How to Get Started as a Freelance Photographer

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Are you ready to take your love of photography and turn it into a new career? Many people dream of earning money from something that they’re passionate about, but turning your hobby into your career is easier said than done. If you’re wondering whether you could become a freelance photographer and are not sure where to start, this post is for you.

There are plenty of obstacles between the starting point of freelancing and running your own successful business, all start-ups require a lot of work and the rewards do not always outweigh the risks. Photography is a hard business to break into and a hard business to stay in, if you’re not willing to work really hard to build your business then it might be better to keep photography as a hobby. Being a professional photographer is requires knowledge of various photography techniques and technology, as well as an artistic eye. Not to mention that aquiring the necessary equipment to take quality photos can make starting out much more expensive than other freelance pursuits. If those obstacles do not deter you and you still have the desire to be your own boss doing the thing that you love, in a field with unlimited potential for growth in your own creativity, then take a look at these steps success.

Step 1: Decide What Type of Photography You Will Do

Choosing your niche early on will help you with all the other steps you need to take in order to go from hobbyist to professional. You don’t have to commit to just one type of photography, in fact that would be too narrow when you’re first starting out, however choosing a couple of related areas can help you decide what you need to start your business. Your niche will determine what type of equipment you need, what to study, and what kind of networking you might want to do as you get your business off the ground. Try to choose related areas of photography that you are interested in so that you can enjoy your work and thrive. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to be a portrait and event photographer if you do not like working closely with people, even if it's lucrative it will make you miserable in the long run.

Step 2: Make a Business Plan

In order to succeed in any entrepreneurial pursuit you need a plan. How are you going to get from being someone who enjoys taking pictures for fun, to professional photographer who is paid to take pictures, and how are you going to keep and increase your business once you’re there? Making a business plan seems daunting and complicated but it doesn't have to be. There are a few step-by-step guides available online and plenty of books written on the subject. An easy way to get started is to outline your short term, medium term, and long term goals using the S.M.A.R.T system of goal setting, in which your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. At this stage it is also time to examine your finances and assess your equipment.

As a pre-professional photographer you probably do not have the necessary equipment to take professional photographs yet, so you need to plan to acquire it. If you cannot afford the right camera, lenses, flash (and reflectors, diffusers and lights if necessary) immediately, do not be deterred - figure out how you’re going to save money and when you expect to have enough to buy what you need and include that in your business plan.

Do not forget to include less fun but important items your plan and budget, such as insurance and taxes. While you’re making your business plan you should check into what kind of business license you might need, and what kind of insurance you will need if you’ll be having people come to your studio. All solopreneurs also need to figure out how to deal with taxes or if they need to budget for an accountant. If you have the funds to meet with an accountant early on in your endeavors, they will be able to tell you what type of business you should set yourself up as for tax purposes and such. If you do not have the money to hire an accountant, plan to spend some time researching small business taxes.

Step 3: Start Building Your Portfolio

This is the fun part, when you get to do what you love. You have your niche and you have your plan and now you need some photos to show off your talent. Even if you do not have all the equipment you need yet, you can start building your portfolio with what you have. Remember you only want to show off your best photographs that have been beautifully edited to show all your talents. Try entering some photography contests to get your work out there and see what other photographers in your niche area are doing and how you compare, is there anything you need to work on? At this stage it might be a good idea to offer to do some free work for testimonials to build your portfolio and reputation. You can use any feedback and criticism from your free work as a way to to learn and improve your skills.

Speaking of improving your skills, talent will only take you so far. You need to be better than the competition if you’re going to be successful, so immerse yourself in studying photography and editing techniques. Now’s the time to take some photography courses either online or in real life, if you haven’t already. If you can get a gig as an assistant to a photographer and learn from hands-on practice, that will really help transform from good into great. Once you learn a new skill, then practice, practice and practice some more! All that practice will give you some great shots for your portfolio.

Step 4: Build a Website

You’ve found your niche and you’re building a beautiful portfolio and now it’s time to share your talent with the world and potential clients. In order to do that it is time to set up your business’s website. If you aren’t confident in your website building abilities, it might be worth it to hire a fellow freelancer to do it for you. Or you can check out some online resources for advice and guidance, but whatever you do: be sure that your website is professional looking and showcases your best work in order to entice clients to hire you. You also want your website to match your aesthetic - if a photographer takes beautiful pictures, their website shouldn’t be an ugly or boring place, it should be beautiful too.

At this point you will want to have the nitty-gritty aspects of how you’re going to run your business decided, such as your process for working with clients, what your fee will be and how you collect it, so you can include all the necessary information on your website. A good business website includes the following: what it is that you do, what makes you stand-out from others who do what you do, where you are located, what your rates are, how you can be reached and a few personal touches to draw people in. It is a good idea to include a blog on it to keep people up to date on your photography projects, add a little personality, and give them a reason to keep returning to your site.

Step 5: Network

While your building your portfolio and website you should be using social media to expand your reach. Although you may have started using places like instagram or pinterest a long time ago for personal photos, it’s time to get serious about linking your social media to your business. Be sure to include links on your social media platforms back to your business website and try to showcase only great photos. Find and choose to be on the best social media platforms to increase your exposure in your niche area, you want to be able to follow and tag relevant businesses that relate to what you do, it’s an integral part of online networking.

Aside from cultivating your online presence as a professional photographer, you should make business cards to hand out in real life when you meet prospective clients or other people who can pass your information on to someone who is looking for a photographer. Much like your website, you want to be sure the look and design of your business cards match your aesthetic. Not sure where to meet people to had out your business cards to? Attend local workshops, conferences and events related to photography or your niche. For example, if your niche is food photography, be sure to attend local restaurant trade shows to meet people and stay on top of trends.

Joining a photography club, either local or online is also a great way to network and gain insight into new techniques and trends.



Building a successful business takes a lot of work, and you can expect to work much more than the standard 40 hour work week to get it off the ground. However, all that hard work comes with the reward of being able to earn a living doing what you love and being your own boss. If you have the will and the drive to follow these steps then you can succeed as a solopreneur. Do not forgot to make a profile with SageGroupy in order to increase your exposure and help more clients find you.


Author: S.Suzuyama

Posted in Resources, Freelancing Tips on Jun 25, 2018

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