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5 Points of Advice for New Freelance Photographers

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  By Alice Zilberberg
5 Points of Advice for New Freelance Photographers www.sleeklens.com

Freelancing can be a rough road when you’re first starting out. I am sharing the following 5 points in hopes of saving freelancers from trouble when first diving in!

1. The Importance of mailing Lists

Before I sold fine art prints, I used to sell hair straighteners at trade shows. I was really good and I sold a lot of them. When my customers walked away from me after their purchase, I hoped to never see them again because if I did, it usually meant they wanted to return it or yell at me. When I started selling my art, at first I didn’t keep in touch with my clients. I quickly realized that I didn’t know who my clients were, which meant I didn’t know how to get in touch with them about shows they might be interested in going to, or new work they might be interested in purchasing or sharing with others.

Make sure to keep your client’s information and start a mailing list right away. Even if you don’t send out your first email until you have enough content, make sure to keep a list of people who are interested in your work. Previous and current clients should be included on your list, as well as people you have personally engaged with and who have expressed interest in what you do. Don’t spam people you don’t know.

With everyone being constantly bombed with information from social media and cats on YouTube, catching someone’s attention is difficult. Inboxes are like a holy place of attention because they are checked regularly, and often have very high user engagement. This makes mailing lists mandatory to keep in touch with news, new products and events. You can easily use a product like MailChimp to set up and manage your list(s).

2. Different sources of Income

When I first started selling fine-art prints, I thought I needed to focus only on selling prints at high prices, and that it would be sufficient to sell artwork only through galleries. This greatly restricted the volume of people who could purchase my work, and it came with a big pay cut as well. I decided something needed to change. After creating a few prints at a lower cost and selling them anywhere I could, I saw that all kinds of people could have access to my work, not only top shelf art collectors. I continued to look for all kinds of ways to apply my skills and formulated many sources of income.

There are more avenues of revenue then you may think. Don’t be fixated on the one type of income, one type of client, or even one type of style of work. Brainstorm all kinds of ways to use your services, skills, and product. For example, if you know a lot of Photoshop, you could create Photoshop tutorials and sell them online. If you know a lot about photography, maybe you can write an E-book about how to get started. Once you have a few streams of income you can start choosing what you want to focus on, and maybe what you want to automate.

3. Never stop learning

Technology is changing and improving faster than we’re all breathing. It’s important to remember that the market changes with technology too. Moving images might be on their way to replace still ones for example. If you’re a photographer you might soon need to learn videography to keep up with what clients need. Adapt or die. If you don’t do this, your clients might pick someone else for the next job. Pay attention to what’s changing and constantly pick up new skills in your trade.

4. Don’t work for free. Unless it’s strategic

There’s a lot of content on the Internet about how you should never do work for free or at a lower cost than industry standards. Doing work for free is not such a terrible thing if you do it strategically. You can trade free work for something of value. Ask your client to refer you to 3 people after you’ve done the job for them. They can also write a testimonial for you to include on your website or Linkedin profile. Make sure to treat free work as if you’re getting paid and do the best job you can. Keep in mind that people will think that the way you do unpaid work represents the way you do a paid job.

Another thing you can do is trade services. I started trading services with other artists in the case that we both benefit from each other’s help. I recently did a headshot for a writer who in exchange for the shoot, helped me write a grant proposal. I asked a graphic designer to design a logo for me in exchange for a print.

5. Freelancing is not for everyone

Make sure that you get familiar with the freelance lifestyle and are okay with it. Doing different jobs for different clients could mean getting calls to work the nest day or even on the same day. It could mean having extremely long hours with little sleep. It could mean prolonged periods without any work. You might even be away on work trips at times. Your lifestyle might affect your relationships. Freelancing is a very entrepreneurial endeavor that usually works for someone who is self-motivated and is a self-starter and doesn’t need a boss to get work done. There are a lot of pros and cons to weigh when it comes to deciding to go freelance, so make sure it suits you and how you operate.

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Alice Zilberberg is an award-winning photographer and visual artist, born in Estonia, raised in Israel, and now based in Toronto, Canada. A graduate of Ryerson University’s Photography program, she has exhibited in galleries across Canada, the US and Japan, and published internationally, most recently in PHOTO+ Magazine in Seoul, Korea. Her work has sold in auction houses and charity auctions, including Waddingtons, Snap! and ORT. Zilberberg merges traditional photography and computer illustration, creating images that bridge the platforms of photography and painting. Her work marries reality and fantasy, echoing elements of surrealism and baroque art. Her work has explored the intersection between femininity and the essence of female power linked to the natural environment. Examining traditional female iconography, the work strips these narratives of outdated notions of women as a weaker sex and emphasizing female empowerment. Her latest landscape series explores themes of identity, displacement and belonging by fusing images of the two places she’s called home.

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