OK, so I really need to take a deep breath and try to tell you about the events of the last week as calmly and clearly as possible, because I can assure you, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for me. Firstly, you may recall that for almost two years now, I’ve occasionally eluded to a certain “thing” that I can’t talk about yet, for fear of jinxing it. I don’t like being secretive, but I am a little bit superstitious, and when I really want something, I tend to keep it to myself until it’s mine.
Well, I spent much of the summer of 2008 preparing an application to become a Japanese citizen, and although it took almost two years, that finally came through on August 17, and on August the 30th, I received a certificate of my new nationality, and was able to register as a Japanese citizen with the city hall of the place that I’m now living. This means that I never have to worry about visas to live here in Japan again, and unless you’ve ever lived for an extended time as a foreign resident in a country other than your own, you probably won’t know just how good that feels. Plus, ever since I first came to Japan in 1991, I’ve loved this country, and always intended to do this, but just never got around to the application. I’m so glad that I did now.
This also means that officially my name has changed, or at least the way I write it. I also lost my middle name, which was Stephen, but that’s now gone. I have two Kanji characters (平俐) for my surname, though it still reads Bailey. Well, actually it’s Beiri, but I managed to get them to use my old spelling of B A I L E Y for the alphabet version of my name on my new Japanese passport. My first name is now officially written in Katakana (マーティン), the phonetic Japanese writing system used for foreign words, but it’s still Martin in English. Again though, on my passport it will be written the same as it is now, and I’ll continue to use the old spelling in English communication.
Anyway, that’s one big change for me, and a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m sure many of you are sitting thinking, “so what?” right now, and I’m sorry if I’m boring you, but this really is a big deal for me. The other part of the reason I’m excited is probably going to be of more interest to you photographers.
Many of you know that I have a full time day-job, other than my photography. Some don’t realize this, which I always find flattering, but I do mention the day job from time to time, so at least the more attentive of you should already now this. I’ve been working for the same company for over 10 years now, and have totally enjoyed those 10 years. During my earlier years I was really kicking ass. I was responsible for my company achieving the huge achievement of shipping of all of the international language versions of our products simultaneously with English. That was some five or six years ago, but this is something that other large software companies are still now only just starting to achieve.
I did a lot of great things during my time with this company, and for many years put my all into that job, often going the extra mile to ensure that my projects went smoothly, or that my team were providing the most value that they could to the company. Recently though, as my love of photography and the effort that I put into photography related activities has grown, I’ve found myself saving all of my “extra-miles” for my photography, instead of my day-job. This isn’t fair on my employer, and I’ve started to feel as though it is now holding me back too.
There’s always been a tug-of-war between the two jobs, and even when I applied for the Japanese citizenship, I fully intended to stay with my current employer for the foreseeable future. Now though, it’s come to the point where I’m no longer able to completely throw myself into either my day-job or my photography. I haven’t been able to do many of the photography related things that I want to do, and I’ve become stagnant in the day-job, and I really don’t like that, so it’s time to move on. Last week I tendered my resignation to my current employer, and from next month I will be concentrating all of my energy on my photography and related activities.
Of course, this is something that I’ve thought about for a long time. As soon as I saw the take up of the listener base on the Podcast, and started to get some traction online with the forum and now my blog, I realized that there was a possible business opportunity here. I started the workshops and photography tours initially to test the water. Half of the people that signed up did so because they’d come to know me through the Podcast, and it was an incredible thrill for me to start to meet in person the people that I’d only known online to that point, but more than that, I was turning some of the effort that I have put into the Podcast into payment for services, which was a big deal for me.
I’ve mentioned before just how much I get back for doing this Podcast, simply through the act of sorting out what I do in my photography into neat little piles of information for others to digest. It has improved my photography a huge amount, without doubt. In addition, you, the listeners, have made the MBP Community a great place to hang out, and I enjoy every minute with you guys on line. But aside from that, it’s no secret though that apart from sharing, and giving back to the community, “passing it forward” as it were, another of my goals in starting this podcast was to help spread the word about me and my photography. Over the last five years I’ve been building a brand, whether you realized it or not. This is exactly why I called this the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast, even against the advice of some close friends.
Sure, it can come across conceited. Someone recently emailed me saying that “Webster’s had redefined ‘Narcissist’, see www.martinbaileyphotography.com“. I found that quite funny, but I was also a little saddening, because if they knew me, they’d know that this could not be further from the truth. I can see why someone might think this way of course, as I have my photo on the Podcast page and my Twitter account etc. but what someone that thinks like this fails to understand is that it’s all about building a brand. I never wanted to be a no name hired gun photographer, and so promoting my name alongside my photography was an important part of my strategy.
One of the things that I am most grateful for though, is that with those of you that truly that click with me, many people of you been kind enough to say that you enjoy sharing my photographic journey with me through the Podcast, and many of you have mentioned how much you learn through these shared experiences. I’m incredibly grateful to those of you that get it, and have taken the time to get to know me through the Podcast and forum, to the point that you can appreciate and enjoy spending this time with me, and gain from it yourself too.
