With less than two weeks left in 2017, it’s high time that I spend some brain cycles on identifying what my goals will be in 2018. Naturally, making the general list are annual staples like losing 40lbs (I really let myself go since moving to Nebraska) and generally being a better person, so I won’t go into much detail about them. This list focuses more on what I want to do to continue building my business and brand as a photographer, educator and content creator in 2018. Sharing this list serves three purposes: 1. it provides that important sense of strategy as I plainly lay out what I need to work on in the coming year, 2. it gives you more insight into what I’m going to be focusing on—and why—in 2018, and 3. it hopefully spurs your own ideas and calls-to-action as you plan your growth areas.

Now trust me. I get it. Growth is a perennial endeavor that knows no start or finish lines. However, I’d argue that having symbolic milestones—like the start of a brand new year—can do a lot to bolster inspiration. I know that’s how it works for me and chances are, it works the same for a lot of you. So let’s begin. I don’t intend on sharing this list in any particular order, so don’t read too much into it.

Forget all about the Joneses

This goal is based on the phrase and futile practice of Keeping up with the Joneses. If I had to choose a single toxic thing this year that has resulted in so much wasted time, stress and heartache, it’d be my unhealthy tendency to concern myself more about what others are doing to grow their businesses rather than what I need to be growing my own. 2017 has been a pivotal year. Between quitting my job at Wacom, to rebuilding my full-time business, to moving halfway across the country from Oregon to Nebraska, there have been a lot of drastic life changes in the past 12 months and if there has ever been a time when I need to prioritize my objectives, it is now. Fortunately, things haven’t been as dire as I’m making them out to be. I’ve been so lucky to have opportunities that help pay to keep the lights on. Between projects with my partners at Zeiss and G-Technology, my regular writing assignments for Digital Photo Pro Magazine, and the product offerings at my online store, I’ve been busy. But, if I’m being honest with you, I’ve also wasted SO much time coasting on social media, looking at what others have been doing and basing my success—or failure—on how I compare. I’ll lament over how other shared content gets stronger engagement or question why this or that photographer has a Verified badge and I don’t.

Here’s a perfect example. Earlier this week, I saw this tweet by photographer, videographer and all-around YouTube phenom, Peter McKinnon:

When I saw this tweet, I immediately slouched down in my seat and felt like crap. Pictured here is a gaggle of successful creatives—each of whom has experienced all sorts of growth—joining forces to collaborate on something. I could feel that familiar voice begin to creep into my head. It was validating my lack of growth because of where these people are compared to where I am. Whatever creative juices I had sunk out of me and into the ether. In that moment, I was genuinely jealous for not being a part of that group instead of approaching it in a healthier way: by acknowledging the massive effort that each of these people has put into building their brands and consistently creating great content. And while putting in the effort and consistent, hard work certainly doesn’t mean you’ll find this kind of success, for this group, it has.

Sadly, this is only one of an expansive list of times when I’ve compared myself to others and it is coming to an end. It has to. While a big part of how I resolve this ties directly into my next goal, a big part of it has to do with my state of mind. Rather than seeing what someone else is doing and thinking, “I wish I was them,” I am going to turn to the skills and attributes that make me tick and continue creating and building content for this blog, my YouTube channel, and, most importantly, my newsletter.

Consume less, create more

Ok, so this goal does partly play into me needing to eat healthier but that’s not what I’m really talking about. As a self-employed business owner who makes a living primarily in the digital content space, there are two ways that I can spend my time: consuming content or creating content. In 2017, I can easily say that a lot of my time was spent consuming content created by others. Aside from the gross mismanagement of how that time was being spent, it also became the first step in the vicious cycle of comparing myself, as outlined in the previous resolution. The more time I spend consuming content, the more opportunity I have to compare myself to others and spiral down the self-loathing funnel. Even more to the point, stories of former Facebook execs and early investors have highlighted the damage that social media has been playing on people’s psyches.

This is not to say that spending time enjoying content created by others is a bad thing. After all, my job is to create content for you to enjoy on your own time. One thing I am going to work on is dialing down how much time I allow myself to browse social media and put all that energy into the creative process. A big part of that is paring down who I follow to those who truly inspire and engage. There has long been this online culture of photographers and “influencer personalities” who put out manicured content with the hopes of making people think that they’re more important than they actually are. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of the content is beautiful but it’s also mostly empty and vain. I know I’ve gotten caught up in that malarkey in the past and have worked hard to eliminate any trace of that from the content that I put out now. All of this is to say that what time I do allow myself to browse social media will be done by following genuinely good and talented people. I’ll get working on a post listing out who some of those people are.

