When I first began, I made SO MANY MISTAKES. Still do, actually but I'm learning. Looking back, there's a few pieces of advice that would have been more helpful than others when I first began. These might sound basic or common sense but I think when we're first starting, we don't understand just how vital the basic things are.
#1: Start a Pinterest board of what inspires you
I still add photos to my Pinterest boards, I'll label them "Photographs: Weddings" or "Photographs: Kids" and so on. The thing is, when you first start off, you don't always know what your style or niche should be and it's overwhelming. Having all those images that you love all in one place can help you visually see what you're naturally attracted to, you might start to see a common theme. That theme might be bright and airy or dark and moody editing styles, it might be mostly nature or mostly kids, it might be traditional portraits or documentary...but most important, it might help you clear up what's for you as an individual.
#2: Follow only people who inspire you
If you follow everyone, you're not getting anything out of it creatively and many photographers out there also do education. My current personal favorites? Hello Storyteller and Twyla Jones but at the beginning when I was first learning things, Click.Love.Grow was an amazing community to learn my gear and help build my "eye for photography." Being surrounded by a community of like-minded photographers can really help keep you going and inspire you to grow.
#3: Learn your gear
This one is time consuming but what if you're photographing a family and they want a silhouette? or what if you're in a low light setting and you start editing only to see that your photos are super grainy looking? What if they want the background blurry? What if your images aren't where you'd like them to be? You need to know how to work your camera if you're going to grow. There's no way around that...at a certain point, auto mode no longer makes the cut.
#4: Stop the comparison game
Every photographer I've come across falls victim to the comparison game, including me. Let me tell you, it's brutal and it will cut you down faster than anything else. How can you realistically stop? Once you catch yourself in the act, remind yourself that you're still learning and that person has years of experience on you so they were once where you are now. This can actually help you because you're retraining your brain to think different. If you're consistent then your brain will form a new neuropathway and you'll think different automatically. But be consistent with this! (mental health is a huge thing for me so believe me when I tell you to give yourself time and you'll get there).
#5: Only show your best work
I know how hard it is to cull your gallery but an image that means something to you...another person isn't going to understand the back story of what was happening all the time so others might look at that picture with a different perspective. If you find yourself sharing 30 images from one session...I guarantee that you are not showing your best work and that reflects on you on a professional and a creative level. Try to challenge yourself to view each individual image through the eyes of someone who wasn't there or a potential client.
#6: You deserve to be paid
I don't care if your images are not where you want them to be...you deserve compensation for your work! Are you self conscious and questioning yourself? Me too and at every new inquiry but it's irrelevant. I've forced myself to up my pricing because there are people out there who do not see all the tiny mistakes that are made in an image the way the photographer does because they don't see all the potentials that photographers do...they just see the final image and they love that final image. If you're wondering if you should charge then that's a good indicator that you should. I'm still not charging what I should be but I'm slowly getting more comfortable. You can do this.
#7: Keep moving forward
That's it. Just keep moving forward. You don't need a ton of money...I mean, it helps and investing in yourself is a good way to improve...but there's YouTube videos and some free mini courses that you can always do. Practice is the main thing though...all the courses in the world are not going to do anything for you if you're not practicing.
#8: Shoot for yourself
Photography is a break from everything else and a hobby to enjoy so don't make it all about work. Shoot what you want when you can and keep it an enjoyable experience.