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Freelance photography

It has been a common joke that the arts do not make money, and even if they do, you cannot exactly make a living as an artist. Though this might have some truth to it, we think that the reason artists don’t make money is not that their art isn’t worth it but that they don’t communicate how much value they can bring. And they do not know how to use their art for commercial purposes...

What is freelance photography?

Freelance photography means you are the ‘lens for hire’, and different clients employ your services. Sounds simple enough, but there are some things that you need to know:

If you want to make money, becoming a freelance photographer is one way to go.

15 Freelance photography tips

Entering freelance photography is easy. But becoming a successful freelance photographer is not. I have witnessed many friends quitting their freelance careers as a photographer.

To prevent the same fate from happening to you, I have compiled 15 tips to achieve success as a freelance photographer. Most people working in freelance photography work as individuals. These Independent self-employed people face many hurdles but enjoy working on exciting projects with their clients.

It’s not an easy path, but let’s start with the first tip!

1. Knowing your niche

Transitioning from a part-time photographer into a full-timer is a lot of work. It also becomes more punishing if you are a jack of all trades, a master of none.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a “jack of all trades” myself. But I have my own particular niche in freelance photography, which makes me more distinguishable among my many competitors.

Finding a niche is an enjoyable process. It should all be about having fun while figuring out what works best for you. There are many niches available to explore in the world of freelance photography.

Some of the most common ones include portrait, wedding, and landscape photography. However, there are so many more available.

You might consider becoming a food photographer, a journalistic photographer, an astrophotographer, or even a sports photographer. The more obscure the subject, the less work there will be available, but the higher the rate is likely to be. Making a name for yourself in a narrow niche can be incredibly rewarding.

2. Create a portfolio

Everyone in the freelance photography business has a portfolio.

These are essential for attracting potential clients! If you are still new to photography, search for “work for free” projects to build your portfolio. Find win-win opportunities with local models or people with similar goals.

Either make it as a pdf or upload it through a website, the choice is yours. With social media ruling the world, you must at least have an Instagram account.

LinkedIn is also useful for finding new business opportunities, even if it is not the most common portfolio location. Patreon is also great if you wish to monetize your images. Try to make your portfolio unique. Curate it in a way that has not been seen before and attracts people’s attention.

3. Buy the necessary equipment

You do have a fitting budget, right?

Maybe it’s time to replace your old laptop notebook with a machine that can handle post-processing faster and better. Assuming you don’t have a quality camera, consider upgrading the camera for your expertise.

Get the correct lens for bokeh, a tripod if you need more stability, lighting, and the list goes on. So, prepare your budget, and a list of essential equipment, and buy them!

Many freelance photographers end up taking out loans or maxing out credit cards to get started. Try to avoid this if possible. A business with debt is never a good start.

If you are lucky enough to have a few clients on the side while working full-time in another industry, try not to spend your photography income. Use this money to invest in the equipment, website, and marketing tools you require to grow your business.

4. Create a pricing strategy

If you do not have strong branding, you are unlikely to be able to set a high price for your service.

Recognize your position in the business and price accordingly. Many regulars in freelance photography use a “package” system.

Package A for $10, package B for $15, and package C for $20. These strategies are common on platforms such as Fiverr. Some people purposely make the first package uninteresting to bait clients into picking the much more expensive packets.

You may also charge different rates for distinct types of clients. For example, B2B work may be priced differently from B2C work. When developing your pricing scheme, consider the expenses and travel costs/time associated with a shoot.

These can quickly build up. If you are engaging an assistant, make sure the pricing fits with their fees, too.

5. Adopt a marketing strategy

Clients cannot find you without marketing, which makes advertising relevant!

Your online portfolio on your website can be counted as one way to advertise your services.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are the usual social media platforms on which to promote business. If you prefer the door-to-door approach and email/visit potential clients, then do it!

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is also critical. This means creating an informative website with written content and photos. A regular blog or article about your work and techniques will be a surefire hit.

6. Create a work schedule

Adjusting your work schedule may be challenging for first-timers in freelance photography.

Sitting on the couch and relaxing is tempting, yet work must be done. Your schedule can look like a simple 9-5 with rest in between. I recommend making a more detailed schedule that includes necessary breaks and daily activities.

While getting out and about is a little hard during the lockdowns, as the world re-opens, don’t be afraid to get out there and meet people. Business is based upon personal relationships, so if you do not build friendships in the industry, you are likely to struggle.

As the saying goes, “It’s who you know, not what you know that matters”.

7. Determination and finding potential clients

Specializing and reaching out to potential clients who need your service is essential.

Let us say you do amazing portraits, then contact a local business and offer your services! Aligning your views and style with their needs will make you appear more trustworthy.

