Guest Blog: Nomadic Landscape Photographer Mandy Lea
LIVING THE DREAM – MAKING MONEY ON THE ROAD
When I thought of a subject to write about for my first ever guest-blog for Scott Kelby (totally honored, btw!) I wanted it to be something extremely useful, yet brutally honest. Perfect, I’ll answer the number one email I receive in my inbox: “Hi, I’m a photographer and want to do what you’re doing. How do you make money?”
If you’ve never heard of me, here’s the rundown on who I am and How I Became a Nomad: Normal girl goes to school and loves taking pictures. Graduates college, moves to China and back. Gets married, starts a career in a camera store, and quickly falls into the 9-5 suburban lifestyle. Becomes depressed, gets divorced, life turns into work. Sees the sunrise over the mountains and has a life-changing epiphany. Quits job, gives away material possessions, moves into a tiny teardrop trailer chasing her dream of being a professional landscape photographer.
Whew! Sounds like a dream, right? Just giving it all up and moving to the open road? In a sense, yes, it is “the dream.” But I’d like to shed a little light on the reality of this lifestyle and what it takes to be successful.
As of this very moment I have officially been “on the road” for 907 days. In the beginning I made next to nothing, but it has grown into a healthy career which I can now live and thrive from. The truth is, there is no one answer to “how to be successful on the road.” It is going to vary with each person. That being said, there are some general tips that I have learned over the last few years and would like to share with you now.
Follow Your Passion
First and foremost, whatever you dedicate yourself to in this life should be something that you have a true passion for. Something that brings you happiness and makes the world a better place. If you consider the percentage of our lives that we spend “working,” it seems appropriate to make that something we are passionate about.
Without passion, we have no purpose. Remember when we learned about “mission statements” back in high school? That’s a real thing! The first goal I accomplished when I moved to the road was to define my purpose. That gave me something to work towards and kept me from treading water for months until I sunk.
My mission statement:
“Show people things they wouldn’t normally see, to inspire people to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”
I have met a lot of “full-timers” on the road, and most of them last anywhere from 6-12 months before running out of money and giving up. They made the biggest mistake of all; romanticizing road-life by thinking it is akin to a long vacation with a bit of work tucked in between adventures.
Yes, traveling is fun – but I guarantee that the moment I began working for myself, I turned my 9-5 job into a 24/7 job. I work harder now than I ever worked for any company… but you know what? That’s okay! All of the hours you put into your own business only serve to grow YOU – so why limit your own growth?
The best advice I can give someone who is about to go full-time is don’t give yourself a plan B. Have plan A and work your bum off until it works! DO NOT go onto the road with any more than 3-months savings. If you live too long on savings, you begin to rely on it. With 3 or less months you are forced to find another means of survival.
Don’t be disillusioned that life on the road will be easy. You will do yourself the biggest favor of all if you remember: You are your own best and worst employee. You do everything. It’s going to be a lot of hard work.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
In this day and age, there are many corporate positions that allow you to work remotely with benefits and job security. If you have one of these jobs, congrats! But let’s be honest, most of the people reading this blog are photographers or other creatives working on their own solo ventures. This puts us at the disadvantage of job insecurity, but alternatively it gives us the independence to do the things we are passionate about.
Here is the meat and potatoes of what you are here to learn, how I make money:
- Sell Prints online: We are photographers/artists. Find the best fulfillment solution and start selling your wares!
- Sell other products: As a photographer, I offer annual calendars and even recently published a book! What other products could your art provide?
- Teach: A large part of my income comes from teaching photography. Can you offer unique classes teaching your skill?
- Speak: I offer myself up to speak both educationally and as a keynote at events relating both to photography and living tiny. Value your time and knowledge.
- Promote Products: Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy source of information, many companies will work both in product trade and in payment for promotion. Just remember the key here is to stay true to yourself over the dollar signs. Promote the products you truly believe in, not the ones that just want to pay.
- Online Affiliates: There are many ways to offer advertising on your website, make money from YouTube, become an Amazon Affiliate, and even offer subscription based content through sites such as Patreon.
- Multi-Industry Advertising: Obviously, I focus on advertising to photographers, but because of my lifestyle I am also open to the RV/Camping world, Tiny House enthusiasts, and even other full-timers. What other industries does your art cover?
Living on the road is a great way to minimize bills, but by no means does it eliminate them! Do NOT move on to the road thinking it will be a “free” way to live. I still pay nearly every bill I paid when I had a brick and mortar home. Replace the “rent bill” with the “gas bill” and everything else is pretty much the same.
That being said, living in a tiny home does put your possessions into perspective. You only own and keep what you need rather than what you think you need. The simple thought of “where will I keep this?” keeps me from buying a lot of things.
Define Your Idea Of Success
My favorite all time video blog that I have ever posted is one I created after only 5 months on the road (when I was just a road-baby!). It is titled “How to Be Successful on the Road.” Right from the start I learned one of the most valuable lessons I will probably ever learn in my whole life: if you want to be successful, redefine your idea of success.
Growing up, we are all taught that the successful “American Dream” is to go to college, have a long-term career, buy a house, get married, have kids, make money, make money, make money. If that is success, consider me a failure.
On the other hand, I have taken myself from barely being able to make it through the day without an anxiety attack – to being able to laugh at myself when I am alone. Now THAT is a feat. If I am able to die with a smile on my face, I will be more successful than any amount of money can ever bring me.