Foundations of Freelancing
This post is sponsored by American Express.
2018 marks six years of working from home as a full time photographer. After reading that back to myself I immediately think...WHAT? How can tens of thousands of pictures taken over a span of six years be summed up in a just few words? Today I want to dive deep into how I grew my business. I discussed this via a Q & A video but I have a few things I wanted to add and expand upon.
As a quick jumping off point (and disclaimer), I started practicing in high school (2006) with my first camera. I then went to the Art Institute in Seattle where I learned to shoot on a nicer camera with Large Format Film, how to develop and print in the dark room, navigate editing apps, use on location lighting, and much more, all in a two year program. School is cool but there is so much information online that wasn't available when I was getting classically trained.
How did I start freelancing full time? There's a lot that went into it. I really want to be as open as I can and let you in on what I've learned along the way.
Style and Brand Integrity
This is what makes your business special. What sets YOU apart from everyone else? I've become more comfortable over the years as I have refined my style of imagery. I've always stuck to a bold edit in one way or another but have evolved my definition of that over time.
On the flip side, brand integrity also has everything to do with being consistent. When I was shooting weddings and portraits, I stayed true to myself, kept an upbeat attitude, and always made sure I was punctual and reliable for my clients. That approach has carried over to my business on Instagram and print shop. I could go wayyy into this (that's a whole other blog post...haha!) but I've found that maintaining a strong work ethic has been a tremendous help in my professional growth.
When I started taking my career more seriously, I noticed that I was subconsciously choosing my craft over many things when it came to scheduling. I definitely felt like I was missing out at the time but looking back, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
As my portraiture and wedding business got going, blogging became a big passion of mine. It was never profitable directly, but it definitely led to more jobs because of the work I was showcasing. I remember many late nights at my computer getting in as many posts as I could, making albums online and getting as much done to further my little biz before heading to my day job.
Save and Plan Ahead
This is a big one! I've learned a lot over the years when it comes to planning around my slow and high seasons. Typically, when the new year rolls around, I can expect my schedule to be more chill but once late spring hits...I might not text you back. JK but it gets pretty busy and I am typically working 6-7 days a week. I look at this as making up for the early winter downtime and this also applies to income (fun!).
Let's talk about money. At the beginning of the year when I said I was just straight kickin' it (not true but kind of), this means my income slows down as well. It’s important that I plan ahead for this by setting aside income during my more lucrative months, between April and December.
In terms of investing in equipment while trying to be frugal (easier said than DONE!), I turn to my American Express Cash Magnet Card (which by the way has unlimited 1.5% Cash Back...helloooo savings!) 1, Where has this been all my life and 2, this Card makes organizing purchases so simple. If I'm going to be making purchases anyway, I might as well get Cash Back. Win-win and also, thanks! Financial confidence is something I've grown into overtime and this Card makes it a million times easier.
Terms apply, learn more here!
Expectations vs. Goals
After dabbling in almost every kind of photography, I've learned over time that personal goals are so much more valuable than meeting other people’s expectations. When I started shooting, there was no Instagram, and no one to compare myself to online, making it much easier to manage expectations. Once you throw social media into the mix, there's an entire community of people choosing different creative routes and it is easy to second guess yourself.
I've really become a short-term goal setter. Since I've been in this industry for this long, I've had the CRAZIEST things happen to me and my business. You never know what's going to happen (and you never know who's watching) so I've learned to set realistic goals that I feel are not only within reach, but fun to pursue.
Don't Give Up
For me, it's been so much easier to slow down and take it easy as opposed to burning out. Give yourself room to breathe because it's a wild ride. If your favorite hobby turns into a full-time career, there will definitely be ups and downs just like any other relationship in your life. Treat it well, respect your time, and keep going because you started for a reason!
I feel like I could go on...trust me! I really think that as long you're happy with what you're doing, you are successful. No business is perfect and there will always be others facing similar struggles.
Let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments!