Freelance photography is like any other self-employed job, i.e. copywriting, marketing, programming, etc., out there – you work for yourself, seek out potential clients, and complete the projects that they set out for you. So when asking yourself, “what is freelance photography” or “how do I become a freelance photographer,” know that it’s not a fantastic job. In essence, a freelance photographer works on multiple projects that they have found and been given by various companies. Pay is always negotiated beforehand and varies from project to project. Trust us when we say that a steady income is a relative luxury in the freelance photography world. Even if you’re able to support yourself as a freelance photojournalist, income fluctuates very often.
Freelance photographers are usually mobile to some sort of degree. Even if they have a home, a family and a 2-car garage (I know several like this), they still need to move around a lot for work. Diversifying their portfolio and clientele usually means lots of travel. You may enjoy travelling as a freelance photographer, though, and this may even be the reason why you got into it!. Simply put – a freelance photographer takes photographs. Sometimes employers will hire you before you’ve taken photos. Sometimes you will take them by yourself and try to sell them. Either way, your goal is to bring high-quality images and sell them. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
90% of the time, you’ll have to get the conversation started and reach out to potential clients first. Freelance photographer must be diligent and tenacious in contacting new leads; doing so is one of the great keys to success in being a freelance photographer. Companies make the first move very rarely, and if they do, it’s usually reserved for more popular photographers with significant social media presences.
Honestly, doing anything freelance related can feel more like a job in correspondence – you’ll be creative 25% of the time and networking the other 75%. So a freelance photographer is more than just a person taking pictures: they’re a social marketer (for themselves) as well.
Tips for Starting a Career in Freelance Photography
So what exactly is freelance photography? The concept of freelancing is built around working for multiple different clients and contracts. Unlike a traditional job where you have one boss, you essentially choose everything you want to do and find your photography clients. You get to be your boss, but each client is like a boss for each shoot in reality.
Starting a career as a freelance photographer is a serious endeavour. It’s not something that will just happen by mastering photography. And it certainly isn’t as simple as buying all the top gear to look like a pro.
One of the best business tips that we’ve ever been given was to find a paying client before you pursue a new career. If you can find someone to hire you, scramble and get only the gear you need for that specific job and take it from there. It will prove that you can land a client and make pro photography a career and not just a fun hobby. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?
There’s a lot to starting a business in freelance photography.
Hint: It’s not all about gear and being the best photographer. It’s about building a real business. Business techniques DO apply to photographers even though we don’t think they do because we’re artists.
We hope you choose the path of being one of the world’s best freelance photographers who also makes a great living. The choice is yours!
Finding Clients for Your Freelance Photography Business Is Your #1 Focus.
Yes, it’s essential to learn the art and feel comfortable shooting. But just knowing the art and being an incredible photographer won’t pay the bills. Landing clients (AKA SALES) is the single most crucial part of your job. Once you have said clients, you should always strive to improve your art form.
Buy Some Business Books.
Especially books focused on sales and managing clients. With no sales, there’s no business. There are three key components to keeping clients happy: Communication, Quality of Work, Timeliness. Master all three, and you’ll keep your clients for a long time.
Find Your Freelance Photography Niche.
There are so many possibilities out there! Do you want to shoot weddings in the mountains? Are you going to be the world’s best architectural photographer? Senior portraits? Action Sports? Choose one so you know who to contact for work, and you can master that specific art and pricing structure.
Contact Clients and Potential Clients Again and Again.
With existing clients, you can add reminders to your calendar and reach out every month or two to ask how they are doing and if they have any photo needs. You’ll be surprised by how well this works. It will drive you more and more jobs and keep you afloat. Keeping a client is far less expensive and easier than trying to find new ones.
Price High at the Start.
If clients want lower prices, they’ll let you know. Or they’ll say they aren’t interested, and you can ask why. When they say it’s because of the price, you can try to adjust. Price low, and you’ll regret the job when you’re working too hard for too little.
You Don’t Need the Best Camera Money Can Buy.
Look for something that produces great quality and has features specific to your niche (i.e. fast frame rate for action sports, high MP count and a large sensor for portraits). Camera technology changes quickly, but it’s gotten so good across the board that a $1200 body can make images that are just as great as a $5000 camera body. Invest in lenses since they stand the test of time and have the best resale value (sometimes even increasing!)
Go to the Online Forums for Your Niche.
