In the words of my friend Mark Leibowitz:
"The business of photography breaks down to two main parts, 1: Make better pictures, and 2: Show more people."
I thought this was great advice, because being successful in this business is really all about those two things. Granted there are a million things that go along with that when you break it down, but I think it's fair to say that sums it up.
I'll break it down lightly, here. In the commercial world(much different than the wedding world), the bar is set quite a bit higher when getting hired for the big jobs. Your body of work has to be properly curated, show a solid style, and show the breadth of what you can do enough to give your client the confidence that he/she can hand you $1/$10/$20/$50/$100/$200/$500K to produce them images that are what they signed off on. The quality and production value of your work will have to show that you can handle that.
1: Make better pictures. So, what does that mean? You have to make better images that shows the kind of work you want to be shooting. In the path that I've taken, I've followed this theory whole heatedly. Through time, development, and persistence, you will begin to get hired for the jobs at the level your portfolio is conveying. Since photography is a artistic journey, your skills are refined as you go and it's not really a field that you can just jump in with the big boys if you have the money. (granted seed capital sure makes it easier). You have to constantly work and hone your craft to become better and better. That will naturally be conveyed through the work you produce. Everyone is different, and enjoys shooting different subjects and styles. Find what inspires you the most, produce better images in that realm, create a consistent style within that that is different than everyone else, and that's what the buyers are looking for. Developing a unique style takes years and is something you have to have the drive and perseverance to get to. All the top photographers sucked at the beginning points of their careers.
2: Show more people. I've thought about this a lot lately. Your work HAS to get in front of the right people for you to get hired. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? If you make a great image, and no one sees it what value does it have? That said, the first part is showing the right curation of your work. I like the word curation rather than "edit" because you are essentially pulling together a finite collection of your work. Just like a museum. A curation that is a true testiment to who you are as a photographer. This is obviously unique for every photographer. The right curation is just as, or more important than shooting great images. It tells the story of who you are. Most photographers are terrible at curating their own work, and need to realize that. Then hire people that can do it for them. It is a definite investment, but a person who knows what they are doing in that realm can make you look like a much better and put together photographer. You first have to have the body of work that is broad enough for them to curate.
Part two of showing more people, is the packaging that people are seeing it in. AKA your branding. I've already written on the importance of it, but I will reemphasize it again. Branding is something that the average person doesn't see because they weren't formally trained in it. Bad branding can make a good photographer look like they beg for money on the street. Do yourself a huge favor and realize when branding isn't your forte then hire someone to do it for you. If you can't fully afford it, try teaming up with graphic design student and working with them for their portfolios. It gives them real world experience. Hire people that do what they do best. I recommend my http://www.brand-envy.com (as you can see they designed my killer biz cards).
Part three is getting your work out there. This comes after your proper curation, branding, portfolios, and website. Getting your work in front of people is a big process. Something that I hired my consultant for. Amanda Sosa Stone: http://www.sosastone.com There are many of them out there which it's best to find the right one that best fits you. These guys can take a look at your work, and figure out a game plan. Even help you "curate" your work. Then figure out a good game plan to get it out there to the world.