THE LIFE OF A FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER: FIVE TRUTHS


Chances are you know someone who freelances. You might even do so yourself. There is an undeniable attraction to working for yourself and everyone has a different reason for doing so.

But the image of freelance life is often glamourised and portrayed as an easy escape from the grind of the nine-to-five – a path to greater freedom, more time, and a better work / life balance.

The reality is a little different.

So here are five candid truths about being a freelance photographer (although I'm sure they equally apply to any freelance job).

1) Prepare to make social sacrifices

Freelancing has taken a hit on my social life more than any other commitment in my life. There have been (and will continue to be) many birthdays and nights out that I have had to decline because I needed to prepare for a shoot the next day or catch up on some editing.

You should never feel guilty for having downtime – it's essential. But, ultimately, the client comes first which naturally means everything else comes second, including your social life. So be prepared to make sacrifices and get over your fear of missing out.

2) Taking sole responsibility is a terrifying prospect

Tell someone you freelance and they will be quick to highlight the benefits of being your own boss. But the flip-side is I have no one to delegate to, no co-workers to ask for advice, and no-one to hand out work on a daily basis.

And this is one of the great anxieties – the constant knowledge that there is no safety net. Responsibility falls squarely and solely on your shoulders. But as terrifying a prospect as that sounds, I can tell you that few other things serve as a better source of motivation.

3) Taking photographs is the smallest part

When I'm not on a shoot I'll be editing. Or networking. Maybe providing quotes. Hopefully producing invoices. Chasing overdue payments. Taking calls with potential clients. Managing my social media platforms. Updating my website. Writing blog posts...

The reality is being a freelance photographer is about 20% photography and 80% running a business. So even after I have put the camera down after a particular job, the work still goes on. In fact it never really stops.

4) Mastering your accounts

You can't escape the unavoidable truth: being freelance means being an accountant. You don't need an advanced qualification in book-keeping but it is imperative that you are on top of the money side of things from the outset.

Keeping records of income, expenditure, and expenses is repetitive, tedious and you'll never see glamorous posts about it on Instagram. But learning how to efficiently keep track of your numbers saves a huge amount of pain further down the line.

5) It's a tough lifestyle

Blogging from your bed, 11am coffee and emails, and clocking off at 3pm. Sound like some familiar social media posts you've seen? This is the often romanticised image of freelance life and I'd be wary of anyone who portrays this kind of existence.

The reality is that freelancing can be lonely, stressful, and full of self-doubt. It should not be viewed as a means of having an easier life, free from the corporate shackles of office life. If anything it's far tougher than the desk job.

While you might be able to ditch the daily commute and boardroom meetings, you're exchanging those shackles for a new set – a set that demands of you a standard of self-discipline and perseverance that you would have not thought possible. And it is because of precisely this that freelancing is some of the most rewarding and fulfilling work you can do!

Got any other freelance myths to dispel? Just comment below!

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© 2018 Stephen Wallace Photography

 

Corporate headshots, lifestyle portraits, and personal branding photography across South London, Central London and Surrey.

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