7 Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List

Need a Mailing List?
Need a Mailing List?

Most Internet entrepreneurs know that having a mailing list is very important to your business. You can use social networks to reach out to potential customers, but you need a mailing list to maximize your reach.

Seven Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List

  1. Email doesn’t come and go.
  2. It’s yours, forever.
  3. List members are more committed.
  4. It’s easy to automate.
  5. It converts well.
  6. It drives traffic to your site(s).
  7. Email is everywhere.

Email Doesn’t Come and Go

Today social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and WhatsApp are popular. But do you remember Myspace? Friendster? Digg? What’s next?

Building your marketing solely on a social network is dangerous, because today’s hot network may become tomorrow’s Myspace. Also, someone else makes the rules, so what works today on Facebook might not work tomorrow. It’s happened already – Facebook used to show all your posts to people who “liked” your page, but now only a small fraction of your posts ever get seen, unless you pay to boost your posts.

In contrast, email has been around for as long as the Internet has, and it isn’t owned by any one company. Which means…


Your Email List is Yours

Your email list is yours – not Facebook’s, not LinkedIn’s – yours. So you can send to it when you like, you can change email providers, and your list can come with you. Nobody can change the rules and take that away from you.

Of course, you need to use your mailing list responsibly. People have given you their trust by signing up for your list, so you must respect that and treat them well, or they’re going to unsubscribe.

But since they’ve signed up…


List Members are More Committed

By opting into your mailing list (probably through double opt-in), your list members have made a commitment to you and your business. People protect their email addresses and give them out a lot less frequently than they click “like” on a Facebook page. Naturally, your mailing list is filled with people who want to be on that list and want to hear from you.


Email Is Easy to Automate

There are several services – free or paid – to automate your mailouts. I use MailChimp; there’s also AWeber and Constant Contact among others. Right now I use the free version of MailChimp but as my list grows, I will switch to a paid version.

All of these services maintain your list of emails, but it’s your list and you can download the list and transfer it to a different service if you like. You can schedule emails to send whenever you like, so a good practice is to queue up some emails so you always have some “in the pipe”… especially for times when you go on vacation or are otherwise engaged.

With paid services, you can automate “drip campaigns” to send sequences of email messages to new subscribers or for sales campaigns. You set up a series of emails, determine the interval between emails, and the service does the rest. In many cases you can even put some decision making into the sequence; imagine asking a question in one of your emails with two links, and having the sequence change depending on which link they click.

You can also “segment” your list so you can send emails to only a particular portion of the list. In my list I have a segment that has signed up for weekly photography emails, so I can send most emails to the whole list but only send the “photo blasts” to the segment.


Email Converts Well

Compared to paid advertising, email converts well.

A “conversion” is an action taken – in general it means the user clicks on a link.

Email conversion rates in “house” mailing lists (that people signed up for) tend to have open rates (person opens the email) around 20-30% with conversion rates from 2-5%, whereas online ads tend to have conversion rates more in the 1-1.5% range (source 1, source 2).

A lot depends on the quality and size of the mailing list. You can basically buy a large mailing list by spending money on ads to get people to join your list, but you won’t get users who are as engaged as those who joined because they believed your list would provide value to them.

My list currently has an open rate of about 50% with a click rate around 35%, but it’s a small list. I expect both of those to drop as the list increases in size.


Email Drives Traffic To Your Site

Through your drip campaigns and other automated emails, you can toss links in to various pages on your sites. For example, my “photo blast” emails often include links to blog posts that tell more about the particular images I am sharing. People do click on them, so that’s more visitors to your sites and potentially more sales.


Email is Everywhere

With the advent of smartphones, you can get email everywhere, any time and it’s easy to engage with it on the spot. If you’re like me at all, you can’t stand that little envelope icon with the number on it – you have to click it!


Go Get Started

It’s time to get started. Go sign up with MailChimp, AWeber or Constant Contact. Start collecting emails with the forms included with your membership, then start helping your members!

March Progress Report

March Progress Report
March Progress Report

Here’s my March progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> So far, so good.

The numbers are as of March 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have 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

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $185.82. If you look at that as 2/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m pretty close.

I finally received my payment from 500px for selling an image there (this one) after filling out my W8 form. If you’re a Canadian you’ll find that you have to fill one of these out for pretty much any kind of online income now. They declare that you’re not a US citizen and therefore generally not subject to withholding tax.