When you think about it, it’s a quite cool relationship. I share what I know or am learning at any given time with you, and at the basic level, you listen and gain from my experience, or at the least, hopefully glean a few new ideas from each episode. Many of you take the experience to the next level, and share your own experiences in the community. Then I start to learn stuff back from you and the community. Also, when the timing and circumstances are right, some people take it to another level, and join me on my workshops. This takes social networking and community to another level. It’s a business model that was not even available 10 years ago, but it’s changing things big time now. I intend to talk a little more about this sort of thing in future episodes, or maybe just on my blog, so stay tuned for that if you are interested.
There is something else that I have gained from this experience so far, and this is one of the things that really drives me. There are people that joined as listeners and joined our community in the forum as total beginners, that I have watched become incredibly talented photographers. One such person that jumps to mind is Forrest Tanaka who joined us not long after I started this Podcast, when he’d just bought his first Digital SLR camera. I remember Forrest coming into the community as a newbie. He was always courteous and professional, and I recall his incredible thirst for knowledge.
Since then Forrest has won our monthly assignments countless times with his sensitive and stunning photography, and just last week launched his own Web site to showcase his work and sell his services. If you have a moment, please do check out www.forrest-tanaka.com. Forrest has done an amazing job of the Web site and his photography is stunning. The point is though that it is so humbling for me to know that what I have been doing here and that the help and inspiration from this community that we’ve built is at least partly responsible for Forrest’s success in his photography.
Anyway, having gone into a lot of detail about why the MBP Community is so important to me, to get back to my point – I’ve tendered my resignation, and will be taking a few weeks holiday from the 11th of September, then from October 1st, photography related work will be my sole source of income. Some people will think I’m crazy, but this is what I want. I’ve always followed my heart, and my heart is telling me to do this.
I don’t have a big business plan, but I do intend to start to plan all those workshops in various countries where many of you have been asking me to do them. I will announce details of new workshops in the coming months, but don’t forget that there are still a few spaces on my Snow Monkey and Hokkaido workshops next February, and booking has already started for the March Antarctica expedition that I’m doing with David Burren. Details of these are available at www.mbpworkshops.com.
Also, if you have any locations near you that you think would make a great location for a workshop, and you have local knowledge that would help us to make that a reality, let me know. I’ll certainly be looking for local help in the locations that I target as I pull my plans together.
Another part of my plans is to start doing portrait work. This is something may not seem like a good fit for a predominantly nature and wildlife photographer, but I enjoy doing them. I will need to juggle schedules to enable both styles of photography to coexist in my business model, but I think I can make it work. I mean, think about it. Most people that I’ll be shooting have day jobs, so the sessions will be on the weekend. The roads in Japan are too congested to go anywhere on the weekends for landscape or nature photography, so I’m free on weekends, because I can now go any time I want on the weekdays. It slots in very nicely together. There will be weekday sessions too, I’m sure, but I should be able to schedule these around each other.
I’ll continue to take photography assignments as the opportunities arise of course. I’m always open to discuss the needs of a customer that wants something photographed, if it’s within my abilities, or close enough to them that I can get the job done.
I certainly want to continue to build and improve my nature and wildlife portfolio too, so I intend to plan shoots to a number of locations through the year, and take my time to get the shots that I’ve really wanted to get. It’s great that I can now avoid the weekend traffic, and even spend extended amounts of time in some locations without worrying too much about using up my holidays, that for the last three years I’ve had to save to enable me to take time off to do the workshops.
So, basically I have a three pronged approach in mind. Workshops in various countries as well as Japan, strategically timed throughout the year. Schedule nature and wildlife shoots for the best times to capture some stunning images for my portfolio, and of course continue to sell fine art prints and folios of the resulting images, and then fit Portrait photography in on weekends or weekdays, and I’ll schedule any assignments as necessary between the other work too. When I say three prongs, I guess I’m bunching portrait shoots with other assignment work, but that’s kind of how I’m dividing these areas of photography up in my mind for now. I should just go ahead and say I have a four pronged approach in mind, but four is an unlucky number in Japan, and as I said, I can be a tad superstitious.
I’m also trying to plan an exhibition this coming December, of images from my current Nature of Japan portfolio. I’m not sure if this will happen yet, but I was out today scouting for galleries, and I really hope that I can pull this in before the winter Hokkaido season starts, so stay tuned for more information on that if you are in Tokyo, or can get into Tokyo relatively easy. I plan to be at the gallery every day for the term of the show, so it would be a great chance to meet any of you that can make it.
I’m going to devote lots of time for marketing and social networking etc. too of course, as that is now so important to any business model, and has of course been a major part of mine so far too. I’m sure it’s going to take me a little time to settle in to a good routine for all of this, but I can tell you I am so looking forward to getting started.
I’ve got a whole bunch of other plans, and I imagine that as I start to develop my business plans, we will see a number of changes in the Podcast. I’ll bring you updates on my progress as I incorporate my company if that’s the way I go with it. I have a meeting with my accountant next week to decide. I’ll also bring you more on Client shoots that I’m able to talk about, or at the very least, bring you more content on the new stuff that I learn to realize the needs of future clients. Much of the business side information should be useful for anyone thinking starting your own business or for anyone also in the early stages of your own business. Some of it will only be useful for someone starting a business in Japan, but hopefully even that will be of some interest to follow along with even if you aren’t based here yourself.
So as I said at the start, we have some big, BIG changes happening here, and I can’t wait to take you all along for the ride on the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast. You see, there I go again with that branding thing…
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