Knowing the ins and outs of your potential clients allows you to pick up circulating trends. Allowing your business to keep up and get more clients. Reputation is everything in this industry, so make sure your rep is one of the good ones!

8. Respond to your emails and messages ASAP

Checking your daily inbox for emails is always a daunting task. There will always be cases of people asking questions in a lousy manner.

Either way, take your time in the morning to check emails and messages. Answer them in a friendly yet professional manner. Give your special/returning client your phone number so you can keep close tabs on them.

Another cool tip is to inform your clients how often and when you check your email. This relieves the pressure to check your email 24/7. If you are away on holiday, it is also a good idea to let your clients know about this too.

Otherwise, that last-minute shoot they need may be given to your biggest rival.

9. Keep track of projects

Nobody is perfect. One way or another, we forget something, or in some cases, projects.

To keep track of your projects, write them down on an application or designated space. Make sure to place them somewhere you always pass by or look at.

Tools like Trello are a fantastic way to organize your work and keep a clear record of the work you have performed. It is also a really easy way to interact with your clients to receive new jobs without the many emails that need to be kept on top of them.

10. Deliver consistent high-quality photographs

To keep a good rating/reputation, make sure your photos are consistent.

You are only as good as your worst photos. Consistency matters a lot, with high-quality photographs over the board everybody wins.

Clients enjoy their gorgeous pictures, and your reputation grows even further. While it is good to post a new pic every day or two, never post a bad image.

It is much better to post nothing than a bad picture. It is usually a good idea to have a reserved batch of images waiting for upload if you have no fresh content or are on holiday.

11. Create a fast/optimal workflow

Post-production matters.

Use whatever software helps you the most. However, please note that some software is better than others in terms of workflow.

Editing using a preset allows you to spend less time manually adjusting it. But make sure your presets are good. There is nothing worse than a bad preset!

I recommend using Lightroom for optimal workflow speed. Use Photoshop only when fixing your client's imperfections. It is also possible to earn additional income from selling presets. However, do not sell your signature look; develop presets specifically for sale.

12. Be prepared for any situation

Well, yes, maybe you can finish 3 projects by Thursday.

But what if your laptop randomly breaks down? Always expect the unexpected and take your time.

Even if you could promise a one-day finish project, you should still take your time to take care of other matters in life. Take your time and be prepared.

Never over-commit. If you know you will fail to meet a deadline, do not commit to it. You will only end up disappointing your clients. It is much better to underpromise and over-deliver.

Build up a network of close contacts with other freelance photographers. Finding someone you really trust is a great way to know if there is a real emergency, you have someone to call on to cover for you (in the case of a shoot) or help out with post-processing.

But be careful; there is always a risk the client may prefer your stand-in work to yours!

13. Keep learning and perfecting your craft

Learning photography and the basic blocks and the more advanced theory may be seen as too much effort.

Yet, you can only go so far in your career with limited knowledge. There are many places to learn your craft, including YouTube, Square Space, and even good old books.

Find materials to either perfect your basic techniques or learn more about your niche. Collaborating with a real-life master is one of the best ways to really learn your trade.

Try to find an experienced mentor whose shoots you can tag along on to really learn from the pros. But be careful that you do not simply become a free intern!

14. Practice makes perfect

Learning theories and practicing them in real-life situations are vastly different.

Some books and even tutorials have managed to make things sound so easy. Even if you have the best equipment in the world, it won’t guarantee quality photos.

The only way to prove your ability in your niche is by practicing. Try them out for yourself if a method suits your style. Not everything works for everyone, so have fun practicing and experimenting!

15. Be confident

Things do go south from time to time. Life is hard, and there will always be ups and downs in your career.

Failures become lessons, and learning from them is a good thing. Be confident and avoid making the same mistake twice. After all, the best sailors always arrive from the harshest seas.

Just be careful not to develop an arrogant streak. Many clients will take offense to this type of personality. However, saying that some of the best artists in the world are the most arrogant.

Just make sure your skill makes up for it!

How do I start freelance photography?

Photography is an art, and inevitably, the artist will heavily influence the art himself.

So, in becoming a freelance photographer, there is merit in finding your niche right away. For example, if you are comfortable with foods and understand saturation settings that can make them look tasty, it makes sense to be a food photographer.

If you do not like being in an office and performing regular duties, corporate clients might not suit you, as they often require the creation of certain templates.

By starting in the right market, you can still maintain idealist artistic views that align with your client’s needs. Therefore, you would be supporting them and not contradicting what they want or need.

The right market also allows you to comfortably build chemistry to forge a long-lasting relationship with the client.

Where do I start as a freelance photographer?

As a freelancer, it is important for you to network and position yourself to create new opportunities and attract the right clients.

1. Contacting

This is what we know as the cold-calling period, or when you will connect with the people you want to offer your services to.

