How to Set Yourself Up for Success; The Income Octopus

September 19, 2022

Why it is important to have multiple income streams

Photo by Serena Repice Lentini on Unsplash

When I first started out as a photographer, I was very naive.

I thought that I would work for ALL of the high-end publications and that they would come knocking at my door. I was wrong.

What no one tells you in art school or business is to set yourself up for success. You have to figure out what works best for YOU.

And having many assets that bring you income at once is an excellent way to set up for success.

Introducing the income octopus

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

What I will introduce to you is not an actual octopus, of course.

But like an octopus, it, too, has nine legs. Or shall I say nine different ways to make income for your life?

I am not the originator for this term.

I browsed Youtube a few years back when I encountered Brendan van Son.

Brendan talked about a concept called “The Income Octopus” on his Youtube channel.

The concept is simple: nine different income sources so that the rest will continue if one stops.

Most photographers fail by limits to one source of income with client work. And most do not look at the bigger picture of how you can make money with your photography.

Let’s break it down together

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

If you wish to draw an octopus on a sheet of paper, this is how Brendan showed it.

Each of the nine arms on your octopus will be labeled with the income source.

Now the tricky part is for photographers what entails an income source.

Let’s break it down together:

  1. Client work. This is where you create photos for someone. It is demanding because you have to be engaged in finding new clients while maintaining existing clients. This is the first leg of your octopus.
  2. Publications. Depending on the magazine, it can be very lucrative for a photographer. It is often best to start with smaller publications before you target the big ones. To pitch, see the publication’s masthead in print or online, and write your best pitch letter to the editor. Be prepared to hear a thousand nos before you get a yes.
  3. Social Media sponsorships. This can make some decent money, depending on how you handle it. If you are a photographer with a large organic following, reach out to brands you wish to partner.
  4. Teaching. While you are not shooting or doing anything else, try teaching. Not everyone has the knack for it, but it can be a gratifying gift to give someone else the gift of photography.
  5. Writing. As I write to you here on Medium, I must say that writing and blogging for others can be a great source of income. You won’t get rich off of it, but it does help to sustain the bills.
  6. Photography affiliate programs. While you are writing, join a couple of photography affiliate programs. Even Amazon is an excellent idea for this. You will use a link, and then they pay you a percentage of sales from people that use your links.
  7. Are you a part-time photographer? Rent out your gear. Rent out your equipment to others for a fee. This can be a great way to make extra income while your bag is sitting idle. You can also sock away money to buy more gear.
  8. Stock photography. While there is not a lot of money to be had in stock photography, uploading your photographs into stock agencies or microstock agencies can be a great way to make some extra passive income while you work.
  9. Youtube. Lots of professional photographers try creating Youtube channels. While this will not get you much extra money quickly, once you hit the magic number of followers to get paid, it can happen very soon.

Extra tips:

The above are nine sources of income for a photographer. You can apply the income octopus idea to any profession if you wish.

And if you are like me, you expand past what photography can make you. For example, I am a life coach and a TEFL/TESOL certified English teacher. This helps to fill in the blanks when one arm of the octopus is slow or gets chopped off.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Is the income octopus right for you? Only you can answer that question.

But if you wish to get outside the typical dull nine to five, setting yourself up for success is the answer.

Many income streams, like the idea of the income octopus, can be beneficial to lead you to success.

Hi, I am Charlie Naebeck
I am a husband, professional photographer, teacher, life coach, ex-pat, and digital nomad.
Voted in the top 10 photography teachers in NYC. Top photography writer on Medium. I also have written for The Phoblographer, Adorama, Dpture, and more.
I travel the world with my family and camera giving others the gift of photography. I also consult with businesses to help develop content creation strategies for business engagement.
I can help you:  
-Improve your photography and content creation skills remotely or in person
-Create better content for your blog, social media, or business
-Learn how to make passive income while you create what you love
-Develop an engagement strategy for your media
-Coach you on how to set up your goals for success
Contact me here to book a session.
Download my digital classes and Ebooks here where I provide many valuable insights and tips. My students and clients find it helpful to keep my advice digital in their pockets.
If you like what you read, please consider giving me a follow on Medium.
Thank you!
P.S. If you are interested in how I got to this point in my life, read my story here.

How to Set Yourself Up for Success; The Income Octopus was originally published in New Writers Welcome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.