You’ll learn a lot about what they do, how they talk, their needs, and after participating in the forums, you’ll be able to mention the new business you’re starting! It’s a good way to get into your clients’ minds and find what they are looking for. Researching clients is a step most freelancers never seem to remember. On that note, reach out to some competitors in a different city and get a quote for a fictional shoot. It’s always nice to see how the competitors handle new leads, especially the successful ones.
Get a Squarespace Website After You’ve Landed Some Paying Clients, or Make Your Own With Photocrati Through WordPress.
Both are great options and fairly cheap to start. Even if you have very little work to show, you can have a landing page with your bio and pricing to send potential clients. Websites make businesses look more established and trustworthy. You don’t have to have one right away, but it’s good to get rolling down the line. Certainly, don’t spend any time on this for your initial month. Instead, you should focus on outreach to friends, family, and acquaintances.
Set Business Goals.
Skyscrapers are built first with a foundation and then one floor at a time. If you want to build an empire, you have to start with a foundation. Maybe the first week, you’ll reach out to 15 potential leads to see if they have photo needs. Each goal should be attainable but also push you out of your safe zone for the week. Once you reach a goal, don’t stop there. If it worked well, take it to the next level and continue growing your business.
Strive to Keep a Livable Minimum Amount of Savings.
With enough saved, the occasional bad month won’t crush you and leave you selling gear or searching for a day job. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and honestly, having less will motivate you more, but it’s nice to have that cash buffer.
Track Mileage, Photography Expenses, and Freelance Income.
Both expenses and mileage will give you a break on your taxes, and we can all use a break. Your gear is expensive, and it will help you a lot come tax time. Another important note here is to SAVE about 35% of every payment you receive in an account that you won’t touch. This way, you’ll have taxes covered no matter what. When you work for someone else, they typically do this part for you, but you have to remember to save for taxes on your own. Even though it hurts to put that money aside, you’ll be thankful later.
Save Your Money When You Start!
Everyone makes the mistake of buying business cards they don’t hand out, or that just get thrown away. Other common expenses that are unnecessary from day one include websites, stickers for branding, logo costs (seriously, you don’t need a logo yet, and likely never will), software, unimportant gear, and on and on. Focus your time on building a business through sales, not branding. No one will be concerned with your brand as a freelancer, just your name and work quality.
Shoot every day.
Take your camera with you anywhere you go and photograph anything that catches your eye. We are in the digital age, so you aren’t wasting any money or resources by taking more photos. You’re learning, and your camera will become a true extension of your body. Every shot provides instant results so you can see what works and looks good and what doesn’t. The better you know the camera, the more comfortable you’ll be working with paying clients.
Listen to Your Client.
If they have a clear vision for the image they want and try to direct you, do what they say first. You can get creative after the shots they need. Show them you care and trust their judgement, and they will be happy to work with you. Sometimes the shot they visualized is the best photograph possible. As freelance photographers, we are artists. It’s tough to let go of our artistic visions sometimes. There are times when clients need something specific, and they hired us for just that reason. Work WITH your clients, never against them. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
Always Overestimate How Long it Will Take You to Finish the Edits.
This leaves the client happier. Set your actual delivery deadline (without telling them) to a few days earlier. They will be so excited when the images are sent over early and appreciate you putting the time in to rush the order. This is a nice way to guarantee happy photography customers.
Be Clear on Your Pricing for Photo Services.
Even if you never reveal your methods to a client or show it anywhere on your website. Knowing how much to charge for a specific type and length of the shoot will help you avoid underpricing. Whether it’s by the hour or by the shot, set up a number and write it down somewhere. Simply multiply to what the client is asking for and give them a final price. If it doesn’t work with them, have a number you’re comfortable going to and don’t go any lower. If they want to work with you, they will pay what you ask.
We all have insecurities, and sometimes it feels like clients and companies are more important than we are. Keep in mind that we are all people just trying to make a good living for ourselves and our families. No matter what a client’s position is or how important they are, you are the one they are hiring. You have something to offer them that they can’t do themselves, even if you’re only marginally better. Better is better, and you are providing a great service.
This is also important to keep in mind when you price your services. Don’t go lower just because other photographers do; would you rather work for high-end high paying clients or low-end clients that always want a deal? If you aren’t confident and undervalue yourself, then you get stuck in the low-end deal-seeking realm of freelance photography. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.
