My 2017 Goals

My goals for 2017 for my photography side hustle are:

  • Gross income of $1,200
  • Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  • Net income of $700
  • Write and publish two eBooks
  • Get paid for one magazine article or photo

You can compare these against my 2015 and 2016 goals here. My income and stock photography goals are the same as 2016.

Last year I published one eBook, Diesels on Prince Edward Island – which did well and had good feedback – and this year I’d like to publish two more. I enjoyed the process very much. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

I’ve had several articles published – and I’m working on another for an online magazine – but these are freebies. I’d like to get paid for this, so I have to work toward submitting articles and photos to the few magazines in my niche that pay for them.

Those are my goals – let’s get them done!

How to Get Instagram Followers Ethically

Instagram logoInstagram is a hot platform for sharing photos and for social networking. With more than 500 million active Instagram users as of June 2016 (source), you will want to have a presence there. But how do you get Instagram followers?

This post will describe several ways to get Instagram followers – ethically. The following methods will be discussed:

  • Gaining Followers Organically
  • Follow back
  • Engaging People

Ethics and Instagram Followers

First, a quick note about ethics and Instagram followers. There are many, many sites on the Internet that promise to get you thousands of Instagram followers easily. I recommend that you to avoid those, as you may get thousands of “followers” but they will either be fake accounts or people who are not engaged with your images and message.

I encourage you to get followers who are truly interested in what you have to show and say. This does take more time and effort than the “get followers quick” sites, but you will have followers that actually read your content, rather than dummy accounts with nobody behind them.

Gaining Followers Organically

If you are active on Instagram, posting images regularly, you will accumulate more followers organically. By “organically” I mean people will find you through friends, through hashtags, or through Instagram hubs. If they like what you’re posting, and like your profile, they’ll follow you to get your content.

This is very helpful but it will take a long time to accumulate a large number of followers.


You can gain followers by liking and commenting on your friends’ posts. Other people will see your comments and go view your profile and perhaps start following you as well. I don’t see this as a huge growth strategy, but you’ll be checking your friends’ posts out anyway, so it may help.


You should always hashtag your posts. You do this by entering one or more words prefixed with a “#”. Some examples of hashtags are #canada, #trains or #love.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. This might seem excessive but a lot of people search for posts by hashtag, so it is in your best interest to tag your posts with appropriate hashtags.

I usually tag my posts with the location (e.g. #winnipeg, #northdakota), a few tags related to the subject matter (#train, #night, #sunset) and then some tags related to Instagram hubs. Here’s a great post on how to use hashtags properly, and’s ultimate guide to using hashtags.

Instagram Hubs

Instagram hubs (or “feature accounts”) are accounts that feature others’ work. You tag your posts with a hashtag specific to that hub, and the people who run the hub will periodically review tagged posts and feature a photo on their hub.

For example, Pocket_Rail is a hub followed by almost 10,000 accounts that follows the hashtag #pocket_rail. If you tag your post with that, you might get featured and get your photo in front of them.

Pocket_Rail has featured several of my photos (thank you!), including this one of an NB Southern excursion train.

Photo credit @stevetraingeek •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• @pocket_family presents •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• From @pocket_rail #pocket_rail . Thank you friend for sharing your photo and tagging our @pocket_pride . •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Chosen by . We’re your family in your pocket Cc: Pocket_Family_Owners . @kristina_nicolina & @willysands . Cc: Pocket_Pride_Admin . @chefjane . . Follow your features on Twitter #Pocket_Family And Like us on FaceBook . #huntgram #trains #train #rails #railroad #railway #traintracks #transport #daily_crossing #kings_transports #train_nerds #trb_express #railways_of_our_world #railmarkable #splendid_transport #trains_worldwide #loves_vehicles #ptk_vehicles #total_vehicles #world_bestvehicles .

A photo posted by Railroad Culture (@pocket_rail) on

You can see that they prominently feature a link back to your profile and you should gain a few followers – and bragging rights! – from being featured.

Note that on Instagram, tagging a hub implicitly gives them permission to repost, so if you’re not comfortable with that, don’t tag them.

Here’s a list of 101 Instagram hubs to hashtag to get featured.

Follow Back

It is common for Instagram users to follow those who follow them. You get a notification that so-and-so has started following you, so you check out their profile, and if it interests you, you follow back.

Simple enough, right? Just start following people and they’ll follow back?

It’s not so simple. You have to find the right people to follow, and you have to offer a compelling profile that will make them want to follow you.

Who to Follow

There are a couple of ways to find the right people to follow, to increase the chances that they will follow you back. The key is to find people who are either posting in your niche or following those who post in your niche.

Suppose you write a lot about cats. Siamese cats, in particular. How do you find people on Instagram who like Siamese cats?

Start a search and start typing in Siamese. You’ll see some suggestions pop up immediately.

Siamese Cat Search

The first four results are three accounts and a hashtag. Let’s pick the hashtag #siamesecat. You’ll see a list of top posts with that hashtag, and below that, the most recent posts including that hashtag.

Open each post in a separate browser window and see who liked and/or commented on the posts.

SO. CUTE. (from @siamesecorner)

You can see that 861 people liked this. In the Instagram app, you can poke the like counter and it will show you every user that liked the post, with a convenient “Follow” button right beside them.

Instagram post followers
Instagram post followers

I do not recommend that you follow every one of them.

Have a look at each profile and see if what they post is A) interesting to you, and B) related to what you post.

You want to follow people who would be interested in your content. For my @stevetraingeek account, I look for people who have a train in their profile picture first, then look for people who post photos of trains.


Engaging on Instagram
Don’t get frozen out!

The third way to ethically gain followers on Instagram is to engage people. Actively participate on Instagram by liking posts, and especially by commenting on photos.

Be sure you are not just spamming photos by leaving generic comments. I see a lot of accounts try to gain followers by commenting with “nice photo” or “wowzers” or similar comments on photos that are not at all related to what they post. It’s clear they are trying to get you to check their profile out.

This won’t be a problem if you follow people who post content related to what you like and post. You’ll be authentic when you comment and naturally engaged.

Be sure to show your appreciation for the post, ask a question, whatever seems natural to you. Don’t add “follow me” or “view my profile” at the end – that’s spammy. People will check you out if they want to.

Wrap Up

That’s three main methods for how to get Instagram followers ethically:

  • Gaining Followers Organically
  • Follow back
  • Engaging People

Get out there and expand your Instagram audience!

Further Reading

End of 2016 Progress Report

Prairie Grain Elevator in Winter
Prairie Grain Elevator in Winter

It’s 2017 now – happy new year! – and here’s my end of 2016 progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> Mostly failed to achieve goals.

The numbers are as of January 1, 2017.

Goal Review

I had five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Let’s see how we did.

Gross Income

The gross income I received was $667.76. That was barely above half my target, so a definite FAIL.

Since my October 2016 progress report, I had one Fine Art America sale come in, a couple of calendar sales from Lulu, and two Amazon Kindle eBook sales.

I only produced one calendar in 2016 and I didn’t expend much effort to promote it, so sales were poor.

My main job was on overdrive this fall and I didn’t have a lot of time to spare for my photography side hustle. Still, I’d rather earn $X/hour for working extra on my main job versus a considerably smaller amount per hour on my side hustle!

Income Sources

2016 Progress Report - Income Sources
2016 Progress Report – Income Sources

My sources of income in 2016 came from four areas:

  • Advertising, 15%
  • Image sales, 44%
  • Print sales, 4%
  • Product sales, 27%
  • Work for hire, 0%
  • Writing, 0%

Advertising was from AdSense. I haven’t gone “whole hog” on advertising on my web sites and blogs, mostly because I don’t want to be too intrusive.

I experimented with Amazon Associates advertising late in the year and it did not work out for me. I may revisit it later in 2017 but for now it’s off my sites.

I played with Commission Junction a bit but it doesn’t seem like a really good fit for me.

Image sales came from a few sources. I sold images directly to a few people for either personal or business use – always appreciated. I also had some nice stock income from Shutterstock later in the year as my stock photo efforts started to bear fruit.

Print sales were minimal this year, as you can see by their 4% contribution to my gross income. I had one Fine Art America sale and the residual from a previous Redbubble sale came in. I think prints have been on the decline in the industry for some time.

Product sales were the residuals from the 2016 calendars sold in late 2015 and early 2016, the minimal calendar sales in late 2016, and of course my eBook. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

The big surprise for me from product sales was the three Amazon Kindle sales I had. I put the eBook on Amazon with zero promotion and it’s been nice to see that people found and bought it. Imagine what I could do if I actually promoted it!

I did not work for hire, nor did I write for other people. Given my lifestyle and preferences, I don’t think work for hire is something I should be pursuing in the future. If it happens, great, but I’m not going to pursue it in 2017.


Stock Photography Income

As I mentioned above, I was pretty busy at my job in the fall so my stock photography submissions suffered. I made a big push during the Christmas break to submit some photos I had marked as “potential stock”, and most were accepted and a few have sold already, so that was worth doing.

I had a goal of $50/month for income from stock photography. How did I do?

2016 Progress Report - Stock Photography Income
2016 Progress Report – Stock Photography Income

Clearly I didn’t hit my goal. I’d say I’ve reached $20/month (USD) fairly consistently, but I’m a long way from my goal.

I still think my goal was realistic, if I had achieved my side goal of submitting a thousand images by the end of 2016. I have about 300 images online, and if you do the math and assume a proportionate amount of income/image, I would have hit $50/month if I had a thousand images for sale.

That takes us back to the same old refrain – submit more images!

Score: OKAY

Net Income

My net income was way off my target of $700 for the year. Net income was $145.31.

Where did my expenses come from? Two places:

  • Web site, 67%
  • Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop licensing, 33%

I mentioned in my February report that I pre-purchased my web site hosting expenses for 24 months at 24% off. I consider that an investment but that accounts for the majority of my web site expenses. The other web site expenses are domain renewal fees.

My Adobe costs are for the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

I think I had my expenses under control, but my gross income was not where it should have been. If I had achieved my gross income target, I would have met my net income target.


Work For Hire Gigs

Nothing happened on the work for hire front. I didn’t invest any time in it in the last half of 2016 and I don’t think I will have it as a goal for 2017.


Write and Publish eBook

This one was achieved!



I feel that I didn’t meet most of my goals. However, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Not everything is going to succeed. You just have to recalibrate and move on.

I will be developing my 2017 goals soon and I’ll post them. I know “getting a gig” will not be one of them, and more eBooks is probably going to be a goal. More to come!