How To Build A Career As A Freelance Photographer

by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist

Published in Lifestyle on 19th November, 2018

Got big dreams to travel the world, explore undiscovered places, be involved in other people's most important days? Or maybe you just want to work as and when you want, exploring your creativity as you go? There are so many different reasons to become a freelance photographer, but the challenge can seem daunting at first, so in this guide we'll run you through the basic steps to becoming a freelance photographer.

Why Become A Freelance Photographer?

Many people have dreams of becoming a photographer or artist of some sort, but are never sure if it's worth it, or if they'll even be able to. If you're reading this, you might already be a photographer, and considering a career switch to working for yourself. Freelancing isn't easy, but the rewards can be substantial. The ability to decide when and where you work, never having to answer to a "boss" and having greater control over your cash flow are all enticing incentives. Ultimately however, you will need a love for and genuine skill in photography to enjoy being a freelance photographer. As with any freelancing career, there will be many occasions where you will fail miserably, or make less money than you thought you would. These setbacks can sometimes be quite severe, and without the stability of regular work to turn to, it is your passion and determination to succeed that will see you through.

become a freelance photographer

There are many freelance photographers who travel the world with their work, photographing weddings or pets or producing work for magazines, and there are still more who are content to stay where they are and work locally. The flexibility and freedom of a freelancing career is liberating. Whether you are considering freelancing photography as a new career or as a new spin on an existing one, know that there is no one way to pursue a freelance career - you have to make it up as you go along.

Educating yourself

First things first: education. If you're already a professional photographer, you'll be able to skip most of this section. If photography is something you find fun, but isn't necessarily a profession for you just yet, you'll need to get educated. Luckily, since the dawn of the internet, this has become increasingly easier and more accessible. No longer do you have to go to college for years or find an experienced photographer to teach you the ropes: it's all available online. All you need to know is where to look.

You might want to pay for a short course at a bricks-and-mortar institution - this way, you'll be able to access teachers directly, get feedback and interact with other students. You may also find it easier to stay motivated and concentrated on your goal of becoming a freelance photographer if you're studying with a group of other people who have similar goals.

educating yourself freelance photographer

If you're looking to save as much money as possible however, there is a cheaper way to go about it, it might just take a bit more trial and error. Online education platforms such as Skillshare have been popping up all over the internet in the last few years, and they are choc-a-bloc full of professional photographers giving you their best advice. If you can, try to create a curriculum of sorts to give yourself an outline of what you need to learn, and then get cracking watching as many videos and online tutorials as possible, and implementing what you've learnt as you go. Eventually, you will get there.

Getting The Right Equipment

You can be a good photographer with almost any smartphone camera these days, but there's no denying that a decent camera setup and proper equipment lends you a certain air of professionalism that is important when working for clients. It doesn't have to be expensive straight away, you can build up your collection of photo equipment as you progress. You may already have a huge stash of lenses and various different stabilisation devices, and in which case, you're probably good to go. If you're just starting out however, getting yourself a decent DSLR camera, and some basic equipment such as a tripod, stabiliser etc can go a long way.

Branding And Marketing Yourself

In order to breakthrough as a photographer in a fairly saturated market, you'll need to find a way to make yourself stand out. Creating a personal brand and marketing yourself well is vital for attracting clients. It doesn't have to take long or cost a lot either. Almost every photographer should have an Instagram account to showcase your work, which will often be the first place clients look to learn more about you - so make sure it looks good. A well-thought out theme and decent photo's will tell any potential clients that you mean business right from the get-go.

marketing yourself freelance photographer

You'll also most likely need a website too, as this is where you can put contact information, pricing and more in-depth examples of your work to show potential customers what you're really capable of. With services like squarespace, you can easily set up a professional looking website in a matter of minutes.

Building A Portfolio

Your portfolio is the bread and butter of your freelancing career. It is your primary selling point and ultimately, is what the client will use to decide whether you are a good fit for them. It's not always easy to build up a professional portfolio straight away if you've never worked as a freelancer before. Sure, you can include pictures you've taken, but what clients really want to see is previous paid work you've produced, not the amazing shot of a mountain you got while on holiday (although that can still be included).

To do this, you may have to start offering up your services to local businesses and charities. Many small shops or charities would love the chance to get some professional photos taken, and if you offer your services for free, or very cheap, you're likely to get a response back. You can then treat these projects as you would a normal client, and showcase your incredible skills on your portfolio.

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