In a few days—six to be exact—The Online Photographer (TOP) turns 10. I'll make an announcement when the birthday rolls around.
It gets an average of 19,000 pageviews a day, almost all of them on the main page because it's formatted as a simple weblog. Including its life at the old Blogspot site, there have been 6,693 posts and some 208,326 comments. I work about 340 days a year, including most weekends.
All of the comments are moderated. Almost all of the them are cordial and collegial, and sometimes they're more interesting and more informative than what I've written. It's probably the thing I'm proudest of—I think I've attracted the most mature, most knowledgeable, most courteous group of readers on the Web. People who fling insults or who are spoiling for a fight go away, because they are not indulged here.
Ten years ago....
TOP started in 2005 because I was desperate. I had been without a job and very partially employed for four years, and was the single parent of a 12-year-old. I got a lot of help from my family but I came very close to losing my house. In 2004 we had our electricity cut off three times, and on the third of those occasions the electric company sent a man in coveralls in a cherry-picker truck who physically cut the wire to the house. We lived in darkness for three days while the food in the refrigerator spoiled.
Had to do something, so I did this.
In those days I was freelancing for money. The big problem of freelancing is "accounts receivable." That's when you've done the work, sent the bill, but have to wait to get paid. Sometimes it takes a very long time. Sometimes the check never comes.
It's still a big problem. Right now, two of my debtors have not paid me in well over a year, and by their own accounting they owe me more than £6,800 and €3,160 respectively. I've been counting on that money, but it's becoming clear that I will never see it. I'll have to write it off. The underlying problem there is, I've already paid taxes on some of it, and both creditors will no doubt send a 1099 to the IRS next year, just as if they had actually paid me. While neglecting to mention that they never actually did. And I'll be expected to pay taxes on the rest of it.
Seems unfair to have to pay tax on income you never actually received, doesn't it? What to do. To butcher an old saying, I guess I'll drive off that bridge when I come to it.
From freelancer to entrepreneur: frying pan > fire.
It's always something like that, times about 13. I really just want to write, but sometimes "all those other things" take up what seems like the lion's share of my time.
All you professional photographers out there know exactly what I mean. That's the life, ain't it?
I shouldn't complain. (One of my favorite grumpy-old-guy expressions is "can't complain—but sometimes I still do.") This stuff doesn't write itself, but it's pretty amazing that you can make a decent living doing something that's as fun to do as TOP.
That won't last forever. Earnings from the site went up up up till 2013...and since then have, shall we say, subsided.
The reasons are plain. The huge growth period of digital camera sales is over, and camera sales are declining. More than that, it's that there's much more competition out there now. TOP is as popular as it ever was. But the word has gotten around that photography sites can be lucrative, so they've been proliferating. (Some better than others. Some a lot better than others.) Think of all the photo-related sites you've visited recently that didn't exist ten years ago. In fairness, some of the newer sites seem quite good. But it means fewer and fewer people buy goodies through TOP.
So when we turn ten, buy TOP a birthday present or two, willya please? That is to say, buy something for yourself. Use my Amazon link for some of your seasonal shopping? Pretty please, with a cherry on top?
I joke sometimes that you have to buy yourself a present if you want to support TOP, and you certainly can (I am at your service as a Camera and Lens Purchase Enabler), but you actually don't have to buy anything you wouldn't be buying anyway. And I'm not asking you to do all your shopping from here—those other sites you like deserve some support too. (I guess. I had to say that.)
Just don't forget old TOP altogether. Ten years on the Internet is like a 30-year-old cat or a 969-year-old man. But we're still here too.
Here's the link:
That link can be bookmarked.
The rules are, anything you buy counts, but you have to shop for it and buy it after going to Amazon from the link. Anything already in your cart or Wish List doesn't count, even if you put it there on a visit linked from here. You have to find it and pay for it all in one go for me to get credit for the referral.
Of course you can find Amazon on your own. But if you go there from here, some of your money goes to us. It's not extra to you. You'll pay the same price either way.
I probably won't make this pitch on TOP's actual birthday. As you know, I only remind you to use my links about 1/400th as many times as, say, Ken Rockwell does. (Lots of people who do this make much more money than I do.) You know what they say: sigh.
Years ago I heard a lovely story on a show about centenarians. One little old lady they interviewed had retired when she was 65, and for the next 20 years had great fun socializing with her friends. Then, one by one, her friends started to sicken and die. At age 90, most of her friends were gone. She moved into a little apartment and started closing down her life. In her own words, she was waiting to die.
Ten years went by.
On her 100th birthday, "I looked myself in the mirror and said, 'well, looks like you're not going to die. Better get a job.'"
So she got herself a job as a docent in a small museum across the town square from her apartment.
After nine years, given the turnover among docents, she had outlasted everyone and become "the senior docent." Made me laugh. I'll say she was.
Interviewed at age 109, she said, "I don't know what to expect now."
When I started TOP in 2005, my greatest ambition was to keep it going for an entire year. One whole year—that ambition seemed fantastical, far-fetched and unlikely.
I don't know what to expect now.
Sincerely, though: thank you for hanging around, and for helping TOP hang around.
(Thanks to every TOP reader, regular or occasional)
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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