Do you want to be a freelance photographer?
Ask a freelance photographer if you should follow in their footsteps and become a freelancer, and you'll get one answer. Ask a different freelancer the same question, and you might get a completely different answer.
One might extol the virtues of running your own calendar and picking up projects here and there. The other might paint a different picture of unreliable income and the stress of looking for your next gig.
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to life as a freelancer. In many ways, the diverse responses - some positive, some negative - pretty much reflect the reality of being a freelance photographer. It's definitely not a career likely to attract someone wanting a guaranteed pay-check and schedule from day one in the profession.
Before you become a freelance photographer, here are a few housekeeping items you'll want to consider.
Unpredictable work: The truth is that it can be very challenging to eke out a living from freelance gigs. Unless you already have a steady roster of clients somehow, work is likely to come very intermittently. Before you quit your full-time paying job and launch head-on into freelancing, you should consider whether your bank account can sustain you between projects.
If you have a full-time paying job, you might want to begin picking up freelance jobs as a side hustle, slowly building up a roster of clients as you work your way into full-time freelancing work.
Hidden costs: You will need to consider expenses such as paying for health and liability insurance, bookkeeping, studio, or office space at some point. As you grow, you might need to hire an assistant, which will require you to supervise them and handle payroll stuff.
Ideas for freelancing: Now that you've considered certain housekeeping items, let's move on to WHERE or HOW you might be able to earn some money freelancing!
Stock photography: We've written about selling stock photography in previous blog posts, but it's worth mentioning here as well. Selling your images to stock agencies has potential even if it's not guaranteed income. Study an agency's rules for submitting (and selling) to better your chances of selling your stuff. There can be a significant difference in what agencies pay, so it's worth doing your homework on this.
Small businesses: Most small businesses are going to need photos at some point, whether it's for their website, marketing, or social media. Network with small business owners and cultivate relationships with them. Don't forget to consider those professions reliant on a gallery of images featuring their work such as architects, interior designers, general contractors, and even artists.
Assist other photographers: Busy photographers will often use freelancers to help them out when they need a second shooter for an event or photo shoot. Reach out to the wedding, family, or special event photographers. Not only is this an excellent way to get some work, but it's also a great way to learn more about specialising in one of these areas.
While you might be able to pick up some work assisting other photographers, remember that you never want to take business or a specific client away from someone. Keep in mind also that wedding photography, in particular, is a highly competitive market. Breaking into it as a freelancer rather than as an assistant photographer means being one of the best in your geographical area.
Sell your prints: You can certainly start your freelance career by selling your prints either online or at local art festivals. Besides creating your own website to sell your photographs, there are several online sites such as Etsy and Society6 where you can set up virtual storefronts. Then there are arts and crafts festivals and markets. These can be pretty time intensive, but can at minimum give you some exposure.
Journalism work: You don't have to join the paparazzi to earn some money - although they definitely can make a lot of money! Often, there are local news and entertainment organisations locally that will pay for newsworthy images. Do some research. This can be a tight area to break into and not always the highest paying.
If you need to know more do checkout Pixpa's ultimate guide on freelance photography.