Another aspect of this resolution is becoming more efficient with how I share content. I’ve been a paying subscriber of Buffer for a while now and cannot say enough good things about it. It is an excellent platform to plot out, schedule, and share your content—and other user-generated content—across all of your social profiles. Starting in 2018, I am going to carve out 2 hours a week to ensure that every share slot on my Buffer social calendar is filled with valuable stuff that either I’ve created or someone else has. Think of this as preparing a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday afternoon… except instead of chicken and vegetables, it’s a bunch of cool content.

All eyes on Inbox Inspiration

What’s Inbox Inspiration, you ask? It is the name of my newsletter and it is probably the most important revenue-generating vehicle of my business. I have been growing Inbox Inspiration over the past three years to over 32,000 subscribers and my goal for 2018 is to double that number within the calendar year. As far as my business goes, I put the most effort into sharing helpful and personable content with subscribers. I want every email sent out to be filled with stories, videos, and other material that can help a photographer grow creatively. I also take exceptionally great care to seasonally promote products that I create and sell in the Matiash Store.

By spending more time creating helpful content on a regular basis, I can provide that much more value to my newsletter subscribers. It’s then my hope that the perceived value from each newsletter email translates into a purchase when I release a new premium product. While we’re at it, I’d love it if you joined my newsletter if you aren’t already a subscriber. You can use the form on the right sidebar. Go ahead. I’ll wait. 😉

Refine the content I create

Early in 2017, I went through a spell where I wanted to dive deep in creating tech content. I wasn’t exactly sure why but I had this strong impulse to create tech reviews, unboxing videos, and such. The problem was that my audience wasn’t necessarily looking for tech reviews from me because I’m a photographer, not a tech blogger. I recently thought a lot about this. If we’re being honest, the world has more than its fair share of tech bloggers, right? I mean, how many different reviews for an iPhone does the internet need? As a photographer, I get to create content that is far more subjective and personalized.

Somewhere along the way, I must have forgotten how powerful that can be when done authentically and consistently. My audience is primarily made up of advanced amateur photographers and photo enthusiasts/hobbyists. While I have no doubt that a majority of you also enjoy tech, I don’t know that you’d need to turn to me for tech reviews when there are other people whose brands suit them for that sort of content way more than mine. That is not to say that I won’t create review videos. Rather, the products that I choose to review will have a photography focus, like this one that I did on the Alpine Labs Spark remote shutter.

So, in 2018, you will see a renewed focus on that sort of content. A heavy focus will be put on video. That’s for sure. There is no denying the importance that video plays in the way people consume content and I want to be sure that I keep growing my recording and editing skills. You may have already seen the emphasis on video in action with the recent release of my weekly photo editing series, Photo Redux. Expect a lot more there, as well as other types of photography-centric videos.

Renewed focus on Live Streaming

One of my favorite things I’d done in the video space was to launch a weekly live stream dedicated to relevant photo news called The Photo Show. The show kicked off in the early days of Facebook live streaming and it felt so good to be at the forefront of that wave. However, one thing led to another and I ended up abandoning the show after 16 episodes. You can check each one out below if you want to relive those good times.

Since then, the value and importance of live streaming have only continued to grow and as I get my mind set on creating tons of new content, I plan on resurrecting The Photo Show. It’ll be a weekly live show just like before and it’ll be filled with industry news stories that I find interesting. Unlike before, though, where I broadcasted the show directly to Facebook, this go-round will be hosted on YouTube. Based on a poll I recently held, it is clear that people prefer viewing videos there than on Facebook and I don’t blame them one bit.

Once I get things situated, I’ll be sure to share the live stream link so stay tuned!

Travel a lot. Shoot even more.

I shot fewer photos in 2017 than any other year in recent memory. As a working photographer, you can understand how that is a problem. To be fair, I had a full-time job at Wacom for the first six months of the year, so the time I had to travel and shoot was limited. I also attribute the latter six months of 2017 to let the dust settle from the move to Nebraska and get sorted out with my business again. Now that 2018 is almost here, I need to put a much larger emphasis on travel with the intent of creating new photos and videos. These photos and the process in which they are created are the lifeblood of my business. It is through this that I can create new content to share online and form premium products to sell in my online store. Fortunately, I’m setting a good example for myself because I’m currently typing this post from a Starbucks in Tokyo, Japan and I’ve just booked a trip to Calgary, Canada to photograph Abraham Lake in mid-January. See, I am a quick learner. 😆

Continue to grow the No Name Photo Show

Surely you’ve heard of the No Name Photo Show, the weekly photo podcast that I co-host with Sharky James, right? And you’ve subscribed using your favorite podcatcher? Well, just in case, I’ve got some convenient Subscribe buttons in the right sidebar just for you. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Now that you’ve subscribed and listened to each episode in the playlist above, you could understand why monetizing the show is important. Typically, when podcasters say that they’re going to monetize a show, it usually means that they will try to generate revenue through sponsorships in the form of paid advertisements. In other words, commercials.

