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 wanting to do so.

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

The reality is, however, a little different.

Here are five truths about being a freelance photographer (although I’m sure they are equally applicable to any freelancer!)

#1. Prepare to make social sacrifices


Without question, freelancing has taken a hit on my social life more than any other commitment. There have been (and will continue to be) birthdays and occasions that I have had to decline because I needed to prepare for a shoot the next day or throw myself into an editing marathon.


It’s an occupational hazard.

You should never feel guilty for having downtime – it’s essential and a critical aspect of self-care. But, ultimately, the client comes first which means everything else tends to come second, including your social life. So be prepared to make sacrifices and get over your fear of missing out.

#2. Taking sole responsibility is terrifying


Tell someone you freelance and they will be quick to highlight the benefits of being your own boss and having no-one else to answer too.


But do you know what the worst part of that is? Having no-one else to answer too. Having no-one to delegate to. No co-workers to ask for advice or ask a quick question. And no-one to hand out work on a daily basis.


And this is one of the greatest anxieties of freelance life – the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders. But as terrifying a prospect as that sounds, few other things serve as a better source of motivation and drive.

#3. Taking photographs is the smallest part


Wonder what I do when I’m not taking photographs? Editing, networking, quoting for jobs, chasing payments, calls with potential clients, managing social media, updating my website, writing blog posts...


The reality is that being a freelance photographer is about 20% photography and 80% running a business. Upon reflection maybe that estimate of photography time is a little generous!


So even after I have put the camera down and pack away from a particular job, the other work still goes on – some of it more obvious than the rest. In fact it never really stops.

#4. Master your accounts


You can’t escape the unavoidable truth: being freelance means accounts. You don’t need an advanced qualification in book-keeping (although it will help) but it is imperative that you are on top of the money from the outset.


There may well be a time that you decide to outsource this side of your business but that doesn’t mean you should take your eyes off the basics.

Keeping records of income, expenditure, and expenses is tedious and you’ll never see glamorous posts about it on Instagram. But learning how to efficiently keep track of your numbers not only helps with planning and target-setting but it saves a huge amount of pain further down the line.

#5. It’s not glamorous


Blogging from your bed. A bit of morning yoga. 11am coffee and emails. Clocking off at 4pm. Sound familiar from some social media posts? This is the romanticised image of freelance life and I’d be wary of anyone who portrays this kind of existence!


I’m pleased to see that these days there is a lot more openness about the reality: freelancing

can be lonely, stressful, and full of self-doubt. It should not be viewed as an easier life, free from the shackles of corporate life. It’s tougher.

While you might be able to ditch the commute and boardroom meetings, you’re exchanging one set of shackles for another – a set that demands of you a standard of self-discipline and perseverance that you would have not thought you possessed.


But it is precisely because of this that freelancing is some of the most rewarding and fulfilling work you can do!