How does an an advanced amateur photography get paid freelance photography jobs? How do you start a photography business and get it off the ground? Are you being asked left and right to take pictures of weddings, some company’s new hair product, the neighbors cat (for free), and it is starting to take too much of your time?
Well, aside from telling them to go bother someone else already (which, as we all know, never works) you can ask them to pay you. Which they don’t want to do, so they go bother someone else to do free work for them.
Let me explain why that is a good thing:
The sad fact is that photography is an under-appreciated business. Well, perhaps it is just undervalued – I mean that while our lives are saturated with various images to the point where there are too many.
Photography has become an integral part of marketing and advertising. It is such an important medium for income that some businesses live on advertisements alone. And for some reason people will always try to get a photographer to work for free, citing benefits like exposure and experience.
With the amount of (aspiring) photographers currently on the market businesses will have little to no trouble in finding someone else willing to do the job, so the question of your own business starts with a rather controversial step…
Work for free – but do it wisely!
Kickstart your presence in the market by building a portfolio. As someone who is not yet known you will need to find some projects, and generally it is easiest to get in if the client has no budget for photography.
However, do it on your terms – consider if you need the type of portfolio that the job will provide in the end, and choose clients that will improve your standing.
Branching out into different areas and to as many people as you can is advisable at this stage, because any of these may turn out to be an unexpected source of steady income to support your specialization.
You could volunteer your services for a private organization like a pet shelter, school, or an outdoor company.
Another area that is always in need of photography is the custom car and motorcycle business. You can offer to take photos of several cars or bikes for free and explain why you are doing it.
There are many businesses that are in need of good photography, all you have to do is choose a few and ask them if they would like free photography.
Here is a short list of businesses and people that I thought of (off the top of my head) to consider approaching for free photography with the goal of getting paid freelance photography jobs in the future.
- Car dealerships
- Flower shops
- Entertainers (magicians, clowns, singers etc.)
- Outdoor companies (rafting, atv, tour guides etc.)
- Martial Arts
- Breeders (dogs, horses, etc.)
- Interior designers
Name your price:
Eventually you will want to give a price tag to your work. This is always a hard first step, because you have no idea how to price it.
The free market drives this further by having prices go all over the place, so relying on other artists can be a bad idea as you can not be sure of how they came to the number exactly.
The best way to approach a price is to break it down: as Erik Almas puts it – give a price to your time and your royalty separately. This includes postproduction, printing materials and other services you provide, while the royalty pertains to your own approach to your work, your style and what you think it is worth.
Most importantly, be proactive!
It is very rare that photographers do not have to find new work because new work finds them, and even then they usually had to put years of effort into getting this kind of recognition.
All of the steps above are independent of one another but the one thing you will realistically need is the skill to find new work. Not only clients, but opportunities.
This means being creative and daring, but mostly to always have a piece of your mind looking at your current moment, thinking of ways to make it into a photographic project, and not backing down when an opportunity presents itself.
Photography Marketing tip: Keep everyone who has shown interest in your photography (both free and paid gigs) on your mailing list and keep in touch at least once per month. This is a very important piece to the puzzle that photographers fail at miserably.