Say cheese: Starting off a freelance photography career

Are you looking to monetize your photography hobby? Here's how you should kick off your freelance photography career so you'll be set for success.
Say cheese: Starting off a freelance photography career

Hero image by Charly Pangus

Photography is a hobby that many people tend to enjoy in their spare time. In fact, taking pictures can even benefit your overall mental health.

It's even possible to use this skill as the foundation of a successful and profitable career. Becoming a freelance photographer is often intimidating, though, and not everyone knows how to go about it.

Not sure where to start? Don't worry, we’ve got you covered.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know about starting your freelance photography career.

Invest in quality equipment

If you want people to pay you for your work as a photographer, you're going to need to present a quality product.

Editing, understanding angles, lighting, etc. go a long way toward how photos look when they're ready to be sent off. But there comes a point where you'll need industry-standard equipment to reach your fullest potential.

The price tag associated with this type of equipment can be intimidating at first. Consider it an investment into both your business and your own skills. 

Lenses are the most important equipment that you should focus on. They often make a significant difference in your photography on their own. As your business grows, consider upgrading to newer lenses in the future.

Keep in mind, though, that a more powerful camera/lens is only a tool and that the skill of the user is much more important. It's crucial to avoid purchasing an expensive device as a way to forego your own improvement as a photographer.

Fortunately, you're able to write off much of your equipment purchases (and even rentals) while filing your taxes, allowing you to get some of your money back.

Get your brand out there

You can't expect people to inquire about your services if they can't find you. So, it's essential for you to get your brand out there in every way that you can.

One of the best ways to do so is to develop a professional website for yourself as a photographer. Not only will this help establish your online presence, but you'll also be able to easily showcase your past work.

When it comes to your portfolio, make sure you have explicit permission from your clients that you're allowed to share photos you took for them. This is especially true if it's a portrait.

Seek out potential clients

Even after you've laid down the framework for people to find your brand online, you still have some work to do when it comes to securing clients.

Before you venture out into your local area, inform your friends and family about what type of work you do. They can pass the word along to people they know.

You could also post in local social media groups (such as Facebook) and offer your services there. Visit local businesses or schools and deliver pamphlets that detail who you are, examples of your past projects, etc.

When it comes to establishing your pricing, look at what other photographers in your area with a similar skill level are charging. You can use their prices as a baseline and then adjust as needed.

Develop your portfolio

As time goes on, you'll want to phase out your lower-quality work from your portfolio and replace it with better, more recent photography projects. This is a surefire way to develop your portfolio while also keeping a large enough variety of your work at all times.

It's also important to branch out into multiple areas of photography so that you can maximize the number of opportunities you encounter. For instance, you can showcase work associated with landscape photography and product shots as opposed to displaying only portrait photography.

If you'd like to focus on a particular area, make the majority of your portfolio that style of work. Then, you can have a section on your website entitled 'Other Projects' to showcase different types of photography.

Create strong relationships with your clients

This step is crucial if you’re serious about long-term success for your brand.

It can be tempting to constantly look for new clients. This is especially true during the early days as a freelance photographer when the thought of not making ends meet looms overhead.

While it’s important to look for more opportunities for photography work, it’s even more important to cultivate the relationships that you already have with existing clients. Not only will repeat clients serve as a form of consistent income, but there’s also a high chance they will tell their friends and family about your services.

As time goes on, it’s likely that you’ll receive more referrals from past clients who were satisfied with your outstanding service.

You can help foster these relationships through a handful of methods:

  • Showing appreciation for customer loyalty by offering discounts
  • Presenting offers that only long-term clients have access to
  • Contacting clients to keep them updated on your current work and any promotions you’re running

From here, you can also set up a referral program that benefits both your old and new clients. Above all else, you need to be pleasant to work with and always provide an exceptional level of service and quality.

Never stop learning

As you grow as a photographer, you’ll find it’s relatively easy to fill up your schedule. As more work comes in and other photographers reach out to collaborate, you may not have as much flexibility as you used to.

Always strive to hone your craft as efficiently as you can. This means conducting independent research on new techniques, attending workshops, and keeping yourself informed about industry trends.

For example, those who specialize in taking candid photos (such as at athletic events) should remember to be as unobtrusive as possible

This will make you stand out even more in your industry compared to your competitors. Over time, this will allow you to form additional business relationships and take your photography career even further.

Starting a freelance photography career can seem difficult...

But it doesn't have to be.

With this information about developing your freelance photography career, you'll be well on your way toward making the decisions that are best for you and your business. 

Want to learn more about building your freelance career? Discover how Hectic can help you run every part of your freelance business.

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Darryl Kelly
Darryl Kelly
Darryl shares what he's learned as both a freelance photographer and freelance consultant. His experience as a freelancer is what led him to co-found Hectic.
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