Let me take a moment of your time and talk about the struggles of a freelance photographer. I know that some of you can relate to many of the issues freelance photographers face.
In the beginning our my freelance photography venture I was driven by my passion for photography. I don’t mean the passion that many talks about, I mean a PASSION. I mean the type of passion where you talk about something all the time to anyone who will give you 10 seconds of time. The type of passion where you read anything and everything on the topic. The type of passion where you practice it EVERY DAY for hours and hours until your significant other comes and says, “Are you about finished?”
At some point, you begin to question your motivation because “business” is slow. You have had some successes but your cash flow out still far exceeds your cash flow in. This question about your motivation begins to question your skill and your purpose.
Then suddenly, something comes up and the motivation level is high again. This roller coaster of up and down motivation.
A way I have found to keep going was to rekindle my blog site. I started fresh with a new name. Much of the content is similar to that first site, the difference is that I now know writing blog content, be it tutorials or information such as this article keeps me motivated to move onward.
Pricing and clients
Ah, this. The never ending questions. Am I too expensive? Am I too inexpensive? Who would hire me? Why would they hire me, am I too inexpensive? Do I bill afterward or before? Do I take partial payments? Along with this also comes the questions of being a business person knowing that you need to be paid but question whether or not you sound too pushy when it comes to talking with the potential client about payment.
As a freelance photographer family and friends have seen the examples of your work. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. They recognize your ability to provide high quality and want to invite you to their gathering and add, “can you bring your camera?”. So now are you a guest or working. You then get the questions about “family and friends discounts” or “I want to hire you but why is that so much? (what they don’t add is your only taking photos?”
I quickly realized that there was some gear that I needed that wasn’t necessary when I was just taking photographs as a hobby. As a “freelance” photographer if a piece of equipment breaks, or malfunctions while you are working if you don’t have a replacement you are out of business until it gets fixed. This can be costly, especially when you have contracts signed and have taken some payment. Even though I work out of my home, I have an entire room with equipment. Lights, cameras, lenses, props, reflectors, holders, backdrops, and I constantly find that I really need a few more pieces, just in case. This all adds up really fast.
In addition to the gear needed you have the costs of websites, domain names, insurance, telephones, computers, software. Oh, and did we talk about slow business?
As a business, you now have to know the competition. With the advances in technology, it has become easier than ever to get good photographs without knowing anything about photography. put the camera in the “green automatic” position point in the direction and push the button. Now everyone wants to be “in the business” offering the same products at much lower prices. (I don’t want to sound pretentious and hateful to those just starting out, far from it. I want to support those people totally, which is why I run this site and offer classes and mentoring). The problem with this is manyfold, however, I will just focus on one quality. Many times those who are brand new having little to no training or experience can do a decent job and get a quality that the average consumer believes is good. The difference is that those who are experienced and trained can get a product that is high quality on a regular and consistent basis under a variety of conditions because we have learned that Murphy’s law is alive and well.
I’ll use a recent example. I went on a photo session recently for a local band. The day was going to be a bit cool otherwise no significant lighting issues, or so we may have thought. Being trained and experienced, I brought reflectors/diffusers, light stands, lights, umbrellas, light meters, and an assistant. Two other photographers showed up with just their cameras. The area was highly shaded with open areas with harsh sunlight. During the session, I employed the use of diffusers and my assistant and was quickly followed by the other two photographers to take advantage of the extra gear. The result was one of my photographs was selected for publication with none from the others. Even though this worked out for me that day, often it comes down to a missed opportunity because the “business” went elsewhere in many instances.
As a result, I have reconfigured my prices, which before I wanted to be affordable for the working middle class, to now not worry about competing with the low end.
Again, I don’t intend to make this sound like a rant, but rather a struggle to consider.
Where do we go now
Even though these struggles, and more, are real we move forward. We determine a course of action to overcome these struggles, or, at very least, to contend with them and remember why we went freelance in the first place. To fulfill our passion.