I also received the last of my calendar sales from Lulu. That’s done until the fall!

Finally, a friend asked me to help him with his web site, so I am hosting it on the same hosting platform (Pair Networks – affiliate link) as my own sites and charging him a low rate. We all benefit!

I have some stock photography money in the pipeline, nowhere near the minimum payouts yet; I sold some images in early March that will be on next month’s payout; and there are a few other pending things that will hopefully land soon.

So, doing well this month.



Stock Photography Income

My stock income improved – I accumulated USD $10.53 in February 2016. It started out very strong and continued to do pretty well through the month. I’m satisfied with that progress.

I’m still behind on submitting stock photos. I have been trickling some through but not at the rate that I would like. I need to work on that.


Net Income

My net income is still negative but I hope to hit positive numbers by the end of this month or maybe April.


Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.


Write and Publish eBook

I’ve done a lot of work on my first eBook. I still have a bit of fact checking to do and select some photos and then I can click “publish”. I’m considering this one to be a trial run so I am not putting a lot of income hopes on it… it’s more to learn the ropes and gain some experience.

I was a bit distracted this month because I was writing an article for a Canadian rail magazine. I’ve already submitted one that I hope will come out this month and the second one (just submitted a couple of days ago) will hopefully come out later this year. I’m not getting paid for either one but I think it will be good exposure and look good on my resume / web site.

Since I haven’t actually published the eBook yet, I’ll call this:



So far, improving – failing at 1, fair for 1, and on track for 3 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder.

Steps For March

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Finish the first eBook
  • Poll followers for eBook topics
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

My Stock Photography Workflow

My stock photography workflow
My stock photography workflow

Since I started getting into stock photography in late November, I’ve developed a stock photography workflow (a set of steps) to cover processing, uploading and submitting stock photography to the various microstock companies. I’d like to share that process with you, and maybe help you on your own stock photography journey.

I’ll start by saying that my workflow is definitely inspired by “Get Started in Stock” (affiliate link), a great guide to all things stock photography. I’ve taken the recommendations from that and adapted them to my own preference.

Why a Workflow?

You need to have a system for your stock photography. You want the process to be as quick as you can make it, so you can increase the volume of quality photos that you submit to the agencies to have the best income for the time you spend. If it takes you forever to prepare images for stock, you won’t submit very many, and therefore you won’t make much money. Not good.



Here’s my setup. I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo editing and organizing. You can use other software for organizing – heck, you can just use Windows folders – but Lightroom is hard to beat for searching and cataloguing your images.

I use Lightroom collections extensively for my stock photography. For each stock site, I have a collection set with five collections:

  1. To Submit
  2. Submitted
  3. Accepted
  4. Rejected
  5. Sales

(Lightroom doesn’t actually list them like that – it lists them alphabetically)

I also have three collections under my main Stock Photos collection set:

  1. Potential Stock Photos (set as my Lightroom target collection)
  2. In Preparation for Stock
  3. Stock Sales

It looks like this in Lightroom:

My stock photo Lightroom collections
My stock photo Lightroom collections

You’ll notice that I have the Stock Sales collection synced with Lightroom Mobile so I have that with me always.


My Stock Photography Workflow

Here’s my workflow. Refer to the collections above as appropriate.

  1. I search through either existing photos or photos from a recent shoot. If anything catches my eye as a possibility for stock, I press B / click in the circle in the top right of the thumbnail / right-click and select Add to Target Collection, then move on. If there are several similar photos, I add them all.
  2. Later, I review everything in Potential Stock Photos. I open each image and give them a second look. If I change my mind, I remove them from the collection. If I still like them for stock, I drag them up to In Preparation for Stock and remove them from Potential Stock Photos.
  3. For each photo, I go into design mode and do whatever edits I like. I don’t usually apply presets. If there are several images that were taken in similar conditions, I’ll edit one then copy/paste the edits onto the rest.
  4. I always will go into Spot Removal mode and check Visualize Spots at the bottom to look for dust spots, and clean them up. Logo removal happens here too.
  5. Back in Library mode, I add keywords, title and caption. I might copy/paste keywords from some of my other stock photos if appropriate and make edits.
  6. Once I have a set of prepared stock photos, I drag the group of them to the To Submit collection under each stock site. In a few cases I may not want to submit to all the sites, so I only drag to the ones I want to submit to.
  7. I right-click on the group, and select my export preset “Full Size JPEG” to build a set of full size JPG images in a certain directory on my computer.
  8. I then remove the photos from the In Preparation for Stock collection.
  9. I run FileZilla and open each stock site’s FTP site in a separate tab so they are all open at once. I’ve configured them so they start at the same directory that the full size JPEGs are in, so I don’t have to fiddle with that each time.
  10. For each site, I drag the images from the source side over to the target side to start the transfer. I do them all at once and walk away while the transfers go through.
  11. Once they’re done, I’ll give them a bit of time and then go to each stock site and see if they are in their Pending folders. I have all the stock sites saved as bookmarks so I can open them all at once.
  12. I’ll submit the pending photos, and once that’s done, I move the images from the To Submit collection to the Submitted collection for that stock site.
  13. Later, when the stock sites review the images, they’ll get moved to either the Accepted or Rejected collections and removed from the Submitted collection.
  14. When images sell, I add them to the Sales collection for that site and also to the master Stock Sales collection, so I have a master list of all of my sales.

I also have a spreadsheet to track statistics on acceptance ratios and sales per month.. something I’ll share another time. It’s not really part of the workflow.



I like this workflow because I always know where my photos are in the workflow and the submission process. I also know if I’ve submitted a photo before, so I don’t stumble across a photo in my library and try processing it for stock again.

One benefit of using these collections is that I can look at what collections a photo is in and see how “good for stock” it is. To whit:


4/5 agencies liked the Eiffel Tower image at top left.


This lock bridge photo was accepted by 3, rejected by two (one for copyright), and is still in the submitted stage for two others, plus it has sold at one agency. You can click on any of those to jump to that collection to find out more.



I hope this description of my stock photography workflow has been interesting. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own workflow! Please feel free to provide comments, suggestions, or to share your own workflow.


February Progress Report

Here’s my February progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle. Numbers are as of February 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have 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

Here we go.

Gross Income

February progress report
February progress report

The gross income I’ve received is $40.15. If you look at that as 1/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m falling short.

There’s money in the pipeline, of course, and some of it is imminent and some is “whenever”. Part of the problem with passive income like stock photography, videos, and so forth is that there is a minimum amount that you have to earn before you can request a payout. All of my (minimal) stock photography income so far is below that threshold, and there are funds stuck in Gumroad because they are below their threshold. I understand the reason for the thresholds – there is overhead to the company in issuing a payout – but it’s a bit frustrating. Since I count income only when I receive it, those funds are not counted in my gross income and it makes my gross income look worse than it really is.

All that being said, I’m still falling short of my goal.

I haven’t had any success in selling prints recently. I need to look at my portfolio and spruce it up.



Stock Photography Income

Stock photo - Large field of bright yellow sunflowers
Stock photo – Large field of bright yellow sunflowers

I accumulated USD $7.43 (CAD $10.37 at present) in stock income in January 2016. I’m very satisfied with that progress.

December’s stock income was a mere USD $1.45.

This is only February 3 and it is already a strong month, so I am pretty optimistic.

I am falling behind on submitting stock photos, so I need to work on that. I’ve shot and submitted a number of Valentines’ Day images, so I am hoping for some sales from those. My first batch of “shot for stock” images is starting to sell, which gives me hope that I’m doing the right thing.



Net Income

If I’m not hitting the gross income targets, I’m not hitting net income targets either! Currently my net income is negative because I invested in my web site hosting costs by pre-paying pair.com for 24 months for a 24% discount.



Work For Hire Gigs

I hope to shoot the Manitoba Marathon again this year, so that could be one of the two I want. I’m tempted to reach out to the Running Room and other groups to see if any opportunities are available. I’ve been scanning Kijiji and I found a few possibilities but nothing has borne fruit yet. We’ll call this…



Write and Publish eBook

I’ve done nothing on this, other than some thought on what I’d like to write about. I believe the next step is to assemble a list of possible topics and poll my mailing list / Traingeek Images followers to see what they would A) like to read and B) like to pay for.




So far, not great – failing at 3 and on track for 2 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder.


Steps For February

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos – Easter is coming up!
  • Assemble list of potential eBook topics
  • Poll followers for eBook topics
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

Measuring Success or Just Keeping Score?

Measuring success?
Measuring success?

