If life knocks you down, consider it a game, and start playing hard. Quitting is not an option!
Let me start with some extensive internal notes first. I am sharing them simply for the purpose of clearing up some potential misunderstandings that might come up while reading my essay.
- I have never regretted my choice of committing to the risqué side of a career path (= Sexy Women Photography).
- I very much like my offline work (= Sexy Women Photography).
- My offline business declined in 2016 (= Sexy Women Photography).
- My former personal BLOG+ (B+) and now SexyWomenPhotography (SWP) became a part of my career.
- I am still happily married. My wife supports me and my work to the fullest. She is pursuing her own artistic career (soprano singer) and the topic “sexy” has never been too “sexy”, never led to any quarrels in our relationship.
We are liberals living in a liberal country within a liberal society on a (mainly) liberal continent.
- I am always striving in order to get things done perfectly. This is exhausting not only me each single time but also the others involved.
- The success of my former B+ sparked my dreams to push “educational sexiness” in the form of an online community.
I believe(d) in making things “bigger & better”.
- My liberal understanding is not compatible with the common, big mainstream photography sites for peeps suffering GAS. I knew this from the beginning. However, the knowledge of not being able to break through/into that field does not make me feel any easier.
To a certain degree, I am even surprised that photographers shooting women for a living (= doing a lot of fashion with nipples involved; risqué Maxim stuff etc.) on a regular basis are setting them strictly apart from my kind of “sexy work”. Well, I certainly understand this because it is some sort of a “branding issue” and carefully chosen boundary. What I can’t stand about it is the ambiguity.
- I do not categorize my business, my relations and any other part of my life as a “game”. But it obviously and tremendously helps me to interpret my strategy attempts as “games”. This approach is eminently helpful when it comes to following through with plans which often times means that you have to take deep hits, ignore unreliable folks, and write off impossibilities.
- Last but not least:
- This essay is neither a rant nor a grievance nor meant to draw an image that portrays me as an unsatisfied, ungrateful fellow.
- I am well aware that I am “living a dream” by earning my money with a self-determined profession, living a safe live in a liberal place, having good shelter, a supportive partnership and so forth.
- This essay, is supposed to outline the fact that not all the glittery you may see when looking at me and SWP is gold. Therefore, I want to provide you with some facts about the last few months and the near future.
- This essay was also written in order to reveal some of my mental guidelines that I have prepared for myself (look at the small quotes on the feature image above), some guidance I knocked together and apply frequently.
Because – and this is the scary thing – all comes down to one’s own personality structure and mindset. Of course I am not telling you anything new here, but it is scary nonetheless.
At least if you are built like me…
It is impossible to change my mindset in a ground breaking manner.
However, I have learned to influence it, tried various ways to outsmart it (read “cheat”), and it enables me to put my act together. This literally means acting just like actors do.
The Game: Surfing My Personality’s Structure Waves
If you are only a bit like me, then you know the waves of ups and downs. If I am utterly enthusiastic, then I am pouring infinite power into something. If not, I am deeply hesitant to follow through with my plans.
And no, I am not manic depressive.
I am an introvert and I have to surf my waves: The super-all-is-awesome-success to the kick-you-in-the-butt-because-of- disappointment ride.
Handling this ride is actually the practice area of the game. This game makes situations bearable, pushes actions, and finally turns me into a more productive man again.
In one of her most excellent sales tutorial speeches (WPPI keynote ), Sue Bryce is right when she qualifies “introversion” as an excuse for not selling or acting when action is called for. “The issue is not the part of ‘being an introvert’ but your plain fear is!”
And she is so darn right.
There is no excuse in being an introvert! It is my own anxiety, and according to Sue, not valuing my own work enough.
Now, I do not think that I undervalue my pragmatic creativity but for sure I use my introvert-attribution in order to cover up my actual problem: Fear. It is not the fear of selling things like projects, ideas or the like. No, it is the fear of contacting new people, making new connections, how others could react. Yes, I mean their reactions such a rejection. So what someone “thinks” about my work is really not an issue for me because everyone has their very own and very different opinions on certain subject matters. This is normal, acceptable and obviously I do not care much about it. (Neither should you).
