobe suite, Canva is an excellent option.

Unsplash

A website for finding beautiful photographs you can use commercially for free, without attribution. It’s nice to give credit anyway though.. (the wrench at the top of this page is by Matt Artz on Unsplash). I get photos from here when I don’t have one of my own that fits.

Urlbox

A tool I stumbled on when looking for a way to take full-screen screenshots of web pages for business case studies. It’s since come in handy a bunch of times, and is the only tool I’ve found that always takes accurate screenshots of web pages. There is a free plan which is more than enough for my needs.

Inkthreadable

I use Inkthreadable to dropship T-shirts and tote bags for my surf photography business. They have a wide range of products to choose from and I’ve found them to be high quality at a reasonable price.

Camera Equipment

Sony A6000

This is the camera I use (together with a couple of different lenses) to take the photos for my photography business. It’s compact, high quality, and shoots at a fast burst rate. Perfect for my needs. Also the ideal camera for travel.

GoPro

GoPros are super. I use mine to make videos in the sea..

Canon G7X

A high-quality compact camera, well-suited for vlogging!

GorillaPod

A relatively compact tripod which has proven itself invaluable on multiple occasions. I’d never drag a proper tripod around with me, but this lets me get the shot anyway.

Rocket Blower

There are a lot of accessories I could have included, but the Rocket Blower is universal! I use it for cleaning cameras, lenses, and my laptop. And it’s shaped like a rocket.. do I really have to say more?

Essentials

MacBook

I use a 2015 MacBook Pro Retina 13″ for everything. It’s allowed me to do a lot of things I’m proud of, including all this business stuff. An essential tool.

External Hard Drives

I have two of these 1TB Hard Drives. I use them to make backups of important files and store all my RAW photographs. I keep them cloned as I’m paranoid one of them will break! It’s not that I’ve had any problems, it’s just I can’t afford to lose the stuff I keep on them..

Klean Kanteen

This is a bit of an odd one to include, but I’ve had mine for about three years (it’s all bashed up) and I take it everywhere and use it every day! I don’t know how many litres of water I’ve drunk out of the thing, plus it saves me money and stops me from buying disposable plastic bottles which are not good.

Learning

HubSpot Courses

HubSpot offers a number of free certifications, which are perfect for learning more about marketing and improving your C.V. I’ve personally completed the Content Marketing certification (so far), and found the course valuable and professionally presented. I’m surprised these are free!

Backlinko

Comprehensive case studies and guides for learning about Search Engine Optimization.

Sam Priestley

One of the only blogs I’ve found about the process of building a business, from the point of view of someone actually doing it. From starting a brand of gin to matched betting, there’s definitely some interesting stuff here!

Blog Tyrant

Insightful blog posts and conversations about building a blog.

The Photopreneur Podcast

Listen to this podcast if you’re a photographer looking to start making money from your work.


And that’s it! I hope you’ve found something that can help you with your online or small business.

I get preeetty geeky over this kind of stuff, so if you’ve any alternate (or new) suggestions, I’d love to hear them. You can send me an email or a Tweet. Oh, and if you think someone else might find this page useful, give it a share!

Last updated: 25 November 2017

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