How do you measure success in your side hustle? Are you really measuring success or just keeping score?

There are so many measurements available for a photography business, or any online business for that matter. Page views, post likes, number of followers; the list goes on and on. You can spend all day looking at these statistics, but are they really helping your business?


Keeping Score

Keeping score
Keeping score

I think tracking the number of followers, page likes, and so forth that you have is just keeping score. It doesn’t matter except in a very general way.

For example, I currently have 393 page likes on my Facebook page Traingeek Images. What does that really mean? How does that help me?

In a very general sense it means that potentially 393 people could see a post I make there. The reality is that less than 50% of those people will normally see a post I make, and only a handful will actually click “like” on it. Facebook’s filtering algorithms try to present the most interesting content, and unless it gets engagement early, hardly anyone sees them. It’s only when a post goes viral, or least gets engagement, that it gets seen by more people… like this one.

At best Facebook page likes are a general sense of how many people you could reach.

The same goes for Instagram. I currently have 1,874 followers (a thousand more than last month!). How does that help me?

It means more photo likes – I average 150-200 per photo now – but that doesn’t really help my business. It might help my ego, but it doesn’t put cash in my pocket.


How Do You Define Success?

Before we talk about measuring success, we first have to define it. Success means different things to different people. A quick Google search gives three definitions:

  1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
  2. The attainment of popularity or profit.
  3. A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

The common theme here is the attainment of a goal. You have to know where you want to go before you can measure whether you’re getting there.

I listed my goals at the bottom of my last post. You’ll see that page likes or follower counts are not in that list.

If you’re interested in doing sponsored posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, then follower counts will be important to you, because you’ll need a minimum number of followers before you’ll attract advertisers.

Like many people, I believe goals should be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Use those SMART attributes to define your goals.


Measuring Success

Once you’ve defined your goals, you can measure your progress against them.

Let’s take my first goal, gross income of $1,200 for the year. To date I’ve received about $40, with another $80 or so pending, so I have to step it up if I’m going to achieve my goal. NEEDS WORK.

The second goal: stock photography income of $50/month. This month I’ve made USD $6.58 or about CAD $9.20, so I’m on my way. Given that I started stock in late November, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress here. ON TARGET.

You get the idea.

I do track numbers like Facebook page likes, web page views, and Instagram followers for my own interest. They are great for exposure but don’t lead directly to income, so they’re not part of my goals and they aren’t measures of success for me.

I’ll report on my progress toward my goals later this spring.


2015 Summary

2015 summary
2015 Summary

Here’s a summary of my photography side hustle for 2015.

I think it was a good year. I didn’t achieve all of my goals, but I had some good successes and I’m building a good foundation for success in 2016 and beyond.

Let’s dig into some details.

Starting Goals

My main goals for 2015 were:

  • Achieve a gross income of $1,000
  • Get into stock photography
  • Start doing photography jobs (weddings, portraits, events, whatever)

How’d I Do?

I did not achieve my gross income goal. You’ll see below that my gross income was $778.98. It was an ambitious goal, as my 2014 gross income was $427.52, so I did achieve a significant increase but not as much as I’d hoped.

I did get into stock photography, with some small success to date, so we’ll call that a win.

I did one photography job – I was one of the several photographers at the Manitoba Marathon and earned a decent income for my 6 hours of work. Another win.



I had a gross income of $778.98, which includes some American income converted to Canadian at the exchange rate at the time. I record income on a cash basis, meaning I only count it as income when I receive it.

Here’s where the income came from:

I stopped running AdSense on my main blog (Confessions of a Train Geek) in May and that certainly affected the income from that. I decided that I’d rather solicit ads from companies and people I believe in rather than run random ads on my main blog. I’m still using AdSense on several niche sites. I probably will stop those once I get my next payout but I haven’t 100% decided on that yet. It’s not a lot of income.



In 2015 I had expenses of $412.03, broken down as follows:

  • Web site expenses: 54% (hosting with Pair.com, name renewals, acquisition of this site’s name)
  • Photography expenses: 5% (Lightroom presets)
  • Advertising: 10% (Facebook ads for products)
  • Training: 2% (eBook for stock photography)
  • Software: 30% (monthly Adobe Creative Cloud payments)

My expenses were up in 2015 due to the Creative Cloud subscription (a good value, in my opinion) as well as the Facebook ads. I’ll be writing about my ad experience soon.

