Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend of mine on how she could build up momentum to help her achieve her goals. It reminded me of what I went through a few years ago (although it feels like a lifetime).

At the end of 2009 I was struggling as a photographer. The print market had tanked and a lot of my magazine clients had closed up shop and my top commercial client had decided to pull all photographer in house and shortly thereafter also went out of business.

I had the safety net of also having a career in marketing which I was giving serious consideration to focusing solely on and packing away my photo gear.

As I entered into 2010 I decided to make one last push and one last true effort. I had an interest in fitness and sports as I had photographed a few competitors and athletes previously. However I really didn’t have any clients to speak of.

All I had was a goal and a direction – that was, by the end of that year I wanted to be the best fitness and sports photographer in the state. Audacious perhaps; but I would rather set the aim high and miss than set low and miss (per Michelangelo’s wisdom).

Without realizing it I already had the first major thing I needed to build momentum.

It is important to set your course, your goal, whatever you choose to do. Where do you want to go? Where do you want to take it? The more specific the better.

My first action to achieve my goal was to rebuild my portfolio to represent my interest in sports and fitness. I arranged shoot after shoot with any and every athlete and fitness enthusiast I could find. I practice new styles and developed new techniques. I still did not have many (or really any) clients to speak of but I had done the second major thing I needed to build momentum.

Once you have a direction you need to step down that path. It will not be a big step. It will seem very slow and may not feel like much of anything has been achieved. You have barely left the starting line; but you have left it.

Within a short time I had a portfolio book that I considered “viable” enough to market with. Now I had to find my clients. Who was it that I wanted to be working with. I started doing some research to find various fitness publications and fitness commercial clients I could and should be working with. I asked a lot of the subjects I was working with on their input and feedback. Then I began to develop my target client of clients.

I began to make phone calls, send out e-mails and ask for in person portfolio reviews. At first it was extraordinarily slow. There was very little return on the investment. But I just kept doing the third major thing in building momentum.

3. JUST KEEP PUSHINGUnfortunately after the first step, a lot of people stop there disappointed from the lack of results. They never take the opportunity to keep pushing. I’ve seen a lot of great ideas and fantastic opportunities die right here. Yes the first few steps barely feel like steps or advancements at all. But that is where the grit comes in. You just have to keep pushing in that direction you set. It is important to note that changing direction at this stage restarts the cycle. Just keep pushing in the direction you set.

So I kept pushing. And then I got a nibble (project) from a new prospective client. I put everything I had into that project. Then I got another. After that was another. After that was two more. After that was a few more. Then it was a lot more.

Remaining focused on what my goal and direction was I got through the very difficult and very slow first steps and then began to build up a little speed from consistently pushing in the same direction.

Within a few months I had fantastic momentum for my goal of being the best fitness and sports photographer in Arizona. I had a bevy of publication clients and a steady stream of commercial and personal projects to work on.

How could I ensure the momentum would continue to gain speed?

I increased the speed limit. My direction and focus was the same; but now I expanded the scope. I was no longer just focused on Arizona. It was then the Southwestern United States. After that it was the Western United States, then the United States, then beyond. Increasing the speed limit may (and probably will) increase the weight that you are pushing. But you simply downshift to the third step to just keep pushing. The direction is the same; the scope has just increased.

James Patrick
Twitter @jpphotography
Instagram @jpatrickphoto