Some days I’m the ocean, some days I’m the ship.
Tonight I’m the lighthouse:
At the edge, alone, and burning
As a freelancer, no matter where we are in our career, we are our own lighthouse. We are our own boss. We work off our study table, dining table (in my case), a cozy corner in the coffee shop, from our beds to our best friend’s comfy sofa because complaining and working together is sometimes the only way to cope with deadlines or a dead season.
To begin with, the random journal entries and the pointers mentioned below is what I have learnt so far. Things that I wished someone told me, things that I realized later on field feeling totally vulnerable on the inside and some what confident on the outside because like Rahul (@pixelavid) from Instagram says,
"Fake it till you make it. Confidence is key"
Also find out what some of the talented artists from Instagram have to say about the same through out this article.
SETTING YOUR RATE
‘Am I charging enough?’ is a question every freelance photographer has asked themselves at some point, and which many keep on asking till the day they put down their camera for good.
"If you'd go down to how much they want to pay you even without recognizing your efforts, its not really worth for you and other artists like you" - Pooja Kaundal
Knowing how much to charge for a specific type and length of shoot will help you avoid underpricing. Whether it’s by the hour or by the shot, set up a number and write it down somewhere.
Simply multiply to what the client is asking for and give them a final price.
If it doesn’t work with them have a number you’re comfortable with and don’t go any lower. Don’t worry too much about loosing projects. Your work and vibe will attract the right kind, YOUR kind of clients.
"Don't be afraid to ask the clients about their budget" - Sanketh (@sankethcaptures)
"Don't make it about money, cause it is a flood or a famine. If you quit your current job just to be a freelancer for passion, money is important but it will come in bits, be patient about it" - Saipoornima (@sasha.okay.please)
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Commit to communicating well with your subjects, prospects, and potential customers. One of the prime examples can be directing a model. We all feel a little lost sometimes but with practice and on field experience it tends to get better.
"Don't do every project out of desperation.
Quality > Quantity" - Saipoornima (@sasha.okay.please)
Becoming a great communicator is the number one business tip for freelancers. Be the kind of person and professional you’d want to hire. This is THE most important skill any person, in any field, can have. This is counter-intuitive because most people think they’re already competent communicators. A few quick clicks around social media tells us otherwise.
Getting the job often comes down to one person making a strong connection with a decision-maker over another person. Remember: first impressions count, and first impressions last. I’ve realized and learnt this the hard way. So all that “let my work speak for me” crap will not work if you don’t deliver yourself well in person.
GROW UP AND SHOW UP
2019 has been a good year in terms of “stepping out of the comfort zone”. This is a new territory for me and I am slowly learning the importance of showing up at places where I just need to be in order to grow.
Platforms like DYSCO, a professional networking platform who host fun and intimate industry based events are a blessing to all the freelancers today. One of my first events was Beta & Beyond by DYSCO where fashion industry professionals talked to us about how they started their journey with big question marks themselves. Being nervous and fumbling while trying to make a conversation is normal. It helps and it makes a difference. An effective one.
Another low key way to get out there and be visible is to go on Instagram Meet & Greets, Art exhibits and exploring websites like MeetUp, where you can join local groups in the city for any activity you like. Consider every new person you meet or a contact you make a valuable connection for future collaborations and commissions. Be yourself but draw a line, you must come across as professional, competent and easy to work with. Doing so will make you more memorable, and someone easier to say yes to when the time comes to ask for a job.
LEARN FROM THE BEST
Platforms like YouTube and Skill Share will always be one of the greater mediums to learn anything and everything you need to know about your field. However if you use social media correctly and done cribbing about the algorithm, quality photography coaching is available with a little research and a few keystrokes.
Keep an eye out on workshops and sessions hosted by photographers who you look up to and share a similar aesthetic with. Investing in one-on-one photography coaching could advance your skills faster. It is the best money you will ever spend.
This year I attended my first workshop hosted by one of my favorite fashion photographers, Anai Bharucha. It was a learning curve in my career. One of the firsts but an important one. Point being, investing in such workshops gives you a real time experience and an opportunity to learn from best in the field. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, most photographers also do a portfolio review and their constructive feedback helps you be more precise and current in the industry.
KEEP IT LEGAL
It is very very very important for a freelancer to protect their work. Starting with having a neat and crisp Invoice layout. I would suggest to not make it fancy and colorful and keep it very precise. Your invoice should have a summary of the project and precise numbers and dates when the advance and the installment is overdue.
Keep everything on Email.
"Get every little detail confirmed via email or have a contract" - Millniece (@mill_niece)
Another important lesson I’ve learned this year is to be thorough with everything. How many photographs am I giving out, for what purpose are the photographs being used, etc. Copywriting your work is very essential once you learn from your mistakes and experiences.
Always have a Terms & Conditions document attached with your Invoice. Believe me, this helps the client take you and your work more seriously and it shows that you care a great deal about your work. Standing up for your own company legally not only boosts self-confidence but also delivers your passion as a legit business.
IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Being a freelancer is definitely not easy. It can be scary and totally unpredictable. You are fighting for your place in an industry where anyone who owns a phone with a good camera deems to be a photographer. Being a freelancer can also leave you panicking in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon feeling like you should be doing a full time job instead. But believe me if you choose to fight through the quiet days, a solution to your anxious thoughts is right in the corner, waiting for you to reach out.
After all, we are our own lighthouse.
The storm can shake the sea but our light will always guide us to where we need to be.
Featured image courtesy by Cécile Gariépy