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How to Become a Freelance Photographer

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Last editedNov 20222 min read

If you have an eye for composition and know your way around a camera, you might be considering a photography career. Rather than working in-house for a studio, becoming a freelance photographer gives you endless flexibility and growth potential. Starting your own business can be a daunting task, which is why it’s helpful to break it down into bite-size steps. In this guide, we’ll give some handy tips on how to become a freelance photographer.

Freelance photographer’s guide to getting started

If photography has only been a hobby up until this point, you might be wondering where to begin. Many freelancers start off with side jobs or part-time freelance work before transitioning into full-time self-employment. No matter the schedule, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your skills with professional courses. This ensures you’re familiar with the latest equipment and editing tools. At minimum, you’ll need to purchase a camera, lenses, and flash. If you’ll be specialising in portrait or real estate photography, you’ll also need reflectors and lighting to achieve a high-quality finish.

At the same time, remember that becoming a freelance photographer involves learning how to run a business. Free online bookkeeping and marketing courses can also help you launch your new business.

Tips for freelance photographers

Once you’ve updated your skill set and professional equipment, here’s how to become a freelance photographer with a few simple steps.

1. Set up a professional website.

Photography is a visual medium. Your potential clients will want to see proof of your artistry and creativity, which requires an online portfolio website. It should give some background about you and your approach to the job, as well as a list of services and prices. This can be as simple as a WordPress site, or you can sign up for an ecommerce platform to manage orders.

2. Build your portfolio before attracting clients.

If you’ve never completed a paid job before, build your portfolio using personal photography projects. When just starting out, many freelance photographers provide free photo shoots to aspiring local models in exchange for use in their portfolio. Don’t include every image; be very selective with the photographs you choose. This is what creates that all-important first impression.

3. Take out business insurance.

Photography equipment isn’t cheap. If your cameras are lost or damaged, this can seriously impact your cash flow. Be sure to purchase specialist photographer insurance along with standard professional indemnity, contents and equipment, and public liability cover.

4. Choose a niche.

Do you want to focus on fashion photography, landscape photography, or stock photo shoots? Choosing a specific niche makes it easier for you to build a name for yourself. Clients don’t want a general photographer – they want one that’s at the top of their chosen field.

5. Embrace online marketing.

Choosing a niche also makes it easier to get started with online branding. You can use search engine optimisation strategies to drive traffic to your website, with phrases such as ‘pet photographer in London’ or ‘family portrait photographer in Leeds’. This makes it easier for potential clients to find you. Set up social media profiles, particularly on visual sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

How to get paid as a freelance photographer

Once you’ve landed your first job, that’s only half the battle. Freelancers also need to get paid. Chasing invoices is a tedious process for freelancers in any industry, so be sure to send invoices as soon as a job’s complete or ask for upfront payment. Make freelance photographer payment terms (such as Net 30) very clear on your invoice, with the due date and payment methods clearly displayed.

Accounting and invoicing tools save a great deal of time on this manual admin. Consider using software like Invoiced or Xero to automate this process. GoCardless integrates with these partners and other accounting platforms for easier invoice collection. Photographers can collect invoice payment directly from client bank accounts using Direct Debit, eliminating any uncertainty. Our Instant Bank Pay solution uses the power of open banking to collect one-off payments instantly for improved cash flow and client relationships. It’s quick and easy to set up as well, giving you more time to focus on your new photography business.

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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