How I Turned My Side Hustle Into A Full-Time Gig Using Social Media

Behind the scenes photo provided by assistant Claudia White of Darren's London Street Ballerina project.

Behind the scenes photo provided by assistant Claudia White of Darren's London Street Ballerina project.

Guest blog by Darren Johnson

I don’t know how I would have started my career without social media.

My work to date has been ever evolving and the experiences I have gained, the people I have met, and the projects I have been involved in have helped me to become a better artist and to produce work that I am very proud to share. In the five years I’ve been a photographer, here are some of the take-aways that have helped me take my side hustle full-time.

Southbank Centre, London

Southbank Centre, London

Find Your Platform

Find out where your audience is, and be present so that they can easily consume your message. Twitter definitely has had the largest impact on the growth of my business.

Twitter is like an open source social media platform, particularly because of the strong emphasis on hashtags. Twitter users can seamlessly scan through stories and topics of their choice, and this feature made it easy for me to reach out to people who then could view more of my work.

Also, photos are always well received on Twitter. Whereas one would hesitate to “re-share” an image from someone they don’t know on more personal platforms like Facebook or Instagram, Twitter is made for re-tweeting; thus further increasing a post’s reach without being subject to any crazy algorithms to suppress it.

Speaking of complicated algorithms, don’t get me started on the Facebook Business Pages – without money invested, that platform makes you feel as if you are starting off with a negative percent chance of reaching your audience. But hey, it could work for you. Experiment with them all and see what’s your best fit.

Building Street Art - Bülowstraße, Berlin

Building Street Art - Bülowstraße, Berlin

Post With Intention

Whenever I post, it’s with a purpose; whether that be to showcase my work, advertise my services or encourage my audience to perform a specific action. Most importantly, I post what works best for each platform with the intention of driving traffic to revenue generating resources.

Twitter and Facebook are great for external links, and offer the most well rounded experience in terms of being able to direct your audience to a specific webpage. Currently I have a photo print campaign running, where I post daily with print-eligible images. I then create a call-to-action with an embedded link to the shop section of the webpage, allowing my audience to easily click the image they like and add it to the cart without having to navigate through any other parts of my website.

When I’m not pushing my prints, I’m directing people to another revenue stream – my contact form for booking. So my call-to-actions are always centred around some form of income generation, which is a very valuable use of social media for my business.

M15 Occupy London Street Protest

M15 Occupy London Street Protest

Be Persistent & Consistent

Some people work for passion, some for profit, some for both. Show everyone that you are serious about what you’re doing and that this isn’t just a hobby by consistently promoting yourself, and your work. Let people know what you’re doing - give them a taste of what goes on behind the scenes. People love to follow the journey and get a glimpse into what the process is in the background.

Photography is a way of life for me now, and I found the way to make my passion profitable. Now, you don’t want to be too sales-y of course; there is a happy medium acceptable to each audience. You just have to find it. I make sure not to post so much that I’m spammy, but to post regularly enough so that I can remain on the forefront of my audience and potential clientele’s minds. It’s important you also find a level that you’re comfortable with; don’t throw stuff out there just because you feel you have to. Make sure you are consistent in the quality of your brand.

London 2012 Olympic Women's Triathlon Final - Hyde Park

London 2012 Olympic Women's Triathlon Final - Hyde Park

Don’t Worry About Followers, Worry About Engagement

Getting your numbers up there is good for looks and the whole “social media co-sign”, but what good are numbers if you don’t know what to do with them? I’ll take 1,000 engaged followers over 10,000 fake/bot followers any day. Dead followers are not going to share your content, they aren’t going to talk about you, and they aren’t going to make you money.

I take time out of every day to engage with potential clients (for me that could be singers, models, event planners, etc) and other creatives and photographers in the community. They may not want my services today, but eventually they’ll need it, and I’ll be the one they think of.

Speak to your audience, have fun with them, build real authentic relationships because there is no telling what could come of them. I have had the great pleasure of collaborating with numerous creatives which has resulted in friendships, incredible projects, and an overall expansion of my network with people who are just as hungry as I am and will tell their friends about me.

Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography is a freelance photographer, and is based in London, England. You can check out his work via his website, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and purchase his prints.

All photos (excluding header image) provided by Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography