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5 ways to increase your earnings without working more

photographer pointing towards a building
(Image credit: S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay )

In any other profession, in theory, as you progress up the working ladder you will get paid more, while not necessarily having to work many extra hours. But as a self-employed photographer, this doesn’t happen automatically.

I've already argued that sometimes, you should work for free as a photographer (opens in new tab). However, only working for free or a low fee won't pay the bills as the cost of living continues to soar. Earning more money as a photographer doesn’t always have to mean working more. And who wouldn’t want to earn more money for the same number of hours worked? 

Even in this crowded digital age, I still think that we're living in the best time for photography ever, with so many opportunities out there if you know where to look. Here are 5 ways to increase your income from photographer – without adding extra hours to your work life.

1. Increase your rates

The most obvious way is to increase what you charge. I bet if you look at your rates, it’s likely that they haven’t changed for a long time, and you are still charging clients the same as you were a number of years ago. So, now might be a good time to review all your fees to ensure they align with your experience and talent. 

Of course, you may be hesitant in increasing your fees because that’s what your clients have been used to. But you may just find that they are happy to pay you more, especially if they value your work. Plus, with rising inflation and the soaring costs of living, many won't even be surprised if you increase your rates.

2. Cherry-pick your clients

Increasing your rates may very well mean that you will lose some clients. But ask yourself if that’s a bad thing. Or more importantly, calculate if it will have a negative effect on your income. For example, you can have ten clients who pay £100 a shoot or two clients that pay £500 a shoot. Your total earnings are the same for a lot less work. You can then use the spare time created to target other clients who will be willing to pay your higher rate.

Every few years I run a sort of audit of all my clients and activities and either drop some that I don’t believe are financially appealing or increase my rates. More often than not I have found that my clients are more than happy to increase the rates.

3. Upsell to your clients

Another option for maximizing your income is to try and upsell work with things that would not add much additional time to your workload. For example, it may be that a client has requested twenty photos from a shoot. Why not offer them another ten for an additional fee? Or I often take some behind-the-scenes shots or even videos that I offer to clients for a small fee that they can use for social media. 

For wedding or portrait photographers, it could make sense to offer your clients premium photo albums (opens in new tab) or photo books (opens in new tab) as another service. Not all clients will go for it, but you’ll never know if you don’t offer. It’s amazing how much extra a few hundred pounds here and there add up to over the course of a year.

4. Streamline your workflow

One of the biggest challenges of being a photographer is the fact that you are in fact a business owner. From being the finance department and having to chase up invoices, right the way through to being the marketing and sales department, you need do it all yourself. 

So, if there is any way in which you can streamline any aspect of your workflow, whether that is editing, invoicing or even marketing, then you should look to do so. For example, having the best photo editing software (opens in new tab) might speed up your image processing, as can photo organizing software (opens in new tab). You can essentially replace the time spent doing these admin jobs with finding clients and working to earn more money.

5. Pay for advertising

I’m not a huge advocate of spending money unnecessarily. When it comes to kit, you don't always need to buy a shiny professional camera (opens in new tab) and buying a used camera is a great way to keep your costs down (opens in new tab)

However, sometimes you will find that spending money advertising or even exhibiting at trade shows can yield big results. Again, this could lead to replacing lots of small paying jobs with fewer but higher paying ones. The most important thing when it comes to advertising is to have a plan and an objective. There are no guarantees so you should ensure that you only spend money you can afford and also test different options to see what works best.

If you're looking for more ways to save money, discover our guide to the best used cameras (opens in new tab), the best cheap cameras (opens in new tab) and the best free photo editing software (opens in new tab).

Kav Dadfar
Professional photographer

UK-based travel and landscape pro Kav shoots on assignment for editorial and commercial clients, and stock for high-end agencies. He has written over 400 articles on photography, judges a major travel photo contest and leads tours and workshops worldwide with the company That Wild Idea. In 2021 Kav launched JRNY travel magazine with fellow photographer Jordan Banks.