At the end of 2015 I paid my web hosting fees 24 months in advance to obtain a 24% discount. It didn’t get paid until 2016 so it doesn’t appear in my 2015 expenses. I believe this is a good investment to bring my expenses down.


Net Income

My net income was $366.95, which is 47% of the gross income (good) and more than twice my 2014 net income (great). I’m happy with that but I want to improve it for 2016.


Goals for 2016

Here are my 2016 goals:

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

Let’s get started!


How to Fail at Stock Photography

Old Wooden Grain Elevator with Blue Sky and Clouds
Old Wooden Grain Elevator with Blue Sky and Clouds

I tried my hand at stock very recently, and I want to share my experience and show you how to fail at stock photography.

Then I hope to show you how to succeed at it!


Why Stock Photography?

I believe it is important to diversify your income online. You never know when one income stream will dry up, and some things sell better at certain times of the year. One obvious income stream for your photography side hustle is stock photography. You’re taking photos anyway, so why not sell some of them?

The big appeal of stock photography is that it is passive income. Once you’ve uploaded the photos to the stock agency, all you have to do is sit back, the images will sell, and the money will roll in! How easy is that?

Of course, things are never that easy.

Strictly speaking, I am talking about microstock, where you offer a large number of images for sale at low prices. Traditional stock photography involves selling unique images at a relatively high cost per image, whereas microstock is volume-based and the images are “ready to use” for blogs or other online use. This article gives a great overview of the style differences between stock and microstock.


Getting Started in Stock

I knew next to nothing about stock photography, but a little research pointed me to this fantastic guide. “Get Started in Stock” (3rd Edition at the time of this post) is an excellent e-book and delivers what the title says. It is full of valuable tips and is well worth the modest price. Go buy it if you’re at all interested in stock photography. Those are affiliate links but I’d recommend it regardless. It’s a great value.

Vienna's Rathaus / City Hall By Night
Vienna’s Rathaus / City Hall By Night

The basic steps for getting started in stock photography are these:

  1. Register at one or more stock agencies
  2. Select images from your library to sell
  3. Edit the images
  4. Title and keyword the images
  5. Upload
  6. Profit!

Simple, right?

It is… but you’ll see that step 6 is the hard one.


The First Batch

“Get Started in Stock” recommends that you start with CanStock and then move on to Shutterstock (affiliate links). I followed that advice. I selected 10 photos, uploaded them to CanStock, and they were all accepted! Awesome. Great start.

I moved on to Shutterstock and uploaded the same 10 the next day. 9 were accepted and I was in. Sweet. I registered for Dreamstime (affiliate link) and uploaded there too. I decided to hold off on iStockPhoto for a week or two and just concentrate on these three.

I was really on a roll.


The Second Round

Key Example of How to Fail at Stock Photography
Key Example of How to Fail at Stock Photography – rejected at three sites

I selected a bunch of other photos from my library, edited them and uploaded them to those three again. This time I used FTP for efficiency (it’s all in the e-book).

It takes time for the stock agencies to review your photos to decide if they wish to accept them. I had close to 30 in the queues at CanStock and Shutterstock and Dreamstime… when it all came crashing down.

First up was CanStock, which rejected about 25 of the images. Ouch.

The big blow was Shutterstock, which rejected all 29 images.

Epic. Fail.


Picking Up the Pieces

I was devastated. After such a promising start, I got a hard lesson on how to fail at stock photography.

I stopped uploading for a day, just to take a breather and assess why so many were rejected.

Another triple reject - focus issues
Another triple reject – focus issues

The agencies give one or more reasons per photo, but I can distill them down to three main reasons:

  • Unacceptable image quality (focus being the biggest problem);
  • Too common / similar to others in their database;
  • Image was boring / didn’t “pop”; and
  • Image wasn’t saleable / didn’t tell a story.

They were right to reject them.


Back At It

I went back into my library with a far more critical eye. I was pixel peeping with a vengeance, looking for images that really grabbed the eye and could communicate a message or a feeling.

I also slowed down my upload rate. I aimed for uploading 5-10 images/day to get some quality in and improve my success ratio.

I had better success after that. My approval ratio is still not great but it has improved. In my experience, Shutterstock is the pickiest, followed by CanStock and then Dreamstime.


First Success

My first sale came four days ago, and it was Hebrew Clock on Old Town Hall. 35 cents!

