Earlier this week I blogged on the top 5 mistakes I’ve seen modeling talents make in their careers. It would be solipsistic not to turn that same attention back to myself and list out, in full disclosure, the top mistakes that I’ve personally made in my in the early parts of my career. Fortunately I learned quickly enough to correct most of these. But the goal is not so much of a self deprecation as it is a way to encourage others not to do the same.

1. I did not properly invest into my career
When I was starting out I tried to cut a lot of corners when it came to my marketing and advertising efforts. I had a (truly) awful website which I built myself from typing out html code myself because I did not want to hire a web designer. My first business cards were those “get 100 free business card” online deals which had no indication of my brand. I threw a quick logo together for myself which always changed whenever I used it because I had no understanding of consistency in branding. Contrast that with today. I’ve put somewhere around 2500 into a website over a span of four years which has brought me a tremendous amount of work. My logo was professionally designed as were my business cards. Approximately about 75-85% of all marketing materials which go out to the public have been designed by a graphic designer. This includes my first (and soon to be second) printed book, promotional flyers, magazine advertisements and more. Now, I am not encouraging that everyone has to invest every penny they have into their career. But invest what you can, when you can. The return on that investment makes it worthwhile. When you put out a professionally designed package; potential clients respond with more favor.

2. I took jobs I shouldn’t have
Also early in my career I frankly photographed jobs and projects that I would not go near today. The goal and hope was that any exposure would be good exposure. Thus my work was of less than glamorous lingerie catalogs and pretty trashy men’s interest magazines. I am not saying this type of work is wrong for everyone. But it was definitely wrong for me. By the time I figured it out I had already tarnished the appearance of my brand to a lot of clients I wanted to be working with. It took a lot of time (years) of rebranding by shooting content I wanted to be recognized for to shift that perception of my profession and my work. The mistake was that I did not spend the time upfront to plan on the type of work I wanted to be doing in the future and work my way up there.

3. I demanded respect as opposed to earning it
When I was very young I made the egregious error of feeling I was deserving of other’s respect and admiration. That arrogance spoiled a lot of friendships and business relationships. The one silver lining from that was that it happened so very early in my career (I believe I was around 21 or 22 at the time) that I had a lot of time to try to climb out of the giant hole I dug for myself and my ego. During that climb I learned a lot about how to earn respect the right way, how to work harder than I ever had previously and how to develop something I was able to be successful from.

4. I became shy about my passion
After college I was not only working as a photographer, but I also had a fairly promising job and future career in marketing. The marketing job I would consider as my “safe” profession. Not “safe” in that I had a tremendous amount of job security – quite the opposite actually as a lot of my colleagues were let go during the recession. I mean “safe” in that I was working for another company and another brand. Being a solo photographer was riskier as it was my name, my brand and my personal work which determined my success or failure. For years I balanced the two. I would say to myself that eventually I would become a full time photographer (but honestly I’m not sure if I believed myself). When I met people out in public and they asked what I did, the first thing out of my mouth was that I worked in marketing. If they asked more I would eventually get into photography. I was shy about my passion because at the time I was nervous that others would say I didn’t have the right to be a photographer. Please do not make this mistake yourselves. Be willing to say what you are doing or want to be doing. Once I got myself to a point where I said “I’m a photographer” to that question, my life changed mentally and physically. I looked at myself and my passions in a new light and within a year I was working as a full time photographer.

5. I waited to take risks
This is branching off of the previous point. Early in my career I sat on too many opportunities out of fear of losing something. Not sure what that “something” was however. I had a great idea for a book years ago. I sat on the idea and never wrote it until one day I saw that very idea for sale in someone else’s brand new book. I should have taken the risk. I waited years to jump full time into photography. I waited years to contact my dream clients that I wanted to be working with. Since I changed my life to a life of taking risks, I’ve learned that the “something” I fear never really happens. That is not to say that every risk I take pays off perfectly in the end. I don’t always win. But that is not the point. The point is that when you change your life to a life of taking risks; you open yourself up to the reality that the bad things you fear don’t really happen and that so many great things can occur instead.

James Patrick
Twitter @jpphotography
Instagram @jpatrickphoto