Here’s the thing. Sharky and I love putting out this free show for all of you to enjoy and it’s clearly a success because we’ve grown at a rate that other shows with years over us haven’t come close to reaching (trust us, we pay very close attention to stats and rankings). With that said, the process of creating each episode is very time consuming and to make the endeavor turn into a worthwhile enterprise, we are going to monetize the show. We have already begun seeking out sponsors and advertisers who make sense for the show and who our audience will genuinely enjoy.

Streamline my photo workflows

I suspect that many of you can relate to this particular resolution. This year has seen so many new technologies and software titles aimed at photographers and I don’t expect that to slow down next year. Between Adobe’s major changes to its Lightroom platform, to DxO buying the Nik collection from Google, to the gaggle of photo editing apps aimed at winning your hearts and money, there has never been a more exciting time to be a photographer. It has also never been easier to get completely bogged down by figuring out what the ideal workflow is for you. This is something that I’ve spent too much time on recently and have finally put my foot down. In order to be more efficient with my time, I need to decide on a workflow and stick to it. Fortunately, this trip to Tokyo has given me a perfect opportunity to “beta test” the workflow that I’ll be adopting going forward.

Adopting Adobe Lightroom CC

Going forward, I will be using Adobe Lightroom CC to manage all of my photos across all devices

While on this trip, I challenged myself to use the new Adobe Lightroom CC exclusively to manage all of my photos. It’s a decision I didn’t make lightly. I did a lot of research and spoke with some trusted people at Adobe before feeling comfortable with the idea of keeping all of my original photo files in Adobe’s cloud rather than locally on my hard drives. Skepticism aside, I can say that I’m very impressed with the experience thus far. I also am more than aware that there isn’t feature parity yet between LRCC and Classic, but I also know that all of the major features I care about—like HDR/Pano stitching, geotagging, and full preset support—are being developed. Ultimately, the prospect of having ready access to all of my photos—and any changes I make to them—on any device outweighs any short-term concerns that I may have.

DISCLAIMER: Adobe has provided me with an annual license for the full Creative Cloud and 10TB of cloud storage but has not paid me a single penny to write this post, migrate to LRCC, or create any content about them. I completely understand that there is are significant monetary and internet bandwidth costs with using this particular workflow, especially with the amount of cloud storage that many photographers would need and I’m hoping that the experiences I share while using this platform will help you decide whether it’s worth it.

I’m still on the fence as to which 3rd party apps I plan on using going forward. I’ve noticed that I’ve been relying on them less and less because my current stylization workflow can be handled almost entirely in Lightroom. With that said, I’m very excited about what companies like ON1 are doing and will still keep them installed.

Eliminate gear clutter

There is absolutely no denying that I have way too much gear. The fact that I could type that out with a straight face disgusts me but it’s true. As I get older, I realize the virtue of simplicity and reducing things down to the essentials… more or less. With that said, this is what my gear closet currently looks like.

And that’s not even including all the camera bags littering the closet to the left and my garage. Realistically, I only need a fraction of this stuff to do the work that I do and going forward, I’m going to pare this collection down to what I need. I don’t need 14 lenses, five camera bodies, and 15+ camera bags. No one does! So, I’m going to sell them with the hope that they go to people who do need them or at least will use them more than I do.

Another aspect of this resolution has to do with what Nicole and others simply refer to as “the sickness.” They’re referring to my obsessive compulsive tendency of constantly debating whether to switch from iOS to Android and Mac to Windows (although the latter is much less severe). If you knew just how much time I’ve spent internally (and externally) debating this topic, you’d vomit. I have no good excuse and I’m tired of it. There’s no way I can effectively prioritize my business with these aforementioned resolutions if I am so flippant with how I use my time. I can only imagine how foolish this may sound to some of you. Believe me, I am completely aware of it. However, it is long past due for me to take steps to seriously eliminate these tendencies. At the end of the day, a phone is just a phone, regardless of how good its camera is or which apps you’re running. Now I just need to remind myself of that the next time a new shiny device is announced.

2018 is going to be great!

You know what? It feels really good to put all of these things out there. As you could probably expect, I had a lot of reservations about sharing some of the stuff here because no one likes admitting all of their most sensitive professional shortcomings. Still, owning up to these things is the first step to improving yourself. Fortunately, I’ve got an amazing support system with my family, close friends, and—of course—all of you! I hope these resolutions have helped spark ideas for how you can make your 2018 an amazing year of productivity and creative growth. By all means, please share your thoughts on this post and your own resolutions in the comments section below!

Happy New Year, everyone!