I was so excited. When I noticed I had a balance in my Dreamstime account, I ran and told my wife. She was a bit… underwhelmed. She did see that it was progress, but she knows, as do I, that stock photography is a numbers game and one sale means more will come.

My second sale happened yesterday, and it was Boardwalk Up To Tourist Outlook Under Blue Sky. 25 cents!


Where I’m At Now

I am still very early in the game. My first upload to CanStock was on November 25, so I’ve only been doing this for three weeks.

At the time of writing, I have:

I have a net income of $0.60 after investing probably 30-35 hours of effort.

You might say that is a terrible hourly rate. You’re correct. I see it as an investment. Now that these images are out there, they will bring income, bit by bit, and as I increase my portfolio the income will increase. I don’t expect it to ever be huge but those images are now generating passive income.


Next Steps

Here is where I am going with my stock photography:

  1. Upload more photos
  2. Expand to more stock agencies (now on 5)
  3. Start shooting specifically for stock
  4. Publicize my galleries

My goal for December is to have 100 images online. For January I want to double that, and then we’ll see for February. My secret plan is to have 1,000 online by the end of 2016.

Wish me luck!


Producing and Selling Calendars (Income Idea)

CalendarOne way to generate income for your photography side hustle is by producing and selling calendars. Many people enjoy having a beautiful calendar on their wall or desk, and your fans might appreciate the opportunity to purchase your artwork in this way.

I’ll talk about some options for producing calendars and finish with my own experience selling calendars.

Print Your Own

You could print your own calendars using a local print service, either through a local camera store or print shop, through a service such as Vistaprint, or even through a big box store like Wal-Mart or Costco.

There are advantages and disadvantages. The main advantages I see are a somewhat lower cost to produce each calendar, and the ability to have calendars on hand to sell, either directly to friends and family, or to give as gifts or samples when meeting with prospective clients.

The principal disadvantage is you must buy them first, so you have to invest your own money up front and hope to recoup it. Calendars are obviously time sensitive, so if you haven’t sold them by Christmas you likely are not going to sell them at all.

That leads me to…

Print on Demand Calendars

There are many services that allow you to design your calendar(s) and then they take care of the printing and shipping for you. All you have to do is upload your photos, design the calendar, and set what markup you want on the calendar. In theory they do the rest, although in practice you must do the marketing.

The big advantage to print-on-demand is that you pay no money up front. You must expend the effort to design the calendar, and market it, but the financial risk to you is zero.

The disadvantage is that the calendars are somewhat expensive. On Lulu.com, for example, the basic calendar has a minimum cost of $11.99, with no profit to you, so you must charge more than that to make any money at all. I must say I haven’t found them to be much more expensive than printing your own calendars, unless you print hundreds of calendars.

The Cost Question

You will get challenged by people who see the calendars in retail stores or calendar kiosks that sell for $5.99 or so. There’s no way you can compete with those prices, because you won’t be printing in the volume they do. Your best explanation is to say that the photos are hand picked and of high quality. For print on demand calendars, you could even customize a calendar for one client, if you want to spend the time!

My Own Experience

Lightroom Calendar Collections
Lightroom Calendar Collections

I’ve been selling print-on-demand calendars through Lulu for three years now. I’ve found that they are not a huge money maker by any means, but my readers keep asking for them, so I keep making them.

On Lulu.com you can sell basic or premium calendars. The premium calendars use heavier paper and are larger and don’t fold, whereas the basic calendars are folding calendars that you are likely more familiar with.

Here are my sales figures for the three years I’ve been selling calendars:

Year Types # Sold Premium Sold Revenue (USD) Average / Calendar
2013 1 10 0 $19.62 $1.96
2014 2 11 7 $44.98 $4.09
2015 5 7 13 (to date) 2 $34.00



I’ll note that the majority of calendar sales come in December, so I’m hopeful 2015 will be a good year. UPDATE: 2015 was indeed a good year.

The revenue is my cut of the sales, above what Lulu takes.

My Sales Strategies

I’ve evolved my sales strategies over the past few years. In 2013 I didn’t have much of a margin, so the average income per calendar was low. I was only selling one calendar, a Canadian trains calendar.

In 2014 I decided to increase my margins, and offered premium calendars which had a larger margin. That helped my revenue despite the fact that I did some discounting at different times through the season. I was selling two calendars, a Manitoba grain elevator calendar and a Canadian train calendar, in both regular and premium form.

