Art in the Professions
Freelance Photographer: a self-employed photographer hired to work for different companies or clients on particular assignments
So you've got your camera, have gathered some experience and feel like you're ready to start using your photography skills as a source of income. You enjoy portraiture and are now considering freelance portrait photography as an option. This topic will be presented over projecteducate
's Art in the Professions Week in two parts: the first part
looks at the things you should take into account before you start and this part examines how to start and grow your business.
Setting Up Your BusinessSource
Now that you feel prepared enough to take the next step, here are some suggestions to help you set up and launch your business. Topics covered: Investments, Financing and Pricing, Registering your Business, and Going Online.
Investments, Financing and Pricing
I listed this first because it will lay the foundation for your new business. Factors such as budget planning, equipment investment, financing and pricing your services are all things you should carefully look into.
Determining Your Start-up Budget
Deciding on a specific budget for your start-up costs will help you to plan your purchases better and avoid unnecessary spending. Do your research on registration, advertising, equipment and other expenses. Make a list of expected expenses and adjust your budget accordingly. List the most important expenditures first and take out things that you might want to have but don't necessarily need at this point. Prioritising will help you to make the most out of your budget.
The most vital piece of equipment that you need to have is a good lens. Lenses that allow a shallow depth of field can help you to capture stunning portraits. You can always upgrade the body later, but a good lens goes a long way! That doesn't mean that you have to spend all your savings at once. Many businesses allow financing of photography equipment, which will allow you to get good quality lenses that you would not have been able to afford in a lump sum. Where I live, in Germany, some businesses allow 0% financing, but other businesses would most likely charge interest on payments. Be aware of these interest rates, and make sure that you will realistically be able to make the monthly payments. Alternatively, you could also rent equipment instead of buying them.Source
Other important investments include good memory cards, a sturdy camera bag and a tripod. Additional equipment to consider: in the beginning, you may not use these very often, but reflectors are available at reasonable prices and can help to highlight a subject's face to make portraits more flattering.
Finding the right price for your work could be quite a challenge in the beginning. You will find that, while you may want to set a general price for certain shoots, other expenses and conditions make your prices vary more than you expected. Looking at competition pricing, outlining your expenses and taking your time into account will help you to determine a fair and feasible price.
In order to get an idea of where to start, having a look at the price range of other photographers in your area can be very helpful. You may not always find prices, but some do have open quotes. This will help you to gauge what your starting price could be.
After determining where you should start, you need to be careful to outline all of your potential expenses. As a freelancer, you may not have the overhead cost of a studio, but there are other costs that could make a significant difference that you may not think about at first. Some expenses to consider are:
It is vital to do your research about shooting venues to make sure that you do not overlook any of these additional costs and include them in your price.
It's easy to just say "ok, the shoot will take two hours, so I will calculate how much two hours of work should be paid". No. You will be editing. You will have to communicate with the client. You'll have to set-up your shoot. You'll have to do many other things that don't just involve the shoot. Be sure to take this time into account and adjust your price accordingly! When I first started freelancing, I completely underestimated the time I needed to finish the job at home and I realised that I was charging far too little for my time. Value your time.
Many photographers lack confidence in the beginning. One bit of advice I would give is to not set your price unrealistically low just to get clients. If you do, you'll risk having to deal with people who don't value your work and will demand far too much for a small price. If you think that your client might potentially have this kind of attitude, then do not cave in. It is not worth it. Avoid situations like this for your sanity. Not only will you be guilty of price dumping and anger fellow photographers who price fairly, but you will also put unnecessary, almost unpaid strain on yourself. Source
It's ok to offer a low price to family, friends, and special cases, but it's up to you to decide how low you are willing to go. I have personally had some good experiences with clients who were on a small budget and got some valuable experience. It's up to you to determine the type of client you're dealing with and if it is worth it. Source
On the other hand, overpricing your work will not land you many clients. As mentioned earlier, check what the average price for your planned type of photography is in your region. Compare their skill level to yours. If believe that you are capable of better, then it is fair to charge a higher price. If you need to improve to reach their level, then consider a lower price and work your way up.
Lastly, while you should value your work, there is nothing wrong with doing free work to gain experience. Many of my models in the beginning were my friends and I learnt many valuable lessons from doing shoots with them that prepared me for my commercial work. Participating in competitions, doing TFP
, and having personal, creative shoots, can help you to enhance your portfolio, which in turn can be valuable for future business.
Here are some additional and more in-depth tips on how to plan your pricing: 6 Budget Planning Steps to Professional Project EstimatesFreelancing: a Complete Guide to Setting and Negotiating Rates
Register Your Business.
