Are you ready to take the plunge and become a professional photographer? Don’t do it until you’ve read these tips by the photo management and Canon Project1709 experts at Photoventure in their latest guest post.
1. Set your rate
It is important that you have a basic rate to refer to so you can assert your value when you get approached by clients. Even if you have to make exceptions and lower it to get commissions in the beginning, it’s better to have a starting point than to leave it to the client alone to set the terms. if you don’t know your worth, nobody else will.
2. Keep track of payments
Have a system for your invoices and keep on top of it. Make sure you can track every invoice with a reference number, and check regularly to see if any payments are missing. If you leave it for too long, there is a greater risk that there will be complications at the other end – the person who commissioned you might have left the company or forgotten about the extra expenses budget you agreed to add to the fee.
3. Get business software
You didn’t get into photography so that you could sit and fiddle with paperwork and admin tasks all day (and even if you like that sort of thing, it takes up valuable hours that could have been spent on paid assignments). Luckily, there are lots of accounting programmes that can systemise your paperwork, remind you of things you need to do, flag up missing payments and create templates for anything including invoices. Some are tailor-made for photographers, such as Light Blue, and some are more general but cheaper, or even free.
4. Avoid tax fines
Whatever you do, don’t submit your tax return late. In the UK, being late by a day will cost you £100 even if you have no tax to pay, and there is a £10 fine for each following day, up to 90 days or a maximum of £900, and further fines after that as well. It can take a few weeks to get set up, receive your passwords and have everything ready for managing your tax returns online, so make sure you’re set up before the 31st of October the year after you’ve started trading.
5. Try to go viral
OK, so everyone wants to go viral and there is no guaranteed way to do that, but photographers have a leg up over most content creators in that photography is easy to share and most people can appreciate a memorable, unique and well-executed photo series. The key is to have an idea for a concept and executing it in a way that nobody has seen before, like Tim Tadder did when he turned exploding water balloons into wigs on bald models. Creative blogs love unique photography, and once you’re on the blogs, you’ll be seen by national media too. But first, as Tim Tadder himself has advised, you have to “create some work that is worthy of the attention.”
6. Feed your followers
Scott Kelby, who runs a very successful photography workshop business and has millions of followers, has a very simple tip for growing your audience: only post beautiful pictures. Never post something you are ‘still experimenting with’ or not quite sure about, because people will judge you on what they see. If you become known as the person who posts beautiful pictures, people will want to follow you.
7. Get in the mags
Agents read photography magazines so it goes without saying that it will boost your profile to be interviewed by one. But the magazines are inundated with emails from people like you, saying “Hi, this is my work, will you feature it?” To get ahead, make sure you have a story to go with your work. Help the editors imagine how interesting an interview with you would be for the reader, and you are much more likely to get a call back requesting an interview.
8. Have a buffer
Prepare for a time gap between sending off your first invoices and getting paid; many companies have a policy of paying freelancers a month, or even six weeks, after receipt of an invoice, so you need to live off something else for some time after you’ve started freelancing.
9. Ensure you insure
Photographers’ cars and bags are loaded with expensive things, and thieves know that. Insure yourself from day one so your equipment is covered against theft and accidents from the moment you get your first assignment, and make sure your insurance covers your responsibilities if a client trips on one of your cables and suffers an injury. Some insurance companies cater specifically to photographers and have thought of everything you need.
10. Accept rejection
Brace yourself for a lot of rejections in your first year, but don’t let criticism knock your confidence – instead, use it to your advantage. No matter how much you disagree with someone’s opinion of your work, you can derive some useful pointers from their verdicts about how your work comes across to others. Try to ask for feedback when your pitches are rejected, and take every bit of information you get as constructive criticism, regardless of how it was intended.
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