Ways to Find Customers as a Freelance Photographer
Attend Events With Your Camera in Hand
One of the best ways to get your new customers is to go to events in your area. These don’t have to be photography-industry related events. They can be any events. The more casual or fun the event, the better.
Just remember to take your camera with you. Your purpose here is to meet people, but also to offer to take their pictures. You will have to exchange contacts for that, and you’ll have a prospect. If they love your results, they may use your services or refer you to others.
Build Your Portfolio—for Free or a Reduced Price
The most important thing you can do as a new freelance photographer is to build up your portfolio. When people are considering you as their photographer, they want to see your past work. If you have no past work—tough luck, you’ll have no future work either.
One popular way is for photographers to notice on their social media accounts that they’ll be doing portfolio work and would like some models.
One way to establish yourself as a serious photographer and draw in your clients is by setting up your blog. This could be part of your website, or it could be a free Blogger or WordPress site.
Either way, you’ll be showing off your intellectual and photographic talents. Here you will be talking about photography topics, controversies, new equipment, and even providing bit-by-bit tutorials of everything you’ve learned.
If you’d rather not set up your blog, or even better in addition to your blog, you should start guest posting on sites with greater reach. This can be along with the same topics you’d write for your blog—things you know and are passionate about.
This way, you can get exposure to that site’s hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of readers. This is great exposure (although you’ll probably have more luck on the smaller sites).
Create a Compelling Website
As a photographer, you’ll need to showcase your portfolio. Of course, this being the 21st century, you need to do this digitally to get greater reach and more possibilities.
In short, you need a website. But not just any website. Your skill is your eye for beautiful things—therefore, your site should be just as beautiful as your photography. It should be simple, easy to navigate, and focused mainly on your beautiful pictures.
Network With All Industries
This is important to do. Not only should you be making connections with people in your industry or those closely related (such as photo production, studios, etc.), but also in as many industries as possible.
Besides your printer’s, there may be an art supply store, baker’s, furniture store, even your local hair and beauty shop. The thing about photography is that almost every business would benefit from it.
If you can network with them, they can send you clients, and you can send them some. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that can last for years or even your whole career.
Submit Stock Images
If you’ve got a great portfolio of fantastic images, you don’t have to just sit on them. You can submit them to stock agencies such as iStock. They will allow you to get paid for your images and find (or at least get found by) companies and individuals.
Find Businesses Willing to Hang Your Work
In another freebie method, you can go around (or call around) to different types of businesses willing to hang up your work.
This work can be from your portfolio or work you are willing to do of their business (for free or reduced-price). Not only should you give them the right to hang up your photos, but you should also work to frame them in a way that you’d be proud of.
That way, that business’ customers will see your photos, and you can potentially catch a new client.
Ask for Referrals from Others
One important thing to do is to constantly be asking for referrals from people. These people can be passed (or present) clients. They can also be friends or family that you have worked with.
Of course, these people will have to be familiar with your work. When you get the referrals, you can use them in your marketing materials. You should also place them prominently on your website or social media page.
Join Social Media Groups
Social media is the most important landscape for new businesses for many reasons. One of those is that it will help you to get established and find the right connections.
These groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, for example, should be industry-related. They can be simple photo-sharing groups or photography tips and tricks. The latter is best for finding new clients, as many people will have questions that you may answer.
Even better, you can also have all your questions answered and, of course, making important connections with established photographers. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
Volunteer at Fundraisers
Fundraisers present a great opportunity for photographers. Because they operate on free services and products being offered, you can volunteer your time.
As each fundraiser is an event, it is worthy (and desired by the organizers) to be photographed. They would be happy to have your services, and you could end up rubbing shoulders with local philanthropists. You’ll definitely either get new clients or great referrals.
Teach a Class
Every once in a while, you can offer to teach a one day or one-week class at your local school or library. You can even set up a free event in your studio or other location based on a topic (for example, in a park for nature photography).
Enter Photography Competitions
One other way is to enter photography competitions. These will help you in two ways:
- you could get some money or exposure by being featured in a recognized publication or web site
- you could use the winning event as a way to advertise yourself.
Even better, you should send out notifications to your local newspaper, media outlet, and even school, notifying them that you (a resident, former students, etc.) have won a photography competition. This is a great way to find new customers. Starting to think about hiring a wedding photographer? Check out our range of Mornington Peninsula wedding photography here.