Hi there, just starting out photog friend!
I am so happy you are reading this because I want you to know that I have been you! Actually every photographer has been you! We have all been lost in this crazy world, with just a camera and a dream. It wasn't long ago that the photographer you're drooling over right now, was right where you are standing. Don't be discouraged by your growth cycle. I wish I would have had someone more experienced take me under their wing when I was just starting out. So here is my advice to you:
You are gonna compare yourself. I know because I have done it, well still do it sometimes. But stop! Don't do that to yourself. DO NOT compare your chapter one to someone's chapter 20! Take a moment and unfollow anyone who makes you feel unworthy. Its nothing against them, this is for you. Only follow those who inspire you. Fill your feed with positivity.
The next thing I will tell ya is work your butt off! Take every class and workshop you can! Watch every YouTube video and read every article you come across. Learn how to use your camera, PROPERLY. And don't ever let anyone tell you your equipment isn't good enough.
Be a sponge! NEVER stop learning!
Get a website! Social media is free advertising! So is word of mouth! So take (and post) photos of what YOU want to capture!! Want to shoot maternity? Find a pregnant sister, friend, acquaintance, capture them, and then post the images on social media! Want to shoot real estate? Reach out to AirBNB owners and post those photos!
Price yourself accordingly!! YOUR TIME IS WORTH MONEY!!!
What else could there possibly be you are probably wondering, well I will tell you. GET LEGAL! Have a contract! Get an LLC or sole proprietorship, both have pros and cons depending on you business. Some states require you to pay taxes on your services, so make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Google it, I promise you will find what you need.
Now listen... You aren't going to be for everyone and that is ok. Some people may not like your art, or your prices, or your personality and THAT IS OK. You create for you and those that love your work will appreciate it.
And hey! Someday you are gonna be at chapter 20 when someone is at chapter 1, so reach out and help. You never know whose world you might change.
In the meantime, don't give up! And if you need some encouragement, reach out! I am here!