Do have a passion for photographing the world around you, but wish you had more time to do just that? Well, learning how to become a freelance photographer might be just the career move you’re craving.
But freelance photography isn’t easy. Just looking at the work stats of a five-year freelance photographer shows you everything you need to know about the instability and man-hours that go into this line of work.
Still, the hardships of freelancing fail to stop many aspiring photographers. In fact, the vast majority of today’s photography work is done by the self-employed.
So, how do you get to a point where you can take that final leap of faith and call yourself a professional freelance photographer?
How to Be a Freelance Photographer: Getting Started
Okay, we’re just going to get this out of the way:
If you want to become a freelance photographer, you need to know how to take high-quality photos.
Yes, some aspects of photography rely on sheer creative talent. But many of the skills you’ll rely on throughout your career are entirely learned.
With that said, whether you’re self-taught or have a photography degree under your belt, getting into the world of freelance photography isn’t easy. If you can pull it off, though, the profession is extremely rewarding.
What type of photography will you offer?
It would be nice if all it took was a leisurely walk around a park and a few shots of blooming flowers to make it as a professional photographer.
Unfortunately, that’s almost never the case.
As a freelance photographer, you’ll probably be working with clients. And if you want to attract these clients, you’ll need to offer a service that they want or need.
Some of the most popular types of photography include portrait, wedding, graduation, and newborn. However, there are also professionals that photograph homes for sale, food, sporting events, and much more.
If there’s a demand for it and you have the skills, the rest is on you.
Tools You’ll Need to Become a Successful Freelance Photographer
As far as creative fields go, photography may be one of the most expensive to effectively break into.
So, if you want the best chance of becoming a successful freelance photographer, it’s important to know the things you need...as well as the things you don’t.
If you’re like most serious photographers, you rely on a DSLR camera for your work. While you probably already own one, this is the first piece of equipment every freelance photographer needs.
Generally, one camera base will suit you just fine. And, while your experience may vary, most photographers recommend investing in a less expensive base and spending the bulk of your funds on a high-quality lens collection.
Again — if you’ve gotten this far, we’re probably preaching to the choir. But a well-rounded collection of lenses if vital to any freelance photography endeavor.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend thousands of dollars on a complete set for your camera base.
Instead, pick and choose which lens types will suit your work (and your clients’ needs) best. You can always invest in more lenses down the road.
Very few photographers deliver their finished files to clients entirely unedited and still in RAW format. Remember, your clients are likely coming to you because they have little, if any, photography knowledge of their own.
Many casual photographers rely on some sort of post-processing software, but you may need to upgrade as your business grows.
Don’t jump into buying the latest and greatest Adobe subscription just yet. But do plan to invest in some professional-level software sooner rather than later.
Finally, you can’t neglect the business side of freelancing. If you do, your career as a professional photographer will be quite short-lived.
Between snapping incredible photos and sending off your final edits for approval, you also need to take steps to actually get paid by your clients.
While you could go the old-fashioned route and rely on paper invoices and expense tracking, this is a waste of your time and could even cost you money through your own human error.
Plus, your clients probably don’t want to deal with the hassle of paying their invoices through the mail.
With software like invoicely, you can handle all of your invoicing and expense tracking needs in one place. You can even create professional estimates and let your clients pay directly online.
All it takes is a few clicks of your mouse, and everything is set and ready for your clients’ approval.
Learn how to create a photography invoice: https://blog.invoicely.com/photography-invoice/
Advertising Your Photography Skills to Potential Clients
In the world of freelance photography, seeing really is believing. So when it comes time to land clients, you need to stop and think about how you’re going to get potential paying customers to see your work.
While a printed-and-bound portfolio looks great in an office or laid out in front of a client, this tool is best used when you already have someone interested in your work. Yes, you can make a great impression with this professional touch, but it won’t bring in potential leads from off of the street.
Instead, think digital. And when we say that, at least in the current tech era, we mostly mean social media.
Instagram is an invaluable tool for all types of photographers. After all, the whole point of the platform is to share and, on the flip-side, gaze at incredible photos.
On top of Instagram, consider also sharing your top-quality photos on other platforms like Reddit or Twitter.
Your goal is to get as many pairs of eyes on your photos as possible, with the hope that at least one of these sets will turn out to be a prospective client.
Of course, make sure not to neglect your professional website. In the end, this is where you should be trying to steer people who find your photos across the Internet or social media and now want to learn more.
You’ve hooked them, now reel them in.
Other Ways to Make Money with Freelance Photography
Maybe you want to try out making a little extra spending cash on the side. Or, perhaps, you’re just not that interested in working one-on-one with (potentially difficult or controlling) clients.
If your photography is more of a creative outlet than a professional skill set, and you want to keep it that way, there are other ways to make money through freelance photography.
Sell your photos as artwork
Most photographers, professional or not, see their work as art. But have you ever thought of putting your work in front of real, paying customers who might have a blank space or two on their living room walls?
While a potential customer might not look twice at one of your photographs on a smartphone screen, it could be a completely different story once you print and frame the same image.
You can also make posters, canvas prints, postcards, magnets, and much more.
But how do you get your photography goods and your potential customers together?
You could try participating in a farmer’s market or craft fair, if you have something available locally. You can also reach out to locally owned shops and see if they accept work from regional artists.
If selling in-person isn’t your style, you always have the option of opening an online shop. While Etsy is the most user-friendly choice, you can also look into platforms like Shopify.
Create stock photography
There are two main business models in the stock photography world.
First, you can straight-up put a price on your work and the rights of using it for personal or commercial projects. The easiest way to do this is through a platform like Shutterstock or Getty Images.
The obvious downside to this option is that the stock photo market is undeniably flooded.
Do you really have something that no one else has already listed? And if you don’t, can your photos compete with what’s currently available?
Paid stock photos aren’t cheap. So customers won’t pay for your images if they don’t fit the bill.
Second, you can offer your photos for free (but with certain use restrictions, if you so choose) with the option for those who use your photos to pay what they want. One of the most popular stock photo sites that offer this is Pixabay (where donations are called “Coffee”).
Keep in mind, though, that this second option almost guarantees that most people will be using your photos for free. And you’ll have no legal recourse as long as they follow the use guidelines provided.
Freelance photography is a tricky world. But for those with the skills and passion, there’s nothing else they’d rather do.
Learn more about how invoicely can streamline your client invoicing process and discover inspiration for creating your own freelance photography invoices.