If I am on a wave of power, in a position of strength that is, for example, based on a successful event, then I have infinite faith in my ideas, strategies and craft.
If I knock myself down once again – which always (!) happens without the direct influence or fault of anybody else – then I feel degraded; I do not trust myself anymore (= inner hesitance).
This is the point when I need to change gear and immediately switch into my “it is a game” mode.
This summer, the time had come again…
Where It Went “Wrong”
My online adventure went fine for the last three years, things developed very well.
After an initial boost in appreciation, growth of a happy and loyal audience with B+ (my former blog), doing decent sales that helped supporting my free knowledge approach for you, I felt that it was time to take the next step online at the end of 2015, to faithfully take a flying leap.
I always had the idea of gathering and providing educational material of a broader Sexy Women Photography style. Not “just” nudes (glam, artistic). Bikini is alluring, boudoir has a great business aspect to it, and sexy portraiture is a fantastic, potential business field, too.
A bit earlier in 2014, I personally decided to revive my artistic style which resulted in my works for “Mastering Black & White Nudes Today” that was published last year. And now, for over a year, I have been working hard on bringing new creative conceptual blueprints to life. Anyway, back to the leap…
I prepared myself meticulously, endlessly played through strategies, took a lot of educated guesses and then made the decision: Transforming my former, personal B+ to a broader platform, called SWP. Exactly the one you are now on, reading these words.
The basic and crucial driver was to brand the experience in a more distinct way and secondly to make it less focused on my own person. This is because I found out that a lot of achieved photographers in our industry whom I asked for an interview were not very keen in providing their wisdom because the blog was run by a sole photographer (kind of competition thinking…). Although a few did participate in the early days for which I am more than grateful!
I asked my audience for help, and we gathered a wonderful team of authors. We developed different lines and topics of series. Then B+ migrated to SWP. All the necessary collateral marketing and communication concepts were in place. End of May 2016, SWP went live.
A lot of folks switched from B+ to SWP. However, we lost a few along the way. Nevertheless, we are daily gathering new subscribers on SWP ever since. The basic strategy worked out and I felt ready to fly high.
Three months later, I hit rock bottom…
The disaster had been looming over my head for some time while I was sitting in my study in front of my screen. Although SWP’s audience was still loyal and keen to follow and explore my new offering, the actual readership presence went down (dramatically). The website traffic turned abysmal. And even though the subscriber list kept growing, the engagement got worse and the interest kept sinking.
While I had a feeling that something was going on there, I was too busy to take a closer look. I was trying to keep up with the overwhelming new content I had received from our fabulous team. I tripled my own deskwork in order to handle the content, partly with unknown topics that required me to do my own research first. This situation literally forced me to work day and night over a period of three months.
Our new author team was so productive that I really totally forgot to pause and listen to my gut feelings and actually reflect and analyze on what was going on at the audience front.
Then the day came when I was more than exhausted.
I had just come back from a 3-day shoot and had 8 extensive articles waiting to be processed for SWP. (You must know that one article takes up an average of 3 days time before it is ready to be published.) The authors put in every effort to minimize my workload; they prepared the material very thoughtfully, and very precisely.
The problem was me, I was the bottleneck! Plus, I felt that certain topics were just not working and not desired by the readership (= by you). Of course this is hard to tell and it is not possible to make an informed judgment after running the new concept for only 3 months.
But the day of exhaustion had arrived. As always in life, everything added up: Fatigue, unmanageable load of work, declining reader engagement… – and fear. The fear of losing you.
Workload (= exhaustion) can be solved with additional work power. But this means money for labor; and this was not existing. I am running a free (so far) knowledge site, operated rough-and-ready with the earnings from my educational material sales.
I do have plans to set up paid online courses including assignment programs, moderating business related forums etc. An Academy corner, so to speak – but that is another story. An undertaking that sometimes is most definitely not doable without (minor private) seed capital; in case you know somebody, shoot my an email 🙂
OK: The fear became rampant and finally forced me to sit down and make some unpopular decisions; decisions that contradicted my dream, my beliefs, and my strategy.
