Are you ready to run away from your mundane 8-to-5 job and start sailing your own ship as a freelance photographer after reading our blog post at the end of February, “Independence Day…in February” and our April post advising “Don’t Jump Ship Yet! Start Your Own Photography Circus Before You Leave Your Job!“?
Whether your glorious Independence Day has already arrived or you have circled the big day boldly on your calendar – in both cases, congratulations! – before you start to think, “Oh sh*t, what have I done?!” consider these points to ensure you enjoy much success in your new life as a freelancing photographer:
- Sell your work…without selling your soul. Mortgages, car payments, and utility bills do not disappear when you start your own business. As a new entrepreneur soley responsible for gaining income for your business, look for work that gets you out of bed in the morning, as your passion will show not only in the products and services you deliver, but also in the relationships you build with clients. If your new career starts to feel too much like work (yay, aren’t taxes fun?!?), keep your love of photography alive by working on challenging personal projects in your free time.
- “Just Say No.” It may sound illogical to turn down business opportunities as you begin your new career, but heed these wise words from Nancy Reagan. Once you’ve defined a niche for yourself, be comfortable turning down short-term money-making endeavors unrelated to your path to instead build your brand and skills within your area of expertise. For example, if your focus is wildlife photography, build your body of work by photographing elk or eagles on the weekend, not the “wild life” of weddings. By investing your limited time to find lucrative outlets within your domain, your sales will be greater in the long run.
- Update your online portfolio. No one wants to visit a website that you have neglected to update since 2010. As your perfect your work and style, showcase your newest and best photography, as well as published tear-sheets and clips, on your website and social media outlets to keep your existing customers coming back for more and to attract new clients.
- Keep the “unity” in your community. Friends, supporters, experts, connections – literally anyone! – can turn into a paying client so it’s important to keep building your relationships and awareness within your circles. Ask “What can I do for you” instead of “Isn’t my picture pretty? Do you want to buy it?” Consistently deliver educational presentations throughout your local community, stay active in professional organizations, and engage with others in social media conversations. Because of the snowball effect exposure can have in increasing your sales, even the smallest opportunity could transform into your future signature work. Never underestimate the value of exposure (pun intended!).
- Shut up and listen. To gain business, don not rely upon the movie Field of Dreams’ motto, “If you build it, they will come.” As you connect with members of your community, listen carefully to the comments, complaints, and questions they have related to their world to gain ideas for content in your next assignment, upcoming show, book project, or otherwise. Proactively create your own sales opportunities by delivering solutions to them based on their input.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. Round up a couple trusted family members, friends, or mentors schedule frequent “Bored Meetings” (also referred to as “Board Meetings”). Regularly reviewing your business plan with outside advisors will help you gain a renewed perspective on your direction, celebrate your successes, and gauge your progress against your defined “S. M. A. R. T.” – specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and tangible – goals to stay on track.
- Learn; there is no “fail.” If you are blazing your own path and testing new ideas through a wide variety of experiences, inevitably you will have moments when things don’t go the way you hoped. No matter how much mud you feel is covering your face, hose yourself off, and ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience? How can I improve next time?” As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Working 24 x 7 does not equal success. Though tempting, resist the urge to work day and night to keep your business moving forward. Take time to step away from the juggling act to avoid burn out and refresh your creative soul. As you would schedule vacation time in your previous job, set aside time to relax and enjoy activities unrelated to your profession, leaving the camera and laptop behind.
If you’ve started a new career or independent business, what tips and tricks have you utilized to stay afloat as you charter new territory? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!
And of course, no matter where you are in the transition, I wish you the very best of luck in your journey as a professional photographer! Go forth and conquer! And keep us updated with your progress and learnings along the way!
<shameless plug>If you would like more hands-on guidance in planning your successful transition to a photography career, join me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013. Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.
If you’re content with keeping photography as a hobby but would like more information on how to sell the photographs collecting dust on your hard drive, then join me for the 1-day Arizona Highways Photography Workshop, “Selling Your Work Without Selling Your Soul” session on June 1, 2013. For information and registration, visit www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-Selling-Your-Photography-2013-06-01. </shameless plug>