Having a source of income means that you will have to register as a business, depending on the laws of your country. You may need to register as self-employed. There are benefits to this. Firstly, you gain legitimacy with your clients, have freedom to advertise, you will avoid getting in trouble with the law, and you may receive some tax benefits.
In some countries, such as Germany, you may need to register
at the chamber of trade and pay a yearly fee to be registered as a photographer. This can be very disadvantageous if you don't have the money, but those are the rules. If you do not register and you get paid for photography jobs, then the chamber can legally demand payment after they find out about it. Sounds scary, but yeah, it's something you need to be aware of. Be sure to check if your country has similar requirements to avoid unnecessary conflict in future.
It's 2015. You need
to have an online presence. This is how your clients will find you. This is how they will book your shoots. This is how you will showcase your work.
Creating a website for your photography is a must. Having a profile on other websites is good, but having your own website will build more legitimacy for you in the eyes of the client. It shows that you are serious about your work and are a real professional. Contact forms on your website will make it easy for clients to request more information and book shoots. Be sure to only display your best work on your online portfolio. You want to impress!
Your website doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg to maintain. There are many sites that will give you free web-hosting services and you can choose from many professional-looking design templates. If it's free, then you'll have to accept a domain name under the parent site, but it's not so bad for the beginning. If you can afford it, I would suggest paying for a custom domain name so that the website appears even more professional. Not having a paid domain shouldn't influence your first clients' purchase decision very much though, so don't worry if you can't afford it right away!
This is so, so important! The free advertising that you can have from setting up an account on social media for your business can really make a difference. Set up a Facebook page and invite your friends and family. You're already on DeviantArt so interact and share! You can join groups, check out the forums and enter contests. Link to your different social media profiles under your work. If people like your stuff, they will find you. The beginning will always be pretty slow, but if you stay active, it will catch on. If you've got a budget for advertising, you should check out the options for DeviantArt's AdCast
Next, if you have the funds for advertising outside of DeviantArt, then I would suggest trying paid advertising on Facebook. The free page works well, but it won't show your work to all of your fans and progress can be slow. Facebook advertising allows you to boost your page by targeting specific demographics in specific locations with specific interests, which can improve your chances of getting noticed. I'm mentioning Facebook because I've used it myself and have found it to work really well. You'll need to do a test-run or two before you figure out the best approach for your page.
You can also use twitter, instagram and pinterest to your advantage.
Search engines are how many people will find you. Using relevant and effective keywords for your website will improve your chances of being found. Utilising tools such as Google Adwords
could also be helpful to achieve your business goals. Google provides many videos about how keywords work and how you can use them to improve your search ranking. Other search engines also provide ways to grab some more attention with options such as Bing Ads
. Go explore your options!
Growing Your Business
Check out these tips on how to draw more attention to your business and help it to flourish!
Keep your online pages active by regularly uploading new content and interacting with your followers, fellow community members and fans. Go out and do some workshops. If you have a slow week, check out some of your old shoots and do some new edits, or call up a friend and do a new shoot. Keep going and watch your business grow!
Get to know your clients. Meet with them, communicate with them on the phone or chat with them online to find out what they like. This will help them to become more comfortable around you and will make it easier during the shoot. If they have a really good experience with you, they are bound to recommend you to their friends and family. I've gotten quite a handful of jobs just from recommendations.
Also, be sure to quickly answer any inquiries from current and potential clients. This will give them the assurance that you are taking them seriously, which they will appreciate. Especially in highly competitive fields like photography, people will often seek out more than one option for their jobs, so quick action could hinder potential clientèle loss.
Network with other photographers. You could learn some useful things about the industry from them and even make some new friends or business partners. You never know.
Enhance Your Skills. Get Creative.Source
Keep experimenting with new ideas. Go out there and learn from the pros. Do some reading; visit workshops and courses. There are so many free to use resources online about photography. Go out and explore them! Honing your skills will help you to develop your unique selling point and grow your business!
Upgrade Your EquipmentSource
Once you've brought in your first couple of paychecks, then you could consider upgrading your photography equipment. If you're starting off with a cropped frame camera, think about going full frame
. Buy new lenses that will help you to enhance your photography. Check out lighting equipment options and other gear. Of course, the quality of your work depends greatly on your skills, but better quality equipment could bump it up a few notches. Higher quality work will make you more attractive on the market.
So there you have it! These are my tips on how to prepare for your freelance endeavours as a portrait photographer. The advice I gave are based on my own personal experiences as a freelancer. I hope that it was in some way helpful and if you have any questions, feel free to comment under this article or send me a message! Good luck!
Further Reading:Beginner's Guide: Freelance Portrait Photography I14 Tips to be a Successful Freelance Photographer11 Things Photographers Wish They Knew Before Going Freelance