Cleaning Up My Mess And My Uncertainty
Based on somewhat comprehensive analyses and talks, I identified the valuable and interesting topics that I am keeping alive and that I will keep pushing further here on SWP. But I also had to cancel a few just newly born series.
Further, I felt the need to throw my hat back into the ring. My own stories, my own experience, my own imagery, my own takes. They totally had been gone missing over the past months. While this was the original intention, it did not seem to work as planned – neither for the audience nor for me.
I am now strengthening SWP’s concept towards a setting that I call “Knowledge Boutique” where I am still providing you with free educational resources. But not with a mixed “sexy-universe-we-do-and-have-it-all” approach anymore. I will rather feed your creative minds with selected insightful educational topics written by our own authors, and myself. However, you will also find inspirational thoughts, wisdom and insights issued by handpicked selection of top-notch industry professionals.
I wanted it all but almost lost everything in the process. I got greedy because I had the dream of offering you the most comprehensive repository in our genre. It was not yet the right time for that. I started lacking my humbleness and I most definitely made a few totally wrong assessments.
I am not going back to square one, no, not at all. At least I do not feel this way. I am trying to come out of this adventurous episode filled with new strength.
It is now time to step up my mind game.
- I have to convince myself that this was an awesome learning curve (which it was).
- I have to convince myself that this learning curve was worth it to almost get bankrupt; financially and mentally (not so sure about that one).
- Now is for sure the time to switch into my “it is a game” mode and stick to my quotes that are always present on my desk.
- “You can do it.”
- “My future is what I create today.”
“Never Give Up. That Would Be Indecent.”
“Never Give Up. That Would Be Indecent.” – what a fantastic quote *very strong irony*. Especially the “…that would be indecent” part. This is such a typical Swiss mentality that had been beaten into my brain. Referring to “indecency” and not, for example, to “the best is yet to come” or the like. This has such a priggish Swiss touch to it…
In other societies and cultures it would rather be about motivation, encouragement, and empowerment. But not for the Swiss people. We are drilled to be careful and not “indecent”. And this is the wave I have been surfing on for decades now. It does not work all the time. Thank God! Sometimes my dreams get in the way, the urge to push boundaries 🙂
It is the mind game.
My “learning curve” over the last few months naturally had a bad impact on my motivation. It also messed with my ongoing fitness training.
Being anxious, being on the ropes, breathing vague fear – these are not good components to help keeping the engine running high. I neglected my training, allowed full bent to my “I give a sh…” for a while and I promptly gained 5 kilos of weight back. For the past 3 weeks, I yet again have been working hard to get back in shape.
It is a (serious) mind game.
So, let me shine some brightness, some positivity into this darkness now!
Since I have decided to settle my strategy of shaping SWP towards a highly interesting “Knowledge Boutique”, I feel better and more enthusiastic. I just have to ensure that I will not overwhelm myself again for the umpteenth time…
“My Future Is What I Create Today.”
“My Future Is What I Create Today.” – another fantastic quote *no irony*. I guess, this one I read on Darren Rowse’s site .
Naturally, I already have a couple of projects in the pipeline. However, I first have to be clear about their dimensions, complexity, “worthiness” (= ROI) and cash out involved.
Having cash to be spent wise has always been a big thing for me. It is actually a curse. For decades, I have been fighting hard against the anxiety of being broke due to my wrong decisions. I really hit the bottom hard twice and I am not keen on going through such a phase again. BTW: Watch the second video that I added below…
The first big challenge is to overcome my fear, reassemble my self-confidence and pump up my motivation.
Then it will be time to contact top-notch people, ask for interviews without the fear of not being worth it to be talked to, for example.
For this task, I will need a little help from my friends I guess. Well, actually I know that I will need help/support from my friends.
Secondly, there is my huge Australia trip coming up in the first quarter of 2017. But I am really uncertain about the configuration of this project.
