These are just a few tips I've found have been very helpful for me over the last year as I learned and continue to learn, what drastically helps me get the end result I want.
1. Don't go crazy buying the most expensive equipment right away.
I used a mediocre DSLR for the last two years, I took the time to really figure out how it worked, what features I wished I had, and which I basically didn't care about. Once I felt I had a good handle on what I really wanted, I made the jump to much more advanced gear. Good equipment helps, but having less than the top of the line actually forces you to be aware of all the other technical aspects that a great photo incorporates, that's harder to achieve when your camera doesn't cost more than your car.
2. Consider a tripod.
I never really used a tripod until recently, but there are simply instances where without one you will NOT get the end result you want. If you buy one, buy a good one. A cheap tripod will only get you a damaged camera when it falls over because your lens weighs more than it does.
3. Keep your camera with you at all times.
Yes, sometimes this is a pain. Simply put, if you don't have your camera, you will miss a lot of shots that present themselves out of nowhere. I would say a solid 50% of my portfolio comes from unplanned opportunities. There is nothing worse than seeing a spectacular photo opp, and standing there with no way to capture it.
4. Make a list of shots you would like to get.
I find this is helpful for me, and it gives me a goal as well as a way to organize all my ideas. Sometimes I have to go back to a spot dozens of times in order for everything to be right, but if I have it on the "list" and I can cross it off, it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.
5. Learn the basic rules
The amount of information about photography online can be overwhelming. Start with a few articles on composition. Be open to what more experienced photographers have to say about technique. You have to know the rules before you can break them. The most helpful book/magazine/article I've ever read is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I keep it with me today still as an occasional reference.
6. Take photos regularly
If you don't use what you're learning, you'll lose it. So make it a point to take photos at least weekly. If you run out of subjects or ideas, refer back to your list of shots you would like to capture.
7. Don't be afraid to experiement
If you're using a digital camera, the cost of errors is free. Find an effect/lighting/angle you like and try to recreate it. Go crazy, you will more than likely end up with something you like, and I guarentee you'll learn a lot in the process. I know I did.
8. Enjoy the learning process
The best part of having a hobby like photography is never running out of things to learn. Inspiration is all around you. Look at everything with the eyes of a photographer and you’ll see opportunities you never noticed before.
9. Take advantage of free resources to learn
Browse through websites for inspiration and tips, welcome and really listen to criticizm from your peers and customers. I taught myself Lightroom using user posted You Tube clips. Take advantage of the wealth of senior and experienced users here on Dreamstime, I assure you, they know what they are talking about and if you don't believe them....just look at their sales and portfolios.
10. Have Fun
I'd say virtually none of us take pictures strictly for the monetary gain, so don't get to caught up in how many sales you have, because we all know that's the last reason any of us do this.
“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera.” Lewis Hine