5 Things to Know about being a Freelance Photographer
I've been meaning to write this for a while. I've been a freelancer for almost 3 years now and to be perfectly honest with you, I think everyone should be a freelancer because I love it so much. But when I first became a freelancer, I had no idea what a freelancer was. I've always thought you needed a full time job to make money. So this blogpost is to get you guys started on what being a freelancer looks like and if it's for you!
1. Freelancer photographers operate on their own schedule
This is probably my most favorite part of freelancing. I love being able to take lunch at a restaurant on a weekday and not having to feel stressed about getting back within my "lunch hour."
The reason freelancers can operate on their own schedule is because we operate on deadlines. So if something is due on Friday-- as long as I finish my work before the deadline, I can divide my time however I like. I love the flexibility of this. This means I could book a travel date and not be constricted to a 9-5 schedule as long as I make my deadlines!
2. Freelancer photographers have to create their own business model
The key thing to know about this is-- you're your own boss. So you can decide how much you charge clients, when to edit, when to turn in deadlines. The autonomy is endless. You're no longer at the mercy of your boss about getting a raise for the next year, you can just raise your prices on your clients the next year. (Just FYI I don't recommend doing this with repeating clients-- only for new clients for the upcoming year.)
This also means it's a little like stabbing in the dark until you can find a price point where your clients are happy with and will keep coming back to you. This takes time. But the one thing I've found to work the best for me is to have one pricing structure and to stick with it. (Comment below if you guys want me to do a post on pricing!)
3. Freelance photographers play multiple roles
I can't tell you how much of my time is spent answering client emails vs shooting vs editing photos. Suddenly my role went from being just a photographer to customer service, business manager, accountant, etc. When you're a freelancer, you need to consider yourself as a company and manage your projects and brand as such. (I actually filed for an LLC day 1 when I quit my full time job so I can get into the habit of treating my company as a real company vs being just a sole proprietor.) This is important to know and keep in mind because I never knew I would suddenly become so much more than a photographer. When I'm thinking about ways to grow Rosalie Agency it feels like I'm more of a business manager than just a photographer.
4. Freelancer photographers need to be ready for "boom or bust"
When I was at photography school, one of my instructors told us that he went bankrupt as a professional photographer in his 30s. That story stuck with me because it's unfortunately the harsh reality of being a freelancer. As a freelancer you're your own brand and sometimes you'll have 3 clients, and other months 10 clients. When a dry spell happens you need to have enough savings to get you through so you don't end up in a really bad situation.
When I first started as a freelancer, I started out with one client. I was unemployed and didn't really know what to do next. I was looking online for jobs but the idea of going somewhere full time at another company really didn't appeal to me. I started reaching out to people who had asked me to shoot (jobs I couldn't take on since I was working full time) and one by one I started booking-- the first few months I only had 2-3 clients, and by the end of last year I ended 2017 with 13 clients. (That's a 4x growth!)
This is probably the hardest part about being a photographer is getting consistent jobs. In the beginning I used to get really unmotivated and depressed about not booking. There would be days where it would be noon and I was still in my PJs just refreshing my email. It's hard to believe now because Rosalie Agency is so busy that we expanded to opening our own studio last year but it really does take time and patience and HARD WORK! So if I can do it, you can do it too.
5. Freelancers are hustlers
Being a freelancer is the hardest thing I've ever done. I've had difficult work situations before, but it was always within the constraints of an institution so at the very least I had a stable job. Sure work might suck, but try going a month without booking a job and odds are, you're going to wish you were back at that shitty job.
As a freelancer, there's a huge emotional toll that no one really talks about. You have to be your own self motivator. You have to be professional with your clients so they book you again, or refer to you other people. You have to know when to give discounts and when to be firm with your pricing. You have to know when to treat your team well and when to let them go. You have to put your business first because you're now building something that is all yours.
Freelancers are hustlers because freelancing is risky. There's no guarantee that you'll be successful. There's no guarantee paycheck at the end of the month. It's all entirely up to you. This initially scared the crap out of me, but now I thrive from that energy. I love not knowing what next month may hold. I've learned now that the unknown is not scary-- it's exciting and full of potential. You never know what the next email could be!
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Rosalie Agency. I've worked 6 years at full time photography jobs before quitting and starting my own company. I continue to improve my craft every day and think of ways to grow my brand every day. It's both an exhilarating and draining job, but I 100% wouldn't have it any other way. If you guys are considering freelancing, I would definitely recommend this. Even if it's just for a little bit. I think freelancing helps strengthen your character and forces you to think in ways you otherwise wouldn't have if you were at a full time job.
Want to know the first steps to becoming a freelancer? Stay tuned for my next blog post (: