So you want to start a business, and you dig photography. Sweet! What are your options?

You might notice this one company that does photo things called Instagram that’s made a big splash lately. They sold for a billion dollars, and Justin Timberlake once said that a billion dollars was cool. So maybe you should build something like that?

The trouble is, Instagram wasn’t built by people who cared about photography. It was built by very savvy businesspeople who knew how to navigate the treacherous world of tech startups and venture capital. The founders absolutely love spending all day thinking about how to acquire users, get listed in the top of the app store, work the right relationships with the insiders, and do loads of legal paperwork. Building an Instagram isn’t about photography, it’s about business.

So if you’re passionate about working deals, pitching investors, hiring and managing talent, and the like, by all means aim to build something like Instagram.

But if that kind of stuff makes you shiver, that’s okay– that makes you like the vast majority of the rest of the world.

What if instead you could spend most of your time focusing on reading and writing about photography, testing new gadgets and doing fun photo projects out in the wild for a living?

If that sounds like a path you’d rather take, perhaps you’d do well to look at a company like Photojojo. It’s a small business that employs a few people, it’s dead simple, and it permits the people who work there to spend as much time as possible working on what they care about. The site absolutely radiates love and happiness, and with good reason. These are people who are making a living doing what they love.

Most people would rather build a Photojojo, or they would if they were made aware of that as a viable direction. My good friend Amy Hoy points out on her excellent blog, Unicorn Free, that you need not aim to attain millions of users to build a great and profitable business. In fact, if all you did was get just 500 people to pay you $30 every month, you’d be making $180,000 a year. She teaches a class about it. Unfortunately, our culture is one that celebrates the big sexy wins, belying the opportunities that await folks who might otherwise aim for something far more satisfying and attainable.

But that’s slowly changing. Right now, today, you can make a living selling handmade goods on Etsy, designing 3D objects and putting them up for sale on Shapeways, and financing your new idea for a great thing on Kickstarter. All of those companies are absolutely on fire (and, by the way, they’re all based here in New York City, yeah!), and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down.

And if you happen to be someone who has a passion and talent for making real things, but also a passion and talent for building big successful businesses, who knows– you might just end up being the next big time startup founder! If you do, try not to be evil 🙂


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