This can be done by performing free work at church, a gig at a relative’s wedding, and general volunteering. This way, you can gain new clients and build your portfolio. Join a Facebook freelancers’ group and actively look for potential clients on platforms such as Fiverr and

Newspapers, businesses, and influencers often look for photographers there too!

2. Positioning

Positioning is the art of establishing a presence in the market so that you can attract clients instead of chasing them.

Make sure you have a relevant portfolio hub. Be it Instagram, Facebook, or even better, a professional website, you are showing people that you can handle artistic photos with commercial relevance.

Write a post on LinkedIn and tell people about your vision or share technical ‘how-to's' to make people see that you are a proficient and experienced photographer.

Join a group and be a prominent member there. This way, people will talk about you, and that itself is a form of promotion.

How do freelance photographers find work?

1. Communication agencies

There are many types of agencies in the fields of Public Relations, Branding, Advertising, and Social Media.

They constantly need content, and a large part of content marketing involves photography. These agencies can be your prospects. Get on Google or LinkedIn and search for people who work in agencies, then send them your portfolio and profile.

Ask them to contact you should they need photographers. These agencies often prefer individual photographers to teams because individual workers are paid less. However, it is quite a hefty price for that individual worker compared to average earnings.

Other than looking for people, you can also look for jobs on, Fiverr, and other freelancing platforms.

2. Company marketing division

Marketing divisions, especially those in product-based companies like retail, dairy producers, and food chains, constantly need photos of their products for marketing purposes.

This can be your opportunity. These days, the online space makes it much easier to connect with them. Company marketers are usually in contact with professional and seasoned photographers with significant reputations.

Our tip here is to make sure that you communicate their message. Many photographers forget that their clients need something that captures attention, even though it has been promoted several times before.

3. Influencers

Yes, this is a booming market. Influencers often hire personal photographers to take pictures of their collections and themselves.

Most influencers that use photography services are beauty influencers and urban influencers. Just note that working with influencers is good for practice and networking, but it might not make you popular.

4. Beauty influencers

Beauty influencers are more likely to require portraits. If you are interested in portrait photography, this might be your job.

Beauty influencers often have specific styles that you will have to emulate in their photos. This can be cutesy, sexy, or elegant. Other than that, some products that they might endorse include dresses and cosmetics, so you will need to be able to photograph those, too.

5. Urban/hip influencers

Indie singers, rebel personalities, and indie rappers are people who aren’t normally associated with being in front of the camera. Still, for promotional purposes, they need to market themselves within their niches.

These kinds of influencers also need portraits quite often, so you must have some skills in portrait photography and, ideally, a love for the genre.

6. Retainer option

A retainer is a freelance worker who is contracted for an extended period.

If you are hearing about a retainer opportunity, it is an excellent choice that allows you to get a steady income while still being a freelancer.

Retainers are often sought by big companies or agencies that need a specific job done for campaigns and big projects. It is a good balance to have one retainer project and several other freelancing projects.

How much do freelance photographers get paid?

Everyone wonders about their average freelance photographer's salary. They should be making decent pay with their fancy gadgets, right?

PayScale mentions on its website that the average hourly pay is $25.32 when this article was published. The results may differ depending on your location and experience. Remember, you will not normally get paid for travel time to a shoot.

So, next time you see a great ad for a shoot in a neighboring state, consider the time, costs, and expenses involved in getting there. It may actually make you more money to perform 2-3 small jobs in the same time period as one big job.

However, if you are looking for serious portfolio pieces, it may make sense to take a bigger, more prestigious job. It is not always about the money!

Another consideration you may think about is the need for a manager. At some point, the admin overhead may start to detract from your creative work. If the budget allows, consider hiring a manager.

How do I become a freelance photographer with no experience?

Simple, get some experience! Offer free shoots for family and friends, and slowly build up an Instagram, Flickr, or Facebook portfolio.

Use this portfolio to apply for small freelance jobs on sites such as Upwork or Fiverr. With time, the jobs will get bigger and bigger. Starting full-time in the freelance photography business is not easy.

In addition to taking great photos, you must start to understand the business side of things. The tips listed above should help you start.

There is no need to rush out and quit your day job to become a freelance photographer. Start by doing it as a side job in the evenings and weekends.

This will give you time to develop your skills while earning money to buy better equipment. Marketing yourself is one of the most important tasks you face. If people do not see your work, they will never know how to hire you. Make sure it is out there for the world to see!

There are many ways to get involved as a Freelance photographer. If there is one tip to hold onto for life, it is to always add value to your photos and create the right messaging. Gear matters less than your skill when it comes to bringing the best out of your client’s brief.

Remember that aesthetics without relevance will not help you survive in the new economy. Keep reinventing and training yourself. Good luck!

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