11. Always do your best
Even if it seems like a one-off job, you never know what a client might be able to offer you later, or who they might recommend you to. So always be as professional as you can be, do the best job you can do and follow up with a friendly thank-you email saying you enjoyed the work and are available for more.
12. Have consistent branding
Do your business cards match your website? Do your invoices have the same colour scheme as your business cards? Does your website represent your style properly? And is there consistency across your website and social media profiles? It’s not just design snobs who care about these things, it is also agents, editors and clients in search for a competent photographer.
13. Communicate your style
Make sure that an agent, editor or potential commercial client can get a good idea of your style by looking at less than 12 images. Never show a picture you are not satisfied with, and arrange your online and offline portfolios in an intuitive way to convey what you want your clients to see. Opinions differ as to whether you need to specialise in a niche subject or show versatility, but regardless of your approach, there has to be an element of style tying your work together so it doesn’t look like you’re still dabbling at anything and everything.
Google’s new search algorithms favour fresh, original content, so keep your blog updated as often as possible, even if it is just to say, ‘here is a photo I took today.’ This can make the difference between you or your nearest competitor showing up first on a Google search, and it adds personality to your website too, making you appear more approachable – win/win.
15. Stay fit
Repetitive strain injuries from pressing the shutter, a sore back from carrying your kit and a sore neck from all those late-night photo edits – if this sounds familiar, you need to get some exercise. And if it doesn’t sound familiar, you need to get some preventative exercise before embarking on your photography career. The sooner you start, the more likely you are to avoid the physiotherapist and his or her exorbitant fees in a couple of months.
16. Eat well
Most photographers work unsociable hours far from a salad bar, and unless you consciously plan to bring healthy snacks, you’re likely to end up resorting to the nearest fast-food joint for lunch and the vending machine for a pick-me-up in your break. It’s not just your arteries and body shape that are at stake when you eat badly, it’s also your creative output and your ability to concentrate and do your best.
Take any opportunity to network, and think outside the box; you never know when you’ll need a florist, a hairdresser, a lawyer or an electrician. If you are going to a conference, take a look at the list of attendees and email the ones you are most interested in meeting, asking if they would be interested in meeting up for a coffee before the event. Most people feel a bit uneasy about networking events and will be relieved to have made contact with at least one person before the event.
18. Belong to a group
It’s easy to start questioning yourself, your work or your reason for doing what you do if you spend a lot of time on your own or without ‘colleagues’. Of course you can speak to your friends and family, but loved ones have a tendency to just believe everything you do is great even if they can’t tell a good photograph from a badly composed point-and-shoot mess. Having a group of professionals to talk shop with is invaluable when you lose your mo-jo, need some advice or just want a chat about the things your non-pro friends wouldn’t be able to relate to.
19. Make a plan
Having a business plan keeps you focused and gives you something to work towards. If you just bump along it might take you too long to realise that your current strategy isn’t giving you enough revenue, and that could be fatal to your business and your livelihood. Set yourself some targets and some rewards, such as a weekend away or an extra holiday if you reach your target, and make changes to your business if you don’t.
20. Go second-hand
As the British portrait legend Terry O’Neill says, “The better your camera, the less problems you are going to get. So get the best you can afford, even if it’s second-hand.” Not only can you save money on current, pre-owned gear, you can also consider whether the previous, outdated model of the camera or lens you fancy will do the trick at a much lower price. Buy from a reliable, authorised dealer offering a warranty, and look for items in good condition, preferably with original papers and packaging.
21. Monitor small expenses
Have a box somewhere in your office or work space specifically for work-related small expenses, and save your receipts for fuel, postage, client entertainment and on-the-road snacks. This serves two purposes; some of it will be tax deductible, and when you do your first annual review you will have an idea of where you can save if you need to tighten your belt.
Enter as many competitions as you can. Different judges see different things, and shortlist choices are always subjective, so the more contests you enter, the more likely you are to get noticed and become an ‘award-winning photographer’, which looks great on any CV or pitch.
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