In 2015 I decided to offer four different calendars – a Manitoba grain elevator calendar in both regular and premium form, and three different train calendars. I ran some Facebook ads to promote them – I’ll write about that separately. I also set up a sales-funnel type of page to sell them, with A/B testing using the Landing Pages WordPress plugin.

My Recommendations

Here are my recommendations for producing and selling photo calendars:

  • Start with print-on-demand calendars until you are sure you have enough volume to print your own;
  • Use your social media feedback (likes) to help you select the photos you will use;
  • Promote the heck out of your calendars – they won’t sell themselves;
  • Use a sales funnel/landing page to help people decide to buy.
  • Don’t expect a huge income from calendars. It’s seasonal and a lot of people don’t use calendars any more.

EDIT: Updated 2016/1/12 with updated sales figures for 2015.

Focus or Diversify?

Hoya Circular Polarizer - Steve Boyko

If you are pursuing photography as a side hustle, by definition you have a regular job that occupies most of our time, so you have a limited amount of time to devote to your photography business. The question becomes: should you spread our efforts across multiple aspects of your business, or concentrate on one aspect at a time? Should you focus or diversify?

Define Yourself

First you need to take a step back and define what you are going to do in our photography business. Are you going to be:

  • a wedding photographer
  • a portrait photographer
  • a fine art photographer
  • an event photographer
  • or some combination of the above?

Even if you decide you are going to be a wedding photographer, chances are you will also do portraits and maybe dabble in stock photography or fine art photography.

Note that this could be different from how you portray yourself publicly. I would advise being open about what type of photographer you are, but you may consider yourself an event photographer while publicly niching down to, say, a sports photographer.


Diversification is key to success in many areas. In investing, for example, diversification is a key concept. Don’t hold one asset, or one asset class (such as stocks); diversify across multiple asset classes, diversify across multiple countries… spread the risk and spread the opportunity.

It pays to diversify in your photography business, too. Maybe you’re a wedding photographer. What do you do in the off season where bookings are less frequent? Diversifying into portrait photography can help smooth the load. The same goes for event photographers – maybe you shoot football. You need some income even when it’s not football season.

Having some fine art and/or stock photography can provide a steady income throughout the year. Diversification can pay off.

However, there’s something to be said for focusing on one thing at a time. Warren Toda argues that “when a photographer tries to be a jack of all trades, they may actually harm their business.”


The book The ONE Thing talks about focusing on the one most important thing that will move you toward achieving your goals.

There’s a lot to be said for a laser-like focus, concentrating all of your effort on mastering one aspect of photography, or driving one area of your business to great heights.

For one thing, you can get to know your target audience / customers really well. By focusing on, say, wedding photography, you can attend the wedding-related shows and skip the art or Christmas shows, saving money and getting in front of the exact customers you really want. Plus you can network with the right group of people. Getting chummy with sports photographers might be fun, and rewarding in its own way, but they may not be able to help you grow your wedding photography business.

Also you can get the right gear. If you dabble in all sorts of photography, you’re going to end up spending a lot more money than if you focus on one or two areas. You won’t need that expensive 600mm lens you bought for bird photography if you’re doing weddings. Those studio strobes won’t help your sports photography. Your photography side hustle has a limited budget and you need to spend it wisely.

What To DO?

I recommend you focus on the aspect of photography that you really want to excel at, and give it 80-90% of your time, effort and money. Spend the resources to get really good at it and develop it into a successful side hustle.

At the same time, take that 10-20% of your effort and diversify. Do some photography that you want to experiment in. Play. Learn. Network. You never know what you’ll discover that will help your primary focus.

Beginning the Side Hustle


Hello and welcome to Photography Side Hustle. I will be writing about how to do photography as a “side hustle”, aka a second job, to earn additional income for you and your family. Many people have an interest in photography and we’ll explore how you can use your photography to earn some income.

I am an IT person, and I’ve been doing photography seriously for about five years. In that time I’ve seen my side income grow and I intend to grow it significantly over the next few years.

The key to a good photography side hustle is to have multiple income streams. We’ll look at the different streams available and how to take advantage of them.

I have several web sites that I maintain and generate income in one way or another:

Are you ready to start your photography side hustle?

Come join me on this journey.