Focusing on freelance gigs to fuel your photography career may sound like a dream come true. You’ll have the opportunity to shape your job to suit your personal strengths and interests, and you’ll enjoy the freedom of setting a schedule that meets your needs. While there are many benefits to taking freelance gigs as a photographer, there are a lot of important details to consider as well. From creating a stunning portfolio to finding your first paying jobs, we have the tips and tricks you need to help you make it as a freelance photographer.
Build Your Portfolio
You would think this is a no-brainer, but many photographers struggle to find freelance gigs because their portfolio is lackluster or non-existent. Photography is a visual realm. Just like you’d be passed over for a job if you didn’t submit a resume, no one wants to hire a freelance photographer who appears to have no experience.
If you don’t have real job experience, get out there and take the initiative to develop a creative portfolio on your own. Develop a body of work that showcases the different skills you have or the interesting and unique facets of your creative eye. Enlist the help of trusted industry peers for constructive criticism and guidance so that your final portfolio images represent a varied body of your very best work.
There are many websites designed to help you create a strong visual portfolio – or you can build your own and attach it to your own domain. Check out Virb or Wix, or Dropr for some spectacularly easy portfolios design options.
Remember…highlight your very best work and your uniquely powerful skills! Are you a photoshop ninja? Show off your editing skills with a few of your best before and after edits. If you only want to be a landscape photographer – consider limiting your portfolio to just that, but if you want to show your diverse skills make sure you include a broad range of subjects and styles.
Look For Freelance Gigs
If you don’t have any freelance gigs lined up yet – work on getting seen. Be visible, get into photography contests, join groups and make sure you continue to develop and share your portfolio. Create a profile on various job boards and other outlets where you can submit work for pay once your portfolio is fully developed. Make sure to maximize your presence on visual social media platforms, continuing to engage influencers and other avenues that might take note of your work and reach out for more information.
It’s important to stay mindful of current trends and technology. The quality of your final product is directly proportional to what you’re going to get paid. Stay educated on new techniques and regularly take classes to develop and fine tune your skills. Stay immersed in your industry and be critical of your own work, constantly seeking to identify where and how you can improve. Check out this recent article by Envatotuts+ to hear more on the realities of starting a freelance photography business (along with some great resources to get you started!). .
Finding opportunities for work is your responsibility, especially as you get started in the freelance marketplace. Continuously check job boards. Continuously… as in regularly, several times a day. The early bird does truly get the worm here. Great jobs get picked up quickly so don’t miss out! Until you have built up a name for yourself where people are approaching you, you have to go to the work.
Here is another great article sharing where to find jobs as a freelance photographer, suggesting resources like The CreativeLoft or job boards like Simply Hired and Get Photography Jobs. Visual Photography Studio also has a great list of the top ten (and then ten more!) sites to find freelance jobs. This article at PhotoSecrets also suggests that you can also check out microstock sites to sell your photos with a non-exclusive license. Take note:
“You can join a microstock agency for free online. Once on board, you “upload” your photos by sending them as files electronically, over the Internet. Your photos will be displayed alongside those from other freelance photographers, and be searchable using keywords. Whenever your photos get licensed, the microstock agency will credit your account, and you can get paid monthly. With “non-exclusive” licenses, you can even upload the same photos to many competing agencies, thereby multiplying your revenue.”
Most users typically earn around $9 per photo per year so there is definitely not a huge immediate value, but build a strong body of sought-after work – say two thousand photos – and you’ve just made yourself $18,000 – that’s a great income stream!
To truly succeed with microstock photography, make sure you are continuously taking and uploading photos that meet their requirements and are in tune with current trends. Stay fresh! Microstock photography may not be exactly what you imagined as a freelance photographer, but you can use this as a foundation to get started on the right foot. Taking part in supplemental income like this also affords you the freedom to be selective about the other freelance jobs that you want. If you’re dead broke and just starting out, you may feel pressured to accept or take on every job that comes your way. This can cause frustration and suck the wind from your sails. Implementing an opportunity that removes some of the cash flow worries can help you stay motivated and fulfilled in your freelance journey instead of burnt out and uninspired.
What About The Other Stuff?
Now that you are officially in business for yourself, you have some extra administrative work to do in order to make it happen. Make sure you have a clear understanding of any fees and costs associated with job agencies, consider how equipment and maintenance fees will impact your bottom line, and take note of any other administrative costs you will incur. Be mindful of taxes, licenses and all other financial aspects of your business to be sure you are truly on the path to long-term success.
You will need to keep track of your time and expenses as a freelance photographer, there are some great free apps available to track and invoice your time and projects. Fast Company posted a great list of the apps that make freelancing easier, including Wunderlist for your To-Do list needs and Harvest for invoices. There are also QuickBooks options from Intuit that will allow you more robust options for tax preparation purposes – you’ll be able to track equipment costs, overhead and other write-offs that will positively impact your overall profitability.
Making It Happen
As with any and every profession, if you want to actually make it, you have to acknowledge that it takes work, more hard work, even more work and lots of energy. To succeed as a small business owner, you have to be deeply devoted to your craft. You are not just some random person out there taking pictures. This is your life, your passion and your purpose. You have to be willing to put in the creative and mental energy it takes to stay motivated and organized as a business owner and artist.
There are going to be days where you question quitting your day job. Every entrepreneur has moments of doubt and wonders if the freelance or small business circuit really is for them. The truth is, YES. You really can make it as a freelance photographer, you just have to commit to it, the good, the bad, the ugly, and stay the course as you grow and develop your niche.
If you’re ready to go ahead and make the leap, check out our project management software for keeping your freelance gigs organized and starting off like a pro.