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Freelancing certainly has its own charm. You choose your hours, you don't have a boss, you don't work in a cubicle, you can make $30+ an hour. Everything seems pretty great..in theory. But in reality, breaking into the freelance world can be very difficult. You start out with low pay, your income is inconsistent (and sometimes nonexistent), you have multiple clients to deal with, and you have no benefits of a full-time job. However, freelancing can be very rewarding if you're willing to put in the effort. If you're thinking about if and/or how you can start freelancing, take a good look over these four requirements. They may be basic, but you're not going to get very far without them.
The Appropriate Gear
If you're going to be doing professional work for others, you need to have professional gear. Now, this doesn't mean that you need to run out and buy a new Nikon D4 and $8,000 worth of studio lights. Upgrades will come over time (assuming you're successful). However, you do need a decent camera and the appropriate set of gear for the genre of photography you're shooting. For example, if you're doing portraiture, you're probably going to need an off-camera flash and some maybe some light manipulating tools like a reflector. If you're shooting sports, you're going to need a good quality telephoto lens. As you start to earn some money, you can invest in new gear and accessories, like studio lights or a camera with a faster frame rate. So you don't need to start out big, but you don't want to stay small either. Start with the basics, upgrade from there.
A Good Portfolio
Unless they've heard about your photography through word of mouth, a potential client has no idea how good you are as a photographer or what your style is like. A portfolio is a photographer's resume...only more. Instead of saying what you have worked on, you actually have to show the work you've done. Obviously, you want to present your best work, but you don't need a hundred photos to do it. Many suggest that 15-20 photos is plenty. If you're not sure if a photo captures your best work, don't include it. Second best photos only bring down your portfolio. You should also custom build your portfolio for each potential client. This may be tough at the beginning as you won't have a lot (or any) work under your belt, so you may have to show them some of your personal work. But if you're shooting something particular for a client, like a portrait, don't bother showing your best landscape photo or your best sports shot. Clients typically like to see that you're skilled in one niche rather than seeing some good photos covering multiple genres.
It should go without saying that you need to know how to use your camera before you can get into the photography business, however there are many who seem to skip this step when they see how much earning potential there is in photography. What many of them don't realize is that it takes a lot of work to get up to that level and that being a photographer is more that just pressing a button. I once worked with a “photographer” who thought that the metering modes affected your focus points. It would be pretty embarrassing if a client asked you to do something in particular and you responded with, “I don't know how to do that.” (Which is completely different from, “I know how to do that, but don't have the resources.”) If you've just upgraded to a new camera, learn it inside and out before you try using it to make some money. Know how properly exposure any scene, know your lighting, know you gear.
This is a difficult thing to figure out. When you begin freelancing, you're going to be faced with the question of how much you should charge. This could be per hour, per project, per session, and many beginners have no idea what to charge, which, is perfectly understandable. To begin with, you have little to no work experience, no references, and no base point. You may ask your client to make you an offer rather than giving a price. Some will want to hire you for free and say that the experience you gain with them is your payment. Whether this is acceptable is up to you. There are many who say that this devalues the work of photographers while others say that it's a good way to get started by gaining some experience and references. There are many articles and forums on the web that may help you come up with a price, but every circumstance is different. You can't expect to be making very much to begin with, but over time you'll get a sense of how much your worth is.
Written by Spencer Seastrom