Got a few questions from photographer Tim Lawrence that seem to come back up from time to time.

I’m curious how you feel about finding a mentor and learning about the profession from a professional vs just jumping in and establishing yourself from the ground up.  I’m a business graduate who is starting to love photography.  I want to make money from it so that I can continue to love and enjoy it, without taking from my (future) kids college fund.  I’m just a tad overwhelmed at the options and ever increasing amount of information out there.  I love this blog because it looks at photography from a business perspective.  I hope to learn a great real from following you.  Thanks,

- Tim Lawrence

You’re right, there is no shortage of information out there, and thanks for supporting this blog that’s adding to the stack.  Advice is a tricky thing, it is almost always true from a certain point of view, and no matter how true it is often massively useless to us individuals.  There is a big difference between a teacher and a mentor.

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The world is full of teachers, but it is awfully hard to find a mentor.  Teachers can tell you what is working for them.  They can parrot off what they have done/are doing/will do.  They see the world through their own prism and if you see things through the same prism then that advice might work out.  A teacher has something to offer.

A mentor makes an effort to understand who you are, what you do, and why it matters.  The mentor then helps you achieve more.  A mentor pushes you to be more like you, not more like them.  It is a subtle difference that makes all the difference.

If you can find a mentor, that’s what you want.  Teachers can certainly help with tips, but you’ve got to apply some critical thinking to make sure that the tips are relevant to the system you’re building.  Trouble is you can pay a teacher for their services, a mentor has to be willing to care about you.

My advice is to learn as much as you can about what needs to be done to run a business, not just learning how someone else does it.  You actually will have to establish yourself from the ground up.  Kind of terrifying, but it is totally worth it.  And if you are looking for a mentor there aren’t any hard and fast rules.  Like I said, getting someone to care is a case-by-case thing.  I’d recommend showing incredible respect for the craft and a willingness to do the work.

OK, I’ve just re-read that and while I agree with it all it sounds a little discouraging.  That isn’t my intent.  If I learned this stuff then anyone else can.  To be honest, solving the business oriented problems is as much fun (or more) than solving the photographic problems.  Something else that we really haven’t discussed yet is peer-support, which can be just as beneficial as anything else.  A network or colleagues can rise the tide for all boats and share experience.

Above all else, make sure what you are doing is about being the best you, not being the next other guy.

If you’re looking for an intensive group mentoring experience, that’s fortunate because it is all we’ve got to offer.

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