While I now have in-depth ideas about topics and actions – thanks to you awesome folks! – I got knocked down several times when I was trying to set up connections with some of the big shots, bikini photographers or boudoir/glam shooters. None of this is their fault. It is just how the game works. Big shots do not even bother to reply to a “poor devil” like Dan Hostettler at all.
On the other hand, I could connect with some outstanding individuals, all of them active shooters in our genre! Plus, I had some very promising first talks with some mates that are connected to related industries like fashion, advertising, modeling realms etc. So we will see how the Australia and Asia configuration will actually turn out. The time is ticking.
The third project is now near completion. A lot depends on the results this one will deliver! Financially spoken, I mean (of course…). It will determine the depth of damage that the last 8 months of my “learning curve” have truly caused; this dreaded period during which I actually did not earn any money but had to spent a lot. I may have to rethink and refinance my future projects accordingly. And it will have an impact to a certain degree on the “Australia Configuration”, and – to make it worth – on the next steps (and future) of SWP.
This might sound dramatic and yes, it is (slightly) exaggerated, but mixed with my fear, hopes and strategic ideas, it actually feels that way.
If this third project does not deliver a decent success that significantly reflects in sales figures, I will have to kick myself very hard for convincing myself to keep playing the “game” and to pretend that “all will be OK”.
“Creative Nudes On A Budget” is the thing I am talking about here; a digital workbook.
In short, it is about creating alluring and impactful imagery with speedlights only. With little to no model fee included. All the information you need for a successful portfolio presentation. And it comes packed with a very solid potential of using certain styles and concepts in order to actually earn money (= business spin for you).
I am truly thrilled about this workbook as it comes from my heart and all aspects of it (low costs, awesome imagery, earning money, minimal gear) really work. Get a glimpse here.
I am so excited that it will hit me hard should I not make some money from it. After all this is what it takes to keep investing into the future content production for your free “Knowledge Boutique”. I am really hoping for the much needed motivational boost. I tied a lot of hopes to this project.
It is fear par excellence… 🙂
“Adjusting The Sail”
If you have made it so far in this text (= congratulations), you have experienced a whole lot of my inner personality. The consequences of this inner life are naturally very closely related to a big part of my business life.
Even if I did not talk about a specific photographic topic for once, my psychological state has everything to do with it.
Fear, uncertainty, and vague hopes hinder my creativity, my pragmatism. Being a pragmatic creative, this is the worst position to be in when it comes to exploring new topics, sensing captivating photographic situations, creating thoughtful concise material, and valuable insights.
Floating, hiding and blaming others (the one that not even know about me; never heard about me) is no concept. It is no starting point, no helpful state. It will not change anything!
- It has to be me who picks up the game again.
- It has to be me trusting my own instincts, gut feelings and dreams.
- I have to chase the dreams on my own!
The other day, I received another quote via FB messenger while I was in the middle of a conversation there, saying:
“Rather than waiting for the wind to change, you adjust the sail.”
It is, in substance, so darn correct and it came so timely! It was the very much needed kick in my butt. It pushed the right button!
Moral? “Keep Going” = I Can Do It.
So, for today this is my brief analysis of the 2016 events up to date and the current state of affairs; a selective overview, so to say.
It also serves me strongly in tracing the direction in which the progress has to lead, and to admit to myself that I am in a very privileged situation nonetheless.
Let us see where my and the “Knowledge Boutique’s” ride goes from here. I hope I will be able to trust myself enough to convince myself to have faith. And to implement the “it is a game”-thought into my mind and feelings stronger than ever before.
The moral of the story here?
Brian is darn right! (As always…)
An overnight success needs at least 10 years to come alive.
Let us all keep going!
PS: Writing these lines has had some kind of therapeutic effect. I drafted the piece over 8 days, working from refinement to refinement. This gave me the proper time to think about my statements, words chosen, and angles taken.
It helped to gain (more) accuracy and also to motivate myself to keep working on the next steps.
PPS: The “game” is obviously not a simple one. It is more like chess.
PPPS: OK, I shut up know.